Hyder's letter to his mother, written 27-28 July 1915 / Laurie E. Hyder
My Darling Mother,
I thought this a great opportunity to get a few lines to you, telling you some of my doings without having my letter sensored. First of all the chap that handed this to you is a personal friend of mine, his name is Charlie Copp, he was in the hospital with me, you need not read any more of this now till you have had a taught to him, finish reading it when he has gone.
He leaves in the morning for Australia.
Well Mother dear where shall I start, I think I will start from the time I left Mina camp to go to the Dardenells. Remember this starts on April 4th Now we pulled down our tents about 8 oclock on Sunday morning & got them rooled up & put on the transport, then had our kits packed also, they were going to be stored at Alexandra base. At 4 o’clock we were ready to march to Cairo, by 4.30 we were off, really off, it is 10 miles to Cairo from here so we got a steady walk on mind you we had all our kits on! They weigh no light weight, we had a little tea with us,so had that about 5.30 on the road. We had several halts on the road, & evidently reached Cairo station at a quarter to nine that night, there we bought cakes and drinks, & rested till 11 o’clock then we were entrained & set off for Alexandra at 11-30 reaching there at 5 o’clock on Monday morning, then embarked on the troopship Galeka at 6, we were shown our messes
and then had breakfast, we never left Alexandra till Thursday evening, while at Alexandra we saw several troopships come in with Indians & Frenchmen, it is the first time I had seen a french soldier & my word I did laugh, such a peculiar uniform they have, blue coat & red trousers very baggy & funny little caps. The Indians are pretty well the same as us only they have turbans & long knives,& these knives they won’t show anybody unless they are allowed to draw blood.
Some of our officers had gone ashore & while they were there the ship pulled out from the pier it was 100 yards out when they come running up they then had to get into a native boat, the native would not take them until he got the money first. they always want the money first these fellows, well the boat was getting further away while they were arguing the point then there started a race there was great laughter on board anyhow they reached the boat in the course of time. Well Mother dear we were really off to war at last although none of us seemed to realize it we were all too jolly glad to get out of that horrible desert & filthy city. As soon as we got out on the ocean the boat started to roal some, I will own up I felt very queer although I wasn’t sick, anyhow I wasn’t the only one. We reached the Island of Lemnos on Sunday morning at 6 am. If you get hold of a map you will be able to follow our movements about from here.
When nearing the mouth of Lemnos Island we saw a great row of what we though were barrells, but were told that they were mines right across the entrance to protect
the ships inside, a great sight was before us here battleships in galoore & transports we had to stand to attention while passing the warship, the bugles played the salute.
We also had the pleasure of seeing the wonderful dreadnaugh Queen Elizabeth, which I will explain about later on. The French battleships are such curious looking creatures with all their guns covered over with some brown stuff, makes them look rusty, but their not. The next day we were all served out with 200 rounds of bullets like the ones I had in my room & every day we had to go up & down rope ladders over the side of the ship with full marching order on. The third brigade had been here a month doing this. They were too be the first to land on Gallipoli so had to be very well trained in this sort of work, I am in the second as you know.
One day we were practising this & were told to be very careful & not to fall in by our officers,
Mr Lieutenant Riddle is our platoon commander, so we had all our shoulder strap & waistbelt undone so as we could slip them off in case we fell into the water, well we got into the boats alright & then pulled ashore, while getting ashore Mr Riddle fell in & we had a laugh, there is a Greek village here, very pretty little town & such a lovely church, lovely inside, well we came back to our ship again & going up the roap ladder two chaps fell in, they lost their rifles & got a good ducking. The next day I was on guard. Some sailors came alongside & put on a diving jacket & went under the ship to look at a pipe
that was blocked up, very interesting to watch them. Whilst at Lemnos an enemys aeroplane flew over the bay, I suppose they were out for a bit of a spy, they never dropped any bombs, there were about 40 battleships here of all sorts & 5 or 6 submarines & 5 hydroplanes I had the pleasure of seeing these go up one day to do a bit of scouting, well Mother I will push along a bit we were here till the 24th April at 6-30 that night we sailed out of Lemnos, amid cheering, & cheering & coo-e’s of the battleships, the sailors were giving us cheering remarks & wishing us all good luck, they evidently knew what we had to face as they were there bombarding the forts in march.
Well out of Lemnos we went with our pouches full of bullets & our haversacks full of biscuits & bullybeef. We were all given a lecture before leaving & told by the head that we were fighting a treacherous foe & that we were new to this game they call war, but he was sure that we would make a name for ourselves, that Australia would be proud of. At 8 o’clock we arrived in some little shelter bay called Mudros which hid us from the lookouts of the Dardenells we were now only a few miles from the peninsula- just before it got dark you could see away over on the horizon a dozen warships
ships steaming towards the Dardenells. You might think by this time as we knew we were just on the point of going into battle that we would be all very quiet & saying our prayers, but that was not the case, we were all as lively as ever & singing songs & playing games just as if we were on a nice sea trip. At 11 o’clock up came the anchor & we were off, we just crawled along, we were all made to go to bed early as we had to be up at 3 in the morning, I could not sleep I was two excited I kept going up on deck every now & then it was a lovely starry moonlight night. I lent over the rails of the ship thinking of you all as I never have thought of you before. We knew we had no easy task before us as our Colonel told us that dozens of us would never get ashore & he was right too. Well Mother darling I gave all your photos a long farewell kiss I also had a note in my pocket book to be sent home to you in case I was toppled off. I always carry my wallet with the photos in in my left hand pocket over the heart. At last the ship cam to a standstill about 4 in the morning of April 25th 1915. We could just distinguish land about 2 miles off with mountainous hills towering up, the excitement was getting intense
all of a sudden right along side of us goes the bang of a big gun, up on deck we jumps no officers could stop us, what met my eyes made me thrill all over, do you ever get that sensation when you are witnessing anything exciting, I was actually seeing a naval bombardment. Oh I can’t describe it enough you would see flame in the dark & then look ashore & you would see a great big flare just like a huge star, it was shrapnel busting over the turks then all the other ships started then a couple of our aeroplanes went up & the turks started shelling them. The Turks turned their guns onto the ship now we were all got below the decks and of course the chaps started scheming to get on deck again. I worked it alright I had an excuse that I wanted to go to the W.C. I got up and was looking through the crack in the wall. I got tired of that & eventually got on the promenade deck. I soon got down again as a shell went through the funnel of the ship. At a quarter to 5 the first batch of troops were got off, away they went six boats pulled by a naval pinnace shorewards they were the first lot of the 3 brigade that affected the landing , look in the water and around the troopships you [last sentence indecipherable]
could see hundreds of boats laden with troops making for the shore, by 5-5 we heard shots ashore & knew that our chaps were at grip with the Turks. Then came our turn we were all got ashore in due course, we passed the first empty boats coming back from the shore, they had a few dead & wounded men in them, there was a fort on the right of where we landed & one of the battleships the Becanty it was crawled right up to it & started pouring broadsides into it it was causing us a lot of trouble firing shrapenal at our boats as they were landing there was three shots fired at the boats that I was amongst , I just crouched down & never got touched. While we were getting towed ashore , & destroyer came dashing along almost running us down, our boat got about 10 feet from the shore, the chaps never waited till it got right in, but threw the picks and shovels ashore that they were carrying & jumped into the water, some going over their heads in water, off over the hills we went, we got into a gully & took our packs off, that meant leaving our tucker behind ,God knows when we were to see our packs again, for a joke I shook hands with our corporal & I went to shake hands with one of my best friends, he would
not shake hands, the corporal was wounded & my mate killed that same day, the Corporals name was Cuthbert & my chums Peter Swift such a hard case was Peter, we got in touch with the 3 brigade very shortly up hill and down gullies. At last we were firing at the Turks then came a bayonet charge, wasn’t that exciting, I had the good fortune of trying my nice shinny bayonet on big fat Turk, he yelled out Allah then on again we went & I came across a sniper when he saw me coming straight at him with cold steal, he got up and started to run but my nimble feet caught him in two strides. I stuck it right through his back, if he had of stopped where he was he could have easily of shot me, but the presence of so many men coming right behind me scared him. We had by this time got nearly 5 miles inland the Turks were eventually leading us onto their main trenches,
it for we were suddenly stopped by a heavy shower of shrapnel & machine gun fire, we held on for a while then got the word to retire, we were in bad need of support, now & things looked pretty desperate, poor Mr Riddle got shot in the shoulders here & Major Hamilton was shot dead. Captain Luxton was
shot, Major bennet was wounded, Captain Shawn was killed, several of my mates, Danny Martin poor old Bennet, we used to call him sphinx & Edgley, he was the best liked chap in the company, we do miss his mouthorgan. several others also went under. An officer & seven men were told off to go out on the extreme right. I was one of them, we got caught by a lot of snipers while laying down looking for them two of our number were shot dead. Edgley was one of them, we then got the word to retire as soon as we moved a shower of lead followed us, I was unfortunate enough to trip I fell onto a lot of bushes & the bullets were going underneath me, up I jump again the officer was still with us but poor devil I was sorry for him, his knees were playing home sweet home, we reached safety at last, well what we thought was safety, we started to dig in on top of another hill later on the Turks came in sight again, I had a good shot at one, I never looked to see whether I got him or not, the navy could not fire a shot all the time we were on the island as they did not know how far we were inland we had no guns of our own, so you can pretty well guess what
sore straits we were in, then we had to retire still farther back, we entrenched on the next hill on that Sunday night & have held it ever since. It rained like the very devil & the Turks kept charging us all the time, but we had our machine guns up now & they played sweet music with the turks. Imagine our joy on Monday morning when some of our artillery came ashore, I gave a hand to haul it up to its position & also uncapped some of the shells. We came out of the trenches on Friday morning relieved by the Royal Naval Division.
We went down to our dugout, had a good feed & then went for a swim while swimming a chap sitting right next to me talking was shot dead. All this time we had hardly any food, & no clothes but what we stood up in. We were then allowed to go and get our packs, it was a dangerous job as the turks would be able to pot at us while we were getting them; anyhow I got mine. The next day we went into the trenches again & two days after we were told that our brigade was to go down to Cape Hellis right at the mouth of the Dardenelles to make an advance there. Why the Tommies could not do it I never found out, eventually the Australians were the right men for the job. Everybody was talking of the
wonderful achievement the Australians had accomplished. The navy could not praise us enough, I heard a great man of the navy & General Maxwell pass a remark one day when they were going through the trenches the navy chap said my jove General, you haven’t got men you have real devils. Another remark I heard by two other big men one chap said my word those kangaroos of yours went over those hills just like kangaroos leeps and bounds. The sailors off the battleships are very brave men. I have often heard people in Melbourne running the sailors down but if ever I hear them say it again I think I will be inclined to give them a little dig under the chin.
About this time the Queen Elizabeth got to work with her15 inch shells, fancy nearly a ton weight getting through the air & lobbing the turks you would see a great cloud of yellow smoke, about 30 seconds later you would have to hold your ears for if you didn’t you would probably get deffened. such reports, & the turks did cop it. Well we went down to Cape Hellers in mine layers, & the sailors could not do enough for us, they gave us soup & bread cocoa cigarettes, we landed there while the shells were dropping on the pier we all got ashore safely, on we went
forward for about 3 miles, & dug our selves in,on Saturday morning we had to shift up near the firing line at 5.30 that night we made our advance at what a cost, we lost terribly heavy in both killed & wounded, we done our work advanced 1,300 yards & held our position, through that good bit of work we were called the white gurkhas we came out of the trenches on Tuesday morning & went back to our dugouts about 2 miles behind the firing line we were taken for a swim and while there the turks were firing Jack Johnsons onto the base where all the stores horses were, I saw a shell kill thirty horses, you can hear them coming a mile off but dont know where they are going to lob so you can imagine how we felt dodging these beauties. We were having dinner one day and the Turks started shelling our dugouts. They knocked our doctor over with one of them P Black. We got back to Gaba Lepa on Monday morning we could not go into the trenches until we received reinforcements; we were that cut up, 23 were left after that charge at C.Helles. I took sick a few days later, dissentry & rhumatics, terribly wet weather at the Dardenells, always raining went back to Lemnos, dissentry got better, sent to Cairo got tonsilitis going across in the boat, then got a bad back, then got sore eyes, then went dumb, I am before the board, but I will tell you how I got on about that later
I am feeling a lot better now, keep your pecker up. Show this to Bertha & the girls & give my fondest love to all. I saw the Triumph get sunk.The chap who gives you this will tell you a lot of things. I met Father Gordnich from Charlton here he is a Roman Catholic priest very pleased to see me.
I went for a motor ride yesterday 5 of us & a sister we went 20 miles altogether right along to Mena camp. I started [July 28th] to write this last night just after tea & was still writing when the lights went out. It is now a quarter past five in the morning. The ship leaves here at 6 for Australia. before I close this letter I must tell you that the bravery of Australians is undoubtedly fine. I have no hesitation in
saying that they will compete against any soldiers in the world so thats saying something. Australian people can be proud of their sons. They undoubtedly accomplished the impossible. Well Mother & family I hope you get this alright. I always told you that if my time had come I would get hit, but it evidently hasen’t come as I am very much alive. I will know this week what is too be done with me, I have to go before the board for medical examination too see if I am still fit to go back to the trenches, if not they will send me home. I will wish you all good luck & take care of yourself & don,t worry, Give my love to all. I am always thinking of you good bye & God bless you all
I am, Yours
Big X to Bertha & one X for yourself to the girls X & kiddies XX.
[Transcribed by Betty Smith and Trish Barrett for the State Library of NSW]