With the New Zealand Artillery at Gallipoli
by 2/469 S.sgt Robert James Wait, New Zealand Artillery, 1NZEF
25 April 1915
We left Alexandria in Egypt on the 13th and passed through the Aegean Sea to arrive at the island of LEMNOS on the 16th. We spent several days in the Bay where numerous warships and troopships (French and British) were at anchor. I should guess there were 150 or more ships there including the QUEEN ELIZABETH. On the morning of the 24th we left the Bay and streamed out in company with three other troopers; here it was discovered that smallpox had broken out on board. We immediately turned tail and returned to Lemnos where the patient was left. We then returned to the rendezvous and waited.
We awakened this morning (25th) at five to the sound of heavy gunfire, dressed and went on deck. Lo! the DARDENELLES lay before us! Fortunately we, the 'A23', were the foremost troopship and heard and saw all that went on. This was the position:
The X denotes the position of our ship during the bombardment of the northern shores of the Dardenelles. The southern shores were bombarded too, but being nearer the northern I saw more of this. Gee! didn't the ships pump shell into it! A fort, Sed-el-bahr, on the very point attracted a great deal of attention and through glasses I was able to see the havoc wrought by the deadly and true fire of our battleships. Though I write this within sight and sound of a battle raging a little distance off, I fell I can't describe the sccene as it ought to be described. Great holes were torn out all over the ground as far as one could see, the smell of explosives hung in the air, the boom of the guns with the whistling of the shells and the smaller boom of the burst, together with the dense clouds of smoke from guns, shell and burning forts and houses gave one some idea of what was going on.
It was as one continuous roar from 5 a.m. to 9.30 p.m., just like Eastern thunder! Around 6.30 a.m. we landed several pontoon loadds of infantry and they received a warm reception, we saw the wounded being brought back in boat-loads. The infantry, however, managed to drive the Turks back to the next range before we left for our present position. This we did at 11.30 a.m., arriving here an hour later. Battleships were busy battering the Turk's trenches right along the coast.
'Tis 7.15 p.m. now but the battle and bombardment still continue. Rifle fire is most persistent. We are in readiness for landing and I hear we have to sleep near the guns in case we are wanted during the night. My word! 'tis a glorious sight (for a soldier) to see a dozen or more big warshps blazing away at full! This is Sunday and a glorious day, it has been calm, clear and peaceful but for the efforts of man against man. 'Tis the queerest Sabbath I've spent so far.
I expect the bombardment will continue during the night with the aid of searchlights and the moon. I forgot to mention that hydroplanes hovered above us and the land all the time. The Turks made several determined efforts to get them but missed. A captive balloon is being used also.
What will tomorrow bring?
This letter is reproduced with permission of the Wait family. All text is copyright © RS Wait.