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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Great Blizzard

The Great Blizzard.

With the advent of cooler weather the daily sick parades became appreciably smaller, but the men of Anzac were to have still another trial of their endurance and cheerfulness, for on November 27, the weather turned extremely cold. Next morning the troops awoke to find everything white with snow. A snowstorm is not a very disagreeable thing
Black and white photograph.

[Lent by Lieut Carr, A.M.R.
New Zealand Troopers in the Snow.

provided one has a comfortable home and clean streets. But at Anzac everyone lived in a dugout—clay walls, clay floor, and a clay track up to the door. The mud and slush made all the tracks as sticky as glue. Locomotion became difficult. Supplies ran short.

The blizzard was almost the fiercest enemy encountered on the Peninsula. We could fight with, and often outwit, the Turk, but against snow and slush we had very little defence.

page 274
The troops were greatly indebted to some enterprising men who anticipated cold weather, and issued a small supply of whale oil with instructions how to apply it to the extremities in case of heavy frosts. This simple precaution prevented a very large number of frost-bite cases, as far as the New Zealand brigades were concerned. In comparison with the other troops we were more or less fortunate, as we occupied the higher ground on the Peninsula, and our trenches drained themselves down the slopes. But to those who had to go uphill to the trenches, the task was almost impossible. The deres which were always used as tracks became miniature rivers of mud, eventually becoming frozen and covered with snow. The troops will long remember the small hours of November 28 as they were rudely awakened by the tarpaulin roofs of their never-too-elaborate dug-outs collapsing on top of them with the weight of snow.
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by Col. Falla, C.M.G., D.S.O.
Rough Weather at Anzac: A Storm in Anzac Cove.

The gale made playthings of the light craft in the Cove. Barges and launches broke from their moorings and completed their sphere of usefulness on the beach. The snow-covered hills presented a wonderful sight. Long icicles hung down from the parapets in the trenches. Comparatively few of our men suffered from frost bite, but it was really a very sad and pitiful sight to see long queues of stretcher bearers carrying the suffering men from the lower slopes.
The poor fellows caught it very badly, especially towards Suvla Bay, as the trenches became inundated page 275
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by Capt. Fairchild, N.Z.D.C. In the Snow: Engineers' Dugouts at the Apex.

page 276 with the rushing waters. Many of the occupants were drowned. The brigades of the 29th Division held the trenches into which drained the flood waters from the Kiretch Tepe Sirt. They suffered severely. The New-foundland contingent, now attached as a battalion to one of these famous brigades, almost revelled in the frost and snow, as might have been expected! The casualties among the Turks, according to those who surrendered at this period (and there were quite a few) must have been enormous.

The most popular place after the blizzard broke out was the ordnance stores, as everyone was in want of extra clothing—and, thank goodness, it was available. It was amusing to see sentries on duty after their experience of the first night. It would have needed a very energetic bullet to penetrate the amount of clothing worn! This is a fair sample:—Hat, balaclava cap, (two if procurable) water-proof cape, greatcoat, tunic, cardigan jacket, shirt, two singlets, two pair of underpants, trousers, puttees, two pair of sox, straw or paper round the feet, and a pair of trench boots! After each tour of duty a compulsory tot of rum was issued. Fortunately for all concerned perfect weather set in about December 4.

This blizzard set all thinking. The chief topic of conversation was “How will we fare, supposing the bitter weather holds out for a couple of months?” as nothing in the way of stores or provisions could be landed other than in perfectly fine weather. Units who had sited their homes near the deres carved out neat villas on higher ground. Hospitals evacuated their sick as quickly as possible, and men not employed making high level roads, were busily engaged in making winter dugouts, well beneath Mother Earth—well beneath advisedly, as about this time we were almost daily informed that our airmen were locating concrete emplacements for heavy howitzers. The Turkish prisoners were also kind enough to say that a large number of heavy guns were being placed in position to blow us into the Mediterranean, which was understood to be very cold in winter.