"That's only Beachy Bill"
You spoke of the last letter I received from you, saying I hope you are still in Egypt, well we were, but not for long we marched to the station within two hours and in the early hours of the next morn embarked on the “Scotian” which carried up across to Lemnos, where we stayed a couple of days before they ran us across to the peninsula– by the way I took a few photos on the trip across to Lemnos and have sent them away with an old band friend of mine in the 6th BBattalion. He says he will post them on to you. I hope you receive them all right, do not open the roll or else they will be cooked, but just send it along to the Kodak boy to be developed and printed, the lot will only cost about 1/3d. They are a couple of views of Alexandria Harbour taken from the ship and a view of the boats in Lemnos Harbour (Mudros Bay), we were run over from there in a lovely little fast liner “Osmanieh”, and my word she did cut the pace, about 18 knots, the fastest I've been on the water since I started this 6 bob a day touring. We steamed, with life belts on, and no smoking (it was at night) so as not to make a target for torpedos.
I suppose you have read about the 21st being torpedoed on their way to Lemnos. They were the last transport and we were the second last, and not so far in front of them either, but as they had the Brigade Headquarters on board, I suppose they were marked before hand. Well, we got to out destination in a couple of hours and instead of a war being on, you would think it was Henley on the Yarra.
First of all there was a hospital ship just in front of us, illumined with red and green lights and she looked great. Then every few minutes a rocket would burst high up and let loose floating stars which illuminated everything around, it was sent up from the trenches so as to prevent any surprises, then there was the war boats with search lights banging away for all they were worth at “Beachy Bill”, a gun that does a good deal of dirty work but cannot be located, then there were rifles cracking away incessantly. So there you are, that was our first impression of the war.
We were marched to the ravine that the first and second Contingents fought so hard to clear, were we bivouacked for the night with bullets whizzing overhead a treat.
Just about daylight, three bullets seems just to skim my head and hit the bank a few feet up. So I thought it was about time to shift, but as no more came my way I went to sleep again.
At daybreak we were a stir and dug ourselves in properly. Water is scarce and there is none at all to wash yourself unless you go without a drink, so three of us cut down to the beach to bathe and I was just about to dive when bang, whizz, crash and a shrapnel shell burst over our heads, but just a little to the right. The whizzing part of the process takes about three seconds so you have that much time with which to bob. I was very dirty and a no more came I had a bit of a wash and then got behind some sandbags just in time to dodge another, then came some stray bullets so we went back to our little dug outs.
Some of the old chaps who have been here all the time said “Oh, that's only Beachy Bill having a flutter” so I went to bed that night. And after the Demonstration (which is a show of strength both sides indulge in, at about nine o'clock, every rifle and machine gun go for all they are worth for a while.) Slept through it all, and next day we moved off to relieve the 6th Battalion who have been in action every since the landing, there are only forty of the original battalion left, the rest are reinforcements.
I met an old friend on mine who gave me his dug out which is a real beauty.
The scenery is liable to get a bit monotonous, all you can see is six feet of earth of either side of you but it is not worth while standing on anything to have a look round as you would probably last about three seconds at the most.
There's a sniper close by and I don't know what he can see in our corner, but he has been hitting the earth about a foot over our heads for two days know, and on the same spot every time, there must be something he has got his eyes on but it is not safe to get up and see. Every time the bullet hits the side, the lead expands and bursts the nickel plating which gives out a loud crack.
Yesterday we had our first taste of being well and truly shelled. There is a corner exactly three dugouts from mine which was blown up (or down) before we arrived on the scene and one of the officers ordered that the debris be shovelled on top of the trench. A party was soon got to work but although they were screened from the trenches in front of us they were in full view of the Turks entrenched on a hill at one side, and they had not been going five minutes before they started to shell us, and they had the range to an inch. How it was that no one was killed I don't know, for at the first explosion the handle of a shovel that one of the fellows was using got cut in two and a hole through the shovel. I saw it myself and you can guess that it did not take more than a fraction of a second to dive into the further most corner of my cave, where I crouched while about six shell burst on top of me. They are simply awful. It feels as if you must be torn to pieces every time, but it is quite safe, so long as you have got a good shelter. And then our own battery replied and for a time we were left alone but got some more in the afternoon. We have only had minor casualties so far. But just as present, this is a very quiet part.
We are just holding our positions I am in the firing line attached to B Coy as a stretcher bearer and have to be there ready at any time for a call, day or night. But we have put in two days without anyone in the Coy being put out of action. I am along with Harry, Ernie is over the hill amongst the Stores, and Ralph is entrenched on our left. I saw him this morning and he did look a cut but I suppose he was laughing at me too, for neither of us have had a shave for a week, as as for a wash well water was made to drink, not to waste.
There is no danger at all in our present position but I think it is too good to last somehow. Our cooks haven't been sending us up very much in the way of food. I suppose they are not settled yet. Yesterdays menu- Breakfast, one slice of bread with a spoonful of bully beef on top, one raw onion and mug of tea, Dinner small platter of rice and a spoon full of jam, Tea two slices of bread and jam, a mug full of tea.
So you see, we will soon be of the greyhound type on that, but there are always plenty of “army pattern biscuits” about which we pound up and make of sort of porridge and so forth but things will soon improve, I hope if we stop here.
This is a worse place for news than ever we don't know a thing that goes on beyond our own line of trenches and I hope we will get a mail sometime but I suppose we will have to put up with lots of unpleasant things now that we are in for it properly.
I expect it will be weeks before this reaches you, and probably the war will be over then. It will have to hurry up or else I won't get home for Christmas dinner but if I do happen to be a bit late, save us some please and piece of pudding with some threepences in.
I hope you don't see my name in the Honour Role before this reaches you. I'd much rather have it on the Electoral Role but I expect I'll dodge the bullets somehow and I don't think I'll come to any more wars after this, a chap would have to be a glutton to come again and I am looking forward to the time when I will get back to 64 Brunning Street and peace and quietness. So I'll say goodbye with love to all from your loving son.