War Memoir of Robert Ellwood

Ellwood: I’ve been often told that I should get these things off my chest because when you go to bed of a night time, no matter how you close you eyes, you can’t shut out the scenes that you know…

We had just arrived on the peninsula , it was a matter of fact the next morning at daybreak we had to attack a trench which was only about eleven yards away, ten yards away and during it we occupied it at one time and were driven out of it and we as if we owned it with our own trench which was a small set about ten yards long and this thing was the cause of a lot of trouble because we had to have a sentry at both ends and it was so open to any attack and I don’t know, there were hundreds of lives lost trying to fill it in. On the trench you’ve no idea of the intensity and volume of fire that used to go on particularly when things were very early in the piece and everybody was jumpy and they kept on erratic firing, rapid firing, all hours of the day and night to prevent the other people from attacking and this trench had to be filled in.

We were given… one or two others had tried, battalions had tried, the 13th and the 15th had tried to fill it in and being the worst occupied for a while we were sent out just after arriving on the peninsula as a matter of fact, we hadn’t been there more than… we arrived at daybreak, or just about daybreak, it was the next morning that we were sent out to occupy the enemy’s trenches working party to fill in this set between the two trenches to make our position more secure, you see.

Anyhow, it couldn’t be done, we were badly knocked back and lost a lot of people and between our two trenches it was just literally thick with dead people, dead bodies and they were blown to bits with erratic shells and firing and one thing and the other and in all states of decomposition and after this attack by the Turks, after our attack, they attacked after we did, sort of business, and the place was just, oh, worse than a butcher’s slaughtering place and we were all on the windward side and the wind from the sea used to blow into their trenches and of course it was very nauseating with the result that they asked for an armistice.

An armistice was given and we had to go out and help bury our own dead, you see, and the place was just an awful mess.

Anyhow, what I’m leading up to is that Sol Green [ Reverend George Green, M.A.] was our padre at the time. He came from Brisbane and we nicknamed him Sol Green because there was a very big bookmaker in Brisbane at the time named Sol Green, so he was always Sol Green to everybody. I can remember that he and Best and Macartney [Captain G.W. Macartney, the Regiment’s first medical officer ] and one or two others were very thick friends you know they all had a keen sense of humour. Any of our people killed, of course, Green gave them a few short words. But while everybody wasn’t looking – the enemy, and the German officers in charge of Turks – he filled in a trench with a lot of our bodies, our dead people, and once they came along and they saw what had happened they were very very upset about it because it was a disadvantage to them, they had all the background, we were just on the way down hill, otherwise if we were pushed out of our trenches we were done for. There was a big noise kicked up about it and even the head of the Turks he complained bitterly to our headquarters about it and there was going to be a big smell over it. But Sol Green got out of it by, I remember him. Glasgow [ Major T.W. Glasgow] who was our second-in-command, priming him up for the inquiry that was going to be held over it all.. and Sol just replied by saying, “Well”, he said “I don’t know, but I did a simple thing without any trouble at all which you people lost hundreds of lives doing”, which is quite right too.

Turnbull: That was entirely on his initiative?

Ellwood: Yes, on his initiative, Sol, he’d just had enough intelligence to know the position and he simply took advantage of everybody, the enemy rather, being occupied with their own burials and he filled the lines up with our people.