ANZAC: the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli.
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Features edited recollections by five Gallipoli campaign veterans, [several unidentified] interspersed with narration by Laurie Swindell.
Unidentified male announcer: ANZAC - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli.
[Sound of waves]
Laurie Swindell: Gallipoli - a little known name until the ANZACs made it echo around the world. ANZAC - five letters that stand for disaster and triumph. ANZAC – the men.
Captain Alexander McLachlan: And that was my first introduction to New Zealanders and Australians. I wasn’t terribly impressed because after carrying imperial troops who were ready to obey anything at the jump, it was quite a change to find that they would argue the point whether they did it or not, the colonial troops.
In landing the troops at Gallipoli, we simply got the wrong place, we got caught up with barbed wire. They were so anxious to get ashore, some of them were going to jump out of the boat there and then but they were right in the midst of the barbed wire. One chap did get over and he was right under my eye, right at the stern of the boat before I knew where he was, I heard him plonking around in the water there. His officer gave him hell but it didn’t seem to matter.
Joe Gasparich: The men were ready for it, really ready. The men were fit and eager and keen to get stuck into it.
Speaker C: What fine men they were. I often used to think to myself, well by Jove, I'm proud to think that I'm mixed up with fellows of this calibre.
Joe Gasparich: I knew it was sheer suicide on those fellows but to think that they would give it a go, to come over and help us just because it was their orders. That was the type of fellow that made up the Main Body.
Swindell: These were the men and this was the situation
Speaker D: They intended to land on a flat beach two miles below where we actually landed. We landed at Gaba Tepe, which was a steep face. We got into the pinnaces, sailed ashore, couldn’t get any closer than 100 yards from the beach on account of machine gun fire. So we were ordered to disembark; we embarked into the sea up to the armpits. And we got ashore through the machine gun fire, cleaned the Turks off from there and stayed put. We stayed in the gully behind the hills until the next day when we went up to the top. There seemed to be none of our own people there, except troops fighting. No one to tell us what to do or anything.
Joe Gasparich: I did not actually go up the hills with the first wave, but I did go up in the afternoon with a party of men to take ammunition up to the top. I said “Where are they?– They’re up there.” So we went up there with mules and so on. Had a lot of fun getting mules up under fire. And when we arrived at the top, there was an officer there: “Ammunition for the front line sir, Where is the front line?" "Hear that firing? Well, there take it there.”
Right, so I said to the boys, “Come on.” So off we went and when we’d gone some distance towards this firing, a voice from behind me yelled out in stentorian tones “Whoa, whoa! Whoa!”, all the adjectives. We understood what it meant. Where were we going? We were heading towards the Turkish line, the firing we were going to was the Turkish line, such were the instructions that we had.
Speaker D. The first procedure of course was to try and get protection for ourselves. Then we had to dig in with our little entrenching tools, which was a job in itself. Well we got a trench about two feet deep which took us about three days to do the ground was very hard. And we had no protection. They had it all we had none. First you hear a man would flop down then another and another. We had no supports. There was nothing else but fighting, that was the only thing in the first twenty-four hours you thought of nothing else, but saving your own life and taking as many of the enemies as possible. You couldn’t sleep, you didn’t know when a Turkish attack would come across to drive you back into the sea. I was there on that ridge for thirteen days.
Speaker E: Nobody looked after us. Nobody seemed to care about us. We were short of food, short of water. Nobody worried two hoots in heck about us. Could have had some guns, that would have been a godsend. Find a few guns that the Turks, could have moved and taken trenches and goodness knows what, but as it was we just sat there. Turks 30 yards away and firing at each other all day and all night. They always had the higher ground, they always had the better position. See, they owned the blooming land, we came in there, took what we could get”
Speaker D: We had been told on the Achaia that what we had to do was respect the people in the villages as we passed through them. We never went through any villages [laughs], never went far enough to see any villages. Never had any food. The only food I had was a little bag of biscuits, you know a little cotton bag, with a little string on the top, full of those little biscuits about as big as half a crown. And they were so hard that you couldn’t bite them, water hadn’t affected them. We were soaked to the skin but the biscuits were still dry [laughs]. They were so hard you put one in your mouth and you just sucked away at it, like you would with a lolly. One biscuit would last about four hours. [laughs] We had nothing else.
Swindell: Later on, things got somewhat better.
Speaker E: You lived on bully beef and biscuits. No bread, no meat. You did all your own cooking. Well, you only had bully beef anyway but you warmed it up sometimes.
Speaker D: The only drinking water we had was the water that came from Egypt in benzene tins. I think must have been half petrol half water, that’s what it tasted like anyway.
Speaker C: The water used to come from Egypt and was floated ashore in tins and then carried up and dumped into two or three hundred gallon square tanks, with a man on guard over them with a fixed bayonet.
But it was an unwritten law that if the Aussies were on guard over this tank, it was ‘Open Sesame’ for the New Zealanders, and if there was a New Zealander on guard, same went for the Australians. Well, you’d go past these Aussies on guard and you’d say out of the corner of your mouth “What about a drop of water, Digger?” and he wouldn’t look at you, he’d look straight ahead and say “Help your bloody self”
Speaker E: These donkeys used to go up and down with a pannier on each side of the donkey and up and down this track, 300 feet and he used to do it all day every day. Saw it many times.
Swindell: The conditions were bad when the ANZACs arrived. And they got worse.
Speaker C: The worse thing there was the flies and the disease: the dysentery and the flies and the lice. They’d get under your armpits, in your trousers and everywhere. Used to strip off and run a lighted paper up and down the seams of the trousers in order to get rid of them and two days after they’d be just as thick as ever. And then the flies. The flies were there in clouds. Used to come off the dead bodies I presume. And you daren’t try to put a bit of jam on a biscuit unless you just opened the lid, put a bit of jam on the end of the knife and dabbed it on the biscuit and popped it in your mouth. But even though you did that, the flies would be all round your mouth.
Joe Gasparich: Is it any wonder that there was so much sickness? But men had been living in those conditions for weeks and they were the men who went up to Chunuk Bair, and got to the top but couldn’t hold it. Most of these men by this time were yellow with jaundice and they were so weak that if they stumbled, if their feet turned on a lump or something, they would almost fall over, and those were the men who actually got up there, to the top and tried to hold that. It was a physical impossibility for them to do it.
When I joined up the company again, I think my company was nineteen strong. Now, the normal company strength when we went into action first, was somewhere round about roughly, 240 and they had had up to the 5th reinforcements at that time, making in round numbers, somewhere up to about 400 men had gone through the company rolls, from April to the end of August, and there were only nineteen left. We had a sentry group there at night of two men per group. The normal group was eight, uh, six men to the group. The practice in France was for two men to be on active duty at the time and the four men off-duty resting. But the men on two hours had half an hour on the parapet and the other man was sitting alongside him ready to assist him in any way, if he wanted to rest, you see? At this particular stage on Gallipoli there were only two men on a group, and one man went on for two hours and he was on sentry and the other man, instead of being able to sleep, had to dig. And that went on every night, two hours on, two hours off, but the two hours off was hard physical labour.
Swindell: So rest became even more precious than food.
Speaker D: So the orders came through that we were to have a spell. And the only place to have a spell was down at Cape Helles where there was not much fighting. Lovely, quiet as quiet [laughs] no shooting, no guns bellowing. We didn’t know, we hadn’t been told, that the armistice ceased at eight o’clock the following morning and we were lying there like a lot of pigeons and the armistice broke and the guns from Krithia started to land just exactly into where we were. No one suggested before that we moved, but we did move in a very great hurry. And the next morning they took us up onto the top and we thought “Oh", we thought, "this is lovely [laughs] No enemy anywhere about.”
Then at ten o’clock they said “Now you’ve got to advance. “ This was the rest we were having. We advanced with the intention of taking this hill they called Krithia. But we never got anywhere near Krithia [laughs].
Well, I just got one through the knee, so I cut my pants off with a pocket knife. I poured a bottle of iodine over it and put a little cotton wool over it, bandaged it up with my puttees, put a bayonet underneath to keep it straight as a splint, bandaged it up and just lay there waiting for someone to take me back. And I lay there and Phil Blake came over and said “I’m going down to the dressing station, I’ll carry you back.” And he picked me up and flung me over his shoulders. I weighed twelve stone, that was my weight then. He slung me over his shoulder and carried me three miles. That's a heavy weight to carry for three miles. Plonked me down at the dressing station and that was that.
Joe Gasparich: The provision for the wounded just shows how ill-prepared we were for the landing. Nobody in authority imagined at all that the casualties would be so great. Apparently nobody thought that the Turks would offer such resistance. It was utterly outside all their calculations. I went into the tent and there were the doctors and they had great pots of iodine, tincture of iodine, with a whole lot of brushes in it of various sizes. So what they did, they uncovered my wound, grabbed a great big brush of iodine, stuck it into the wound and wobbled it all round like that and then tied it up. And of course my whole insides just sank right down, it was a terrible feeling, but however, it was alright.
Speaker D: Then a couple of days later I went down to the beach on a stretcher. And the stretcher bearer said they‘ve got a very sick man, would I lend him my stretcher? And I said “Yes take it”. He said “We’ll get you another one as soon as we can.” And I lay down on the stones and I lay there for twenty-four hours. That was the worst experience I had, twenty-four hours lying on stones. I didn’t get a stretcher see, I didn’t get a stretcher.
Joe Gasparich: We were all bundled aboard this ship and when she was full, off she went for Egypt. I’ve forgotten how many days it takes to go to Egypt, some four or five days from where we were in Cape Helles to Alexandria. And on the way I know that the surgeons who were aboard, I was told they operated without cessation for seventy-odd hours.
Speaker D: All they were doing, as far as I can picture, was wrapping up dead men and pushing them over the side. I went down to six stone, lost six stone in weight in about six or seven days. Seems unbelievable doesn’t it? I never had a thing to eat all the time.
Swindell: A ship’s officer has equally distressing memories.
Captain Alexander McLachlan: During our sojourn in Mudros Bay on Lemnos Island, we had an influx of wounded, about 700 men. There was only the doctor on the ship. They were just brought on board and a blanket was put down on deck and that’s where they lay. One of the soldiers was very badly wounded in the back and it wasn’t a very nice sight because his bandage had come off his wound and maggots were crawling there. So I got busy and cleaned out the wound and incidentally, got him a glass of brandy to cheer him up.
Well, it was a terrible job to look after these chaps and the captain got very annoyed about it and went straight across to Headquarters ship and asked to see Admiral Wemyss, who was in charge of all naval activities at Gallipoli at that time, and he did see him and Admiral Wemyss wouldn’t believe that such things could be going on. So he hopped on his barge and came over to our ship and went on board and had a look around, and I was just pulling up to the ship’s side and he was coming down the gangway and tears were running out of his eyes and he got on his barge and within an hour we had twenty-five doctors and oh, fifty orderlies on board the Saturnia.
Joe Gasparich: Those on board the ship did everything they could. They were marvellous, the way they worked, as you can imagine. Well, anyway eventually we arrived at Alexandria. When we got there there was no place in Egypt for us.
Swindell: Some were eventually taken back to one of the many small islands that dot these waters and discharged into the primitive hospital there.
Joe Gasparich: In order to fit this out, they had ratted the island for beds. There were big, high double beds and long, narrow single beds and so on. But when we looked into the ward they were all in white sheets and white coverlets. And as we’d been on Gallipoli from the 25th of April until this time and had not had a wash in the meantime, still had blood and stuff on, we were able to get a wash in a hand basin and drop all our dirty clothes in the corridor and get into bed that night. It was a glorious feeling to get into, under sheets again. There’s another recollection – the pleasure on the faces of those men, all wounded men, some of them very severely wounded men. There’s was one particular bed that looked very enticing and we put into that one of our men who was suffering very great pain and with one accord we gave him the nicest looking bed of the lot. Lights went out, first night and we settled down to get a decent sleep for once. After a little while, a curse, across in the dark. Presently, another curse. Then some shufflings. Presently, somebody switched on the light. Everybody got up. The beds were lousy as lousy as lousy as lousy could be! Every bed was alive with bed lice and the worst one in the lot was the big one that we’d given this poor beggar.
Swindell: Start the ANZACs talking about Gallipoli and memories come flooding back.
Joe Gasparich: And then they took us off to one of the islands. I’ve forgotten which island it was, and the men were absolutely sick at heart and they didn’t want to be harried or worried or troubled, but unfortunately the C.O. was taken away for another duty somewhere else and another officer was put in charge of the battalion for the mean time. I suppose in his wisdom, he thought it was a wise thing to do, that he had to keep the men busy. And one of his stunts was to order the men to parade with their knapsacks empty and they had to march away into the hills and they had to pick up rounded stones of a certain size, carry them back to the camp and lay them out in lines along among the tents. Well, that was a titivation of the lines that did NOT appeal to the New Zealand soldiers.
Speaker C: I remember one shift in Gallipoli; we shifted to a place called Hill 60. We shifted in night time of course, carrying our packs. It was muddy and dirty and we were slipping and sliding and falling and we didn’t know where the devil we were. Anyway, we eventually got to Hill 60 and the men we were supposed to relieve had not gone. The result was that there was no room for us in their bivvies. So we just had to stand in the snow. We stood in the snow all night.
Well, we thought we must get a fire or we’ll perish. So the Tommies had some pontoon planks and the chaps got hold of those and immediately started to smash them up and oh, there was a hell of a row. Some Tommy colonel came down and was going to get us hung drawn and quartered, and they smashed them up and got a fire going and we all stood round this fire. We were all thick with mud. I remember my mate, he stood with his back to it and he got the mud, certainly all dry but he also got his pants all singed and he never noticed that. So next morning he went to wipe all this thick, dry mud off and his pants fell away with it and that caused a great laugh. That was what the fellows on Gallipoli always remember as ‘the Blizzard’ there.
Swindell: The Blizzard, the privations, the man with the donkey, the comradeship, the Daisy Patch.
Joe Gasparich: The Daisy Patch was a smaller area. Oh, I suppose an acre or an acre and a half in extent and the daisies were thick everywhere, and that’s where we made that run across, the famous run. Now my recollection of that is very vivid, because I was hit and I dropped, and in spite of the situation at that time, in spite of the fact that I’d been hit, in spite of all that, I got an absolute thrill out of watching the men come. Now to me, it was the most foolish thing that ever could happen. It was absolute murder - or suicide, whichever way you like to look at it.
We were digging in all the afternoon in the blazing sun, under fire all the time and losing men all the time. And then the order came, the whole line will advance at 5.30. All of sudden up they went, the line. “Off you go”, and off these fellows went. When I saw these fellows go, I grabbed my tunic, pulled it on, grabbed my web equipment, pulled it on, but after I was hit, I sat down and of the crowd who went over, the majority got over to these bushes and low water courses you see, where we could get down behind shelter and get up and there we began to build a firing line and fire at Jacko, who was nicely entrenched somewhere about 100 yards ahead of us.
Here were his trenches on the side and he’d built them at his leisure and they were all sandbagged and he had overhead cover and everything else and loopholes to fire through and we had to fire at these loopholes and he had us out in the open and he had his machine guns and that sort of thing too.
Well, after a little while, when I sat there, another line of our chaps got up to follow us, according to their orders. I suppose there would be about, in that particular line, about forty men. Would start to run across to where we are, to join us where we were. And every one dropped. Every one dropped. Just think of it.
Well, after an interval, believe it or not, another line got up to follow them, to come over to help us where we were, to build up our strength. And every man in that lot dropped. I watched them.
And believe it or not, a third lot got up, somewhere about the same number, thirty to forty men. Two men I noticed, they ran about ten yards, fifteen yards. They suddenly turned round and ran back and dropped in the holes they’d come out of. They were the sensible ones. One man got across, and he was hit, he staggered across. Every other man was dropped. That was the Daisy Patch. That was the Daisy Patch.
Swindell: And finally, after eight months of pride and pain, dogged courage and fierce friendship, the evacuation. The news of the movement was greeted not with joy, but with despair.
Joe Gasparich: When the word came round that we were going to leave Gallipoli the men simply would not believe it. And they were the most despondent men you’ve ever seen. For days there was hardly a joke cracked in the trenches. Normally they were quite cheerful. But it was such a shock, the idea of giving up and going away and leaving their cobbers, their dead pals, after all that had been done.
Speaker D: Well, we nearly wept to think that the whole show had fizzled out. A bad show.
Swindell: But the evacuation itself was a good show, a very good show. In fact it has been described as one of the finest movements in any war.
Speaker D: Came off in A, B and C parties. I came off in B party. We never thought C party would ever get off anyway, but they did. The Turks took no notice of us whatsoever. B party, when we went off, we were running up and down the trenches, popping a rifle over the edge and pulling the trigger at nothing. And we went up and down the trenches doing this every twelve yards or so to make the Turks think there was still people there.
Joe Gasparich: I had the honour of being in the rear guard myself. I was in the landing. I got down of my perch at a quarter past two on the night of the evacuation and I moved down the trench and it was empty. And I joined them up at the rendezvous and as we went down the line our steps seemed to ring and echo through the stillness of the night.
['Last Post' and sound of ocean]
Announcer: That was 'ANZAC', with technical production by Joy Peterson. This programme was produced by Laurie Swindell in the Napier studios of the NZBC.
Transcript by Sound Archives/Ngā Taonga Kōrero
Reference number 247794
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Documentary radio programs
Nonfiction radio programs
Swindell, Laurie (b.1914?, d.2009), Producer
Gasparich, Joseph George, 1890-1985, Interviewee
McLachlan, Alexander, Interviewee
Peterson, Joy, Producer
Radio New Zealand. National Programme (estab. 1964, closed 1986), Broadcaster
Date 29 Jan 1969