Sunday 25 April 2010 by Janice Farrer. No comments
Diary of an Anzac

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds.

Steam pinnance towing ships' boats full of stretcher bearers from 1st Australian Field Ambulance to Anzac Cove at 0800 hours. Steam pinnance towing ships' boats full of stretcher bearers from 1st Australian Field Ambulance to Anzac Cove at 0800 hours.

‘At 1.30 am the boat weighed anchor and got under way. Every one was astir early and watching for the first signs of the engagement, at about 5am we could just discern the break of day and the report of the guns could be faintly heard, but they got plainer gradually as we steamed along, until the light increased and the outline of land could be dimly seen. Every few seconds a stab like flash would be seen from the guns and the shells as they exploded. As we slowly steamed towards the other transports anchored off the coast in an extremely calm sea, we passed an overturned lifeboat. The observation balloon on the ship Ark Royal was well up in the air when we passed her and a sea plane was alongside ready to rise.

 At about 7.30am we dropped anchor amongst dozens of other transports. All along the coast at intervals the battleships were firing salvoes, great sheets of flame issuing from them at each discharge and a deafening crash like thunder seems to shake the boat. Occasionally a shell from the enemy would come and fall harmlessly in the water amongst the transports, very little notice being taken of them.

At about 9am the Torpedo boat Destroyer Scourge came alongside and we got on board her with our gear only the bearer section of our unit is landing. In a very few minutes on the decks of the Destroyer were packed with troops and she began to move off, when all of a sudden there was a sharp crack and her left aft mast carrying the wireless came down. One of the out swung derricks on the transport having fouled it as we began to move. Several received a severe bump though fortunately no one received much injury, and the damaged mast and wireless was rigged up again in less time than it takes to tell.

The Destroyer slipped in as close to shore as possible, we then got into row boats which were in tow along the Destroyers sides. Picks, shovels and various other equipments including stretchers were tossed in and we were towing behind a steam pinance before the Destroyer has even stopped and was making straight for the shore at a real good speed. A short distance from the beach the pinance cast us adrift and the sailors in each boat commenced to row their boat the remaining distance. We had almost reached the beach when there was a scream in the air and a crash followed by a splashing in the water just clear of the boat, it was shrapnel and no one needed telling of the fact. We were in the water as soon as it was shallow enough and were wading ashore in water up to our waists and losing no time in doing it. On reaching the beach we got rid of our equipment and with our section officer Captain Wassail climbed the first ridge. Here we found this pretty unhealthy for our first duty in action came very soon for as we reached the crest of the ridge we came upon a chap badly wounded, he was attended to and my 3 mates (we work in parties of 4) set out to carry him to the beach. This proved to be a difficult undertaking down the steep side of the hill, there are no tracks to follow and the wounded have to be carried down sideways on or they would slide off the stretcher. Then the scrub which is about 5 ft high and pretty thick, also the loose rocks which roll down into the gully when dislodged give no end of trouble, however the wounded seem prepared to put up with the rough handling they receive in being brought in and which we are unable to prevent under the circumstances. On returning up the ridge we came under fire from an enemy machine gun and though sheltered from it by a bank just below the crest of the ridge, it was trained in such a way as to prevent any one going any further at that particular point.

Shrapnel began to explode pretty freely in the gully below us and a couple of chaps were wounded by it, we attended to them and they then walked back to the beach. A few minutes later as we approached the crest of the ridge again a chap called t us in the scrub and got one of the mates to dress one of his fingers which had the tip shot off at the first joint, he then went back through the scrub saying he would let some ****** know he could still use his rifle. All the wounded we attend to in any way showed a disregard for the pain that is really remarkable. After numerous trips to the beach we received instructions late in the afternoon to assist in placing some of the wounded in barges which carried them out to the hospital ships and transports.

The beach presented an awful scene, evidently the wounded had been collecting on the beach all day and none were being transported out to the boats till late in the afternoon. There must have been somewhere about 1200 wounded and numbers if dead lying along in the shelter of the cliff which gave very limited shelter even then, especially from shrapnel which every now and then would explode over the each. Taking its toll and adding to the already huge death toll. The doctors worked like Trojans during their utmost under the circumstances to attend to all serious cases that urgently required it, their job was an impossible one as every one could understand. The courage shown by the wounded will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it, it was brilliant, they were prepared for anything and gave a great deal more thought for how things were going in the line, than they seemed to do for their wounds. Many would be cursing their wounds and their helplessness not on account of any pain but for the reason that they were out of the thick of the fight.

All the while the guns of the ships were at it constant and their roar mingled with the crack of rifle fire and machine gun fire and the scream and crash of shells in the air and when they exploded created such a medley of sound, that it became hard to realize that it was not all a great nightmare.  The broadsides from the 15in guns on the Lizzie seemed to shake the very earth when she fired. I have no idea of the time, but it was getting on to sunset and while engaged on the beach that I came across Ellis Stones with a severe wound in the knee, we only had time for a few words, as we put him on a barge, he informed me about Will Elliot being killed just after leaving the boat.

Just about sunset we went over the first ridge at a point away to the right of where we were engaged this morning and worked out way up the gully behind it to where it seemed to meet the second ridge, there we collected a number of wounded and carried them to the beach. An attempt was being made after sunset to get some of our artillery ashore, only 2 Indian mountain batteries are ashore and we are badly in need of artillery support. Every where the enquiry is being made along the front – “where is our artillery?” and a constant call from reinforcements at one point or another is made.

There appears to be no sign of us pushing through to our objectives without them, for the casualties have already been enormous and the battalions are scattered everywhere, although there is a definite understanding between everyone to stick the thing through, and hold out against the increasing numbers of enemy at any cost. Rumours concerning the British at Helles are very favourable if correct, we heard that Indian and French forces are making an attempt to link up with our right flank to assist us, and that early tomorrow British troops will be sent to our front, to push on. Tonight we are being held and out line is very weak if the enemy make any serious attempt to attack. All along the coast the battleships are firing, and at every discharge a blinding flash splits the darkness followed by a crash like thunder. The rifle fire has been intense all day, and continues to be so. So far our rifle fire has stopped all enemy attempts to drive us back though we have had to give some ground.’