A.C. WAUGH is a doctor and first time author.
He lives in
26th April, 1915
Do your duty bravely. Fear God. Honour the King.
Lord Kitchener (1850-1916).
slowly paced the upper deck of the
“Reminds me of the thunderstorms back home.” Nick was the first to break their silence.
“A storm of sorts,” said Charlie.
A series of particularly violent flashes burst beyond the rugged chain of mountains that formed the spine of the peninsula, silhouetting their menace.
“Fifteen inchers,” said Nick, “… from the Queen Elizabeth.” They strained to hear the explosions of the battleship’s massive shells, but they were lost in the background of incessant cannon and small-arms fire.
“They’re trying to knock out the Turkish artillery,” said Charlie. “And maybe take out a few of their reinforcements as they move to the front.”
“Maybe … but it looks like Johnny Turk is giving as good as he gets...” Nick leaned deeper into the guardrail, fixing his gaze on the battlefield. He spoke slowly, carefully choosing his words. “You know, Charlie, despite all the training … the lectures … what I’ve read in the papers … it’s only now, standing here, looking at all this, that I’m starting to realise what we’re got ourselves into. Until now, I really haven’t had a clue. Even so, I still can’t imagine what it’s like for those poor blighters out there … copping this lot.”
Charlie grasped his friend’s shoulder. “Mate … she’ll be right… ” He trailed off. He could think of nothing better to say and realised that it wasn’t Nick who needed reassuring. They both knew the score.
Less than 24 hours earlier, at
this absurdly rugged little bay on the western shore of the
Charlie and Nick resumed their
patrol of the troopship. Other soldiers had gathered along the length of the
decks, huddling in small hushed groups to contemplate the day ahead. They had
already heard the shocking statistics and witnessed the shattered bodies of
their comrades being hauled back aboard the
Nick nodded towards the soldiers scattered about the deck. “Not many of the boys are sleeping tonight.”
“Hardly surprising,” said Charlie. “Mind you, there are still a few blokes below deck … sleeping like babies. I envy their composure.”
Charlie and Nick shook their
heads in a mixture of disbelief and admiration and continued walking. They made
towards three familiar figures.
Nick tried to frown, but
couldn’t contain the hint of a smile. “Just because we promoted you
“Sorry … Sergeant
“Hah!” Venter thumped the guardrail. “I reckon it’s all a bloody waste of time if we’re just going to withdraw! Bloody waste, I reck...” He was suddenly aware of two icy stares.
“Watch yourself, Private,” said Nick.
“Begging your pardon, Sir.” Venter threw an apologetic salute to Charlie. “But I reckon that’s what everyone is saying ... that we’re pulling out.”
Charlie shook his head again. “I see that the rumour mill has been working overtime. Pull out? We’ve just landed 12,000 men! There’s no way we’re going to turn tail and run now. Plus there’s all the wounded on the beach ... we won’t be abandoning them. The Anzacs are staying in Gallipoli ... and you’ll be joining them soon enough.”
“Yes, but not to fight. I reckon we’re just glorified delivery boys.”
“We’ve been over this already, Venter,” said Charlie, sighing. “And it’s even more apparent now. If there’s one thing the Anzacs need, it’s cannon, not more ...”
Without waiting for a reply, Charlie and Nick returned to their rounds. Charlie waited until they had passed out of earshot of the three men. “Venter’s cranky tonight.”
“He’s just worried about the landing.”
Nick looked up into the starless sky and then peered into the black sea below them. “This sea isn’t too bad. We really should get going while it’s still dark.”
Charlie repeated Nick’s perusal of the conditions. By any measure tonight’s rain had been a minor weather event and the accompanying breeze had only produced a moderate swell.
“Probably, but the brass won’t risk it. There’ll be virtually no freeboard on the lighter carrying the cannon, so they won’t risk the slightest swell. And there’s all the wreckage to negotiate now. It’ll have to be a daylight landing. They won’t take risks with one of our precious cannons.”
“Landing in daylight! In full view of Johnny Turk and his artillery – after what happened yesterday! I think I’d rather take my chances with King Neptune in the dark than run that gauntlet of shrapnel.”
Charlie felt his anxiety rise
another notch. Struth, he
thought. When Nick begins to worry, it must be getting close to panic
stations! “I know mate … I know,” he said. “It’s a mug’s choice. We either
tackle the sea at night or the Turks during the day. Crikey, Nick! What are two
“For God’s sake, Charlie! You’re not still on about that are you? Let’s get this clear ... once and for all … it was my decision to volunteer!”
“Yes, I know Nick, but I played my part…”
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