Another awful experience was to help an orderly carry a stretcher bearing a boy of 21 with one leg shot off and now they are taking the other off in the operating theatre. Fancy, both legs off. We all hope he will pull through, but the horrible part about the poor men is that they are all run down and as soon as they receive a bad wound mortification sets in. We are all helping in every possible way, ourselves, sailors and firemen working at carrying wounded, feeding them and I have been in the theatre.
We are needed everywhere as long as we can lift and assist nurses. August 28, Anzac Cove — All the men that we have on board now are, apart from wounds, just wasted away and broken down for the want of food and rest. They never get a spell but go on in the trenches until killed or wounded. Some are only too glad to receive a wound so as to have a spell. Dysentery and fever play havoc with a lot of them. August 30, Anzac Cove —This morning we stopped and buried ten, two were so bad that they would not sink.
I think I had the worst experience that anyone could have. I had to go away in our gig with four men and tie more weight onto the canvas and then they would sink. I cannot write what I had to do, it is too awful. I came back and was ill at the thought of it. They and myself will never forget it as long as we live. We have to do such things and see such awful sights that at night, although tired, I cannot sleep or read. I only hope I shall get used to it.
September 2, Anzac Cove — Last night about 8pm there was heavy fighting on the right flank which lasted about two hours. We are seeing the effects of it today.
Shook over Hell
The wounded are coming off in dozens, some will not live. Others, with care, will pull through. One man had the whole cap of a shell in his calf. They had to take the scalp off and cut a piece of the bone away. I could see the bullet quite plain and fancy it just stopped about one eighth of an inch from the brain. September 7, Anzac Cove — The wounded are coming aboard pretty fast. It is cruel to see some of the poor fellows, nothing on but shorts and singlet. Fine big men wasted away with sickness and awful wounds.
There are four to my knowledge who are stone blind and numbers with limbs off. I am afraid we are going to lose a lot of these poor fellows. September 17, Anzac Cove — Our men, especially New Zealanders, are being absolutely murdered and no good is gained by it. The men on the peninsula are brave enough for anything but they are being murdered by a lot of damn fools who are at the head of affairs. Before very long it will come out in the papers. No doubt you must have thought that I have forgotten you altogether.
If such thoughts have entered your head I hope you will forgive me for I have been very bad. Even now my hand is all in a tremble as I have only been out of bed for about a week and have only been outside in a bath chair. But I [am] getting on all right now so I hope I will keep on improving as I have had a serious relapse when I got shipped from Malta Hospital to England.
If I had not been transferred so soon then I may have been in the fighting line long before now, but fate would have it otherwise. I have now been in the Hospitals of England since the 17th of October and have been transferred on three different occasions.
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This last place is right in the country, this big mansion belongs to Sir Walter Shakerley in which I am at present as this fresh country air is supposed to do me more good, and I am well feeling the results of it. I suppose you [now] know what has been the case with me, as I have had a letter from Miss Lambourne a few days ago.
She said you wrote to her that I have had the enteric [typhoid] and wish that it would have [been] nothing else, but I have had the dysentery very bad in the trenches and followed on with enteric when I was taken away from that infernal place of hell, and I was not a bit sorry. After I had been in Malta a few weeks and the climate was too hot there, we all got transferred to England.
Well, Gill you should have seen our pleasant smiles when we heard that news. Smiling then was much easier at that moment than bearing the terrific pain, as I was almost a half-dead skeleton for I had been through the Aug 6th big attack and right up to the Aug 16th [nothing] but fighting day and night.
Oh my God it was dreadful. My greatest trouble was I got a relapse on my way to England, with the result that my whole left side from my toes to my fingertips got swollen and powerless with frightful pain. It is through this that I am suffering most, up to the present time I have had twenty injections of strychnine in all parts of my body and am very pleased to say that I am almost able to use my limbs again, as the doctor says I am getting on beautiful.
As you may understand that we were not allowed to write a letter all the time we were in Anzac as we like to call that never to be forgotten place I have not been able to tell you much about it even now. I doubt if I could tell you much through writing as it is too much to write about so it is useless to make anything like a job of it. You will have to be contented until I come home.
You know that us mounted troops went there a few days after the landing which was almost as bad as the landing in one way. Of course we did not have the same amount of fighting but the Turks big guns had the proper range of our landing place and a lot of our boys got killed before they could fire a shot or even see a Turk.
Our real heaviest fight with the Auckland boys were [on] the 17th of May. We accounted for over two thousand of the … Turks as we only lost about Oh what a gruesome sight to see [your] best pals brains get blown out right alongside you, for nearly everyone on that morning got shot through the head. Many a time I quite unconsciously ducked my head as I really believe that bullet was meant for me and often wondered when my turn would be next.
I have had some marvellous escapes.
War Is A Racket, by Major General Smedley Butler,
I got wounded in my leg with pieces of shell but only flesh wounds. I have had my hat shot off a couple of times and felt for the blood but the nearest was when I got hit on my cheek with a bullet cutting it with the blood all over my tunic and another bullet took all the hairs of my eyebrow just leaving a little scratch. Very strange it was just then when we see blood, your own blood, when you get right in the thick of it.
- The Sorcerers Dogsbody & The Eternal Errand (vol 3).
- Calculation of Overhead Variances.
- On Call in Hell.
- Biography Newsletter;
It was simply dreadful at times. It used to turn me sick at times to see the dreadful pieces of human bodys lying about, with a head rolling without a body, legs and arms all over the place. Often I have taken cover behind our own dead. As Mr Turk was having a shot at you, the bullet would plunk in the body in front of you. I stuck to it and through the last fatal Aug 6th, it was here [I] lost all my mates for ten of us in the same tent all through our time in Egypt.
Eight are killed and the other alive beside myself had his arm blown off. Our boys suffered as only New Zealand boys can suffer. We were being slaughtered in thousands, of us charged Hill and about returned. I could fill a book but I [am] getting sad to think of my poor comrades, and as you will know by now all for nothing as our boys are withdrawn. I always will have a good word for him. Well Gill old chap, I think you must have read about some of our doings on the dreadful place so I will be glad to let it rest.
So far bar the last few days since I have been out of bed, I have been two months in Manchester and the weather has been something dreadful. Terrible storms hail and snow falls and I am sure that we did [not] have a single hour of fine weather in those two months.
Manchester is a big manufacturing town and a very dirty place. With foggy days [and] with the smoke hanging low you were almost suffocated at times. In fact the lamps in the hospital were burning nights and days for weeks as there are only a few lamps in the streets as they are terrible afraid of aeroplanes attacks. The town is almost in darkness. So I was glad when I got transfered to my present locality as we have had a few days fine weather, as this place is quite in the country it is more pleasant here although it is very lonely. Well Gill old chap most likely by the time you get this letter I will be thinking of leaving England for the front as I will try to get to France this time.
I hope you will forgive me for the bad spelling, but really my head at times gets very sore. In 29 days under fire from April 25, Corporal Robert Beswick of the 3rd Auckland Infantry Company took part in two battles and two bayonet charges. Between those terrific encounters, life in the trenches had to go on, although death was never very far away.