At the end of 1914 my granddad, Ernest Donaldson, joined the army where he began his training and stayed in tents at Aldershot until January 2nd 1915.
The sequence of events that led to him joining the army went something like this:
Jun 28th Archduke Francis Ferdinand assassinated at Sarajevo
Jul 28th Austria-Hungary declares war against Serbia
Aug 1st Germany declares war against Russia
Aug 3rd Germany declares war against France
Aug 4th German invasion of Belgium. GB declares war against Germany
Aug 12th GB declares war on Austria-Hungary
Aug 23rd Japan declare war on Germany
Nov 5th GB declares war against Turkey
Luckily from 1915 onwards he kept a diary and most days captured what would have been his twitter or facebook status. A few years ago I set about transcribing most of his daily thoughts. So it now seems appropriate, exactly 100 years later to publish his personal story. Part one – Gallipoli… [copyright @rondon all rights reserved]
Went to LLANDRINDOD WELLS. Made an allotment(will) leaving everything to my mother.
I bought Polly’s [my grandmother] engagement ring
Transferred to South Wales Borderers
We were fully equipped for 1 Company and first draft but it was cancelled. Had to parade every day until orders came. Askew was our sergeant.
Just the usual rout march etc. Pictures at night.
At the Pavilion at night, it was great – a revue – one of the best that has been here.
No parade today. Dave, Dick, Archie and I went for a long walk, it was a lovely night.
Roll call, then dismissed. The weather was glorious and the sports went off fine, took Sybil [don’t ask] Top of the list with 32 points.
Raining like hell, pictures at night. Sybil went away, a very nice girl, promised to send me a photo.
Received orders, examined by doctor – passed fit. Had to give our kit in. Dick and I were a bit late, and got left behind. Talk about rotten luck, spent a miserable day. Everything can go to hell.
Called out for another draft.
Gave the boys a good send off at the station, they were bound for France. Sent a letter, downhearted, but will soon get over it.
Another lovely day. Didn’t get paid until afternoon. Received a letter from Polly. Happy as a king.
Squad drill. Received a letter and a box of old flake from Alice [again don’t ask]. Starting to smoke a pipe, Dick and I.
Red hot weather, on the golf links. Pavilion at night to see Pygmalian by G.B.Shaw. It was great, best I have seen here.
Up before 6 o’clock for Sunday parade at quarter past 8. They picked a draft out and Dick and I were left again. We have hellish luck. I feel proper fed up.
Paraded in the N.C.O. class. We were dismissed early to start on Monday morning. I intend to stick in. No drafts for us now.
‘Wonk’ left today. Very nice, dry, warm day, did not go to church. Had a good time at night seeing the boys off, they are going to Malta.
Marched with the N.C.O. class today, by it was hot drilling on the parade ground. I am buying a drill book tonight and going to the Pavilion “Under two flags”.
Raining. Studying drill all afternoon. Saw Archie and the lads off, going to Egypt, they left by 9:30 train.
Squad drill, detailing. Letter from home and a pair of socks. Dick and I had a sleep in the afternoon. In the town at night, plenty of girls about.
Pay day, lovely morning. Received a letter from Polly, I will think her idea well over. Got my new suit altered, it was fine.
Stretcher drill in the parade ground, lots of visitors looking in. Stayed in and wrote to Polly a long letter.
Stretcher drill this morning. I am getting sick of this carry on, so I put our names down for a transfer to the R.C..
Received a letter from Polly, quite a change. Transfers are coming off.
Paraded at 7 with our bags and left on the 9:30 train for Pembroke Dock – what a hole, we have been pushed into the SOUTH WALES BORDERERS.
PRIVATE E DONALDSON 24654
2nd Battalion South Wales Borderers, 87 Brigade, 29 Division
Parade at 8:30. Squad drill – what a difference to ours. Rout march afternoon. Not much of a town.
Pay day. I received 6/- for my first pay in the S.W.B.. Usual parades. Town at night in a pub with Dick.
Finished at half past 12 for the day. Never went out, I had terrible pains in my insides, never slept al night. I wished I was dead.
Reported sick after a rotten night. Went to Hospital No 79 Ward. Decent chaps in, the nurse and sister were nice too. Diet – milk and beef tea, pain’s a bit better.
Still on milk. Examined by doctor, said it was appendicitis, not serious, pains not so bad now.
Doctor says I can go out on Monday (14th) and I have to go on to Liverpool to join the Regiment. They left on Thursday. I would sooner be in hospital for another week.
Left Pembroke Dock at 10:30 for Sniggers Camp, Liverpool . passed through Llandrindod, had our teas in Llandilo, a nice little place. slept on the floor, rotten.
I have a nice bed now, blankets and feel a lot better. Parades as usual. We have a treat of an instructor, a very smart chap. Going to put a pass in for Liverpool, Saturday.
Getting on fine with aiming and loading, skirmishing etc. We are going shooting next week. In the soldiers club at night.
Did not get my pass but did not care as I had no money. Dick has gone to Liverpool, there is no-one in the camp, all out on pass.
Fired at the range, and picked out to fire over at Alcar on Tuesday.
Parade at half past six, firing party off to Alcar at half past nine. Fired 35 rounds.
Picked out for a draft for Turkey. Parade as the draft now.
Tried for passes for home, don’t know how we will get on.
Skirmishing on the sand hills. It was red hot. I was about dead. We were out until seven at night.
Inspected by the Col. I could not get a pass for so far. Went to Liverpool for the day. Enjoyed myself, great, the best time I had for a bit.
Church Parade. Went for a walk with Jones at night round Seaforth and Bootle, a fine walk. Stoney broke.
One parade today. Invited out to tea at Formby, it was great. Left at 1 o’clock and reached Plymouth at half past 12 noon. A long journey.
BRITISH MEDITERRANEAN EXPEDITION – ON ACTIVE SERVICE
Sailed at 6 pm from Plymouth. Two T.P.D. patrols. Fine scenery round Plymouth, forts etc. Slept in hammocks, not bad for first night.
Reached Gibralter at 4 am, everybody was up and kicking up a row. The scenery was great, especially the town under the rock. Sailed same day
The S.W.B. turn to do 24 hour guard., I had mine from 2 till 4, could see the plains, mountains and little islands, it has been glorious, if I come home safe.
One of the best days we have had the sea was like a pond. Reached Malta at 12 noon. It is a glorious place, all the boats coming round selling things. Left at 7 o’clock at night.
I am orderly today, rotton job. Work all day and cannot get on deck. Terribly hot, I am losing tons of sweat.
At 4 am reached Alexandra. Anchored in the harbour, by heavens it is hot and does look as though we are going to land today. Cannot see much of the town yet, seen lots of natives in their boats selling fruit.
Still at the quay. It is rotten, they will not let us ashore. The natives are causing lots of fun, singing etc. One of them is a nut, they call him Scotty, he could sweat a treat, been to England before.
Left Alexandra this morning at 6 am. The sea is a bit rough. No-one knows where we are going to.
It was a rough night, and we were travelling. There must have been a submarine around about somewhere, we could not land all along, looked like small islands. Made a zig zag course all day.
Reached the base near Dardanelles I believe it is called Lemnos Island (harbour). Nothing to see but a wild windy hillside, with the sun blazing on it. Warships, T.P.D.s running round and troop ships. It is hellish hot.
We are still on board and look as though we are here for a good bit. It is terrible hot, I am wasting away with sweat.
No signs of going ashore yet. We had permission to swim from the ship. I enjoyed it, it was nice and cool. No pay today.
“The most total heresy in war is the heresy that battles can be won without heavy loss” – Sir Ian Hamilton, Diary 1915
His director of Medical Services drew up a medical plan for 30,000 casualties in the first three days. This turned out to be fairly accurate.
Hamilton had been led to expect much from the Kitchener army divisions on their way to join him. What he was not told was that they had been trained up for the Western Front, and had no experience of night work in open country or of amphibious warfare. They were unacclimatised to the savage heat of the parched Gallipoli landscape in high summer, and vulnerable to the pathogenic organisms that would immediately assail their guts
[all quotes in italics from the book ‘Gallipoli’ by Michael Hickey]
Breakfast at 5 am. Left the ship for shore at 9 o’clock. By it was hot on shore, my arms are burning. We have found the 2nd Battalion sleeping in the open making shade with their blankets. This is rough, make no mistake.
Church Parade at six o’clock then three miles for water. Got some water and melon, great. My arms are terrible with the sun.
A lot of French troops are passing the road near the sea.
Parade as usual, got orders to get ready to move. Left Lemnos at 7.30 am on trawlers packed like sardines, hardly room to sit down. I was dirty as hell. Reached Cape Helles at 10 pm the same day and I heard my first sound of the guns. Landed at Dardenelles and slept on the sand.
Woke to the sound of heavy guns, were told to dig ourselves in on the side of the cliff. We got bacon etc issued and had to make our own meals. What a life, cannot get a good wash, oh for a nice drink.
Up at 4 o’clock. A big battle ship came up and bombarded the Turkish positions. The Artillery were going strong too, what a row, they must have been bombarding ‘arthur baba’ all day.
The Turks started sending shrapnel over us this afternoon, my first time under fire. Killed one chap and wounded 11, one of them slept next to me, he had two toes taken off with the shell. Poor old Tug Wilson, he was a nice chap.
Church Parade on the beach. It does seem strange having had a service with shells flying past. These flies are driving me mad. The guns are very quiet tonight.
I got the job as servant to Mr Burrel our Platoon Officer for 10/- per month. Nothing much to do, only make his meals when we are in the trench.
Up at 4 am, woke Mr Burrel and packed up all his kit and left for the trenches and went onto the reserve line. There are tons of bullets and shrapnel flying around all the time. Plenty of water.
In the firing line on the extreme left of the line. The trenches are safe enough if you keep your head down. The Turks fire like hell during the night.
Not much sleep, standing to most of the night. There are one or two snipers round about. Quiet during the day.
The flies are terrible, worse than the Turks.
The Turks hand the ‘wind up’ last night. Rapid firing for hours they must have been expecting an attack from us.
August Bank Holiday – Ye gods, here I am thousands of miles away, mid shot and shells. Left the trenches for the reserves on the hill. The food is a lot better and plenty of tea.
No meals to carry now, he dines at the mess. I miss the little bits of feeds. Two battle ships heavily bombarded the Turkish positions, what a row they were kicking up, we can get a good night sleep now, thank heaven.
A year to the day since England declared war, I never dreamt that I would be here this time last year. We had to stand to last night as the TURKS had the wind up.
Some of the chaps were out burying the dead last night and bringing in all these letters etc. Thank heaven I miss all these jobs. Our trench was shelled this morning, knocked it about a bit.
Moved into the firing line again, up at day break. I feel weary carrying all these things about. A big bombardment today and an attack by our right wing captured two Turkish trenches. We could see them advance a treat.
Another bombardment today by the French. We don’t know whether they advanced any. Stood to almost all night, I wish it was all over.
Left the trenches for Ghurkha Bluff, we are resting a few days, thank heaven for a nice good sleep. Four of us, all servants are in one dugout, nice and warm.
Washed my shirt and socks and some of the officers things. Received two letters, one from Sybil and one from Charlie Dodds, if I could only get one from home I would be all right.
Left for front line again. We are further on the right now, not half as good a position. Such a long way to carry the meals too.
The Artillery started to bombard the Turks with some [patent?] torpedoes, why heavens they very nearly blew us up too.
More bombs today again. It is like being in hell. The Turks started to send shrapnel over and there were two chaps hit close to me. One of them died. We had an awful job bandaging him up.
Moved down into support. We got a nice mess for the officers, proper bomb proof. Three of them were dining together.
My birthday, preparing to move again to Gully Beach for a rest or something, don’t know really. Reached Gully Beach, had tea, moved on to W. Beach. Trawler took us from Cape Helles to the new landing place.
Landed at the new landing place at day break. Got on the side of a hill and dug ourselves in. Left their at night for the firing line. Marched about all night until daybreak.
We found the trenches after a most awful night. We lost one or two men. We got settled down with the Welsh Fusiliers. There was tons of water but nothing to eat.
Went out with Burrel at night to mark off new trenches. By jingo it was a rotten job. I was glad when we got it done. I hopped it at 4 am and stayed away all day.
Slept under a tree most of the day, it rained for an hour, the first I have seen since we arrived here. I found Burrel at tea time and made him some tea.
Lay about all day until about 5 o’clock. Then got prepared for an advance. We were supposed to be in [?????], we were charging at the finish. Burrel was killed, Good god, what a night, I never saw anything like it. Capt [Byron?] joined us.
At Suvla, the Battle of Scimitar Hill on 21 August was the final push of the failed August Offensive. The 29th Division had been moved from Helles to Suvla to participate. The 87th Brigade was briefly able to capture the summit of the hill but was soon forced to retreat.
Yesterday was the most terrible day I have ever been through. We lost very heavily in men and officers. Our regiment has six officers left and about 3 hundred men. I hardly know how I got through the night. Left for a new place.
We slept in a new place last night, four of us mucking in together. I believe we are here for a weeks rest, I hope it is true. I am fed up.
We got some bread today and steaks for dinner, by jove they were great.
We got an issue of cigarettes today – 30 fags and 2 ounces of baccy, about time too.
Had a big surprise today, Dicky came out in a draft and was put in our company. I was pleased to meet him, we are moving tonight, I don’t know where to.
Moved into the reserve trenches on the hill last night
In the front line for 48 hours, the Turks started to shell us and rapid fire just as it got dark. We all had to line the trench and fire but we never saw a Turk, it was all a wash out.
Same as usual, hot as hell, millions of flies and digging at night
Started as servant to Mr Ballantyne (great chap) a new officer just joined us yesterday. Now for a little better time, I hope so.
Left for 24 hours rest on the beach, my boss gave me permission to go.
Had a rotten night, and we were in a rotten hole, but I got a new shirt, socks and a bath, enjoyed it. It is a hell of a walk back to our camp, never mind, I’ll get over it.
Back from the beach and straight into the trenches. Feeling very lonely at this time – nothing to eat and feeling rotten.
I was hungry and could not eat any of the bully etc so I took two of the eggs that were for the officers and ate them, they were fine. I feel like putting a bullet through myself.
How I wish this bloody war would end. I nearly go mad when I think of nice things to eat. Thank god we are relieved tonight.
didn’t get relieved last night. I had a lovely feed as the officers left all of their dinner. We enjoyed it a treat. I feel like a new man now after a good feed. We got a tin of butter also that they did not want.
These trenches are better than the top ones. I was digging a dug out for Mr Ballantyne all day, made a fine one. Big flare up tonight, party of bomb throwers went out. We had fourteen casualties, Mr Hall was wounded.
Very quiet day, packed the officers kit and took it down to headquarters at 6 pm. We had steaks for our tea, enjoyed them a treat.
we are leaving for Julvus tonight. I am going to try and have a good time to make up for the time I have lost. I hope so.
Packed up and got on the boat. At 11am bound for Imbros (small Greek Island) fell asleep straight away It was very rough. When I woke up it was blowing a gale and we could not go to shore.
Still the same, too rough to land. About 3 o’clock it got calmer and went ashore and marched to camp. I slept a treat with my boots and socks off.
Paid out today £1 per man. I also got 2/6 from Mr Ballantyne. Good food now and plenty of time for resting. These are the best few days I have spent since landing here.
Boiled bacon and 3 eggs for breakfast, I am feeling great, living like a lord. I bought 4/- worth of chocolate. I intend to make a bread pudding tonight.
Got another 10/- from Mr Ballantyne. Received parcel from Polly.
Packed up in a hurry for the firing line again. Left at 4 pm. Landed last night at Cape Helles again. Had good dugouts, all ready made for a change. Steak and onions for tea, we are having a good time here.
At night the bagpipes are playing, you would hardly think it was war.
We are resting here and in reserve to the *th Army Corps. I hope we are here for a few weeks, if only we had some money.
Still in these reserve dugouts and having a good time, just looking after Bally. We have a candle for our dugout and we either write letters or read at night. Received a parcel from Sybil containing fags.
We had four new officers joined us late last night. Gave my helmet in and got a service cap, nice and light
Had a big storm last night, wind and rain. The wind blew the tops off our dugouts and we were wet to the skin, but next day we were soon dry again in the sun.
We are sending in a list of the things we want. I put in for 4 pkts of biscuits, 1 tin of butter, 4 pkts of chocolate and 2 tins of condensed milk. I do hope they get these.
Up at sunrise and packed up ready to move. Went up to the firing line and relieved the Argyles. I was left behind to look after the officers kit and reached the trenches just after dinner. We are in the 3rd line and cooking for the officers.
Up at 5 am, moving to the front line. Had a rotten time in the front line. Cold and wind up every night and all meals had to be carried up from headquarters.
the French are bombarding this morning, they do worry the Turks.
Relieved today by the Inshillings and moved off at 10 and reached the new dugouts at 3. These dugouts are built in the form of streets with a section in every “house”. Our street was called Carnavon Street. Had a great time here until Oct 30th. Plenty to eat and pay out of 10/- per man.
Got a new suit, shirt and socks. Bought 2 tins of salmon and 4 of sardines.
Had to go and put our blankets in the boiler to get steamed.
The stores are getting very low, I have nothing left for breakfast.
Moved to the same place as before just next to the French. New orders state “all servants to ‘stand to’ from 5 to 5.
so I am relieved by the Border Regt so left for Reserve trenches near the ‘Brown House’
It was a bit lively last night, lots of rifle fire.
Going to the beach for a rest and our company is very weak now. We will need a big draft to make us up to strength. Bob Reed and I are polling up here – a nice chap Bob
Raining all night and very windy, looks like a storm.
Had one of the worst storms I have ever been in, everything flooded. Went into reserve in Trotman’s Road. Great dugouts and a cookhouse. Mr Beardshaw was Mess president
What a night the whole heavens opened, the water coming down Oxford St was like a river.
Moved off at 8 am to the front line
Turks made an attack and took back two trenches we took off them last week but we took them back again but with heavy losses.
Very cold weather. Relieved at noon by K.O.S.B.s and went down to the camp for the day. We are going into new winter dugouts in the side of the cliff facing the Aegean Sea.
These dugouts are great, built like flats with doors, windows and fireplaces, all in the side of the cliff.
Made a good start this morning and had breakfast ready, prompt, everything went smoothly. The Doctor was there for dinner and he enjoyed himself a treat. They were strafing whiskey.
Had a great parcel from home, cake, milk and tins etc. The officers dinner went off splendid, 4 courses and hot.
Having decent weather but I haven’t much time to myself. I am head cook and they have someone to tea or dinner every day.
I would stay here for the duration just looking after the officers, we had a very nice dinner last night – soup, stew, potatoes, rice pudding and cauliflower in a tin and pineapple for sweet.
Our last day here. Up at 5 am packing. Left at 10 am and stayed the night at Romanos Well – rained all night.
Went into the firing line, our position this time is more to the left near the Horse Shoe. What a walk from the beach, it was hellish. We had to do two journeys for the blankets etc.
Got orders in a hurry to pack up Mr Ballantynes kit. He was ordered to hospital. What a hell of a job I had getting all his kit down. I’ll never forget it.
Slept in a tent near the Hospital and next morning got orders to get his kit ready for the ship. Took it down to the ship and went on board. I was shown all around – great. Got £2 from Mr Ballantyne, shook hands, he said he would be back again in a few days.
I stayed at the hospital all day and went up to the trenches for some letters. Got two and went back to the ship after dinner but the hospital ship had gone. I am afraid it’s goodbye Mr Ballantyne
Left the Hospital about 7 am and joined the Batt. Came back into the Eski Lines. I went straight back to duty and donned my fatigues.
Capt Byrne our C.O. asked if I would go servant to him. I accepted so I am back once again as servant.
Slept rotten last night, awful pain in my left arm and we are only on biscuit rations – rotten.
Packed up today for our rest camp. The Turks are sending more, and better, shells over now.
The rations are better. Had some good meals. There is now a Y.M.C.A. on the beach and we gave it a visit this afternoon and enjoyed it.
Still in Rest Camp. Nothing to do but inspections, eat and sleep. I still have a nasty pain in my arm and cannot sleep at night for it. I have had it for over a week now. I only go down to my officer morning and night.
Relieved the K.O.S.B.s in a new part of the line – new to us. We do all the cooking. Great dugout and cookhouse
Big bombardment today. The H.L.I. attacked and took two trenches and a couple of SAPS. We were all ordered under cover – Funk Holes – hellish while it lasted
Wind up, rapid fire , all last night. Firm all along the line and I got no sleep through the pain in my arm. My officer feeling ill today, he is in his bed.
Turks commenced again at ‘stand to’ just as it got dark but we got the dinner ready and everything went off OK
We have lost an awful lot of men in this position, always somebody getting hit. I am fed up.
Xmas Eve, everything quiet and to think I am in this rotten hole and poor old Polly will be lonely this Christmas, thousands of miles away. I wish I was with her.
Xmas day 1915, To celebrate the day Sgt Press (the officers mess sergeant) sent up a plum pudding and a tin of apricots. Ye Gods what a christmas dinner. However it was quite a change. This is the worst hole we have been in, losing men all day – sniping etc.
Our big guns bombarded JOHNNY TURK today and of course he replied and knocked the hell out of us. One big shell hit the Captains dug-out dead centre and blew everything to blazes, everything was riddled with holes. Good thing there was no-one in at the time. I’ll never forget it.
Very quiet this morning but at 2 o’clock in the afternoon hell broke loose. The 52nd Division attacked and took a trench in Krither Nollah. It was hell all night after that. I am absolutely fed up by now.
We had the F.O.O. Officer to dinner, champagne and whiskey, great.
New Years Eve. No wind up last night, slept fine. Bully rissoles for dinner and we had a good chat about old times. I thought of home and Poll tonight – how far away it seems. I hope this New Year brings more happiness and all this trouble over.
New Years Day. I had bacon and bread for breakfast and Maconache for dinner. And so we begin the new year.
Packing up today for the Eski Line for four days rest. Reached there at 2pm
Everything is going to the beach now, all extra stores etc. I reckon we will be leaving this place some night, according to the rumours we hear and a good job too.
Still living on biscuits and waiting for the word.
By dawn on the 8th, there were still nearly 17,000 men ashore but it was decided to complete the operation after dark. The garrison now consisted of the greatly reduced 13th, 29th, 52nd and Royal Naval Divisions. The 52nd, as the result of its devastating casualties and lack of reinforcement, was down to less than 3,000 all ranks, and the 29th, which had been brought up to near its full war establishment of over 17,000 for the August battles, could muster only 4,145.
Gallipoli, Michael Hickey, p. 333
After an anxious few days we got orders to say that the Batt. Leaves tonight. EVACUATION Left the trenches at 5:15pm for the beach and got on the small boats about 9pm. Annie put over three shells quite near the pier, she fairly put the wind up all of us.
JANUARY 8th 1916 – EVACUATION OF GALIPOLI COMPLETED
Slept on board an old tramp steamer then transferred to a big troop ship. We first had a good feed then a wash and shave and lay in our cabins all day talking and smoking. Great this …
In Mudro’s Harbour having a good time. Plenty to eat and plenty of sleep. It’s heaven compared to Gallipoli.
We are on board the YS Scotian and sailed today at 8 am. We have plenty of books and cigarettes.
Reached Alesan at 8 am and disembarked at 8 pm. Marched to the station and boarded the train, 48 in each truck, back to war again. Rotten
… to be continued