Gallipoli diary and sketches by Signaller Ellis Silas

 

One of the original Australian Imperial Force (AIF) units that landed on Gallipoli was the 16th Battalion. Signaller Ellis Silas told a story of the battalion at Anzac through his diary and artworks, in a book published in 1916.

About the artist

English-born artist Ellis Silas migrated to Australia in 1907. He painted in Sydney and Melbourne before settling in Perth. In October 1914, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Silas was never confident that he would make a good soldier even though he had served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and had some experience of military life.

Silas left Australia with the 16th Infantry Battalion in December 1914.

Throughout early 1915, Silas continued his training as a signaller outside Cairo, Egypt. Silas disliked army life and took every opportunity to work on sketches and paintings.

On the evening of 25 April 1915, Silas looked at his battalion waiting on the deck of a transport to go ashore on Gallipoli. He reflected:

for the last time in this world many of us stand shoulder to shoulder. As I looked down the ranks of my comrades I wonder which of us are marked for the land beyond

For the Anzacs, the Battle of the Landing on Gallipoli in which the 16th Battalion took part lasted from 25 April to 3 May 1915.

Silas told some of the battalion's story after the Gallipoli Campaign in a book called Crusading at Anzac AD 1915, which covers the raising of the 16th Battalion.

Silas' book is based on extracts from the diary and sketchbook he kept during his time at Anzac. His words and images provide a dramatic insight into the dangers, hardships and loss that accompanied the Anzacs as they tried to establish a foothold on the Gallipoli peninsula.

Sketches from Silas' book

The Indian Ocean, Ellis Silas, 1916

It was a sight, this huge fleet of transports, ploughing its way through a sapphire sea—a spectacle that, perhaps, will never be seen again. That this vast fleet was able to sail all those thousands of miles, without an escort of any kind, is an excellent proof of the splendid work the Navy has done.

[Christmas day, 1914]

In the Bazaars, Ellis Silas, 1916

'Walking s'ick! Cigarette flag! Cigar, pos' card! B'ery goo-o-d!!! B'ery nice. Australia, b'ery goo-o-d! Baksish. Gib it-alf piastre—Mr McKenzie; I know you, b'ery nice, quies Katieah!!!'

The Cairene is an indefatigable vendor. Why he is not wealthy is a mystery. Whether you meet him miles out in the desert, or in some equally remote spot, he has always got something to sell you. Should you, perchance, happen to be falling off a donkey—or the top of the Pyramids—you would probably find a horde of Arabs rush forward and endeavour to sell you something during your meteoric flight through space. Though the Egyptian is cunning, his artlessness is delightful; he will usually begin by asking a fabulous sum for his goods, and will be quite pleased if, in the end, he obtains the equivalent of a penny-farthing.

[Egypt, January 1915]

The Last Assembly, Ellis Silas, 1916

In the hold of the troopship, Hyda Pasha. There, for The last time in this world, many of us stood shoulder to shoulder. As I looked down the ranks of my comrades, I wondered much which of us were marked for the Land Beyond. We were well in the zone of fire, and every second I was expecting a shell to come bursting through the side of the ship, to answer my question.

[Gallipoli, 25 April 1915]

From the Ribble to the Boats, Ellis Silas, 1916

We were transferred from the transport to the destroyer, which took us close into the shore, and then we were transferred into the ship's boats and rowed to the shore, amidst a hail of shells.

[Gallipoli, 25 April 1915]

The Landing, Ellis Silas, 1916

It was a relief to get ashore. We were packed so tightly in the boats and, moreover, so heavily laden with our kit, that had a shot hit the boat we would have had no chance of saving ourselves. It was awful, the feeling of utter helplessness. Meanwhile, the Turks were pelting us hot and fast. In jumping ashore, I fell over; my kit was so heavy that I couldn't get up without help. Fortunately the water was shallow at this point, otherwise - well, I'm here to relate the incident. It was a magnificent spectacle to see those thousands of men rushing through this hail of death, as thought it were some big game.

[Anzac, 25 April 1915]

Dead Man's Patch, Ellis Silas, 1916

It was across this exposed spot that many times I had to run despatches. The ridge on the right, where shrapnel can be seen bursting, was thick with snipers, who had this patch so well set that they rarely missed their mark. The poor chaps seen in the drawing all got caught when trying to get across. I wondered if I was to join them.

[Anzac, May 1915]

At the Water Hole, Ellis Silas, 1916

This was always covered by the Turkish snipers; in fact, it was safer in the trenches than at this place. It was quite one of the warmest spots at Anzac. The poor fellow in the dug-out was caught, just a few minutes before I filled my water-bottle. All around here were wounded and men, who had been hit when dodging round this corner. However, one must drink, even if the price be death.

[Anzac, May 1915]

The Snipers, Ellis Silas, 1916

The snipers had been causing us a deal of trouble. It became almost impossible to go round this corner without getting hit. Finally we were unable to bring up our supplies. The poor chap in the foreground was shot a few minutes before I made this sketch; and the pack-horse severely wounded. Despite the great danger, two men rushed forward and caught hold of the startled animals, thus preventing a stampede which, in the confined space of the narrow road—if such it could be called—might have caused an impasse, and this under the existing conditions would have been highly dangerous. The repetition of shrapnel in each sketch is not a fad of mine, but just the natural order of things: they became as much part of the landscape as the clouds.

[Anzac, May 1915]

Stretcher Bearers, Ellis Silas, 1916

This gives some idea of the difficulties and dangers the stretcher-bearers had to contend with. Their bravery was quite equal to any heroism shown on the field of battle. When we first landed, the Turks shot at anything that moved, sparing not even the wounded on stretchers. They had been told by the Germans that the Australians were cannibals.

[Anzac, May 1915]

Bathing under Shell Fire, Ellis Silas, 1916

This was certainly a most unique experience. I remember how delightful it was to be immersed in the sea, after not having had a decent wash for about three weeks. We would hear the enemy's gun fire, then: 'Shell O!!' Out we would all scamper like a crowd of naughty schoolboys, and take cover behind anything on the beach that afforded shelter. Then, after the shell had burst, back we would go into the sea. I remember the beautiful colour of the water, and the ships lying out on the horizon. 'Shell O!!' This time we were nearly caught, for two or three shells came sliding through the air, and burst quite close to us; however, we were determined not to be done out of our swim, so back into the water we went.

[Anzac, May 1915]

Signalling - Quinn's Post (Anzac, May, 1915), Ellis Silas, 1916

Snipers created a considerable amount of dust, every time I got up to signal. In fact, I think they had a real merry time, but being so sure of their mark they became careless. Well, whatever the cause, they didn't get me. The feet above are those of a buried comrade. It was not an unusual occurrence when 'digging-in' to come in contact with a grave.

[Anzac, May 1915]

The Turks' trenches were only a few yards in front of ours. They caused us much trouble with bombs. The poor chap on the left was badly caught, but I don't think he knew much about it. He was lying there some days. Though I often had to climb over him when going through the trenches, I didn't dare look at his face—if there was any—he was such an awful spectacle. The man on the right 'caught it' badly; whether he died I know not. There was little time to think of these matters. He was out of action; another man must take his place.

[Anzac, May 1915]

In the Trenches - Quinn's Post, Ellis Silas, 1916

The Turks' trenches were only a few yards in front of ours. They caused us much trouble with bombs. The poor chap on the left was badly caught, but I don't think he knew much about it. He was lying there some days. Though I often had to climb over him when going through the trenches, I didn't dare look at his face—if there was any—he was such an awful spectacle. The man on the right 'caught it' badly; whether he died I know not. There was little time to think of these matters. He was out of action; another man must take his place.

[Anzac, May 1915]

Capture of Turkish Trenches by Light Horse, Ellis Silas, 1916

These trenches, facing Quinn's Post, had been giving us a hot time, causing many casualties with their bombs. After the trench was captured - the forty yards of flat ground between this, our new front and our own trenches, was swept by the enemy's fire, which was enfilading us. The 16th Battalion was only supposed to reinforce, instead of which, by some error, we were sent into the firing line; but there was not room in the trenches for all - many had to lie outside. I had to go six times across this lead-swept plateau until eventually I could find the 16th Battalion, and deliver the order to retire. In the darkness I had not noticed a communication trench, which would have obviated the necessity of my crossing this lead-swept space. What worried me most was that I might fall over the decomposing bodies of the dead Turks. The figure in the centre is that of Lieutenant Harwood. When I got to him with my message he yelled above the din: 'Silas, this is fine, I wouldn't be elsewhere for a thousand pounds!'

[Anzac, May 1915]

The Roll Call - Quinn's Post, Ellis Silas, 1916

This is always a most heart-breaking incident. Name after name would be called; the reply-a deep silence, which could be felt, despite the noise of the incessant cracking of rifles and screaming of shrapnel. This was taken the morning after the charge on Sunday night, May 9. We, the 16th Battalion, were supposed to be resting, and were only to reinforce if the necessity arose. Unfortunately, through some error, we were sent into the firing line. At dawn, the following morning, there were few of us left to answer our names when the roll was called- just a thin line of weary, ashen-faced men. The bodies on the right we were unable to bury for some days, as we were so hard pressed by the Turks.

[Anzac, May 1915]

Boarding the Hospital Ship, Ellis Silas, 1916

We were towed from ship to ship. Always the same reply: 'Full up!' Eventually we managed to get aboard one. The 'cot cases' were hoisted on board by the derricks. Fortunately, on this particular day, there was a fairly smooth sea, so the embarkation was not difficult; but during the rough weather, the wounded suffered terribly when being put aboard the Hospital ship. Even right out here, a stray shell would occasionally come buzzing through the air. Note the narrow escape of the boatload alongside the ship. After having been in the thickest scrimmage, to be hit, so far out from the firing line, would have been truly annoying.

[Gallipoli, May 1915]

The Hospital Ship Galeka, Ellis Silas, 1916

On the ship there was only sufficient accommodation for 150 wounded; we had on board 500. Although delirious at night, I had the use of my limbs - so I did orderly work. Sometimes I would be on duty from 7 am to 11 pm, taking what little food I required when I got the opportunity. The medical officers were splendid. They worked night and day, scarcely giving themselves time for meals. On one occasion, Dr Fiaschi Jnr. worked for five hours on one case without a rest. The body on the left - covered with a blanket - was one of my cases; the poor fellow 'went out' quite unexpectedly; he was not badly wounded. The man sitting on the right on the seat (a NSW boy). Though he had lost his right arm, was the merriest, brightest man on the ship.

[Gallipoli, May 1915]

Palace Hospital, Heliopolis, Ellis Silas, 1916

"Heaven!"

[May 1915]

Fame - "These are Mine", Gallipoli, December 1915

Fame—"These are Mine"

[Gallipoli, December 1915]

Diary of Ellis Silas

In 1914, after joining the 16th Battalion AIF in Perth, Western Australia, Silas began recording his experiences in a diary, which covered his:

  • training in Western Australia
  • voyage to and time in Egypt
  • journey to Gallipoli
  • early days of the campaign at Anzac
  • medical evacuation back to Egypt

Silas revised his diary in 1916, adding to it and having it typed. He may have intended to publish it. One surviving copy contains the title page 'Diary of an Anzac' and a self-portrait sketch.

Silas claimed, in a letter attached to the diary, that his revision contained 'much that was omitted' in the original owing to lack of space. Eventually, he hoped he might work the 'rough' material up into 'something more tangible'. It was not to be, but his reactions to the early fighting on Gallipoli show how the realities of war became a nightmare for one sensitive soldier.

26 June 1916
Chelsea Arts Club,
142 & 145, Church Street,
LONDON S.W.

In this revision of my Diary for which my friend Mrs Haines has so kindly acted as amanuensis, I have described exactly my feelings at the time the incidents related occurred. Owing to my lack of space, opportunity, and, in part, inclination, much was omitted in the original diary that is now herein set down.

Whether or no this record of my experiences during the first terrible year of the Great War will be of interest, time alone can prove. When the din of battle has faded into the realm of the past, and the country is strewn with memorials paying tribute to those Great Heroes who gave their lives so gamely for the Cause; these little sidelights on the lives of those of them that were at Anzac, keeping fresh the glorious tradition of a Great Empire, perhaps may be of value.

I may rewrite the rough details into something more tangible, though so much that is good has been written on this subject that perchance I had best occupy myself with other matters.

Signaller Ellis Silas
16 Battalion. AIF.

August 1914

Entered Camp Blackboy Hill West Australia. Am in camp for three weeks during which time I often break camp to go to my studio to work on my large canvas which I hope to finish as it may be the last I shall ever paint. After the quiet of my studio I find this terrible, life in camp and the uncongenial society of rough Bushmen. They are good fellows and seem to think a lot of me. On one occasion, when drilling, there was rather a fine sunset which greatly occupied my attention. Suddenly I heard an explosion of frightful language—I looked round, found myself standing alone at the attention; the remainder of the squad having marched off, which I also should have done. It is needless to remark what the drill sergeant thought about it.

September 1914

This morning at drill I nearly fainted; for five days I had little or no sleep. I go to the MO. I am given a pill, which seems to be a general cure for all minor complaints. My terrible imagination, the thought of having to give up my brush, is getting too much for me. I have not yet been sworn in, and as I don't feel I am going to be much use, and as I can't get into the AMC where I know I should be useful, I think I should take everybody's advice and give it up.

November 1914

3 am. Feeling very miserable—ten minutes to get kit together—we are shortly moving off, to leave behind, probably for ever, my dear friends and everything else that was of any count. I pray God when we get to it I shall not be found wanting. Rushed to a telephone to bid goodbye to LadyG.

7 am. Entrain for Fremantle—12 noon, on S.S. Dimboola en route for Melbourne.

NOV: Reach Albany. Once spent a very happy sketching tour here; little did I think I should ever have to venture upon such a terrible mission.

4 pm. Leave Albany, suffer much from mal-de-mer. I obtained permission to remain on the officers' deck for sketching—I tried to do a little; mal-de-mer too much for me. Dimboola a beast of a ship.

Reach Adelaide—four hours' leave. Dash off to the Art Gallery to see one of my favorite paintings, 'Circe invidiosa' by Waterhouse—colour glorious and general treatment most decorative—also a very fine picture by Adrian Stokes, 'The Wet West Wind', full of atmosphere and good in tone. For its size the Adelaide Gallery contains an excellent collection of pictures. Visit Jane Ashton (artist)—Willie Ashton is away painting—rotten luck, wish I could have seen him.

23 April 1915

Flag practice.

24 April 1915

Studies—Flag practice. Bitterly cold at night—continual booming of guns.

25 April 1915

In the distance one can just discern the Dardenelles opening up—the thunder of the guns is much clearer—the weather this morning is beautiful; what will it be to-night? Studies. I have eaten well. I can now see fire from the guns. I wonder which of the men round me has been chosen by Death. I do not feel the least fear, only a sincere hope that I may not fail at the critical moment.

5.30 pm. We are on the battlefield, well under the fire of the enemy—it is difficult to realise that every burst of flame, every spurt of water, means Death or worse. For days before we reached the final scene in the 'Great Adventure' we could hear the ceaseless thunder of the bombardment, we have been told of the impossible task before us, of probable annihilation; yet we are eager to get to it; we joke with each other about getting cold feet, but deep down in our hearts we know when we get to it we will not be found wanting. The Assembly is sounded—I have never seen it answered with such alacrity—there is a loud cheer as we gather together in the hold. Here for last time in this world many of us stand shoulder to shoulder. As I look down the ranks of my comrades I wonder which of us are marked for the land beyond. Perhaps I shall fly through the side of the ship to answer my question. I don't think I can carry my kit—I can scarcely stand with the weight of it. We are descending on to the destroyer Ribble which is along side us. Noise of the guns simply frightful. Colour of the sea beautiful. We are packed very tightly on the destroyer. One of the boys just remarked:

'Mind where you are stepping, Silas.'

I looked down—there at my feet are three silent forms half covered by a tarpaulin—one of them a Signaller. I have often been told of the danger of signalling—that few signallers last more than three days. Now indeed is this brought home to me with considerable force—once more I pray that I may not fail the Battalion in the hour of need—I know full well that the miscarriage of a message may mean the lives of hundreds of men. The destroyer alongside us is signaling, but the Navy men are to quick for me—please God the others won't be. The sailors are very kind to us, I think they know what we are going to face—can see boat-loads of wounded being towed from the shore—shrapnel just burst over our heads, thank God no damage—getting nearer the shore, Turks pelting us like anything. The ships are keeping the top of the ridges under a continual line of fire—am just told that we have landed 20,000 men. We are transferring into the boats—it is raining lead—Turks firing wide.

It was relief to get ashore; we are packed so tightly in the boats and moreover so heavily laden with our kit that, had a shot hit the boat, we should have no chance of saving ourselves—it was awful the feeling of utter helplessness. Meanwhile the Turks pelted us hot and fast. In jumping ashore I fell over, my kit was so heavy; I couldn't get up without help—fortunately the water was shallow at this point, otherwise—. It was a magnificent spectacle to see those thousands of men rushing through the hail of Death as though it was some big game—these chaps don't seem to know what fear means—in Cairo I was ashamed of them, now I am proud to be one of them though I feel a pigmy beside them. Wish there wasn't quite such damned noise with the guns, it is sending me all to pieces—don't think I shall ever make a soldier.

The beach is littered with wounded, some of them frightful spectacles; perchance myself I may at any moment be even as they are. Indians bringing ammunition mules along the beach—the scene of carnage worries them not all. It is commencing to get dark—we are now climbing the heights. I am given a pick to carry—half way up I had to drop it, it was too much for me. The lads on the top of the hill are glad to see us for they have been having an anxious time holding their position on the Ridge—'Pope's Hill'—they had scarcely time to throw up more than a little earth to take cover behind. The noise now is Hell. Cannot find any Signallers of my Station—I will look for my Captain, Margolin, they are sure to be with him. There was no time to wait for orders; I must work on my own initiative—in any case the Captain will want a Signaller with him. Now some of the chaps are getting it—groans and screams everywhere, calls for ammunition and stretcher bearers, though how the latter are going to carry stretchers along such precipitous and sandy slopes beats me. Now commencing to take some of the dead out of the trenches; this is horrible; I wonder how long I can stand it.

'Signaller'—I just had to get a message to Headquarters—it had been raining a little, I found it almost impossible to keep my foothold, I kept slipping down all the way along. Colonel Pope seemed very worried and tired; have just heard that our Signal Lieutenant Wilton and Sergeant Major Emmett badly wounded in abdomen. Turks playing funny bugle calls all night long and yelling out, always in English. Bursts of fire from our men—officers doing all they can to stop it as we are getting short of ammunition—more bugling by Turks, makes me think of a Cairene Bazar; the idea of the bugles is supposed to impress us—the Turks would be vexed if they knew what we really thought. I have been running dispatches all night and in between endeavouring to make a dug-out –I couldn't lift the pick so had to use my trenching tool. Wonder what I am going to do for rations—I had to throw mine out, it was too heavy for me to carry. Feeling very weak and tired.

26 April 1915

Pope's Hill—daybreak—down in the Valley, in the midst of this frightful hell of screaming shrapnel and heavy ordinance, the birds are chirping in the clear morning air and buzzing about from leaf to leaf, placidly going about its work, is a large bee—to think of what might be makes me weep, for fighting is continuing in all its fury. Our signallers have been nearly all wiped out—I suppose I'll get my lead pill next. It has now been a ceaseless cry of, 'Stretcher bearers on the left'—they seem to be having an awful time up there—one poor fellow has just jumped out of his dug-out frightfully wounded in the arm; I bound it as best I could, then had to dash off with another message. All along the route, scrambling along the side of the exposed incline, my comrades offered me a dug-out for me to take cover as the snipers are getting our chaps every minute, but as the messages are important I must take my chance. All along the route I keep coming across bodies of the poor chaps who have been less fortunate than I.

27 April 1915

Still fighting furiously—now all signalers have been wiped out of A and B Companies except myself. Just had a shell each side of my dug-out—I felt in a real panic as it is a most horrible sensation. Our ships have missed the range and sent eleven shells into us in a minute; I do not think anyone has been hit—the Turks' trenches are so near ours that it is marvelous how accurately the ships find the range. For three days and nights I have been going without a stop, occasionally having a go at my dug-out which, up to the present, is nothing more than a hole—the continual cry of 'Signaller' never seems to cease. While going up to the Captain's dug-out with a message from Headquarters I nearly got pipped by a machine-gun; fortunately one of the lads pulled me down into safety—I don't seem to feel it's any use worrying; if I'm to get hit nothing can stop it, and to keep dodging down into dug-outs gets on my nerves—I can't stand being cramped into small spaces. The Turks have now got hold of the names of our officers and keep giving messages purporting to emulate from said officers. All night long the Turks have been harassing us heavily—ever and anon 'Enemy advancing on the right,' 'Enemy advancing on the left'—all messages now have to be whispered along the line. There is a pale moon—any minute we are expecting the enemy to rush the trenches—we have no reserves. I ask Captain Margolin to let me make his dug-out more secure, as every time he has to give a message he has to expose himself—after some persuasion he permits me to do so, though at the same time asking me if I had completed my own dug-out. However, after having made his position apparently secure and arranged the bushes the better to make it less conspicuous, I had no sooner vacated the position and he had got into my place, than he was struck in the mouth by a bullet.

'Good God!' I exclaimed, 'have they got you Sir?'

'My God!' he yelled, 'they have caught me at last.'

But, after the first shock, he said to me, 'I thought they had got me then, Silas; what shall I do? I mustn't let the boys see I have been hit'.

However, I said he had better have it attended to. Just at that moment a shot struck the parapet close to my face; I thought my turn had come; although it was nearly dark the snipers seemed well on to this particular dug-out. A body was lifted out of the trench; I thought it was a wounded man; I asked if he was dead—then I saw the top of his head—oh God! The Turks seemed to be going to rush us—Margy grabbed hold of a rifle; I asked him if he was going to use it—'My word, yes,' he said, 'I want something I can fight with.' Margy tells me to try and get a little sleep, but I cannot do so—Turks seem a bit quieter, all the same the position is very critical.

27 April 1915

Morning. Facing our extreme left, on the ridge opposite where there is a single fir tree the New Zealanders are advancing—they are nearer the enemy than they suppose—they may get cut off—from our positions we can see the enemy and their danger. From Captain Margolin—'Get a signal through to them, Silas'.

I get up so to do, and receive immediate attention from the Turkish snipers; some of the boys told me to take a less prominent position—if I do so the New Zealanders will not be able to see my signal—it is hardly necessary to state the course I had to take; the position is too serious, I must take my chance. God, this is awful, my sight is going; I wonder if I can get my message through or will the snipers get me first—I keep giving them 'NZ'—'NZ' but cannot see if they are getting me—it is too awful, will they never see me? At last the N.Z. signalers see me: 'The enemy immediately in front of you, go with caution, look out for snipers, they are everywhere'—my sight is getting dimmer—(to Captain Margolin) 'Send somebody to read Sir, my sight is going'—(to NZ) 'Look out for our men, they are right in front of you'—(from Captain Margolin) 'Signal to our men to come in'—(from the Sergeant Major) 'Signal to them slowly'. Snipers getting very busy—don't think I can last much longer—everything now quite blurred—signal our men 'Come in'—can't see them at all—thank God, message is through. I drop down, have gone all to pieces; the lads think I have been caught. I told Captain Margolin 'I am done; send to Headquarters for more signallers'—cannot remember his reply, but anyway it was couched in very kindly terms. The stretcher bearers have been doing splendid work, poor chaps, along this precipitous ridge where it is difficult to gain a foothold, and under incessant fire from snipers for at this the Turks spared nobody, they shot at anything that moved.

28 April 1915

Fighting still continuing with unabated vigour—will this frightful noise never cease? I wonder what this valley will be like when there is no longer noise of fighting, no longer the hurried tread of combating forces—when the raw earth of the trenches is o'erspread with verdant grass. Perhaps here and there equipment of War will be lying with fresh spring sprouts of grass threading through interstices—underneath the sad little mounds resting sons of a great nation—in the clear sky overhead, instead of the bursting shrapnel, little fleecy clouds—the scream of shrapnel, the Hell noise of the firing, giving place to an unbroken stillness save for the chirping of a bird or the soft buzzing of the bee! I wonder would it be thus!

A rather amusing experience happened to me—there is one particular open space so well set by snipers that few men have been able to get across it—a stream of dead marks its length, it is called 'Dead Man's Patch'—I had to cross this space many times; it would have taken too long to go a more circuitous route for all messages were very urgent—upon this occasion, I crept in the bushes which fringed this bare patch and took my breath ready for my dash across—I lunged forward—the seat of my pants caught in the bushes, and I hung by them! I was in a terrible funk, for then the snipers got busy—I felt as if I had been hanging there for ages, though I don't suppose it was very long—at last I tore myself off. When I got to the other side of the Patch, My now unseemly garb sent the lads into roars of laughter—certainly it was more hygienic than comfortable, and it was some days before I had a chance to dock for repairs.

29 April 1915

After four days and four nights without a rest, at last I am relieved and go back to the rear for a few hours' rest. All the way along there is always that stream of wounded coming from the Firing Line. Despite my recent fatigue, now that I have the leisure I cannot sleep—thank God it is quieter here, though in the gully we get the full benefit of the blast from the guns of our ships—however, they are doing the Turks some damage, otherwise we should have been swept into the sea ere this. I have just been told by Signaller Ashton of the Signallers that I have been mentioned in dispatches for a military decoration—hope to God I haven't bungled things, though it's a funny kind of a joke on a battlefield. Am told by Sergeant Paull of the Signallers that I have been mentioned in dispatches for a military decoration, at the same time saying that I have earned for the Signallers a good name—hardly know how I feel over the matter—I can scarcely express it in words; to have won through so successfully when my one great fear had been that I should fail lamentably fills me with a great peace and sense of satisfaction that at least I have not given up all in vain. It is curious on the battlefield how unconscious one is of having accomplished anything exceptional; for my part I do not feel that I have done anything more than my duty—where so many men are doing fine things I do not see what utter use it is giving medals, for I have seen many things that strike me as being infinitely finer than anything I have done or, I fear, would have the nerve to do, and yet nothing is said of them. I don't regret my receiving this distinction, for at least it has shown the lads that Signaller Silas, the Joke of the Battalion, was able to do his bit with them, and also to show a somewhat sneering world that artists are not quite failures on the battlefield, though I would admit that we are not quite cut out for this sort of work. I don't think I can stand much more of it, my nerves seem to be going; what little I did have.

Sundown. I go to Headquarters to see if there any further messages, as I'm returning to the firing line after a five hour's spell. Colonel Pope to Captain Margolin—'If you're not busy, get your trenches a bit deeper.' On my way along I'm told to take cover, snipers have got much worse; one man, Ibbotson, pulled me into his dug-out, at the same time remarking 'For God's sake, take cover; two men have just been hit within the last two seconds within a yard or two of where you are standing.' I saw the proof of this; their faces turned to the sky, the sand splashed with scarlet.

I wait in his dug-out two minutes, but feel I must get back to the Captain, he may be wanting me so I start forth again. All the way along the lads keep calling from their dug-outs 'Get down, take cover, snipers are getting us in dozens!'—however I continue my journey and reach Captain none the worse. It is true things are getting merry, but the snipers don't seem to get the strength of me. I find that the signalers have been relieved, that I was not supposed to have returned until the following morning. 'Stretcher bearers on the left' is the ceaseless cry.

30 April 1915

I cannot write—it is all too terrible, too sad—later, if I'm not killed, I shall write these experiences. More dispatchers to run to Headquarters—one chap named Toc said to me, 'Well done, Silas, I must try to get a VC myself.' He is such a good-natured fellow and very keen to distinguish himself. Fighting still continuing with unabating fury—the men are commencing to look very weary, they do not look as if they can last much longer—how long will this Hell continue? To Battalion Headquarters—when I get there, Lieutenant Curlewis pulls me into the Headquarter's dug-out, saying 'Come in, Silas you'll get killed.' On the way back I guide Lieutenant Geddes to Captain Margolin—'You're going too quickly for me, Silas; I am very weak'—I then discover the poor chap has been wounded. I hear our losses have been very heavy.

1 May 1915

We are relieved from the firing line – the battle still raging; every nerve strained. Australians have done splendidly, holding a very difficult position; have been much troubled with snipers. Am glad I have done my duty. First wash for a week – go down to the Water Hole, which is always covered by Turkish snipers – it was safer in the trenches than here – all around this spot are dead and wounded who have been hit when dodging round this corner; however, one must drink, even if the price be Death. Make dug-outs in our rest camps, but men are continually caught by the snipers. Many are commencing to suffer from dysentery, though the spirit of the men is splendid, always ready for a joke.

Signaller Walker just hit in the mouth – we considered we were out of range in our dug-out but the snipers are everywhere. Sergeant of the machine gun is writing a very amusing diary, full of humour; I wish I had his spirit.

In the dug-out just above me a poor chap is lying very ill but has asked me to say nothing to the medical officer as he does not want to get sent away in the middle of the fun, as he calls it. Of such stuff are soldiers made – I think if I were in his place I'd be glad of an excuse to get out of this Hell, though I don't think I should ever have forgiven myself if I had not come. I hear that to-morrow we are going to make a charge – the Turks are cutting our supplies off; the situation is severely critical. To read this in a newspaper makes an item of passing interest; to experience it is something quite different – if we are up against it, please God I may die in the same spirit that I know my comrades will display, for they know not defeat.

2 May 1915

Our supplies are getting cut off – Turks have complete command of the roads through which we have to bring them – tonight we are to take the Ridge. I wonder how I shall get on in a charge, for I have not the least idea how to use a bayonet; even if I had, I should not be able to do so, the thing is too revolting – I can only hope that I get shot – why did they not let me do the RAMC work? I have told the authorities that be often enough that I cannot kill. One poor chap in a dug-out close to us was killed while preparing his meal; he has been lying there for two days – his mess tin full of tea, the charred remains of the fire he was cooking by, a few biscuits scattered about, his pipe by his side – we cannot bury him on account of the snipers; it seems no place is safe from them – efforts are being made to clear them out but it is a difficult job as we cannot spare the men to do it. We are very hard pressed – we were to have had four days' rest from the firing line but now the situation is so critical that at all costs the enemy must be shifted from the Ridge. Colonel Pope has aged much during these first terrible days.

8.30 pm. In half an hour we have to move off for the charge. Close to where we have fallen in, enemy snipers are putting in pretty hot work. I had to go up the road with a message; on the way back apparently I took to the wrong side – Captain Margolin called out to me:

'Keep to the right; don't you know which is the right side? Run for it, you _ _ _ _ fool!'

Then all the men called for me to run for it – 'the snipers will get you' – however, I don't think I cared much whether they did or not – if I am to get hit nothing can stop it; I am tired of never being able to move about with freedom, I'd much rather take my chance – running does not appeal to me; too much like hard work.

I have just seen a plucky incident. Some ammunition mules came down this exposed bend; the snipers immediately got on to them, one poor brute was severely wounded; the sight of the blood gushing from the tortured brute quite unnerved me – the rest of the train commenced to break away – despite the great danger, two men rushed forward and caught hold of the startled animals, thus preventing a stampede which, in the confined space of a narrow road – if such it could be called – might have caused an impasse, and this, under the existing conditions, would have been highly dangerous.

The shrapnel is now ever in the sky, it is as much a part of the landscape as the clouds. At 6p.m. we march off. Half way up to the Hill which we are to take we had a rest for tea, biscuits, bully beef, cheese and jam – I went down to a water hole in a gully; it was very peaceful down there, the sun slanting through the thick foliage; it was difficult to realize that all around us was such Hell. Lieutenant Geddes was also there – a man whom I remember, at our concerts, used to sing very charmingly – poor chap, this was his last night in this world. Just as the sun was setting, throwing its rich colour o'er all the landscape, we formed up for the final march off for the attack – it was difficult going, crawling through the gully which skirted the foot of the hill we were to attack. We were to attack at 7 sharp, prior to which our artillery was to support us – our Battalion, No 6 Platoon supported by the 15th Battalion on the right, 13th on the left. Lieutenant Geddes looked at his watch:

'It is 7 o'clock, Lads,' he said, 'Come on, lads, at 'em.'

Up we rushed – God, it was frightful – the screams of the wounded, bursting of the shells, and the ear-splitting crackling of the rifles. In a very few minutes the gully at the foot of the hill was filled with dead and wounded – these poor lumps of clay had once been my comrades, men I had worked and smoked and laughed and joked with – oh God, the pity of it. It rained men in this gully; all round could be seen the sparks where the bullets were striking. Amidst this Hell of writhing, mangled men and hail of bullets, a General was walking about:

'Your puttee's undone, young man,' he said.

'Yes Sir, that's all right,' I replied, 'I'll soon fix that up, but for God's sake, take cover; you'll be killed.'

Every second I expected to see him hit, but not until he had done up my puttee for me would he move – then, with an amused chuckle, he passed his hand over the top of his cap, at the same time remarking, 'That was a pretty near thing'. A bullet had singed the top of his cap. On my way up the hill I much wondered what I would do when I got to the top – the Corporal of our signallers ordered all the signalers to the rear; this struck me as being curious, I asked him whose orders – he said, 'Lieutenant Southern' – so I went down the gully to see what I could do for some of the wounded. It was impossible to walk between them, they were in such heaps. One sergeant, Caldewell, came tearing along, badly wounded but full of spirits – 'My!' he said, 'but they're willing up there'. Another poor fellow, his right hand shot away, called out, 'God, but I've done my duty. Is that you, Silas old chap; I've done my duty, haven't I?' I was wondering what our officers were doing for signallers, so determined the reach for them, orders or otherwise – my nerves were quite gone, but still I determined to make the effort.

On my way up the hill, a large number of men were lying flat on its face – it was a screen of lead right across. Walker, another signaler, made every effort to reach the top – meanwhile the men were yelling to us to lie flat – we continued our way a little further until we saw the impossibility of our task, so we tried to dig ourselves in, but there was little room for anyone. Our artillery was firing into us as well – then came a cry from the top, 'We must have ammunition' – to run down the slope was instant death – there was no officer to give the order and, aware of the urgency of the case, I got up and tore down the hill, for being a signaller I felt it was my duty to take the risk, so I went down to Headquarters with the message. On my way down, in the gully, I came across the reinforcements coming up – one of the chaps said to me 'Who are you? Where do you come from? What is your name?', meanwhile drawing his bayonet – I had to answer pretty quickly, otherwise I could have had more steel than I wanted. I then came across Lieutenant Braishaw lying wounded:

'Who are you?' I said.

'Don't you know me, Silas?' he replied.

'What is the password?' was my next remark.

'Gabba Gabba – don't you remember, I came over in the same ship with you from Melbourne?'

Then I remembered him – perhaps it was foolish of me, but the Turks had played so many clever tricks that it was best to play for safety. I covered him up with some bushes. 'Can't you help me to the rear now?' he said, a natural enough question, as we might not be able to hold the ridge and the wounded would fall into the hands of the Turks:

'No sir,' I replied, 'I will tell the stretcher bearers to look out for you but I must take the message about the ammunition; it is very urgent.'

I continued on my way – the gullies were choked with wounded; all along the route I kept coming across poor shattered things crawling along in their agony, but I could not stop to help them. Some distance from Headquarters I came across a pile of ammunition boxes – these should have been brought up by reinforcements, but by some error this was not done – I went to Headquarters with my message, where I arrived in a state of collapse – the horrors of this night have been too much for me, I cannot get used to the frightful sights with which I am always surrounded.

3 May 1915

Dawn. Oh God, only 250 left of our battalion – there has been a ceaseless stream of wounded, many cases have died on the way down, until in most places the narrow pass is so cumbered with dead and badly wounded waiting for the stretchers that it is becoming impassable – along the edge, bodies are hanging in all sorts of grotesque and apparently impossible attitudes. Seeing those fine stalwart men going up the gully to reinforce and shortly returning, frightfully maimed and covered in blood – I don't think I shall ever be able to forget this; it's horrible. One poor fellow, a New Zealander, came tearing past smothered with blood and quite delirious, kissing everyone he passed, upon whom he left splashes of blood. Some come along gasping out their lives and then remain silent for ever. I don't think we can hold the Ridge much longer – to complicate matters, our own guns are firing into us. Will the stream of wounded never cease? It is now nearly midday and still they keep pouring down – Marines, some of them mere boys, and New Zealanders are supporting us, but keep getting frightfully cut up. I am told to go and rest, which I do upon a hill held by the Marines. I lie down in the sun for a bit, but sleep I cannot.

4 May 1915

Rest day – go to a new Rest Camp a little more sheltered from the snipers – expected to be away from the trenches a few days, but at 6.30 p.m. have to return – we are very short of men. Enemy has been busy all night with bombs through which we are losing many men – when I see the men going into the trenches I often wonder how many are coming out – a few minutes after they have been in there is usually a scream, then the awful cry 'Stretcher bearers', and then the mangled heap is brought out. The wounded lying in the clean wards of a hospital, with spotless bandages round their wounds, is one thing; but to see them lying there covered with mud from the trenches, the blood oozing through their clothes, and, more often than not, unrecognisable., is quite another. In one portion of the trenches are the remains of what had once been a human being – every time I go through that section of the trenches, which are very narrow, I have to climb over this maimed corpse – there is not the time to bury him. We are putting up wire netting as protection from the bombs – we have very few bombs with which to return the enemy's continued onslaughts with this hideous weapon. The low thud of their explosion fills me with horror, as I can always picture the result; though God knows I am seeing quite enough horrors without the addition of my terrible imagination. All night the Turks have been sending up star-shells – any moment they may rush us – if they make a determined effort, it's finish.

5 May 1915

It has been a very trying night - we are anxiously scanning the horizon for a sight of the transports which are to bring us the much-needed reinforcements – we are only just 'hanging on' – please God they arrive in time. To-day went down to Headquarters with a message to Officer in charge of the Engineers RE building up the trenches at Quinn's Post, the position we are at present holding – I am getting so weak that I have to sit down and rest every few yards – one gap which was exposed to snipers I was told to run across but hadn't strength to do it; I had to take my time and my chance of being picked off. This doesn't worry me much, I think I am about done – thank God men of my temperament are few and far between – I am quite satisfied that I'll never make a soldier; a thousand pities to have been born an artist at a time like this – I do wish I could take War in the same spirit with which my comrades face its horrors.

6 May 1915

Relieved from the trenches – back to the Rest Camp. I set to work to make a dug-out, but can only do very little at a time. We are handed out cigarettes, some of which are quite mouldy, though I smoke them as smoking only keeps me going now.

7 May 1915

Little sleep – I dread being asleep more than awake as my dreams are so frightful. I am making no effort to keep a concise diary, I can only hope that I shall be able to forget it all. Amuse myself designing stained glass windows – it's awful having no reading matter; am reduced to reading labels on jam tins. All last night the Turks have been bombarding heavily with shrapnel; a quite unusual occurrence, as they never used to commence before dawn.

8 May 1915

Our rations are excellent – lard, jam, potatoes, cheese, biscuits, ham and bacon – plentiful supply of all – we concocted many strange and weird dishes, making rather excellent little jam tarts by first soaking biscuits in water, baking them on the embers, and then, when the biscuits are nearly brown, adding the jam. Also make little stews – cutting up the bacon and the potatoes, stewing them together, when done adding a little cheese – a dish fit for a King, or at least so it seems here. This is the first quiet day we have had that is quiet for this particular part of the globe. Up to date we have slept in great coats but now have managed to get hold of blankets; altogether very comfortable – it is cold at night but fine in the day time – fortunately have had no rain.

9 May 1915

Have been delirious all night, my nerves have quite gone to pieces – go down to the sea for a dip; this is certainly a most unique experience – how delightful it is to be immersed in the sea after not having had a decent wash for about three weeks. We hear the Turk's gun from Gaba Tepe, then, 'Shell oh!' – out we all scamper like a lot of naughty schoolboys – we take cover from anything on the beach that affords shelter. Then, after the shell has burst, back we go into the sea – 'Shell oh!' – this time we were nearly caught, for two or three shell came sliding through the air and burst quite close to us – however, we are determined not to be done out of our swim, so back into the water we go. The sea is a lovely colour. As I look out at the ships in the Bay it brings back to my memory my many sketching expeditions in that dear country far across the sea where it is happiness and sunshine, where Death is not ever waiting to reap, in so hideous a manner, the harvest that has been allotted him.

10 May 1915

Delirious again last night. 'Stand to arms' – B Company will advance. Just before dawn every morning we had to 'stand to arms' in readiness for a probable attack – it was all very eerier, dreary and cold in the thick morning mists – men would appear and disappear like phantoms. To-day we are in for a hot time; I am feeling very weak and helpless – I have been taking morphine, given me by the MO – I can now neither eat nor sleep. I wonder how many of us will be left by sunset – I do hope dear old Margy (Captain Margolin ) won't get killed; he is such a fine fellow and brave beyond compare, though it's hard to say who isn't – all the lads are splendid! To-night the Light Horse are to take a trench facing Quinn's Post – their bombs have been giving us a hot time, causing many casualties – we hear the Turks are massing, so it's pretty certain there's going to be something doing – we are to be the supports though, if we go into it, what is left of the 16th Battalion will be wiped out completely. What a frightful night – the trench has been taken, and alas! our lads have gone into it. Lieutenant Curlewis, Margolin's great chum, has finished with the troubles of the world.

After the trench was captured, the forty yards of flat ground between this, our new front, and our own trenches, is being swept by the enemy's fire, which is enfilading us. We have been sent into the firing line, but there is not room for us in the trenches – Margolin is frightfully upset:

'My poor lads,' he said, 'there will be none of them left; I do wish I could get them out'.

I asked Margolin 'Can I take a message for him?'

So off I go to find the remains of our battalion. I leap over the parapet of our old trenches and dash across this lead-swept plateau, hoping that I shall not stumble over any of the decomposed bodies of any of the dead Turks which have been lying there for some two weeks. I do not know where our men are, except that they are somewhere in front – I find the Officer of the 15th Battalion – he says he does not know. There is not room for me to go along inside the trench, so I keep to the outside until at last I find Lieutenant Harwood who, when he sees me, exclaims:

'Silas this is fine. I wouldn't be elsewhere for a thousand pounds; tell Captain Margolin we are being enfiladed'.

'What shall I do?'

'Explain to him exactly our condition'

Back I go across this lead-swept plateau with my message – altogether I had to go six times across this place. When I reached Margy, he said:

'Tell Harwood to bring the lads back, they are not wanted there and there isn’t room for them; I don't want to lose my boys for nothing'.

So back I had to go again. This time could not find Harwood, so then had to find where the boys were on my own and pass the word for the 16th Battalion only to retire. One rather amusing incident – while trying to get into the trench it didn't seem possible to do so without jumping on somebody's head; one of the chaps exclaimed to me:

'Come off the skyline, you _ _ _ _ _ fool'.

'I will,' I replied, 'as soon as I can find space'.

'Jump in anywhere,' he answered back, 'never mind if you do hit anybody, you’re not in a drawing room'.

It certainly did seem ridiculous, standing on ceremony in a time like this, though I don't suppose anything will alter this peculiar side of my nature. They are now digging a connecting trench between our new front and our old trenches – we have had to retire, the Turks are too strong for us.

11 May 1915

Dawn. The roll is called – how heart-breaking it is – name after name is called; the reply a deep silence which can be felt, despite the noise of the incessant crackling of rifles and screaming of shrapnel – there are few of us left to answer to our names – just a thin line of weary, ashen-faced men; behind us a mass of silent forms, once our comrades – there they have been for some days, we have not had the time to bury them. We have been kept at bay by a large body of Turks, infinitely superior to us in numbers and equipment; their machine guns are a much better class than ours. An incident typical of the sang froid of our leaders has just occurred; some Staff Officers had just come up to inspect some trenches when an enemy shrapnel burst over their heads – one turned round and remarked in his 'Varsity' drawl, which wants to be heard to be fully appreciated, 'I suppose it's from Gaba Tepe.'

Return to Rest Camp. I make a sketch of the position for (I think ) General Birdwood.

6 p.m. return to trenches. Turks bombing heavily – we have had a spot of rain which has made it extremely difficult to gain a foothold. I asked Captain Margolin if he could spare a little of his jam:

'It is not my jam,' he exclaimed, 'it is our jam; help yourselves.'

The stench from the corpses is appalling – I offer Captain Margolin a cigarette; though he doesn't smoke I think he ought to try:

'All right Silas,' he said, 'I'll see how I get on.' He is frightfully cut up over the loss of Curlewis.

'Silas, I can hear Curly speaking,' he remarked.

We are served with rum, Mconichie rations, which are very good, ham and hot tea – I can eat nothing myself – 'You must try,' said Margy. Our periscopes are very rough and ready contrivances which make an easy mark for the Turks. Rather an amusing incident just occurred. It was a lovely evening – when going through a connecting trench, I got up and looked over at a distant landscape which was a very fine colour, gloriously unconscious of the fact that just in front of me were the enemy trenches! I was suddenly pulled down and asked if I'm tired of life. (Within a few yards of this same spot) One of our officers, Lieut. Cretchman, goes past a hole in our trenches, something less than a foot wide, and gets killed – such are the chances of War.

(Night of the 9th.) Captain Townsend said, 'Come on lads, I'll show you something to do.' And with a handful of men, during the charge that night, tried to take one of the strongest trenches in this section and, though frightfully wounded, I am told sill urged the lads on.

We can still see the bodies lying on the Ridge where they fell the night of 2 May and 3 May.

Explore the fate of Gordon Curlewis and his brothers

12 May 1915

Position good, though all men very tired – considering the amount of shrapnel the Turks have poured into us, our casualties might have been much heavier.

13 May 1915

Relieved from trenches. Wash out some underclothing and hunt for 'grey-backs' which are now prevalent everywhere. Just as Colonel Pope was coming out of the trenches he commenced to scratch himself – a roar immediately went up from the lads, who exclaimed 'The Colonel's got one'. Great excitement – have just been presented with half a loaf of bread – what exactly this means, only those who have been without one can fully appreciate. Some papers at last, and mail from home, among which a copy of London Opinion – an article by Ashley Sterne made me laugh; the first time I have really done so for nearly two months. The letters from home make me think a lot; this terrible life will make me very contented with the ordinary conditions of life. For my part, all I desire is a little studio and the wherewithal for bread and butter.

Our first night with blankets – am delirious again, which must be rather trying for my companions sleeping in the same dug-out with me, but they assure me it doesn't worry them at all. Very nice fellows, but rough; if only one of them had a greater comprehension of the right and proper place to use the past and present tense.

14 May 1915

Go down to the MO for more morphine – he suggests my going to the rear where the noise is less, but when I look round and see the other chaps so full of good spirits and ready to hang on to the last, I feel that I cannot do less than they, so determine to stick it as long as I possibly can. We are hoping to be sent back to Lemnos to reorganise, as our battalion is no more.

15 May 1915

'Stand to Arms!' – Nothing doing. Return to Quinn's Post. Hell of a noise on the right, though quiet where we are. 'Lizzie' has not been coughing latterly, hear she has been sent home for repairs, but fear she has been sunk with the Majestic – how awful, for she has been one of our strongest supports during these terrible days.

16 May 1915

Sunday. Suppose some more Hell again – all our biggest engagements have taken place on that day. I think if I am here much longer my reason will go – I do not seem to be able to get a grip on myself and feel utterly crushed and unmanned, though I shall try and stick it to the last. In my heart I know I am done – it would be too ghastly to bungle a message and perhaps cause the loss of lives of many of these brave fellows. I think perhaps, now that I am no use as a fighting unit, the wiser thing would be to get away for a little while – I do wish I could get wounded so that the matter could be decided for me.

17 May 1915

I was much worse last night – am told that I was quite off my head. Am told to go down immediately to the MO but will not do so until our battalion is relieved which will be in a few hours. See the MO who tells me that I had better go away for a week or two. I say good-bye to Colonel Pope, who says:

'I am sorry you are going, Silas, you have done some valuable work for us.'

When I tell Margolin I am going he exclaims, 'Yes, Silas old chap, it's about time too, you're not cut out for this sort of thing; I hope you will get into the A.M.C. as you always wanted to do'.

I was asked to leave what underclothing I had, also equipment etc, which later I was very glad to do. On the way down to the Clearing Hospital there was a marked difference in the aspect off the landscape – where before there was nothing more than a track exposed to the enemy's fire and the deadly aim of the snipers, were now roads, if such they could be called, in parts cut to a depth of ten or twelve feet – when one considers how few men we have, how hard pressed, these roads are really a remarkable piece of work. I enquired my way at a hospital – a medical officer said to me, 'Hallo, are you from West Australia? I am Dr Quinn'. I was glad to meet this man as he was a friend of my great chum Dr J F Gordon of Perth, West Australia.

After the incessant roar of the firing line, it seemed comparatively quiet at this spot. It is the end of a glorious afternoon – all the landscape is tinged with the warm glow of the sun – in the distance the blue ocean sparkling like a jewel. Up the narrow winding path with its border of sad little mounds, one of which may be my lot before I can get to the Hospital Ship (we are always under the enemy's fire), placidly come some Indians with ammunition mules. It seems more like a scene from a play than one of the most tragic dramas in the world's history. I am not left long in doubt as to the reality of it all. A buzzing as of a huge bee – a flash of yellow flame – on the ground a mangled heap from which slowly trickles a dull red stream. Far away across the sapphire ocean just a few more will be waiting in vain for the return of their loved ones.

I reach the clearing station – it presents a scene of well-ordered confusion; everywhere on the narrow beach are numbers of wounded awaiting their removal to the Hospital Ship. This cannot be carried out until well after sundown, for the enemy is sending a continuous rain of shells in this direction. Ere our transfer to the boats we each have a label pinned on us stating the nature of our wound. Many are gasping out their lives before they can be transferred to the boats. We are put into the boats and are towed away to the Hospital Ships – we are towed from ship to ship; always the same reply, 'Full up' – eventually we manage to get abroad one. The cot cases were hoisted on board by derricks. The sea is fairly smooth, which is fortunate – a sailor tells me during the choppy seas of the last few days the wounded suffered terribly when being put aboard the Hospital Ship. Even right out here an occasional shell comes buzzing through the air and drops close alongside – it would be really rough luck to get hit so far away from the firing line after having been in such thick scrimmages. The ship I am on at present is the Sudan, a Castle Liner which is being used as a Naval Hospital Ship.

18 May 1915

Am transferred to the Galeka, another Castle Liner. This is not a proper hospital ship, there is only accommodation for 150 wounded – we have on board some 500 or 600, many very terrible cases, and the filth is awful. I request to be put on as orderly, for though I am weak with fever and am only delirious at night, at least I have the use of my limbs.

19 May 1915

Am on duty from 6 am till 11 pm. snatching food when I can get it, which at any time I do not feel the need of. There is practically no nourishment for the patients; very little bread, the majority have to eat the hard ship's biscuits; jam, occasionally a little butter, very little milk – which is tinned – occasionally baron-tinned beef and a sort of cornflour. I have been watching two important brain cases – one man with a large portion of his brain exposed; the MO has little hope for him but is going to give him a fighting chance.

20 May 1915

I am glad to say I have got my two patients up on deck; the atmosphere down there is simply frightful and every thing filthy. One of my cases is a man called Dench, he has been shot in the head and is both deaf and dumb.

21 May 1915

In the cabin next to where are my two patients is a wounded Turk shot in the lungs – it is truly heart-breaking to see him gasping out his life and unable to do anything for him.

22 May 1915

On deck 6.30 am. Patients are lying here just as they were when they left the trenches, with all the filthy and blood-soaked clothes still upon them. I must get them washed somehow, who don't seem to have thought this was necessary, to discover all the basins they can and get to work washing the patients.

I take one of my patients, Miller. To the operating theatre and help with the operation.

Dr Fiaschi Junior is the MO in charge. I nearly faint through weakness and dread shaking the surgeon's hand while he is operating on this very dangerous case. Dr Fiaschi tells me that if this operation was being performed in a London hospital, it would have been considered truly marvellous.

Dench is now able to walk about but is heart broken at losing his speech and hearing – this he writes on a piece of paper and shows it to me. Another man, a handsome looking fellow, has lost his left leg up to the thigh; he tries to throw himself overboard – but, taking the patients generally, they are displaying wonderful attitude over their terrible sufferings. One man from Sydney, who has lost his right arm, is quite the merriest on the ship and seems thoroughly happy – a Turk wounded in the same manner does not display the same patience, though seeing he is a prisoner one must make allowances.

From now on my dates are uncertain as I commence to get considerably confused. We reach Lemnos where we hang about some days waiting to take on more wounded. This delay is awful; there are so many cases that cannot be treated until they get to hospital. The Turk who hitherto would not move without pain jumps off his mattress with considerable alacrity to have a look at Lemnos Harbour as we are leaving – this annoys me that he should have taken up so much attention while the services of the orderlies were required for worse cases. I go to the Fo'castle to get one of the seamen to take the big nails out of my boots. I was rather taken aback when this was done for me without me having to pay anything. I might add, the behaviours of officers and crew, including stewards etc., had been splendid; short of orderlies, after they had done their nautical duties which are strenuous enough, they did everything in their power to assist in nursing the wounded, taking but scant time for sleep or meals.

At last we can give the wounded some clean shirts, as some Red Cross stores have been opened up. One of my cases, a New Zealander, has turned a yellow ochre colour all over; I think he must be about finished up. Next day I go to see what I can do for him, which consists of covering him with a blanket (there is not a Union Jack). So has another noble spirit passed to the Unknown. One New Zealander received a whole batch of letters and is much envied by the rest of the patients. When going along the deck, a patient called out to me, 'Have you got the sketch you made of me on the Ceramic?' This may sound trivial to mention, but makes one feel glad that least some of one's comrades are left.

Arrive at Alexandria. I wonder if I go into hospital here or Cairo – I hope it is the latter as I should like much to be there, as I have a number of friends made whilst training in Egypt. The order comes, walking cases, fall in – whether I am considered one of these I know not, all the same I follow them to the Hospital Train and get in. I shall always remember this delightful feeling of peace, to be lying here amidst the cleanliness of this carriage in the hospital train. Many of us are really too far gone to care much what happens, though for my part I am sufficiently conscious to appreciate my environment. The Indian orderlies greet us with a welcome smile, meanwhile handing us cigarettes – I cannot smoke mine, having lost all desire for anything. Later we are handed bread and butter – only those who have been without bread for some considerable period could fully appreciate what a luxury this was. I could eat nothing – to be in the train was all sufficient; now my duties in hospital ship are over and no further efforts are required of me, I am tumbling all to pieces.

Reach Heliopolis. The train is met by motor ambulance and we are carried off to Palace Hospital. After the ceaseless thunder of guns, the agony, filth and desolation of the battlefield, it was indeed like Heaven to be tucked between clean sheets in the silence of this ward – the softly shaded lights, the Sisters gliding noiselessly about ministering to our many wants, the Eastern architecture and decoration, and, half lost in the dim shadows above, gold-beaten brass lamps of exquisite workmanship: without, a purple sky of an Egyptian night; all helped to give a sense of unreality. I half expected to find myself wafted away on a magic carpet.

The days have flown into months and here I am still in bed, and told that I was discovered in one of the corridors in my delirium, imagining myself signaling. Dr and Mrs Garavedien have been most kind to me, bringing me boxes of beautiful chocolate every other day. This is against the rules but no matter – the great thing is, don't be found out. When one is confined to a space six feet by two, which said space is duly searched every day, to secret a box of chocolates from the evil eye of Matron and the little less supervision of the Sisters, is not an easy matter. Colonel Maudsley seemed to take a very kindly interest in me – probably he did so with all other patients, but it tickles my conceit to think that he had singled me out particularly when he introduced me to Lady Maxwell.

Up to date have received no letters from home and do not do so until they are sent through private means, as all military mails used to be held up. There is one patient who, in his delirium, is singing a series of comic songs, which is diving me mad, though to the other patients in the ward this causes considerable amusement. Now that I am a bit better I am able to put in my time reading and making studies. Am now on a chicken diet; what particular brand of chicken this is I know not, for they always arrive up with a number of feathers attached thereto; whether it is they are in such a hurry that they had not the time to complete plucking them, or that they had been kept so long that the feathers had had time to grow again, I know not – judging by the time it took me to get my fork into it I should think the latter was the case.

Here as elsewhere Death stalked – four of my comrades passed out within a few hours of each other – an inert mass covered with the Union Jack is borne away – thus, one by one, they passed into the Infinite, leaving behind a name that shall ring glorious.

As I look into the distant future when the sound of guns is but an echo of the past, in grand array shall I see the spirits of these my comrades marching past, who in greatness of their souls have handed to future generations a fuller, deeper meaning of the word Patriotism.


Last updated: 5 May 2020

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2020), Gallipoli diary and sketches by Signaller Ellis Silas, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 23 July 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/ww1/where-australians-served/gallipoli/landing-anzac-cove/ellis-silas-diary-extracts
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