Page.3. Gallipoli
The following letter from Mr. D.A. Herbert to the Wellington friend will be read with interest.
I wrote you a short note some time ago, briefly recounting my unique experience of the enemy submarine, and detailed my own desperate struggle for life and my opportune rescue. I am now able to give you more particulars of the affair, and at some time let me have some notes regarding the P. and T. men now serving at the front. I altogether about five weeks in Egypt. You will probably have heard about that place so I will not dwell on it at all, except to remark that I would not exchange small quarter- acre sections I partially possess in "Gods Own" for the whole lot of Egypt-pyramids, sphinx, and all the veiled women chucked in. My imagination refused to be stirred even by the pyramids. I saw them from the back of a donkey, and I wondered what fool spent time piling up stones like that in such a climate. The electric cars take you to the bottom of the pyramids, where you suffer a perfect bombardment of howling natives with donkeys and camels. The best part of Egypt was the perfect nights, and I used to enjoy the nightly rides over the desert occasionally. So much for Egypt as these notes must be brief.
We got orders to proceed to the front on August 29th and left that night for Alexandria, embarking on arrival on a vessel called the Southland, previously the Vaderland. I am not sure of her previous nationality. There must have been some knowledge of lurking submarines as the vessel zigzagged continuously, guards were placed all over the deck, and the deck and the machine gun and a 4.5 were continuously manned. I have already detailed the confusion in launching the boats so we will not go over that again. The vessel did not sink but was beached at Lemnos and most of the gear saved, some of it of course in a sodden state. We were within a couple of hours of Mudros Harbour (Lemnos) when the affair occurred, and it was a treat to see the way war craft and hospital ships came in answer to the S.O.S calls. A converted British cruiser, called the Bern-y Cree, picked up our boats, and I can tell some of us were sorely in need of revivers and dry togs. The wrenches fired a second tube which just missed our stern. Had it also struck the loss of life would have been tremendous.
As it was about 40 were lost, including three of our small party forty and the Brigadier of the 5th Australian Brigade. The lads of the Bern-y-chree said the existence of the submarine was known and they were engaged in searching out its base. They put us all aboard a liner called the Transylvania, lying in Mudros, and we were a ragtime lot of soldiers. The other lads found me a constant source of mirth in my Jack Tar rig. Another chap was dressed out as a stoker and so on. However, they fitted us out and sent us on here to do the job we enlisted for. It was a somewhat eerie experience coming in the darkness under the very cliffs immortalised by our Australians and New Zealanders in that famous landing. Rifle fire was going on briskly; sounding closer than it actually was, though occasionally a bullet splashed in the water close to the steamer. After a cold night and a weary tramp through a long sap we were posted to various brigades. I am living in a dugout that is simply a hole scooped in the hill, and bullets and shells whiz and screech over our heads all day practically. Usually at night the war craft start their bombardment of the enemy. I cannot remark much on the military situation, but we go into winter quarters at once, so you can take what you like from that. Men fade away from here in hundreds from sickness and wounds.
Of our fine little New Zealand army only about 12,000 remain, and these are being spelled with Australians at present in Lemnos, so there are practically no New Zealand troops here at present outside the artillery. At Anzac, were we are, there are Indian, British, and Australian troops. No for the P. and T. boys. Almost the first I run across was an old soldier, Viv, Moore, as cheerful and genial as of yore. He is now a corporal in the Divisional Signal Corps, and with him are Peter Holmes (WN.), Ed. Stephens (WP.), Norris (NA.), and Kent Johnson (PM.); "Ben" Keys (DN.), and Allen (DN.) are at present away on sick list. Members of the Accountant's Branch would have heard with regret of the end of "Doc." Findlay. I am told by the other boys that he was killed instantly by a bomb while working in the trenches. Another P. and T. man I was glad to see was Corporal Don Wilson (WN.). He can over on the same boat as myself, and with him Gordon Hat (WN.) and Bog Gold (WN.). Don was able to give me some news of the unfortunate cutting up of the 5th Reinforcements. Gordon hay, then now better chap existed, posted as missing-usually a hopeless sort of prospect, and Bob Gold has been sent back suffering from shock due to shellfire. Gordon Hay was ordered to the P.O. at Alexandria but he bucked hard enough against it.