Wednesday 22 March 2017

Great War Diary - Part 5

More extracts from Dr John Corbin's compelling diary from Anzac Cove:

Tuesday 25th May:
HMS Triumph

Off duty, went up hill and slept in sun. At about 12 o'clock returning saw great excitement in fleet. The [battleship] Triumph coming inshore listing steadily and at 12.30 she turned completely over and sank. We hear varying accounts of the casualties from 50 - 350. I shall not forget the feeling as the big ship rolled over and sank. The submarine got clear away.

Monday 31st May:

Sick to death of muddling over transport of wounded [to ships] which is still in chaotic condition - no better preparations today than the day we landed. Rather worse owing to submarine scare.

Tuesday 1st June:

Tremendous surprise this morning, a huge bag of mail. Three letters, many papers and birthday wishes. Simply splendid to get them. Have spent all morning reading them, the best birthday surprise I could get.

Monday 14th June:

We were shelled soundly from 5am to 6am. Bursting all around the hospital. Blew in a shelter 15 yards from my sleeping hut. Killed one man and wounded three badly. One shell burst just above me and smothered me in dust and debris. A further shelling in the evening. Perfectly hideous.

Wednesday 16th June:

While dressing a patient a man stopped on the beach to look over the canvas screen alongside me. He gave a grunt as a shell burst, and fell down. I looked over and found his chest blown in by the casing and quite dead.

It is amazing that none of our officers have been killed, but if we stay where we are we must be sooner or later.
Quinn's Post

Saturday 19th June:

Went for a walk with Downs up Shrapnel Gully to Pope's Hill, Courtney's Post, Quinn's Post and on over Walker's Ridge and so back to beach. It is a marvel how they can hold any of these positions.

Friday 25th June:

Left at 8.30 with Cater in a trawler and went down to Helles on a joy ride. We went round on to the Dardanelles and then back to land at Helles. We went ashore and saw the ruined forts and village. Afterwards we went to the naval observation post, [they] showed us the positions of the various troops and the lines held by the English and French. The whole thing is enormous compared with our cramped positions. No cover at all and the men must need great courage to advance and take trenches in the open as they do.
Transport ship 'River Clyde' at site of bloody British landing at Cape Helles

Tuesday 6th July:

Walked up to Pope's Hill. Powell took me through the trenches and showed me dead Turks and the whole position of the fight.

Young Turnbull came to see me yesterday and got some medicine - went into the trenches last night and got his head blown off.

Had a swim in the night light, the phosphorescence is very pretty. Sleep in new dugout looking out to sea.

Wednesday 7th July:

After bathe Boddam and I with Jollett were trying to catch fish when a most poisonous burst of shrapnel took place over us. I saw the burst and had time to think this is the end of us before a hail of bullets made the sea boil round us and the barge deck rang with them. Not one of us touched! 

Sunday 11th July:

I feel confident that there is a big move contemplated and I am sure it will resolve itself into a rout of the Turk.

Monday 12th July:

It is extraordinary to sit in your dug-out and watch the peaceful life on the beach. It might be a port with busy loading and unloading going on. Suddenly a whirr followed by a bang and everyone running for cover [then] the whole beach is quiet not a man to be seen, no bathers, no movement. Several more shells then quiet from the enemy, and in 5 minutes all back at their jobs, bathing, working, laughing, talking as if war were a million miles away.

[Photos - Imperial War Museum, National Archives of Australia]

A final set of diary extracts will be posted next Anzac Day.