I got to bed late last night. I woke up late. I have to go out soon. I am again pushed for time.
So here – for no logical reason at all – are two entries from an Anzac soldier’s diary written at Gallipoli exactly 99 years ago – in May 1915.
He was a signaller, born in London, and his name was Ellis Silas.
He moved to Australia in 1907.
He was aged 29 when he wrote the diary entries at Gallipoli.
He, of course, no longer exists.
1st May 1915
We are relieved from the firing line – the battle still raging; every nerve strained. Australians have done splendidly, holding a very difficult position; have been much troubled with snipers. Am glad I have done my duty.
First wash for a week – go down to the Water Hole, which is always covered by Turkish snipers – it was safer in the trenches than here – all around this spot are dead and wounded who have been hit when dodging round this corner; however, one must drink, even if the price be Death.
Make dug-outs in our rest camps, but men are continually caught by the snipers. Many are commencing to suffer from dysentery, though the spirit of the men is splendid, always ready for a joke.
Signaller Walker just hit in the mouth – we considered we were out of range in our dug-out but the snipers are everywhere. Sergeant of the machine gun is writing a very amusing diary, full of humour; I wish I had his spirit.
In the dug-out just above me a poor chap is lying very ill but has asked me to say nothing to the medical officer as he does not want to get sent away in the middle of the fun, as he calls it. Of such stuff are soldiers made – I think if I were in his place I’d be glad of an excuse to get out of this Hell, though I don’t think I should ever have forgiven myself if I had not come.
I hear that to-morrow we are going to make a charge – the Turks are cutting our supplies off; the situation is severely critical.
To read this in a newspaper makes an item of passing interest; to experience it is something quite different – if we are up against it, please God I may die in the same spirit that I know my comrades will display, for they know not defeat.
2nd May 1915
Our supplies are getting cut off – Turks have complete command of the roads through which we have to bring them – tonight we are to take the Ridge.
I wonder how I shall get on in a charge, for I have not the least idea how to use a bayonet; even if I had, I should not be able to do so, the thing is too revolting – I can only hope that I get shot – why did they not let me do the RAMC work? I have told the authorities that be often enough that I cannot kill.
One poor chap in a dug-out close to us was killed while preparing his meal; he has been lying there for two days – his mess tin full of tea, the charred remains of the fire he was cooking by, a few biscuits scattered about, his pipe by his side – we cannot bury him on account of the snipers; it seems no place is safe from them – efforts are being made to clear them out but it is a difficult job as we cannot spare the men to do it.
We are very hard pressed – we were to have had four days’ rest from the firing line but now the situation is so critical that at all costs the enemy must be shifted from the Ridge. Colonel Pope has aged much during these first terrible days.
Ellis Silas died in London exactly 57 years later, aged 86, on 2nd May 1972.
So it goes.