An ANZAC Looks Back

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An unidentified presenter introduces the programme 'An ANZAC Looks Back', in which Angus Miller, an ex-Air Force Officer who served in World War II, reads from the journal of Private C. R. Duke of Nelson. Although born in Dunedin, Private Duke served with the Australian Imperial Forces in World War I. Mr Duke himself speaks at the end of the recording.

Mr Duke had the distinction of landing at Gallipoli three times. The first landing was on 25 April 1915, the second in May, and the third was in August. He was commissioned from the ranks and was later awarded the Military Cross in France.

He describes spraining his ankle during the first landing on Gallipoli on 25 April, and was evacuated before he ever reached the firing line. He then talks about being on a punt with 200 wounded men, some severely wounded who he could do nothing to help. Many died during the night before they could find a hospital ship to take them. Finally, he got on board a troop ship 'Itonis', where he says he was ashamed to be safe on board without having fired a shot. He recovered in Egypt, and returned to Gallipoli in May. He describes digging a sap one night, not knowing the Turks were massing for a supreme effort to drive them into the sea. He describes the Turkish attack and no-man's land being covered in bodies, some only ten yards away. He was severely wounded on 27 May, while posted in a forward trench. He describes being shot in the face, and padding it up with a shirt. He graphically describes his injury, and being given a slug of rum before getting onto a boat for Mudros. The ship finally sailed for Alexandria once it had 2,000 wounded on board.

The narrator then explains Private Duke was admitted to No. 15 General Hospital where a bullet was removed from his head, but he recovered by July.

By August Duke was sent back to Gallipoli. He was told a new British Army was to land at Suvla Bay, and they were to help by attacking a hill known as 'Lone Pine'. On 5 August the plan of battle was explained to them, and they were warned heavy casualties could be expected. He shared a position with another Private called Simpson, whose brother was a Major in their battalion [4th Battalion, A.I.F.]. He describes the jam-tin bombs they carried, how they were made, and that they had to be set alight using a slow match before they went over the top. Some of the fuses were damp and didn't light.

On the morning of 6 August they marched into a forward trench facing the Lone Pine Plateau, where they crouched all night until zero hour - 5.30am, when the whistle blew. He saw Major MacNaughton leading the charge. Their job was to go straight to the third line and hold it. He describes the heavy fire, reaching their objective, and shooting a Turk. He tried to bayonet a man but got his blade stuck in the man's leather equipment. He gives a detailed description of the fighting in the trenches and having cricket-ball bombs thrown at them. They lost touch with their own troops, so retreated until they heard the welcome sound of "genuine Australian swearing". They found Lieutenant Giles and others who told them the trench was now cleared of Turks.

They were on the extreme flank of the Lone Pine position. Before dark there was another heavy attack by the Turks. He was hit in the head by rifle fire but not knocked out. When he cleared the blood away he was horrified to see the other six men with him were all dead, shot through the head. He and Lieutenant Giles were the only survivors, and they expected to be overwhelmed at any moment. They were out of bombs, so he went off to find a senior officer to tell them their position was in danger. He reached Battalion headquarters. Major MacNaughton was there, wounded in the knee but full of fight and refusing to be evacuated. He describes MacNaughton's dugout, covered on four sides with corpses of Turks and Australians.

He quotes Rudyard Kipling about water, and the raging thirst they suffered on Lone Pine that night. Supplies came the next morning, 7 August, and fighting continued through that day. The next night, the battle livened up more than ever. Due to lack of sleep or his wounds, he became light-headed and was seeing double, so was told to report to an aid post. He describes the stench of the battlefield: cordite fumes, torn up earth, urine and gases rising from corpses - all hung thick over Lone Pine. He slept for a short time at the aid post after being cleaned up. Then they were evacuated and walked all the way over dead bodies.

Narrator: Private Duke was evacuated this time to Malta, and then to England. By February 1916 he was back in Egypt and was commissioned from the ranks. As Lieutenant Duke he served in France until the end of the war.

Mr Duke himself speaks at the end of reading:
"Looking back on Gallipoli generally, it was a fantastic affair from beginning to end and some of the things we did, almost incredible. I suppose the deepest point of penetration from the beach at any rate up until August, was not greater than one mile. Could anything have been more recklessly optimistic than the landing itself? Or could the life we quickly settled down to have been more abnormal? We lived in foxholes and seldom washed, except in the sea. Food, although enough to keep us going, was strictly to army rations scale and monotonous to a degree.

Tragedy was seldom far beneath the surface. The conditions of the armistice and at Lone Pine were truly macabre. Later there was the agony of the blizzard and snow when men died of cold, and to cap everything there was the fantastic conception of the evacuation, carried out almost without a casualty. The detailed work of fooling the Turk was a masterpiece, and at the end our final message left for him was: Goodbye Johnny. You didn't push us off, we just went. We just went."

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Year 1969

Reference number 246853

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Genre Documentary radio programs
Nonfiction radio programs
Radio programs
Sound recordings

Credits Miller, Angus, Narrator
Duke, Charles Robert (b.1888, d.1970), Speaker/Kaikōrero
Radio New Zealand. National Programme (estab. 1964, closed 1986), Broadcaster

Duration 00:29:09

Date 1969