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Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

A Rest at Mudros

page 69

A Rest at Mudros.

Now came the welcome news that the troops of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment were to move to Lemnos for a period of rest which it was hoped would extend over a month. This was made passible by the arrival on the Peninsula of the 7th Australian Infantry Brigade. The relief of units holding the Apex commenced on September 12th, but on the following day a communication was received from Division to the effect that the move to Lemnos was postponed on account of the cold and showery weather and the fact that there would be no tents available for the troops when they arrived there. The reply to this was that the men would be as comfortable there as in the trenches, even if they were without tents, and a request was made that the matter be reconsidered. To the intense satisfaction of everyone concerned, this was later in the day acceded to. The relief was then proceeded with and completed on September 14th. During the early evening the Regiment moved to Anzac Cove, and embarked on the Osmanieh for Lemnos on the following morning. On reaching Lemnos the troops went ashore by ferry steamer, but very little preparation had been made for their arrival The Battalion marched out to Sarpi Rest Camp (Mudros West), but on reaching there after dark found but a limited number of tents for its accommodation. This was a bad beginning, but the conditions improved in the course of a few days, when more tents were secured, the weather brightened, and the luxuries of hot baths and fresh food, with hours of pleasant idleness amidst peaceful surroundings, were enjoyed. It was a rest and complete change such as was needed to restore mental and physical vitality, so seriously impaired by successive months of hard fighting, lack of nourishing food, the trying heat of the summer, dysentery, and the constant strain and weariness which existence at Anzac imposed. The wastage of man power arising from these conditions was reflected in the numerical weakness of the Regiment when it moved away from the Peninsula—a comparative handful of 130 men.

page 70

While at Lemnos the strength of the Battalion was substantially increased by the arrival of the 6th Reinforcements. Light training was now being carried out, and generally the health of the men was showing a marked improvement under the totally changed conditions of living. Lieut.-Colonel Herbert had some time previously proceeded to Egypt for a brief rest; Captain D. White temporarily commanding the Battalion until the return of Captain D. Colquhoun. During this period the Regiment paraded for inspection by General Sir C. C. Monro.

On November 9th this pleasant period of relaxation came to a close, when the Battalion left Lemnos and returned to Anzac, proceeding on arrival into area of bivouac. The New Zealand Brigade again took over the Apex. On the 11th 14th Company of Otago Battalion was sent up from bivouac area to No. 1 Post of the Apex; on the 12th 4th Company was despatched to the same locality. During the 16th there was a good deal of shelling of the Apex, Cheshire Ridge and Chailak Dere, and on the following evening the enemy opened heavy machine gun and rifle fire against the Apex positions. At this period a heavy storm broke over the Anzac area, causing considerable damage to bivouacs and dug-outs, and along the beach. This was but an indication of what might be expected during the dreaded winter months.