War Memoir of Robert Ellwood

Ellwood: We lived in our trench and in our funk holes or not in our funk holes in the trenches but we lived in our trench and the saps between our trench or the communication trenches between our trench and our bivouacs. And the furthest any of us got from that was down to the beach where we collected water and brought it up in rum jars to the different units. Well we were up in sections of four and we lived more-or-less and had our meals and ate in sections of four.

If you moved around you were in danger and if you ran from one spot to the other which you had to do well you knew you were in danger and there was not the visible fear but the inward fear of getting your brains scattered or your stomach all hanging out in the dust sort of business. But there were occasions when you would get the impression – people have come to me, look after this for me Mr Ellwood or ‘The Boss’ someone used to call me – look after this for me, I won’t be coming back – before you were going into action. Oh don’t be foolish you’d say, you’ll be all right there’s no need – no don’t worry, it doesn’t affect me at all, I’m not coming back and in a number of cases – I wouldn’t say all of them, I don’t say it wasn’t all of them – but a number of them didn’t come back. They seemed to have some sort of knowledge that they were going and I’ve experienced the same thing myself. I’ve been in some very, very occasions when I should have been killed and I had no fear at all.

And on other occasions where I was as frightened as blazes. But fear – anybody that tells you or says that they are fearless and they’re this sort of bravery and that sort of bravery – well its all nonsense because everybody’s afraid. They’re either afraid or else they are mentally soft or something and they don’t see it, they’re not capable of seeing it. But people who attack machine posts on their own, destroy half a dozen men and capture the post and all this sort of business under very extreme fire – they’re either fanatical or they’re fortunate enough to escape it. Its about all it amounts to because everybody is frightened and everybody in action is brave, I don’t care who they are. Well I’ve seen one particular occasion during the attack at John’s Hill in Saba, I saw one particular fellow I knew well, a good scout who had been with us for quite a number of years – he was crying with the urgent feeling of wanting to go forward and couldn’t move himself, just paralysed through fear. I think, did I tell you that before?

Turnbull: No, no, you didn’t.

Ellwood: And, I mean that was the state that fear put you in, you know, sometimes. But oh as for fear yes, we’re all afraid, we’re all afraid. Although as I say, it may have been the occasion or the surroundings or the responsibilities of the moment. You hadn’t time to feel it but yes, everybody was afraid. But everybody, probably the closeness and the numbers and the business of being together, did help to overcome that sort of thing. But everybody’s afraid, there’s no doubt about that. And if they weren’t afraid, they weren’t human. I mean you can believe that, its logic isn’t it. It sounds logical.