Monday, June 28, 2010

Gallipoli, 14/11/15

Dear Dad,
Here we are back into it again feeling much fitter after our spell. Winter is coming on us here and we are having fairly cold nights with winds but little rain. Except when we are in the trenches at night the cold will not trouble us much as we have very comfortable dugouts to live in and are well supplied as to food and clothing for the winter.
From our gun posse we have a fine fiew of the country towards Suvla Bay from Anafarta on the right to the island of Samothrace which lies out at sea benind us. The gun I am on at present is only mounted at night otherwise the Turks would spot us and shell us out of it, so that I have time to do a bit of writing in the day time.
I don't know whether you have ever received a letter that was written under fire before. This one was, at any rate the first part of it. I am sitting down on the bottom of the gun pit Jacko is putting over shrapnell and bursting it round about us we get the smoke blown down to us. It has a peculiar resiny smell. If I ever get through this the smell of burning resin will always recall the bombs and shells of Gallipoli to me.
I am finishing this in our bivy. There is not much I can write of. From here too we get a great view, we look towards the sea and have all the country towards Suvla Bay at our feet. The hill we are on is variously known as [censored] we are about 3/4 way to the top our top trench is known as the Apex we are a little to the left on "Cheshire Ridge" and have a good view of the shipping the beach etc.
With best regards to all,
Your affectionate son,

[The postcard below is annotated "ANZAC Cove Gallipoli" on the front, and it's blank on the other side. It's in the pile of Grandad's letters, but I'm not sure where it fits in- that is, whether it was Grandad's or whether it was obtained later from somewhere else.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mudros, Lemnos, 6/11/15

Dear Dad,
We are still at Lemnos our months spell has dragged out to two months and the sixths who have now been with us for five weeks or so are becoming impatient. Even the old hands for whom the Peninsula has no great attractions are growing tired of the inaction and don't care how soon they get back into it.
As for myself, I am beginning to grow fat here. We are fed fairly well we are issued with bread and fresh meat daily and have cooks to prepare our meals for us. Sometimes they open their hearts and issue a pint of beer or stout per man. I have joined the machine gun section here and find the work very interesting- a machine gun man is supposed to know all about rangefinding, field sketching, etc, and to have a working knowledge of signalling besides the actual working of his gun. Some fifty percents of us are new hands so that you will see we have had any amount to do in our spare time here.
We hear very little of events outside our own corner and we look to the papers we receive from NZ for our information. The Witnesses you send reach me alright and are very welcome. Mother in her letter asks if it is any use sending clothing. Thanks to the efforts of the good people in NZ we have socks shirts etc. to burn and are in this respect very well off. An occasional pair of socks or handkerchief does not go amiss however and anything in the way of eatables is welcome particularly on the peninsula where such things are not procurable.
The old town seems to be going ahead fast and I am looking forward to the time when we return which we should be able to do in another year though Gen. Godly gives us three years before it will be all fixed up.
Trusting you are all in good health with love to all, your affectionate son,

Note. The words beer and stout really were underlined in his letter. Now there's a man after my own heart.

Below are some photos from Grandad's photo album. First, the photo of the machine gunners and the caption as he wrote it.
Then, the same photo after it was cropped, enlarged, and sharpened. I still can't tell which one is him.
The photo below had no caption, so I don't know where it was taken. However, it was on the same page as the photo I showed earlier, with the soldiers in the cattle car heading to Cairo. I'm guessing it must be either Egypt or Lemnos, as photos of the active positions were so rare (and completely forbidden).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gallipoli, 22 August, 1915

Dear Father,
Just a line to let you know that I am still going strong. Ere you receive this you will know all about the last fourteen days or so here. I have come through without a scratch so far. The doctor tells me I have jaundice but we are down for a few days spell and I hope to have got over that before we move again. We had a bit of hard luck with our last mail a barge overturned and dropped it. I have had no letters for over a month. Stanley as to whose fate I have been some doubt was killed here in an advance on the 2nd May so Stan Green informs me.
We get very little news here and NZ papers are rushed when a mail arrives.
I trust you are all well up there and that things on the "farm" are prospering.
There is a great deal here to write about but little that one can say that would pass the censor.
With best regards to all,
Your affectionate son,

6/1917 Pvt. D.R. McLean
2nd Sth Canty Coy.
Canty Infty. Batn.
NZ Expedy Force

Censored O.V. Stead Lieut

PS. The Lieutenant who censored this has since died as a result of his experiences in August. He was the only the 2nd Coy Officer not wounded.

Note. There are some details about the censor, O.V. Stead, including his photo, here.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dardanelles, 29 June 1915 (Gallipoli)

2nd Canty Regt
Canty Infantry Batallion
NZ Expedy Force
29th June 1915

Dear Father,
I suppose there is not much that I can write that will pass the censor's hands but I have been lucky enough to acquire a piece of paper and envelope and might as well use them.
We are now down in what is known as "Rest Gully" and we are supposed to be having a spell after eight days in the trenches. In reality we look forward to going back to the trenches for a spell as we are no sooner down here than they have us on some fatigue work or another, at present it is road making.
However, our officers do all they can for us and with it all we are not badly treated. The land we occupy here consists for the most part of deep narrow gulleys whose shingly and almost precipitous sides are covered for the most part with a prickly shrub not unlike a small holly. We live here in bivys (bivouacs) dug into the side of the hill: two or three men to each bivy. The enemy have been paying a little too much attention to our gully lately and a good bit of spare time has been put in deepening bivys. We thought it wise to vacate the one we were in altogether and have just finished digging another in what we hope will prove a more secluded spot.
We are fairly wise in the ways of bullets and shrapnel and have a rough idea when we are safe from them but bombs have an uncanny way of dropping in apparently from nowhere. The correct thing to do is to throw an overcoat over them and then lie down or get round a corner somewhere if there is time. Last Wednesday when we were in the [censored] a bomb landed between the chap on my left and myself. I dived for the corner but was not quite quick enough and got a piece in the back of my head. It pulled up against the bone and inflicted only a slight wound which does not prevent me from carrying on. There is some consolation in having a thick head after all.
Your letter of the 4th May arrrived last week it is the first I have recieved since leaving NZ. I saw the photos of the Otago teachers in the witness and noticed that you did not have flannels on like the rest. It is a good thing your influenza did not prove serious.
In common with the other N.C.O's of the Fourth's I revert to the ranks as from the date we joined the main force.
Trusting you are all in good health. With kindest regards to all, your affectionate son,

C. Cribb.**

*Do you ever wonder what censoring actually looks like? Surprisingly low-tech. The offending parts were scribbled out with a black pencil (see below- click the photo to enlarge).

** There is a page on about C. Cribb, the person who censored this letter, here. There are also some details about his fate in the The Auckland Weekly News, August, 1915. The relevant parts are as follows:

CRIBB, Major C W E, who has been wounded, was second in command of the 13th North Canterbury and Westland, Company. When Major David Grant was killed in action on April 25 Captain Cribb was promoted to the rank of major and given that officer’s command, the 2nd South Canterbury Infantry Co. Major Cribb served in the South African war, for which he holds the Queen’s Medal with four clasps and the King’s Medal with two clasps. At the time of the outbreak of the war he was in the Postal Dept at Greymouth. [AWN 19.08.1915] P.21

CRIBB, Major C W E, Canterbury Infantry, who has died of wounds, was a Greymouth resident and left exactly 12 months ago in command of the first West Coast contingent, which he helped to mobilize. He had seen service in the Boer war and had spent his lifetime in the defence forces and held two long service medals. Altogether he was over 25 years in the NZ forces. He was a senior mail clerk at Greymouth, and was a native of Blenheim. He was 44 yrs of age. [AWN 19.08.1915] P.21

[Although Max didn't go into his activities over the past few weeks, there is some information about what the New Zealand Infantry and Canterbury Regiment were up to here.]

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lemos [sic], 2/6/15

[Note- what a nice coincidence- This blog post is written 96 years to the day after the original letter was written. I love it when things like that happen]

Dear Father,
We have been lying here since yesterday morning and expect to leave for the front tomorrow afternoon. We made a two days trip from Alexandria and had fine weather all the way. As far as we know we made the trip without escort, but early in the voyage we mounted a submarine guard of armed men. This seems to be a pleasant little island, fertile and with a good climate. In the harbour there are up to a hundred vessels of all kinds. Warships, transports, hospital ships for the most part. We had a great reception from the Jack tars as we steamed in yesterday. We brought a few Frenchmen out from Alexandria with us but we dropped them tonight as we did also the Engineers who transhipped into a smaller ship and left for the Dardanelles under cover of the dark. It is likely that we will depart in the same boat tomorrow night. It is only a five hours run. These boats are painted grey and carry a few light guns. They leave here just before sunset and run their cargo of men accross, effect a landing, and are back for more next morning. They bear the marks of shrapnell and rifle fire but usually go through without much loss. The 'Mauretania' is in harbour here as was also the 'Carmania' (the boat the sunk the 'Cape Trafalgar')- she sailed out today. Two fresh troopships came in today, one with a lot of Indian trips the other with a lot of Scotchmen from home.

Lemos [sic] 3/6/15

There is a mail going ahsore, this is porbably the last opportunity that we will have before we go forward. We will have a chance of doing a bit soon, some of us will come out of it all right, we will all do our best.
Love to all, Rawei