Christmas Comes Early (The Dirty Diaries of Daisy May Book 4)

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I stood up and let go at him. Just then I felt a heavy blow on my arm, which made my rifle drop. I turned to growl at the chap who did it, when I felt the blood flowing, and knew I was hit.

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I did not have time to see if I got that officer or not, but I hope I did. A sniper got me from behind. These snipers are an awful nuisance, and are good shots. It is hard to root them out, and they had been worrying us all that day. On the night of May 18, Turkish forces attacked all along the Anzac lines in a big push aimed at driving the invaders into the sea. The Anzacs were heavily outnumbered. Lieutenant General William Birdwood estimated at the time it was 33, against 10,, although the historian Chris Pugsley reckons it was 42, against 12, Had they attacked in force at one of the weakest spots they almost certainly would have broken through, he said.

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  • As it was, the attacks were disjointed and beaten back with heavy losses. Birdwood estimated Turkish dead to Anzacs. Five days after the battle, with the dead still lying thick on the ground, the Turks sought an armistice to allow burial parties to clear the battlefield. Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick joined a party of Turkish, German and Anzac officers to mark out the burial areas and described the experience in his journal.

    May 24, Anzac Cove — The most ghastly day. We were met by some Turkish officers who arrived on horseback followed by 50 very fine looking Turks, carrying Red Crescent and white flags. One of the officers was a German doctor. Every hundred yards or so we stationed a man with a white flag, and opposite to him the Turks posted one of their men. We clambered through dripping bushes, with beautiful poppies and flowers, reaching the top wet-through.

    From here we could see, over to our right flank, rough high hills covered with dense, waist-high scrub, and occasional open patches of cultivated land. At the top of the second hill, we halted for a slight argument as to our route. The Turks wanted to keep up toward our trench, but Col. Skeen refused so we kept straight down a steep narrow cleft between.

    A few yards climb brought us on to a plateau, and a most awful sight was here.

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    The Turkish dead lay so thick that it was almost impossible to pass without treading on the bodies. The awful destructive power of high explosives was very evident. Huge holes surrounded by circles of corpses, blown to pieces. One body was cut clean in half; the upper half I could not see, it was some distance away.

    One shell had apparently fallen and set fire to a bush, as a dead man lay charred to the bone. Everywhere one looked lay dead, swollen, black, hideous, and over all, a nauseating stench that nearly made one vomit.

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    • We exchanged cigarettes with the other officers frequently and the senior Turkish medico gave me two pieces of scented wool to put in my nostrils. Further along the plateau, the distance between the trenches narrowed.

      We kept very carefully in the centre. The narrowest place was not 17 feet apart. Our men and the Turks peered over the sandbags and all seemed pleased at the chance of seeing each other without the fear of immediate death as the price of curiosity. At one place a curious sight fascinated me. In one charge five or six Turks had reached our trench and died with their heads on our sandbags. At another place a dead T. From here we looked down that awful cut between the mountains. We could see the winding road, crossed by sandbag traverses to prevent the snipers killing the men as they marched up.

      Here we parted from the Turks. They went to the right and we descended the side of the cliff, and up again. We climbed up through deep, narrow, winding trenches, emerged on the plateau again and met the Turks. Again there was a mass of dead Turks. From here the land was flatter and we moved on through a welter of corpses.

      Behind us, for at least two miles, we could see our burial parties working furiously. In some cases the dead actually formed part of the trench wall. It was a terrible sight to see arms and legs sticking out of the sand, underneath sandbags. The final stage was opposite the extreme left flank. There was a narrow path, absolutely blocked with dead, also a swathe of men who had fallen face down as if on parade — victims to our machine-guns. Our journey took from 7. Ryan came up here and after superintending the interment, I left, feeling badly ill. I pray God I may never see such an awful sight again.

      I got back deadly sick and got phenacetin and brandy and lay down. I shall certainly have eternal nightmares.

      At the end of the day

      If this is war, I trust NZ will never be fool enough to forget that to avoid war one must be too strong to invite war. Luck decided whether a man would live, die or be maimed on Gallipoli. Four were hit and two of us got off scot free. Often they crawled from the battlefield or were carried by mates and stretcher-bearers down to the beach for preliminary treatment.

      Surgeons operated on the most urgent cases in the open air. Lesser wounds were dressed and the men had to wait, sometimes for days, to be transferred to hospital ships where doctors worked overtime cutting, stitching and amputating. From there the wounded men would be taken to Malta, Egypt and Britain to recuperate. Some were returned to New Zealand and were discharged as unfit for medical service.

      The nurses and medical staff who treated the men were profoundly impressed by their courage and stoicism despite their shocking injuries. Among the hundreds of patients he treated, Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick said only one man complained, and that was because he was hit while lying on a stretcher. I found he had got a second wound from a burst of shrapnel. Joking about serious injury was not uncommon in letters written from hospital.

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      Perhaps it was the shock or possibly just a clumsy attempt to reassure the folk back home. Many letter writers did not seem to understand that their description of horrific injuries must have been anything but reassuring. But sometimes, perhaps because the censors were not being as vigilant as usual, a letter slipped through that showed not everyone was so careless about their wounds or so keen to be back in the firing line. In private some men made no attempt to veil bloody reality. One was John Duder, the young third mate on the Maheno who kept a diary of his experiences as he came down from the bridge off Gallipoli to lend a hand carrying and caring for the wounded as they came on board during the August offensive.

      August 26, Anzac Cove — We have 50 wounded on board now. The wounds are really shocking. Two poor fellows aged 21 and 26 passed away half an hour after they came on board. One was shot by shrapnel in the neck and the piece travelled down his body and lodged in his groin. The other poor fellow had his leg blown off at the knee and I never wish to see a sadder sight.

      He fought hard but we all knew he must die. Our priest tried to comfort him and his last words were for his girl. He asked the priest to write to her and say that it was the thought of her and her example that had kept him straight and made him play the game.


      It absolutely broke us all up. 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.

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      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.

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      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.