There's more than one type of hero in war
Name: Jack Reid
Unit: 1st Brigade AIF
There are all sorts of heroes in wars. Some fearlessly charge enemy positions without thought for their own safety, others quietly get on with the job while bullets and shells explode all around them. Les Dinning was one of the latter.
Sgt Dinning was with the 1st Brigade AIF when it landed on the beach at Gallipoli on 15 April 1915. Alongside him was his great mate Jack Reid.
They had both been students at Sydney Teacher's College and went on to teach in State schools before war broke out. They were quick to enlist, signing on in August 1914.
The pair travelled to Egypt as part of the Expeditionary Forces and were then sent to Gallipoli. Les Dinning was wounded in the arm that first day on Gallipoli but he kept fighting.
His mate Jack bound up the wound and they spent the night huddled in their fox holes. When Jack Reid was wounded the next day, it was Les' turn to help his mate, as Jack revealed in a letter to Les' father in a letter dated 11 May 1915.
Dear Mr Dinning,
In the afternoon [of 25 April] the navy began a heavy bombardment and added thunder-like peals to the noise of battle. They fired over our positions on to the Turkish guns and seemed to blow the very tops off the hills. Later in the afternoon, an Indian mountain battery came into action, and the fighting began to be more even.
We were situated about the centre of the fighting line, and held the one position all day, but attacks and counter attacks were being made from either flank, and at times we had to withold our fire for fear of hitting our own men. The Australians acted magnificently, and tho' at first getting the worst of it, remained remarkably cool.
As a machine gun section would be put out of action others would readily volunteer to take their places. As a shrapnel shell would burst some wit was tempted to say 'I believe there's a war on'. Another passed a remark about 'Turkish delight' but it was being served red hot.
Messages were frequently passed down the line asking for stretcher bearers. But it was to commit suicide for the Red Cross to go into the firing line, and some difficulty was experienced in getting the wounded away. Men were being hit round about me all the afternoon. The uncertainty of when my own turn would come was almost unbearable.
It seemed as if the sun would never set. Late in the afternoon our position was repeatedly peppered with shrapnel. A piece tore a hole thro' the side of my boot & passed into the sole without touching my foot, while a poor fellow alongside me was hit twice and fatally wounded.
Our company suffered heavily. Capt McGuire, the OC, was killed. The 4 platoon commanders wounded, all the sergeants disabled and many of the men wounded. There was a short lull in the fighting at the close of the day, and we immediately began to entrench ourselves. Les and I had been separated all day, and we now got together. Les had received a bullet thro' his upper arm and I now bandaged it up for him.
Fortunately for me, I survived the first day without as much as a scratch. We dug a hole with our entrenching tools and stuck to it thro' the night. The Turks under cover of the darkness advanced as close as 20 or 30 yards to our trenches, and we could only locate them by the flash from the muzzles of their rifles; and when they got close enough we opened a heavy fire point blank and drove them back with the bayonet inflicting heavy losses.
To make matters worse, it rained during the night. Daylight brought a repetition of the previous day's fighting, and we were strengthened by reinforcements & a battery of the field artillery. The various battalions were now hopelessly mixed, and the loss of officers was being seriously felt. Sergeants would send messages down the line asking for instructions. But we stuck to our position and no retirements were made.
About 5 o'clock Monday afternoon, reinforcements were asked for on the left flank, and Les & I with a number of others, went round, and an officer led us to where the Turks were making a special effort to break thro'. We had scarcely knelt down behind some bushes when I was shot, the bullet passing thro' the right side of my head above the ear and towards the back of the head.
It was accompanied by no pain, and I did not lose consciousness. The blood flowed freely, I was breathing heavily and was prepared to give up the ghost. I called out 'it is the end Les, Good-bye'. Strange to say the thought occurred to me that by dying then I left my life incomplete. There seemed to be a big break between this barren peninsula and home & friends.
Les came over immediately and applied my field dressing. And altho' I was insisting that it was no use, he put my arm round his neck and carried me back. Bullets were still whistling, over so we dropped behind a bush. Les then took of my puttee & bound it around my head. I was feeling a bit groggy, but managed to keep my feet.
We went down a gully towards the beach, where a hospital base had been established. We met one of the Red Cross and he bound my head afresh. The fact that I remained conscious was reassuring, and I began to think that while there was life there was hope. On reaching the beach, a Dr dressed my head & we were given Bovril to drink.
The wounded were being taken in naval boats to the troopships. As I said goodbye to Les, I felt as if I were deserting him. He had undoubtedly saved my life by his promptness in rendering first aid and in getting me quickly to the base & by doing which he had risked his own life. I pray to God that he may be protected from the dangers of the battlefield for he deserves it, and I look forward to the day when I shall again be able to clasp his hand. He is a true hero.
The boat arrived in Alexandria on Saturday 1st May & I was taken to the hospital in a motor car. I was operated on the following day and a piece of bone was removed that was pressing on the brain and causing me to take fits.
I have been well since, and have no pain except for an occasional throbbing. This morning the Doctor dressed my head and removed seventeen stiches, so you see I have a rather extensive cut. He said, however, that it was doing splendidly. It will only take time now for it to heal, and as they are sending those that will take some time to recover to England, I shall probably get a trip to the Homeland.
Lord Dudley visited the hospital yesterday and sat on my bed & chatted pleasantly about Australia.
With best wishes,
Yours sincerely Jack Reid.
Jack Reid's prayers for Les Dinning's survival were partly answered. Les returned to the fray after helping Jack get medical aid, but was again wounded and was sent for treatment in hospital. He returned to Gallipoli and was promoted to Sergeant.
From Gallipoli he was sent to France where he was seriously wounded on 20 August 1916, receiving shrapnel wounds in his chest.
He was transferred to the 1st Southern General Hospital in England where he spent the next two years receiving treatment. On his return to Australia he walked on crutches but was presented with a specially adapted motorcycle and side car by the Committee for the Patients of 4th AGH, which enabled him to get around and he returned to teaching.
Jack Reid also returned to teaching and repaid his debt to Les by helping him during his convalescence, pushing him around in his wheel chair. Les died in 1924 aged 31 while Jack was 45 when he died in 1938.
See also story: The 3rd Brigade had performed a marvellous feat.
The material for this article was supplied by Les Dinning from New South Wales
8/01/2002 10:23:42 AM