[Editor: A letter from an Australian soldier. Published in The Register, 25 June 1915.]
“Turks won’t reap the barley.”
Following are extracts of a letter from Capt. Kayser, 12th Battalion, to his wife, dated from Gallipoli Peninsula, Anzac Cove, May 15:—
“We none of us knew until we were out at sea, well away from Egypt, whither we were bound. We embarked on the steamer Devanha, a P. &.O. liner, which previous to the war had her run from Bombay to China. In consequence of this all her staff, except the officers, were Portuguese, Indians, natives of Goa in India. All the waiters, stewards, &c., were black as the ace of spades, and were polite and attentive boys. We soon heard that we were bound for the Gallipoli Peninsula.
After two days’ steam we arrived at Mudros Harbour, Island of Lemnos, the entry into which was a sight I shall ever remember. I was on guard the morning we arrived, and at dawn, as we came into harbour, we could see the torpedo boat destroyers coming out to meet us like veritable sleuth hounds. They were taking no risks, but as soon as they discovered our Australian ensigns flying they whipped back into harbour. Here was some of the cream of our navy at anchor, the battleships Swiftsure, Inflexible, Irresistible, Triumph, Majestic, Bacchante, Queen, Ocean, Prince of Wales, and numerous French battleships, any number of torpedo boats, and some submarines. Across the mouth of the harbour there was a boom stretched, made of barrels and chains, and we steamed through a narrow opening into a magnificent harbour.
There we stayed for six weeks, awaiting orders. All around us were the other islands of the famous archipelago. Quite close by were the islands of Tenedos, Imbros, and Samothrace. The latter had a fine mountain on it, whose crest was a grand sight, covered with beautiful snow. Right in the distance we could discern the Balkans, also snow-covered. When we left Lemnos our big trunks were sent to the base at Alexandria, and we were equipped only with what we could carry to go to the front.
We were the first troopship to anchor at Lemnos, and while there what a wonderful sight we witnessed. Day after day fresh troopships arrived, until there were hundreds of them in the harbour. Added to this were dozens and dozens of store ships, carrying food and water for our army. This concentration of vessels took weeks, and it is many a long day since I saw so many ships together. Some were great trans-Atlantic liners, some mail steamers that at one time plied to and from Australia.
Of course, while all this was going on we were not idle. Day after day we practised landing in boats. The ships’ boats were lowered, rope ladders were suspended over the side of the ship, and over we climbed, 30 or 40 in each boat, and away we pulled to the shore. When on shore we went for daily marches, 10 or 15 miles over the island. The inhabitants are mostly Greeks, and greeted us most cordially. Sometimes on very dark nights we would practise landing in boats.
On April 24 we got this news item:— ‘The 3rd Brigade are detailed to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula.’ We were very proud of the honour. Now let me give my version of our baptism of fire. At sunset on April 24 we weighed anchor at Lemnos, and steered out of the harbour, with the gallant navy steaming on ahead. Our orders were to steam to Imbros, and wait there. It took us only a few hours to reach there, and looking out we could see in the gloom the Turkish coast. At 2.30 a.m. on April 25 we were all transferred to torpedo-boat destroyers. Thence we were to get into rowing boats, and pull for our lives to the shore, to effect a landing.”
After having described the landing (details of which have been given in other letters), the writer makes the following personal references:—
“Poor old Gordon Munro, he died like a soldier, with his face to the foe, leading his men into action and inspiring them with courage. He was shot twice, and some of his last words were ‘Go on, boys; never mind me. Stick to it; play the game.’ Capt. Witham, and Lieuts. Fraser and Holland, were all wounded. Poor old Gordon; the others will soon be back, recovered from their wounds, but he has gone for ever; so has poor old Bob Hooper. I saw Bob the day before he fell, and have visited his grave since. He, too, was a hero, inspiring his men to the last. I am alive and well. I am writing on a Sunday, and went to Communion this morning at 6 a.m., with the shrapnel bursting all round. The lark sings here in the morning, the cuckoo at night. The poppies are blooming in thousands. I wear oak and holly leaves in my cap, so that the Turks may mistake me for a wee tree. There are some fine crops in front of our trenches, principally barley; but I don’t think any Turks will reap them.”
The Register (Adelaide, SA), 25 June 1915, p. 8
[Editor: Corrected “and from from Australia” to “and from Australia”.]
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]