Here is the transcript of a letter sent by 2nd Lieutenant Walter Evan Evans of the 8th (Pioneer) Battalion, The Welsh Regiment to his father. The letter is undated and the envelope has not survived. It makes interesting reading and I will be adding footnotes as I discover more about the events described.
No. 1. Convalescent Home
My dear Pater,
Since I arrived here I have had several long talks with the adjutant, who is quite affable down here, and I have gradually been piecing together what happened to us on the 8th of August. Before I saw him I only knew about what had happened around me and had only a rough surmise about what happened in other parts, most of this furnished by Tommies who I discovered later really knew practically nothing about it.
We went up from Mudros on the Wednesday (August 4). Bashford, who was, and I think still is, at the Ordnance depot there, came ashore to see me in the afternoon but I had already gone. We started about 3 in the afternoon and had a very dull voyage till it began to get dark. The boat was very small and nothing to eat was provided by the boat people barring water which came in useful making tea. However when it was dark, it became more interesting. The shelling of Achi Baba was plainly seen and was very interesting to watch. Everynight a destroyer steams in and bombards the place at the same time playing her search lights on it. One could see very well the flashes of the guns and then the flashes of the bursting shells and also the path traversed by the shells through the air. Really taken all round an ordinary night’s bombardment far excels any Crystal Palace firework show. What with the flashes of searchlights, guns, shells and rifles. However these are nothing in firework display when compared with the star shells sent up by both sides in the trenches. These are rather after the style of the good old rocket; for they burst in the air and give out many coloured lights which shine very brightly and taking a long time descending show up the opposite trench and also if there’s anything interesting on. These latter are a great nuisance when you are working between the Turkish and our own trenches and you have to be continually on the lookout for them so that you can go to earth as soon as they go up.
Well we arrived at Anzac about 10 in the evening and as soon as the lighters came off the first half battalion began disembarking. There was a continual crackle of musketry going on all the time but very little shellfire. A few shells landed on the beach between the landings of the two half battalions but whilst the actual landing was taking place all was quiet.
You must not mix our lot up with the people who carried out the new landing at Sulva Bay several days later. After we landed at Hell Spit we marched along Brighton Beach for about 15 minutes when we turned up Canterbury Gully and branched off from there to Shrapnel Gully. About halhway up this we halted and made our bivouac. It was now beginning to get light so we had very little sleep that night. We were about 600 yards from the beach and about the same distance from our firing line. We could easily see our support trenches at the top of the gully and in fact stray bits of shell meant for them kept falling amongst our troops. We had a very scrappy breakfast and then learnt from our neighbours, some Australians; the special points to be noticed and avoided in the gully. It was most essential to keep down in the gully for the Turks always sent over a few shells if they ever saw three or four men wandering about. This is their usual custom and proves that they must have abundance of ammunition.
I with several others crawled up in the late morning and had a look through glasses at the Turkish trenches about 800 yards distant. Shrapnel Gully was so called because of the quantity of shrapnel which was always flying about in it. We, however, being higher up the gully that usual get far less of it than they do lower down. Still there is a very nasty gun called “Beachy Bill”, a 4.7, which fires right across us and into us from the direction of Gaba Tepe. I was pleased to hear that the navy put this gun out a few days after I left for it was this gun that did all the damage on the beach. Another very annoying gun was a 75 mm, which had been captured from the Serbians I think in the last war. This gun did a lot of damage in our gully and it was a fragment of one of its shells which hit me that afternoon.
Between 3 and 4 every afternoon the Turks cease shelling for that is their hour of prayer and eating. We were in Shrapnel Gulley all day Thursday and Friday during which time there were several casualties especially when men went to fetch water. The water tanks were regular death traps for the Turks knew exactly where the water tanks were and at what hour men went to draw water and so shelled accordingly. During Thursday the beach was very heavily bombarded and two naval commanders killed and several men. A water lighter was sunk and a picket boat badly damaged. Owing to this water lighter having being sunk there was a great scarcity of water because there was only one other lighter available and they wouldn’t let that come near the coast because they were afraid that it would be sunk also.
About 10 o’clock Friday morning the C.O. collected us and explained to us the general scheme of what was to happen during the next few days. In the afternoon we received news that the Turks had discovered that there was a large number of troops in our gully and that they were going to shell us out of it. The order went round to lie very low in the dug outs. I had quite a good dug out and we escaped damage although there were several casualties amongst the battalion. The day before our company mess had occupied the dug out of the brigade headquarters but we were turned out in the middle of the night. On Thursday evening, there was a very pretty fight between two aeroplanes but neither was brought down and we were very nearly exterminated by the nose of a shell which fell in our dug out and went through two sandbags.
Friday evening we fell in about 9.30. Every man carried pick and shovel and 300 rounds of ammunition. We left our packs in Shrapnel Gulley under a guard which was nearly exterminated a few days later by an 8 inch shell which exploded amongst and blew one man in half and wounded several others. ….. scattered bits of these men over the packs and so many had to be destroyed.
We started that evening about 10 and marched towards the beach but about half-way down we turned north into Canterbury gulley where we halted for sometime. During this time several shells fell amongst us and the adjutant and Yates were buried and I and several others partly buried by a large ‘football’ which luckily didn’t explode. A ‘football’ is a large round ball, 18 inches in diameter, with a large handle at each end fired from a trench mortar. A large number luckily do not explode.
We pushed on along the beach all night until we came to Fisherman’s Hut. There we turned eastwards away from the sea up the Chailak Dere. The Turks were held in check by the fire of two monitors which were about 5 miles out at sea. During this night the landing at Sulva had taken place. We halted at 4 and had a few hours rest and also a small drink. We were then on ground which had been Turkish the day before. We moved up this gully, the Chailak Dere, in the wake of the New Zealanders to whom we were attached. About midday the C.O. who was in front, going along too fast, came under fire and was shot in the eye. His left eye was taken out but I hear that the sight of his other eye was not affected.
We moved farther up the gully that day and arrived about 5 in the afternoon at the bottom of Rhododendron Ridge. We were troubled a great deal in the evening by snipers of which there is a great number. Down in the gullies notices and sometimes men are placed to warn you of the danger. Sometimes you come to a spot where there is a Tommy who will cheerfully tell you that 17 have been shot there today. So hoping you are not going to be the 18th you dash across; low, you will hear a bang and a bullet strike the earth behind you.
The attack was advertised for 6.15 Saturday evening but was postponed as the troops at Sulva had not advanced as quickly as we had done. When it was dark we went up to the top of the spur and started digging a trench on the forward slope. We could see Turks on the opposite slope but they never troubled us beyond making us a little anxious. Another very annoying thing was every 15 minutes a cruiser out at sea would throw his searchlight onto us and show us up so that everybody was obliged to take cover. We stayed up on top until about 2.30 am Sunday morning when we went back to our bivouac and received the cheering news that we was to stand to at 3.30 and attack at 4.15. No orders came until about 3.45 and when they were being given out it was time to fall in.
The general scheme was for the attack on Chanak Bair.
Front line 7th Gloucesters Wellington Battalion
Reserves 8th Welsh
8th Welsh scheme.
A coy B coy Each coy in line.
200 yds 200 yds
C coy D coy
When we arrived on top of Rhododendron Spur and passed over our own trenches there was about 500 yards of open country before one reached the foot of Chunuk Bair. The Wellingtons went over this in the dark and lost very few in the attack itself. The Gloucesters hung back and lost heavily through this. We going up in the light lost very heavily before we even reached the top of the hill. When we got on to the top of the ridge we found many of the Gloucesters lying down there. We pressed on through them and so became disorganised as some men got through faster than others and some stayed behind. When we were through, Captain Gwyer and myself, we went to the right and got down into the Sari Bair. I then had with me about 20 men of my platoon and about 30 others belonging to different companies and some of the Gloucesters. We advanced up the Sari Beit and then wheeled to the right. You can see my track on the sketch map. Captain Gwyer was killed by a shell when quite close to me. I went on and we lay down at the top and covered the right flank as well as we could. I had been hit in the leg going up and some time after was hit in the shoulder. I crawled down the Sari Beit about 10 in the morning to look for a dressing station but was unable to find one and was obliged to stay there till it was dark. The summit of Chunuk Bair was taken but they were driven off and we held the captured Turkish trench. When this was taken no dead Turk was found in it thereby showing us that during our bombardment the Turks kept out of their forward trenches and only came into them again when the assault was delivered.