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The New Zealand Medical Service in the Great War 1914-1918

Third Day of the Landing, April 27th

Third Day of the Landing, April 27th.

By the 27th the whole of the infantry of the New Zealand and Australian Division were in the firing line or support; a battery of New Zealand field artillery had been landed. The 4th Australian Brigade was on the right of the New Zealand Brigade, the points held being from left to right: Walker's Ridge extreme left, next in sequence, the Neck, Plugge's Plateau, Pope's Hill, Quinn's Post, and Courtney's Post, the three last named had access from Shrapnel Gully on the right. Some units of the Australian Division were still mixed up with our division, but the line was somewhat more stabilised. A very stormy counter-attack by the Turks developed at 9 a.m. on our left. New Zealand Brigade Headquarters warned Major O'Neil of the situation and shortly after he had orders from the A.D.M.S. to move at once to the foot of Walker's Ridge. This he did, with two bearer sections, passing round Ari Burnu point, eventually taking over a station which had been used by Lt.-Col. Peerless, V.D., R.M.O., Canterbury Battalion, on the 25th. It was a sheltered cleft at the foot of Walker's Ridge, just north of the "Sphinx" a prominent detached rock near Russell's Top. Lt.-Col. Peerless, who had been hardworked here since the 25th—casualties-in his battalion for the first day alone were 20 killed, 89 wounded, 101 missing—on the arrival of the field ambulance promptly climbed to the ridge to establish a new R.A.P. closer to his battalion headquarters. There was heavy rifle fire on the ridge above. The approach was up a precipitous cliff side, by a very narrow, rough goat track which admitted men in single file only and led to a zig-zag trench about two feet wide. It was, as may be imagined, exceedingly difficult to clear wounded by this, the only available track. Not far from the top O'Neil's party got into touch with Major McKillop, N.Z.M.C. R.M.O. to the N.Z.E., and later, with the R.A.P. of Major George Home, N.Z.M.C., R.M.O. to the Wellington Battalion, which was holding a front of 500 yards and hotly engaged: their casualties were 17 killed, 105 wounded, during that day. There was heavy rifle and machine gun fire most of the day on the ridge. The field ambulance bearers experienced great difficulty in clearing page 46the wounded: there had been some rain during the night, which made the track exceedingly treacherous'; the wounded had to be carried down on improvised stretchers made of rifles and putties, or lowered or glissaded down on oil sheets. The field ambulance parties had valuable assistance from all R.M.O's and their water duty men who were assisting, of these, Cpl. Singleton, N.Z.M.C., with McKillop and Cpl. Steedman, N.Z.M.C. with Home, particularly, were conspicuous in getting the wounded out of the shallow trenches at considerable risk. Both corporals had the D.C.M. for this work.

At the advanced dressing station where O'Neil was established, the wounded were dressed, splinted, and given a drink, the water supply being maintained by parties of water duty men and other carriers who brought it round from the beach in kerosene tins. No sources of supply, natural or other, were available at the foot of Walker's Ridge. From O'Neil's post it was possible to carry wounded to the landing places via Ari Burnu Point, about three quarters of a mile distant; the going was heavy in loose sand; there was much snipers' fire and some shrapnel to be faced near the projecting point, so much so that the bearers removed their white brassards—as they believed that the Turkish marksmen paid little respect to the Red Cross—which made the stretcher bearers conspicuous and a better mark. One wounded man was shot on his stretcher while rounding the point. Near the point of embarkation, Capt. Tewsley's post already established, took over the wounded and embarked them in barges during the day. There was heavy shelling on the beach from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., many wounded passed through the collecting post.

Sometime in the afternoon, between 2.30 and 5 p.m. Col. Manders sent the following message to D.M.S., M.E.F.:—"Lutzow filling up rapidly. Request name of next hospital ship. Where is advanced depot of medical stores? Running short of supplies." But to this the D.M.S. was unable to reply, it is doubtful if he had the message until two days later. He was off Helles in the Arcadian and found it impossible to communicate with the shore or with divisions, although he knew by now that the General Staff of Headquarters were still supervising the evacuations and had despatched five Australian transports to Alexandria without his instructions or supervision, and that his fully matured plans were not being adhered to. The whole of the Administrative Staff of G.H.Q., M.E.F. were also on the Arcadian and quite unable to assist, although the evacuation of wounded was part of their duties, not the duty of the General Staff. The Lutzow left shortly after 5 p.m.; she had a sufficient supply of medical dressings and drugs; Capt. page 47Walton, N.Z.M.C., and with him one other N.Z.M.C. medical officer, was aboard, but they were short of orderlies and of nursing apparatus, and the ship carried 160 horses. Several deaths took place during the voyage. The medical officers, of course, worked like slaves, and all hands did what they could with the 500 wounded they carried.

The total casualties for the corps were 500 for this, the third day. During the first three days fighting, the New Zealand and Australian Division lost 17 officers, 224 O.R. killed, 35 officers, 655 O.R. wounded, the missing not recorded: a total casualty list of 931. The losses of the Anzac Corps were 3000 approximately in the same period: say 15 per cent. of the force engaged.

The 28th was a day of reorganization and consolidation. There was no marked military activity save the now usual shelling of the beach—even that horror somewhat abated. The A.D.M.S. was now most anxious to land the tent subdivisions of the ambulances and he took steps to have them disembarked. The tent subdivisions of the New Zealand Field Ambulance on the Gosler had opened a dressing station on the 26th. Many wounded were coming aboard; the hospital ships and ambulance transports were inadequate to deal with all casualties. No doubt in the unavoidable confusion of the first few days many trivial cases boarded the prepared transports, so encroaching on the accommodation available for stretcher cases; as the result, barges carrying wounded drew alongside any transport where there was a chance of quitting their pathetic cargo. There was considerable delay and difficulty in getting stretchers up the companion way of the Gosler, although fortunately the sea was calm as it had been during the previous days. An operating table was set up in one of the larger cabins and at least one amputation, performed. Blankets were provided from the G.S. waggons in the hold, and the stretchers were placed on the top deck under cover of the awnings. The wounded were New Zealanders and natives of India. Shortly after mid-day on the 28th the tent subdivision had orders to disembark. All equipment, with the exception of tents, ground sheets and blankets, was brought safely to shore towards dusk. Tewsley's party handed over their collecting post and rejoined the A.D.S. under O'Neil, and here, with its back to a clay bank, the M.D.S. was established, the party during the night excavating and filling sand bags so as to make some sort of shelter from shrapnel. Evacuations proceeded satisfactorily during the day; again there was a loss of between 400 and 500 in the Corps.

The 4th Australian Field Ambulance bearers had been working assiduously in Shrapnel Gully in rear of their brigade since the page 4825th, and were exposed to unusual hardships. Their main dressing station opened the same day as ours at the mouth of the gully. Lt.-Col. Begg opened at 7 a.m. on the 29th,—his admission and discharge books date from this day—prior to this no records had been kept by the ambulance bearers. The M.D.S. was partly dug in and had sandbagged walls; a large "tortoise tent" or waggon cover of South African pattern brought from Egypt—where it had been used during manoeuvres as a temporary shelter for personnel and fictitious wounded—now came into action as a roof for the dressing station. In the centre stood the operating table, a "stationery" box with a stool formed the admission and discharge department; on the south side there was a small dug-out for the medical officers, and the cooks had rigged up a kitchen where food could be prepared for the wounded.

The enemy fire was slackening off, the military situation was somewhat improved. Part of the Royal Naval Division was landing. Anzac had come to stay. And as the diarists all said—there was beautiful bathing on the beach.

We are now in a position to close our reflections on an exasperating problem: the evacuation of wounded in amphibious warfare. There was nothing much in military history of similar operations; in the "Manual of Combined Naval and Military Operations," dated 1913, we will find little to guide us in the matter and only this much information bearing on the point:—

(1)The naval authorities control all operations at sea and up to high water mark; the military, all shoreward matters beyond. The navy is responsible for communications from beach to shore and all intercommunications at sea.
(2)In drawing up detailed orders, the chief staff officers of the naval and military commanders must work in close consultation, as the slightest divergence of military and naval orders may imperil the intimate co-operation which is vital to combined manoeuvres.

Owing to the difficulty of transmitting orders at sea naval and military orders should be drawn up at such a date prior to embarkation as to allow sufficient time for completion of the necessary arrangements. Orders for the disembarkation of troops should include:—"medical arrangements."

(3)If the landing is opposed, the wishes of the military commander become of paramount importance.
(4)Hospital ships and ambulance transports are under the command of the naval authorities.
page 49

Combined military and naval operations involving a landing of troops against armed opposition are the most difficult of all warlike manoeuvres and have rarely proved successful. Coupled with the dangers to be faced from the opposing military and naval forces, are the elemental hazards of the sea, unfavourable weather conditions multiplying the risks enormously. These dangers were faced at Anzac and overcome: the forces intended to disembark did disembark without crippling casualties; guns horses and mules were beached, and mountains of stores, to scheduled time. This in itself was an "unparalleled feat of arms" and seamanship. Twelve hours storm during these anxious days would have led to irretrievable disaster; the luck was with the landing parties. But above all the evacuation to transports of over 3000 wounded, simultaneously with the landing of fighting troops on a shell swept beach, and in an open roadstead was a feat for which the navy deserves the highest commendation. That the wounded should suffer was, and is inevitable. That there was hardship, discomfort, real suffering and loss of life caused by the unsatisfactory provisions made for some of the temporary hospital transports is true. Adequate provision of available transports was made in the final scheme of medical arrangements, for deck space, personnel and stores, and had these medical arrangements been carried out in full, much of the hardships and dangers for the wounded would have been eliminated. The causes which contributed to the partial failure of the scheme were:—

(1)The peculiar hazards and uncertainties attending on all combined operations;
(2)The difficulties of adequate intercommunication from ship to ship, and ship to shore, even in harbour;
(3)The especial difficulty of evacuating wounded from a beach exposed to shell fire in barges often not suited to the purpose and more especially the classification of these wounded, the sorting of them and the direction of the barge loads of such sorted cases to the transports selected for their special reception.

The 1st Australian C.C.S., landed on the 25th, did magnificent work as a dressing station, but could not exercise its normal functions as a casualty clearing station as we now understand them; neither could the small advanced dressing stations of the bearer personnel keep even a nominal roll of the wounded they collected and dressed and helped to evacuate.

There is little doubt that had the Hindu been in touch earlier much could have been done to equip the transports page 50selected with adequate personnel and stores. And it is also certain that had the D.M.S. and the administrative staff of Sir Ian Hamilton's Headquarters been in a decisive position to direct these operations,—and it is not an unreasonable expectation that they should have had facilities for carrying out their most important functions,—most of the depressing and nauseous scandals of the evacuation would never have tormented the ears of the distracted friends, relations and fellow citizens of the sufferers in England and the Dominions, remote from the war, cut off from reasonable information by the censorship, and a prey to all the anxieties of uncertainty. But for reasons which form part of the hazards of combined operations and the attendant difficulties already outlined, the Hindu remained "Missing." Owing to the restrictions placed on the use of wireless she was unable to communicate with the responsible naval authority and remained on the high seas off Helles without instructions until the 29th, when she arrived at 7 p.m. off Anzac distributing her precious stores, officers and men to various transports on the following day. The D.M.S. comments in his diary, "the Anzacs wired they wanted dressings. Unfortunately the Clan McGillivray and Seeang Chun which had large stores had left for Alexandria without [my] orders." He also infers that the classification of the wounded seems to have been wanting in spite of beach officers having been notified that certain ships were for very slight, others for serious cases. A trawler was supplied to the D.M.S. on the 29th; Lt.-Col. Keeble went round the transports and reallotted wounded to ships according to classes.

With regard to the classification of wounded ashore: we have seen that Col. Manders in his orders had detailed an officer for this purpose but he cancelled the order when he ceased to be D.D.M.S.—we have seen also that both A.D'sM.S. in person, worked on the beaches prior even to the hour appointed for the first evacuations at 2 p.m. But having in view: the overcrowding of the C.C.S. and the initiation of evacuation from another point further north out of control of the C.C.S., the distance seaward at which the transports had to anchor on account of shell fire, and the anxiety to get wounded off as night fell, due to general tension and uncertainty as to holding out in the very insecure positions attained, it is impossible to suggest that anything better could have been done by the shore parties. Everyone praised their work.

Whatever the extent of the failure of an almost impossible and unprecedented feat of evacuating wounded from a hotly page 51contested and still doubtful landing, the unholy revelations that followed had disadvantageous results on the fortunes of the Expedition. A too ready acceptance by accredited and private investigators of the tales of broken men led to the general publication of crudities and indelicacies better withheld. Only the sordid and nauseous incidents were recalled, not the fact that human energy had been expended to the utmost in an attempt to help the wounded, and that a glowing page of something achieved had been inscribed in the annals of our Empire's amphibious wars. At least, the gratitude of those taken off from the accursed beach, obsessed by a dread of mutilation by the Turks had they succeeded in driving us back to the boats, must be set in the credit column of this account of profit and loss. That this wholly unreasonable fear of maltreatment should have existed amongst the wounded is inexplicable, because the Ottoman soldier was always irreproachable in his adherence to the Geneva convention, tales of snipers and the Red Cross apart—fishermens' tales mostly—nevertheless it was a curious belief of the Anzacs at least in the early days of the landing. The wounded did not care much how they got off so long as they were shipped away from the beach, and they accepted the hardships they had to bear manfully; but as their wounds grew cold and the long hours drew out on the voyage to Alexandria, there was much discomfort; much suffering. The conclusion arrived at by the Dardanelles Commission in their final report affirmed that: "Though a great deal of discomfort amounting in many cases to actual suffering was occasioned to the wounded by the deficiency in medical attendance and the want of proper medical appliances on board the transports, we think that the evidence is that the loss of life in consequence was small," and a little later it is stated:—"We think that many of the difficulties might have been avoided if a general plan of the operations had been carefully worked out before the Expedition was undertaken." General Sir Ian Hamilton in his first despatch accepts responsibility for all plans devised by his general staff, who, in the absence of the administrative staff made all the elaborate arrangements for the landings; but no Anzac has ever, or ever will, accuse Sir Ian of default.

One more document we must examine before we dispose of this consideration: it is a copy of a signal message dated 28.4.15 from the AA. & Q.M.G. Australian and New Zealand Army Corps to General Birdwood. It is signed by Brigadier General Carruthers:—"I yesterday organised the hospital trans-page 52ports, put medical officers and equipment on board and despatched them to Alexandria. The following vessels carrying about 2,800 wounded have left. Lutzow, Itonus, Ionian, Clan McGillivray, Seeang Chun. I have had to disorganise the field ambulances somewhat to get the medical officers and equipment. The wounded are very uncomfortably housed and the attendance is insufficient and the drugs scanty, but no more was possible. The Hindu with the stationary hospital equipment has never come at all. I have given all the transports orders to return as soon as possible and have told the medical officers to select and bring back any men slightly wounded who are fit to rejoin the ranks. Hold parties and military transport staff have in most cases stayed on board. As the doctors have no medical attendants the hold parties are doing the work."

As regards the Lutzow, Captain Walton, N.Z.M.C., reported that there was no shortage of drugs or dressings but there was a dearth of nursing apparatus. He had one medical officer but no orderlies; of the 500 wounded on board, 5 died during the voyage to Alexandria.

On the 1st May the D.A.D.M.S. tells us that the beach was a mass of men, mules, munitions and shrapnel; and the most deadly of these were the mules. Up in Shrapnel Gully, the chief highway of communication and traffic that lay between the New Zealand and the Australian positions—described in later maps as Kumur Kapu-dere—affairs were very unsatisfactory. The Turks held the heads of the gullies leading into the main dere and dominated all our movements by rifle fire and observed shrapnel bursts. With the object of improving our positions at the head of the gully, an offensive was prepared designed to deny observation to the Turks. The operation was to include a knoll—Baby 700—overlooking the left fork or "Monash's" Gully, and was to include a general advance of several hundred yards to the N.E. and E. entrusted to the New Zealand and Australian Division. One section of bearers from the advanced dressing station at Walker's Ridge was detailed to proceed to the head of Monash's Gully, and at the fork in the dere, near the base of "Pope's Hill," a dressing station was formed in touch with Captain Baigent, N.Z.M.C., R.M.O. to Otago.

The attack commenced at 8.30 on the night of the 2/3rd May. The Otago Battalion, hung up by severe machine gun fire, were unable to advance far and had heavy losses. The work of collecting the wounded was unusually difficult; it was a very dark night but no lights could be shown; it had rained, and the page 53bed of the dere was in places ankle deep in mud and congested with traffic so that the carry to the beach took three hours with four men to a stretcher. Private Heaver, N.Z.M.C., was killed that night on "Deadman's Hill" between "Pope's Hill" and "Quinn's Post" in attempting to rescue a wounded Otago man. A strong local counter attack by the Turks the following morning regained all the ground they had lost, and a small party of Otagos was cut off in a recaptured trench. Owing to the large number of wounded the bearers were reinforced by one section sent up under Captain A. V. Short. The casualties in the New Zealand and Australian Division for this operation were heavy:—9 officers killed, 26 wounded, 1 missing; 161 O.R. killed, 530 wounded, total 727;—Otago's losses particularly heavy. There were many wounded for evacuation by stretcher, and much difficulty from rifle fire and shrapnel. Traffic was completely held up in the Gully by snipers for a time until the Engineers constructed protective traverses and buttresses. The N.Z.M.C. losses were: 1 killed, 2 wounded. Evacuations were completed by the 4th, when most of the bearers returned to Walker's Ridge. Captain Baigent, in a short account of this operation, states that he was unable to show any lights at his R.A.P. as it was much exposed and quite unprotected. He refers to "Murphy"* the Australian donkey man who rendered valuable assistance in getting the wounded down the dere. All his wounded were evacuated by the afternoon of the 4th. He says: "the work of the N.Z.M.C. bearers and the water duty men was splendid—they were all badly in need of a rest."

By an order published this day the name "Anzac" was made official: the beach where the main body had landed was given this name, and later it was applied to the whole position occupied by the Australians and New Zealanders.

* Pte. Simpson A.M.C., a bearer of one of the Australian Field Ambulances, according to Lt.-Col. Beeston. See his booklet, "Five Months at Anzac."