‘Mother, it was the best bit of sport that ever I had’
‘If my turn comes to go under it does not worry me, for there are thousands of our boys who have gone before me’
Chronicle 14.09.16: The lads from Wide Bay District in the 15th Battalion made a brilliant bayonet charge on May 9:
Pte Herbert Stanley Back: Well Mother, I can tell you we have had a bit of what they call life in the trenches and I can tell you it is not too bad at all. We landed on the 25th of April and I was lucky enough to keep going until the 9th May, and I can tell you, Mother, it was the best bit of sport that ever I had, and without a word of a lie I can say that I have got between 25 and 30 Turks and one German officer, and the best of it is the one who shot me never had the pleasure of seeing me, as it was about 2 o’clock in the morning when I got hit; but do not worry as it is not much.
Very likely Maryborough by the time you get this letter I will be back in the firing line. (Pictured: Bert Back would return to the 15th Battalion but would be killed on 09.08.1915 in the August offensive.) M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.
Sgt Bob Hunter 28.06.15 : Forty men (including myself) and an officer, with fixed bayonets drove the Turks out of three lots of trenches on (May 9). Ten men from No. 12 platoon and I volunteered to go with 30 men, including Bert Back, Hen Byrne and J Clarke ( from Maryborough) from No. 11 platoon at 11pm out to the Turks’ trenches to see if they were mining under us and if we could hold the trenches we would get reinforcements sent out.
To me the idea of the charge seemed silly but wait till I tell you the great success we had, and the fighting 15th Battalion, with the 16th in support, put nearly 2000 Turks out of action in about seven hours. The officer and I thought out own ideas .. … as the enemy’s trenches were only about 25 yards away, we decided to get out of the trenches quietly and creep along on our stomachs to within ten yards of the Turks and then ‘Up and at ’em’. Well, the lads all had a tot of rum to get their blood up but I did not need that to get mine up, and over the sand bags we went each man with a sack bag tied around his waist to fill as a protection for counter attacks. About half a dozen were knocked out of action getting out of trenches but not a word was spoken and the Turks thought we got back in the trenches again and I can tell you those few minutes of creeping forward seemed like hours. I was the first to rise with a yell and the remainder arose as one man and went mad, as everyone does in a dinkum bayonet charge.
Maryborough was well to the fore and the first man to the Turks trenches came from there. All you could hear was ‘Allah’ from the Turks and ‘Australia’ will be there from our fellows.
I stood on the Turkish parapet dodging bullets and bayonets for a good minute. The Turks, who were awake, went off like the hammers of (censored) but I happened to bump against some half asleep. Well, they must have been or else I frightened them, for I got two, both bayoneted, and all I had was a bit of a jar with a blunt bayonet on the right hand and a bullet skimmed my thumb and smashed the butt of my rifle – mere trifles. The officer was wounded so I was in charge until another officer came out and relieved me. As he got into the trench he spotted a Turk moving in the bottom, and he tapped him on the head with the butt of his rifle to see if he was alive, and the silly beggar made a grab at his head, and as he did we both – well, we were taking no chances.
Bert Back from Hungry Granville was wounded in the shoulder about 3am and I bound him up. He wanted to go back for another ‘go’ but I ordered him back to the field hospital and he was sent on a hospital boat.
Poor Hen Byrne has not been heard of since that night. He was a daddy soldier and as game as a bull ant, and his only chance of being alive is that he fell into the hands of the Turks wounded. My platoon officer shook hands with me before I left and said ‘You will be lucky if you get back, Bob’ and, worse luck, he was called out with the remainder of my platoon before daylight as reinforcements and he has not been heard of since. He was a brilliant officer and Queensland can ill afford to lose him.
The Turks brought up large reinforcements in the early morning, some coming on bikes, others on camels (six a load). They had plenty of bombs so our fellows quietly retired back to their old firing line and copped the Turks coming into their old firing line, and it was like shooting kangers in West Queensland. I had to give all particulars to our general next day and he reckoned it was a fine feat, as the Turks brought reinforcements away from the other end and relieved the strain a bit on the British and French, who were thus about to advance a bit.
I reigned three weeks longer before I stopped shrapnel, and it felt like the knobs of the Sultan’s bed going in.
War is no joke and somebody will get hurt yet. There is no fun like at a football match or a rowing race and I felt a blooming side dickier going on that charge than I felt that night in the Town Hall opposed to Dunkley, when I thought I would be wiped off the map. M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.
Dvr Charles Hemming 07.06.15: The horse boats had to leave, for horses had to be put on land, for (they) get weak in the legs aboard ship for several weeks. At daybreak on the 12th of May left for Alexandria . We were away from Egypt for about six weeks and lived on bully beef and hardman’s biscuits – and they are hard. We are all used to anything now, sleep anywhere and eat anything. We don’t bother to have a shelter over our head. We are nearly black with the sun. The hospitals are full of the wounded here. It was an awful sight that met my eyes one day I visited a hospital to see a comrade but they all smile and say ‘How are things, boys?’ or ‘Have you a spare fag?’ I am so anxious to get back to the front again. I must say I would not have missed the First Expeditionary Force for the world, and if my turn comes to go under it does not worry me, for there are thousands of our boys who have gone before me. I would rather die fighting than remain in Australia and see our men come away. M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.