The “Waiheathens” at Gallipoli
Diary and letters of a Waihi soldier Gerald (Tad) Morpeth One of the six Morpeth brothers from Waihi who served in WW1
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Diary and letters of a Waihi soldier Gerald (Tad) Morpeth. One of the six Morpeth brothers from Waihi who served in WW1
Transcribed by Allan Philip Morpeth
The text from this document follows from this point, mainly to help search engines find this content. The diaries as they were originally transcribed by Allan Morpeth are in the adobe document above.
The Diary of Tad Morpeth with introduction and background by Allan Morpeth.
Diary and letters of a Waihi soldier Gerald (Tad) Morpeth One of the six Morpeth brothers from Waihi who served in WW1
Transcribed by Allan Philip Morpeth
Thanks are given to the following people who assisted in making this publication possible by their support, ideas, photos supplied and general enthusiasm. Sue Baker Wilson and Kit Wilson of Katikati Brian and Glenis Gentil of Gold FM 96.4 Waihi, who broadcast parts of the diary daily for two weeks prior to Anzac Day 2008. Maurice Roycroft of Silverton Rd Waihi for the use of “ Roll of 6th Hauraki Coy’ which is added as an Appendix. My wife Laila who helped with the proof reading and numerous other duties associated with word processing and computers in general.
Allan Philip Morpeth (July 2008)
2 Vanderbilt Place
Welcome Bay Tauranga 3112
Reprinted with amendments January 2009 Reprinted with additional photos A1 to A8 May 2009
Introduction and Background to the Diary of Gerald (Tad) Morpeth
12/416, 6th Hauraki Regt., who took part in the Landing on Gallipoli on 25th April 1915
I was aware of my father’s diary of his experiences during WW1 at Gallipoli and the Somme as a teenager in the late 1950’s. For some time he was thinking of getting all of his diary notes, letters, etc, together and, as his brother Nick (also atTad Morpeth Gallipoli) was living with us, there were many discussions on the notes that he had written. Nick died in 1959 aged 67 and my father was not well for the next 3 years or so and passed away in 1963 aged 77.
All his war mementos were passed onto me but I gave my sister Helen the diaries as she wanted to transcribe them whilst in Wellington at the Technical Correspondence Institute. (She was more of a historian than I was then).
Unfortunately she passed away in 1986 and a lot of her belongings were left with my mother. In 1999 I found some parts of the finished diary and I transcribed those into a 4 month record and sent this to the NZ Antique Arms Association which printed it in two issues of their Gazette in 2000. It was well received. I re-discovered the rest of the diary, and letters and scrapbook after my mother passed away in 2001 aged 98.
Although I looked at them from time to time and started some more research into the notes I only recently started putting father’s diary and letters into some sort of chronological order because of my growing interest in Gallipoli.
In 2007 I was approached by Sue Baker Wilson from Katikati who asked if I was connected to the Morpeth family of Waihi which had six brothers enlisted in WW 1. This was indeed my father’s family.
Sue and her partner Kit were doing some research into Waihi soldiers who served in WW1, and specifically one named J N ( Nat) Williams, who co-incidently was my father’s best friend. I was able to assist her with her research and she convinced me to finish the transcription in full. I am very grateful to her for encouraging me to complete the job.
The title of this booklet is derived from the expression that my father used when referring to citizens of Waihi being ‘ Waiheathens ‘ when writing home. These transcribed notes are not only intended to be a record of my father’s experiences but also a tribute to all the men who trained and fought alongside him over that period at Gallipoli. The characters and personalities that make up a Section or a Platoon in the 6th Hauraki Regiment are central to the reading of these notes (albeit with occasional humour) and I have noted their names with their Army number early on.
I have endeavoured to transcribe accurately but on occasions have taken ‘best informed guess’ as the diary was written on knees, in trenches and entirely in pencil, and usually in atrocious conditions. Where parts of the diary are missing I have included letters from him, and from his brother Moore, which were sent home to his parents and were published in ‘The Auckland Weekly News and ‘ The Waihi Telegraph ‘. I have to put them in chronological order together with some photos of the relevant personalities which are mentioned in the Diary. Some of the diary notes were sent in expanded form as letters to his father and these have been used occasionally in preference to the diary notes.
There were six Morpeth brothers from Waihi who served in WW1 and their backgrounds are outlined below:
Allan Morpeth 18899
2nd Lieut. Enlisted 8 Jan 1916 with Auckland Infantry Regiment. Prior to this he was a surveyor with the N Z Government at Waihio. He was appointed to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on 2nd January 1917. One month later he arrived at Devonport in England and was posted to the Auckland Infantry Regiment. In early May he was transferred to Base depot, Etaples, and on 22nd May his Battalion went into the field. He was attached to the School of Instruction on 11th July 1917. Allan rejoined his Battalion August but died at The Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium on 2nd October 1917. (Aged 33, never married) (A separate diary of Allan’s experiences has been transcribed as well, but is not included.)
Gerald (Tad) Morpeth 12/416 as transcribed below from diary and letters.
George(Chap)Morpeth CSM. 44944
Enlisted 9th Jan 1916 with 1st Battalion Auckland Infantry. He had previously been a battery worker for the Grand Junction Gold Company at Waihi. Achieving the rank of Corporal at entry, he was promoted 6 months later to Company Sergeant Major. A very rapid promotion and one he must have found onerous. In November 1917 he was posted overseas and reverted to the rank of Sergeant on 8th January 1918, to Corporal on 20th February, and whilst serving in France in April to Lance Corporal, at his own request. In the same month he was badly wounded in the chest. Returned to NZ Sept 1918, discharged from the Army in January 1919. He became a commercial traveller for NZ Breweries but never enjoyed good health and died in 1950. (Aged 62, never married)
Robert N (Nick) Morpeth. 12/ 295
Started as a Bank clerk with the Bank of NZ. Joined the NZ Army as an Officer Cadet in 1910. Obtained his commission as 2nd Lieut on 25th March 1912. Enlisted for overseas duty August 1914. (was Gerald’s Platoon Captain and younger brother . ) Was wounded at Gallipoli on the 25 April 1915. He was treated in No. 1 General hospital at Heliopolis and returned to New Zealand on the “S.S Willochra” on 15th July 1915. He rejoined his battalion in February 1916 and was posted to France. In the skirmish near Amentieres on 3rd/4th July he was badly wounded in the left leg and thigh by shrapnel. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. The citation read as follows –
“For gallantry and devotion to duty on the night of 3rd/4th July 1916 during heavy bombardment of the Epinette trenches near Amentieres he moved about amongst his company and so encouraged them that when the enemy attempted to enter the trenches they were repulsed. Unfortunately Captain Morpeth was struck by shell shrapnel in the left leg which was amputated at the hospital.”
Discharged from service July 1917. After the War he reverted to Banking and was prominent in Morrinsville and Te Kuiti and retired in 1954 and moved to Palmerston North where his brother Gerald (Tad ) and family were residing. He passed away in 1959. (Aged 67, never married).
Moore Morpeth. 12/1039
Enlisted 12 Aug 1914 with Auckland Infantry Battalion and formed with 6th Haurakis. Prior to this was a Law Clerk with Stewart & Johnson of Auckland. “He was in the first group of the Battle of the Landing on the slopes of Baby 700. Reported wounded 25th April. When pushed back by the Turks on the slopes of Baby 700 an Australian was struck down near him so Morpeth went to his assistance. He was attending to the wounded man when he was hit by a bullet that paralysed him. His comrades were forced to fall back and the next day when the ground was retaken he was found dead.” (Ref ‘Bloody Gallipoli by Richard Stowers, pg 341) Killed in Action at Gallipoli, 25 April 1915. (Aged 20, never married) Some of his letters sent home form part of the above narrative and have a flair not often seen at that time.
Sloan Morpeth 48797
Enlisted 24 Jan 1917 with Auckland Infantry Regiment. Prior to this he was a bank clerk with the National Bank in Waihi. Served in France and was wounded in April 1918. Returned to NZ in 1919 where he became a superb golfer, winning two N Z Amateur titles and the NZ Open championship in the 1920’s. Moved to Australia in 1929 and became secretary of Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne. After retiring in the mid 1960’s he became a golf course designer. Sloan died in 1970. (Aged 73, married with one daughter)
Background to Auckland Infantry Battalion.
The Auckland infantry Battalion was made up of 4 Companies each of approx 225 men. The soldier’s enlistment number was prefixed by 12 /
They were listed as:
· 3rd Auckland Company (“3rds“)
· 6th Hauraki Regiment (“6ths“)
· 15th North Auckland (“15ths“)
· 16th Waikato (“16ths“)
· Head Quarters (“H.Q.”) had approx 60 personnel
The men named below are mentioned in the Diary and I have been able to identify them and give their Army Number for the reader’s information.
Abbreviations used are:
- KIA …… Killed in action
- DOW…...Died of Wounds. DOD ..Died of disease
- 5P…..… 5 Platoon, etc
- 3S……...3 Section, etc
- A.I.B. … Auckland Infantry Battalion
- Lt Col Plugge 12/1 Wounded 25/4/15
- Lt Col G Craig (Medical Dr.) 12/360
- Major F. Stuckey 12/2 KIA 25/4/15
- Major E Harrowell 12/907 Wounded 8/5/15
- Lt R Mooney 12/917 KIA 7/8/15
- Pvt A P (Perc) Grant 12/354
- Pvt H K Anderson 12/297 DOW 8/5/15
- Pvt R N Wild 12/491 6th Hauraki DOW 10/5/15
- Lt G Dittmer 12/335 6P
- Capt R N (Nick) Morpeth 12/295 5P Wounded 25/4/15
- Sgt Maj J Rogers 12/128 5P KIA 25/4/15
- Pvt F Fawcett 14/26A 5P/2S Wounded 25/4/15
- Cpl B Howell 12/380 5P/3S Wounded 1915
- L/Cpl G (Tad) Morpeth 12/416 5P/3S Wounded 25/4/15
- Pvt J N (Nat) Williams 12/484 5P/3S KIA 25/4/15
- Pvt A (Tonto) Maylor 12/419 5P/3S
- Pvt J (Jack) Langdon 12/397 5P/3S
- Pvt H G Ensor 12/345 6P/3S KIA 30/4/15
- Pvt A (Jack) Coakley 12/326 5P/3S
- Pvt F Lamming 12/400 5P/3
- Pvt W F (Tiger) Hamilton 12/377 5P/3S DOW 7/8/15
- Pvt F Pearse 12/428 5P/3S
- Pvt J Cooper 12/328 5P/4S DOW 24/6/15
- Pvt S Forrest 12/808 5P/4S (Te Aroha)
- Pvt J Mckinney 12/404 6P/7S
- Pvt J Watson 12/485 6P/7S
- Pvt M (Moore) Morpeth 12/1039 7P/9S KIA 25/4/15
- Pvt E T Maclean 12/411 7P/9S KIA 8/5/15
- Pvt A Haines 12/2720 enlisted 14/8/15 (Waihi)
- Pvt H Cameron 12/331 7P/11S
Gerald ( Tad ) Morpeth was 28 years old on enlistment. Robert Nicoll ( Nick ) Morpeth was 23 years old and was the Platoon Leader and commissioned as Lieutenant. Moore Morpeth was 20 years old but was put into another platoon as it was not considered ‘ethical ‘ to have all family members in one Platoon or Section. J.N (Nat) Williams was a close friend to Gerald ( Tad ) . When he enlisted he stated his age as 34, as 36 was considered too old. Henry Douglas Morpeth, of Waihi was the father of the six Morpeth brothers kept a scrapbook of all newspaper clippings that related to the Waihi soldiers. That has been an invaluable source of happenings that I could not find elsewhere.
L/Corporal Gerald Morpeth 12/416
August 1914 (Diary)
Arrived in Camp at Potter’s Paddock at Epsom (now a Trotting Course) Auckland Battalion. Lt Col Plugge in charge of 6th Hauraki. Also there were 15th North Auckland and 16th Waikato. Lived in Bell tent, 12 to a tent. My brother Nick in charge of 5th Platoon and Nat Williams, Tonto Maylor and myself in No.3 section.
One day Major Stuckey sent for me. He proposed that I become Company Orderly Clerk. I declined. I said I had not enlisted for the war to become a clerk. He said that the books and records were in a mess and my previous experience would be useful to the Company and said that I had to clean the mess up. I took a look at them and tided the accounts. (It only took a day or so.) In the evening the Major sent for me. The Coy was going on a march through Auckland and I was to ‘guard’ the ‘colours’ while they were away. They were in a 4 to 5 foot cylinder rolled up. He also gave me 200 Pounds in notes that the people of Paeroa had subscribed to the Coy. I sat in the tent reading and writing until the Coy came back. Major came in and said, “everything all right“.
I said, “yes“. He then departed.
Three or four evenings later I heard the Major’s voice outside saying, “Which is Morpeth’s tent? “ I thought now what’s wrong , with him coming to me instead of sending for me ? I stood up as he came in. ( Some of the section were in the tent having tea as there were no mess rooms.)
“Morpeth ! You were on guard the other day with the colours. I gave you 200 Pounds to hold as well.“ I was staggered, as I had forgotten all about it. I said “ I gave it to you upon return.“ “No you didn’t. Do you remember giving it back to me? “. “ I’m pretty sure I did. “ “Where did you put it when I gave the money to you?” “In my overcoat pocket.“ “Where’s the overcoat?“ I showed him where they all hung. We had just been given them a week ago and no one could tell one from another. Major Stuckey and I started looking through the pockets and by now the section was standing around with bewilderment in their eyes watching the Major. “Here it is ! “ bringing his hand out of a pocket with a bunch of notes. He said “Morpeth, you should be more careful with money“. “Yes sir, both of us should be.” He looked at me and turned around with a slight smile and departed. You can imagine the talk of the men, asleep in the tent for with 200 Pounds in an overcoat pocket for 3-4 nights. Had it rained or the overcoat been used for cover the money would have been found as no one really knew which overcoat was theirs. I was very lucky.
We were boarded onto the Waimana in the harbour. About 550 horses and 1400 + men I’m told. It’s very packed on our boat. Lots of horses in the other vessels remember Star of India as one of them. Steamed out of Waitamata Harbour to sea to go to war.
Woke up back in Auckland Harbour ( we were going to Wellington via East Cape when recalled back to Auckland as a report stated the German Raider von Spee was believed to be near.) Spent 2 weeks in the Auckland Harbour aboard the Waimana. Too crowded. Fresh water at 7am only. Washed in sea water. Slept in bunks 3 high in the hold. Flies were terrible. I had a sleeping bag so slept up on deck.
We again steamed out to go to Wellington to meet up with the other transports. Rumour was going around that only 8% of men will get leave in Wgtn. Nat & I headed the ‘ rush ‘ to see Platoon Officer ( my younger brother Nick). I was explaining to Nick that I wanted leave to see ‘ my ‘ (our) relations there. I couldn’t say that my mother was there as we both had the same mother in Auckland. Nick looked at me thoughtfully but then Major Stuckey came into the room and wanted to know what these men wanted. Nick said that they are requesting leave to see relations in Wgtn. (Stuckey knew that Nick & I were brothers.)
He said to Nick, “ Give leave to anyone except those two.” Nat and I retired baffled but knew that Stuckey was wise to us both. We had both taken more leave in Auckland than we were entitled to. Arrived in Wellington. Battalion Band went ashore and Nat then decided to go along as well. He carried a mandolin case at the rear. Went to the Wellersley Club.
Bought 500 cigarettes and 2 bottles of Whiskey. Cigarettes were barred on boat. Bad for the wind for some of us. He used them to barter for other stuff. Left Wgtn with about 12 other ships on 16 October 1914.
Off to war.
16th October 1914 (Letter)
Left Wellington at about 6.30pm Friday. The British warship Minotaur left first leading the way, then the Jap warship “ Ibuki “, then our transports as listed.
Port was Athenic, Arawa, Orari, Ruapehu, Waimana (us) Starboard was Maunganui, Hawkes Bay, Star of India, Limerick, Tahiti, Philomel was at the center rear. We woke to a head breeze with a bit of a swell on and a fair number were seasick. I was as well for a few minutes but recovered during the day. Moore looked sick in the morning but was fine in the afternoon. Nick was sick as well and retired to his bunk. Later that day Moore, Nat, Wild and myself played bridge upon the boat deck among sacks of potatoes.
17th October 1914
Saturday we woke up to the swell again, with wind and a lot of rain as well. We got off the decks into the messrooms and started to play cards. The tucker is alright so far and it helps one’s stomach. The Waimana is a fine sea boat and the best by far bar the Athenic.
18th October 1914
Today (Sunday) it is sunny with a decent roll and breeze. We have been playing bridge all day up near the Officer’s quarters and out of the wind. Nat, Moore, Wild, McLean, Purchas and myself are the players. McLean is in the 3rds and an Englishman I think. Plays all right and is a decent sort. Wild is in the 6ths and has been with Moore since the camp started. He cannot play very well but is a good sort and joins in a lot with occasional quaint sayings.
There are signals going all day between the boats and some of us try and pick up what is said but with not much success. Anything interesting they put up on the Messroom board for all to read.
It is a fine sight at sea here. A big swell which, when you look at the 12 or so ships, makes an impressive sight. I suppose that the Minotaur is the one in charge of the warships. Sure to be.
We have two dogs aboard. One is the Regimental mascot, a grey staghound, and the other a liver and white animal like a foxhound. The mascot is a sickly looking dog out here but the other seems to enjoy it fine. We do not get much work.
None as the last two days have been too rough. Physical exercise in the morning 8 to 9 am , and drill with rifles and marching around the deck between 1 & 2 pm. Have not seen Major Stuckey for a while. Rumour has it he is not well. Seasick, of course. Everyone is hungry and eat everything in sight. The Bovril Aunt Tillie gave me came in this morning. I gave 3 seasick men a cupful this morning and they seemed to appreciate it.
19th October 1914
Have had a bath, been on parade as one of the fatigue party. Had roll call down in the bunk again. The sea has gone down and there is just a slight breeze. A bit of a swell and a cold wind from the south. There cannot be more than 6-8 that have a bath regularly in the sea baths. Many others strip to the waists and wash in the basins in the lavatories. Tonto and I go every morning to wash and Tonto is concerned about the others. The Transports give out little smoke but the warships give out more. The “ Ibuki “ away to the north belches it out all the time. On Friday when it was calm she sent out smoke that could have been seen for miles and miles.
Nat, Tonto and I are on the Ship’s Quarter fatigues for the week. We 3 always seem to be in this role for one reason or another. There are of course about 15 others I understand. There is about 2-3 hours work a day. We are on for a week but have no other work or parades to attend. Somehow I am glad we are on it as we may dodge police duty on the deck.
Have had lunch. Breakfast consists of steak and currie or stew. Is this of interest? I do not want to bore you all with unnecessary writing. Moore sleeps in one of the boats, which is against the rules, but he gets plenty of fresh air. There is plenty of air going down the holds when there is a breeze blowing but otherwise it gets a bit stale sometimes.
Had a talk with a 3rd’s Aucklander this morning re drills etc. He said that he thought the 6th Hauraki were the best. I reckon we are and the 5th Platoon are the best. There have been some cases of measles, which seems rather extraordinary to me. Perhaps it is only a species of rash. The crowd is in fine spirits. I am sure that the sea going down has pleased a good many on the various boats.
Major Stuckey was out this morning and did not look well. The seasickness was bad with him.
20th October 1914
Have put in a rather strenuous day on fatigue duty. All under Capt. Sinel. A man fell overboard from the Limerick and the Tahiti stopped and picked him up. Quite an experience I would expect. One could very easily fall overboard from these ships as there are no rails of any sort. There was wrestling on the foredeck today arranged by the 3rds but only they took part. There were some good bouts. Also watched Rogers, Mooney and Sgt. Majors at the swords and foils. There are lots of soldiers writing home (about 8pm). A few are reading. We headed out southwest by west for the first three days and then for some hours northwest and then back onto the original course to Hobart. We are doing a route march there for some training I gather. It will be good to get ashore and stretch our legs.
21st October 1914
Arrived in the harbour at 12.30pm. The bay is bigger than the Waitamata and I like it equally as well. Went ashore and had a route march that afternoon. Most of the other boats had arrived in by now. Hobart is an old fashioned sort of town. It is bigger than I imagined from the harbour and they say there is about 25,000 people in the town. The houses are festooned with attics and small pane windows. The modern houses look good and it seems a settled sort of a town. We walked up the harbour and cut back into the town and wandered about (on the march of course).
The people undoubtedly show traces of the old convicts. I saw it at once. Not everyone of course but a big proportion. Nick commented on it as well. Saw some fine looking girls but few in proportion to the size of the town. The convict taint was very noticable. They were very good to us and threw 1000's of apples & flowers to us. A lot of apples were picked up and taken back to the ship.
Major Stuckey was strict (or seemed so) on the march. The 3rd’s Officer let the men run free (ran into hotels, shops) and Stuckey quite rightly stopped the 6th from doing it. Some of the men growled. The 3rd looked bad from a military point of view. They all decorated themselves with flowers, in their hats and Stuckey stopped us. We passed General Godley in the town and supposed he was not very pleased with the display.
Hobart gave us a great reception and altogether very good to us. Left Hobart the next day and steamed out.
24th October 1914
Between 7 and 11 last night we nearly had a 2nd collision with the Ruapehu. Cannot understand it myself how this happens but I suppose at night it is difficult to keep all in tow correctly. About 75 of the Haurakis are on police duty this week. Moore is on but Tonto and self escaped as we did fatigues last week. A corporal died on the Ruapehu this morning and is to be buried at sea later today. All the boats will stop and all the bands will play the Dead March.
Jack Langdon (in our section) has done some great duck shooting in his life. He has lived in Thames and worked on and off the Piako for years. He reckons on getting a decent gun in England. He is the pessimist and says there won’t be enough Haurakis left to feed a cat. Not very encouraging.
26th October 1914
Had physical exercise this morning with the rifle and then shooting over the stern. Hear that we will be getting into Albany tomorrow. Have seen a few albatrosses - great birds of flight. Never move a wing but sail and sail and sail. Poetry of motion. They are magnificent.
Had drill between the showers today and afterwards had a lecture by Nick on advance guards and flank guards. We did all right. It’s funny somehow to see your younger brother bossing men about, including oneself, and being lectured to.
He is doing all right. After the lecture Stuckey told us that the 5th (Nick’s) Platoon had the place of honour and would always be the advance guard so it behoved all in the 5th. The Platoon to know all about it: pay sixpence a week each to the mess orderly who waits on us at the tables, gets the food, and washes dishes. Little enough, isn’t it?
27th October 1914
Today one man called James Stee refused to pay the mess fee to another man who was on mess duty so a fight started. The other chap was H K Anderson who used to work with Fenwick. It was a great fight from a spectator’s point of view. Anderson had the best of it as far as it went before it was stopped. It was then very funny. All were shrieking with laughter as the fight was over the stupidest of reasons. It was a bit on the vicious side but they shook hands and all over now.
I saw them later talking and appealed to me over something. “Was it fair to shoot a man from a sportsman point of view if you were engaged in single combat with a German with bayonet? “ I said ‘my oath’. I do not think I would be much of a sportsman if I thought the German was a better bayonet fighter.
We have special implements for learning bayonet fighting like a bayonet with a button on the end that slides back when you have stuck your opponent. I had a go with Tonto and ‘killed’ him 6 times to nil. Poor old Tonto was too slow.
We are getting into Albany tomorrow. Not sure how long we stay but the rumour is maybe 3-4 days.
28th October 1914 (Diary whilst in Albany)
“Arrived in Albany and joined up with some Australian transports in the harbour in St Georges Bay. Lay out in the bay for a day and then went into the wharf. On the other side of the wharf was Wanganui (H.Q. Staff General Godley etc.)
I was not too popular with Major Stuckey as he reckoned that as I had an officer as a young brother I should be better behaved and set an example to the rest of the 5th.
Then I found I was on wharf guard with 15 others whilst 6th Haurakis went on a route march through Albany. I had the pip. Tonto Maylor was on guard as well so we arranged to ‘leave’ guard ( weak Sergeant) & go up and see the sights. Saw Wgtn Guard halfway along wharf but they would not let us pass. But the train ran right up the wharf and was reversing towards the town. I decided to jump onto the cowcatcher and went past the Wgtn Guard looking the other way doing about 7 m.p.h. The fireman grinning and encouraging me I think. But Gen Godley came along the wharf with a couple of H.Q. Staff and I did not salute as I was passing them. Looked hard to left, hat on back of my head, coat collars up so he could not see any badges or buttons. The engine driver yelled publically “ who’s that ” (on the cowcatcher) so I got off quickly and walked into the town.
Went into the first hotel I saw. It was full of officers. A Captain said, “ who are you looking for”? “Capt Ross” and looked about and said, “I cannot see him”. (I was pretty sure he was still on the ship) so I thanked him and went into the street. Don’t know where Tonto was as he was on the pier when I hitched a ride. It was dusk now and wandered into a little back street ‘where I belonged‘ according to the Army idea. Had a few beers in a small inn type building and then asked the keeper if I could take a bath. Explained that I had not been near a fresh water bath since leaving NZ two weeks ago. He led me upstairs. Gave me towel, hot water and had a real soak. Dressed and went down to the bar, paid him and had some beers. Some of the crowd commented there is a picket about looking for the soldier who was on the train cowcatcher earlier. I left the bar as I knew I would be sent back to NZ if I was implicated in anyway!
Realised that my overcoat & cap was still in the inn. Luckily as I was walking back I saw several firemen off my boat Waimana and I borrowed a cap & coat from them. Went into another bar, bought 3 bottles of whiskey, 4 bottles of beer and left. Went off with the firemen who were amused about it. Got back to the Wharf and Wgtn guard recognised me. Hot argument started and firemen in it as well. I gave them a bottle of whiskey, which angered the firemen, but I got through and returned aboard and found I had not been reported. But Gen Godley had stirred people up. A muster was called for and luckily all reported present. The time was about 10pm.
It was a relief to be safe back. So there was I guarding the whiskey and decided to wake Nat & Tonto about 2am and had a few whiskies and told them what had happened.
Monday 2nd November 1914 (Letters home)
About 100 miles south of Fremantle
I closed the last batch outside of Albany I think. We got into Albany harbour about 11am on Wednesday last. As we got in we could see numbers of big ships which we reckoned were the Australians.
There were 26 of them all told including the two from Tasmania that left Hobart just before our arrival. They have some fine big ships. Some of them go up to 14,000 tons. This is the list of them. The Orvieto is the Flagship I understand and the Miltiades the Hospital ship.
The numbers are 3 Orveito, 17 Southern, 22 Rangitira , 4 Pera, 2 Geelong, 13 Katina, 26 Armidale, 18 Saldanna, 10 Hymettus, 23 Suffolk, 25 Anglo Egyptian, 18 Wilkshire, 15 Star of England, 28 Miliades, Clan MacCorkindale, 17 Port Lincoln, 10 Karoo, 14 Euripides, 8 Argyleshire , 9 Shrophire, 19 Africa , 24 Benalla , 23 Star of Victoria , 30 Myra , 20 Hororata, and were to pick up the Medic and Icanius with the West Australian crowd aboard.
It’s hard to count them all as they are way ahead on the horizon and we are last of the N.Z. Contingent. We anchored away out by the lighthouse in Albany. You can see there were any amount of ships when we all got anchored. The harbour is not very accessible but is the best about the district. I suppose it would be all right by the lighthouse with a north or west gale but from the south or east it would be no good except right inside and I do not think the water is deep. Nothing like Hobart.
The channel is narrow. We went across in the afternoon (a boat’s crew of us including Nick) to the Arawa for some firebars for the engine room. Had a hard afternoon lowering them into the boat to the Waimana (which steamed to another anchorage when we got near) and then had to unload. Each bar weighed about 40 lbs. and as there were 140 or more and about 3 of us did all the work we were tired when we at last got the boat pulled up.
There were 16 in the boat but such a lot of useless specimens I have never seen the likes of before. Had tea about 7pm, which had been kept for us. We went into the wharf at 8am Thursday and 17 of the Haurakis had been warned “for duty for Wharf Guard” and I was one. We went into the wharf at once and were put on sentry duty. The Maunganui was on the other side of the wharf and they of course had a guard on. They were the 7th Regiment and made up of men from the Wanganui area. The Maunganui has only 500 men aboard and about 450 horses. They are all in 4 ,5 ,& 6 berth cabins. There was absolutely no leave from the ship but all those not on duty went for a route march up to the town but they were not very loud in their praises. I got up the town in the evening, rode up on the engine of a train that runs up the wharf. Saw the town. It is well kept but not very big, 2-3000 people all told I think (You must excuse my writing as I am writing on my knees on the boat deck and the old ship is rolling a bit). Moore went into the Hospital at Albany with a rotten headache and sick. He is out this morning on the dock but has to go back again. Doctors said (Moore said) he had a mild attack of ptomaine poisoning and a mild attack of measles. It was thought to be serious the night he went in but he is all right now. Feels fine he says but no doubt he will write and mention it all. The weather continues good although we had a shower yesterday afternoon but as we had rigged up awnings on the boat deck it is not so bad, though they do leak here and there.
The Australian Ships have not been painted grey like ours but are the usual colour. There were two or three (more perhaps) boat crews who visited the Australian Transports and got a very good reception. The Rangitira (a sister ship to the Waimana they say) has only 500 men and 400 horses while we have 1400 or 1500 men and 450 or 500 horses aboard. I think we are much too crowded on board here. None of the other transports have our number aboard. The Australians were much surprised when told about it.
All their horses get exercised round the decks every day and some have sandpits for them to roll in. I think it was a short-sighted policy on the part of the Government. We must lose scores of horses. But for the ventilation scheme down the holds it would be Hell without a doubt. As it is the air is bad in the mornings when we get up at 6am. A good thing lately is that more are using the baths. Good business. We left the wharf 4.30am Friday (we on guard all the time of course) and put out to our old anchorage. 3rd November 1914 10.30am I went down into the sleeping berths and it was more than I could bear. I wish I could take Gen. Godley and some of those responsible for the crowding on the Waimana down about 5am after a hot night. It’s not good. I went up on deck and saw all or most of the Australian ships as we passed them. Saw no sharks in Albany Harbour though it is supposed to be great place for them. Too early I suppose. Still the refuse from the ships ought to attract them. Its full moon now and the sea looks good with the sheen on it.
Have a fair to good breeze ahead of us today. All the ships are a great sight. We are last. They steam in 3 lines (Australians I mean) 10, 9, and 7, and we bring up the rear with two lines of 5. The only warships we can see are the one away to port and one to starboard. I suppose there are some ahead but none visible in the rear. Don’t know what has become of the Ibuki( Jap ). The Minotaur and Sydney and Melbourne are the ships, I think. The Sydney and Melbourne are Australian Cruisers. Sneaky looking customers they look too.
The Engineers gave a concert last night. I could not get in as it was packed. Very good to hear. A very good joke was played yesterday by someone. They ran out a notice on the typewriter to the effect that volunteers were wanted to bring the strength of the 3rds up to 300 as we or they were stopping in South Africa. Major Barrowell and Major Sinel were some of the names on the list shown around. 0f course if we are stopping in South Africa we all wanted to be in the Mounteds as Infantry are no dashed good there. Dozens of men put their names in to a man who seemed to be taking names. It was a real good joke. Several Sergeants and Corporals all put their names in. The joke came out some hours later. Anyone with much idea of things and who read the notice must have seen that it was a hoax. It was not signed at all but had D.O.G. at the bottom. Still anything in typewriting has an official sort of air I suppose to some men.
The ships ahead are, as you can imagine, a great sight. There are many millions worth ahead besides some men. The Australians are all getting three shillings a day and they get cigarettes at tupppence and threepence a packet besides having beer twice a day aboard. Some of the men complain a bit about it. It certainly looks as if the Australians are getting better treatment than ourselves from the Government however.
Major Stuckey is stricter than any of the other Majors in the Auckland Battalion. I suppose it is good for us. I do not mind that but I can't agree with his judgement in one or two respects. I suppose it is not the thing to mention in a letter but I don't suppose it matters. We are all the better soldiers if he is strict there is no doubt about that at all. That is why we are the best regiment on board.
I suppose I am in a bad temper today. Moore is in the Hospital today. He thinks that he went about too much yesterday, I suppose he did. Nick is well. There has been a sports and concert committee appointed. One Officer, one Non. Com. and one Private from each Company forms the Committee. I suppose we will be having sports soon. Had a lecture by Dodson the other day on Rearguard and one next time by Major Stuckey. Both were all right. Captain Wallingford is aboard and always has squads shooting over the stern. He does a fair amount of work. Howell, Corporal of our section, is a simple sort of youth. He told Jack Langdon and I yesterday that he hoped he did not lose his temper when at the war as he was a terror when he did lose lt. Jack questioned him about lt. Howell said that once someone had thrown a pot of beer over him and he had lost his temper and dashed nearly hit the man. Jack said nothing for several seconds and then “Corporal, I'm glad you’re in charge of me as if those!!!!! Germans get me I know you will avenge my death.” If you knew both the Corporal and Jack you would realise how funny it was. Jack (Sloan knows him) is the man who chased the Manager of the Waiomo Battery into his house because Jack swore when the engine broke down and the Manager sort of objected to swearing. Jack is a notorious character from Thames. He is the man who reckons that there will not be enough Haurakis left from the war to feed a cat.
Lt. Col. Plugge gave out on Sunday that we were going to England via Cape Town. What with De Wet on the warpath we may stop there a while. I wonder what the rising there will amount to. We have been going north with a little east in it all the time since leaving Albany bar the first 12 or 14 hours when we had to go west.
4th November 1914
Still on the same course. I am told that the Sydney is not with us but we now have 2 or 3 Jap ships with the Minotaur and the Melbourne. All are well. Moore says he does not get enough to eat. The boat rolls like the devil at night for a while but is beautiful today. The Haurakis are getting up a concert. Don’t know how it will get on. Life is better aboard now. We now have Rogers as Sergeant Major to the 5th Platoon. He is very good at physical drill, which is between 8 & 9 in the morning. He is an Imperial Army man previously in Yorkshire Infantry and tried for the Flying Corps but they refused him so he came to NZ and got a position on the Permanent Staff. We had a sweepstake on board on Melbourne Cup day. Nat decided to buy Jackson’s horse (Kingsburgh) and the horse won. Nat got 15 pounds for first. Everyone now thinks that Jackson sold the ticket too cheaply!! Dr Craig won the Officers sweep and was placed. Got 10 pounds so Waihi did well. Some say we are going through via Suez in spite of what Lt. Col. Plugge says. Perhaps Capetown is our next port of call.
Life is great aboard now. There are so many of us that we can’t all work. Reville at 6.00 am. Roll Call 6.15am. Breakfast at 7am. Physical drill 8-9 am. We have been taught semaphore signalling with flags and those on fatigues like myself have to catch up. It’s not very hard to learn but harder to read. We just saunter through the sea at about 10 knots. Had my first washing day (clothes) with fresh water. I am a great one for the fresh water. They do not smell like the sea water washed clothes do. We wear denims all the time and now go barefooted as the canvas shoes supplied tore after a few days. Don’t mind going barefoot. Not many sea birds about.
5th November 1914
Guy Fawkes Day but no celebration and expect that the Kaiser is burnt in effigy in a good many places in the British Empire. We are still sailing north so the rumour is we may stop off at Colombo and then to Suez. Some say Egypt may be rising as Turkey is now drawn into it. They all of a similar religion. The rumour is now that we have 2 British warships and 2 Japs. It is hard to find out anything.
It’s been hot today and the Police won’t allow us to sleep on deck and understand that we need permission to do so. Spoke to Major Stuckey this morning and he said he would do what he could. One of the warships went chasing away astern. Don’t know what it was about but she is back in line again.
6th November 1914
Weather good. No drill or parades today, don’t know why. All the bedding is to be aired on deck and the boat is covered with mattresses, blankets and washing. The sea is blue as blue. Never realized how it was as clear as this. The boat is packed with humanity. We play Quoits. Slept up on deck in a boat last night. The dormitories stink. No other word will do. It just stinks. Why they do not allow us to sleep on deck I don’t know. It seems absolutely ridiculous to me. Bridge seems to be the favourite game of cards. Harry Patullo just said that some of the men have bad headaches and someone talking measles. We don’t want that on board. At night they are very particular on the Waimana about showing lights. Why so strict I do not know as every other boat shows lights.
8th November 1914
Had church parade this morning and we could attend in any dress. The breeze is brisk which keeps us cooler. We are supposed to be in more danger as the Monmouth affair has been confirmed and it seems that an explosion occurred on the Good Hope (shot found her magazine I expect) and the Glasgow escaped. It is a good win for the Germans without a doubt. The Minotaur left the lead this morning and steamed away for some reason. The Naval Officer in charge gave us a very interesting lecture re German Warships we are likely to meet this side of Suez. The Emden does about 25 knots and he thinks that she may try to rush in attack from the rear. We would catch it as we are the rear boat.
9th November 1914
I slept on deck again with Moore. Rained fairly hard for a while. Toby Stevens has influenza and not measles as one thought. 10th November 1914 9.30am. The weather is beautiful. Some excitement as the Melbourne signalled to us by heliograph and confirmed by wireless that the Emden had been caught at Cocos Is Harbour by the Sydney and after some engagement was beached to save her from sinking. Great news wasn’t it. At 3am yesterday we were within 30 miles of Cocos Is. It was a relief to all those in charge that Emden is out of action. She has done good work for Germany in these parts. There have been several scraps aboard and quite a good one between two Haurakis. Bare fists and they got into each other at a great rate. The Coy boxing competitions are on the 15th so a bit of practice would help some of them I suppose. Sorry about the writing but a lot of this is done on one’s knees. The boat moves and this does not help.
13th November 1914
News was that no letters would be allowed off the ship without being censored and that no mention was to be made as to our location, naval actions or route taken. No mention to be made of other ships in convoy. This meant that all letters that we had written were useless as far as posting them was concerned. The men were wild as orders had come out 10-15 days ago that all letters for NZ would be uncensored. However orders were amended last night and that letters sealed to NZ would be uncensored. We crossed the Equator last night about 7pm I think and we were to hold Neptune’s celebrations today.
14th November 1914
The Neptune celebrations started this morning. All the Officers were in first and Nick got his head knocked wrestling but recovered quickly. Plugge, Alderman, Stuckey, Dawson, Bailey, Rastrick, all were thrown in. Then the bath broke down and for an hour the men went and threw water over each other.
Just heard that one of the Medical Officers has died on the Arawa. He was hurt in Neptune’s bath. I got caught going into the Nom-Coms bathroom by Sgt. Major Hayt and was before Major Stuckey this morning and got 2 days fatigues. The NZ fleet which up to now has been in the rear since leaving Albany forged through the Aust. Fleet and are now ahead. Another man-of–war appeared on our starboard. I understand she is the HMS Hampshire.
They do not allow lights on the N Z Fleet at all but Australians are much more careless and shows more lights. Yesterday the Empress of Russia (Canadian Pacific Liner) passed us going south. She is a converted liner and carries guns. Rumour abounds that she off to Cocos Is for the German prisoners and wounded off the Emden. I hear that there were 60-70 killed and 180-190 wounded. News has it that the Indian Ocean has been declared free of danger so that sounds great. This week they have had a number of men on duty in the lookout and their long drawn ringing call “All’s Well“ booms through the night every ½ hour.
18th November 1914 (Diary)
“Arrived in Colombo. Natives in small canoes came out to greet us. Plenty of boats from the fleet were everywhere, anchored. Excitement about getting ashore. Four per platoon. I ran the raffle so Nat & I were amongst the lucky ones !!. Lined up on the wharf and Lt. Algie told us to behave ourselves and to be a credit to NZ, etc., etc. We were to come aboard at 5pm. He left and the Wharf Clerk said it was then 10 to 4pm. I could not get the smile off my face at the idea of getting back from my first sight of an eastern city in an hour after being on a troopship for 6-7 weeks.
He came up to us and said, “I want your word that you will be back by 5pm”. I said I wouldn’t. He looked hard at us and then dismissed us and off we went. Colombo was before us - hotels, bazaars, rickshaws. Went to the first hotel and had an expensive whiskey so we left. Nat & I hired a rickshaw and went about the streets. On seashore are large palms, large houses with big verandahs. A Picket came by and said to get aboard. Went the other way to the Picket and went into a bar where we were able to have a real bath. It was very good. Came down but barkeeper would not serve us as Picket had come in and warned him. Back into the city on rickshaw. Bought some curios at a Bazaar. We had missed the 5pm deadline so entered a bar and met two Captains of ships that had been chasing the Emden. They treated us very well. We went back to the Wharf pretty late that night and there were others like us waiting about for a motor launch to take them out. Nat bargained with a native to take us out to the Waimana. We had had quite a lot of drink which one can understand when seeing land and freedom from a boat after so many weeks. We coasted quietly alongside and there were ropes over the side for some reason or another so I climbed up aboard as quiet as I could but Nat could not make it. Went back down to help but not able to. I told him we now have to go round to the gangway and of course our names were taken. It was 12.30 am. A very enjoyable night!
Went straight to sleep.
Reveille got us up.
Major Stuckey then informed the section that there was leave today for everyone and to behave and be a credit to N Z. Smiles everywhere and I grinned at Nat. Then a yell “Stand fast everyone” & Stuckey referred to a sheet he had been handed. All stood fast. ”No leave for 12/416 Gerald Morpeth and 12/484 John (Nat) Williams” The rest were told to carry on.
Stuckey retired to his room. I seized a Corporal and told him to take me to the Major. He took me to Major Stuckey’s room. Salute. Very coldly received. I asked why no leave for us. Scores of other men had been late back. He would not listen to my excuses and I said it was very unfair. Stuckey looked coldly at me and then remanded me and Nat to Major Harrowell and then we went to Lt Col Plugge who gave us 7 days detention each. This means that we lose a week’s pay and do fatigues. I hear later that there were about 130 (we have about 1400 aboard) who broke ship or overstayed last night like us and got between 4-10 days detention. However I suppose we deserved it. We all got another lecture from Plugge about ‘playing the game ‘, etc, etc. Major Stuckey is very fair to all his men and a good man to lead. I suppose that I take advantage of having my younger brother in charge of me. I try his patience I suppose.”
21st November 1914 (Letter)
Left Colombo today.
It is very hard to tell you about Colombo. You have to see it to realise it. Spacious Hotels with big verandahs, balconies and any amount of chairs. Nat and I got into a bit of strife on the day we entered harbour. We, and others, were late back the first night from shore leave and have been doing fatigues since. This week Nat, Tonto and I are on Police Duty on ship. The air in the dormitories at 2-4 am is simply awful. The men lie about in a singlet or pyjamas but most are naked. They perspire easily and it astonishes me that we could live in such conditions. Some of us have sore eyes and throats. Those who are in the corners of the dormitories must have it the worst. Thank heaven it does not affect me much as I sleep on deck and so does Moore. It’s an experience I won’t forget.
23rd November 1914 (Letter)
Glorious weather continues. This morning we stopped and unloaded Capt. Hawkins who has been sick since Colombo. Melancholia I believe and very bad I hear. We put him aboard a small tramp called the Den of Ruthven. Nat & I on fatigues still but there were so many others on there were only about 15 mins work for us. We do little work on board. Supposed to be too hot but think I could handle it ok. Generally a cool breeze. The week on Police was the worst time I have had. It was four hours on then eight off for a week. Three times on the night shift Howell was ill so I was in charge. Not the best job aboard.
24th November 1914 (Letter)
There was a bit going on last night on one of the Australian boats as searchlights were beamed onto the sea and we heard that two men had fallen overboard but were recovered. It amazes me that more men are not lost on this convoy as there is no railings or ropes to stop one.
27th November 1914 (Letter)
Steaming towards the Red Sea at present. We got in Aden about 5pm on the 25th. Gee, the rock to the entrance is immense! It comes out of the sea and straight up into the air. It has not a blade of grass or shrub on it. It must be hotter than hell on the sides and the top. We anchored out in the bay a couple of miles from the rock. Aden is about 5 miles away. The shores of the Red Sea seem to be all sand dunes that rise and recede and develop into mountains. Any amount of islands around here. Now and then a lighthouse is perched on some of them. About 120 miles past Aden we went through a narrow passage called Hell’s Gates (about 3-4 miles gap)
The NZ Fleet is leading with the Australians behind. I understand we are to reach Port Said first. There is a rumour that Italy has declared war on England today. Pure bunkum! Had a surprise hit inspection at 9am today and one man in the 3rd (my section) was discovered with a lot of spare gear including several spare uniforms. He is now in the cells. The sea changes colour near land and becomes a green colour.
I play Bridge occasionally but Moore, Nat, Mervyn and Warden play a good deal. Wants Mother here. She would keep them going. Mother, do you still play by yourself? You are a Bridge fanatic, sure aren’t you. There are plenty of magazines to read so one is never wanting for something to read. There is no twilight in these parts. We passed the Tropic of Cancer so we are about two-thirds the way up the Red Sea. Plenty of air in the dormitories now, but don’t know how they fixed the change. There is always a rush at sunset to get up on deck with the mattresses from below. The Officers are now not too worried about us sleeping up on deck. My mattress with flax filling has gotten lumpy so I try and rearrange it nightly. The nights are great but the stars are not so clear as back in Waihi. For some reason the air is not very clear. Probably the desert sand being carried aloft in the winds. Truly the transports look like painted ships on a painted sea. Rumour has it that we stay in Egypt for the winter and then go on to the Front somewhere.
1st December 1914 (Diary)
Had church Parade this morning at 6.30am. Only lasted a ½ hour. It’s my turn in the deck cookhouse with 4 others so am sorting the bad potatoes and they go overboard. Had stewed rabbit at 2 meals during the week. Where they got these from I can only guess. Much the best meal we have had on board. Most of the men are sick of the trip or they say they are. Too little to do.
(Port Said, Suez)
2nd December 1914 (Letter)
I am writing often but unsure if you get these in one lot or periodically. I guess some may never get home. We arrived in Suez this morning. It is a bigger town than I expected. Smaller than Colombo but there are some fine buildings. The landscape is absolutely barren and burnt. It is a light brown colour and burnt to a cinder. I never conceived for a moment that it could be so bare and barren. Nothing, nothing at all grows anywhere as far as I can see. It captures the imagination somehow. Sure it’s wonderful.
We left Suez about 2.30pm and went up the Canal. Nat and I were on ‘grindstone duty’ sharpening bayonets. Mine’s well and sharp. Saw the sides of the Canal. It’s a great bit of work sure enough. It’s narrower than I expected. Plenty of dredges near the sides and I guess they are often busy when ships are not passing through. Seeing date palms now so something does grow here at last.
All along the Canal are native (Indian) troops with some Royal Engineers who yelled at us as we passed that they had been there for 2 months. I hear that the Canal is guarded by 30,000 troops as it a very important strategic waterway. It was rumoured that some boats are fired upon occasionally by the natives but we did not experience this. None the less I noticed that we had armed guard fore and aft with Maxims on the Bridge.
We got into Port Said about 3am this morning. It’s cooler than I expected. Yesterday the Orders were posted by J S Maxwell, KCB DSO General Officer commanding in Egypt that we were to land at Alexandria and go up to Zeitoun which is about a mile out of Cairo and go into training for the winter months. This is a surprise of course, as we thought we would be going to England for training. Certainly will be better weather here.
We were in the first ½ dozen boats to go through. All day long we have had boats alongside with figs, postcards, dates, oranges and curios. The men are enjoying this bartering. The Assyrian types have traces of Jewish and Negro. They are sharks sure enough. There are musicians alongside singing and begging. Plenty of swimmers requesting that you throw them pennies to dive for. They are great to watch. The boats draw 25 feet so they try and catch the pennies before they lose them in the water.
The other transports kept coming through and passed 40 yards away and cheers were always given on both ships. The Hampshire behind us cheered. Also H.M.S. Swiftsure, which was the flagship 13 years ago. Ahead of her two French Warships and 3-4 Torpedo boats with her. These boats are small indeed. Much smaller than I expected and have ‘freeboard’ of about 5 ft. About 60’ long and a 20’ beam. They could do some damage if they could close enough to send a couple of torpedoes home to Fritz. Port Said buildings look good from the boat but no doubt the back streets are the usual type of native quarter, dirty, and altogether despicable, but of course when we got ashore we saw nothing of this as we kept to certain areas as advised by H.Q. It is said to be the most vicious and immoral town in the world which seems to be a tall order but from what I have seen of the inhabitants I’ve little doubt that its fairly rotten.
We saw a sea hydroplane ( French ) being towed down the Canal. We left Port Said about 3.30pm and got a great reception passing the ‘Swiftsure’ and the French boats. We saluted of course and they cheered us back. The Frenchmen sang ‘en masse’ and it was impressive. Then we passed along the fleet of transports all moored which had passed us earlier. It was a very interesting day to me. The Bridge school played as usual and missed some of the sights. Out in the Mediterranean tonight on the way to Alexandra. Feel the breeze from the north with a regular English sky they say. Gray and slaty looking. All are well on board. Dashed if I know if this will ever reach N Z or not and if it does I doubt much if you will find it that interesting. Can’t help thinking that if I read this again in N Z when the War is over I will get more interest out of it than anyone else. I suppose you four at home will wade through it all and hope it is of interest to you.
3rd December 1914 (Letter)
Port Said has any number of small sailing boats all with one rig. The mast shipped further aft than sailing boats in N Z. Some of the boats have gaffs, 60, 70, 80, and 90 feet long. It would be very interesting for Father to see all the different styles. There are two monoplanes on the wharf about 150yds away in two hangers. Also a large number of native troops all dressed in khaki and with khaki turbans too. Arrived in Alexandria this morning. It is the biggest city I have ever seen. I understand there is about 300,000 + inhabitants. All the houses are built in cubical shapes and there are any quantity of them. The natives come along in the same way as at Port Said selling goods. I don’t like the look of the black stinkers somehow although they are not as black as negroes of course but a lighter colour type. They look treacherous, mean and utterly despicable yet well fed. They ought to be slaves. There are plenty of steamers about in the harbour of about 500 tons predominating. I supposed they are holed up because of the war. Some of the NZ Fleet are discharging troops. The trains come right onto the wharf alongside the ships. There will be no march through town. The waters of the Nile flew by us and to think that this place was a city before London makes one think of the history here. Up country are the Pyramids of Rameses and the Pharoahs waiting to be seen by the Hauraki Troopers. It’s been a great experience so far and we are sure to have some more experiences before it is finished. It’s good to be alive. The water is muddy and apparently the Nile water is on the surface and the sea underneath.
10th December 1914 (Letter)
We are now outside Cairo. We put into the wharf last Friday and Nick and 12 of the 5th Platoon were put on wharf guard. This was to stop anyone leaving the ship. At the end of the wharf are gates where the Customs Officers are present. Had a talk with one of them whilst on guard - quite fluent in English. Told us a good deal about Egypt and its customs that no doubt will be helpful later. All the ship company bar the Police and Wharf Guard went up town on general leave. Moore was with me on Wharf Guard so both of us were on duty. The men came back fairly well to time (not like when we got to Colombo) and said that the town was great. It’s evidently some town. A fair amount of gear was taken off the ship. We were warned that we would be into training at 1pm Saturday. We were on guard till 9.15 am so no time to go into town. Rotten luck! Nat somehow got into town but Tonto stayed on guard with me. We got on the train at noon and left Alexandria to Cairo. Took about 7 hours but seemed about an hour as it was so interesting to see the passing countryside. Saw plenty of date palms and sugar cane and plenty of crops but what they were I know not. The soil is evidently rich and black and will grow most anything. Closer to Cairo there were plenty of donkeys, camels, cows (Indian type with horns turned back and humps on the back about the wither) & horses. The horses look like they have traces of Arab but are much smaller than ours. We get into Cairo about 7.30pm. Then a lot of shifting stuff (chaff, kitbags, bran, bikes, motorbikes, hay, etc) and then marched to our Camp and slept out. Quite cold here at night. In the morning a lot of tents were erected but some of the Company were sleeping out that night as a lot of tents have gone astray somehow. However Moore & I are in tents, must be lucky at last. The soil is desert and a light yellow brown colour and hard to describe the texture.
From the train I had noticed that the native houses or huts are built of mud bricks and may be up to 5, 25, 50 or more of these huts joined together. Maybe a tribe or some similar arrangement. Passed through some towns and there were natives by the score. In narrow lanes and dirty looking just like the postcards we bought. It’s been great in camp last night. In the next tent they are singing hymns and old songs as we have not been paid since arrival and all are stony broke. Stony broke and a fine town like Cairo awaiting conquest. It’s a tragedy no less. The men are a little disgusted about it. I am sure that there will be quite a few late back from Town leave when we are paid. There will be a hot time in the old town that night for sure. The Paymaster has not yet arrived. The P O at Camp H Q has not even got the stamps yet! They should have had this sorted.
Few natives are allowed in the Camp. They do odd jobs and are the refuse collectors. See very few veiled women and have had very strict instructions not to molest or even speak to them. There are rumours about of some Australian and NZ soldiers having their throats cut in the native quarter. May be true. We soldiers really know nothing much, only what the HQ want us to know I think.
The stuff we brought from NZ is astonishing. Medical stores, oats, bran, canteen stores, hay, harness equipment all cover acres and attempt to choke the railway sidings in spite of how we pack it in some order. It’s wonderful. Had no idea we brought so much. Have a wet canteen and is cheap. English Beer, 1 piastre a mug (about 97 piastres to the pound) so is cheap enough. Well patronised but I don’t like it myself. It’s in kegs of course.
The Manchester Regiment is camped near us. Adjoins our camp. They have been here since September. I believe that they got lowsy coming over. They are a different class of men. We are much bigger men on the whole. They are all mill hands and of course have not had the same life or food as us. If they are equal to a couple of Germans a piece the lord only knows what us colonials are equal to. But of course they have not had the same chance. Fancy Jack Langdon and Frank Lamming against a couple of these Manchester men. Why, they would eat them alive nothing surer! Of course the Terriers (as they are called here) come from a bad country as far as stamina goes. They are mostly mill hands from Oldham and Manchester and so have not had much life in the open as we know it. We have 9 to a tent and sleep in the sand. Sleep well. Reveille at 5.30am now and is quite fun as some still don’t make it in time.
11th December 1914 (Letter)
Received a letter, the first I have had for a long time. It is dated 12 October and written by W Gauvain’s brother. He addressed it to N.Z.E.F Care of War Office. I hope to see him when I get home. Don’t know any N Z news at all.
We have a fine drill ground and plenty enough room as it stretches away for miles. Have had a little rain and am told that they get very little at this time of the year. Saw some buildings in Heliopolis and one of them is the biggest building I have ever seen under one roof. Must have 100s of bedrooms. Nat had a letter from Rhoda, his sister. She writes that a Dr. Johnson who has lived for some years in Berlin and left before the War started says that the Germans have no idea in the world about getting beaten and he thinks that a super human task is needed to beat them. Dr. Johnson is an Englishman. Had some news that Admiral Sturdee caught and sunk 3 of the German Navy boats off the Falkland Islands. They are the boats that sank the Good Hope and Monmouth. That will teach them. Moore, Nat and I went into Cairo to look around. It is a fine town with good streets and buildings. Big and well stocked shops. Altogether a prosperous town I should say. Scores of tobacconist shops and all sorts of cigarettes. Down in the poorer or native quarters it’s dirty and grimy and evil.
Saw General Godley this morning. He came down to the 6ths when we were drilling. The Australians have been attached to the New Zealanders and so we have the Ceylon Company! Life is good although we are penniless. When will we get paid? Food is good.
12th December 1914 (Letter)
Had the first brigade drill this morning. Marched past Lt. Col. Braithewaite who is up close to General Godley. The Auckland went first with 3rds, 6th, and then Canterbury 15th. We were in two lines each and the dressing was terrible. We wavered about on the road up but as we went by the rostrum we were straight and good. The men arose to the occasion somehow. Major Stuckey was well pleased. I saw him on the march past, sword out, and stamping along to give us the step and his roar of “Sixth, Eyes Right“ and the salute with the sword flashing.
Nothing to do this afternoon. Seldom is after a brigade drill I believe. The N Z guns (18 pounders) are easily the best in Egypt I hear. Started with plenty of practice and we are doing well with range strikes. We still have not been paid. This is causing a problem with some of the men. Jack Langdon from my section is stamping round the tent talking about the dilatoriness of the Paymaster. His language is picturesque and free. He is awfully funny. He is sending the tent into hysterics re the pay. The climate is good. Fine weather. I think it will be good here in winter.
In my tent is ‘Tiger‘ Hamilton, Jackson, Langdon, Coakley, Tonto, Nat, Howell and myself. We have great discussions on the Paymaster and his duty to us.
14th December 1914 (Letter)
Yesterday Tonto and I and about 40 other Haurakis went to see the Pyramids. They are on the southern side of Cairo. The Australians are camped near them. Took us about 2½ hours by tram. They are very impressive and how they got the blocks up there I can’t imagine. Some engineering feat. Quite easy to climb to the top for anyone that is fit at all.
18th December 1914 (Letter)
We are well into training now and lots of mock fights with our men. The weather is hot during the day but cold at night. At last we have been paid. A lot of embarrassment all around I think but wonder if it was not staged like this to keep the men in camp for a week or so to toughen us? The wet canteen is popular with the men but I think the beer is much the worst I have ever tasted. I hope that the style of beer improves but do not expect so. I am told by Nick that the top brass are keeping the men in the local beverages that may be watered down so to keep them fitter for training. Some of us disagree with this. Anyway we will have to wait and see what happens by Christmas.
Went out on leave last night with Nat & Bigwood at Shepheards Hotel. The cost was absurd but it was some dinner. One now gets very tired of the desert sand. You don’t realise how tired you are of it until you see a green plot and your thirsty eyes drink it in. You also get tired of black faces and dark eyes. We saw an English girl, fair and blue eyed and some of us remarked how much better than the Italian and Greek girls she looked overall.
Out at the firing Range today. Just plain desert. Pretty boring stuff. The word is that we are needed to defend the Canal and so may be here some time into next year.
20th December 1914 (Diary)
Last night Nat met a Col. Harrison commanding some English Territorials. He thinks the New Zealanders are great. Likes them better than his crowd and of course likes them better than the Australians. He is very surprised how well we drill. Also immensely impressed with our horses. They really do look wonderfully well. There are some real snorters amongst them. He told Nat that he was sure that in after years Nat would be pleased that he was with the New Zealanders and not with his group. I hope he is right.
The Officers are doing their job. General Godley, however, appears to be devilishly strict with us. Lt. Col Plugge though I still think is not a soldier but rather an Officer if you know what I mean. Major Stuckey is proud of us and lets us know. Nat and I sometimes get on the wrong side of him but overall I think that he is doing a great job with the troops.
28th December 1914 (Diary)
“The other day whilst on Christmas leave (at last) in town with Nat we got into a bit of a to-do at one of the bazaars when bartering for some mementoes (small brass boxes). Just a matter of interpretation, I think, but we managed to overcome the language problem with some various gestures. Damn awkward for a while in a narrow street and not much fellowship around to support one. Nat and I then went into the gayer part of Cairo and met up with Moore who was with some Australians.
We all had great time and all present agreed that Cairo is great in the evenings (the beer is plain terrible). Mentioned to all that Nick was Orderly Officer for the night, so I reckoned he might give us a bit of leeway if we arrived back a bit late. Had a great evening and all were in the christmas cheer mood so we had a great time in the fair town. Arrived back about 2pm I guess and had our names taken. Nat and I were pretty sure that Nick would ‘overlook’ the lateness but Moore said he wasn’t so sure.
Next morning Nat, Moore and self had to report to the Orderly Room (tent) where Cpl. Harry Pattullo (Orderly NCO) and Nick were holding Court ! We stood at attention and I drifted a look at Nick who was contemplating our position. Something was up…He looked inscrutable. Nick turned to Pattullo (who was from Waihi as well) and said. “Corporal, I see there was no explanation here for the lateness from leave for these three men. Do you know anything about the backgrounds of these men? What sort of stock are they from? Do they have any standing in their communities?
As we were all from the same town I wondered what was coming. Harry, who was a member of the Waihi Golf Club, looked straight ahead at us and said in a slow speaking voice, “Sir, I understand that two of them are the sons of H D Morpeth, the present Town clerk of Waihi, and all three are members of the Waihi Golf Club, and some are past members of the Committee”.
Nick, who disliked golf and was a rep Hockey player for Te Aroha, slowly looked at the three of us and said in his inimitable manner “Not sufficient reason for this lapse of judgment and discipline; three days fatigues for the three of you”
I was visibly annoyed but kept quiet. Nat chuckled quietly to himself and Moore offered no comment. I guess that I had used the brother to brother relationship a bit too often against Nick’s responsibilities as an Officer. A fair result was handed down I guess as our training days were sharpening us up for the skirmishes ahead and we all need discipline now.
29th January 1915 (Diary)
“The last couple of nights have been clear and it’s great to see the stars, although the patterns are different to the sky back home. Some nights there appears to be a lot of desert sand whipped up and it makes a dull night. We are told to pack up camp and talk is to move eastwards towards the Canal. Not sure what it’s all about but rumour has it that the Turks are going to push towards the Canal. (Nick won’t confirm anything, but are to await orders).
No one is saying much and the time we take in packing up our stuff is causing a bit of a problem for H.Q.
Ensor cannot sleep and some nights he has been walking about outside the tent. Nat and Howell have great discussions about the progress of the War. One can only surmise as the news is not publicised as often as we would like. We are awaiting the coming week’s orders so any action soon will whet the mens’ appetites.
We want to do some good work against the Turks.
I find that the company in the tent is now better adjusted to the military routines. We are a team although a couple of them often need a bit of a push in the ‘team’ direction. Langdon is great company and keeps us amused with his slant on the War.
A bit of a storm tonight outside and this is making it difficult to continue with the notes with the wind buffeting the tent. Had a Section photo the other day or so. Everyone is keen to get going. Tomorrow will bring news of the Turks I expect.”
Authors son’s Note
From Jan till May I am unable to find any diary or letters home (and suspect that Father’s letters were censored and destroyed as later pages indicate that letters were destroyed if they enclosed troop movements, etc. See later page in notes) but have newspaper extracts of Moore’s letters home to his father during this training period in Egypt and reproduce these ……..
(The following was published in The Waihi Telegraph )
3rd January 1915 (Moore’s letters)
Our training continues apace, though fortunately it is more varied. We had rather a wearisome march past the High Commissioner and General Birdwood the other day though it was not unimpressive. The Mounteds rode past, then the Transports, Ammunition vans etc, rumbled by. Company after Company, battalion after battalion swept on in endless rhythm. It was a wonderful sight. We then immediately left camp and after marching ten perspiring miles over the desert bivouacked for the night. But, alas, for our well earned slumbers they were rudely interrupted by the shrill piercing note of the alarm. It was almost midnight but up we sprang donning the necessary equipment and rushed to the essemble. We dug ourselves into the sand on the stony slopes amid whispered orders. We realised after a couple of minutes it was all pretence.
The General had arrived and to test our skill had ordered the alarm. We were congratulated on the orderly manner and the circumspect silence in which we assembled and I really think it was well done. Some of us left camp today and went into Cairo to look at the sights. We discovered a beautiful mosque on the crest of a hill and a commanding view over the city. The building is indescribably lovely, wrought mainly in alabaster and the colouring is perfect. One can imagine a devout Mohammedan in such a temple. Nat received a cable recently informing him that his father had been created a Baronet. It is more honour, of course, being offered by a Liberal Government to so strict a Conservative.
The food we are having isn’t quite a la Shepheards, but as we are in all ways, under active conditions we cannot afford luxuries. For breakfast, bread and cheese (no butter) and occasionally jam. Then stew for lunch and what we take out of the aforesaid bread and cheese; and for tea, stew again – well, good stews though. Still we all are well on so what’s it matter! Alas, there has been some mistake in my pay as I am only receiving 1/6 per day instead of 2/0s and in consequence the financial situation is acute, especially in Cairo where many temptations are on offer. I can hang on a while while we are quartered here. I’ll be all right, as the front needs more things other than money.
12th January 1915 (Moore’s letters)
Our training is becoming more strenuous and soon we hope that we will become the hardened infantrymen who can march 25 miles a day. All last week we were confined to rifle shooting at the Abassia range about 5 miles distant, through the village of Heliopolis and across the inevitable desert. This week the programme has changed and we rise from the slothful bed at 4.30am and leave camp before 6.00am for 6 hours platoon drill that is drilling under a subaltern. I can now truthfully say that I have been in the trenches, though neither bullet nor bayonet flew in furious assault. For the first time we dug our trench this morning after 3 hours fierce excavation. It is hard and wonder when we shall dig them in earnest.
Of course, at present, Egypt is in a state of some excitement regarding British Proclamation and the succession of a Sultan, but the general feeling is of relief at the final overthrow of the Turkish yoke.
Have visited the native bazaars and have a native escort to guide us through the safe areas. The streets are about 9 feet wide and have numerous cross-legged shopmen (silent & motionless) outside their shops. These “shops“ are about 5’ deep and 3’ wide and are packed with whatever he is selling, fruit, vases, tobacco, spices or cloths. He sits in the space left of the aperture as that is all that his shop can be called - a monument of Oriental patience and inscrutability. To look at him one could imagine he has sat there amid those surroundings for 100’s of years. His forbears have, I suppose.
We passed through the lower Egyptian, the Assyrian and the Jew quarters and each was different. All were interesting but none were cheerful. Grim poverty stares at you from one corner and wild misery and squalor stares from another while vice peeps from another. Beggars are everywhere but a ½ piastre is cheap to get rid of them. Of course this is the gloomiest side of Eastern life, the gayer streets glow with colour, life and a certain gaiety. We went to see more Mosques and they are truly beautiful with their intricate mosaic tiled areas and their alabaster walls. After seeing the last of the Mosques we went to the theatre, the Kursaal, for a change of atmosphere and life. A vaudeville show it was and fortunately, un-english. There is something essentially un–english in the French theatres, naturally.
The Australians are encamped about seven miles distant from our camp but we meet them in the streets of Cairo frequently. I have become acquainted with one or two very fine chaps among them. They are fine looking men, but are different from New Zealanders somehow- more ‘hail fellow, well met’. They seem to form friendships much more frequently and they always greet us with the greatest good fellowship. In fact, the New Zealanders are treated both by fellow troops and by civilians with exceptional warmth.
Extract from NZ Herald dated 26th Feb 1915
(In H. D. Morpeth’s war scrapbook)
An excellent idea of the thorough training that the New Zealand troops in Egypt are undergoing is given by a Waihi boy in a letter to his father. “Orders have just been issued from Gen Godley to the effect that correspondents are forbidden to make any disclosures in regard to future movements and discussion of any military operations, so though this letter will not suffer for this curtailment, in future you will understand my silence on these topics“. It is reported that our previous letters have been censored and those containing information detrimental to our safety destroyed.
February 2nd – 6th 1915 (Moore’s letters)
It seems a time since I last wrote home, but censored letters weren’t worth while, and the censorship wasn’t relaxed until we returned ‘seasoned veterans from the seat of War’ on Saturday last. We were absent from Zeitoun for nearly two weeks during which time of course we nobly assisted in repelling the Turkish Advance on the Suez Canal. In fact became quite blasé warriors watching the approach of hostile shells with the utmost composure. But alas, honesty compels me to make the reluctant confession that we neither fired a shot nor bayoneted the enemy with the usual British impetuosity (though the London Daily Mail thinks otherwise, enthusiastically eulogising “the magnificent intrepidity with which the New Zealanders charged the Turkish trenches”.
This news of the enemy’s advance and the orders for our immediate departure arrived with dramatic suddenness. Nat and I, on pleasure bent, left camp about 3pm on the Monday and spent the afternoon in Cairo, quite in complacent ignorance, all unsuspecting the turn of events. Whilst devouring a luxurious Shepheard’s dinner the pickets suddenly arrived and ordered our instant departure for camp.
‘The Turks are about to attack the Canal’ were the words on excited lips and the Camp was in a state of turmoil all packing kits in a state of buzz and conjecture. At 7am the Battalion was paraded ready for eager departure though somewhat sobered by the chill of the morning and the words of Col Plugge, “Men, play the game. In all probability we will be fighting within 24 hours”. A prophecy which, you can imagine to our chagrin and disappointment, was never to be fulfilled.
We reached our new camp at the outskirts of Ismailia, which is on one of the lakes through which the Suez passes. We remained here and slumbered under ’the blue vault of heaven’ ready for a moment’s notice of action. I will not give you an account of the fighting and the failure of the Turk attack as the press will give you a better account than I am able to. The Turks, led mostly by German Officers, fought with considerable fortitude, (save many of the Syrians who discreetly but ignominiously surrendered). Their rifle fire was poor and inaccurate. They were going to use pontoon boats to cross the Canal. However some of the Turks became under the fiercest fire from a Coy. of Gurkhas. They fell in great numbers, and reinforcements dashed up and took the place of the wounded. You could not but admire such courage, could you? Evidence is, also, not wanting as to German treachery. On one occasion I can vouch for. Two Turkish trenches were under fire from a Gurkha Coy. The nearer trench in command of a German Major lifts the white flag when on approach of the unsuspecting troops the occupants of the nearer trench headed by the officer dash back while the enemy open fire from the furtherest trench. The Gurkhas, however, extracted the swiftest and bloodiest vengeance with their death-dealing Kukris. The luckless Prussian was that evening summarily court-martialed and shot.
On the banks of the Canal just south of Ismailia is a rough cross made from an oar on which is written the words “Major Hassenburg. Killed in Action 3rd Feb. 1915”. But killed in action he was not, to his dishonour. The following evening about 200 Turkish prisoners arrived in our camp. A doleful sight they were, haggard, ill-clad, many bootless and bleeding from wounds. A sorry company they looked. Whilst at Ismailia we saw a good deal of the Indian troops and fine chaps many of them are – the Sikhs especially possess a simplicity and friendless not usually associated with Orientals.
Conjecture of course is rife to our next move, England, Marseilles, Jaffa, and the historic Dardenelles being among the probables. I will be glad to leave Egypt. Tad and I spent Sunday afternoon in an anxious purchase of a few mementoes which we will be posting to you. The mails have been arriving very infrequently and erratically but fortunately got three from home last week including one from Sloan. Tad is well and is his same old self. His sense of humour affords him a good time. In fact a sense of humour is an essential ingredient to this type of life.
(The Dardenelles, Gallipoli)
(Author’s son’s note)
[Gerald (Tad), Moore, Nick and Nat all took part in the Dardenelles action and which covered by a letter home by Gerald to his parents below. This covers the leaving of Egypt for the Dardenelles in April 1915 and his thoughts from hospital when wounded on the landing on 25 April at Anzac Cove on the shores of Gallipoli.
21st May 1915 (Letter)
From First Southern hospital, Dudley Rd Section, Birmingham, England.
Dear Father & mother,
I shall write all the news since April 10 when we arrived at Alexandria about 5am. We left Cairo Friday about 10.30pm. Went aboard the big steamer the S. S. ‘Lutznow,’ captured last August from the Germans. Auckland Battalion and NZ H.Q and General Godley also on board. In all about 1800 men and a few horses. Nat & I were put on guard. I have been on guard at every seaport. Went out into the stream and finally left on Monday night. Had a good trip, not calm and not rough and arrived at Lemnos Island on Thursday morning 15th April. Next day we moved up to the head of the Harbour. Passed warships, destroyers, cruisers, torpedo boats, storeships, colliers, and submarines on the way. Mostly British, but some French and one Russian cruiser the ‘Askold’.
It was great to see so many boats together. There were aeroplanes which flew about, reminding me of Ismailia. The climate at Lemnos seemed cool (like New Zealand) after Egypt. The harbour is a good one, deep and well sheltered. A couple of villages could be seen and 25-30 windmills. The inhabitants are Greek mostly. We went ashore a number of days in the ship’s boats, and the 5th Platoon went through one of the villages. No streets and the houses are squarely built of stone, with small windows and paths running around corners and through backyards. Saw the inhabitants and the women wore sandals and the men wore boots. Tasted the wine and not at all bad.
Went out on a visit to one of the other boats one day (Queen Elizabeth) and asked if we might board. Allowed to and we talked to some of the sailors. They have sublime faith in their boat and will tackle anything in the wide world for sure. I suppose they could too. One of them had been on the ocean when their ship was hit by a mine, and another was on the ‘Irresistable’ when she went down. He was sure it was a mine as well. Saw the 15inch guns and got inside where they swing them around and fire them. It was interesting of course.
Rumours were flying around the ‘Lutzow’ constantly as to when we were leaving for the Dardenelles. We slept on the floor and fed there too. Tinned meat, biscuits, cheese, tea and jam were the rations.
Went ashore one day and Major Stuckey gave us a lecture and told us that the Turks would give no quarter and so it was no use surrendering. This meant of course that we could and would give none. We were warned not to take much notice of the white flag. By gee, we won’t.
We finally left on Sunday morning (25th April) at 1.30am. The Queen Elizabeth left before us and she did look well. The rest of the naval ships followed her. I slept on the deck by the anchor winch, which of course awoke me when the winch went. Slept till about 4am when the boom of the big guns awoke me. Could see the flash of the guns away through the hazy dawn miles and miles away and, after what seemed minutes, came the bang of the gun. It was great. Off for a scrap for sure this time. The flash looked like a thin sheet of flame and sure looked like a battle ahead. When the sun rose it was a perfect day. Sea was like a pond and through the haze you could see the gun flashes continuously. It was a great bombardment. About 100 guns going. You can’t tell what it was like. One can’t imagine it.
You have to see it. I’ll never forget it.
Away ahead of us was a yellow observation balloon moored to a ship. Turkish planes were flying around and attacking it. Trying to drop bombs one would think.
We got towards the area where we were to land about 9 am and we could see the Australians going across bare patches on the slopes ashore in open skirmishing order and a man dropping every now and then. The noise of the machine gun and rifle fire was really continuous, never slackening, so we reckoned there was something doing for sure. The 3rd Brigade (Australians) were the first to land about 4.30 am thereabouts and they got hit on the beach but did not stay there and rushed the slopes where the Turkish trenches were and took them, getting a few Turks who were there. Saw them go up the gullies and through scrub getting smacked up all the way of course with shrapnel and maxim fire. The hills had steep slopes and also the gullies looked steep sided. The scrub was green leafed so afforded good cover.
We got into barges about 10am and waited alongside for about ¾ of an hour and then we started ashore. A few bullets lobbed in the water when we got close in and we got ashore along a platform and were dry footed. Marched along the beach for about 400-500yds until the Auckland Battalion all got there. Waited about 20mins (two men hit by shrapnel) and then marched back along the beach for 300-400yds and then up a track. The slopes are almost on the beach and are steep. Rested on the way and took off our packs and then went on up. On the top of a slope there was about a half acre area where the Australians were entrenched. Lay down behind them and the bullets fairly flew over us and struck the earth about us. Then we went to the right down a gully and across on a slant to the other side. We were told that the 5th Platoon or 6th Coy were to reinforce the firing line away at the top of the gully. It was a long gully and we had to walk on the steep side of it most of the way. Could hear the bullets of rifle fire singing over our heads.
Nick set a good pace and 5th Platoon found it hard to keep up. They gradually dwindled till we got onto the top and worked our way along, crouching a bit, looked around and there were only seven of us, Nick, Nat, Tonto, Coakley, Fawcett, Cooper and myself. (The others gradually arrived about 20mins later). We seven worked up the firing line and Nick was looking through his glasses and crouching. He had exposed himself a bit and I had got onto him about it and Frank Fawcett had spoken about it too. Nick muttered something that he would keep down.
He was looking ahead and he got ‘it’. He jumped in the air, turned around and came down half sitting, half on his back. I must say I thought he was gone. I was next but one to him on his right and I got to him at once. I spoke to him as to where he was hit and he said through the arm. It was his left. I cut his sleeve away and shirt shoulder too. He told us where the sniper was that had fired and an Australian further along shouted that he had got him. Don’t know whether it was true. Nick took it well. It was a fair sized wound and the arm was broken. I bandaged him up with a field dressing issued us and went back into a Turkish trench about 70 yards to our left rear.
Just then Sgt/Major Rogers came along with some men and was calling for Nick. I told him Nick was hit. When dressing Nick, Nat raised himself up and asked ”How is it?” and he got a bullet in the right breast, grunted as a wounded man does and rolled over onto his face. I called out to Tonto that Nat was hit and told him to dress him.
Rogers asked how far away the firing line was and I told him. He told me to go down the gully and bring up reinforcements. I went away down. (All the time bullets were singing and snapping over and around us all. The Turks believe in letting plenty of it out on the wing. The rattle of the Maxims was continuous.) I arrived at the bottom and found a Canterbury Battalion Lieutenant and about 20 men. I told him and we went back up to the line meeting Cooper who was hit in the arm or shoulder. Found that Rogers had been shot dead while I was away. Nat had not been dressed, (probably refusing to have it touched). The line was too hot to hold and there was some talk of retiring.
I went to Nick who was in the trench and told him. He said he could walk all right he thought. Then two Australians came along, both hit, and the three of them went away together, Nick leading them. You see, if we retired past the trench and the Turks got Nick that would have been the end of him.
I went back to the line and talked to the Canterbury Lieut and his Sergeant and we reckoned we could not hold it. Personally, I think we could hold it, but it would pay us to come back about 50yds and we had a clearer patch ahead and we would see them if they tried to sneak across. The Turks were only 50 to 100yds ahead, and the Machine gun further back of course. Anyway we decided to come back a bit. I said to the Lieut. “Let me have a minute’s start to get this man away“ (meaning Nat). I asked Nat how he felt and he said “not too good“ and asked me if I could see where the bullet had come out. There was blood on his right side and back, about level with his heart, but I could not see where the bullet had come out, though I told him I could. I asked him if he could crawl and he reckoned not.
The line there was just at the top edge of a slight slope, so if we could get 12 or 14yds we would be out of sight of the closer Turks. I told Nat to crouch all he could. We got up and had gone about a yard when Nat stumbled to the right and forwards out of my arms and grunted “Out“ and fell stumbling onto his face and rolled onto his back. I took a step towards his head and I “got it“. It was just to the left of the pit of the stomach. I pressed both hands on to it hard and sat down by Nat’s head. I spoke to Nat and as I looked a film came into his eyes, so I thought he was gone. I spoke to him several times, but he never moved or spoke.
I must say that I thought I was settled as the doctors told us what a bullet in the stomach would do. I thought we would go out together and I remember saying something to that effect. I sat there probably a minute and asked the Lieut. and Sergeant (Canterbury Battalion) if they would bring Nat along. This they promised to do, that is, if he was still alive. If dead they would naturally have to leave him. I went down the slope and met Black & Shergold of the 6th. We looked at “it” and found it more to the left than it felt, so I reckoned it might have missed trouble, in fact thought it quite a good chance. I felt pretty well and moved off down the slope and met Pearse (from my section) and he helped me down all the way. Had some spells on this road and met a few who had not got up to the line yet. It was warm sure enough up there. Shrapnel was very thick all day and did a fair amount of damage. They kept dropping it up and down the gullies and ridges and did a fair amount of damage on the beach, which was fairly well sheltered by the steep slopes at the back. There were snipers in the scrub behind the firing line covered over with earth with just an opening in front and these did a fair amount of damage. I arrived at the bottom of the gully where I knew there was a doctor, but he would not say anything about “it “but told me to get on a stretcher.
I was taken to the beach about dark and the first gun went by drawn by mules and the crowd of wounded raised a cheer. Gee, it would be welcomed up there. Only those who had been up there would know how welcome. All day the guns from the ships had done a lot of shooting and some good work. They had hit some Turks and no mistake. We lay on the beach for a while and the shrapnel hit the barge several times, but we were under cover.
The hospital ships were full so we were put onto the City of Benares.
That’s all that happened to me that day.
When on the stretcher Frank Fawcett came up to me and sat on the sand. (He was hit in three places, arm, face and shoulder I think.) So Nick, Nat, Cooper, Fawcett and self were hit out of that bunch of seven which got up to the firing line first. I saw nothing of Moore after leaving the beach. He would follow Lt. Dodson of course. (Both killed that day.) You have seen the casualty lists of course so know how we got hit up. It was a great day and I am sure that those in charge would have no complaint to make as far as the pluck of the Australians and New Zealanders was concerned. I have told you what happened and that I thought, pretty fully, as I know it will be of interest. I can’t say I felt frightened and I don’t think I was excited. I was fairly sure I may get hit, as they were coming too thick to escape and I hoped it would not be in a joint or the stomach. I never even fired a shot at them, as with fixing Nick and Nat and getting reinforcements, I was busy all the time. I put some of our men in position in the line, as when Nick wounded and Rogers killed I was in charge of some of the line. Nat was not excited and laughed and talked as usual when under fire. He said several times that morning that no Turkish bullet could get him.
Memories of Hospitals (Diary)
“I was wounded on 25th April 1915 at the Landing on Gallipoli. Further in from the beach to the right of the Apex. Was hit on the left side about level with the hip. Felt as if someone had hit me with a riding whip, a real stinging effect. Sat down, felt all around for the hole where bullet came out. No sign but am bleeding. Did not like that. Looked bad. Looked at the sun, which was about an hour off setting, and thought “We’ll go out with the sun“. Had been given lectures by the doctors that 95 % of stomach wounds were fatal. Thought of Mother, Father and the boys back home and was sorry for them, but not particularly for myself. It was as if I had lost a toss for 1 Pound. Shock, excitement and since then I have never had much fear of death and have lost my ‘boyish’ terror of it. Sat there for 6-8 mins and made my way to the beach, holding my arms across my belly, for it felt as if it needed support. Met Col McBean Stewart of the 1st Canterbury Battalion and he asked how I was. I told him I can walk still and told him where the line was, and went.
Saw Major Bayley 15th Coy. (Col Stewart was killed a few minutes later; Bayley was killed about 2 weeks later on 9th May). Saw Hector Cameron, Dittmer and others of 6th Coy and MG Section. Saw Purchas, Watson, 2nd Lt. Frater (who died of wounds 30 April). Got sniped at on way to the beach but untouched. Got over a large crest above the beach and saw Doctor. He would not look at me but I had a rest and then I got on a stretcher but they dropped me when fired on. I walked on and the bearers came after me and I got back on the stretcher and then to the beach. There were plenty of wounded there. Lying on a stretcher when Fawcett from 2 Section came up. He had been hit in the arm and face and all bandaged. Wrote questions in the sand and I answered and vice versa. I was stiff by now. All those who could move were to get on boats and barges so I made Frank go. Finally lifted onto a barge (some shrapnel about the beach a few were hit on the barge).
No ship would take us. A Navy Officer in a Launch came up and said that all available boats were to return at once to the Beach. (Landing a failure and an Evacuation I thought.) At last an Australian transport took us aboard. I was the first from the barge in a sling and the troops on board were interested in what was happening. I was put on a bunk first inside the door. Troops came in but were chased out. One Aussie admired my boots and I said he could have them so he did. I found out that the bullet had gone through a round Capstan tobacco tin and they wanted that but I said it was mine. However, it somehow disappeared.
Questions were mainly what it was like ashore, many hurt, etc? I said it was not very bad and a few were hurt, but another wounded in a bunk said there were ” hundreds killed and wounded and it was hell.”
The shock had paralysed my bladder muscles and I could not make water. This was the worst continuous pain I have ever had. Doctor came in at last and stirred me up for not asking for him before. He put a catheter down and what a relief. Eight hours later an orderly put one down but it hurt a bit. After that it was normal.
Stayed on this ship, (Itonas or City of Benares). The Hun battleship ‘Goeben’ was near and shelled us from across the Straits. I was put on another ship and onto Alexandria. Jackson (in our section) was wounded through the hand and was good to me on board. Lay on a mess table about waterline. Some of others were on the floor. Some Turks (20-40) wounded were in one corner of the mess. Next to me was a Bluejacket with his leg off. I remember an Indian with a bloody bandaged head crawling along with a knife with a mad look in his eyes to deal with the Turks, but someone yelled and a crowd took him away. I was sick on the floor by the Bluejacket after yelling for a basin. Curdled blood I expect. Looked like poultice stuff. Bleeding internally I supposed. I was in a bit of a stupor. I heard the Bluejacket say once that he won’t last long and I turned over and said “I’m all right Jack” and he looked a bit sheepish. I apologised for being sick near him.
Got to Alexandria on Friday 29th April (I think! Funny how you lose track of time when hurt). Jackson of my Section was good to me. Used to wash up my face and chest and I think I absorbed water. I had nothing to drink as I was frightened of the hole that I knew was in my stomach or intestine. Doctor used to come around I expect every day.
He certainly expected me to die for one day he said “let me have a look at it”. He tapped away where it was sore and found the bullet under the skin in the muscle on the right side. He was pleased and so was I. He shook my hand and said that I would be all right. There were about 420 wounded onboard and with four doctors who were very busy. 2nd Lieut Westmacott from 3rds was on the next bunk for a while. We chatted about the action and wondered if it went as expected. I got off the boat on a stretcher at last and lay in the sun. It was good. Some 2nd Brigade ( Otago Mounteds ) came and talked to me. I made light of it. It was no good scaring them. They would learn soon enough.
Got onto an Ambulance at last with three others near sunset. I was last to be unloaded and the little Tommie driver got into a turmoil as he could not find the right camp for me. He unloaded me by a Hospital but would not leave me. I was put on the floor of the Chapel I think. There were about 20 others as well. The Tommie driver left us then. It was about 7pm. No attention and no one came until about 6am. An Aussie nurse came to the door and her face blanched. I said, “You don’t look pleased to see us nurse”. She came over and asked how we were and the less critical wounded like myself said “Look after the others, they need attention“. I was in no real pain and not eating or drinking. The others were bleeding, etc, and needed attention. Thousands of flies!
A little Tommie nurse in a blue hospital dress took drinks around and did good work.
A well dressed flash 1st Lieut. came in and inspected us and it was obvious he did not like the look or the smell of us. He was going out when I called out and he came back to me. “Aren’t you going to do something for some of us? “ I said. I pointed to the chap next to me with a hole in his chest and trying to breathe with 100’s of flies on him. He turned around and walked out. The Aussie nurse did her very best at times and also the little Tommie nurse did well. Next day was Tuesday. The same Officer came back and took the names of those that could talk except mine and said.
“All those whose names I have taken get ready to go on the hospital ship for England and looked at me in triumph. (He was much the worst Hospital Officer I had ever experienced and never again did I meet or hear of such a man. He wore RAMC badges but may not have been a Doctor, but a normal human being would have done more. I never saw him again and it will be a long time before I will abate my loathing of him.) I had never thought of England. Thought of Nick and other wounded in Egypt. However I made up my mind I was going to England.
Later about 3pm stretchers on wheels came up to the door outside and those for England were called for. Some got out. Some were helped. I tried to get up but could not. Sat on the floor with my back to the wall and could not get up. Nurse came in and said “You are not on the list for England! “ I said, “I’m going“. I then looked at her hard and said that Australia would not let NZ down. She said “Of course not“. She swooped down and got me about the shoulders and got me up and across to the door where I hung onto the jamb. She said “Don’t let on I helped you“. I promised and she fled. I wish I knew her name. Never saw her again.
(Hospital Ship Ghurka)
Stretcher came and off I went to the wharf and the Hospital ship “ Ghurka ”. Still no food or drink. I was put in a ward near the stern of the ship. There was about 50 of us. All sorts. McKinney from 7th Section 6th Hauraki Coy was there and Aussies, NZ and 29 Division. A little Aussie told me he had not been ashore since wounded. That night one man called all night. Nothing would stop him. In the morning a tall Irishman (Dr Ross) came in. He said that the ship belonged to the Indian Army and all staff were Indian Medical Service. He then said, “Who is the worst man here? “ We pointed out the man that yelled all night. When the Doctor questioned him he said he had a hole in his back. Looked there. Nothing ! Took his pyjamas off and not a mark could be found! “Shell shock“ someone said and I had not heard of this expression before.
Major Ross did us good. When he came to me he was interested when I told him that I had not had anything to eat or drink since the previous Sunday week. (This was Wednesday). He said I could have something but not too much. At lunch I had some meat and potatoes and drank some milk. Saw Malta through a porthole and passed Gibraltar and saw (I think) the Channel Islands. Was operated on ship using a local anaesthetic (cocaine I think) and they got the bullet out. Now a memento for home. The bullet was imbedded in the muscle and quite hard to get out.”
16th May 1915 (diary)
“Arrived in Southampton Sunday 16th May. On Hospital train and stopped at Cheltenham. There were six of us in a compartment. Did not have much money. We counted about 2/2 with most of it from a Tommie. There were three Aussies, two NZers and the Tommie. The Red Cross girl gave up a cup of tea but would not take any money, which was a surprise. First we had heard of the Red Cross. As we were travelling along everyone who saw the train waved at once as it was marked with the ‘Red Cross ‘ on the carriages.
Arrived in Birmingham and so to Hospital. Got into the Hall to the Office. On the way met a tall man with a beard. “How are you, Morpeth?“ I said I was fine. He said, “Do you know who I am?” “Oh, I know your face and have met you somewhere but I cannot remember your name.“ He was offended and said that he was the High Commissioner of NZ and ex-Prime Minister. He seemed indignant that a private soldier could not remember his name. I turned aside and left him. I was annoyed at him. However a nice girl seized my arm and grinned in my face. “How are you? Now don’t be angry at him, he is my father and fathers are funny sometimes.”
She sure took the sting out of it.
Placed in Ward A4. Held 40 beds I think. About 26 Aussies and NZers and the rest British. The hospital held about 2500 beds or more perhaps. Ex Workhouse inmates turned out and turned into Hospital and I think the Staff sort of stayed. Sisters and Matron were bites. Junior Staff were not too bad but Seniors led the Juniors and us patients a poor life. They were scared of Colonials. No idea how to treat us. A4 Ward probably the worst in the place. I suppose the other Wards are similar to wounded soldiers. Our Head Sister had a mania for tidiness. No books, papers, games etc were allowed. Everything had to be neat. Bed castors all had to be pointed the same way. Made us feel that we were continuously on parade. Dick Kemp of Wgtn Battalion was in it. He was the grandson of William Kemp, whaling captain in the early 1800’s who married a Maori Chief’s Daughter. He thrilled the Ward patients and nurses with tales of scalping and death dances, telling all that he and I were foster brothers as my father had captured him as a small boy taking fruit from stalls and brought him home . We had grown up together and had come to the war together. He was a born storyteller, tall, dark and good looking. “
(Letter to home)
I wrote to Nat’s father Sir Robert Williams that I had been invalided here and asked if he had had any word of Nat. I had written to him from Alexandria and asked if he had got it. He wired back that he did not receive my letter and would come and see us. He came last night the same day he got my 2nd note. I have promised to visit him as soon as I can. Lady Williams will want to see me as well of course.
Men keep coming and going in the Ward. Some Regulars who had come over on the “ Gurkha ” went yesterday and their places were at once filled with men from the front in France. They seem satisfied with the position in France. They say the German Infantry is much inferior to ours and they won’t stand the bayonet. Our aircraft are better but the German Artillery is more effective than ours at the present time but they say there is not much in it. They reckon it will be all over in a month or two. To me this seems rot and they say that there is a charge every day now and then and that they are gaining all the time. Of course it would be a good thing if the Germans were smacked up but I would like to get back to the Dardenelles.
In the room is a 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlander one side, 4th Batt. Cameron Highlander the other and an Irish Guard (O’Leary V.C is in this as well). Two other Haurakis, one from Hawkes Bay part Maori, one Otago, one Auckland 3rd, 7 or 8 Australians, Worcester, 4th Dragoons, Highland Light Infantry, Sherwoods, Bedfords, are all here. One man has a Prussian guard helmet, another a shell case and others have cartridges and odd curios from the front. They have contempt for the German Infantry, reckon they beat them everywhere.
22nd May 1915
The Doctor came this morning and put me down for a convalescent hospital so I shall be moving soon. I think this is all the news to date. Keep addressing letters as usual and I’ll get them sometime. Love to all at Whareruru and give my regards to Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, Gauvain, Noko, Bill, Shorty, Mr Brown and the rest of the ‘Waiheathens.’
18th June 1915 England
(Note from Author’s son)
A page from the Bridehead News dated 18 June gives an account of the MemorialService for Mr. John Nathaniel Williams (Nat) held at Littlebredy in Dorset, England.
“The news of the death of Mr. John Nathaniel Williams, elder son and heir of Col. Sir Robert Williams has caused widespread regret and sympathy, especially in West Dorset, which his esteemed father has so popularly represented in Parliament for many years. Mr J N Williams was born in 1878 and went out to New Zealand about four years ago and on the outbreak of war enlisted in the Hauraki Company of the Auckland Regiment. He had been recommended for a Lieutenant’s commission in a home regiment but instead of waiting in Egypt till it reached him preferred to sail with the Expeditionary Force to the Dardanelles. The NZders were employed to reinforce the Australians in the landing at Gaba Tepe on 25 April. He was among the first seven to reach the firing line – five out of the seven being killed or wounded in a very short time.
Amongst those present in the congregation…………Private Gerald Morpeth (a great friend of Mr. Nat Williams, who joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at the same time and was wounded in attempting to save Mr. William’s life, endeavouring to carry the latter away from the firing line after being wounded.)
(Nat’s younger brother Phillip, later Sir Phillip, became very close friends with my father and I recall in the mid-1950’s when I was a teenager that my father looked forward to a letter from Sir Phillip every month and I wondered what it was all about. My father explained that when he was on leave in England after recuperating from wounds he had been to see Nat’s family at Bridehead in West Dorset. That was the start of a friendship he formed with Sir Philip as a result of Nat’s death. He and Sir Philip wrote to each other on the 1st of each month from 1919; a span of almost 40 years until Sir Philip passed away in 1958 and the kinship was broken. I also wondered why my 2nd name was Philip as there was no ‘Philip’ in our family line. Father explained that I was named after his older brother Allan and his very good friend Sir Philip Williams)
(There is no more to this part of the Diary for some reason. Father recuperated and was sent back to Gallipoli in September 1915.
Return to ANZAC Cove
(Written and sent to his father, Christmas 1915)
6th Sept 1915
“Dear Whareruru “
Left Lemnos yesterday (Sunday) on Prince Abbas about 4pm and arrived at Anzac Cove at about 10pm. The shore was fairly well lit up on the slopes and a Bluejacket on board said that things were quiet on shore except for a shot every 2 seconds or so and an occasional bomb!! Some bullets whizzed over our heads and lobbed into the sea. Got ashore at about 11pm and the NZers and Australians of the 4th Brigade came around from the left about a mile or a shade more in a big winding trench all the way to greet us. The water looked as if an occasional swell might upset us but one soon gets accustomed to it.
Met Tom Haszard (relation) who is attached to the Ammunition column. He did not see brother Nick as father’s letter had said? He thinks Nick lost his arm. Wilf Morpeth (cousin) saw Hospital records and told Tom that Nicks arm is off. Corporal Brooks of 6th Coy saw Nick on 5 June and he still had his arm then.
Sure Tom is wrong!!
9th September 1915
Came up to the Apex on the 8th. About 2,400 yards in and uphill we connect with the Australians and then with the Tommies. Australians on our right and Tommies on our left. Some of the Tommies no good. I am in the trench now - support trench. In the firing trench for 24 hrs and then back to the support trench for 24 hrs. Shots come over all the time, but I suppose one has to get used to it. Had a fair sized shrapnel scrap yesterday afternoon but no damage much that I know of. Bombs or hand-grenades kick up a bit of a fuss. It’s a hard life. Dust in the food. Had fresh meat today. First fresh meat for 5 weeks. Also 2 eggs and Indian style mince. Malcolm Ross and General Godley saw it dished out so the New Zealand papers will know about it I suppose.
11th September 1915
We appear to have more guns than ’Johnny Turk’ which is a dashed good job. Lt Dittmer, Cameron and Forrest have been away sick, not wounded as reported. The flies are dammable! I only know 14 Haurakis here since landing on Sunday. The explosions of shrapnel or a bomb near one gives me a funny prickly feeling on the skin; hands chiefly. The Turk from all I hear here is a clean fighter. This is the general opinion among NZders. Sniped at yesterday afternoon whilst I was on firewood detail in the open.
Not worth the risk I reckon.
I say it again. The flies are awful!!
In the previous trench the Auckland Battalion was in action continuously for 18 days from what I hear. Boots of course never came off and never a wash. One likes to hear our shells screaming over. ‘Johnny Turk’ gets a working over then. The salt lake is dried up. We are well above the sea. About 900 to 1100 feet I reckon. There is talk of the NZders getting a spell at Lemmos. Too many sick. It’s a hard life in the trenches. Broken sleep all the time.
A shrapnel burst and caught our sandbags the other morning and knocked two of the bags onto the chalkboard lying at my feet. (They weigh about 60 – 70 lb each). I got covered in sand and stones. I thought I was hit but wasn’t. Tonto Mailor is now Lc\pl and acting Sergeant now Brooks is away. I am also acting Cpl. Hector Cameron is Acting Platoon Sergeant. I am next to him. He was reported killed but not a scratch so far. Allan Cooper is Sergeant- Major. Clive is away sick. Went for a swim and when coming back got sniped at. It is not a nice feeling at all. It was from 1500 yards but he never touched anyone although only a few feet away sometimes.
14th September 1915
Came down about ¾ mile from the Apex. The NZ Brigade is off for a rest. I tossed with another man who should stop behind and I won so I go. I would rather stay with the Coy than stay with a bunch of strangers. The Australian 25th & 28th Battalions took our places. Fine looking lot of men. The second night in the fire trench the sandbag parapet came down and Hector Cameron and I had to put them back up. Took about 2-3hrs but we got very few shots at us in the dark. Could not pick where we were working I suppose. One afternoon in the fire-trench we received a decent bombardment but not a man was hit. In the other trench there were 3 or 4 men hit. The bombs are bad, shrapnel, rifle and Maxim fire cannot get you in a good trench but a bomb in a trench is bad. Best scheme is to put an overcoat or sack over the bomb and jump away and lie flat as quick as you can. The Aussies who took our place have had a few casualties.
Got sniped at again when out after firewood. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to get bullets about you when not excited or in the heat of the battle. Got sniped at also when we went for another swim. They must have a rifle trained on the flat ground we have to cross to go for a swim. In the gully here we are safe unless a sniper got in but he would soon be marked down. Bullets whine overhead and plunk into the gully bank where no one goes of course. Shells roar or whine overhead from both sides.
Have seen some German aeroplanes but they have not dropped any bombs lately. Just across the gully is where the Otago Battalion is holding some prisoners. Can see their bivouacs but can’t go there as we would be sniped at most industriously.
The beach is well lit up at night. The hospital ship also. Received some Weekly bulletins all addressed to Moore (killed on first day landing 25 April) and passed onto me as next of kin. Also two letters addressed to Moore from Sloan.
One can hear the roll of artillery down at Achi Baba. The trench 75’s have a great name. The NZ Brigade are a hard lean coppery lot. The food is better lately but they have had a hard time nearby.
All alive still. Some of the Haurakis have had no socks or boots off for 23 to 30 days. That’s murder you know.
Fancy living in a 7 to 8ft ditch about 20 inches wide at the bottom and say about 40 inches at the top and men with gear and equipment on? Rifle periscopes, Rifles and Ammo all take up an unholy amount of space in a trench like that. The Turks are about 250yds away on one side and about 70yds in front. There are not many Haurakis here. All been wounded bar a very lucky few and a good number still away sick.
I have not had a fresh water wash since coming ashore 2 weeks ago but one must get used to that.
(Back to Lemnos for rest)
22nd September 1915
Left Anzac Cove last Wednesday to travel for rest to Lemnos. Had a wearisome march down to the beach at Anzac with gear including the bag with the bulletins. Mustn’t lose them. Got there and anchored by the Aquitania, now a hospital ship.
Got off onto shore near the place. A great boat that looked well and we practiced disembarking from the Lutzgow. No food as I thought I had some biscuits but found that I had none. Had a long tramp and all very tired. Had eggs and a bottle of stout each so life took a rosier tinge. Have not much work here and are getting a rest sure enough at present. The men are lean, tired and brown and a little tired still.
The Hauraki parade is about 20 or 25 strong. About 38-40 in Coy and scores away sick. All the Coys are the same. The Haurakis have led the Auckland Battalion at the landing and at Cape Helles and again at the left of the Apex, which was part of the Suvla Bay affair.
General Godley inspected us yesterday and said that he was proud to command us, and that we would be back in a month. The Brigade is about as strong numbers wise as the Battalion was in the old days. It has had a bad time and no mistake.
I met Wilf Morpeth from the Wgtn Battalion (5th Reinforcements). They had a hard time at the Suvla Bay affair; rushed straight into it. Walter Greenslade (cousin) died there. The machine gun crowd tried to hold a trench when the Tommies retired! ! and got all killed bar three. He was in the machine-gun section. Died well, didn’t they.
The 3rds and 6th Coys sleep together in one marquee about 30ft by 16ft. Can’t get away from the thought of how we got smacked up. We got good food, bacon, eggs, tea, jam, bread and butter once. Still given a bottle of stout every night. The Australians are also here bar the 3rd Brigade, which made the great landing at dawn. They have had an easy time out on the right of our Anzac position the last 2 or 3 months so they don’t need a rest like the other Brigades.
Rumours fly around the camp as usual that the Italians or Rumanians or Bulgarians are coming as Turkish reinforcements but I’m not swallowing any of this. The Greeks do a good business around the camp in grapes, chocolate, biscuits, eggs etc.
30th September 1915
Still at Lemnos. Should have written before this. Some days ago a policeman rode by and spoke to the green hawkers and went his way. They then jumped up and down excitedly. It appears that orders were out for the mobilization of the Greek army. The Bulgars were also immobilizing. We know nothing more although there are now fewer hawkers.
The food has deteriorated. Now only rice, bully beef, some bacon, and sour bread. Still, we buy a good deal of tinned fruits and fish which keep us going. No liquor procurable and the stout issue has died. The 6th reinforcements came yesterday. Haines a young chap recognised me. I don’t remember him much. Very faint recollection. He saw Nick who seemed to be all right. Don’t know any of the others from Waihi. Not much personal mail arriving.
We have only 3 platoons now. 5th not going now. 6th platoon has Hector Cameron in charge. I’m 2IC with only 11 of us now. 7th platoon has Tonto Mailor in charge. 8th platoon has George Tuck in charge. Major Allen arrived with reinforcements. Understand that all those left of the NZ Brigade at Anzac & The Apex are coming over here for a rest. (Some torn and tatty pages now unable to be read as water stained)
12th November 1914
Got this book out of my kit bag that was in the Pack store. On October 3rd I came over to the Australian No 3 Hospital for about a week or 10 days. I had been feeling unwell and this morning I felt very seedy. Then I found that I was Battalion Orderly Cpl. for the day, which was more than I could bear so I went on sick parade. Went to see the doctor with the rest of the sick. There were murmurs aplenty when they saw which doctor was on duty as he had stirred some of the group up previously and was looked upon as a hard man. He was alright to me. Took my temperature, looked me over and said something about hospital. I said I would be alright if he just put me off duty for the day so I could lie down on my tent stretcher. I tried to talk him over in a tired sort of way. I must have been struggling to try and put on my shirt as he said that I was the sickest looking man that he had seen for days, which would have been highly comforting had I believed him, which I did not for a second.
Well, we got our kit bags filled with our toilet gear and had to walk about a mile and then a Red Cross motor met you. I missed out on this one and I’m dammed if we didn’t have to wait 3 hours for the next motor. It was a very hot day and when I finally got to the hospital (after lying in the sun) my temperature was way up. We were allotted to different tents and I remember lying down fully dressed on one bed and then having to shift onto another. Then I remember an Australian orderly to whom I gave away my hat badge on condition that he cut all my buttons off and uniform badges (so the RAMC or AMC could not steal them). He agreed to my wishes. I don’t remember anything else for days.
I was placed in a ward for soldiers who had Enteric Fever (Typhoid) so now I know what was the matter with me. I was delirious and no mistake so the nurses and Matron tell me. I badly wanted to get out of there and back to the Coy, and I used to race out of the tent when possible and be brought back by the orderlies (so they tell me). Funny that you remember some happenings and not others. There were eight in the tent and all very ill except two who were not as bad as the rest of us. Three died in about a week but I didn’t know when thank goodness.
The tent was looked on as the worst in the hospital. There were six of us all silly and delirious and we all had special orderlies. One sister I could not bear and I spoke severely to her one day. The other men roared with laughter about it. The matron was very good to me then and continued so. Brings me books and books are scarce here. She tells us that we race about outside in our shirt tails when we are delirious! I’m feeling better now and able to take short trips to the mainland.
The matron and I used to visit a little village about 5 miles from the Russian- German fighting front. Could hear the guns and men were galloping by and motors racing back and forwards from the front. Another time we went to a fair sized town and tried to buy a long dagger from an old man at the entrance to the village. He would only barter and not accept any currency at all, irrespective whose it was. I managed to get the long dagger (can’t remember what I traded but probably some Army supplies), a memento for me after all this is over.
14th November 1915
There has nothing personally important since coming into hospital. Tonto and Cameron used to come by from the camp and bring papers. On the 9th the NZ Brigade went back. They had more than a month’s spell but the windy weather prevented the troops landing hence the longer spell.
The 2nd Australian Brigade went off this morning. They have been in isolation as some of them had diphtheria. About a week ago a rumour went around that Kitchener was coming out here and then a couple of days later he was here. He inspected the Australians and others I expect. I did not see him. We know no war news at all practically. The British and French landed early last month in Greece and gave the Bulgars a smacking. We never heard a thing of it. The Germans, about 300,000, are smashing their way through Serbia. Is Kitchener out here to take command or just to do an inspection? Who knows?
I don’t think much will be going on at Gallipoli. All efforts will be concentrated to stop the Germans. Perhaps I am all wrong about the Peninsula. It’s funny having it so close and not hearing anything from it. You, in NZ, will probably know more than us.
Tent now contains Cunniliffe (York), Sturman (Essex), Bryce (Gloucester) and some others from the British units. I can’t quite decide, but I think I would rather have my stomach wound again than have this Enteric Fever. The thirst is unimaginable from the fever. Still delirious. Probably I am wrong in this as the recovery from enteric has confused me.
16th November 1915
Nothing of interest lately. No war news. Rumour has it that 1,000’s of fresh men are expected here for the Balkan fight. I believe the NZers went back to Anzac although some thought they would end up in the Balkans. Lemnos has certainly undergone a change since April last before the landings at Gallipoli. There are 1,000’s of tents for the hospitals that now cover the green fields that we tramped over in April last. It is now very brown whereas it was green before. The villagers have prospered naturally. Couple of Greek canteens as well as our Red Cross one which sells goods much cheaper and this keeps the Greeks honest. The Hospital ships come and go 2 or 3 times each day. Some days there will be 5 or 6.
Other big troop transports flit in and out continuously. From here we can see the harbour well. There are Australian, Canadian and British hospitals here, and of course camps for convalescing. I would not be surprised if I was sent to one of these camps as some of the ‘enterics’ have already gone. Cunniliffe and I will probably go together. We came in together.
18th November 1915
Still at Lemnos. Have had a couple of very windy days although the weather on the whole is good decidedly. Getting cold at nights. The Matron in Chief of the Hospitals is here to inspect the hospitals this morning. An Australian named Lumstein is about the same age as myself. He & I agree on politics in Australia. He is a better read man than most soldiers. A bee farmer from Victoria.
Life is sure monotonous. Eggs and porridge have been off for 3 weeks or more. Jam, bread and honey get boring. We are all looking forward to the Aquitania coming in to get us away somewhere. The talk in the tent is very childish and too trivial for words. Lumstein is a good sort. He and I are the only two in the tent who want to get back and not keep away from the firing line. If the men we have in the tent are true samples of England’s soldiers then God help England. The more I see of the Colonial the less I think of the lower class Englishman given that these here are true to life. They can’t be.
20th November 1915
The Aquitania came in yesterday afternoon. We ought to move soon. She sure dwarfs the other ships. Someone said that she, the Mauritania and the Olympic are smaller sister ships to the Titanic which sunk before the war after striking an iceberg. They must be bigger than the Aquitania.
(Aboard Hospital Ship Aquitania)
24th November 1915
On 21st we received orders to be ready at 8.30am to go aboard the Aquitania. We went down to the south pier and got aboard by barge and after 3-4 hours we were ordered off and back to hospital. It was blowing a gale and the talk was that it was too rough to go out. Next day it was still blowing hard so we stayed in the tents. We got aboard yesterday and more are arriving all the time. The ‘enterics’ are towards the stern in C deck. The ship is well fitted out as a Hospital ship. Everything is white and green where we are. We are in isolation and must stay in our own patch so I won’t be able to wander around and look at the whole ship. The Olympic, which is big with four long funnels, has just gone up the harbour; 1000’s of troops on board. More machine-gun fodder someone said.
Morgan of 6th Haurakis is aboard and just saw Perc Grant go by and hailed him. His grin was great. McLean who used to be a schoolteacher in Waihi is here. Glad that Perc is here. Lumstein of the 5th Austs Reg is in a bunk near me. Cunniliffe, Starman and Byrne are away a little which is a blessing. This boat carries about 3,000 patients. There are 1,044 beds on this deck. The food promises well. I am very hungry these days.
27th November 1915
Left Lemnos yesterday about 12.30pm. There was about the same amount of shipping in the harbour as in April last. The Aquitania seems to be about the same as the Mauritania in size. About 15,000- 18,000 tons; makes no difference to me. She moves at good rate faster at night than during the day. She went hard astern at about 1am this morning. We were fairly close to land. All the islands we pass look all the same with the dry brown appearance as Lemnos, all part of the Greek Archipelago.
No war news that can be verified but plenty of rumours abound. Found Riki Rogers on board so that makes 4 from the 6th Haurakis so far; Perc, Rees, Morgan and myself. There seem to be any amount of colonials on board. None of us have any idea how we all contacted enteric fever. Been working our way through a fair size gale ever since leaving Lemnos.
Get patches of sun. Believe we are on the way to Naples to refill with coal. Came right around the bottom of Sicily and not through the Straits of Messina where the big earthquake was some years ago. The food is better. Plenty of jam, bread, butter and tea. The meat is a shade on the scarce side. The Tommies (some of them) way of eating with us astonish one. They think only of themselves at a table. Just remembered that George’s birthday is today, or is it tomorrow?
28th November 1915
Got into Naples last night at about 6pm. Cold wind down off the land. Could see Mt. Vesuvius against the sky. Today we are coaling. The famed Naples harbour is not really a harbour at all, more like a small bay. It has good attributes, having Vesuvius on one side and a castle topped hill on the other, and I would have no doubt that on a sunny day the blue Mediteranean on one side that it will look splendid. It is calm here, just a slight breeze. It has a breakwater, which in a southerly gale would leave boats on a lee shore. We are still coaling and no one is allowed ashore. The Mauritania arrived an hour ago and is slowly coming inside the breakwater. She is a big ship with plenty of troops aboard. It seems a long time ago since I sailed with her to the front 2 months ago after my wounding in the April landings. The trading boats are alongside selling trinkets, postcards etc.
29th November 1915
We left Naples at 7.30 am this morning. Could see the red glare over the crater at the top of Vesuvius. The buildings of Naples seem to be mostly square blocks of buildings of white stone. Looked well in the sunlight.
1st December 1915
Mother’s birthday! Sent her a telegram from the boat, but expect it will not arrive. Arrived at Gibralter this morning about 8am. The Rock looked well. Weather fine and warm. Coming south from Naples the snow topping the Pyrenees gives the impression of cold weather coming. Left Gibralter after about an hour. The Straits look about 3 miles wide, probably more. We may get a dusting in the Bay at this time of year. She rolls a little in the beam sea. There are now over 3,800 patients, 300 naval orderlies, 600 stewards and about 1,000 crew so there are any amount aboard. We have about 15-20 elevators on the ship and there is no vibration except at the stern for about 250 ft. Amidships you would not know that you weren’t in a building. There seems to be enough boats, collapsible and otherwise, and rafts to take us all in case of an accident. I know we couldn’t all get off except if we had a quiet sea and at least 2-3 hours to disembark.
2nd December 1915
We are in the Bay of Biscay with a half a gale astern. The seas lift her a bit and she has a long slow roll. We get into Southampton tomorrow as far as we know. Passed several tramps tossing the sea skywards with their noses. Slowed by a destroyer last night. Some signaling done and then we proceeded again. Some of us seasick. Had fine food on this boat so far. When the stern lifts the screws race through. They are about 8ft under the water. The vibration can then be felt well forward. All the Englishmen insist that no ‘enteric’ will go back to the Peninsula. They will be moved to France they reckon.
Wonder if I will get any mail from the British High Commissioner in London. Hope so. Lumstein and I have been together on the boat since leaving Lemnos. He is very observant and makes me laugh sometimes. God knows we all need it. I look as fit as a fiddle and must weigh 12st or more I should think. Walking up stairs tells you the truth. The recovery time from ‘enteric‘ is long I hear. After the fever I have this craving for spices. Mustard, pepper, salt, vinegar all disappear from the mess at a great rate.
7th December 1915
Did not get into Southampton as soon as expected. I thought we would get in on Friday the 3rd about 10am but did not arrive till that night after stopping in the Solent for a while and then into the wharf at 10am that next morning. The same wharf that I left from in the Mauritania about 4 mths ago. Naval men went off first and we got off amongst the last at 8pm.
Percy Grant and I kept together in the train and found that we were bound for Birmingham. Arrived at 1st General Hospital about 2.30am on the 5th. The same hospital I ended up in after my stomach wounds from the landings in April. Would sooner have gone to another hospital. It’ s not pleasant to look at.
Funny coming back here with all the other hospitals in England to go to. Must be for the NZers and Austs I suppose. I was told that I am the only NZer that has been back twice to this hospital. That’s nothing to be proud of but being alive is better than no life at all. Hospital has about 1,000 in total from the Dardanelles. About 100 New Zealanders came off the ship and there are about 18 to 20 NZers in the ward so I can be a little away from the Tommies.
9th December 1915
The food is plain but as good as one can expect. The days are dull, drab and gloomy looking most of the time. The comments on the climate by us Colonials make us laugh. Two Maoris are in the ward and they are good types, always full of humour. I think I will be here for about 2-3 weeks and then 6 weeks leave. All ‘enterics ‘ get 6 weeks leave. O’Brien from Auckland Armoured Section is in the ward. Lumstein was sent to another hospital. I miss a good talk with him. Hope to see him again. Mrs Muir from the War Contingent Assn has been to see us to see what they can do for us when we go on leave.
11th December 1915
I have not said much how the men think of their officers high and low. Lying here gives one the opportunity to think back over the last 8 mths of the war. There have been mistakes. Lets hope that the Heads are learning even if they do take time. On reading back on this I do not give much of a good impression of the Tommies. Of course there are hundreds & thousands of good men amongst them but one seems to remember the poor ones that annoy you.
Still, I can’t help thinking that the Australians and NZers are ever & ever so much better soldiers than the Tommie. By the Tommie I do not mean the English regular and there are but a few left. I mean the members of Kitchener’s Army and the English Territorials.
The Colonial is great in a charge and sticks to his ground. I consider that these are the two great attributes wanted in a soldier. The Tommie if he lived for 6-8 yrs in the colonies would make a great soldier and be as good as the Colonial. This is selfpraise I suppose but you know what I mean. I am fine. Weigh only 11st 8 lbs. Thought I was more. Norman Vance is in the next bed. He is in the NZ Engineers. His father is the Postmaster in Te Awamutu. Still no mail though I have written to Alexandria Depot at Weymouth and the High Commissioner’s Office.
Saw in the paper that old ‘Tiger’ Hamilton from my Section died of wounds. He was a fine chap; straight as a die and a fine soldier. A really good sort. I will sort of miss him. A maori in the ward, Rewi Tamahana (Tapsell), is good value. He is from Te Puke. Fine type. Makes me roar with laughter with his stories of Gallipoli and the Maori doings there.
Today is last day of Lord Derby’s recruiting scheme. Crowds joining I believe.
12th December 1915
Snow fell this morning and it has been on the ground all day though the sun shone through for a couple of hours. First snow that I have handled since that fall in Auckland about 18 yrs ago. Do you remember? Miss Warden, a friend of Mrs Paton came and saw us today. She said, ” It was so good of you to come and fight for us.“ Most people here look on that way I think. She is a good sort but a shade too religious for my depraved taste.
(No other pages after this entry. The Exercise book used to transcribe this was fairly used up with odd jottings but not transcrible )
Waihi Daily Telegraph on 31 March 1916
The following extract is from a letter to his friends in Waihi written whilst in England awaiting reposting. It was printed in the Waihi Daily Telegraph on 31 March 1916. In regard to the future he says,
“Don’t worry about how the war will end; we’ll give them ginger this coming six months, I think. There are a terrific lot of shells, aeroplanes, etc, in England in readiness. There will be a most appalling flare-up soon I think; guns, and big guns too. Gee, there will be a smacking up. Don’t you worry about it at all. I am very confident about it. The big guns will do some talking. There are thousands and thousands of guns. Of this I am sure. Don’t think that Britain is not getting down to business. I don’t think a nation has ever got so set and determined about a war.
They talk about shirkers, but I do not see any at all but maybe one or two are there. Britishers all seem to think that New Zealand has done so well, and so she has, but the crowd in New Zealand does not realise it the same way as the crowd here. Your National Register says you have 34,000 of military age who won’t help by either civil or military means. Is this right? Sure it cannot be. If it is, well, God strafe them. They surely cannot realise this war at all. If the Germans were to win, why it’s the end of all things. Where are freedom, fair play, and civilization, as we know it, going to? To Hades of course, or anywhere up in the flames. 34,000, this can’t be right. I would like to lead this blessed 34,000 by the hand gently, through some Belgian village, or through some blind hospital for blind soldiers; blinded not by fair war, but by the ghastly gas, or ruined in health by it. Bah! They make me sick. They are not men, but creeping worms.”
Gerald says that he could not ward off the enteric fever. There were thousands of cases and it is difficult to say what will happen to some of them. There were 300 at his center and others were being brought in all the time. He remained in England until fully recovered from the Enteric fever (typhoid) until reposting to his unit (6th Haurakis which formed part of the 1st NZ Infantry Brigade) in France towards the end of June.
(There are no further diary notes or letters found and the details below are from various newspaper clippings and his War Service File from Archives NZ.)
(Wounded at the Somme)
(From Allan Phillip Morpeth, Tad’s son)
The 1st New Zealand Infantry Brigade was posted to the Somme area and in August 1916. Col. A. Plugge took command of the Brigade and in early September they smashed the last line of German defence near the town of Flers-Courcelette. The New Zealanders suffered approx 300 killed and 700 wounded out of a contingent of 1500 men.
It was here that Gerald was again wounded on 27 September 1916, this time in the knee. He was returned to England for recuperation. After convalescing, as he could not return to Infantry duties, he took a temporary Imperial Commission at the Royal Artillery Cadet School at Exeter in instructing in April 1917. In September he was discharged from the New Zealand Army. On August 26 1918, he re-enlisted with the NZ Army with the rank of 2nd Lt. and served in the Mons area of France without incident and was stationed at an artillery unit when the last shell was fired from the Unit’s gun on 9 Nov 1918. Lots were cast for the shell casing and Gerald won it. (I still have the casing suitably scratched with the ‘date’ and ‘location’).
(After the First World War and the Second World War)
Two days later the War ended and he was transferred back to England where he continued to serve with the 2nd N.Z Expeditionary Force HQ in London and for a period of time served with the Army of Occupation and was stationed in Cologne, Germany.
He returned to New Zealand on 30th June 1919 and was discharged the following month. He remained on the Reserve Officers list (N Z Army) until re- enlistment with the 2nd NZ Exp. Force 30th Battalion. (I have found that Gerald had now amended his birthdate to 12 Feb 1892 (was 1886) presumedly to ensure that he would be able to re-enlist in 1940. This ‘ error’ was noted in his War Service File but appeared that no action was done to amend the record) He left for the South Pacific on Nov.11th 1940. He was stationed in Fiji and achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel. He was posted back to NZ on 3rd July 1942 and became Zone Commander of Area 4 (Tauranga) which formed part of the Northern Military District. He was discharged in Oct. 1943 at age 57. In private life he was associated with the NZ Breweries in Palmerston North and retired in 1958. (Gerald passed away in 1963 aged 77, ( married with two children)
A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC https://perma.cc/VG2H-7QQP