Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Booth diary, 24 February 1917 – December 1915 / John Booth
[Transcriber’s note: Private John Booth served with the 20th Battalion, 5th Machine Gun Company A.I.F. at Gallipoli, Egypt, France and Belgium. This diary is written on 24th February 1917 while in hospital in Oxford, England and is a resume of various articles which apparently he wrote previously. He describes leaving Alexandria on the "Saturnia" on 16 August 1915 for Lemnos and then on the "Osmanieh" to Anzac. His time here is described in great detail, the layout of the country, the nationalities involved in the fighting, descriptions of the various battles, the food they ate and life in general. He was evacuated from Gallipoli on 19 December 1915. From here he went on to France and Belgium, spent time in England in hospital, as noted above, returned to France and Belgium and was killed in action in Belgium on 9 October 1917.]
Private John Booth,
20th Battalion, A.I.F.
5th Machine Gun
Killed in Action in France,
October 9th, 1917.
He saw the Light and followed it to the End.
[See image for three photographs, presumably of Private Booth with captions on two photographs and a photograph of a Roll of Honour.]
[Caption on second photograph]
Taken at London May 1917
[Note on third photograph]
[Caption under photograph]
Taken at Cairo, Egypt – March 1916 after 12 months soldiering including 7 months active service 17 weeks being spent in Trenches at Gallipoli.
Roll of Honour
Legion of Frontiersmen
[See image for list of names which includes "Booth, J." indicated by a line.]
[Caption under Roll of Honour]
Savings Bank Chambers, Moore Street, Sydney.
date taken from diary
Feb. 24th 1917
I have been perusing the various articles I have written and notice that some of my statements are vague and misleading, but as they were written whilst in the trenches, under unenviable conditions, I trust that I shall be pardoned and will now make amends whilst lying in bed here, at the No. 3 Southern General Hospital, Oxford, England.
I shall commence from the time of leaving Egypt for Gallipoli. Marching orders were received at 9 oclock on the night of Aug./14/1915, and found myself picked with the advance guard to move out at 6 oclock the following morning, and when the time arrived, we were all in readiness, each man being presented with a serviceable clasp knife and tinopener combined, and the wire within our caps was taken out. After receiving a day’s iron ration, which comprised a small tin containing tea, sugar, and two cubes of extract of meat, also a tin of bully beef and biscuits. We then filled our water bottles and marched through cheering crowds at Heliopolis and took a special train to Cairo.
There were fifty us in the advance guard, comprising two officers and twelve men including N.C.O.s from each of the four companies forming our battalion. The train was boarded bound for Alexandria, we passed through innumerable villages and well cultivated fertile fields of cotton and maize. Alexandria being reached, dinner was partaken of; then we marched through the streets and boarded the transport "Saturnia", making preparations for
ready for the main body, who came the which arrived next day (Aug./16/15. I was disappointed at not being able to get a few hours leave to ramble about this ancient city of historic fame, and I must say that it has a fine harbor. The day following the arrival of the main body found us outward bound; and coo-eeing and waving farewells to the troops on the other transports, also to the wounded on the hospital ships.
I had a pleasant trip across the Mediterranean Sea, and was amazed at the intensity of the blue water. A sharp lookout was kept for submarines, which had torpedoed the transport "Royal Edward", three days before, with the loss of 750 men and officers. The "Saturnia" was carrying twice her proper complement, so we slept on the decks; in lifeboats, rafts, etc;
and always had wearing the lifebelts, on and we were lucky to get fine weather. I remember see seeing a rude doggerel written on a boat chock, as follows
"God and the soldier we all adore"
When trouble is here, and no more
When the war is o’er, and wrongs are righted
God is forgotten; the soldier slighted.
Written by a cynic, I suppose, still, I wonder?
Our battalion was not the only one on board, and I was delighted to find several members of the Legion of Frontiersmen,
with whom I had drilled and camped with at Dee Why, Sydney, and we "swapped" yarns. We passed by innumerable islands of an archipelago, and apparently took taking a circuitous course, so as to dodge the foe. A few days later, we arrived at Lemnos Island, and stayed there two days, and enjoyed enjoying ourselves swimming about the harbor, which is of decent size. The Greeks came alongside in boats selling fruit, tobacco & sweetmeats and were soon sold out; especially in chocolate.
We transhipped here aboard the fast steamer "Osmanieh" and were brought to Anzac early that night, and kept off the shores for a few hours. A number of warships speeded by in the darkness with lights out, and I saw a number bombarding the Turkish trenches. It was with mingled awe, and trepidation that we regarded these things, and everybody spoke in whispers. A huge dark mass loomed in front of us,
and it was dotted here and there with lights, indeed a mysterious place. Rifle and machine gun firing was plainly heard, and now and then a jet of flame spurted, followed by the explosion of a shell. A hospital ship was not very far away, and looked looking a pretty sight with the green lights around it and a big Red Cross glowing in the centre.
Early in the morning, punts came alongside, the decks
of being covered in straw, and into these we embarked and were towed to shore by a steam tugboat. Several men were shot by stray bullets, one being a sailor on the "Osmanieh". We landed at Anzac, at half past four on Sunday morning of Aug./22/15, whilst a great charge was in progress on the left in the Chocolate Hills, where the 18th Battalion met a severe reverse. We marched along the beach, and camped in Reserve Gully, which was secure from that scourge of a gun of the Turks, called "Beachy Bill". The following night found us marching along a wide sap towards Suvla Bay, and being bumped by mules carrying ammunitions, etc. Now and again, a halt was made to allow the stretchers bearers carrying wounded, to pass by on the way to the hospital. We arrived at Argyle Ravine, and went into the trenches; and then the guide lost his bearings, and put us into the wrong line. We met the 19th Battalion coming out and as the trenches were very narrow, we had to lay down and to let them find footing between the sides of the trench, and our bodies, so they practically walked on us. Some rude remarks were passed, I assure you, when a man stumbled, and planted placed his foot in the middle of a 20th man’s back. At last, all was righted and everybody allotted to their posts, and I shall never forget the feeling that came over me, when I was faced with the grim reality. When daylight appeared, sniping by the Turks was prevalent and it was difficult to locate where it came from; in fact, it came from all points of the compass.
Several men were shot, and a sniper worried our post badly,
and gave giving us an anxious time. I heard later that the Turks disguised themselves with bushes, and painted their faces green; the New Zealanders captured a woman disguised in that fashion and her lair had enough water and provisions for a month.
Next night found us on a different post, and during the day we were trying to locate a sniper. I had a pair of field glasses and whilst looking at the hills, noticed what appeared to be an old fort in a ruinous condition. I made enquiries but nobody knew anything of its history. A fine view of the surrounding country could be seen from here, and the warships in Suvla Bay were plainly visible. That night we went sapping along the seashore, and returned in the early morning. This Argyle Ravine was taken by the New Zealanders after a desperate fight; the Turks having been in preparation for a couple of months; the German officers were comfortably situated in tents with bedsteads and had their womenfolk with them. It is 3 miles from Anzac;
and a little distance from the place shown on the map as Fishermen’s Hut. A few miles further on are the Salt Lake and Suvla Bay. A trench runs the whole way from Anzac to Suvla; and it being wide and deep enough for mules to pass through, and be secure from machine gun snipers.
On the morning of Aug./16/15, I was put on water fatigue, and had to go a mile down to the well, near the seashore. There were three wells, called respectively, Turks well, French, and Australian well. The Turk had the best water in it, and was used by the English infantry; the French belonged to the Artillery, and the Australian, which was a tidal well close to the shore,
and had with brackish water, belonged to us. Whilst waiting my turn to get water, the sea looked so inviting, and the day was so hot, that I made up my mind to have a bathe. I went to a place a little distance away, where there were few stones, and undressed and after undressing, dived in. The water was A1 and a number of chaps came in with me, and we were disporting ourselves, when suddenly the water ahead was whipped up with machine bullets, and the patter of a machine gun heard. I ran up the shore a bit and laid flat behind a hummock on the burning sand; and was kept staying there an hour, whilst the sun scorched my back. None of our party were hit, but a few men near the well were, and a number of tins riddled, which was aggravating as tins were very scarce. I got my eight gallons of water, and started back and when halfway, the chap in front of me was shot in the leg; and we eventually got getting to our destination without further mishap.
That evening marching orders were received, and the battalion had just fallen in, when a Turkish shrapnel shell burst in our midst. It took the leg off a sergeant
and wounded also wounding several others, and it was astonishing that it did not do more damage. We moved off and got into the sap, passing by a Ghurka encampment, also the New Zealand encampment, where a large hospital and store were kept opposite Tunic Bair. Arrived safely at Mule Gully, which is at the foot of Walkers Ridge, and then started a precipitous climb, which was an ardous job, with full packs on, including blankets and firewood. We relieved the Leinster Royal Canadians who had been in supports on Walkers Ridge, when the Light Horse charged. These Leinster Royal Canadians are not Canadians at all, but simply Irish; it is only a name, and certainly a misleading one. This place was taken by the Third Australian Infantry Brigade, and held by the Light Horse. On our arrival here, the Turks greeted us with a heavy machine gun and rifle fire, to which we promptly replied. A month befor our arrival, the Turks charged, and were beaten back. On Aug./5/15 the Third Light Horse Brigade charged with disastrous results, as the Turks had fortified their trenches with machine guns. Out of 3,000 Light Horsemen, less than 300 were mustered at Anzac. A number of English must have assisted them, because when we cut a small trench into No Mans land to establish a machine position gun position, we found their bodies; (the Durhams, I believe they were). This position was intended to be kept hidden, in case of an attack, but it was exposed
by a chap thoughtlessly sniping from it in daytime. It was on Aug./26/15 that the 20th Battalion arrived and the Turks were still burning the bodies that could be recovered and this odour combined with the stench from the decaying bodies between the trenches was disgusting.
At first, everyone had to do his own cooking, and sufficient water was available but the chief disadvantage was that one felt so tired after coming off post, that sleep was preferred. Another difficulty was the hunting about for firewood, which soon got scarce, and if left for a minute, was stolen. Turkish rifles, trenching tool handles, and pieces of old equipment soaked in bacon fat, helped to feed the flames;
and so scarce did fuel get, that company cooks were appointed and logs of wood brought from neighbouring islands, and it which was a much better plan.
The days were very hot, but it was cold at night, and the flies, fleas etc. made life almost unbearable. Dysentery, diarrohea etc.
was were soon rife and the slightest cut or scratch became septic. The doctor and the A.M.C. were kept busy attending cases, and did well considering the poor supply of necessary materials. I had a septic hand which troubled me for a month or so.
The enemy was watched by a device called a periscope which is composed of two mirrors set at a certain angle, and for a man to put his head above the trench was to court death as the Turks were very good shots. A periscope rifle was used for sniping and is an ingenious arrangement. Both sides indulged in smashing the mirrors and shooting a man who incautiously exposed himself. The Turkish periscope was different to ours but none the less efficient. I reckon, we beat the Turks at sharpshooting and put more men and periscopes out of action than they did ours. The flying glass from the broken mirrors made nasty cuts on the face, but none proved serious, except when it entered the eyes.
The Turks shelled heavily at times, but we were well entrenched, and had dugouts to get into, when the shrapnel flew around. The casualties were few as a rule, but still mounted up. The enemy
mostly generally used the French 75’s which are wonderful guns and throw shells incredibly fast; all that is heard is, a "whish bang", and then comes a shower of shrapnel. It doesn’t give one time to get into shelter like the other shells which came droning over and gave giving good warning before exploding. The shell of the "75" is about 3 inches in diameter, and some of the shells from other guns were from 8 to 10 inches, but had poor explosive power. Some of these shells were from 15 to 20 years old and were almost entirely coated with lead, and had to without any copper driving band.
The trenches were
very so narrow and tortuous, and that two men passing each other, had to turn side on. The communication trenches were much wider so as to allow easy access to the firing line. From the front line to the main communication trench (called the Broadway) was about 20 yards in width and then the Ridge fell down straight for a 150 feet to a small flat, which then after that descended 100 feet further into Mule Gulley.
Brighton Beach was about 300 yards away and the road down to it was so steep and winding, that it took ten minutes to get down, and half an hour to return. My company moved to Russells Top, which is a continuance of Walkers Ridge,
and much closer to the Turkish lines, being at places within bombing range. My job was to look after the bombs, ammunition etc., and to keep a good supply available. Several kinds of bombs were used; percussion, etc., but the most favored was the jam tin bomb. It was made; as its name denotes, from a jam tin, filled with cut cartridges and half a plug of gelignite with a detonator and a 5 second fuse attached. Another style was the bat grenade, which was of wood, with a cake of guncotton affixed, and it which caused more noise than damage. The Turks had several varieties and a peculiar kind was the skyrocket bomb. I had a narrow escape from one of these as it landed close to me squibbing, but did not explode properly. I examined it and found it was a large brass cartridge from a big gun and stood standing about 18 inches high and four inches wide at the base; and well packed with compressed gunpowder plugs and cartridges. A stick four feet long and two inches in diameter
was attached, and came in handy for boiling the "dixies"; hence our nickname, "firewood bombs". They were hurled by some ingenious contrivance about 50 feet in the air, and had no direction practically speaking, but wandered according to the vagaries of the wind; sometimes 200 yards from the starting point. I saw one blow back into the Turks trench, and explode when the wind was against
Demonstrations were occasionally held; that is, a brisk rifle fire was directed on the enemy trenches, so as to bluff, that we were about to attack and then by his return fire ascertain his apparent strength. Sometimes the warships would assist us by shelling for a while and keep him thinking. On the 12/Oct/15, our boys were throwing bully beef into the Turkish trenches;
and after a while, a sort of armistice was held, both sides appeared appearing head and shoulders over the trenches, and the Turks threw cigarettes and tobacco in exchange. It did not last long as the Turks suddenly disappeared; so did our lot. Evidently a German officer came along and disapproved of their action. We waited awhile and then a Turkish machine gun played slowly along the bottom of our parapet, so as to give us warning, then bombs were thrown as usual.
A Christian gentleman of a certain denomination asked me about it, and after having got full particulars, observed; "How kind, "how Christianlike" to see these things amongst enemies. Yes, I remarked, quite a mixture is bully beef and bombs; and he gazed at me a moment, then went away sadly shaking his head; no doubt, pondering over the peculiarities of human nature.
Later on, I was put on guard at the mouth of a tunnel on Turk’s Head, which was at the back of Russells Top. Every man going in and out at night was examined, in case a Turkish spy managed to get amongst the working party. This Tunnel was driven right under the Turks, and had two galleries; in one little drive, the Turks could be heard coughing, and driving a counter mine, so they evidently heard us and deviated their Tunnel. On Russells Top, there were indications that the enemy were underneath, so a counter mine was driven down and exploded but was only a partial success. Some of our men went down too soon, and were gassed; one chap dying a few hours later.
From Turks Head Tunnel, the earth was carried in sand bags, and the men carrying had to mutter the password as they went by us to the dump, which was ten yards away. At the dump, the cliff fell down for 200 feet into the valley below;
and on the opposite side was a cleared patch of land, which had been cultivated and where a house had once been. A slight ridge called Durham’s Post, arose from
this ground, and it was held by the 7th Brigade for a while. At the Head of the valley was Snipers Ridge, from where the Turkish machine gun snipers were driven out with great difficulty, and above this ridge towered a big mountain called Rhododendron, which was a vantage point of observation for the enemy.
From the spot, where I was on guard, a glorious panorama spread out to view of the sea and the surrounding hills, and away in the distance lay the Salt Lake and Suvla Bay shimmering in the sun. The ruins of the town of Little Anafarta were miles inland and a tall tower stood here for a while, but as it proved to be an observation post for the enemy it was shelled and brought down. Near the Salt Lake were the Chocolate Hills
and where I witnessed a heavy attack there one night. It was a grand spectacle of skyrockets, flares bursting shells, burning scrub, and flashes of rifle fire; and one might have enjoyed it, if it were not for its awful meaning; many a participant never saw the light of day again. The Turks suffered heavily but the burning scrub impeded our advance, so the objective was not reached.
The New Zealand batteries were located down on a big flat, near Fishermans Hut and were constantly shelled by the Turks but with poor results. One of our aeroplane scouts was forced to descend here owing to engine and it had hardly alighted when Turkish shell burst right underneath it, turning it completely over. The airmen escaped and got to headquarters safely.
A road ran from Fishermans Hut to the foot of Walkers Ridge but could not be used for a long time, owing to heavy sniping. The hills were eventually cleared, and it became fairly safe except for a despatch rider, who generally started about 3 p.m. and came tearing along at a stretch gallop on a fast horse. I have seen the machine gun bullets knocking up the dust all around him, and only saw him brought down once. I saw the horse rear up, and the rider tumble off, but it seems that his bridle was cut through, so he managed to stop the animal and dropped into a sap close by, eventually reaching his destination in safety. Several fine horses
had been captured from the Turks and were used in these gallops.
The surrounding country was very hilly and densely covered with a thorny scrub, which afforded good cover to a sneaking bomb thrower. One got in close to our entanglements and hurled a few bombs but did no damage. The night before, a bomb came into the post further up, and four of our chaps were taken to the hospital. The country
reminded me very of the land seen about Kosciuscko but the soil is of a clayey
and stoney nature.
The days were getting cooler, and the nights were very cold. Some nights, there was a complete silence for a while, with a beautiful moon showing over an apparently peaceful scene, but it was soon rudely shattered by the roar and crash of high explosive shells and bombs, to say nothing of the machine gun and rifle fire. Some days there was practically no shelling,
and then came the day that seemed to make up for lost time, when both sides had an artillery duel and the noise was deafening. I have been mixed up in two lots of shrapnel without being injured, and another time the blast from a shell knocked me flat, covering me with dirt and dazing me for a while.
All the transporting was done by mules with Indian drivers; a horse could not do half the work of these hardy animals. It was marvellous to see the different races fighting here, for the Empire; tall Sikhs, Punjabis, Ghurkas, etc. The Ghurkas are a well set race of small stature and have a Mongolian countenance. They are of a genial temperament and are never seen without their knives; the Khukri, which is a peculiar shaped weapon. They are fierce fighters and were much respected by the Turks,
and for the Ghurka always wants wanted to bring back the head of his enemy as a trophy of his prowess.
There was plenty of fatigue work making dugouts, bringing stores, etc., and the water was obtained from tanks a little distance down the hill. It was brought from the neighbouring islands in lighters, and discharged into tanks at Anzac, then pumped to the tanks at the foot of Walkers Ridge. Mules carried it up the hill to our tanks, then we carried it in kerosene tins to the cookhouse. A quart a day was issued to every man for a few weeks, also a pint and a half of tea. All went well for a time, and then the storms prevented the water lighters from landing and sinking a number; so water got very scarce, eventually finishing up with a pint
a day of tea a day, and a pint of water every 3 days, which was hardly sufficient for a hot climate like Gallipoli. Rations became scarce, and we were on a starvation diet. A decent ration was as follows; one tin of condensed milk amongst 8 men, half a tin of jam, but generally three men to a tin, or sometimes syrup, one tin to 8 men, and sometimes bread, instead of hard biscuits. I read an article in the "Sydney Mail" from a soldier on the other side, which stated that he received fresh meat, bread and vegetables, every day. Well if so, he was better off than we were. What we did get in "good times" was fresh meat and bread, about 3 times a week, generally less, and as I have stated, sometimes none at all, and as for fresh vegetables I never saw any the whole time I was on the Peninsular. Our issue was dried or dessicated vegetables, and potatoes, but onions were plentiful. Bully beef and biscuits was our main diet, and more often than enough it was the only food available. Do not imagine that we complained but what we did dislike was reading about the glorious time we were having and being fed like fighting cocks. It was a rough life and a hard one, and but
we expected these things, being fully aware, that the military authorities were doing their best to make life pleasant under irksome circumstances.
We bathed and washed our clothes at Brighton Beach, which was of a stony nature. The Turks at times fired shrapnel amongst us but very few were hit.
The Indian method of washing clothes was peculiar, as it consisted of beating them on a big stone; it may have cleaned them, and it certainly made holes as well. These Indians were camped in Mule Gully, and I was very interested in their customs and methods of cooking. Practically every man prepared his own meals, as there are so many castes amongst them, and each caste would not eat what the other cooked, or even use the utensils after them. A favourite food of theirs is the "chupattee" which is made of a course kind of flour, mixed with water, rolled very thin;
and thrown on to a hot dish and apparently scorched. It is very leathery and proved indigestible to me, and the curry served with it was very hot to the taste. A sweet meat, called the "jill-aybee" was made from flour, sugar, and water mixed into a thin paste and put into a tin with a hole punched through the bottom, and thus allowed to drop into a dish of boiling syrup. Goats are killed by each caste and a kind of rite gone through, and the flesh is better than I expected. The Indians are inveterate smokers and use the hookah or hubble bubble (so called on account of the noise the smoke makes, when passing through the water). It is often made of makeshift articles such as tins but the proper article is often elaborate.
A rubber tube, but more often a stem of wood was used, and it was passed around to ten men, or so, which was rather an incongruous proceeding after being so particular about their meals etc. The tobacco was mixed with sugar to make it burn better and give it taste.
I often had a chat with a well educated Sikh lieutenant who spoke English fairly well and I received some interesting information. It is indeed true that, "One half the world does not know, how the other half lives".
A well known personality on the Peninsular, was the Roman Catholic Chaplain named Father Murphy who visited our trenches regularly and had a cheery word for everybody. He used to travel the whole of the firing line, and one day, when down on the beach, he got wounded by shrapnel. His departure was regretted by all and the last I heard of him was that he was doing well.
Ten weeks and two days were spent on Walkers Ridge, and then we were relieved by the 26th Battalion, and moved out for a rest in Monash Gully, which is on the right of ridge facing the firing line. After a week’s spell, we were kept busy tunnelling, sapping, etc., on shifts of six hours duration and twelve hours off. I worked with a tunnelling party at the junction between Quinn’s and Courtney’s Posts,
and it was here that where Lance Corporal Jacka won the V.C. in the first month of the campaign. A flight of very steep steps about 100 in number had to be climbed to reach Quinns Post.
On Nov/25/15 a three days silence was commenced and two days later snow fell early in the morning. The cold was acutely felt as we were in poor condition and badly nourished, and a good many men were taken to the hospital with frost bitten feet. Rum was issued during this cold snap.
The earth from the tunnel was emptied into the valley from a dump on Courtney’s Post, where a fine panorama could be seen of the Turks trench system (called the Chessboard), which was opposite Walker Ridge. Occasionally the snipers fired at us, but I never heard of anybody being hit. Imbros Island was about seven miles out to sea, and 20 miles away, the island of Samothrace with its snow capped mountains towering in the clouds. On a fine day, it was a scene of indescribable beauty and the sunsets were glorious.
I witnessed a bomb attack on Quinns Post, one early morning and watched the burning spitting fuse bombs as they came through the air; a fascinating sight. We had wire netting on wooden frames placed in front of the trenches to stop the bombs, falling in, but the wily Turk wrapped rag around them to make them hang on to the netting, which had to be frequently renewed. A trench mortar, called the "Garlin" Gun, was used by us, which threw a large grenade and made a tremendous noise when fired.
The three days silence made the Turks wonder what our game was. Some came out of the trenches and wandered about but not a shot was fired at them until the time was up. Then our land batteries fired and things were as usual. The Turks made good use of the time, as they brought up some big guns (said to be obtained from the Bulgarians,) and bombarded Lone Pine heavily, causing the 6th Brigade 200 casualties.
At the head of Monash Gully is Popes Post and between it and Quinns Post, there lay a strip of neutral ground, which both sides had endeavoured to hold. Halfway down the Gully, a sandbag barricade was erected; from the back of which our sniping post fired on the Turks who showed on this ground. The enemy sniped down here and often used a machine gun on the working parties. A number of water tanks were behind this barricade, also a supply store; the canvas roof being full of bullet holes.
I visited Anzac on several occasions and saw the barbed wire entanglements in the water. The cliffs arose almost from the waters edge, and seemed an impregnable position for a enemy to be driven from, yet, somehow it was done. The gun known as "Beachy Bill", could shell here easily and took its toll every day of both man and beast. It was particularly deadly on a place know as "Hell’s Spit, which was a projection between Anzac and Walkers Ridge, and a small cemetery close by testified the fact. The road here was the only way of communication, so the Turks had it well ranged. At the back of Anzac, there was a large cemetery, said to be the biggest on the Australian front. All graves were marked with crosses and carefully tended.
I saw three of our warships bombarding "Beachy Bill", one day, who was hidden in the Orange Grove, which is at the back of Gaba Tepe. This marvellous gun was reported to be mounted on a railway truck, and the shock of discharge could send it back into a tunnel, so that was the reason why it could not be silenced.
A number of Maltese were employed labouring along the beach and a few Egyptians were tried. A number of English longshoremen, generally discharged
the cargoes from the lighters, and did well, selling us eatables etc. A tin of pineapple and other fruits cost half a crown, a small tin of jam, 9d. or 1/-, a candle 1/-, the usual penny cake of chocolate was 3d., and a ninepenny cake of nut milk chocolate cost 2/6d. Condensed milk was 1/6d. or 2/- but all these articles fluctuated according to the supply and demand. I have given the general prices and have known a bottle of whisky to sell for a £1. A lot of these articles were brought ashore from the warships and hospital ships, also other devious methods.
As candles were so scarce, we made fat lamps
made from jam tins half full of mud with a stick wrapped in flannel in the centre. Bacon fat was obtained from the cook, (when he was absent) or rended down from scraps collected from the rubbish heap. They gave a fairly good light to enable us to read our letters, papers, etc. An Egyptian down on the seashore found a bomb, and after careful examination came to the conclusion that it was a fat lamp, so he called his brethern together to watch him light it. They did not wait long, as the results were disastrous.
A Y.M.C.A. tent was established down in Reserve Gully, but it could not supply the local demands as the necessary articles had to be obtained from Lemnos Island and water transport was not available. Every time I went down, there was about a thousand men waiting or else it was sold out.
On Dec/11/15 three of our Majors, Jenkins, Harcus, and Uther, were killed by shrapnel whilst going through the sap to Russells Top. It appears that the Turks were firing their 75s at our battery at the back of Walkers Ridge and generally fired three times in succession and a shell fell short and got them. It was a severe loss to the battalion as these officers were very popular and the best
we had. Next day, we went back to Russells Top, after a stay of five weeks and two days here, and relieved the 28th Battalion, who a fortnight previously had relieved the 26th Battalion. On our arrival, the Turks bombarded heavily and the big guns from the "Goeben" the German warship, assisted. The "Goeben" threw about a 11 inch shell, filled with high explosive which exploded with a terrible roar, playing havoc with our trenches and dugouts. Our casualties were numerous and three more officers (one an artillery officer) were put out of action. My dugout was safe from the 75s, only and I spent some anxious moments, when the big shells came grumbling over and burst close scattering dirt, etc.
Preparations for the evacuation had been going on for some time, big guns, mules, rifles, etc. were being shipped, so as to leave nothing for Johnny Turk and all the jars of rum were broken on the beach. Provisions were being given away so we fared well. Plenty of condensed milk, strawberry jam, fancy biscuits, tinned pineapple etc., and we got porridge for breakfast. All the clothing that could not be taken away was soaked in petrol and ultimately burnt.
I went down to the beach one day to see the wharfs that had been built to facilate the embarkation. A large steamer named the "Milos" had been sunk off the piers, so as to act as a breakwater against the heavy current. Everything was ready and shells were being taken on the motor lighters. Whilst there, "Beachy Bill", started firing, landing shell after shell on the stern of the "Milos". The stores etc. were fired, so evidently the Turks took credit for it and the blaze could be seen for miles.
The silence was started again on Dec/17/15 and next day I went on guard in the mine that had been driven from Turks Head. It was charged with three tons of ammonal, and in the drive where the Turks had heard working, five bags of guncotton were placed. It was a case of who would "blow" first, the Turks, or us. If the Turks had "blown", it would have exploded our mine, and settled a few tons of earth on our chests. The next day (Dec/19/15) the evacuation took place, late in the afternoon, and I was in the second last party to leave the Top. We went down by way of Reserve Gully, getting on board the motor lighters by means of the wharfs which were covered in sawdust, so as to deaden our foot falls. We boarded the H.M.S. Mars, at half past six; it being beautifully clear and moonlight at the time. The darkness fell here at 5 oclock. The last men left the next morning at half past three and all mines were then exploded to destroy the trenches. Everything was highly successful as there were no casualties, or accidents.
The evacuation was a marvellous piece of work especially when one considers it was from a 15 mile front; it reflected great credit for those responsible for the scheme and those who carried it out. Seventeen weeks to the very day, had been spent in these parts and we left with very few of those, who marched away gaily from Liverpool, N.S.W. Weakened with dysentery and jaundice, and a lot of us wearing long beards, myself included, a rough mob, we must have appeared to those on board the H.M.S. Mars. The sailors could not have been more kind to us, for we received plenty of coffee, fresh bread etc. and were made comfortable for the night. I stood on the deck watching the few lights recede from view with mingled feelings of regret.
The campaign had been a failure, yet a spendid one, but it was not the fault of the troops; it was the fault of those who planned it. A chap near me was fooling with a Mills bomb, (a new variety we had just received) when suddenly the pin flew out and he hurled it overboard where it exploded as it touched the water. Thus we bade Gallipoli, Adieu.
164 Pte. Jno Booth
5th Australian Machine Gun Coy
late A Coy, 20th Battalion
5th Infantry Brigade
12444 Trooper Jno Booth
Legion of Frontiersmen
New South Wales Unit
Kosciuscko – now spelt Kosciuszko – P. 17
A.M.C. – Army Medical Corps – P.10
Khukri – a curved knife used as a tool and as a weapon by the Ghurkas – P.17
[Transcribed by Judy Gimbert for the State Library of New South Wales]