The withdrawal of troops from Suvla and Anzac began on 8 December 1915. For the next eleven nights, men, horses and weapons were quietly removed while the impression of normality was maintained through various ruses. One of the most ingenious of these was the so-called drip-rifle. Invented by the Australian soldier William Scurry, the gun fired automatically when an empty ration tin attached to the trigger gradually filled with water. By 20 December, 90 000 troops had been evacuated to Lemnos for a short rest before transportation to Egypt. The garrison at Helles was retained until an order to evacuate was given on 28 December. The Royal Newfoundlanders were the last regiment to withdraw, leaving Gallipoli on 9 January 1916. The evacuation became the most successful operation of the entire Dardanelles Campaign. Against Sir Ian Hamilton’s pessimistic prediction of a 50% casualty rate, official reports quoted just three casualties during its course.
Monday 13 December
Went to the hospital,1 & was in Ward II again. Miss Swabie Miss Lewis, & Miss Mann are working with me. I am to look after one half of the ward myself, which is awfully nice. After lunch, Muz, Ione & I went up to the Grand to the school entertainment, they had wounded soldiers, & 12 of ours. Tom sang in the choruses, & then helped with the men’s teas, as the girls with fathers or brothers at the war, were to help. Then we went to tea with Mrs Blake. Put Dus to bed, & then had a lovely hot bath with Muz. Had dinner upstairs, & went to bed at about 11. I helped with quite a lot of the dressings this morning.
Suvla. Went round right sub section. Trenches still in rather a mess. Went down to Div in the afternoon. Heard that we were going & made various arrangements. Went down to the beach with Fraser & Howard de Walden. Had tea at Div Hd Qrs. Gen de Lisle went round 2nd Line. Sent our day’s rations round to Bde Hd Qrs in 2nd Line. Melody2 went away.
Letter from Pat Armstrong to Mrs Armstrong
My dear wee Mus.
Horlick’s Malted Milk
Thank you ever so much for a parcel which I got from you last night with some patés, cocoa & peppermints. A lovely parcel dear wee Mus & so awfully useful. Particularly just now when we are rather short of things like that. I am keeping the cocoa & paté of partridge in my haversack as an emergency ration in case I ever want it. They are both so small & compact. The bottle of malted milk tablets will do for the same thing. It was awfully nice of you to send them. My parcels from Harrods have been coming very regularly lately. It is great value getting things like that out here. I sent your last K. M3 letter of the 28th round to G & got enclosed back from him.4 Very odd wasn’t it his having that feeling & then my sending him your letter. He is having a very hard time just now & is working like mad. It is rather sickening his being so near & yet seeing so little of him. I have awfully little time to go round & when I do I usually find him up to his eyes in work. These are very busy times I find I am always on the go. Luckily I can do most of my work by going round & giving orders personally. It keeps one awfully fit & does away with the boredom of office work. Most Staff Captains seem to do most of their work sitting on an office stool, but that doesn’t agree with me or my methods. So I go round every day to all or nearly all as the case may be, both Hd Qrs & in that way save a lot of ink slinging.
Passing the time
The weather has made a great turn for the better these last few days, it is trying to rain a bit to-night but I don’t think it will be much. I hope not any way as this place is the devil when it rains. I see very little of Basil these times. I think they keep him pretty busy as his General has turned him on to doing cyphers. A weary & monotonous job. I think he ought to launch out now & try to get some good job for himself. He seems to be wasting his time doing A.D.C. There is little or no news here. I am afraid there is no chance of leave but I hope your prophesy is true & that I will be home by Xmas year. I have great hopes that may be right. Things don’t look too rosy at present from all accounts. I don’t find I have any time now to read the papers so really know very little of what is going on. I have got a Times of the 4th & 12th Nov but haven’t read either yet. I dare say I will one day. I like to spend any spare time I have writing letters. I can read when all this show is over. I am awfully pleased with the last lots of photos you sent out. I really have a great collection now. Awfully interesting they will be. I am longing to get them all stuck into a book. Keeping each lot separate & numbered like we are doing will greatly simplify things when the time comes to put them into a book. I am just going to scribble a line to Pokes now. Best love dear wee Mus. Don’t worry if you don’t get many letters these times as it’s a difficulty to get time. Just for a bit you must only expect them when you get them. Best love to you all dear wee Mus & all the very best wishes for the New Year.
Your loving Pat.
I got this block out from St Omer about a week ago & so am now very well off. I was getting awfully short before but now have enough to do me for a long time.
Tuesday 14 December
Went to the hospital. I helped with some of the dressings. Muz, Ione & Tom went to London by 9-30, Tom going to dentist & Muz to doctor. After lunch Kitty came round with him, he goes this afternoon. Then I went round to the Stubbs, & Florence, Mary & I went down the town & ordered a nurses dress for me, & Mary is lending me one till it’s made. Then I had tea with them, & a man came in later, he is a Canadian tommy. Then Williams, a boy at the hospital came, he has just got his commission. Came back about 7-30. The others came back by late train, the Dr told Muz to eat fruit, & not sugar. We settled off at about twelve.
Suvla. Went all round line. Got back about 1.15. Met Hardress & the General at Worcesters Hd Qrs. […] Franklin walked down to 33rd Bde with me. Saw G for a short time. Wind went round to the North. 86th Bde went away.
Wednesday 15 December
Went to the hospital, & Sister D’Armes let me come back at one. Ione worked at curtains, & I went down to the club, then came back for Muz, & we went & had tea with Kitty. He went back today. I played with the children, & got back at about eight. It rained nearly all day. We went to bed at about eleven.
Thursday 16 December
Went to the hospital, & didn’t get back till after two. Then went down to the club with Tom, & then Mary was here when we got back, & I went with her to the vet, but he was out. Then she came back for tea. Mrs Collins, Mrs Dashwood & Kitty came too. Then I went down the town with Heppie, & I got some shoes for the hospital, & a bucket for Duskey’s food, & some Christmas cards for a man in the hospital. He wants to send one to his wife. Went to bed at about eleven.
Suvla. Went down to Beach in afternoon. Moved back to C.R.E. dump. Got rid of all. Hardress took mine. Nice warm day.
“Got rid of all”
Friday 17 December
Went to the hospital, & didn’t get away till rather late. Muz came to meet me. Darned after lunch, then took the bucket down to the club. Ione wet up to the Grand, & Muz went to tea with Mrs Ritchie. Tom stayed in bed all day. After tea Heppie & I went down the town, & then went to Southey about doing the electric fittings on Monday. We got back at about 7-30, & brought some stones back. Then did some more darning. Went to bed at about eleven.
Suvla.Gen had conference of all C.O.5 B— came up about 10 o’c. We stayed in all morning & worked out numbers. Percy was rather seedy. Went round line in the afternoon & saw all Battns. Got rid of 2nd blanket trench boots & cape that night got back about 12 o’c. Came under 11th Div at 5 o’c. Div Hd Qrs went to Mudros.
Saturday 18 December
Ione came in early in the morning, at about six, & asked me to go to Eastbourne with her. Got up at 6-30, & got my things out, & packed, & we went by the 8-30 train, & Ethel6 helped us to carry the box. We got to E. at about 1-30 then Ione lay down & I wrote letters. We both came down at about five, & waited about for Harry. Then he & Mrs Downs & Mr [blank] came & dined & they danced afterwards. I only danced one as the other man didn’t stay, & H. danced with Ione & Mrs Downs. We sat & talked for a bit afterwards, then they went back, & we went to bed at about two, as we talked in our rooms for ages afterwards.
Suvla. Nice warm day. Percy was rather seedy. Stayed in all morning. The General went round the line. Went down to the beach in the afternoon & saw Gen Perceval. Got about 1240 men off without any hitch & got back to bed by 12 o’c. Glorious moonlight night sea like a mill pond.
Sunday 19 December
We came down at about 10-30, & a man in the Sussex & a sailor came & we sat & talked, & then went out. We tried to get buns for tomorrow, & rooms for tonight. Afterwards a man from Dover came & talked to us, & introduced us to a sailor boy, & a Mr Cameron who is back wounded. We talked for ages & had great fun, then they introduced us to a man in the Rifle Brigade & he asked us all to dine, four men & we two, it was great fun, & we got stiff from laughing. Mr Gendle is going to Folkestone tomorrow we went up to bed at about ten.
Evacuation of Gallipoli
Suvla. Glorious day. Stayed in with Percy most of the morning. Went round & saw G in the afternoon. Went down to the beach about 6:30 in motor. Everything went very smoothly & we eventually got away at about 4.30. No casualties at all.
Manor House Hospital, where the Armstrongs had volunteered their services ⇑