4 Month Diary of Henry Woolley, son-in-law of Jane Cross/Ketnor/Harris
From the time I left Kinmel Park, August 28th 1915
I left Kinmel Park August 28th 11 o’clock p.m. on the way for active service
on Gallipoli Peninsular. We fell in on the parade ground and the O.C. come
around and took the hand of every man. and wish them the best of luck with
tears in his eyes, he was was more like a father than O.C. He asked every
one of us to have a bit of our own back for one of our Captain of the 12th
battalion that had been killed in the Dardanelles a few days before and we told him that we would do our best.
There were some of the draft were quite boys. We were all quite happy because we knew we had a very nice officer in charge of us all the way. The officer was George Ll. We had a plenty of cigarettes gave us before we started. The Parade ground was full of troops watching to see us move off, we all wore our helmets. So now we had the order to move off so everybody had to stand back and keep the road clear. As we moved off the band began play and very loud cheers from the troops and the band took the lead all the way with us to Abergilly (Abergele). That was about 3 miles and 100 of troops came with us, they carried all our things for us we had to let them carry or they would take it off of our backs. The band didn’t play a bit on the way down, a little now and then so just as we were entering Abergilly the band struck up and the people that did not know we were passing through that night was beginning to wonder what was up. We could see some looking through the windows, some looking out the door about half dressed. It was a bit of fun and the band was making the building shake. Of course the people that knew that we were passing through in the night was waiting at the station to see us off and we got so many cigarettes from them we did not know what to do with them and I can tell you there were some so full of beer as their pockets were full of cigarettes. And we had a plenty of food with us that we took from Kinmel. Our O.C. came to the station to see us off and a lot of other officers from the Batt., he took our hand once more and wished us luck.
Now the train moved out from the Station leaving a plenty of wet eyes because
there was plenty of mothers there that had sons on that blood stained earth
themselves but we was all happy as kings, we had plenty of food with us and
smokes. We got into Taunton some time next morning, we stopped there about
10 minutes. I did not see anyone I knew. I was thinking to myself – so near
to my mother and could not see her – it may have been better not to see her.
So the next move we got into Exeter and there we had a nice feed waiting for us at the Station, it was a nice bit of bread and ham and cup of tea. So we moved off again, it was a nice sight all the way down, we got to the rest camp, St Budeaux, some time in the afternoon, Sunday 29th, we stayed there that night packed up next morning Mon. August 30th to get on the boat Lake Manitoba.
Off of the Lake Manitoba, Wen. Sept 1st because there was something went wrong with her. Back again to the rest camp so we stayed there (stoped) till there was a boat ready for us. So owning (owing) to having a good officer we got a pass out every night the time we was there till 11.30 and I can tell you we had a fine time.
W. Lewis was my mate, the poor chap got killed under my nose on the
Peninsula. I come to find out where Crown Hill camp was, of course that(‘s)
where A. was. So my mate W. Lewis and myself took a walk to try and find it.
So we found him, I should say it was about 4 miles to the camp, he was surprised to see me there. I don’t think he would knew me only I happen to see him first because I was dressed in drill khaki and my helmet on. So we three had a nice little evening, of course we found a drop of beer. I think by the time we finished we were talking about how many Turks we was going to kill once we reached Peninsular. Anyhow when it was time to be going A. came a part ways with us and seen us on to the tram car. So we wish him goodbye and away we went, we went as far as we could go on the car and we got out. We did not know where we was any more that the man in the moon. I know very well when we got out we did not stop to pay for our ride, not anyone ask for any money, we got back to our camp safe but we was late but we did not get reported. One night before we went away A. came up to the camp to meet us so you can bet we had another good evening together.
On Sunday Sept. 5th we packed up and got on to the Ceramic, there were a Red Cross boat come to dock just before we went over, full of wounded from the Peninsular so we thought that did not look very nice and we just off out there. The boat moved out 7 o’c. that evening there was not many people about owing to so many troops passing to and from, the people did not take much notice there at Devonport.
By daylight next morning we were well out to sea, we couldn’t see land anywhere. We had a nice voyage, plenty of good food and my mate were good for getting around people for things. So he got around the cook and different people on board. So him and myself was getting apple and oranges just every night and my mate was very good. W. Lewis it were he got anything gave him, if I was not there he would always keep half for me. I have often thought of his good nature since he was killed.
We passed through the Bay of Biscay by night and the same when we passed
Gibraltar. I was not lucky enough to see try my luck on the way back in 1920
= we got in to Malta Sat. Sept. 11th so you can see it took us from 5th to
11th September to get to Malta from Devonport and that was good. Malta look
a nice little place, Valetta is the capital of Malta. To see the little boys
diving in the water from their little boats after money that our chaps was
throwing in the water to see them dive and they were good divers, all of
them, not one of us was lucky enough to get off of the boat only just a few
of the officers got off and the place was looking lovely lighted up by night.
I have heard chaps say that have been there that anyone can enjoy themselves there alright, we was only wishing when we see some of the officers going off in little boats that we were officers so we could go off as well. I believe they thought if they let any of the men go off that they would not be back in time before the boat moved out. There is a plenty would stop a try and miss the boat if only they could have got off.
She moved out again next morning early Sun. 12th September, we passed a lot of islands on the left. I believe they were Greece Islands. The next land in sight was the North of Africa, we arrived at Alexandria Tuesday 14th September, that was two days from Malta.
When the boat was pulled in to the key town I was surprised to see the wild lot of people, of course those were mostly chrubas, a very low class stopping around by the dock, some in houses and some not. Their jobs was mostly unloading boats and loading, is what made me look mostly was the way the Egypt Police was treating them, they would not ask them to keep back from anywhere but knock them as hard as ever they could with a big stick, men and women, they all got the same, of course, they all working together but mostly when they see the police coming they would run away like a lot of rabbits. If he happen to get one of them he did not forget to let them have it in the face or anywhere he did not care where it was of course that look awful to us chaps just coming out from England.
The people in the European parts of Alexandria is different altogether than
what it was around by the docks. Of course, it is a nice looking town when
you get well in, very high buildings and flat tops, big nice looking shops
very much like in England.
We got off the boat the day after getting in, that was 15th Sept. it was very hot. We marched off and we were all very glad to get a walk after being on the boat so long. We went through Sister Street and that was not a very nice looking, very narrow street and after passing through Sister Street it was looking a lot better, we was getting in to the European parts then. The little boys about there was singing Tipperary, they were nicely dressed boys and the were singing in very good English so I begin to think I was not quite gone out of the world but I thought it was a awful place at first.
So we went on till we came to some tram cars, we were surprised to hear that the cars were waiting for us, we had marched about 3 miles from the dock then, so we all got into the cars and we started off. I should say we went 9 miles on the cars and then off at Musapha rest camp and then we got into some tents and the sand there was white and our boots were like white ones not black ones. The Egyptian boys were coming round every morning with papers and when they get their head inside some of the tents all call out papers they get a boot or something after them. They was around some morning before we got out of bed. We got on very nice the time we was there, we could get anything there, the worst was the money was very short, we did get a pay while we was there but it was a little one. We was getting a pass to go every night so the most of us was going into Alexandria, as soon as we got out of the camp we got those little boot blacks after us to clean our boots and it was worth half a piastre to clean them after coming off that white sand.
So we go off and catch the tram car for Alexandria, it was not very often we pay for our ride, when they come to us for the money we tell them we did not have any and on the way back we make out we were drunk and they would not ask then, they thought they may be getting a tough time, so that is how we get our cheap ride. I have heard that troops are to pay, if they don’t they get reported to the M.P. and then they drop into it very hot. Any how we had a nice look around Alexandria and enjoyed ourself. It would have been better if we had a plenty of money, of course that is common thing for a Tommy to be without money. I did have a little, I had to keep it to myself or they would all want some part of it. The sea was just by the camp where we were stopping so we were going down and have bath every day but we had to go down early in the morning, or in the evening after the sun go down. So W. Lewis and myself had a nice little place, a big hole in the rocks, it did get full of water about 5 feet deep so that was just nice because not one of us could swim. I can tell you we were sorry when we had to move from there we was enjoying ourself so nice.
We had orders to pack for moving away, this was Sunday 19th Sept. so we had been at Mustpha from the 14th Sept. so we had a ride part of the ways on the tram cars the same as going down to Mustpha from the dock. So when we got to the dock the boat was there, so we got on straight away. The name of her was karroo, she was a filthy old thing and the food on her was very bad. We moved out next morning for the Peninsula and going through the Eagean Sea it was full of little Greece islands and we had very rough sea between those islands. We thought we was never going to get to the Peninsula. There was a gun boat come out to look for us, they must of thought we were lost, we would not have been the only one just around there and we was all wishing for her to get in soon because we was not getting half enough food and she was such a filthy old thing.
Anyhow, we got into Limnos after all, that was Friday 24th Sept., that was
from 19th to 24th doing about 2 day ride. To make the thing worst we did not
get off until the 28th Sept. To make it a little better there was a troop
ship loaded with churbralins laying a little ways off so that one was pulled
in by ours so we could get off from one to the other. Soon as they were
pulled together my mate got on to her and had a look round to try a get some
food so he did not get any that time so the 2 of us went over next time and
had a look around. So we went to the officers cook to see if he had anything
about there so we was lucky, we got a nice little sheeps heart off of him and
he was nice and hot, so we was wondering then how we was going to get a
little bread to eat with him so there were some black men stoking there so we
thought we would go and see what they had about there. So we got them to
understand that we wanted some bread so we was lucky we got a loaf from them.
So we went back on our own boat and had a nice feed the best feed we had for 5 or 6 days.
Limnos harbour is a fine big natural harbour and there was 100 of boats there so we got off the karroo 28th Sept. onto a little steamer called the red brest and she took us within soon of the guns and then we began to think there was a war on. So we got off the red brest on to some barges and we were packed in so we could not move.
So we landed on the enemy ground at west beach Sulva Bay 28th September 1915.
So we got into an old truck and lay down and sleep the rest of the night. The first we were looking for when we woke in the morning was some food and the first chap I saw I got a tin of jam from him and I set down and eat the lot.
So the chap that gave it to me had been in the country some time and he told us if we was going to start and eat jam like that I should be getting the dysentery and then he began to tell me about the dysentery what a awfull thing it was to get and there was a lot of chaps dieing with it. So I began to think that had better to stop eating jam. So there was plenty of jam about at that time and instead of eating less of it I was eating more until I got the dysentery. Of course I did not get it very bad, the doctor told me I was not to do any work for a bit, so I had 5 days in my little dugout, quite easy and I soon got better. I stopped eating jam after that.
So we had orders to move off again that evening after dark, of course this was 29th Sept. We heard we was going to Lake Baba, we did not know to what part of the Peninsula that was. So we started off full pack same as we landed. It was not long before we got on to some lovely sands and we was walking on these sands for quite an hour and I can tell you it was heavy walking and to make it worst for me there was one of our chaps had very bad feet, so has I been Cpl. I had to stop and look after him and I can tell you I had a job. I had to carry all his equipment and with his and my own I had something to go on with, and the other chaps in front was walking too fast for us. Then we lost them and then I did not know what to do in a strange place. So I sayed to the chap with bad feet, the best thing we could do is to stop where we were till someone come. I was thinking we may walk into the enemy……..? So at last someone came back to look for us and that was Sergeant Roberts from near Bridgend, he is dead now poor chap. He died at Sheak Saad Mesopotamia Wed. July 12th 1916.
So the sergeant and myself got the chap along till we came to Lala Baba and the B.S.M. was there so he told us where we had to go to. Of course, there we found the 8th Welsh Pioneers, we had to sleep out in the open and make the best of it, of course there was nowhere else to go only in the open.
So we slept out like that for some time, our first work was making a road
leading to South pier, the weather was very hot, the Turks was shelling us
every day, they was trying to blow the pier up. So we was in a dangerous
place for a start. Of course the Turks could reach us on any part of the
Peninsular with their big guns, our troops was not no more that 4 miles
inland to the farthest point on Suvla Bay. I was surprised to see all along
the beach at South Pier where we was working the ammunition laying about
there. 100 of bandoliers and a 100 rounds in each, we walking on it every
where we went. Of course, the way it come there was when the landing was
made by the 10, 11 Div. of the New Army owing to so many been killed and
wounded. There was 1000 of men that never got out of the water after getting
off of the Barges/Burger.
The Turks had barb wire in the water and what was not caught in barb wire were shot by the enemy by 100 and the water red with blood. I wonder to my self sometimes how were a landing was made there. There was one good thing at Lala Baba, we were by the sea, we could have a swim. Sometimes when there was a lot in the water the Turks would start shelling us and then to see them running with their clothes under their harms, you would not see a man in the water in a very short time.
The 4th Oct. we went across to C. beach to make a place for some water tanks
and after we had been there about 2 hours it started thunder and lighning and
the rain came down heavens hard and it kept on for about three hours, the
water was running out the top of our boots. Of course we had to keep on
working till the job was done. If ever I thought of home I did that night.
After we done the job we went back to Lala Babu again and everything we had, blankets and all, was like as if they just come out of the sea. So, I sayed to my mate, I don’t know what the h--- to think of it, I only wish I was home out of it. So it was not far from there where I help he burry the poor fellow not long after. So I said to him, the best thing we can do is to roll ourselves up in the blanket and make the best of it and that is what we done.
I can tell you we had a very uneasy night of it, and owing to weather dull we could not get our things dry for several days, it was enough to kill our men, keeping that wet clothes on day after day and wet blankets and wet ground to sleep on. It was awful.
Constantinople enjoys beautiful and rather relaxing weather during the summer and autumn months, during winter and spring it is variable much like the same seasons in Southern England, frost and snow alternating with spells of mild weather and it would be the same on the peninsula.
So at last we managed to get a dugout, there was some chaps moving away from there, so we had theirs and it was a nice little dugout, up on high ground so the water could run away from us. There was three of us going into him, D. Virgin of Cardiff, W.J. Lewis, my best mate and myself, so we put our three ground sheets over the top and made a nice little place, and when the most of the other chaps was getting washed out with the rain, we was nice and dry and we made a lamp out of a tobacco tin, we put some fat in the tin and roll up a bit of rag and put it in the fat and it would make a nice light. We got wet twice in our dugout when the sea was very rough the waves would come right up over us. Of course that did not happen very often, there was no tide, if any, it was very little.
I went on guard one night, I was in charge; the Cpl that was on before me was
Cpl, Cord from the 12th, he had not been out long and he went out to work
after coming off guard and the poor chap got killed by a shell just be C.
Beach. So in the evening while on guard the doctor come up to me and told me
that he was going away the next morning and asked me to give him a call in
the morning 4.30. So I went to call him in the morning and I could not find
his dugout; so I knew where the servent was sleeping/stopping. Anyhow the
serventers had moved out the night before and a officer moved in there. So I
went into the Servent dugout not knowing that they had moved out of course.
Knowing the servents I thought I would have a bit of fun, so I got hold of a leg and pulled him all across the dugout to wake him up to tell me where the doctor was stopping. Of course, when I stop pulling he begin to shout, who the ---are you and what the --- are you doing, and it was one of the officers, Buttons we call him, for the 12 Batt. I hear him telling the other officers about it at breakfast that morning and they was just killing themselves with laughing. So I told him I was sorry and one thing and the other and told him I thought it was the servents and then I told him what I wanted, to find the doctors dugout and he told me and asked me to tell the doctor to come and see him before he went.
I have not told you what the Peninsula was like, I should have told you
before. It is all hills, Lala babu is a big hill by the sea and the other
side of Lala Babu is the Salt lake. There is not much water in the salt lake
in the summer, it is the rough sea in the winter time that make the salt
lake. It is a very flat land between two hills and the sea force it way
through and straight across. The lake is Anafurta and Chocolate Hill and
father up over again is 971, a big hill. Of course these places are all
inland from Suvla Bay. I had seen them hills all around there shelled by our
battleships laying in the bay, anyone would think it was unfavourable for any
thing to live there and still the Turks was there after. There was not many
trees about there and mostly the same kind of birds about there as in
England. We had a lot of wells about there where we was getting our water.
The Turk was very good when they got drove back, they did not destroy the wells. Our hospital boats look lovely laying in the bay lighted up by night, the Turks never shell them and not very often the Turks shell by night. It was very dangerous going to some of the wells for water, we had to go out two at a time and the others wait in a bunch till they come back and then there was a lot getting knocked out by the Turkish Sniper.
One morning my mate and me was going for water and we had two rum jugs in our dugout, so we took one each to save us going to the well so often as it was so dangerous. So we got the water alright and we got back just by our dugout and it was a long ways to get it. Anyhow over came a shell and as he was carrying the jar on his shoulders a piece of the shell knocked the jar all to bits and did not hurt him, only woke him up a bit and made him in a very bad temper. If the old Turk only had what he wished him the war would have been over by now. So we had to be content with just one jar.
On the 26th Nov. we had a boy there 16 years of age and his mother had been trying to get him out of the army. Anyhow papers had come out to the C.O. of our Batt. to send him home so he had to pack is things up straight away so he could go at 5 o’clock next morning. So the officers send for me, I was Cpl then, and gave me some papers and told me I was in charge of the papers and the chap till he got on to the boat. So next, just before 5 got out and called him to get ready and I went and got some tea for him and myself. So I had a few curio and I ask him if he would post them when he landed in England and he sayed he would. Of course, I thought that would be a safe way of getting them home, so they never got to my home. I expect they went to his home.
Anyhow, going from Lala buba to West beach about 3 m. the Turks started shelling and the shells was dropping all around us. I believe the Turks were trying to find our big guns. The little chap was too frightened to move and I can tell you I thought our time had come, so when he was going on to the boat he sayed thank god I am going out of this. Yes and thought I should like to be going with him. The Turks put the wind in both of us. That morning it was the first time to be under a heavy bombardment and I sayed then, I hope it would be the last but I have seen many worst since.
Nov. 17th my Coy C. was moving from Lala Buba for the trenches so we fell in
just as it got dark and the wind was blowing very strong and we all had full
pack, blankets as well, it was too much to carry by right, it was just
breaking our backs but we had to stick it. We got to Chocolate Hill and it
was looking full of rain. That was about 3 m. from Lala Buba, so 3 Platoons
stopped at chocolate hill and my platoon had to go on to 39th Brde at Well 64
old farm house and just after we left chocolate hill it started to rain
thunder and lightning something awful. We had our big coat with us but we
got no order to put it on and we was wet to the skin before we went a 100
yards. To make it worse we had to go through trenches for almost 2 m. before
we came to Well 64 and the trenches was very narrow you can imagine what we
were like by the time we got through these trenches. We was water and mud
from head to foot. We was not far from the Turks trenches and the only thing
we could do when we got there if we wanted to lie down was to roll ourselves
up in our blankets and lay down in the trenches on the water and mud and it
was very cold so every now and then we would get up and walk up and down the
trench to keep ourselves warm. We could not sleep it was too wet and cold.
So in the morning we had a good breakfast, the best for a long time. As soon as we had our feed the sun came out nice so that was just right for us to dry clothes.
Then we thought we would like to see that farm house suppose to be there, so my mate and me had a walk up the trenches a little ways. We could see some old building so we went around the trench to it and we could see one of our chaps inside making some crosses to put on the graves of some chaps that had been knocked out. So I sayed to him, is this suppose to be the farm house, yes, he sayed, that is what they call it, and it was just one little place like a pigeon cott, I don’t think anyone could have lived there. Anyhow, I should have like to have gone in there myself for shelter but they would not let us. That was the only building I seen on the Peninsula to be near to it.
We could see a few buildings just up over Unafarta. Of course the Turks were
If we wanted to wash we had to go two at a time at the well by the suppose Farm House. There was a graveyard there of ours, it was called the British graveyard and there was some 100 laying there. Of course they got different names to the trenches just the same as streets in a town, such as Bristol Road, West Street. So we was there two days, we did not do any work, we had it nice and easy. The second day we was there I was picked to find the way to Chocolate Hill and to try and get the best way to lead the platoon from Well 64 back to Chocolate Hill after it get dark. So I started off, I had not gone more than 3 or 400 yards before a Turk fire a machine gun on me, he put a hole through the sleeve of my coat. I was passing the corner of a trench, of course I was soon out of his sight or he would soon had my life, so I bested the old Turk again. So I keep going out the trench and I got out not far from the Salt Lake, so I keeped by the Salt Lake all the way. I must have been out of rifle range then. So when I got about half ways I come across a dead body, he had been there for some time. He was one of the Lincoln. I did not know what I better do with him. I did not like to see him there like that. So I got to over Chocolate Hill and told the Coy officer that the platoon was coming over after dark and I told him I had come around to find the best way to bring them, and he asked what kind of a time I had coming around. I told him a Turk open machine gun fire on me and he sayed he was not a bit surprised at that and I let him have a look at the hole in my coat and he told me I was lucky. Of course, I thought that myself.
So, on the way back I took an old shovel with me and put that poor chap I had
seen on the way down out of sight. I did not like to see him laying in the
open like that. And all around by Salt Lake and Chocolate Hill the ground was
covered with bullets and pieces of shell, it was just the same as if it had
been raining iron. Anyone could not believe if he had not seen it himself.
I was thinking to myself then at that time it would be a very nice place for these rag and bone men to come around there, they would get plenty of old iron.
I got back to my platoon by Well 64 all right just before dark. So I had not been back long before we had to pack up to move off. So they keep a drop of tea for me and I had that and we moved off and I took the lead and we all got back to Chocolate Hill alright. There was one place over by the Salt Lake it was a little boggy and some of the chaps went down up to their knees and they told me I done it to have a bit of fun with them. They was not far out either.
Very heavy shelling on Chocolate Hill on Nov. 29th the only thing we could do was to lay in our dugout a trust to luck. The Turks kept it up for about 3 hours and by the time they finished there was stones, mud and sand bags all in the dugout on top of us and I got out of that lot alright again. I was glad when they stopped, I thought they was never going to stop. We had a good few killed and wounded of different lots about there. So then we had to put our dugout right again.
So we went on very good for a little time again, we was making across to Lala Buba, we was working nights. There was one poor chap got one in the shoulder and when we was bandaging him up we told him it was not much. Of course we did not think it was much, he died next day on the Hospital Boat. Only a few minutes before he was talking to me about his promotion, he was L.Cpl. Thin and he should have been Cpl. a few days before only he was lenient with the men and that stopped his promotion.
On Nov. 26th we had a monsoon, it had been looking very dark and heavy all the afternoon. We was working nights and were going out about 5.30 and it was dark then and the wind was very strong and the lightning and thunder was awful. We had not gone no more than 500 yards and the rain started so we had orders to go back to our dugouts as quick as possible and before we could get 100 yards we was wet to the skin. It was the heaviest rain ever I was in and before we could get to our dugouts they were running over with water so we did not know what to do. Everything we had was wet so the only thing was to stand out in it. The only roof we had was the sky so we stood in one place till we got just too cold to move and there was an old quarry just by where we had been getting stone for the boat? So we went down there to shelter from the wind. So there was water and mud up to knees there so we stopped there till the rain stop, it had been raining 2 hours.
There was some chaps, quite boys and some of them I saw dying with the exposure. There was lot had to be took to hospital that night and the hospitals were so full there was a lot had to be left outside. I expect you have read about this in the papers at that time and there was a lot of men found dead at their post died with exposure. So after coming out of the quarry we made our way for the dugout again and on the way back there were a lot of big shell holes so these holes had got full of water and mud and it being so very dark there were good many of us fell in these holes and I was one of them and I like may others had to be pulled out. I can tell you again we was in a state and it was so very cold made it worst. So we get to our dugouts, the only thing we could see to do was to get the water out and that is what we done. So when we came to the bottom of the dugout there was our rifle and equipment and everything else so we put it on top of the dugout and got all the mud off the bottom and lay down and put a old ground sheet over us – no sleep that night.
So when it got daylight next morning the 27th Nov. it look like it was going
to be a nice day so everybody put their blankets out on the small bushes to
dry. They had not been out no more than 10 m when the Turks started
shelling, they must have seen the blankets out and the shells was coming down
like rain for about two hours and when they finished the dugouts about there
was upside down, men buried and killed, it was in a awful state there, blew
the cookhouse up, all our tea that ready for us. There was one very good
thing,, that is a lot of the Turks shells did not explode, there was two big
shells dropped about a yard from my little home and not one of them explode.
It seems like I was not to be hurted. There was a chap from Bridgend, H. Davies, he was a servant for our Coy officer, he had just been doing some thing for the officers in his dugout and he went to his different dugout 10 yards away and before he could have reached there a shell dropped right in to the dugout and blew the place to pieces. Another half a minute later he would have gone west. This was the same bombardment that my poor old mate W. Lewis got killed just by me.
So in the afternoon it come to rain again, strong wind and very cold, so
there was a party of us picked to go and dig a grave for him on the Salt Lake
and I was one of them. So we went and got it ready for him and we got in a
awful state with the rain and mud. So we thought they was going to bring him
down for us to bury him then but they did not so we had to go back and stop
till dark. So we went down after dark and buried him, it seem more like
burying a dog, not a man, in a wet muddy hole like that was.
We buried him in full dress with a blanket around him. I can tell you it went very hard for me because we were like two brothers, I gave him a shave not an hour before he got killed and trimmed his moustaches for him just for a bit of fun and I told him that his wife would not know him now. He had only just started to let his moustache grow. I only manage to get his belt to keep it in remembrance of him and I am wearing that now today. There was other things I should like to have had but could not get it. I made a cross for is grave next day and took it down and done is grave up a bit. I never seen is grave after.
The next day 28th Nov. one of the Turks big guns, Beachy Bill we was calling him, I believe it was him was shelling us from about 2 o’clock in the morning till daylight and one of the shrapnel blew our waterproof that we had over the top of the dugout all to bits. I was sleeping in my big coat at the time and a piece of it went through the shoulder of my coat and just cut my skin so I was on the lucky side again. There was snow and frost that morning and our legs were dead with the cold so I sayed to my mate, we better have a look at our legs and see that they were alright. I thought we may have had a knock in the legs without knowing it owing to our legs been dead with the cold but it was alright. Men that seen the waterproof after could not make out how we escape like we did, the chap that was sleeping with me is in Netley Hospital now, he was wounded very bad in Mesopotamia with shrapnel when the 19th Div. was advancing for the relief of Hull ?? So after we had our dugout blown to pieces the Turks did not shell us much for the remainder of the time we was on Chocolate Hill, from now on we was making trenches across to LalaBuba for the evacuation.
One day the Turks seen us in the trench, we were five together, and he put a ?shurefind? ? sharpener? Over and as luck happen the shell was timed too long and he explode just as he was touching the ground and some of the stones that he blew up cut the face of two of my mates and myself. Of course it was not much, drawed the blood a little.
We left Chocolate Hill 8th Dec. and back to Lala Buba and on the way back we got up to our knees in water some places passing along by the Salt Lake, we got back to Lala Babu alright. So from then up to the time we evacuated we were making a Barricade from the Salt Lake across to the sea. Of course this was for the evacuation as well and we all worked very hard there and it was all done by night. There were barb wire and trenches just every where we walk, so the Turks would have had it rough if they followed us when we evacuation. We finished the barricade 15th Dec. that was our last job on the Peninsula.
So we had to get ready for going off, we went off next day after dark. The Turks was shelling us all the afternoon; we had 1 killed, 3 wounded, it was very bad luck for these chaps as we was just going off of it. There was not anything to be left that would be of any good to the Turks. We left Lake Babu 16th Dec. and marched to South pier, that was not far. So we got onto the barges that were waiting for us by the pier and then we went across to the big boat Abbasea that were waiting out in the bay for us and we all got on the boat safe and I can tell you we was all glad to get off of that awful hole. We all thought we was going to England but it did not come off worst luck.
The first thing we done when we got onto the boat was to have a look around for some bread. Of course we had not seen bread for a long time. So we went to one of the crew, he was a dark chap, and asked him if he had any bread and he sayed yes. We asked him how much he wanted for a loaf and he said 5/- and he though we was going to buy it; of course we did not. There was a Australian standing by so he took the loaf from him and gave him a good one or two with his boot, so we did not see him any more after. I don’t expect he wanted to see us, I don’t think he would offer another Tommy a 5/- loaf. So the Australian, my mate and myself sit down and eat the loaf and we quite enjoyed it and then we lay down on deck and put our blankets over us and off to sleep.
When we woke in the morning we was just outside Limnos, of course this was a Greece island. We had about 4m. to march to where we was going to camp, we went through a little village called Sarfi, it was filthy looking, the houses was build very much like our little cottages in England only the work was more rough. They were build of stone, there were plenty of stones about there. I was thinking when I was passing of the difference between our villages and theirs, the Greece people there were a filthy lot, the roads were like plough roads and up to anyone knees with mud and filthy. The next thing I notice was a pig tied up around the neck like a dog and he had kind of an old box to go into just like a dog.
The next village we come to was Porteanos and that was about the same as the first village, a filthy looking old hole. As we were passing I could see there was a plenty of fruit there in the little shops. So we went on about a mile from there Musbrus West and there we put up our camp. So after that was done a good lot of us went back to the village and got eating a lot of fruit and different things and it made a lot of us very bad, it was rich for us after been without and that kind of thing so long. There was pint of beer for men that night and there was good many too bad to go and get it, so there was a lot of chaps had two pints instead of one.
The Greece people were getting these things to these little villages on the backs of donkeys and horses from a town called Castroph, the men and women work very hard and most times when we see a man and woman with a donkey the man was always riding and the woman walk. There is very high mountains and on the top of the high mountains there was a chapel and between the mountains there is flat land and covered with very big stones. They grow a lot of corn there and grapes and there is fig trees and there is plenty of wells. They plough their land with bullocks and the woman is always there working with the man.
I was out for a little walk one afternoon, Dec. 27th 1915 and I was passing where there was a man ploughing with 2 bullocks, so I ask him to let me have a try and he did. You should have seen the work I did, it took him about half a day to put it right again and the old lady just killed herself with laughing. Beautiful weather Xmas day and boxing day passed over just the same as any other day, it did not make much difference to us. We had a bit of pudden from the daily mail, it was very nice, we had a nice warm bath 29th Dec. the first since I left England.
We had a rough march 30th Dec. over hills and stones and rough roads and a very hot day and I can tell you we were all glad when we got back to camp and we was all wishing to get off of the Island, there was too many mountains there for long route marches.
I went to church in that little village, Porteanos, the church inside was nice and clean but very old fashion. Outside of it and around the graveyard was filthy human bones, I hear it was people been massacred by the Turks in the church. I should say that by the heap of bones that were there it was a 100 or more, big and small together. The old priest there all got long beards and they rode about on a donkey. So after I had a good look round the church I went out and bought a lb. of margarine and is cost me 2s. I think that was a bit hot.
It was not often we would get a good wash, we had to wait till it rain. We was not allowed to get water from the Greece wells and there was not many of our wells about there near us. When I change my shirt I was burying him in the earth to try and kill the vermin and as soon as we get rain I would take him up and wash him. I went one day with one of our officers and stole a pump to try and get some water out of an old well just by our camp and after we took him back and tried to work him we found out he was no good. They say stole things is no good, it was so with the pump.
The Grecian people New Year is on the 14th Jan. I went down to Porteanos in the evening and they were all having a good enjoyment, there was dancing go on in just every house, of course we could not understand it. Of course I enjoyed myself by looking on. On the 15th Jan, very rough night and very heavy rain, we were 23 in a tent. I woke up in the night some time and we were laying in about 3 inches of water and the tent was just down on top of us. I ask the chap sleeping next to me to help me hold the tent pole up or the tent would be down on top of us, so he did not seem in much hurry to move and I told him I would let the tent drop down and that is what I did and you should have seen us getting out from under into the pouring rain and a very cold night. The only thing we could do was put him up again the best way we could. You must think for yourself the nice language that was going on. It rain for 36 hours without a stop.
19th Jan. we moved off the island, we got on to the little boat Sir J. Peace, off of Sir J Peace on the big boat Caledonia. Sailed out next morning 9.30 and then we had our life belts served out to us, we had to keep them on day and night. Arrived at Alexandria 22nd Jan. 8 m. We was 48 hours from Limnos to Alexandria, we had a very nice voyage, we passed over where the Royal Edward was sink on the way to Gallipoli Peninsula. All troops except the 13 Div. Troops were disembarked and more 13th Div. embarked. I was put on picket so I got off the Boat and I manage to get a cup of tea and a few little cakes.
So while we was off the baot an Arab came to my mate and ask him for his jack knife and sayed he would give him 5 piastre for it. 5 piastre is 1/1 in England money, of course I understood the money pretty good. So my friend asked me how much 5 piastra was and I told him, so he told the arab he could have the knife. So the arab thought we had just come out from England, he would try and do us down, of course he did not think one of us understood the money. So my friend let him have the knife. Of course the arab gave him the suppose to be 5 piastra and instead of 5 piastra it was 5 half piastre. Of course my friend took the money not knowing the difference between a piastra or a half one so I ask him to let me see what he gave him and I seen what he had. So I told him he had done him down, I’ll bet he have not tried to do another Tommy down since. We gave him half piastra and he did not get the knife nor the half piastras back.
So we sailed out from harbour 6 o’clock that night 23rd Jan 1916, Port Said was in sight. The first thing we come to entering the harbour was the statue De Lesseps standing on the break water. He was the great engineer of the Suez Canal. I can tell you it was a statue worth looking at. Port Said look a beautiful town looking at it from the harbour. I notice all the buildings had flat tops and I did not see any buildings like ours at home.
Off the boat 3 o’clock p.m. 24th Jan, marched to our camping ground just outside Port Said. There was no tents that night so we had to sleep rough and it was a very wet night and very cold, everything we had got wet so all we had on had to dry on us. We put the tent up next day and it was all sand there, it was awful when the wind was blowing strong. There was so many from each company had passes to go out in the town. I was not lucky enough to get one the first night. We had 3 figs each for tea this evening, I was thinking to myself we would not be able to kill many Turks if they keep us on 3 fig meals long. Food was very cheap at Port Said and most chaps what had the money was going to the town for the most of their food.
Many days for the first week or two we had dry bread for tea in a town of plenty like Port Said. Of course it got better after a time. We was doing a little every morning just to keep ourself in working order and in the afternoon we go down to the sea and have a good swim, there was a beautiful beach there, we could go for miles there on the sands, there were 1000 of shells and 8 or 9 different. We had many football matches with the French sailors by our camp, we beat them every time, I think our chaps understood the game better but the French were very nice chaps, we had a very good time with them.
We was up this morning 5 o’c for moving away, we marched off 9.30, got onto the boat Nile Hongkong at 12 midday, my arm was very bad with vaccination that had been done about 5 days and to make things worst we had to carry our full pack and two blankets from the camp to the boat and my harm was as big as two and plenty more men the same as myself.
We started off from Port Said 11 p.m. 17th Feb. 1916 up through the Suez.
The Suez canal is about 90 miles in length. We passed 2 or 3 places very wide, these places were called Bitter Lakes. We passed our troops all the way up on both sides, where the fighting was going on was on our left. On our right is where the River Nile run along, the second longest river in the world. Reached Suez town the next day 2.30 p.m. did not stop there long. Of course the boat could not go at any speed through the canal when we got into the gulf Suez she could go head. After getting out of the gulf suez we got into the Red Sea and it was awful hot going through the red sea. After getting out of the red sea we get into the Arabian Sea. We passed Aden on the 22nd Feb. Aden is a very important station on the route to India. Of course after passing Aden we turned left for the Persian Gulf, we got into the gulf on the morning of 28th Feb. and anchor down just outside Kuwait.
It was quite cold in the gulf at that time, any one could do with a big coat
on, we had a lot of rain while we was laying there. The arabs from Kuwait
was coming around our boat with eggs and fowls, the officer was capturing
most of the eggs as usual. The worst of it was we could not get any tobacco
or cigarettes on the boat. I had about qtr. of tobacco getting on to the
boat at Port Said, of course I smoked all I had before getting to the Red Sea
and every one seem to have run out so the only way I could see to get a smoke
was to dry the tea leaves and smoke them, so that is what I done. Of course
it was not a very nice smoke but still it was better that been without one.
So I kept on the tea about 8 or 9 day and that time I begin to think is was as good as tobacco. Matches on board was very short, the only way we could get them was to pay ? ha’penny ? a box for them off of the crew, of course there was not many payed that for them, they would be donkeys if they did I should think.
The boat named the Vila pulled in by us today, Mar 3rd so we had to change everything over from the Nile Hongkong, that was the boat we were on onto the Vila , that took us 24 hours. Next day 5th Mar the Vila moved away from Nile Hongkong and anchor.
On the 6th March we started off up the river. When the boat moved off we could see that the water was not very deep by the mud rising. We had not gone far before we could see trees, of course that was date trees and it look beautiful as we was passing up the river. We could see the arabs on both sides walking up and down the river bank and we could see the old mud buildings which look very funny to us. Some of them were dressed very nice and some were not. I notice about every 500 yards there was little canals running from the river, the water was going amongst the date trees and other things for watering perhaps. On the right we passed a place called Moharamerah and there was a Anglo Persian oil Coy., this oil coy is suppose to supply 3 parts of our navy with oil.
A little further up the river we come to some boats that had been sink by the
Turks to try and block the river, we could see the funnels just above water.
The boat stopped in the evening for the night. Next day she moved up again, we were a mile below Basra then. It is about 90 miles from the sea to Basra.
On the 9th Mar. we got off the big boat Vila into some little arab ?conno? to take us across to the right bank of the river, we had to go there to get disinfected because there had been fever on the boat. Our clothes was disinfected as well. We named this place frogs island, there were 1000 of frogs there, we could not sleep at night for them they were making such a awful noise, the most of our chaps was up just at the first night killing them and the boys that was not out in the night was out as soon as day light next morning killing them. We had more rest the next night, there were very few frogs left to tell the tale.
There were 100 of house sparrows here, I notice them everywhere I have been,
that is about the only bird I have seen in this country like over at home.
The sheep is different than ours, they have very thick tails and they are always very thin. The arabs live in a filthy way, cows, sheep, horses, fowls, people, live together. Every thing and every body live from the water from the river, of course the water from the river is always dirty, it got to be put in something and let stand and no troops must not drink it before being chemically treated.
We left frogs island 14th Mar. across the other side of the river, we went
across in barges and marched about 3 m to a camp with full pack and it was a
hot day, we were all done up on a short march like that, of course that was
owing to been on the boat so long we were all gone stiff. Passed a lot of
arab women on the way and just everyone had big rings in their nose, the did
look a sight and a half wild lot. We stopped at the camp till 17th Mar, we
started from this morning about 3 miles down to the river and then we were
working all day loading the boat and then we got on her ourself in the
evening, ready for going up the river. The name of the boat was Tara.
Started up the river that evening, of course she could not go far because none of the boats travel by night. We start as soon as day break and stop as soon as it get dark. This a awful river for the steamers going up and down, it is all twist and turn and some days we get stuck in the mud 4 or 5 times and have a awful job to get off again and in some cases we have got to wait for another steamer to come and pull us out.
I can tell you it is not very nice to be on these boats day after day, not room for anyone to move and not a smoke to be got, we have not had a good smoke for 2 weeks, only tea leafs and that is not very nice. We seem to have been very unlucky at the last camp, every other Regt. got pay bar us. I could not say how it happen like that, there was plenty of smokes to be got there, of course we had no money to get any worst luck, so we had to content with tea leafs.
The country is very flat and under water a lot of places owing to overflow of
the river, of course the river is only like that in the stormy season through
the winter months. She is very low in the summer months, when I say summer
months I mean the same summer months as we get at home and through them
months the boats got a very hard job to pass up and down the river. Now after
a few days on board the river steamer we are passing the garden of Eden which
is on the right bank of the Tigris just beyond where the Tigris and Euphrates
So I did not see Adam and Eve there they must have run away with the Turks.
There palm trees along both sides of the river but farther inland there was nothing but the old desert covered with low brush wood. There were 100 of arabs on both sides of the river with eggs and fowls and some of them were following the boat for miles and miles waiting for the boats to get near the side so we could buy from them. So those who had money was well away for eggs and fowls, some fowls 8 ? each.
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…… port is perhaps the oldest in Asia; it was from here that the mythical Sinbad the Sailor set forth on his voyages of adventure and many real sea rovers besides who made themselves a terror to navigators.
When the British first opened up trade here some three hundred years ago they found it a hot bed of piracy and even to this day a stretch of the coast is called the pirate coast. We went to the gulf in the first place for trading purposes, and after the acquirement of our Indian Empire we remained to prevent it been managed by other powers. This has required constant vigilance for other nations were always trying to establish themselves and Germany in particular has been unflagging in her effort to gain a footing.
From time immemorial the gulf has been the outlet of the rich merchandise of the East; Arab ponies, rich hand woven carpets, of which no two are alike, Persian cats, cotton and pearls from bakrian banks compose the precious cargo that was brought down in the picturesque old world dhows with their high prows decorated with elaborate carving. These are now almost entirely replaced by British steamers of the latest pattern, which perform the journey from Bombay to Basra, the farthest port, in six days.
Another valuable possession in this region is the Anglo-Persian oil field in
which our government has large shares and which supplies most of the oil used
by the admiralty, the oil been brought down to Abadan on the river by a pipe
140 miles in length.
The gulf will be the outlet too for the harvest that must result (if all goes well) from Sir William Willcocks great irrigation scheme in Mesopotamia. The vast plane between the Euphrates and Tigris contains some of the richest soil in the world and by throwing a dam across the Euphrates several thousands of acres of this fertile soil have been reclaimed. If the scheme could be fully carried out some six millions of acres might be brought under cultivation; and though the cost of this is estimated at twenty one million pounds, the land itself would be worth sixty millions and produce sufficient cereals to supply the whole world. It seems but natural that the garden of Eden should have been placed in such a region and some authorities say that it was situated at kurna, fifty miles above Basra where we fought a big battle, others say it was at Hit, on the Euphrates.
A caravan’s journey from Baghdad are the ruins of Babylon, the excavation of which was in the hands of a zealous/jealous German Syndicate. Baghdad itself is one of the most ancient cities in the world, the home of Haraun-al Reschad of the Arabian Nights, with its flat roofed houses standing amid groves and palm and oranges, its crowded barges and people clad in the costumes of thousands of years ago, it round “gufes” on the river, presents a true picture of the unchanging East and appears as if times had stood still there, though its population has declined from two million to one hundred and twenty thousand and memories of past glories have been handed down by tradition and are still remembered in the East. Its capture would made a great impression where prestige counts for so much; it would also strike a deadly blow at the Kaiser’s long cherished prospect, for through it was to run the famous Baghdad Railway.
The British have had trade connections in Baghdad since the days of Napoleon and 75 per cent of its commerce has been in our hands. Much of the merchandise was carried up the Tigris in small steamers for the running of which we obtained a treaty in 1841. In the earlier days of this concession the skippers of these craft had some exciting encounters with the half wild Bedouin tribes on the banks. Stirring stories might also be told of the difficulties and dangers attending our early trading in the Gulf where skirmishes frequently took place with Arabs and others on the shore and it’s many years since it was necessary for steamers anchored there to keep an armed watch at night.
|Title||4 Month Diary of Henry Woolley from 28th Aug.1915|
|Item Date||August 1915|
|Creation place||Gallipoli et al.|
|Copyright||The Great War Archive, University of Oxford / Primary Contributor|
|Digital repository||The Great War Archive, University of Oxford|