Sydney A. (Sydney Alexander) Moseley.

The truth about the Dardanelles online

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over his prostrate form. Close to him lay
another. Then the voice came again, this time
more controlled. * This way, sir !' it said ; ' no,
not him — he's dead. I've been here six hours
with a broken leg, sir — can't you get a stretcher-
bearer?' I told him I had sent for one — though
God knows it could not have reached us there.

" Then another voice spoke to me out of
the darkness. 'Who are you?' it said. I told
him. ' Your adjutant is coming back in a bit,'
it volunteered cheerfully ; 'he's bringing some
men with him.'

"We talked over the situation.

" Then, against the little strip of moon, a
figure appeared silhouetted against the sky. I
recognised the form and gait though the face
was still in gloom. ' Good evening, sir,' I said.


The Truth About the Dardanelles

The figure groped towards me, tripped over
something that moaned in reply, and presently
was by my side. We went over the whole hill,
and I received my orders.

** Then again the weary round. And every
time the voices heard a step the cry went up
anew : ' Stretcher-bearer — stretcher-bearer, for
God's sake, water.'

'' On the other side of the hill I found the
Medical Officer. The officer turned his face to
me, and the moonlight shone on it. * Hallo,'
he said, 'you here!' There was a strange lack
of life in its tone, and I turned to find the
reason. There by him were two of his men
curled up and dead. ' They were on each side
of me, and a shell burst over us,' he said. The
air was full of the sound of pick and spade
meeting stony earth, and I knew that by morn-
ing the little garrison would be out of sight and
burrowed into the ground. Then I slept awhile.
When I woke the chill morning wind was waft-
ing the smell of the battlefield over us again, and
the sky was a wondrous dome of delicate shades.
The sun rose from behind the hills opposite us,
and the day came with a rush. A sniper's
bullet whistled overhead, and I crawled into our
shallow trench — all that stood between us and
death — to wait for the night to come again."




Mr. Redmond has told us to send the " All
is lost " brigade to the trenches. But why the
trenches, where they would only be in the
way? After a month of hospital ships under
shell-fire and over seas in which danger always
lurked, I can safely recommend this more
convenient cure for pessimism.

A journey amid a cargo of the sick and
the maimed from the Peninsula to Egypt, and
from thence to England, home and hospital, is
an education which even the trenches fail to

Here you have the wounded warrior fresh
from his experiences, cut off for the nonce
from any interfering influences.

If the affidavit of wounded soldiers is
evidence, let it be untampered with and un-
influenced. Those who throughout the whole
of this difficult campaign have played bogy
with the public, who looked up to them as
guides, have made full use of this source of


The Truth About the Dardanelles

"Let the Government beware," they said,
with the ominous forefinger shake of a gobUn,
" let them look out, for the wounded are
beginning to talk.^^

The italics were theirs, in harmonious con-
trast with their blazing headlines.

Well, the wounded have talked, and if their
accounts in London have differed from those I
have given you from the scene of action, an ex-
planation is easily forthcoming. Their stories
to me were given in the purified atmosphere
of the Mediterranean, while the alarmist and
exaggerated stories were told in the poisonous
and depressing atmosphere of London.

Let those who would have the truth take
their choice of the tales.

We have been aboard the hospital trawler
which picked up wounded from the Peninsula
and was under shell-fire while taking the
wounded aboard. The men, grouped together
on the decks, or lying side by side on stretchers,
wTre indifferent to these parting shots from
Asia or Achi Baba.

What do the men talk about? Hardships?
Mistakes? Traitorous Government? Do they
whimper that because they failed the blood of


On a Hospital Ship

their comrades is on the heads of those who
sent them?

They do not.

They leave that kind of unmanly talk to
those who get their information about the war
from over-zealous newspapers and prejudiced

The men who paid for the incomplete
victory at Suvla Bay spoke of great charges,
vaUant conduct of "pals," of all-but-crowning
victory. They were the kind of men who were
never defeated, soldiers cognisant that victory
does not always go to the side that most
expects it. They were of the old type of
British soldier "who never say die."

Such were the men as I saw them, fresh
from the horrors of the battlefield, wincing
sometimes with pain, bespattered with their
own blood, and with the blood of their com-

They were different men after a week's
nourishing with the sympathy of the " All is
lost" brigade at home.


Now we board another hospital ship, which
takes us from the busy port of Alexandria
homewards. Here are the officers who led the
men we saw on the hospital trawler. This par-


The Truth About the Dardanelles

ticular ship conveys stretcher cases only. But
the change from stench, heat and dust to the
cool, calm waters works miracles upon im-
prisoned men. After a day or two some get
up, and with the aid of crutches (and the ever
ready nurses) limp their way to a seat on deck.
As conditions improve, the helpless are carried
above upon stretchers, and eat their meals in
the open, sunny air. A few days more, and
the cripples are playing deck quoits. One
bright young subaltern played a splendid game,
all the time leaning for support on a crutch.
Others loll about in the lounge, making the
most of the ship's gramophone.

Tastes in music varied, you may be certain,
and we got to know by the tunes who were the
operators. If it piped the catchy refrain of a
ragged rag-time, be sure it was young Simkins,
Piccadilly "knut," a bomber and a winner in
the mileage sweepstakes. If it was a melancholy
love-song, it was shock-haired Baldwin, who
comes from a University and writes verses.

Then there were the bagpipes, dirges to
everybody but the group of gallant fellows —
Scots, of course — who insisted upon playing

Here is another group of officers continuing
in a heated manner a three days' argument


On a Hospital Ship

on the time-worn problem of relationship :
** Sisters and brothers have I none, yet that
man's father was my father's son." Try and
escape being caught into the vortex of this
discussion. You may as well try to escape a
sniper! I was caught in and was converted
three times in as many days.

In the smoke-room, cards and cocktails.
Across the barriers, where the men are, singing
and joking. Where is the depression? What
chance has the "All is lost" brigade here?
Such would have been made to join the shoal
of irresponsible flying fish in very short time.

These men were perfectly conscious that
they had failed in their objective at Suvla.
Yet they were game, and spoke of the prob-
able date of an entry into Constantinople.
Only one little fellow at breakfast said to me :
"Say, old chap, do you think it a wash-out?"
And somebody threw a piece of sugar at him !




Why are wounded soldiers not cheered? Much
philosophy and indignation have been spent by
well-meaning people at home on the apparent
apathy of the great British public in regard to
the maimed heroes.

*' Disgraceful lack of spirit !" one prominent
publicist told me. He had seen the Red Cross
train enter Charing Cross, and saw the pale
men limping from the station to the ambulance
cars, and the large crowd of civilians who
watched never raised a single cheer.

"And what did ijoii do?" I asked him

He seemed flabbergasted.

"My dear fellow," he ventured at length,
" I couldn't cheer alone."

When I reached Victoria from Southamp-
ton, in company of a boat-load of Dardanelles
heroes, a big crowd was waiting at the barrier,
some with eyes staring eagerly, others with
faces taut. There was no apathy about this


With the Wounded in London

crowd ; there was a hush of awe that was more
eloquent than cheers. And if somebody had set
the ball rolling and had given the crowd a lead,
as our well-meaning critic did not, some of those
cheers would have been hoarse. And such was
the atmosphere that not one man of us expected
a noisy demonstration.

There is, to be sure, the insurmountable
shyness which is the characteristic of no one
nation in particular. We have seen that even
the French are not so demonstrative as one is
led to believe. It is indicative of the desire not
to be prominent which is inherent in mankind

In a London club recently I saw on the
notice board a spirited protest from a new
member who complained of the lack of camara-
derie of older members. Next day appeared
the reply of "an old member" in a nervous
scrawl :

'* Cheer up, new 'un ; we're as bashful as
you are."

The little children who waved to us as the
train dashed by the most beautiful landscape in
the world (so it seemed to us returned travellers)
pleased us more than words can express, but
few of us returned the greetings. One fellow
who stood by the window engaged in this


The Truth About the Dardanelles

pleasing occupation of waving was referred to
good-humoiiredly as "You in the limelight!"

Have no fear ! The British public has come
up to the scratch in a marvellous manner.

To meet in London some of the men you
met under very different conditions at the seat
of war is another study in our national

First let me mention the expeditious manner
in which the wounded are dealt with on reach-
ing home. The ladies in the blue coats with
the Red C bands are, without exaggeration,
ministering angels, and the men from the
War Office get you through with courtesy but

You may feel well enough to proceed home ;
you may, in fact, have been "boarded"
already; you may be "fed up" with hospitals
and nursing; but you still have to go to
another hospital in London to be "formally
discharged," and within five minutes of reach-
ing London you are being whirled away in one
of the many motor-cars awaiting you.

Well, it was in Kensington Gardens a few
days later that I met some of the boys again.
When I had last seen them one was wearing a
pair of "shorts" and no stockings. He had
motored to one of the big stores wearing an


With the Wounded in London

overcoat, which strengthened the illusion that
he was sans everything else.

" I had to impress the lady who served me,"
he said, " that such was not the case."

Now he was bedecked in a brand-new
uniform, cap, badge and everything else, and
he looked like a fresher instead of a two-star
man, with every prospect of a third. This boy
with a girlish face, which always expressed hap-
piness, told me the thrilling story which I have
included in this volume.

The other fellows were in mufti, in the
uniform of " knuts " again. Some limped,
but others gave no indication of having done
their big bit.

At least one of them was placed in an
embarrassing position as a result. He was the
Colonial major I mentioned as bouncing into
the clearing hospital station at Imbros with a
double-fractured arm, and refusing to be
regarded as crocked. He was ordered home —
he, like many other Colonials, called England
"home," although their actual homes were
many thousands of miles away.

"I've never been home before," he ex-
claimed, " and, by Jove, it's deuced worth
coming to."

He looked very different from the unshaved,

The Truth About the Dardanelles

coatless farmer fellow in khaki I had known out
there. Now he was neatly dressed in a West-
End-made lounge suit and Trilby hat and doe-
skin gloves. He was standing at the corner
of Shaftesbury Avenue watching the seething
crowds. I passed him without recognising him,
so he promptly dug his cane between my ribs.

" Hallo, slacker," I said, the transforma-
tion being revealed to me.

"Slacker I am," he said, "for to people
here a man in civilian attire is one. I was
sitting in Hyde Park yesterday when I noticed
two ladies and a little boy pass and repass, and
I thought that the way they stared at me
was rude and unbecoming. Presently they
returned, and as they went on the little boy,
prompted by the ladies, came up to my seat
and gingerly handed me a white feather!"

I laughed, and so did the good-natured

"I didn't r'ind that so much, but yester-
day at tea something of the same sort happened.
I was sitting at tea with two famous Maori
officers, and just as we were about finished a
gentleman, accompanied by a lady, came up.

"Oh, we're just going," I said, offering
my seat ; and the man simply said : ' To the
front, I hope.' I just glared at him, and then


With the Wounded in London

saw the lady and bowed. I should have smashed
his jaw if he had been alone ; as it was, although
only one of us was lame, we all three of us
limped away, to the chagrin of the interfering

I mention this incident, first, in order to
show that the men who have been to the front
are shy about advertising the fact. Secondly,
as a warning to the few absurd creatures,
civilians themselves, who would do well at least
to mind their own business.

* * * * *

I have already referred in brief terms to
one or two little matters which made all the
difference to the spirits of the men. Here I
wish to emphasise the point with regard to
music, in the hopes that this additional emphasis
will be noticed by the authorities. Writing
now, some months later in London, it seems
to me more incomprehensible than ever that
no music should have been provided to the
worn-out troops at the Dardanelles. If there
was ever need in any part of the theatres of war
for this enhvening medicine, it was surely at
Gallipoli, where all the elements hostile to the
comforts of men were mobilised. Possibly a
little music would have done much to minimise
the depressed spirits of those who criticised the

The Truth About the Dardanelles

operations. It certainly seemed to make a deal
of difference to the men, for I saw them
again, later on, in Egypt crowding round the
orchestras in tlic cafes ! They seemed trans-
formed spiritually as well as physically.

Surely the great British public, whose
thoughtfulness and generosity must amaze the
cynical world — surely they were culpable of a
strange nonchalance in this respect. It is per-
fectly true that war admits little or nothing of
the refining elements ; but to provide some
cheering music for the troops to ward off the
blues is as good generalship as it is to provide
them with steel helmets to ward off shrapnel,
or topees to keep off the sun. In the hospital
wards and on the transports the gramophone,
for want of a brass band or a pianist, was worn
out with the use to which it was put. There
would have been very little difficulty in provid-
ing the camps near the Peninsula with small
bands. Many men told me that the only music
they heard all the time they were out there
came from the Turkish trenches. With those
faint echoes they had to be content.

Possibly the people who are sunning them-
selves at the sea front next season will sacrifice
their light valses and permit the " Tzigane "
bands to go to the other front instead. ... I


With the Wounded in London

wish to add in this connection that a few bands
were eventually sent to GalUpoli. This appar-
ently was achieved when all the fighting was
over. Certainly after I had left for home.

One final incident before I leave a task
which has played very much with my emotions.
Four months after the events I have chronicled
I was walking on the pier of a seaside resort
near London when I noticed a big ship lying
at anchor a mile or so off. Somehow this
vessel affected me strangely, and next day I
learned it was the hospital ship that took us
from Gallipoli to Alexandria. I had left the
Euripides at the latter port, and it had gone
on its way to Australia. One has strange meet-
ings in war, but this seemed to me to be the
strangest. That day I clambered over the sides
of the ship to review the old scenes. Thank
Heaven, it was all changed; but the spirits of
the maimed and dying heroes seemed to linger
and glorify the surroundings.




Before judgment can be passed on those who
were responsible for the care of the sick and
wounded at the Dardanelles, it is vitally neces-
sary to examine carefully direct evidence from
every available source. My own personal testi-
mony would have been obviously insufficient
upon which the public could be able to fonn
an opinion on a very important matter.

There could be no graver indictment than
a charge of muddling the medical department
of a campaign. A commander may err on a
point of strategy ; an impetuous subordinate
may throw hundreds of lives away valorously
but indiscreetly. Such mistakes come easily
within the plea which is recognised as the
' ' fortune of war. ' ' But no such plea would
for a moment be recognised were it made on
the part of the Royal Army Medical Corps or
the British Red Cross Society. Let our generals
and their subordinates give our men impossible
tasks, and there will be but a murmur compared


The Truth About the R.A.M.C.

to the great public cry which would arise should
it be proved that our heroes, maimed and sick,
were left in suffering to fend for themselves
while sundry medical officials in well-appointed
offices in London were exclaiming the wonderful
work they had accomplished.

It was, let me confess, with more than a
suspicion of such amazing charges that I under-
took to unbind the truth from the parcels of
documentary evidence which, of course, were
tied with miles of red tape. From such quite
trustworthy evidence, and from my notes
WTitten from personal observation, I am able to
give the truth about the medical arrangements
at Gallipoli.

In the first place the unbiassed critic has
to acknowledge, in this connection, as in every
other line of criticism relating to the Expe-
ditionary Force, the important underlying
factor that conditions were unexampled in the
difficulties they presented.

Sir Charles Monro, in his dispatch on the
evacuation, has referred, in very outspoken
terms, to the unparalleled military positions we
occupied. It was a position " without depth "
— a line which just fringed the coast. If the
natural difficulties of the Peninsula were such
as to have aroused the bewilderment and awe


The Truth About the Dardanelles

of a famous general, we may reasonably assume
that the work of life-saving was only accom-
plished under the most extreme hardship.

It would, indeed, be hard to conceive
circumstances more adverse to the work of
rendering aid to the stricken. The extremely
limited space which could be utilised for rest
camps and hospitals was no less a serious
problem than was the means of transporting
the sick and wounded thence.

From the trenches the wounded had to be
carried to field dressing stations. Unlike the
Western front, it was not a question of whisk-
ing the patients away from the sphere of
operations to comparative safety. All the
stages, slow and difficult, had to be accom-
plished under shell-fire. To evacuate the
wounded from the Peninsula, lighters had to
be brought into use — another tardy and trying
matter — and these had to transfer their loads
to the transports and hospital ships. The
Turks never wantonly fired at hospital ships,
but it was, of course, difficult for the gunners
at Achi Baba and Asia to make out a transport
which carried wounded. On the ship which
conveyed me from the Peninsula were several
hundred maimed heroes of the Suvla Bay fight-
ing. While we awaited the little boats which


The Truth About the R.A.M.C.

brought the wounded from the pier, in dozens
and less, the ship narrowly missed being struck
by shell-fire on several occasions. And we were
well off the shore.

The criticism which I have often heard
regarding the inadequate arrangements for the
treatment of the sick and maimed can refer only
to the earlier stages of the campaign. While
there can be no doubt that at that time the
medical arrangements were not suiSicient to
meet the tremendous demands made on the
service, there can be equally no question that,
as soon as the real state of affairs was realised,
any shortcomings were speedily remedied. It
may be accepted that the unusually heavy
casualties at the initial landing overwhelmed
the authorities. At that time Egypt and
Malta offered comparatively little in the way
of hospital accommodation; the provision of
hospital ships was limited, and it was only in
June, after Surgeon-General Babtie arrived at
the Dardanelles, that sufficient hospitals were
fitted out and sent, so that by the time the
big actions at Suvla were fought the medical
authorities were ready to deal with any emer-
gency. Cairo and Alexandria had by that time
grown up into veritable cities of hospitals,
while the other resources of Egypt, such as


The Truth About the Dardanelles

Luxor, Helouan, etc., were utilised to the
fullest extent possible. Malta, too, was now
ready to receive very large numbers of patients.
Mudros, another of the few available spaces for
hospital accommodation, was being developed.
Hospitals and camps had meanwhile been estab-
lished under circumstances of extreme difficulty,
owing to the limitations imposed by the scarcity
of materials, labour and water. Hospital huts
were brought from England, water was supplied
by the provision of a condensing plant, bacterio-
logical laboratories were established, and a large
number of hospital ships were sent out so as to
permit the systematic evacuation of the sick and
w^ounded to Egypt, Malta and England.

It was my misfortune to break down in the
course of my duties on the Peninsula, and
having contracted with the War Office to con-
sider myself under military obligations, with
the status of an officer, I had to pass through
the whole formality of being treated with my
combative friends. The truism about an ill
wind refers even to a war correspondent.
Making a virtue of necessity, I passed through
all the wonderful formalities, the slow but sure
stages from the w^ar zone to field hospital,
thence to trawler ; again, on to the casualty
clearing station, on to a hospital ship from


The Truth About the R.A.M.C.

Imbros to Alexandria. Thence to the comfort
of a real hospital — with nurses ! On to another
hospital ship homewards — to hospital in Lon-
don ! Let me say here that there appeared to
be some difficulty in finding a correct medical
term for the illness from which so many of our
gallant men suffered. No doctor — and I spoke
with several — seemed to be able to ascertain
definitely the cause of the stomach troubles
w^hich, in a slight form, appeared to be almost
general, but which rendered no mean number
actually hors de combat. There were very few
who escaped diarrhoea. Dysentery was a term
lightly used, but which w^as discredited by many
doctors after careful examination. In all these
cases a uniform treatment was given : castor-
oil and a little opium. Diet in severe stages
consisted of milk — condensed, of course, there
being no chance of obtaining fresh milk — and
a hard biscuit.

The "fever" cases were thus treated, since
there was no known category under which to
place them. Thus the terms typhoid, enteric
and typhus were freely used in cases where,
obviously, some strange and less serious com-
plaint existed.

It was interesting for a layman, no less than
for the medical men at home, to follow the


The Truth About the Dardanelles

splendid efforts of the doctors to arrive at some
decision regarding these Eastern fevers. It was
a problem which occupied every doctor. A
chief medical officer on a hospital ship, who had
had about thirty-five years' experience in the
East, pooh-poohed the idea of serious fevers.
" Do you think those men would walk about
if they had either of those fevers?" he said.
Yet the men were wasting in flesh and had all
the appearance of a fever case. One clever
medical student gave a curious term to these

" Gallipoli influenza," he said it was. *' You
get the diarrhoea, the weakness, the tempera-

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Online LibrarySydney A. (Sydney Alexander) MoseleyThe truth about the Dardanelles → online text (page 7 of 13)