Attraction, Military Trail Disease, heat and flies

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Queens ParkMaryborough, QLD 4650

Heat, flies, disease in ‘extraordinary position’

As the summer swelter set in, the Anzacs cursed billions of flies drawn by unsanitary conditions.

British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett: The Australians at Anzac hold the most extraordinary position in which any army has ever found itself, clinging as they are to the face of the cliffs. Roughly the position consists of two semicircles of hills, the outer higher than the inner. They are extremely well entrenched and cannot be driven from their position by artillery fire or frontal attacks….the Turks are entrenched up to their necks all around them.

Lt Frank Ross: Only yesterday (Beacher Bill) fired a shot while a water party were on the beach, and killed four and wounded 11. As it is probably fired from a deep tunnel all attempts by our fellows to blow it up have been unavailing. The principal work now is dig, dig, dig and dig again. In some places the trenches are very close and the game then is to dig under each other, pack in plenty of dynamite, and when all is ready blow up the whole show. As I write ‘Abdul’, otherwise the Turks, must have been in a bad mood and have been shelling us pretty hot, but very little damage has been done. We are quite used to this sort of thing now and do not take much notice of Abdul’s stunts. Food is fairly plentiful and of pretty good quality.

Flies, however, are in millions and stomach troubles are fairly prevalent. M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line
James Kerr (pictured): I am keeping well. There is a great deal of sickness among the troops now, 30 or more men being sent away every day from our battalion alone. They are mostly run down cases. Last week we had 35 men in the machine gun section and today there are only 24 left. That will be reduced again soon. I am in the firing line every second day now and have charge of the sentry group. It is very tiring and trying…. sleep is almost impossible. Bombs are the only danger and the Turks are masters at throwing them. There is no fear of asphyxiating gas, as we are high up and the wind is always in our favour. We are supplied with respirators, chemically prepared, and gas helmets, so it is an impossibility to harm us if it does come. Every trench is fitted with ammonia sprayers which kill the gas.

At the time of writing there is not a shell or shot being fired by either side and it is hard to believe there is a war on. No mail has come to light yet and the men are beginning to get very discontented. One would think the authorities would do everything possible to deliver the mail as it is the best thing for keeping up the spirits of the army.

During the day I will go through the painful operation of shaving, so called because of the cold water, blunt razor, and 2 weeks’ growth. I am sure that most of us must look very wild at times. We get plenty to eat, but there is too much of the sameness about it. For dinner, bully beef, biscuits and jam and for tea we have just the opposite, jam, bully beef and biscuits with a little cheese. This is the same every day, every week, every month, but we hope not every year. We get a pint of tea for every meal, and we get issued with a quart of water every day. That is for drinking, cooking and washing yourself, clothes. Needless to say the latter gets very little.
– M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line

Bert Richardson. I had a rather bad time of it for a couple of days in the trenches before I left. In the support trenches I had to sleep fully equipped and 2 of us had to sleep in the one post, of which the dimensions were 4 ft by 3ft. The most annoying part was sleeping with that equipment on. You lie on your back and oh dear, the weight of that 200 rounds of ammunition on your stomach, and that entrenching tool under your back. You will then roll over on your left side, only to be annoyed by your entrenching tool handle and bayonet scabbard. At last, in desperation, you will roll to your right side and go to sleep with your water bottle well into the side of your ribs. I will not mention the myriad of flies one is attacked by, yet nevertheless one learns to be cheerful amongst all this. What a cruel fiend war is. Our present position is on a beautiful wheat field with a lovely crop save for the entrenchments. With all my heart I pity the peaceful farmer who owns the crop.
– M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line

Harold Beiers: The country is all steep ridges and ravines, covered with bush known as camel-weed. It is something like holly, and when you lie down the leaves stick to your clothes like the dickens as they are covered with prickles. If you could only see the steep cliffs and their heights, which are covered with this darned stuff, you would be wondering how our chaps managed to charge up them and capture them. … I got my first experience of the trenches. The Turks were 150 yards in front. Next I got orders to move again, and to attack some trenches at another place, which we successfully did, but my men suffered a good few casualties. In the middle of the scrap the General ordered me to take command of another captain whose nerves had broken up, and I had a great job collecting the men, as it was pitch dark and there was considerable noise from shells and rifle fire, and the next day we were connecting our trenches with those we had captured. We had to take up a position where there was a deadlock, and here, though you may not realise it over in Australia, the Turks were only 10 yards in front of us and to our right about 30 yards. If you want to commit suicide you only have to put your head out of the trenches. We are very comfortable here. The food supply is excellent but the water is scarce.
– M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line

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Queens ParkMaryborough, QLD 4650