Geelong Advertiser (Vic), Saturday 20 November 1915, page 8
PTE. E. C. BROWNHILL
GIVES A LIVELY PICTURE OF HIS EXPERIENCES
The following extracts are from a letter sent by Private K. C. Brownhill, 24th Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade, after reaching Gallipoli: —
We arrived at our destination safely. Quite different to what I expected. We landed just before daybreak. I thought the landing would have been like what the first contingent went through. We were waiting for shells, but, fortu-nately, they did not come our way. The worst part was when we had to get from the transports into small lighters —tied three together in a row. It was a risky job getting from one boat to another, as there was a great swell on the water, and we had our packs and rifles. Anyhow, it was accomplished safely, but a great many of the fellows got sick through the motion of the boats. That day we had a much-needed spell, and made up for some of our loss of sleep. Bullets were whist-ling over head, but we were safe enough. I came across Claude Lowe "Phonzo" M'Laren and Trevena, who were able to give us a good deal of news. The next day we shifted into dug-outs behind the fire trenches, which seem pretty safe (in this particular spot). The following day we put in 24. hours in the trenches. We have now shifted into our permanent quarters on the slope of a hill, which is covered with dug-outs, holding two to six men in each. Bert Elmore and I got hold of a nice little hole, and im-proved it. We think we are in clover now. It was a great sight to see the hill covered with men working at their dug-outs with pick and shovel. And at night time the hill was dotted with lights. We are having a spell to-day, so I am taking this opportunity to write. I am feeling in an extra good humor. The weather is beautiful, and I am quite comfortable. If war is al-ways like this it will suit me. To morrow we are going into the trenches again, and by that I hear, we are go-ing to get all the excitement we want, as the enemy trenches are only a couple of yards away, and there is to be plenty of bombing. We got very little to eat the first few days, but it has improved now we have settled down. Dust is dropping over this let-ter as I write: it is from the guns firing just behind us, the shells going overhead. Yesterday afternoon an ene-my aeroplane came in sight. The order was given "Get into your dug-outs." It was just like a lot of rabbits scurrying. into their burrows. There wasn't a sign of any one about until the aero-plane disappeared. While in the trenches yesterday I was watching the effect of our shells fired a couple of miles away. They landed fair into the enemy trenches, which were about 50 yards from us. We watched through a periscope over the top of our trench. I have seen where the first fighting took place but cannot understand how ever the Australians advanced. It seems marvellous. But the fact that they did stares one in the face. The fellows that have been here from the start sadly need a change. Half of them have beards; they can't help looking dirty, as there is not enough water for wash ing, and it is a long way to the beach. Last night I had if wash, the first for four days. Some of the fellows have not had a wash for weeks. We can't afford to drink too much water, and we look after our water bottles well when they are xxled. I met Snowy Neale and Joe Windmill the other day; they both seem well. I hardly knew the latter, as he had a beard. We had a decent meal today, stew made out of tinned meat and plenty of onions. For four days we had no bread, only hard biscuits. I can now understand men be-ing rejected for having bad teeth. One must have good ones to tackle these biscuits. Some of' the boys here are very sore it the way the newspapers speak of the Turks. They say that the Turks are wonderfully fair fighters.
Claude Lowe was telling me that he had a narrow escape one day. A shell came and laid out all but himself— eight altogether. In other letters I have mentioned about the flies; you might cut that right out. I am in a place now where there are flies—right off the dead bodies. We can under-stand, now, why we were given this fly net on the boat. It comes, in handy now. I can hear an aeroplane coming, so it means keep in your dug-out.
HOW TO SLEEP IN A PATH
I am now in the trenches for the third time since landing. It is a dif-ferent part to that from which I wrote last, and is a hit hotter, being nearer the firing, and noted for bombs, etc. So far our casualties have been insig-nificant, mainly from accidents. There is a great smell here, caused by the dead bodies of Turks, which have lain here for a considerable time. When I was in the trenches last the Engineers covered over some of our own dead, which were lying exposed right along side our trench. Then they piled up the sandbags again, and I slept there that night. This was the only place I could get for a shake down. It was right in the track of passers-by, there being only about a foot of room be-tween me and the wall. You can ima-gine I got plenty of kicks and many tripped over my body, but I managed to get a few hours' sleep. For to-night I am going to sleep in a little crevice, in the wall—just big enough to accommodate three-quarters of my body. I would greatly appreciate piece of bread, as so far we have only had it once, and the biscuits are very hard. It is the fashion here now to write the name of the town you come from on your hat in large letters. My "Geelong" caused two persons to stop and make inquiries; they were Dr. Cole, who remembered me, and a chap named Sullivan, from Messrs. Price, Higgins and Speed. Stan. Kirby is here as dresser, so if I "stop one" I have a friend to fix me up. I met "Snowy" Surtees the other day. He and "Pilley have been doing M.P. work on the beach. He is looking well. I understand that Tom Murray and other Geelong Light Horsemen are only a short distance from here so I may come across them one of these days. I am enclosing a piece of Turkish explo-sive bullet which dropped last night, This hit the outside of the trench and sent a shower of dirt all over us.
This has been a good week for us here, on account of a fairly large mail, with plenty of letters, papers, etc.. The parcel was very acceptable. The warm clothes I will keep till the weather is colder, though the nights are cold enough now. The envelopes and paper came in very handy, as the supply had run out. The chocolate and cigarettes, of course, speak for themselves. As regards the latter, I think we will be supplied once a week now. This afternoon tobacco, with cig-arette papers, were issued, so we will make our own cigarettes when in need of a smoke.
Later.—We have just finished six days in the trenches, and are now back in our dug-outs for 48 hours' rest. It is a bit of a change. We have to do a bit of water carrying, etc.. but it is not so bad. I was very fortunate this mail, getting eight letters (including a very interesting one from Hori at Seymour. I also got the "Federal Re-cord''' and "News of'the Week." By the time I have finished with these there won't be much unread. The ''News of the Week"' is greatly appreciated at any time, as it gives all the news. I read in the "Argus" an account, of Aus-tralia Day, and wished I was there. It strikes me that Mr. David Griffiths is doing his share these days. Every Gee-long paper I have seen since being away shows how hard he is working for some cause or other.
The general procedure after coming from the trenches is to strip and have a flea hunt. It is nothing to be ashamed of here, as everyone is in the same boat. Those things, no doubt, be-longed to the Turks at one time, and were taken over by us with the trenches. Once we catch them they are disqualified for life. The boys who landed here first must have worked aw-fully hard: no wonder they look broken up. There are trenches, tunnels, saps all over the place, and the ground is pretty hard for digging. Whilst ob-serving in the trenches the other day a bullet passed through my periscope which I was holding up. It gave me a great surprise at first. I then moved the instrument over the parapet, signalling a "miss." A couple of hours later Frank Newland had the same peri-scope hit. This time the bullet hit the glass, with the result that he got several cuts over the face. This is a common occurrence. The fellows here are surprised to read of the liberal amount of clothing the recruits are getting. They laughed when I told them that they were given too much ooffee. It would be acceptable here. We had our liveliest time here yesterday, when the Turks gave us all they knew in the way of a bombardment. I was out of the trenches at the time, so got into a narrow drain about a foot wide until the din ceased. The shells were rather too close to be pleasant. This lasted for about an hour. Our fellows were very pleased at the way the A.M.C. worked—having to carry the wounded down rain-beaten track.
The Balaclava cap will come in handy for sleeping in the trenches. It helps to keep out the noise of the firing. We have plenty of warm clothing, so don't trouble to send any. When they will be washed I can't say. One chap told me the shirt he was wearing had not been washed for ten weeks: and by the look of him I should say he had not been washed since landing.
Later (28/ 9/'15).—It is pretty tiring work in the trenches, one hour on and two off at night time, and two on and four off during the day, so we have a disturbed rest. We were issued with an extra blanket last week, but a number of the follows have not had a chance to use theirs yet, being so much in the trenches. We had yesterday a special telegram from Kitchener to the troops here of the success of the Allies. Four Light Horsemen were sitting in their dug-out this morning, when a shell dropped amongst them, killing the four. I met Ted Murray: did not recognise him at first. Whilst talking to him his brother Tom came along. They are both looking splendid. Tom is now a dresser in the A.M.C. He is only a short distance from me, so I'll see more of him. I hope. Our old lieutenant (B. Atkinson), who was second in command of the F Company at Broadmeadows, was killed lately. When leaving to join the 23rd battalion the company gave him a presentation, together with an illuminated address. By this it showed how much he was thought of. We saw some dead Australians lying near our trenches so a sergeant crept out and got a couple of pay books and discs, also a revolver. Just near this spot I slept the other night, and over my head was the hand of a dead Turk sticking out of the brushwood covering the trench. These sort of things do not trouble us now. I had a laugh when I saw the photo, of Jim Munday in the "Leader, ' together with another account of his brave deed. Tell Horie and Wal when they come to bring a few luxuries, such as cocoa, chocolate, cigarettes, and, if possible, some condensed soup tablets. It takes a few days. for a new crowd to settle, and if you have some such stuff of your own it comes in handy: also a sponge for washing is handy, as water is scarce.