A Long Way to Tipperary

The Argus

Authors note: This is an LT fill in, covering the end of the Gallipoli Campaign. All names SO far are ficticous, historical characters will be named/used where available. The local Point of Departure from historical is midnight GMT June 3rd 1915.

Chapter 1

Starting the Day

19th of June 1915

“What we’re do’n ‘ere fight’n these bleed’n wogs for I don’t know.”

“Less of that if you please Colin Bradshaw. Our lord and salvation was a man not dissimilar to those you are calling “wogs” and any man who fights as hard as brother Turk is deserving of some little respect. Now here is the periscope; take care not get a bullet in it, for that is my shaving mirror doing service as the top glass.”

“And bugger you too, Rattler me old @#%$. Jocko wears a rag on his ‘ed what ever you say. Though I’ll mind your glass….” Tubby Bradshaw slid the boxwood periscope above the parapet, ignoring two of the three rounds that greeted its appearance. “There’s the sod. Two fingers left of the tree, ’bout a bag this side of the broken rifle.” He dropped down off the fire step and propped the periscope against the barricade .

“That would be just above the dark stain Colin?”

“Aye Rattler, maybe a touch to the right.” Tubby picked up another far more battered ‘periscope’ that had no mirrors, just a scrap of bright steel cut from a biscuit tin to give a glint of reflection. He looked up at his mate perched on a raised portion of the fire step. “Ready?”

The false periscope peeked above the parapet in the same place the real one had appeared moments before. A bullet from the Turkish lines smashed into it. An answering shot cracked out, and Tubby was pulling a splinter from his palm as he looked towards his friend with a questioning glance.

David Llewellyn Jones, ‘Dai’ to his family, ‘Rattler’ to those who liked him, ‘Sally’ to those who didn’t, and ‘316 Jones’ to an Army that seemed generally indifferent, nodded in conformation. He slid the smoking brass case from his Lee-Enfield and gently placed it with the row of others commemorating Turks killed by this sniper trap.


~2000 yards SSE at about the same time.

‘Another day…’ thought Lt Morant RNR to himself as he checked his pocket watch, pistol and shotgun and drained the last of his tea, ‘time to get a move on.’

Carefully placing his tin cup on the mudguard that served him as a table, he rose to a low crouch from his seat between the wheels of HMAC Indomitable, and shuffled through the yellow gloom of his dugout. Stepping out into the joys of another Day on Cape Hellas, Morant straightened his white cap, broke his gun casually over his arm and went looking for Chief Petty Officer Barrow.

A month earlier looking for a man named Barrow in a field of long low mounds, would have at least raised a smile with the young Morant. At 24, Andrew Morant was still a fairly cheerful fellow; but a few weeks on the Gallipoli Peninsula were enough to change anyone, and Morant had been no exception, men might still laugh, but they had long since stopped smiling. Thyme, rosemary and the tang of salt were, like peace; but a six week distant memory on Cape Hellas.

Finding CPO Barrow wasn’t that difficult. Even over the artillery engaged in its regular morning hate and the dull rattle of musketry from the front; the low rumble of his voice lead Morant across to a shapeless mass that was HMAC Inflexible under its tarpaulin. “Carburettor again is it Mr. Barrow?”

“Good morning sir.” said Barrow as his head popped out from between the canvas and the wall of earth and stone surrounding the Rolls Royce, his grinning face about level with Morant’s waist. “She’s up to her old tricks as usual sir; had poor Foster half dead with cranking this morning, but would she start in three turns of the handle? No sir she would not. I fear it’s the magneto sir, and there’s no spares to be had between here and Malta…..”

“But have you checked the carburettor Mr. Barrow and did you try the impulse starter or the trembler coil? Dust in the emulsion tubes…..” Less than a year before Arthur Barrow had been running a Crossley gas engine in the basement of a London wool store. Andrew Morant had been learning to manage his family’s business and racing a Morgan Blackburn under his grandmothers maiden name. Barrow couldn’t shake an innate distrust of H-T magnetos (Bosch was after all a German name); while Morant viewed all carburettors as the work of the devil.

The two stood and discussed the inner workings and current reluctance to start of a 40/50 Rolls Royce, with the informality of fellow enthusiasts. “… I shall have a look myself after prayers Mr. Barrow. If all else fails we might try the magneto from Indefatigable and see if that makes any difference.”

“Very good sir, shall we be pulling out soon do you think? Our mob I mean.”

“It would be the first I’ve heard of it apart from very stale rumour. Why do you ask?”

“Well Wheeler had it off a passing Sapper this morning sir, that we was off like….”

“From a Sapper you say…” Morant smiled. “Has anyone asked a cook for conformation? This Sapper wasn’t driving a water cart was he?” Barrow nodded to acknowledge the other common sources of rumour but was hardly convinced. “The Army wants us as a mobile reserve should the Turks break through. With the number of men being sent back for rest, I think we might be here for some time yet Mr. Barrow.”

“But ‘ow much longer are we all gonn’a be ‘ere sir? Some queer things is ‘appening…”

“Very true Mr Barrow. Calling off a big show with less than a days notice is hardly normal even here.” They shared a moment of regret for their lost chance of action on the 4th . “But I doubt we will be leaving soon. After all this effort…”

“If you’ll forgive the liberty sir, but ‘ave you ever known a buzz that wasn’t partly true?

“Well” Morant smiled. “I seem to remember we were off to Russia at one stage. There’s a fresh Division on Murdos, and we to be rebuilding for new effort. I’ve not heard anything mind, but that’s how it looks to me. And speaking of renewed efforts, I’d best be off. I can leave everything in your hands Mr. Barrow?”

“Aye aye sir. I sent Babcock and Parsons down with the ration party to fetch the last of the ammunition sir, like you said last night. Them last two boxes what we didn’t get yesterday.”

“Thank you Mr. Barrow. If our lords and masters don’t take all morning, I shall pop down to V beach and see about the extra water. Then I thought I’d see if those rotten poachers from the 29th have left us any snipe for dinner!” He patted his twelve bore affectionately. “As we should be in for an active evening, we can pipe all hands to Make and Mend until noon. After which we should be able to overhaul the Vickers and be in place by last light with time to spare.”

Very good sir. Snipe, water, make and mend ‘til noon, check the guns and be in place by dusk. Fetch the water with the Tender sir?”

“I think so Mr. Barrow. If there is nothing else?” They exchanged the first salute of the day and Morant strolled off.


“They are not rags they wear on their heads you know….”

“What? Sorry….rags you were say’n?”

“Yes Colin, they are not rags the Turkish wear on their heads. Cloth it is true…..”

“They look like them pug-ree’s, like what them Raga-puts in H’gypt was wearing, more pointy like, but the same.” Tubby mumbled around a mouthful of tacks.

“Yes Colin, both are a strip of cloth; however unless I am very much mistaken, a Rajaput winds his puggaree directly onto his head. The Turkish hat, for I know not what else to call it, is wound over a wicker frame; though it may have the appearance of a turban it is actually more like our solar helmets. Look you, how they fall off a man who is shot.”

“I suppose you’re right Rattler, but I can’t say as I give a monkeys right this minute. Pass the ‘ammer.” Two swift raps pinned down another layer of barbed wire, and Tubby began winding on another few turns. “I don’t mind saying these night stunts give me the right willies… It ‘ain’t the fight’n so much as walking about over all those dead men… If I was lie’n out there, I’d be want’n peace and quite. Not some blasted size 9’s stamping a’bout all over me. Now ‘ow does that feel?”

“I too feel something in the air tonight.” Said Dai, acknowledging the unspoken part of his friends confession. “This is a superior knobkerrie Colin.” He took an experimental swipe and thumped it into the ground between his feet. “Not too heavy, not too light….. it is just right. If you could spare me a few tacks, I have these shoe laces for the wrist strap. Alas their rightful owner will not be needing them where he is bound.”

“He didn’t have any ‘baccy did he’? Him what had them laces….”

“He was not yet dead when I attended him Colin. Redistributing the Kings property is one thing, but would you have me a thief?

Chapter 2

Morning Prayers

19th June 1915

The Brigadier whose complexion matched the red tabs on his collar was less than pleased. Dull brasses and dusty boots might have been part and parcel of life on Gallipoli; but an officer with a pocket unbuttoned and a shotgun in the crook of his arm, was just a little too casual even for this place. “General de Lisle?”

“Yes Freddie, I think everybody is here now…” The general had been appointed straight from France to command the 29th Division in late May. He still couldn’t put a name to every face yet, and each week bought another replacement or some other alteration complicate matters. Traditionally each brigade would report in order of its commanders seniority; of late, they had spoken in numerical order, keeping track of precedence didn’t seem that important. So the Commanders or the Brigade Majors of the 86th, 87th and 88th Brigades gave their accounts of last 24 hours.

The flow of ration strengths, minor actions, requirements and developments told a sorry tale. The 29th had been the pride of the British Army, the last regular division of the pre-war army left intact. Professionals with only a sprinkling of Territorials. They were the last cluster of the men who had stopped the Kaiser’s army cold, with musketry so rapid the Prussian’s thought they were facing massed machineguns. Now it was a shadow of its former glory. In the 86th the first battalions of the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers were almost weak enough to be combined into the ‘Dunsters’ yet again. The 87th was in about the same boat and the commander of the 88th was almost in tears, begging for some time to integrate his replacements into battalions that had already suffered 60% casualties.

After the Infantry, the CRA gave his summation, followed in turn by the CRE and the RAMC Major. ‘The usual story’ thought Morant. The gunners either have too many targets or not enough ammunition, the Sappers have too much work and never enough men and the Robber was always busy and in need of stretcher bearers. Morant had stopped listening, long before the CRE and the RAMC decided to repeat yesterdays argument about bomb proof dressing stations. It wasn’t that he was unsympathetic; but this wasn’t his Division. He was only here to report to his superior and if his own Division was in no better shape.

The RND was another of Churchill’s bright ideas, it made perfect sense. Take a few of the Royal Marine battalions at each Home Dockyard. Fill out the brigades with battalions of Navy reservists, recruits and volunteers who were surplus to the fleet and get the navy into the land war, where all the action was going to be. The German fleet was never going to challenge the might of the RN, and it wasn’t fair to let the army hog all the attention…

Morant returned to the present as de Lisle silenced the squabbling officers and turned to the Navy.

“Commander Simpson, all is well with your Armoured Cars?”

“Prime thank you Henry; how are you and your’s today Morant?” Simpson turned to the Lieutenant who commanded his second section.

“Very well thank you sir. One car was a little hard to start this morning sir, other wise we are fit as can be…”

“And how are you stored?” The Brigadier asked.

“A little over a week sir. For everything except water, comforts, perishables and ammunition” answered Morant.

“I suppose that gives you time for a spot of rough shooting then?” he continued over the polite ripple of mirth. “Which brings me to this mornings main point. Shooting Turks!”

De Lisle was not going to be cut out of his own conference. “Freddie is very keen on shooting Turks, almost as enthusiastic as Lieutenant. Morant isn’t it, seems to be about Partridges. So all is well with you then Commander Simpson? Might you be able to spare a small party to build the Doctor’s dressing station?” Simpson nodded in a non-comitial fashion. De Lisle continued. “That seems to be the bulk of this morning business then. However, before we all go. Freddie here has some words of wisdom from on high. Freddie?”

“Thank you Henry.” The Brigadier cleared his throat. “I know some of you gentlemen will have been disappointed with the minor change of plan the other week… Well I’m sorry to say the bad news continues. We don’t anticipate any major offensive operations here in Hellas for at least another month.” At this, his audience showed little evidence of sorrow, but a good deal of surprise. “The 52nd division which as I’m sure you all know arrived last week, still needs a good deal of training before it will be fit to be committed here. We have decided to make the best use of this time by resting as many of your men as we can. We are going to be rotating about 1000 men every three days from this division, drawn equally from your Brigades. Yes Clive…” he turned to one of the brigade commanders a pale Colonel apparently much older than the Staff officer.

“Why Freddie? If we are going to have a quiet period, and I for one don’t mind in the least. Why not bring in the new boys, and rest a whole division at once? Even a brigade at a time. I don’t begrudge my lads a few days peace and quiet, far from it. But if we keep the division together, we can sort ourselves out properly. And to be perfectly honest old boy, I could do with a good nights sleep myself.” There were nods of agreement from around the room. The RAMC officer lent forward to add his medical opinion; only to meet the Brigadiers rather cold stare.

“General Weston’s word isn’t good enough old boy?” the Brigadier replied with a hint of false jocularity.

“Not really Freddie, to be…..” he trailed off.

A hint of steel crept into the Brigadiers voice as he realised he would have to keep a closer eye on his old college. “Well…. If you must have the full story. Intelligence indicates the Turk is massing his forces in Sinai and Palestine; we believe they mean to have a dash at the Canal. Neither General Hamilton or the Corps Commander want to set the 52nd ashore at the moment, on the off chance the cloak dagger boys are right for once.” He pulled at his moustache, in a confidential sort of way. “Cairo and London rather hope Abdul does make a move on Egypt, then we can push up from Basra. Enver would be stretched thinner than a scotch groat, and the only place he can draw reserves from is here!” His hand dropped from his face, and his voice took on a new verve. “Then we shall have our chance gentlemen. Refreshed, replenished, and facing an enemy without reserves we can finally push on! Catch the blighter on the hop, and drive him straight through covers. On to Constantinople; that’s the ticket. It might have taken a little longer than we had hoped; but we will get there eventually and be in Baghdad as well!” He realised this last was a bit much for his current audience, as a general coughing broke out with a half heard whisper from the back about `not with out divine intervention…’ “Gentlemen…” the rumble died. “Unfortunately, Egypt is rather short on ammunition, most of their reserve has been sent here over the last few months; and Basra has neither food nor ammunition in any quantity. With the current demand from France, they can’t provide all we are going to need here from home. So as we shan’t be very active for a while, it has been decided to return a portion of that which we hold ashore. New somewhat stricter measures will be intro….”

“I say Morant! A word if you please…” As the staff meeting broke up, Cmdr Simpson caught up with his subordinate as they left the dugout. “What on earth do you mean dragging a shotgun around in front of the tab wallahs? We have enough trouble with Hunter-Bunter* and his baboons as it is, with out you bringing the service into disrepute; and your top pocket is undone.” his voice was low, but his displeasure was more than evident.

“Sorry sir,” Morant blushed as his hand flew to his breast pocket. “I did mean to leave it with the sentry; but there was only this Staff Captain outside, and I didn’t like the look of him.”

* General Hunter-Weston

Chapter 3

The Night Before

19th/20th of June 1915

“…So you can stuff that in your euphonium and smoke it Rattler!” 954 Maurice wasn’t the brightest spark in the platoon and the laughter that greeted his latest cometic effort flattered his vanity and bought a shy smile to his meaty face. In this moment of relaxed tension, none of the men sheltered in the D-head trench were prepared for the reaction that Maurice’s crude jest provoked.

“Rattler is now?” Whispered Dai Jones in a cold, harsh tone most had never heard before. “And when have I ever held a collection plate beneath the end of your misshapen nose? Made comment on the flow of profanity and blasphemy that pours from that sewer of a mouth you have from one day to the next? An infringement on the Kings Regulations and an affront to Our Lord though it is! Do I take you to task for your drunken and whorish ways; hold you to ridicule for your sore head the next morn or the pain when you piss? No! I tolerate you as a lecherous and dissolute sinner; and respect you as a half decent soldier, a man I do not fear to stand beside in a fight. Bah!” he turned and vanished into the gloom of the main trench.

“Fark’n ‘ell….” `Slapper’ Maurice hadn’t felt a rough edge like that since his last interview with the Colour Sargent. “I’ll…”

“You’ll shut ya’ gob if you know what’s for the good.” Tubby was as quiet as his friend had been, and as harsh in his concern. “That same for the rest of you lot. Our Rattler’s a gent an’ a man’o peace after ‘is own way. I ain’t either; so less you want me to fill it with me boot, you’d best keep that mouth of yours closed.”

“Bradshaw.” In his quiet approach and long silence, most of Lt. Paterson’s little command had forgotten he was there, the rest hadn’t realised he was present in the first place.


“Ten minutes ‘till stumps. You had best go and fetch Jones.”

“Yes sir.”

Tubby found his mate in another sap, pointed in the right direction by a sentry. “You alright Taff?”

“Yes Colin, thank you….. but I am so very angry.”

“Morrie don’t mean…”

“Not with Maurice. That silly man, his words have no more weight than a feather. It is myself I am angry with. To lose my temper in such a fashion….”

“Never mind me old china. Come on, best be heading back now. We’re on our way in half a mo.”

“A euphonium! Never in all my life have I played such an instrument…”


A green Very light arched across his field of view, like a small emerald flying across a velvet curtain. “By indicator. Range as set. Rate slow. With continuous fire. Commence. Commence. Commence!” On Morant’s last word, the night was swamped in the steady rattle of Vickers machine guns, each filling the air with full belt of two hundred and fifty rounds a minute. The steady professional bursts of fifty from the four guns, merging together into a continuous drum roll.

Checking his watch by the glow of a candle stub in an empty Machonichies stew tin, Morant made a mental note of the time and cast a satisfied glance across his little command.

The guns were setup high on a plinth’s of sandbags, in oversized gun pits originally intended for much more substantial artillery. Most of his men had covered their ears with strips of blanket to deaden the noise and in the strobing muzzle flash they resembled pirates more than the members of the newest branch of His Majesties Navy. Morant couldn’t have cared less about the anachronism of their dress. He was just pleased to see the No. 2’s tending their charges, the ammo coming up in a steady stream and that each gun was firm; sights fixed as if in stone on the pin hole glint of its aiming post lamp.


“Bombs! Find me some bloody bombs!” The raiders had slid into the trench moments before, found their prisoner and been discovered almost at once. Lt. Paterson had fired off his Very pistol to call in the supporting fire and the nine men had gone about their business. The blocking parties of three men each had pushed as far as could in either direction along the trench, racing the spreading alarm to establish a foot hold in the Turkish line. Paterson roamed the space they had cleared looking for documents, while a young private named Dooley sat on the prisoner they had taken and Rattler acted as a one man reserve. It was he who came charging down the trench to answer Sargent Adams’s demand for bombs. Bouncing off the walls as he changed direction from one bay to another, awkwardly carrying a sandbag full of cricket balls and the two clumsy broomsticks he had found.

“Bombs, bombs here! Give me a light some one…” a waxed Vesta snapped into flame and Dai heaved the 4” canister of explosives and shrapnel on it’s 5 foot stave, over into the next bay of the trench. The other hands scrambled in the sandbag for Turkish cricket ball grenades to replace the home made 'jam tin' bombs they had expended during the first rush. In the breathing space created by the shattering roar of the broomstick bomb exploding, Rattler handed the second to Maurice.

“Ta Sally.” Rattler grinned, kicked him in the shin and ran back towards the centre of the position. “Bastard…” snarled Slapper as he used the burning match to light a cigarette and the cigarette to light the fuse of another bomb.

No more broom stick bombs could he find. But another box full of cricket balls turned up under a sacking cushion. Bombs and rifle on his left shoulder, his right hand gripping the club Tubby had made that morning. Rattler ran towards the other blocking party where occasional bright flashes of light showed his mate was playing with his latest toy. Dai was just edging past Dooley and the prisoner when an unfamiliar face rose over the parados. It was the work of an instant to backhand the newcomer with the knobkerrie. Rattler didn’t pause long enough in insuring the Turk was alone, to notice the look of horror on Dooley’s face as he saw effects of two pounds of barbed wire on a cut down pick handle.

“Careful there mate! You wann’a watch that, could be dangerous!” Tubby slapped his friend on the back and returned to causing what mayhem he could with a sawn off .303. The 12” barrel gave an almighty bark and you could almost read by the muzzle flash.

Rattler stared at the bullet crease across the back of his right hand with a curious disbelief, then gingerly bent down for another bomb.

The fire plan worked out between Paterson, Morant and a French artillery Major was quite sophisticated by their standards. Two Vickers guns from Paterson’s battalion were set to fire on fixed lines, sweeping the top of the Turkish trench, leaving only a 10 yard gap where the raiders were to attack.

Morant’s men firing from much further back served a different purpose. At over two thousand yards, the machine gun bullets came out of the sky at close to 70 degrees and beat a patch of ground about 50 yards by 70. Being able to reach down into trenches where men thought they were safe, the fire from the four Vickers had more in common with shrapnel balls from a howitzer shell. Two guns were aimed to close off the section of trench being raided, the second pair played in the same way along the length of support trench immediately behind it.

With all this fire lashing about the place, it was hard to tell exactly where any particular bullet had come from. None the less Dai was sure the bullet that had almost taken his hand off at the wrist, had been fired by his own battalion. And Dai wasn’t quite sure how to take being shot at by his fellow Marines.


“Ten minutes! Step up the rate! Look alive there, it wouldn’t do to keep Johnny waiting.” By now each gun was pausing every six or eight belts to replenish its water jacket. Thus far the condensers fitted to every gun (nothing more a length of rubber tube and a petrol can), were keeping up with demand. But at a belt and a half every minute, it wouldn’t be long now before some of the extra water Morant had ‘organised’ that morning would be needed.


The increase was immediately apparent to the men in the trenches, Paterson who had joined Maurice’s group on the right, had been waiting for it. “Alright lads, not long now.” He had been debating his next step for some time, this wasn’t something that could be pre-planned; should he withdraw towards the centre slowly, or rush it? `At the rush’ he thought, `Jocko has his dander up, and we don’t have enough room to pull anything fancy here.’ “Sargent Adams. When you hear my whistle.” He held the brass object up so there should be no mistake. ”Straight back to the rally point. Straight back, we will not be waiting hear me?”

“SAR!” yelled Adams over din, he all but came to attention and saluted. Paterson had no idea why Adams had left the Wooden Tops before the war and he was actually mildly curious; but mysteries aside, `having a guardsman around certainly added a touch of class to any brawl’ he thought.

“Right then. Five minutes….” He ran off to the other end of the lodgement, stopping to warn Dooley to ready the prisoner.


The hail of bullets increased as Morant's guns stepped up the rate of fire yet again. Now they were rattling through a whole belt in a single burst, reloading and firing again, five hundred rounds every minute.


Peep! Peep! Peep! Dooley, the prisoner and Lt. Paterson were already over the parapet as the rest of the party came hurrying back. Paterson counted them over into no-mans-land, pleased to note only a one man couldn’t move unaided despite the various wounds they had all collected.

Sargent Adams raised his Very pistol and after a nod of conformation from the officer, another green meteor blazed into the heavens. “Now run you boogers run!” he chivvied his men away from the trench in a curious half run, half crawl.


“Baker and Charlie!” Morant yelled over the din. “Baker and Charlie. Range two thousand, range two thousand. Rapid fire.” The bark of the machinegun fire diminished by half as the gunners reset their sights calling out the new range and with a touch to the elevating wheels and cries of “ON!” the barrage resumed.

When the fire which had been suppressing the support trench shifted down onto the Turkish front line, the new beaten zones were spread unevenly across the target area. This was only a minor complication though, it was a common problem that all gunners knew how to deal with, so did Morant now. As he crept along in front of the gun pits, lighting some of the alternate aiming points and blowing out the old. He reflected that his father had been right, professional advice was always worth paying for. “Able shift fire! Baker shift fire…” A new roar sprang up in the east as the guns and howitzers of Major Vladimir Peniakoff’s battery fired five rounds each into the Turkish lines.

The theory of ‘Plunging fire’ had been mentioned briefly in the Machine Gun Course, Morant had taken at Whale Island before joining the Armoured Car Division. The topic had come up again the day before when, with Paterson and Peniakoff they had been planning this part tonight’s little raid. The Frenchman had been a font of useful information about indirect fire. Between the three of them they had plotted out the most likely target areas behind the Turkish front. So it was that with his weapons set up over surveyed positions, a spare thirty thousand rounds of .303 and plenty of water. Morant intended to put theory into practice, giving each of the chosen targets a good hosing down as soon as the raid was over. Purely in the interests of scientific discovery of course.


The covering fire from the south had long since ceased, any attempts the Turks might have made to follow the raiding party in to the night had vanished in a rain of high explosive and falling bullets. However the ten men lying out in no man's land were far from pleased.

Science, geology in this instance was being less kind to Paterson’s men. It’s one of the general rules of war, that the defender usually gets the best ground. On Cape Hellas, not only did the defenders have a favourable elevation; but eons of wind and water had eroded the topsoil to such an extent, that the bed rock was barely below the surface along many stretches of the Anglo-French line. Unable to dig down, the soldiers had built up, like in parts of Flanders where the water table prevented entrenchments, barricades of sandbags (and other things) had been thrown over the rocky ground.

Built up over time and with a great deal of effort. These walls were in places twenty feet thick, ten feet high and protected from behind by second wall to produce a `trench’ almost entirely above ground level. The front face of these barricades sloped down to meet the natural surface, presenting a steep but not unclimbable ramp up to the parapet. Like so much of trench warfare this slope took its name from cool world of classical fortification and it was this Glacis (or rather the Turkish machinegun sweeping it), that was keeping the raiders thirty yards from the final safety of their own lines.

“Persistent bugger ain’t ‘e?”

“Very true Colin, if I did not know any better I would say that boyo did not like us.”

“I don’t think ‘e does much at that mate, I just whish ‘ed shut up for a bit.”

“Quiet you two!”

“Thank you Sargent…” Paterson had had enough of hanging around, and the growing restlessness of his men indicated to him that it was time to do something. “I had hoped to slip over when this lad was changing belts.” He spoke softly to them all. “But his loading number is just to quick, I dare say they have had a bit of practice.” This was greeted with a low chuckle that even the prisoner joined; not that he had understood a word.

“Nobody wants to go up through that lot. But if we go any further east we run into the French, and they don’t know who we are; west…” he left it unsaid, but all knew that the rising ground would lift them into the machinegun fire. “So I’m sorry to say, one way or the other we are going to have to run the gauntlet.”

“Well sir, if I may?”

“Yes Jones?”

“I have this cricket ball, left over from the bomb fighting. With your permission sir, I would be happy to return it to that machine gunner over there. It is after all the property of the Turkish government.” He rolled on his side and fished the grenade out of his pocket.

“Why Jones, I do thank you for your kind offer and we must respect government property. But man it’s a good four hundred yards, and friend Jocko is hardly asleep. Thank you..” he reached across and touched Dai’s shoulder. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

“Sir, if I did not think I could make it, I would not have offered; ‘tis better than sitting here getting my arse shot off!”

“Jones…” Adams warning rumble.

Paterson’s response was nothing more than a low “Follow me.” As he started to crawl westward.

Chapter 4

The Morning After

20th of June 1915

A gentle lightening of the gloom, as dawn started to filter through the canvas told Morant that he should have been asleep hours ago. The radium painted dial of his travelling alarm clock only confirmed a new day was beginning and the swish of a shell overhead showed that Jocko was awake too. As he lay sleepless on his cot, the implications of the Brigadiers news the day before started to tumble in his head. ‘How was this going to effect trade?’ That was the big question, Morant Senior had always told his son that the way to make the best of a situation was to fit your self into the local economy, what ever it was; and his son had listened well.

On Cape Hellas, being in the Andrew was better than any Lodge. Between the RND, the RNAS and the other minor shore detachments, there was a substantial community of blue jackets on Hellas. With a skilled but largely unoccupied workforce (every man being rated Petty Officer for his technical proficiency), opportunities for working `in the local economy’ were boundless. The Royal Engineers who ran the beaches were always happy for some professional help, either in the maritime line or more usually with maintaining their equipment. More blacksmiths and carpenters than mechanics, they often need some assistance with the more complex items in their charge. He even found that he had some useful skills himself.

But his real joy was the Tender. Transport of any type was thin on the ground and what little was available usually found it’s self tied up with the artillery. For everything else it was manpower. Parties for this, parties for that. ‘Rest’ was a nebulous concept anywhere on the peninsula. An unattached vehicle that could take almost 3 tons at a pinch, would have been a licence to print money if money had any importance. In this case it was the key to Aladins cave. He would almost have been willing to cannibalise one of his Armoured Cars to keep the Tender running. It was his belief that this single shabby, over loaded and over worked car had done more good in this campaign than the rest of his unit combined.

Morant wasn’t in the game for profit. It had certainly helped to make his command a happier and more comfortable one. A few lengths of timber or some cases of .303 that the MLO hadn’t ticked of his list; in exchange for a hand with the Sappers pumps or steam engine might not have been exactly legal. But it was hardly graft either. Now that his own people were provided for, most of Morant’s commercial activities were directed at supplying the needs of others. The covering fire the night before was almost totally a product of this trade. He had supplied the men and guns, all else had bartered for; ammo, water, spare barrels. Both the French artillery support and their assistance in setting out the indirect fire plan had come from a load of 6”x 4” and some corrugated iron.

So how was the new order going to tangle his little web of mutual obligations. This was the question he pondered in his wakeful hour before dawn, and he was thinking on it still when a gun unlike any he had ever heard before fired nearby.

There were another two shots while he was slipping into his trousers and shaking out his boots. A third as he was buckling his pistol belt over his tunic and a fourth greeted his appearance in the new day. With a Burberry over his shoulders against the chill, one hand adjusting his cap, the other rubbing a bruised thigh curtesy of Indomitable. Morant eagerly set off in search of this new distraction.

At the scene of last nights labours, things looked very different. His sandbag mounds had been removed, the spent brass cleared away and the gun pits were occupied by four small cannon that looked almost as out of place has his machineguns had. Dwarfs in the shoes of giants. The gun crews were small neat men in ragged shorts, that at first glance he took for Indians. A Captain stood on the same vantage point that Morant had used, scanning for the fall of his shot with a pair of binoculars.

“Morning sir… Drew Morant RNASACD.” he offered his hand.

“And the top of the morning to you too Mr. Morant. Cameron Marlowe. Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery.” He took Morant’s hand and shook it firmly. “We are the Singapore half actually; the boys from Honkers are still up at ANZAC, poor dears… Moved in this morning, just thought to let Johnny know we had arrived. Hope our banging away didn’t wake you?”

“Pleased to meet you sir, no I was already awake.” He surveyed the hive of activity as the gunners settled in. There was no sign of his ammo, the sandbags were being built into new dugouts as he watched and his water had vanished utterly. Worst of all, the little forest of exactly placed aiming points had been removed. ‘Well…’ Morant thought. ‘I suppose it was about time we made our own positions anyway.’ Fatalisim being one sure defense against despair.

“Can I interest you in a nice hot cup of tea?”

“Oh no thank you sir, I haven’t….”

“Never mind about the water old boy, plenty to go around.” He turned and called “Mat Nor! Buat satu lagi the untuk tuan." Over his shoulder. “There now, Mohamed will have us set up in a jiffy. No, someone was smiling on us today. We turned up here expecting a desert only to find a veritable Golconda, an Army & Navy store in miniature. Food, water, a heap of .303 though I don’t know what we can do with it. Sandbags, even some aiming points with lamps! Homemade it’s true, but better than we had before….” If they had just come from ANZAC, Morant was hardly astounded that these people had snaffled every thing in sight. “Oh but I speak too much. I’m afraid it is an occupational hazard of a life at the bar. And what do you do in these parts Mr. Morant? Your acronym, while impressive could well be as Greek to me.”

“I have a section of Armoured Cars just over that rise…” He gestured back the way he had come. “a hundred yards or so. Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Division, to give us our full glory. Taken all together it is a bit of a mouthful….”

“HKSMB is not much better I afraid.” The pair shared a moments reflection on those who bestowed such names. “Quidvis recte factum, Quamvis humile preaclarum?”

“Sorry sir?” Latin! Not at sunrise; certainly not on an empty stomach in the middle of a war.

“I do beg your pardon. I was asking in my awfully clumsy fashion, if your cars were Rolls Royce or some other make? I have a Lanchester at home you see, but I am thinking of moving on… after the war of course.”

“Yes sir, Rolls Royce 40/50’s, we collected them straight from the factory in Manchester. My father had one of the first Lanchesters sir, the two cylinder model with tiller steering. He has never forgiven my mother for making him replace it with a Napier…” he paused. “Sir, if you will pardon my curiosity. But I’ve never seen guns like those.” He gestured to the diminutive weapons. Morant was almost tempted to ask which museum they had been stolen from, they looked like left overs from the Indian Mutiny.

“Yes, yes. My beauties, my precious. Two and three quarter inch screw guns Mr. Morant. They fire a lovely little twelve and a half pound shell six thousand yards as true as kiss my hand. They break down into 6 mule loads do you see…” the dispatch of another 5.6kg shell punctuated his speech and announced the arrival of the tea. “… though I’m only allowed animals for two guns. Ah here we are. Bagus man. Terima kaish Mat Nor.” To his guest. “This water tastes a little stronger than usual; but it’s hot and it’s wet so we must be thankful for small mercies.”

They both took a draught of the tea and Morant was barely able to control his grimace. “Petrol, Cordite, Rifle Oil and Graphite.” Morant spoke around the taste in his mouth; a taste he privately though it would probably need lyre to remove.

“I beg you pardon?”

“Your tea. The flavouring in the water.” he explained. “The usual touch of petrol, or it might be kerosene from the tins. Cordite and the rest from the Vickers…” They had obviously broached the cans his men had emptied the guns into before carrying them home.

“Oh my dear man, it wasn’t your water was it now?” A look half way between horror and concern gripped his face. “…and the rest of our bounty would be yours as well I expect. Oh dear oh dear.”

Morant admitted that yes, the stores and equipment were indeed his; but that while he would welcome the return of the .303, Marlowe should keep the remainder. “...I can hardly ask your men to tear down their shelters and the rest can be replaced. Though might I suggest reserving the tainted water for washing?”

“And a valuable suggestion it is too, are you sure….”

Conditions on ANZAC must be worse than Morant had heard if the eager tone in Marlowe’s voice was any indication. “Of course, no trouble at all. As a matter of fact…” he looked around the growing encampment with a knowing eye. “I rather think we might be of some help to each other.”

“Oh indeed…” the erstwhile barrister at the Malayan Bar cocked an eyebrow but other wise looked quite inscrutable.


“Bradshaw. You seen Sally around?” Adams large square head poked through the flap of what was laughingly called a dugout. “Come on man…”

Tubby prised one eye open, and looked at his Sargent. “Sorry gov, ‘aven’t got a clue. What’s up?” he yawned.

“Just some queer cove in a funny uniform’s looking for ‘im. In the second reserve trench ‘e is chatting to the colonel. So if as you see’s Sally… ‘old ‘ard, ‘oes that under that ‘esshin then?”

“Oh, that’s just Dooley” said Tubby around another monumental yawn.

“Lurk’n in ‘ere is ‘e. UP YOU!” he reached in and shook the nearest portion of the huddled figure “I’ll not ‘ave you idle’n away the day whilst other men labour.”

“Christ, Sarge. Give the lad some peace, third day ashore, ‘an ‘e was out with us all night.” Tubby had managed to drag his other eye open by now.

“’is name’s on the list for the ration party. If ‘e wants ta argue the toss, ‘e can do it wive the had-jew-tent…” Dooley for all intents still asleep, was fumbling about for his equipment. “h’and as for be'n h’out ‘all night’ Mr Paterson timed us ‘e did. We was in an’ out o’ that trench in less than a quarter hour all told.”

Tubby was less than impressed with this quibble, and a quibble it was. For while they might only have spent 15 minutes in the Turkish trench, it had taken them 3 long hours to crawl home.

The source of noise and disturbance gone, Tubby closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

“Good day to you Colin, here drink your tea while it is still hot.” Tired or not this was a summons no man could refuse. Awake now, with both eyes open, Tubby saw a vision not unlike an angel. It wasn’t Rattler sitting cross legged on the other side of the dugout, rather the enormous bully beef tin mug of tea, no wait three of the biggest mugs of tea Tubby had ever been blessed with seeing. Oh joy, oh rapture!

Putting the mugs carefully on the earthen floor, Rattler reached into the front of his shirt and extracted a familiar looking tin box. “Would you care for a digestive biscuit to go with your tea?” Tubby nearly passed out again with the shock.

“Arrowroot?” was all he managed to croak in reply.

“I do believe so.” Dai nibbled at one. “Quite fresh too, hardly stale at all really…”

Sitting back of the fire step, soaking in the afternoon sun. Half a mug of tea in one had, a quarter eaten milk arrowroot biscuit in the other and a ciggie smouldering in the corner of his mouth Tubby was probably one of the happiest men on earth.

The tea had hardly tasted of bully at all, just the faintest skim of fat on the surface, one could almost believe it had been made with real milk and fresh water. Half way through his second mug (they had split Dooley’s; he obviously wasn’t going to be back for some time) Colin was almost ready to go back to sleep again. But his was a noble sprit, even in this one moment of true pleasure he remembered his duty. “Rattler….” Taking another drag on his Woodbine and languidly brushing the flies from his tea. “Adams was after you, some odd fella down around the officers or some….”

“I found him thank you Colin, or should I say he found me…”

“What ‘e want?” the inquiry was polite at best; at that moment Tubby couldn’t have cared if the man had wanted to stand them both a night at No. 11 Red Shutter street.

“Apparently he is trying to raise a concert party and desired my assistance. Alas the Colonel found he could not spare my services, it seems there is a war on…”

“’e wanted you ta' sing?”

“No Colin, I have a poor crake of a voice. It was the Baritone he wanted me to play….”

Chapter 5

Well After Noon

20th June 1915

“Are you familiar with the system here sir?” Captain Marlowe and Morant had left the Tender parked in a narrow gully and were walking down the gentle slope towards W Beach.

“A System? Please don’t tell me there is a system here. It would ruin the impression of perfect anarchy.” This was Marlowe’s second encounter with Cape Hellas Beach. However the first time had been at night and he had half a battery of artillery to get ashore. Now he felt free to leave the navigation in the hands of his ‘Native Guide’ and was drinking in the sights like a tourist. While familiar with the postage stamp Bedlam of ANZAC Cove. To Marlowe, W looked 100 times worse. ‘A Leicester Square collision between a Circus, a Jumble Sale, the Coronation Fleet Review and a Boy Scout Jamboree’ he thought. Chaos was too mild a word to do the scene justice.

“I know it looks like a right Bartholomew's Fair sir, but it actually works quite well. The bits you can see here do anyway…”

“Really?” If doubt could drip, Marlowe would have been standing in a puddle.

“No, honestly it does. Commander Unwin is the NTO, he’s responsible the ships...” Seeing that the name didn’t register he expanded. “Edwin Unwin, of the River Clyde?” The name of the landing ship, bought an ‘Ah’ of recognition from Marlowe. “Yes sir, deserved a VC that day if half the tales are true. Well he controls the ships. The staff wallahs tell him what is needed and he sends the right ship to the correct beach. The lighters are run by MTO; but he answers to the NLO who’s the Beach Master and he actually commands the seamen….”

“How we seem to love indecipherable initials.” Laughed an increasingly bemused Marlowe.

“Sorry sir. ‘Naval or Military, Transport or Landing Officer.’ ‘Transport’ looks after the transports, and ‘Landing’ means loading and unloading.” Morant explained.

“Would it not be easier for all if L stood….Oh never mind.” A dirty mule heavily laden with Fantassies of water, barged past Marlowe with all the grace of a camel.

“Do look out sir. You really must watch out for the water mules, they’re not noted for respecting rank.” Morant took them off on a slightly less congested route. “As I was saying sir, The MLO is responsible for taking the cargo from the lighters to the right dump, or visa versa. He then tells the QM what’s where. Simple isn’t it?”

Marlowe didn’t quite trust him self to answer that one honestly. He just nodded wisely.

“The QM keeps the lists of course, the Commissariat issues the chits and the Royal Engineers actually do all the work. It’s almost perfect!.” Morant was still amazed by this paragon of a system.

“To be perfectly frank old boy, it sounds like a complete dogs breakfast to me.”

“I beg your pardon? A mess… No, everybody does their job with out stepping on someone else’s toes. And nobody is actually responsible for anything.” Morant was perplexed by his friends lack of perception. “I agree it’s not perfect sir; we still need the Staff to tell Commander Unwin to send us what we really need. But as a going concern, it’s a gem.” This time they were alerted by a ringing bicycle bell and narrowly avoided being run down by a messenger rattling past on a bike with no tyres.

“The people we need to see today are the Sappers who run the show. Colonel Togrant is in charge, but he leaves most of it to his deputy. ‘Too Grant,’ there’s a lark, the tight fisted old bounder wouldn’t give Florence Nightingale a tuppeny packet of bird seed!” Sensing gossip Marlowe perked up, as a Barrister he had a deep professional affinity with sloth, apathy and character assassination. Morant continued. “He’s far more interested in fishing. Still he will invite a chap to supper… The Gent we’re here to see is a Major Owen. He’s another odd customer. Messes alone in a little cave down on the point. It’s a nice little place; quiet, out of the shell fire. And he has fitted it out a treat; chairs, a proper desk complete with a photo of his Lady. It even has it’s own thunderbox and masses of books.” Morant turned them through a maze of boxes. “Anyhow, as there are two of them, we call Owen ‘One” because he is the person to see and naturally Togrant is ‘Too.’

This arraignment seemed as needlessly convoluted as the rest of this mad house. Feeling the need to impose just a little order on the world. Marlowe asked “Why not just use their names?”

Morant voice had dropped to a confidential whisper as they approached a very well built dugout that was obviously their destination. “Oh, didn’t I mention it? They share the same first name, ‘James.’ Morant knocked on the door frame.

“Ah, young Morant! Make it quick man, I’m up to my neck in letters at the moment, correspondence every bloody where. I’d have to spread myself mighty thin to do half what these people expect….”

“Sir, may I present Captain Marlowe of the Hong Kong and Singapore Artillery.” Jim One looked up at Marlowe and offered his hand.


“Captain Marlowe has just come down from ANZAC.” The Majors face clouded, assuming the expression of one about to fend off a robbery with violence. Morant continued. “He really needs a few engineers stores sir; but his men desperately need some new uniforms…”

“Do I look like a man with eight arms Mr. Morant? Happy as I would be to supply the good Captain with everything he desires, there is a war on if it had escaped you attention…”

“…And” Morant continued smoothly. “Captain Marlowe has a dozen pack mules with saddles and drivers, that I’m su….”

“Well you should have said so in the first place! Sit down the both of you…”

“If you please sir, I need to go down and have a word with the Beach Master’s crew. I have the Tender here, so if there is anything I could take back… Captain Marlowe. When you are finished here, you will find me down by the beach, just follow the swearing and ask for me.” He smiled and took his leave.

“I do worry about that man some times, he seems to have a finger in every pie and a pie for every finger….” The two older men watched the departing figure weave through a group of porters from a Maltese labour battalion.

“He certainly is active…”

“His people are chandlers in Southampton, or so I’m told. I suppose it’s no wonder then that he knows the length of a piece of string…” Jim One turned back to his guest.

Marlowe was not quite sure what to make of this. “I broke my fast in his lines this morning and there were no apparent signs of wealth; perhaps a little more jam and tobacco were in evidence, I was offered tinned peaches! But then from ANZAC, I have no…”

“Oh, there’s no indication of advantage.” The Major tapped the side of his nose with a broad and slightly grubby thumb. “The wheels might be slow but they do grind exceedingly fine don’t you know. We keep an eye on people… No, but I do believe he would deal with the very Turks if he could. He was in this office not a week ago with some wild concept of importing eggs at five piastres and selling them for two with all parties coming out in front! Now sir, as to your stores; we are a little hard up for water at the moment and dreadfully short of sheet steel, though I might let you have a little coal, just a little mind….”


“’ere’s your water ration.” Dooley dumped two canteens in front of his tent mates and collapsed on the ground.

“Thank you Daniel. But you are back early man. We did not expect to see you so soon.”

Daniel Thomas Dooley felt like death. “The Screw said I only ‘ad to do one trip after last night.” If there was a part of him that didn’t hurt, it was to numb to be evident as he slowly sat up and reached for his own canteen.

Tubby, looked up from `chatting’ his shirt. “Make you a cuppa Danny?”

“Na’ thanks…” Generally upright now, he uncorked his ration and took a healthy swig. “Paaaaa…!” Not only did Dooley spit out a good eighth of his daily water ration, he proceeded to throw up the bitter bile that was all his stomach contained.

“Oh lord! Are you all right Daniel boy?” silently Tubby put down his shirt and started some water on their small fire as Dai lent over Dooley.

“Fark’n ‘ell!” gasped a very queasy Dooley. “What the bloody ‘ell is that shite!”

“Ah that would be the water. I suppose you will only have drunk it as tea or soup before now. Don’t worry, you shall soon get used to it.”

“Fark that! What that geezer say ` It was green and it was stink’n’…” He gagged a little more.

“Sorry, Daniel I do not know to whom you are referring, nor do I recall such a passage in any of the Scriptures…” Dooley made a very uncouth comment about the Scriptures and crawled away to die.

“He’ll never live meet the ’ang man that one.” muttered Tubby as he placed another sliver of packing case on the fire and both returned to de-lousing their shirts.

Lt. Paterson strolled across and squatted down on his less than meaty haunches to join them. “What was all that about, does Dooley need to see the Robber?”

“No sir, he just took a little too much water. He will recover in time, though he may not be fit for toni…”

“Ah yes, about this evenings ball. I am very sorry to announce gentlemen; it’s has been cancelled. The three of you are on the first relief. I have the second, so I will be joining you and Mr. Crater at 11 pip emma. There are some new night orders, so be careful. You’re not fire for any reason no matter what the provocation unless directly attacked. Mr. Crater will explain the details. I know I can count on you Dai; and if you should stray Lance Corporal Bradshaw here will put you straight.” He smiled at Rattlers look of pleasure for his friend (combined with the prospect of an early night), and Tubby’s complete bafflement. “Congratulations Colin, it appears that Macfee’s wound was a Blighty. And there was you Dai, not wanting to get your backside shoot off!” He held out his hand to the quickly recovering Tubby.

“Why thank you sir…”

“See you keep that stripe, they might send them along with the rations; but they come off as easily as they go up.”

“Sir!” Tubby had managed to digest the all the news, and was far from unhappy as he scrambled to his feet and snapped off a Brigade of Guards salute.

“Oh, one final thing, you’re not the only happy man around here. Lance Sargent Pierrepoint has a son, to be called Albert so I take it.” Paterson walked off the next shanty and Tubby collapsed back to the ground like a pole axed steer.

Rattler laid his hand gently on Tubby’s shoulder. Tubby smiled and said “Careful now, that’s assaulting your superior officer in the face o’ the enemy!”

“Oh Colin….” It wasn’t a particularly funny joke, but it was enough to keep the pair laughing like loons, until `Lance Corporal Bradshaw’ knocked over the water can and put the fire out. They went back to `chatting’ lice.

“Well at lest we should see tomorra’ then.”

“True Colin, if I may be so bold to your eminence; and Daniel may yet live to meet the hangman in the morning….”

“`Albert Pierrepoint.’ I like it, nice….A cheerful sort’o name is Albert.”


Marlowe did indeed find his friend by heading for the worst patch of profanity he could hear and asking directions. The advice made perfect sense as soon as he had realised that most of the ‘crew’ were Australian rateings. When he found his man, Morant was in an area run by the RE; his sleeves rolled up, doing something odd with a funny shaped block of metal and what looked like a sheet of mud. Their driver, Foster was cutting something from a piece of lead foil, that judging by the wreckage scattered about had been torn from a tea chest.

“Captain! I’ll be with you directly. Foster leave that, I’ll finish it. You...” he turned to an RE corporal who was lurking in a corner. “ guard this lot with you life. But touch nothing! Hear me. I find this messed up, and I’ll have your guts for gaiters. Foster don’t leave the explosives.”

As they walked back to the Tender, Morant continued. “I tell these people if they must run their engines flat out all the time, then they must increase the oil drip and use a rich mixture! The silly sods complain they make too much smoke and burn too much petrol. But really… So how did it go with the good Major?”

“Oh very fine, very fine indeed. For a weeks use of my pack train, the requirements of the service permitting, I received more than I had ever hoped for! Two hundred feet of four inch by four inch wood, corrugated iron, canvas and not only new shirts and shorts for my men, but boots as well!” he turned to humbly accept the congratulations of new friend.

“So he took you to the cleaners then!” Morant’s reply shook Marlowe to the very core. “Jimmey is a downy old bird, so he is. He rooked you on the terms, the labour was a fair trade; but in a weeks time your animals and men will be fit for the knackers. Never let you assets out of your sight for more than a day. Half or alternate days are the way to go… Sorry if I upset you sir. But at least he didn’t offer you double or quits…Did he? His dice are notorious.”

“Oh but I could do with a cool ale…” Marlowe felt so very tired.

“Beer is it? PO Foster’s the very man to ask. Any chance of a beer Foster?” He turned to their driver who was walking a few paces behind.

Foster, a man who had discontinued shaving several weeks before and now sprouted a fine blond growth, pushed his cap back on his head and considered the concept of beer. “Ahhhh. I all ways ‘as one at eleven. At home that is sir. Nothing likes a nice draft. But I’m sorry sir. The only slosh I’ve seen ‘ere ‘bouts is marked S.R.D.”

“I know…. Seldom Reaches Destination” said Marlowe still feeling dejected.

“Stores. Reserve. Dilute. h‘actually sir. Ain’t it the Army all over? Two nouns and an adjective in the one acronym, ‘an they expect us to make sense of it!” This sudden burst of alliteration surprised Marlowe; but didn’t seem to register with his companion.

“Now there might be some chance of a decent Scotch if you can pay in cash.” said Morant. “I don’t drink it myself; however I have seen some Black & White around.”

“Any chance of Dimple.” Asked Marlowe perking up.

“No, that’s a reserved supply.”


“Yes, Haig never leaves France. Look sir. I have to finish off down here, I’ll be a few hours yet. Foster will see you home. He’s a good man and steers clear of temptation for all his talk. That is as long as we keep him clear of his mate Wheeler; between them they can get some steam up…”

Chapter 6

The Path Less Traveled

21ts of June 1915

“I thank you for your time and I take it ye are all happy with these reports? No amendments, no additions?” After a life time in the Royal Marines Archibald Paris had never learned to love paper work. Even as ‘General Commanding, Royal Naval Division’ his firm belief was that ‘bumph’ was the greatest enemy of true efficiency. Paris might have been more a leader of men than a brilliant soldier but he knew how to get things done and that the devil was in the detail. He liked his ‘I’s’ dotted and his ‘T’s’ crossed.

The small pile of paper he rapped on with his knuckles like an auctioneer closing out a deal, was no more than 20 pages of concise almost cryptic lists. Lists that covered his two Brigades, Artillery, Medical and Divisional Troops. Paris didn’t demand every formal phrase required by the Kings Rules, Regulations & Admiralty Instructions. He maintained that no ‘Daily Report’ needed to be more than one sheet of lined foolscap. One side for a table of Sick Lists, Ration Strengths, etc. The other, for a chronology of the past 24 hours or a statement of the issue. The table might run over onto a second page; but any battalion that needed more than a line or two per hour was obviously busy enough to warrant a separate report on it’s own sheet of paper.

That this spartan regime continued to serve him as well with a division as it had in his smaller commands, was mostly due to the regard in which he was held in by his subordinates. No one even dreamed of cooking a ‘Paris Sheet’ and the trust he gave his men was returned with a solid loyalty; even if some bounder had felt like trying one on, it was just too damned dangerous. Paris was a man whose bite was very much worse than his bark.

“First to the sugar. The 29th Indian Brigade will be joining us tomorrow, they are to take the single battalion front across the top of Krithia Spur as our new left flank, one up and one back. Of the other two battalions, they are to be a small reserve and I’ve no doubt at all we may find some other work to keep the devil from idle hands. The rest of you will shuffle across in due course, taking the next two sections to our right from the French. And I have some hopes for I’ll not deny it, but there is a chance the 42nd, will be coming up on our right hand as well.” This list bought a buzz of satisfaction to the assembled officers, three battalions of the Gurkha Rifles and another of Sikhs was a most impressive reinforcement. The 42nd were more old friends, a TA Division drawn from Lancashire and Manchester. But most welcome was the move to the right. The next sector across held some very important ground, positions which could enfilade much of the RND’s line.

The RND could find no rest while the Senegalese were in possession, the French claimed the Africans were the equal of Gurkha's and nobody who had seen them in the May battles could doubt their aggression in the attack. But they lacked the steadiness of the Nepalese in the defence and without their French officers they had a tendency to retreat. The RND had plugged gaps and retaken ground the Senegalese had abandoned in the past, so this ‘sugar’ was very sweet indeed.

“Now for the Medicine. It’s not too bitter I find; but I am afraid to say that it means no rest for wicked. Not even for the very tired. Tomb…” he nodded towards his Chief of Staff. “Has the details; but broadly speaking we have a great deal of digging to do.” A general groan rose in response to this news. Even if very few of the officers present had swung a pick themselves lately, their men certainly had and everybody was thoroughly sick of it. “And some more porterage too.” He added for good measure.

“Sir, if I may. Most of our lines are down below seven foot, there's always room for improvement of course. But surely we don’t mean to tunnel up to Achi Baba?” Lt Commander Bernard Freyberg DSO, was never one to be backward about coming forward.

“Not quite Cyril. While I do agree that we are well on our way to becoming navigators. No competent pilot would have made such a dreadful land fall in the first place.” His pun might not have bought the house down but it did raise an appreciative chuckle.

“Tiny’s inboard, he can swim home!” quipped Lt. Colonel Ninnis RMA who ran the Divisions engineers, this bought a full blooded laugh from the men gathered in the reinforced and extended shepherds hut that served as DHQ.

“That will be quite enough from you Bill. If I might continue…” The general was not at all displeased with this demonstration of good humour. “Word has come down from on high that our communications and sanitary arrangements are not up to scratch. Not by a long chalk - and I happen to agree with them. I read you reports gentlemen, even if you don’t. Sick lists are rising in a most unpleasant manner and if something is not done about it we shall have more men sick than wounded. I say more sick than wounded, it’s enough to ruin the reputation of an archangel it is.” Paris looked to his Medical Officer for support.

“Flies are the big problem of course.” Surgeon Commander Hills confirmed. “I’m glad some one up stairs has decided to do something about it at last. Though this is the first I’ve heard of any new moves sir, apart from that silly business about hanging fly papers on bushes!”

The Fly Papers had been suggested by some genius in Sir Ian Hamilton’s Mediterranean Expeditionary Force HQ, in response to the urgent requests from ANZAC and Cape Hellas for Creosol and other disinfectants. It was an oft told joke on the Staff and bought another rustle of mirth from the audience.

Hills continued slowly. “I know we can’t do much about the corpses; but our own refuse breeds a good deal of the vermin, eliminating that source would be a start in the right direction sir. The Sappers tell me they have come up with a decent Box Latrine and if we are going to do something about hygiene sir. Installing these in both the trenches and rest areas would in my opinion be an excellent first step.”

“Done sir. A Box Latrine for every platoon…”

“One for every ten men would be better sir.”

“We must walk before we can run Doctor, but we’ll make them of two holes each if that will suite.” Paris replied and nodded to Tomb who jotted “Latrines Box, 2 holes, soldiers for the use of. 1 per Plt.” on his pad with the note “see Doc.”

The General continued. “If the good Doctor is satisfied with his thunder boxes, we can move on to the major works. You gentlemen are best placed to sort out exactly what needs doing where, so I will just give you the gist of it.” This was normal practice and surprised no one. “As you might have gathered, London has pushed us to the back of the stove for the moment. France and Egypt have priority and so it looks like we might be here for some little time yet. Now I’ll not attempt to deny it, the current state of our affairs is far from perfect. Our lads are spending too much time labouring about and not enough resting, it’s the ruination of good soldiers so it is. I see that fatigue is already hurting their fitness and eventually it will effect moral. I’m certain the Doctor will agree when I say that our current sick list isn’t all due to blue bottle flies .”

“Yes sir, even the…”

“Quite so, I thank ye Doctor. As there is no’ much to be done about the loads that need shifting, it stands to reason we must make the journey as easy as we can. I find it takes the better part of half an hour to move from one end of Coronation St. to the other and Sesame St. is the same. There’s little to be said of our existing saps and trenches, but that they were dug to no plan and little system. I grant ye that one can't argue with tactical necessity or the needs of the moment, even so they simply will not do for the long term. So what I need from ye gentlemen is to cut our Gordian knot. I want to be able to walk from the front line to the back of the system in less than twenty minutes; fill in gaps, cut detours and bypasses, fill in trenches if you have too….” Paris continued on in this vein for a little longer, emphasising that speed was not to come at the expense of defensibility. “…The two are not incompatible. And as for you young Morant; you sir, have been idle far to long.”

“Sir?” Morant started with surprise

“I do believe that ye’er Commission is to serve as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, not to act as General Dealer in Ordinary to His Majesty’s forces - no, don’t attempt to deny it, man.” His gentle mocking tone and the twinkle in his eye made it clear to most that he was being facetious.

Morant was the minority. Transfixed like a rabbit caught in beam of a searchlight, with all his many sins of omission, commission and intent cascading through his head he was hard put to do more than stutter. “S-sir?”

Paris perceived his little jest was not having the effect he desired so he smiled and asked; “Not content to be a sailor playing at cavalry, I understand you are trespassing in my own coverts. Supporting fire by land being the rightful preserve of the RMA. Though I’m given to understand your registered fire was quite successful?”

If Morant had been reassured by the smile, this display of omnipresence completely ruined the effect. The question did however give him lead. “Y-sir. Very well thank you sir, w-we think.” Morant collected the remains of his wits. “That is Lt. Paterson and I believe it was successful sir. The fire certainly assisted Lt. Paterson’s operation, he remarked on how little pressure he came under from the defenders both in holding his lodgement and in his withdrawal sir. He especially remarked on the lack of any real counter attack and that the one Turk to enter the trench they controlled appeared to be more interested in finding shelter. It’s hard to say how the rest of the barrage went as we were shooting into dead ground for the most part sir.”

“Indirect fire, from a machine gun at night?” Paris had not heard of this detail, as a gunner by trade his curiosity was aroused and to satisfy this as much as to apologise for the discomfort he had inflicted on Morant. He asked “Surely the even the Army wouldn’t let you souvenir their dial sights?”

Morant not wanting to ‘show off’ in such august company kept his explanation short. “Oh no sir, it was easy. We just borrowed some surveyed gun pits that the Artillery weren't using and set out aiming stakes with a theodolite. Then set the ranges on the guns own sights, trued them up with a spirit level and aimed them at the stakes sir. Adjusting the hight of the aiming lamps to suit. A Froggie from their 1st Division helped me with the technical bits sir. He said it was no harder than for regular guns sir.”

Paris nodded in approval. “I look forward to reading your full report…”

Morant took the hint. “Yes sir.”

“… and further more, as our resident expert on motor cars and so on, your are to see to our roads.”

“Sir…” Morant’s mind had already started to compose the report he would have to write that evening. Being saddled with the miles of goat tracks that wound across the peninsula was far from welcome news. “Roads sir?”

“Corps want to bring in motor lorries to replace men and mules.” There was a general rumble of approval at this splendid idea from such an unexpected quarter. “As I told General Weston myself; if it will stop them pinching our men to fetch and carry when they should be sleeping, then they have my full support. And you Lieutenant Morant are going to be providing that support.” Paris took folded sheet of paper from Tomb, handed the map tracing to Morant and continued. “That is Corps’s idea of what is to be done, our part is in yellow. There is to be a Staff planning conference the day after tomorrow to discuss the matter and Commander Ninnis will be representing the division, he has more than enough to do as it is so ye will kindly assist him by doing all of the work.” At this Ninnis, a short solid man smiled, nodding with relief that this wasn’t to be yet another burden on his time.

“Aye Aye Sir.” Morant accepted his orders with a reasonable show of enthusiasm.

“I know ye’er no engineer Morant nor a professional soldier for that matter, I expect Bill Ninnis will be able to spare you some one for a day as an advisor, and we might let you have Captain Brunet as well. Ye should know the area well enough by now and ye have the rest of today to do a reconnaissance. Sort out what you mean to do tomorrow and have a report for Ninnis by the day after.” He dismissed the matter and moved on to the next. “Now rest rotations. It’s come to my attention that the men we are sending off to Lemnos for rest are being used by the authorities there for port duties. I have complained to Corps, even so from now on each party will be accompanied by some Officer, Subaltern or Midshipman. They are to be provided with a written order from me to the effect that neither they nor their men can be used in this fashion. This means fewer and larger parties gentlemen. However as we should be receiving some replacement’s by the end of the week we can kill the two birds with one stone. Rotations will be by Platoons, each to absorb its replacements whiles't it is resting. I have received a proposal from Major French with respect to training of bombers….”


“Och if I’d only had a camera! The expression on your face was priceless mon!” Lt William Gilmore of the 5th Royal Scots was generally well liked for his good humour. Alas one of his ‘Ladies from Hell’ hadn’t quite shared the general opinion and shot him from behind. The bullet had missed his heart passing between his chest and arm, but gone on to take a chunk out of his bicep. So temporarily unfit for active duty, he was serving as a liaison officer between his own 88th Brigade and the 1st Naval Brigade.

“You’re still here? Haven’t they found out who shot you yet Happy?” Morant had no time for levity; but he smiled anyway. “Or are you just scared of being hen pecked? Sorry Billy Boy, can’t say and chat. I’ve got some real work to do.” Leaving Gilmore floundering for a reply, Morant hurried off looking very purposeful.


“Mr. Barrow, there you are!” Morant ducked under the canvas flap and joined his deputy next to HMAC Invincible.

“We have a job sir?”

“How on earth did you guess?” Asked Morant quite surprised.

“Oh there was a bit of a buzz go’n round this morning. Is it Malta or Egypt we are heading for sir?” asked Barrow.

“What! No nothing to do with that man. The good General has decided that as his motor experts we should now be responsible for the Division’s roads.”

Just as Morant’s had done when he had been given his orders, Barrows face seemed to drop as he contemplated the miles of foot paths, mule tracks and the few hundred yards of barely passable roads that covered the divisional area. “We only have fifteen men…” he brightened. “So then that can’t be expecting us to do much now sir, can they.”

“They are going to bring in lorries to help with the movement of stores.”

“Oh. I see sir…” They were doomed. It was all clear to Barrow now, doomed to spend the rest of the war swinging shovels or up to their elbows in greasy, oily, cantankerous trucks. The re-possession of his magnificent Rolls Royce’s was only a matter of time now. They were doomed… His face melted into a haggard emptiness. It was in a tone half regretful for their loss and half resigned to a future in the guts of some Peerless or Thornycroft, that he asked. “What are we to do sir.”

The light under the tarpaulin was to dim for Morant to see the sparkle fade from Barrows eyes or the extra ten years that creased his cheeks, however he couldn’t help detecting the despondent note in Barrows voice. “They just want a plan for some new roads. I know we will probably have to help build them; but that’s all the more reason to plan them properly in the first place. So cheer up! If you can’t take a joke…”

Chapter 7

Lost Souls

21st of June 1915

The sound of gunfire was a constant anywhere on the cape, the entire sector was within range of the Turkish artillery and under observation from the high ground to the north. Even from where he was standing on Hill 114 just above W Beach, Morant could see Achi Baba and the range of hills that built up behind it formed a dun brown line along the northern horizon. Pyre’s of dust rose from all the usual hot spots. From S beach in the shelter of Eski Hissarlik across to Krithia about half way across the peninsula and so to Y beach. X beach seemed to be in for an extra heavy dose today.

Morant walked across the rolling country, 12 bore loaded with 5’s and 7’s. One eye for any bird stupid enough to have flown over from the Asian side, the other noting the nature of the ground. Every so often he would stop to consult his map, the thick sheet of linen paper folded to display the relevant section and hold another sheet of tracing paper in the correct alignment.

He had come this close to the Aerodrome to have a look at its surface. It had only ever been an emergency landing field, the gunners in the hills had seen to that. But lately it had been attracting over a hundred shells a day, fired at an old Voisin that had crashed and been repaired as a decoy. Morant had already examined the aircraft and found it more packing cases than clear timber, more holes than fabric. If it distracted the enemy guns then it was worth more left alone than as fire wood, which is about all it was good for else.

Supposedly he was meant to be surveying the route for some new roads to connect the beaches with the forward dumps but Morant believed in killing as many birds as possible with a singe stone. Since they had arrived on Cape Hellas, he and his men had been porters, mechanics, carpenters, labourers, gunners and longshoremen. They had even been unofficial infantry. At one time or another most of ‘B’ section had sneaked off to the front to have a ‘crack’ at the enemy, he had himself on a couple of occasions.

In short, they had done every thing bar what they were paid for. Yes, their cars were tuned and titivated every day, cleaned and polished ready to move at the first call. They took the occasional spin along the rotten tracks, getting to know their area and giving the Turks something else to shoot at besides the poor bloody infantry. But in their prime role as armoured cars-men, they had been dreadfully slack. When the offensive meant for June the 4th had been cancelled at the last moment, both of the RNAS Armoured Car Squadrons on the peninsula had felt let down. To come all this way only to be cheated of action at the last moment was a cruel blow, every one was getting thoroughly ‘Cheesed off.’ His men needed drill and the aerodrome offered the one suitable, flat, open and unoccupied space in the whole British position. That is if the surface hadn’t been churned to bits.

A rustle in a bush to his left had the shotgun up, it was with a mixture of anger and relief that Morant lowered the gun, breaking it open and pocketing the cartridges. “Who the devil are you?”

“Beeton, sar. Leading Stoker. Number ‘free Squadron RNAS.” The man was a mess; dirty, thin and what was left of his uniform was filthy. He looked as if he hadn’t seen a razor in a week and a thicker than usual cloud of flies buzzed about him.

Morant was taken aback. He had expected the man to be a deserter of some type skulking about so far from rest of the force. No. 3 Squadron was as far as he knew on Imbros, one of the nearby Greek islands used as staging areas for the campaign. “Commander Samson?”

The fear on Beeton’s face, slipped away as his near brush with death faded and he recognised the officers white cap. “Sar. You in the Andrew sar?”

“Yes” was the curt reply. “3 Squadron Armoured Car Division, let’s have your story man.”

“Well sar, me ‘an me ‘oppo, is ground crew, ‘ere for the ‘eroplanes sar. Not bein’ too h’active like, trade bein’ as ‘wot you might say slow. We been keep’n the old match box in one piece.” He thrust a grubby thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the decoy haloed in dust as another brace of shells burst around it.

“Just the two of you. Whose ration strength are you on?”

“Dunno sar. Nobody’s I ‘spose.”

“Right then! You sir, are in a bloody disgraceful state. I presume your partner is in the same condition and this simply will not do. At least not with the army watching. So I think we had best attach you to my command for the present. I’ll have a word with the SNO about setting you up properly. Come with me now and get a decent meal, we’ll see about sending some one to look after your kit while the pair of you get cleaned up…. Who moves the decoy around by the way?”

A Long Long Road A' Winding

23rd of June 1915

“Now you look as if you could do with a nice hot cup of tea!”

“You’re a gem Cameron, an absolute gem.” Morant dropped into the shade. “God save us all from staff officers…” A sharp ‘crack’ sounded overhead and a patter of shrapnel thumped into the layers of sandbags and earth that covered the veranda. “I say, Abdul is getting a bit uppity today.”

“Persistent buggers, they have been at it since luncheon. Just shrapnel so far, no HE which is a comfort. This lot…” Marlowe jabbed the corrugated iron over head with his ash plant. “Wouldn’t keep out a decent HE shell for a minute. Johnny Turk seems awfully short of HE, I dare say I’ve seen him fire a hundred rounds of it since the landing. Lemon?” he filled a Spode cup from a china teapot and handed it to Morant.

Morant accepted the tea with a nod of thanks. “I can’t say as I’ve seen that much of it myself. Bags of shrapnel, I know a dugout over in the French sector that has two walls and the roof made from Turkish shrapnel carcases.” Shrapnel shells were crammed full of lead or iron shot with a time fuse. When they burst overhead a small charge blew the nose of the shell off and spewed the balls out like a shotgun. The empty body of the shell then fell to earth where it was used for all sorts of domestic purposes by the people it had been intended to kill. “But as you say very little HE, I suppose they have trouble getting them from Germany… I see you’ve got the good china out. What’s the special occasion?”

“Oh no occasion. I couldn’t see the point in bring my baggage forward to ANZAC. Things seem much more settled down here, so I though ‘why not’…” Marlowe shrugged.

“Ah yes, the unofficial motto of the Royal Artillery ‘Any fool can be uncomfortable,’ what’s that: Quislibet fossor may exsisto incommoditas?”

“Not too bad, try ‘Vita est incommoditas pro fossor.’” corrected Marlowe. “So what have the Gaberdine Swine done now?”

“Honestly, the fuss they make over a few roads! Have you see what they want to do?”

Marlowe shook his head.

“Well it’s quite straight forward in theory. They want a motor road from Y beach, down through Bakery and X to W beach. Then across to V and up around Moto Bay to S beach. So all the beaches are linked by land. Which is simple enough and needless to say, as Corps is to build this one, everything is perfectly set out.” Morant had detected a growing cynicism in himself of late, but he felt justified in this accusation. “Then they want roads from V and W straight up the middle to the front. Again simple, these are the roads that the Divisions are to build.” Morant scowled in frustration. “But will they do things the easy way? No the fools will not. Our part is the centre roads up from W beach and a link across to V trunk roads the 42nd are going to put in. I haven’t a clue how Corps is going to build the rest of them. But they demand we build ours backwards! Backwards!” Morant collapsed backwards himself, slurping his tea.

“And how pray, do you build a road backwards? “ Marlowe asked with an air of complete detachment.

“Oh don’t think you’ll be getting out of it old man. From what I’ve seen, they are going to need every man who can wield a teaspoon if this lot is to be done on time. As to why it’s all backwards, well all the men are in the north, but they want to start the roads from the south. It means a 4 mile walk across country before the men can start working. Ninnis and I agree that if we start from the front and build back to the beaches it would be a great saving in time and effort, all the other Divisions agreed with us too. But those ruddy Baboons insisted on doing it the hard way, eventually we compromised on starting in the middle!” Morant fished in his pocket for cigarette case and matchbox. Exhaling the first lung full of sweet smoke he continued. “And good lord, the work they want done! I don’t know if they really want roads at all.”

“Tell me, who was at this meeting? The technicality’s are one thing, but you say so your self; perhaps it is not roads they are building. There could be some ulterior motive at work here.”

“You expect finesse from this lot? Well I suppose you might have a point at that. The tab wallahs never cease to surprise me… Oh yes speaking of incoherence masquerading as subterfuge, the 42nd is going to take over the French line to our right, so it looks like the Froggies might be pulling out altogether. Off to Salonika I’d say.” Morant returned to the original subject. “Now let me see; there was Bobby Finch from ‘A’ section and Inigo Smith from ‘C’ with a Sapper from the 29th Commander Carstairs and another Sapper from the 42nd Commander Simpson who seems to be working for Corps, so with me that’s all the 3AC Squadron boys for the 29th and RND. 4AC seems to be working with the 42nd…”

“Not your RNAS cronies Drew, the staff officers. Who was making all the fuss from Corps.” Marlowe cut in.

“Ah alright, Jim Owen was there. How are your pack mules by the way?” Morant asked with a grin.

“Never you mind about that. Two have come down with glanders and the other are looking poorly if you must know, now who else was there?”

Morant sniffed blood in Marlowe’s shifty answer. “I didn’t know mules could get glanders Cam, they looked quite healthy to me this morning and I’ve noticed you’ve been drawing your rations from the Bakery dumps lately. You wouldn’t be trying to weasel out of paying the man would you?”

“Certainly not!” denied Marlowe hotly. “I have merely renegotiated the terms of out agreement in favour of alternate days as you your self suggested.”

“It is customary to inform the other party you know! Well that’s Jims look out. As to the staff; it was really just the usual gaggle of brass you’d expect for this sort of caper; General Street of course as DCoS, but he only popped in for a moment, Crawford from the Pioneers, a couple of other Sappers, some puppies to take notes and get under foot and the obligatory light Colonel’s and Majors wanting to get in on the act. The only two that stand out were a pair of Colonels, a tall pale GSO called Aspinall and an Australian by the name of White. They were the ones who were so insistent on doing everything the wrong way about!” Morant reached for another cigarette.

“The men who wanted you to start from the beach?”

“Oh, it wasn’t just the method, they wanted to take our roads through the oddest places. We wanted to stick to the low ground, along the bottom of the nullahs mostly. That way we could keep the traffic under as much cover as possible and every one else seemed to have the same idea, except this pair. I don’t think we were being particularly dense, there’s this lovely wadi that runs almost down to V for example, we drove the Tender down it the other day if you remember. Nice sandy bottom, not to many rocks, pour some tar and it would be Hyde Park corner. A lot of traffic uses it already. But no, not on your nellie. This White wanted us to dig a ramp out of it and build a road along the crest! We all pointed out that every Turk with a pair of glasses could see us, but then Aspinall chimes in with his two bob, saying that it will only be used at night so that didn’t matter! I ask you. ‘Only at night,’ done properly you could run lorries up and down all day and Johnny couldn’t touch us. All it would need are a few rocks moved, some straightening and a few low points filled in. Instead we have to excavate a couple of tons of spoil to get out of this marvellous shelter, then cut and fill along a hillside for half a mile. It’s enough to give a fellow the Turkey Trots!”

Marlowe considered this for a few moments. “I know Lt Colonel White from ANZAC and I was aquatinted with a Captain Aspinall on the General Staff in Egypt. If they are the same men, neither struck me as particularly foolish, quite the opposite in fact. White ran a very taunt ship as General Bridges Brigade Major and I’d advise you never to play cards with Charlie Apsinall not if you value your purse. If those two are at the bottom of it, then I’d wager there must be some method in any apparent madness.” A predatory twinkle flashed in Marlowe’s eyes as he continued his analysis. “Where you wanted cover, they wanted exposure. Hmmm. Let’s turn this situation on its head for a moment. Think of the most exposed and stupid place they insisted your road pass over. Say you were standing there now, what would you see?”

Morant cast his mind back to the hours he has spent over the last few days tramping across that ground. “Bloody near everything I suppose…”

“A good field of fire?”

“Oh defiantly, why that whole length along 207 spur… Why damn you! Damn you to hell, you horrid old… Cam me old bean, you might just have something there. Lord how could I have missed it!”

“You have said it you self old man, more than once too. This is bad country for armoured cars, plenty of good position with no way to get to them…” Marlowe pointed out.

“But on a road, were can rattle up and down like one of those armoured trains! There’s more than sticks and custard between those floppy great ears of yours. But answer me this. Why would we need to run armoured cars about in our own back yard? Look I know we are supposed to be in reserve now on the off chance the Turks break through, but really Cam. It’s all this is a great deal of work to do on the off chance.” Morant finished his tea, peering into the bottom of the cup as if the answer to his question was to be found in the leaves.

Chapter 8

To Each Their Own

23rd of June 1915

Rattler stalked along the reserve line in the rapid half crouch that denoted an old trench hand. That the reserve trench was a good seven foot deep and Dai Jones wasn’t much over five foot ten made no difference, no trench was ever deep enough and no ones head was ever far enough below ground. With two canteens slung over his shoulder a third tucked into the front of his blouse, he called out “Get the cups out Colin dear….” As he turned into the bay that had been their home for the last day and a bit.

After a `spell’ in reserve, their battalion had been moved back into the line and shuffled along further eastwards. The marines were grateful for the rest. Being in reserve was one long fatigue party.

“Ah, ‘see you’ve caught you wive ye mate down by the sea side then, any bikies?” Tubby reached into their ‘pozzie’ hole cut into the wall of the trench for the two tin mugs. Dooley had indeed met the hangmen the day after their raid, a sniper or perhaps just a stray bullet had hit him in the throat as he stood his turn of sentry duty. But that had been over a week ago and neither man could now remember his face without a good deal of effort. His replacement had been adopted by another pair of `sea daddies.’ Rank hath its privileges.

“No, the best he could manage was half a loaf of fresh bread…” He pulled the canteen of warm tea from his breast. “and a morsel of jam to spread on it.”

“Real bread? Not dentists delight?”

“Fresh this morning, soft as a maidens hand…” He rummaged in his pack, turning out the fruits of his `Bank Holiday.’ “I also have some more nails for you, a stub of candle, a tin of butter and look you here! I traded my tobacco ration for this.” He held up a tin of solidified alcohol. “We can use our Tommy cooker again, which is just as well. Things are in a strange turmoil down there at the moment. They are no longer issuing rations in cases. We were given sandbags to carry ours home in. Firewood will be hard to come by soon, I should think.”

“Wot they want all them boxes for then?”

“We were not told and I do not know, however I saw a party filling empty cases with earth and stacking them in the dumps. Perhaps they are to protect the stores from shrapnel. Oh and before I forget, I found you some bacon as befitting your rank.” Rattler held up a pound tin of `Lance Corporal’s bacon’ so called because the rashers were no more than a single dark line of meat between two strips of white fat.

“Lovely! We'll 'ave a nice fry up for tea then, fresh bread an' all. I do like a bacon butty." Tuby rubbed his hands in anticipation. "Ya’ mate still want ye’ to join ‘is sodding band?”

“He does, and he has the Colonels permission now so he tells me. But I told him that unless he could find room for a certain profane Lance Corporal, ignorant of music and ungrateful of disposition. I would have to decline his kind offer.”

“Pull the other one, it’s got bells on! Oy oy… I ‘ear a Taube” Tubby stood up from the fire step and risked his head within half a foot of the surface.

“Low or high?” Dai picked up his rifle and chambered a round.

“Too high mate an ‘es got company.” Heads popped up all along the line to watch the show, Turkish as well as British and French. Aircraft were still a novelty and even the snipers took time off to watch the show.

“So he has, one of ours if I make no mistake. Will they fight, do you think?”

“We’ll find out soon enough, ‘es almost caught up to ‘im now.” Tubby had both hands up shading his eyes. “Oh the Hun’s seen ‘im now, ‘es turning away…”


Sub Lieutenant Tasker was slapping the side of the cockpit like a jockey trying to urge more speed from his mount, Tasker was built like a jockey too. The smallest and lightest officer in the Squadron, he had been chosen as a gunner not for any skill or aptitude he had shown with the Colt machinegun, rather because with a pilot and machinegun already on board, the 100hp Maurice – Farman didn’t have that much power to spare. As a matter of fact, it was hard pressed getting airborne with a full load of fuel.

Most of that fuel was long gone now, Commander Samson had been climbing hard since they left Imbros to gain as much altitude as possible. They had reached about seven thousand feet by the time they had spotted the German aircraft and found Dame fortune was on their side; the afternoon sun was behind them and the German well below and crossing from the left to at right angles to their course. So Samson had stuffed the nose down and bought the Farman into a curving dive. With the throttle already hard open, he had increased the mixture and (with more effect than Tasker) applied himself to extracting every last knot out of the lumbering biplane.

As the bird-like Taube grew rapidly from a dot to a cross and began to sprout a tailplane, Samson spared a second to lean forward and clout Tasker across the back of the head. Jabbing a finger at the gun, reminding Tasker that he had a job to do. Both knew they only had a single chance at this. Once the speed from their dive had worn off, the Taube could out run them easily. Nominally the Farman was the faster of to two by a good 10mph, but not with the added weight of the gun and Tasker.

Tasker had barely felt Samson’s hand, a thick flying helmet and the adrenalin pumping through his body had reduced the blow to a gentle pat. Even so it served it purpose, Tasker cocked his gun and braced him self firmly behind the gun.

The range must have been all of four hundred yards when they were spotted, the German or Austrian pilot saw them and made his one error. The pretty white monoplane with its big black crosses broke to the right and started to climb. As Samson was already starting to turn behind the Taube, all he had to do was reef on a bit more starboard bank and give his ‘Flying Packing Case’ a boot full of rudder to cut the corner.

The gap between the two aeroplanes closed with a startling speed, Tasker felt he could almost reach out and touch the other machine when he opened fire. In the gale of wind that was blowing across the cockpit the ammunition belts had a tendency to flap about and jam. One of the fitters had wired an empty tin can under the feed block to ease the belt home, but even with this aid Tasker had one hand on the belt to control it. He didn’t bother to use the conventional sights fitted to the gun as they were far to small and fiddley, rather with both eyes open and aiming by instinct, he hosed the Taube with a stream of bullets.

The results were not all that either of them had hoped for. The burst of fire was cut short and while one of the Huns had slumped like a puppet with cut strings. The Pilot had jerked as if electrocuted and thrown his plane into an amazing vertical climb. Samson had tried to follow, but his momentum gone the Farman stalled and fell away.

Samson resigned to the loss of his prey, looked to his gunner who was beating the Colt with both hands jumping up and down with frustration.

The tail end of the belt had flapped into the path of the swinging under leaver (that gave the Colt it’s nickname ‘The Potato Digger’) and the whole gun was now jammed beyond any repair they could perform while airborne. Tasker communicated this to his pilot with a shrug and the universal hand drawn across throat gesture. Samson shrugged himself and turned for home, noting as he did so that Tasker was covered in blood 'I do hope he isn't hit' thought Samson.


Intermission over, the main event restarted with a flurry of shots as snipers from both sides tried to pick off as many of the audience as they could.

“Well that was a bit o’ a lark! Better ‘n the old Imperial on a Sat’day night that was. So d’you ‘ear any news down there then?”

Dai emptied the chamber of his rifle and poured out their tea. “Would you see to the bread please Colin? Little news did I hear, none that I would give much credence to anyhow. There is supposed to be a new ship just arrived, fitted with an apparatus for extracting clear water from the sea. Some Methodists are attempting to organise a revival meeting to be held on the corner…”

“Na come on mate. Me at a Methoddy meet’n. I fink not.”

“It is never too late to seek salvation Colin, even in this army. I am sorry, the only other news I have heard is a whisper about another naval battle…”

“Where? I bet we served them block ‘eads out this time, come on man.”

“If I might get a word in edgewise, I would tell you that is was somewhere near America. North or South I do not know, some say Boston, others New York and several men where quite insistent that it was near Patagonia. Only time will tell…” Rattler bit into his hunk of bread and leaned back in relaxation.

Chapter 9

Mother Hubbard

23nd June 1915

“My dear sir, I don’t care who signed you order I can not supply you with stores I don’t have. Look here, I’ll ready you reply I received last time I asked for replenishment; and I quote:

From DAQMG Arcadia Blah blah, I have the honour of etc, etc.

I’ll spare you the bumph, old boy here is the meat. …with regard to the articles, stores and provisions as detailed below. Enemy naval activity, has seriously delayed further shipments of these goods, it is not possible to predict when a resumption of supply may occur. As the availability of these items is restricted to that which we presently have to hand…. And here is the crunch old boy… further issues are to proceed with all due economy.” Jim One’s voice carried clearly through the sacking curtain the gave his dugout the illusion of privacy. Morant could hear him quite well even though he was keeping a discreet distance from the door.

“All due economy.” repeated Jim with increasing exasperation. “’All due economy’ means if you can not show me a broken one, you’ll not get another issued. And as I was going to say, item number 37 on my list reads ‘Sandbags – Large.’ Thus unless you can present me with the expended ‘bags – Large,’ I can not… It’s on my list, man there’s no good to be had shouting at me. I can only obey my instructions… No, and there is no point you coming down here to see me. “ Another long reply.

“I really am very sorry, but unless you can have General Steet contact General Braithwaite and convince him to get the GSO I to have the Quartermaster write you out a dispensation, I can’t help you with ‘Sandbags – Large.’ But now I see no where on this list does it mention ‘Sandbags – Small.’” Jim again paused. “Yes, they do come in different sizes, large and small. Yes, no small sandbags are not on my list. Yes they are smaller… yes you will need more of them. If I might make a suggestion…oh no thank you! I will send the messenger back with your requisition, if you amend ‘Sandbags – Large’ to ‘Sandbags – Small’ have General Street initial both copies and return it… Yes you will need to change the quantity as well, 3 is to 1 would be about the usual ratio… No, you multiply the number of large by three… if you need one hundred large, then you will need three hundred small. Yes, ten to thirty. No, I agree that is somewhere I the area, but we find that it’s usual to carry the… Yes! That sounds better. Very well then good bye, no I’m always happy to help…. Yes good bye.” The jangle of a telephone indicated the end of this conversation. “Here you are then, return this with my compliments. I’m sorry for you wasted journey.”

“Sar! Thank you sar.” A pair of boots stamped to attention and a young private in shorts two sizes to big with creases sharp enough to shave many a chin, marched smartly through the curtain. Morant noticed he was wearing the armband of a Corps runner.

“Pardon me, is that for Captain Crawford?” Morant stopped the runner.

“No sar! Captain Craven sar.”

“Thank you private, my mistake.” Morant returned the runner salute and watched the boy sprint off.

“Is that you Morant? Come in man, there’s no point in you lurking about out there.” Morant entered the dug out and noticed Jim was brushing dust off his desk. “Don’t misunderstand me, I for one am all for the proper respect of rank. But I do whish these boys wouldn’t treat my office like a parade ground, I have enough trouble with the blessed dust before they go stamping about the place. Now sit down and tell me what plague you have bought to my house today.”

“Captain Craven Corps HQ.” Morant sat on the visitors bully beef box. “I think I know the man; short dumpy fellow, no chin and big moustache?”

“I wouldn’t know, seemed like a right nincompoop to me! The fool couldn’t even multiply. These staff puppies, the blind leading the blind.” Jim shook his head in sorrow.

“They’d be a damned sight more useful if they were blind sir, at least then we’d know they couldn’t read a map.”

“True, but what is this Craven to you? Trying to win your self a DSO the easy way?” laughed Jim.

“Oh I just thought he might be curious as to why he will end up with three quarters of his job finished and no sandbags left…” Morant wasn’t serious about blackmail, he had found that it rather interfered with the trust and good will between men. “I’m sure it was all an innocent mistake, you mixing up the ratios between ‘bags –large and medium.” However all’s game in War and Business. “What would CHQ want with sandbags? It wouldn’t have anything to do with last nights fire by any chance?”

“Did I mix them up? Oh dear… But a ‘bag – Small is as long as a bag’- Large is wide is it not? And a Large is three times longer than the width of a Small.” Said Jim meekly.

“Yes with an extra bag in every three to allow for the difference in bulk…”

Jim laughed. “No flies on you me lad. No I’m not surprised they didn’t want to produce a mound of charred hessian reeking of Brandy. But I find ‘Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone’ a good guiding principal.” Jim’s double meaning was fairly obvious. “I am certain that you’re not here for the pleasure of my company. So as you seem to have heard all that…” he waved at the field telephone. “Here, read this and if what you are after is on the list don’t bother asking. Save me the trouble of repeating my self.”

“Morant read the list avidly. On Hellas where there was no supply, there was sure to be a demand. “You don’t actually have much call on ‘Brasso – Polish, metal’ surely?”

“You’d be surprised, very good on Athlete’s foot is Brasso.” Jim took his list back. “Try this one.” He passed over another long list.

Morant quickly read the heading, ‘…Due to unexpected delay in forwarding said items from Malta and the diversion of a portion of the reserve supply to other theatres of war, issue of the following should be limited and steps taken to ensure all due…’”

“Well sir shovels and picks don’t seem to be included, not as far as I could see…” Morant left the question hanging.

“And why should they be? Why on earth would I care about ‘Implements – Digging’ and any item there sub listed?”

“But you run the Engineer’s Park sir…” Morant was puzzled.

“So I do, and if it’s ‘Items - Consumable’ or ‘Items – Expendable’ you are after then it certainly is my business. ‘Implements – Digging’ are ‘Items – Issued, Accountable’ dear boy, that’s the QM’s bailiwick and you will not find me poaching. Far too much damned paperwork. Is that all you were after?”

“Oh I am sorry sir, I do tend to get some things confused at times. Yes sir. We’ve been put on road building duty you see…” Morant explained.

“Ah, a bit of honest work, do you a world good. Sorry I can’t help old son… Oh that reminds me. Have you seen anything of that gunner friend of yours?” Jim inquired.

“No sir, I can’t say as I have lately. Could I pass on a message?” Morant stood and moved to the door.

“My warmest regards and he still owes me two days. Oh and if he would give my kind whishes to Captain Spencer, he would oblige me.” Jim smiled as Morant nodded and left.


“The game is up Cam old bean, he knows all about your little arrangement over on Bakery Beach.”

“I beg your pardon Andrew?” Marlowe was taken aback.

“Jimmy said to tell you that you still owe him three days. And no joy here, we need to apply to the ‘QM’.” Morant lead Marlowe off on another odyssey between the Biscuit boxes.

“But I only have two days…”

“He said three, mind that wheel barrow.”

“Blow the blasted barrow! Look, would you please tell me what is going on.” At this point Marlowe managed to skip in front of Morant and blocked further any further passage between the mound of marmalade on one hand and tinned butter on the other.

“Jim One hasn’t any shovels, so we are off to see ‘Q’.” Morant was reluctant to explain. Given a moment to think about it, the realisation had dawned on him that he had taken Jims word with out checking! The possibility of having been ‘Done Brown’ was an unattractive one and the last thing he wanted to do was reveal this potential embarrassment to his friend.

“CQ? I thought you said we were going to see ‘QM’.”

“CQM? What on earth has a company Quartermaster go to do with this? Neither of us have one anyways. No, Cam old chap, we are going to Sedd–el–Bahr, out on the point. The old fort at the other end of Lancashire Landing alright?” Morant took advantage of another passing wheel barrow to step around Marlowe. “Coming? We must see if we can get some wheel barrows too. Frightfully useful things barrows.”

Marlowe was torn between beating Morant over the head with the nearest blunt object or trailing along behind. He came to the rational and reasonable conclusion that an unconscious Morant would be less effective at procuring the necessary tools, so with a sigh of regret he followed his companion.


Cape Hellas was not a particularly prominent viewing platform, but it was more than sufficient to spread before them a panorama of shipping. Preoccupied as he was Morant paid little attention to the dozens of ships riding at anchor or to buoys. It was Marlowe, keen to find some diversion from thoughts of homicide, that noticed a new and most impressive visitor.

“Andrew. You’re a sailor of sorts…”

“Thank you very much I’m sure.”

“Now don’t be petty for all love. Can you identify that large warship out there? I don’t believe I’ve seen it before.” Marlowe pointed.

“Good lord! What on earth is…” Morant shaded his eyes with the palm of his hand.

“It looks most impressive to me.”

“I’ll say it is! I honestly can quite make it out at this distance Cam, but it looks like either an ‘Orion’ or a ‘KGV.’ I can’t see the blasted secondaries from here, I’d need glasses to be sure. I suppose it might be an ‘Iron Duke’ with the sun on the water like that I can’t tell if she has a focsle battery or not. Damnation, why did I leave my glasses behind, every time I need them I find I’ve left… No I don’t think I can see a mizzen, so it’s probably not an ‘Iron Duke.’ But who can say how they are rigged these days, what with battle damage and refits.” Morant continued to mumble curses under his breath.

“So it’s a Dreadnought then?”

“Say a Super Dreadnought rather…” enthused Morant.

Chapter 10

All in a Days Kraft

23rd June 1915

Rattler was deep in concentration. He bobbed along the trench bay sticking his periscope up for a quick look, then moving a few feet away and putting the glass up again for another swift peek. Bored sitting about in the reserve trench he had come forward to have a bit of a snipe, alas he had found it a hard job to do single handed and he trusted no one but Tubby to spot for him.


Dai jumped as if shot. He swivelled about ready to clock who ever had scared the living daylights out of him with fist, periscope or probably both.

“Cor’ love a duck! The look on our face…” Tubby was quivering heap of mirth, laughing so hard he collapsed back onto the wall of the trench and slid down into a squat. “Sorry Rattler mate, I just couldn’t help it… Youse looked like you was h’bout to ‘ave kittens!”

“Well curse you for sneaking, rotten, insensitive, low-borne, gutter raking, foul thinking…” Dai couldn’t hit a laughing man no matter how much he wanted too. And oh how he wanted too.

“Come on cheer up! I just heard we got a stunt on tonight, I thought as you might want to write ‘ome an such.” Tubby dragged himself to his feet. “No point in hang’n ‘bout down ‘ere, I reckon there’ll be plenty o’ chances to get shot this evening with playing sodgers now.”


It was Tubby's turn to start in surprise. “What the flippin’ heck was that then?”

“Have you not seen the catapult…” CRUMP!** “…Colin?” Rattler was half way towards seeing the funny side himself by now, revenge was a dish served cold.

“Can’t say as I ‘ave, A ‘cat-a-pelt’ like what them Roman fings?”

“It is something the Cyclists Company have put together to throw bombs and to be honest, I doubt any right thinking Roman would go anywhere near such a contraption. It’s two bays down that way if you must see it. But I will not go again, I value my life too highly. I will see you at home then!” Rattler called out as Tubby hurried off in the direction of the catapult, as he watched his friend vanish around the corner he reflected that ‘Colin has no more resistance to a mechanical device than he has to strong drink.’ He gathered up his equipment and departed.

Tubby came to the catapult just in time to see two members of the RND Cyclists Company trying to re @#%$ the beast. As far as he could see it was nothing more than a child’s “Shanghai” writ very large. A heavy wooden frame and twisted bicycle inner tubes, it was propped up on a home made tripod with a crude aiming quadrant and no sights at all as far as he could tell.

“’ere mate, youse want some sort’a windlass for that.” He commented to the Leading Seaman who was supervising.

“Bugger off.” Said the Hooky not unkindly. “We’s tried that, more trouble’n it was werf.”

“Leaver’s mebbe?”

“Tried than an all. Not nuff room in a trench.” Hooky replied. “Ready Oh?” the crew had caught the rubber band in the catch. “Right then, load ‘er and light.”

One man placed a “Tickler’s Bomb” (so call after the brand of jam the tin had once contained) in the sling and lit the fuse. “Lit!” he yelled.

Hooky put this periscope over the parapet and called “Fire!”

The other man whacked the catch with the handle of an entrenching tool and WHANG!* The bomb flew off across no-mans-land, it’s fuse leaving a faint black smoke trail in the air. CRUMP!**

“A bit short an’ left.” Hooky reported. “Slip another bit o’ shim under the left front leg there.”

“What you got in them bombs then?” Asked Tubby impressed by the blast.

“Five free quarter sticks o’ jelly mate, an’ a hand full o’ gravel to pack it wive like.”

“Cor’ blummy, no wonder they go awf like Guy Fawlks! Me ma always said too much jam was bad for the digestion.” A single three quarter stick or even a half was more the usual charge.

“She wasn’t wrong at that mate. Some times we just whack a hole in a full tin o’ bully or jam, stick in det. an’ send that over. Now that’s a farkn’ bomb! Don’t kill no one, but it spreads the shite all over. Mustapha ‘e don’t half cuss then!”


Marlowe had long since given up trying to get any rational conversation out of Morant. It had taken ten minutes to pry the Naval officer from his look out at the foot of the lighthouse and even now half way across V Beach Morant was still mumbling about ‘4” Casemates’ and ‘Stump Mizzens.’ In desperation, for they did have serious business to do, Marlowe clapped his companion on the shoulder and said. “Look you can come back down here with your Field Glasses as soon as we have our shovels. If you must know now, why not ask one of these sailors?” he indicated to a knot of men identifiable as seamen by their round caps and tattoos in the general nakedness of the beach parties.

“Capital idea Cameron. I say! Pardon me Jack.” He addressed the nearest seaman. “What's the buzz on the new yacht?”

“What? Sorry gov, but what new yacht? We ain’t had a new liner in ‘ere in weeks.” The sailor replied.

“No? That’s odd. We’ve just seen an “8” from the Cape, are you sure nothing new has come in?” if the beach crew hadn’t heard anything yet the ship must have arrived in the last hour.

“Hooky!” the sailor called over his superior. “The gov’ner ‘ere reckons ‘es just seen a new Battlewagon come in, we ain’t ‘erd nuff’n ‘ave we?”

The leading seaman walked over and scratching the back of his head addressed Morant. “No sir, can’t say as I have.” The man noticed the wavy rings on Morant’s epaulettes. “You sure it was a Dreadnought sir, not a Battleship?”

Morant was not going to be taught to suck eggs. “Tripod fore mast, two funnels and five big turrets down the middle, no secondary turrets, no flying or boat deck’s.”

“Well sir. In that case, all’s I can say is that it’s news to us sir.” Said the Hooky equally puzzled.

Morant thanked the men for their time and in even more frustration started stalking down the beach. Marlowe thinking that his might not have been such a good idea after all followed, matching Morant’s speed if not his emotion.


Men every where dived to the ground seeking cover like cockroaches exposed to light.

After a few seconds of silence came a round of curses in almost every language and accent in the British Empire with French, Persian, Yiddish, Russian, Greek and Turkish thrown in for good measure all raining scorn, wrath and abuse down upon ‘Annie.’

Brushing the tide line filth from his uniform Marlowe observed that ‘Annie’ must be a gun.

“’Asiatic Annie’ to give the bitch her full due. “ said Morant. “She’s big Krupp over on the other side of the Dardanelles. Blasted thing, damned dangerous shooting it off like that, they could have hurt some one. Oh don’t worry about the dirt Cam, you’re already filthy.”

“One does like to keep some standards, even in this place. I say, this ‘Annie’ of yours didn’t seem to hit anything.” Marlowe looked around and saw no sign of catastrophe. A point that struck him as particularly odd because as crowded as the beach was, he didn’t think you could throw a brick from where he stood with out hitting three men a mule and a box of something.

“No, I think you will find she hit the Clyde over there.” Morant waved in the direction of the ship that had been run aground at the end of the beach on the first day of the landing. “The old girl might have killed plenty of good men on the first day, but I dare say she has saved quite a few since.” The 1st Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and some other smaller units had landed from the River Clyde when it was run aground almost directly below a couple of machineguns. Few men made it ashore fromthe converted collier, even fewer lived. “Fortunately a lot of Annie’s mischief hits either the Clyde or the Fort.” he pointed out the still solid fortification of Sedd-el-Bahr.

“Drew, didn’t you mention we were going to the Fort?”

“I certainly did, that is to say the Fort is our current destination, unless you want to make a few miles of road with your bare hands?” grinned Morant.

“Are you telling me that the QM Stores are in a building that is not only a target for Turkish heavy artillery, but catches shells meant of other people as well? Bloody madness!”

“You know these box wallah’s, they're a greedy bunch. Always willing to take another’s fair ration.”

“Well their welcome to mine then. But why there, I can’t see the point.” Said Marlowe.

“I rather think it because the Fort still has walls, to stop thieves.” Morant explained. “Come on, we need to shake a leg.”

“Seems a silly reason to me.” Remarked Marlowe. Morant only shrugged, the walls had certainly stopped him from pinching anything.


Lt Paterson, had been looking for Morant all afternoon, eventually he had left his runner sitting comfortably outside naval officers dugout with a note to be delivered by nightfall on pain of death.

Private Elliott certainly didn’t seem to mind being given such an onerous task, as Patterson trotted off to see to the rest of his preparations. Elliott was already enjoying Naval hospitality in the form of a cup of tea and gossiping with Morant’s driver about the latest news of the Naval Battle off America and the scores of yesterdays cricket match between brigade teams from the 42nd and the 11th Divisions.

125th Brigade was four battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers. The 32nd Brigade was two battalions of the West Yorkshire and a Battalion each of York & Lancaster and West Riding Regiments. As a Lancashire -Yorkshire game, it had been a grudge match of epic proportions. Of these two major events, only the cricket scores had been published in the daily news bulletin.

Paterson wanted to borrow Morant’s guns again, but he also wanted some assistance in setting up the other machineguns that had been assigned to him and planning the fire support. The mission he had been briefed on just before lunch was outside his personal experience and he really wanted some one to talk it all over with.


Getting through the gate of the old Ottoman Fort took some fast talking. The sentry’s orders were clear 'no pass no entrance,' but Morant seemed to know the right buttons to push. As they passed into the Parade of the Fort, Morant explained the reason for his hurry on the beach. “The guard changes on the hour, it’s always easier if you can give the man a hint that you’ll blame the next sentry if you get caught.” Marlowe wondered how his friend knew the guard rota. “Oh, I’ve watched the place a few times.” Was the casual reply. “There is a hush-hush back door, but as you’re such a snappy dresser Cam. I didn’t think you’d like crawling in through the old Sally Port on the seaward side.”


Ulysses Uriah Bothwell had been fighting a quiet war with his personal nouns for years, he had been ‘Yo-Yo’ at school and that had followed him into the Army much to his disgust. Since then he had hidden behind a wall of professional initials. First he was a simple DAAQM, then he had graduated through DAQM, DAAQMG, DAQMG and even at one stage the simple majesty of QMG. Now in the twilight of his career he had achieved his final aim, the glory of a single letter. ‘Yo-Yo’ had become ‘Q.’ However this had not improved his underlying disposition much.

Knock, knock.

“Excuse me sir.” Morant stepped around a partition made of match boarding and into Q space. Marlowe followed him a few paces behind.

“Good morning. Can I help you?” Q’s greeting had all the welcome of a winters morn.

Morant was rather surprised by such a mild reception. For all his fearsome reputation, ‘Q’ seemed like a thoroughly nice chap. A tall stooped avuncular figure with a slightly cross expression as one constantly put upon. “Yes sir, may I present Captain Marlowe of the HKSA, I am Lieutenant Morant of the RNASACD. We would like to apply to you for some tools.”

This blizzard of acronyms was music to Q’s ears, he still had no intention of being helpful though. “Tools is it. I believe you need to see Major Owen of the Royal Engineers.”

“Yes sir, we have already seen Major Owen. He kindly explained the many fascinating differences between ‘Stores – Consumable and Expendable’ and ‘Stores – Issued and Accountable’ sir. We have requisitions signed by Lt. Colonel Ollivant sir, for…”

“And you will have signed passes for entrance to HM Stores Cape Hellas?”

“Sir.” Morant didn’t so much evade the question as ignore it. “We…”

“If I may sir. Cameron Marlowe, Hong Kong and Singapore Mountain Battery.” Marlowe stepped forward and extended his hand. Over a firm handshake, he asked Q how he did.

“Very well thank you Mr. Marlowe. I must say HKASAMB sounds much better than that mouthful of a title. Far more to the point donch’a know. I deeply regret having to say this, however tools and I presume you need digging implements are in very short supply at the moment and the artillery have already drawn…”

Seeing that Marlowe was having far more success with Q than he had done, Morant drifted into the background. Instead he let his eye wonder about the Q’s office. ‘Store-house’ would have been a more appropriate name. The walls were hung with a stupendous verity of equipment, even more was neatly places on wooden benches around the edges of the room. He really did try to keep his hands to himself, but the temptation was just too great. As he roamed about the space he kept one ear open to the discussion, a conversation that consisted mainly of Q saying ‘No’ in a remarkable number of different ways and Marlowe refusing to accept this answer with equal skill.

It was as well that he paid some attention to the others in the room. As much as he would like to have kept his hands in his pockets, this would hardly do in the presence of a superior officer and thus unrestrained. Morant would look down to find his fingers holding some rare and precious item that he had no knowledge of ever picking up.

“You sir. Put that down! Will you kindly refrain from touching things of which you are completely ignorant.” Q snapped, proving that he had eyes in the sides if not the back of his head. A few minutes later it was: “That is a surgincle for an elderly pack mule with bad teeth and would you please put it back where you found it.” Later still came a reprimand for “Fiddling with a very expensive piece of HM’s property.” At the fourth, a curt injunction to “Treat equipment with which he was not issued with the proper respect.” Morant concluded that his presence was far more of a hindrance to Marlowe than his moral support was of any help. So with much reluctance, he bade a silent farewell and drifted quietly out of the room.

Morant had been wondering about the Parade for twenty minutes watching the Storemen perform all the strange drills and rituals of their craft, moving boxes from one side to the other then back to their original position, practicing the full Manual of Arms for Clipboard Mk. I/II with Pencil Mk. XIX or Broom Mk. VI. He was starting to wonder if Q had killed Marlowe and eaten him, when a very stiff QMS marched up to him and saluted.

That such and August figure as a Quartermaster Sargent had even noticed him, was enough to rock Morant back on his heels, corporals were more in his line. He returned the Sargent’s salute (yet another shock) and accepted the clipboard he was handed. Reading crisply typed (Typed! On Gallipoli!) list, a huge grin strained Morant’s poker face to its limits. Picks, Shovels, Mattocks, Wheelbarrows even ‘Augers – Boring, Shothole’ an item Morant didn’t even know existed.

“If you will sign twice here sir, and here, and here and there sir. Well will deliver these H’tems before supper.” The QMS had a voice that squeaked worse than his pen.

Morant signed each his name six times and returned the clipboard. “Thank you Sargent, are you sure you wouldn’t like up to pick them up?”

“No sir, delivery has been arranged sir.” The QMS quickly read the list noting that Morant had only signed half the spaces he had indicated. “Very good sir, if you will wait these Captain Marlowe will join you shortly sir.” His voice now had a slight trace of disappointment that this pup of an officer had not signed for stores as yet undilivered.


“How on the tinkers God given green earth did you pull that off? Man they were bowing and scraping like flunkeys. You sir are with out a doubt, a bloody genius!” Morant's cup runnethed over and most of the spillage came out as praise for Marlowe. “Come on man, out with it. You can tell your Uncle Andrew…Oh lord you didn’t ‘sell’ anything did you?”

Marlowe wasn’t quite sure how to take joining the ‘Clan Morant’ all the same he couldn’t resist the invitation. “Don’t worry old boy, be happy. All I traded was our requisitions. Q started to loosen up when I called a ‘shovel’ a ‘spade,’ after that it wasn’t easy but…” Guilt wasn’t a common failing amongst lawyers anywhere, but after such a full acknowledgment of his success… “No Drew I have a confession to make. I told him about your ‘backdoor’ into his establishment. I’m sorry, truly I am. I reserved it for as long as I could honestly. But in the end I needed a sweetener and that was all I, well we had. I do regret it, but there really was no choice and if it stops stealing …”

“Ah ha! Now that explains it. No old boy I don’t mind, not in the least. The hole will still be there tomorrow. ‘tis a fine job you’ve, no we’ve done today. Home for a drink say I. Home to have our ill gotten spoil delivered to our very door!” Morant was a very happy man.

“A drink by all means, yes that defiantly has my vote.” Marlowe was glad that Morant had taken new of ‘the price’ so well. “But hardly ‘ill gotten’ old boy. Bought and paid for!”

“Oh ‘ill gotten’ beyond any shadow of a doubt, Cameron old stick. He didn’t hand over the lolly as payment. Oh no, it was a bribe. Had to be. I spent half an hour poking about that place and it’s stitched up tighter then a mouses jewing bag. He had to know about it, must have. He just doesn’t want us to spread the word, hence stuffing our mouths with gold. And I for one take great delight in chewing this particular mouthful. I say Cam, you’d know about these things… Do ‘Sheaffer’ make a good pen?”

Chapter 11

Doon the Pit and Round the Twist

23nd of June 1915

VIII Corps HQ was probably the finest dugout south of the Alp's, it had taken an under strength Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers a week to dig it out of the soft cliffs that backed V beach. In a place where any dugout with more than one room qualified as a town house in Belgravia, Lancashire Hole was the equivalent of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle combined.

Sir Ian Hamilton’s Chief of Staff had wanted to hold these conferences aboard the SS Arcadia but this ship which served as HQ for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was moored off Imbros seventeen miles from Cape Hellas. He had pointed out that there was a telegraph cable between ship and battle field, so the Corps Commander General Alymer Hunter – Weston could be in constant communication with his command. And further more, several of the other members of the committee worked either on the Arcadian or the nearby SS Aragon that housed the Administrative HQ. But alas for the Salmon Cruet and chilled Hock of the Arcadian, Hunter – Weston refused to leave his Command. It could have been because Hunter – Weston, Hunter – Bunter to his friends suffered from seasickness, or perhaps he felt his responsibilities too deeply to abandon his men for the comforts of the former P&O Liner.

But most probably it was just to annoy General Walter Braithwaite, who did suffer from sea sickness and deeply resented having to make the three hour round trip twice a week to report to a man technically subordinate to him. Braithwaite's subtle appeals to the Commander in Chief bought no more success either. Ian Hamilton was a very pleasant man, but even he didn’t have much time for Braithwaite.

Instead the 'planning committee with out a name' held it’s meetings in a hot smelly cavern where they were lucky to be served a cup of tea and the sandwiches were served with crusts.

Each of the three generals, two colonels and the solitary Naval Commander had a specific role, there were no secretaries, no aids and most definitely no observers. Every man wore at least two hats, Colonel White and Commander Unwin were present in at least three separate capacities and the minutes were taken by any one of the staff officers who wasn't otherwise engaged.

“Gentlemen, if you would care to inform us of progress to date?” Bunter looked across the former ships dinning table at the three junior officers.

Cecil Aspinall – Oglander was the first to reply. “The ‘drawing down’ process is going quite well sir. The memo’s General Braithwaite..” he nodded to the head of the table.” …was kind enough to insert into the daily orders and the various notes I’ve sent out in General Cowans name have had a very satisfactory effect on consumption. As agreed I’ve cut back everything bar ammunition, medical supplies and water. Our consumption is very nearly matching the daily landings and we find a definite surplus is developing aboard the transports. But Commander Unwin will no doubt cover that issue. Our largest concern at present is with the French.”

“Bloody Frogs!” General Braithwaite snarled. “Couldn’t pull their finger out of a …”

“Come now Walter. I’m sure they will catch up, if we all do our best and I’m sure Gouraud is chivvying them along, it will be alright.” Reproved General Street with his usual boundless optimism. Street was Bunter's Chief of Staff, a man once described as being Bunter's ‘evil genius.’

“Actually sir, the French are not being dilatory. I’m sorry to say the problem is rather their abundance of stores and a shortfall in transport, not a lack of effort or will.”

Braithwaite broke in again with a rumble about ‘The French being happy to run away and leave us to clean up the mess.’ But he was quietly ignored by all.

Aspinall continued. “The ammunition they hold is subject to negotiation of course. We are unsure of the French intentions with regard to their artillery and the exact quantity they are willing to expend here above that required for purely defensive purposes. To date Paris seems to have forgotten about the shells they shipped out for the last offensive but which have not yet been fired. Colonel White has some further information on this matter I believe.

Thanks to the reduction we have affected in landings, we have been able to increase the water supply to 90 tons per day which as the whether seems to be hotting up will most welcome I should imagine.”

If Aspinall expected any thanks for providing thirsty men with a 12.5% increase in the water ration, he didn’t get it from the Corps Commander. “We are of course maintaining seven days worth of food ashore, we currently hold about nine days for four divisions but this will serve well, as we use more lighterage for moving men off the reduction in landings and the excess in supply should almost balance out. Our ammunition is another worry, we have no shortage of SAA (Small Arms Ammunition, mostly .303) and the bomb factory on Malta is starting to turn out a good quantity. In fact we landed about 30 tones of .303 and Maltese grenades last night just to clear some shipping space. But I really need to know about our artillery. We have enough onshore for a weeks battle, and about another two days spread between ships and dumps on the islands. I would like to start back loading some of it soon. Other than that, I can’t think of anything but minor details in my department. Oh yes, I’ve seen fit to give Lt. Col. Armstrong of the Marines an order as QMG Imbros, he was Chief of Staff too…”

“Yes, yes no need to wash linen in public. Send me the bumph. I’ll sign it.” said Braithwaite.

“I was give to understand ‘Ill Health’…” Aspinall dropped the subject and moved on to conclude. “The other aspects will of course be coved by my colleges.”

“Thank you Cyril. Mr. White?” Hunter – Weston hardly approved of ‘amateur’ soldiers and Australians were not his favourite people either. White had the misfortune to be both.

“Gentlemen.” White stood up, his voice was hardly ill educated but his accent still seemed out of place to Generals. “First ANZAC. General Birdwood presents his complements to you all and is pleased to report the Garrison has been reduced to thirty five thousand as per the time table. Over the last thirty six hours we have had a ‘Silence’ that was still holding when I left there at lunchtime. We doubt it will last the night, though if it does we intend to burn off some artillery ammunition with a decent barrage at dawn.

Stores on the beach and in the dumps as of this morning amounted to about nine hundred tons of assorted foodstuffs, another seventy odd tons of other stores and ammunition for a week ordinary or about two days of heavy fighting. We are a bit light on food due to some fool ramming a pier the night before last. We took the opportunity to cancel landings and only back load off the beaches untill it was repaired, it was too neat a chance to pass up even if it has put us behind our margin.

As for the physical preparations, I’m pleased to report they are very well along too, so much so that we been able to send off a good number of engineers and the rest are making delayed firing rifles and the like. There is only one other development of any importance. Yes I’m sorry to say it but the inevitable has happened, all ANZAC is awake to the fact we are going. The rumours have been flying for ages and we haven’t been trying to suppress them…”

“Why not.” Street demanded. “Rumours should be quashed on principal, especially any of this nature. I’m surprised…”

White spoke gently, as if to an idiot. “Sir to acknowledge a rumour is to give it credence. What ever we say, the men will automatically believe the opposite. Say nothing and a rumour remains just that, a rumour. Quashing one is guaranteed to make every man and his dog believe it’s true.

In the last fifteen days sir we have formally denied, killed and other wise discouraged Furphies about another landing at Bakla Bay, landings at Beirut, Haifa and Asian Turkey.

We have not reacted to theories about a withdrawal from ANZAC or Cape Hellas, a new landing up at Suvla Bay or a couple of other places else where in the Gulf of Saros, the invasion of Greece or the occupation of Salonika and assistance to Bulgaria.

We have actively spread rumours about a Turkish advance into the Sinai and a new offensive up the Tigris valley. And to a very select few we have leaked the story that ANZAC is being withdrawn in order to be re deployed across the Dardanelles around Kum Kale to permit the Navy to make another attempt to force a passage…”

“Seems like a damned waste of time to me!” Braithwaite interjected.

Hunter - Weston laughed. “Come on man, think! If you can’t hide the truth muddy the water!” If Hunter - Bunter didn’t like White on principal, he had far more reason to dislike Braithwaite. For an expert in protocol Walter Braithwaite had a remarkable ability to rub everybody he met the wrong way. While Bunter was still commanding the 29th Division before the landing, Braithwaite had checked him very firmly for exceeding his authority by actually thinking. If Bunter had taken his advice to heart on that point, he certainly resented the method in which it had been so publicly delivered. “Go on.” He instructed White.

“Thank you sir. As we don’t want to give the game away down here for the moment, we’ve decided to ship all the ANZAC units straight back to Egypt as they come off.

Now if I may turn too wider matters. We are going to keep the 52nd Division on Lemnos for a little longer. Everybody knows about them and if they were to disappear it would really set the cat amongst the pigeons here on Hellas.

Cecil has covered the French Stores situation. So to deal with the rest of the French. Briefly, the Division they pulled out of the line this morning will be coming off tonight. That will leave them with two divisions, a full outfit of artillery and a skeleton of Corps troops. The 42nd Div will spread out a little wider as will the RND and the 29th over the next few days to free up another French Division.

We’ve decided not to move the 11th Division just yet, you will be aware the plan was for them to come off over three nights next week. This has changed to the first three nights of next month. Edwin will explain the shuffling we’ve had to do with shipping, but the net result is we get the French Infantry off sooner with more of their kit. The benefit for us is the French Artillery will stay around and take more than their fair share of the firing until they leave. This lets us keep our options open on the artillery front for another few days.”

“I still don’t see why we need all this fuss about the wretched Artillery. They have been little enough help thus far, so what matter if they have to leave a few of their precious guns behind.” Bunter had almost as little time for the Artillery as he did for Australians. Lack of artillery support had never stopped him ordering an attack, but when the assault failed he tended to blame the gunners.

Nobody replied to this, and White continued his summery with a polite cough. “The other advantage is that it lets us use the 11th Division for road building and a bit of general labour. With any luck we should get that all finished by the end of the month too.

On the subject of roads and preparations here, work is well under way and should be finished by the first week of July.” White turned to General Street. “Sir, we had to compromise on starting the new road construction half way between the Beaches and the reserve lines. Could you see to it that they build more toward the beach than back to the forward dumps?”

“I’m sure something can be arranged discretely, I’ll have a word with the Divisional Engineer Commanders.” Street agreed.

Horrified with the prospect of Streets idea of discretion, Aspinall spoke up. “Sir perhaps I could word some memoranda for you to sign and distribute. If you were to show a personal interest in something of such minor import it would only serve to draw further attention to it. Please. You will have something suitable by breakfast tomorrow.” Street agreed to this with a friendly nod.

White began to close his presentation. “Rest parties. Most of the Divisions are rotating whole Platoons now they have sent out the worst cases. A little gentle pressure has worked the trick there so we have not had to use the cover stories we discussed last week, yet. Even so we have accustomed the Battalions to sending off large drafts of men and everybody now accepts and has plenty of practise with lighters of unwounded men coming off as well as landing every night.

Replacements continue to be a problem especially for the RND. It is imperative that we maintain our three front line Divisions at as close to full strength as we can manage. I have applied to the Fleet through Commander Unwin to see if we can raise some volunteers.

Lastly Deception. Thus far we have managed to keep ANZAC and Hellas separate in this regard. I mentioned the current rumours on ANZAC. The popular buzz around Hellas at the moment still has us scaling back here in favour of a new move somewhere else, Salonika being a clear favourite with reasonable odds on Suvla and Egypt for the Sinai.

Most people seem to be aware that something odd is going on up at ANZAC, but if anything the gossips have us pulling out of there in to reinforce Hellas. As a matter of fact the 29th Division firmly believes that the ANZAC Corps will be coming down to take Hellas over completely. I don’t know where they got this idea from, but it wasn’t from me.” At this Commander Unwin coughed discretely and smiled.

“Oh they got it from you did they Edwin? Good idea, but I hope it doesn’t reach ANZAC. That is one Furphy that would not be popular I can tell you.

The current lamentable situation in the Atlantic is working to our advantage as is the submarine activity in the channel and here in the Med. So far it has not greatly affected us in a material sense, but it has been a great help in covering our tracks. It’s a sad cloud that can’t show a silver lining. If there are no questions, I’ll hand over to Commander Unwin.” White gave no one time to ask anything as he sat down.

In March Commander Unwin had been commanding a destroyer in Alexandria when he mentioned the idea of cramming a ship full of men and running it aground as an improvised landing craft. This idea had been so well received that he had been given command of the landing ship himself and packed off to Gallipoli. His ‘Temporary’ detachment to command the River Clyde had of course ended as soon as he had hit V beach under the walls (and machineguns) of Sedd-el-Bahr on the 25th of April. But rather than return to HMS Hussar, Unwin found him self acting as a general dogs body until he washed up in the role of Naval Transport Officer controlling the movement of all the shipping that supplied the beaches.

Unwin stood up and consulted his notes. “Gentlemen, the submarine scare has indeed proved most useful in providing an explanation for many of the odd movements we have been making of late, no where more so than in my particular area. I will spare you the details of exactly what has been moved where, but mostly our prime concern has been to rationalise the stores held at sea to release shipping capacity. Due to the lack of facilities on Imbros much of our inventory has been ‘floating.’

That is to say we have been using merchant ships as warehouses. In short this has meant a large number of partly laden ships spending most of their time sitting around at anchor. Thanks to the good work of Colonel Aspinall in cutting demand, I have been able use lighter ton/miles that would other wise have been landing stores to ease this somewhat. By cross decking cargo between ships we have cleared a great deal of space.

We still have ships arriving with cargoes which we do not need and I have been hard pressed to find good excuses for sending them away.” Unwin paused.

Rather than let a good silence go to waste, Braithwaite felt it a good time to remind every one that he was still there. “Why not just land the cargo here and be done with it?” he asked.

“Sir, we would only have to load it all back again or leave it for the Turks.” Unwin patiently explained and continued on to outline the shipping shuffle that had let them take two French Divisions off in three days and the need for better piers on most of the beaches. But there wasn’t that much Unwin could tell the three generals about his watery realm that they could really understand. And as long as the everything worked they didn’t much care. He had saved the best news for last though. “… and I have received a very welcome communication from the Admiralty. Their Lordships have agreed to allow us the special lighters commissioned by Lord Fisher for the Baltic. They were dispatched as deck cargo aboard the last reinforcement convoy from the Thames on the 15th of this month. I doubt if we will have them in time for first stage, but they should be well in hand for final show. Thank you.” He sat down.

With this the meeting was almost over, White, Unwin and Aspinall handed the two Chiefs of Staff the orders they were to give over the next few days and Bunter looked on giving his mute seal of approval. The meeting was breaking up, officers reaching for hats, finishing off the last of the cucumber sandwiches and generally milling about, when Bunter remembered something. “Colonel White.”


“We don’t want to let the those blasted Turks go to sleep. I’ve ordered the RND to make a demonstration this evening, put on a bit of a show. Just thought I’d let you know.” He turned and walked into his office built into the back of the cave.


Outside the cave, the three junior officers held back letting Braithwaite proceed them to the pier. they all knew that the General would not wait and take the picket boat that was intended to take the three army officers back to Imbros alone. Unwin as NTO had his own steam pinnace and it was an understood thing that he would run the other two back later. It saved having to put up with Braithwaite for an hour and a half and the pinnace was both faster and more comfortable.

A few minutes later the three were siting the cabin of the pinnace as it chuffed away from the beach heading around the coast to ANZAC, White had some final business to attend to.

“Well, not a bad waste of an afternoon.” remarked White.

“I don’t know how you can say that, really I don’t.” Unwin replied lighting a cheroot. “All that could have been done in five minutes by courier.”

“Ah yes, but we got Braking Braithwaite to accept Armstrong! That was worth a the whole silly business.” Aspinall looked longingly at the cocktail cabinet, but had to content himself with filling the tea pot from the Windermere Kettle. No one was permitted forward of the mainmast on Unwin’s boat when the three were discussing matters of state. “I’ll have a word with Guy Dawney tonight and make sure that’s one bit of paper that gets put in front of Sir Ian before he goes to bed.” Dawney had replaced Aspinall as Braithwaite’s deputy after Aspinall had been ‘banished’ to the Aragon.

We were damned lucky to catch that mess before the whole show came crashing down, but why wait until now Cecil? Armstrong has been in place for almost a fortnight.” Inquired White.

“Wheels within wheels old boy, you saw how he jumped when I bought it up? I’ve had Guy working on him ever since we put Armstrong in.”

“What have you been telling him?” Unwin wanted to know.

“Oh it amazing what a hint of fraud will do…” replied Aspinall airily.

“So you fed him a pack of lies then. Gross incompetence, old age and well ill health was probably the truth in the end. But did you have to blacken a mans name…” he sighted. Edwin’s expression of sadness, acceptance of necessity and regret was quite a burden for a single sigh to carry.

“Come on, do you have any idea how hard it is to get a man sacked for incompetence? Look around you man incompetence is de rigour! No, if you want to move someone these days a whiff of corruption is about the kindest way. You said so you self old man, if we hadn’t taken control of the LoC (Lines of Communication) staff in Murdos and put someone who knew what they were about in place, the mess would have collapsed in a heap a week ago! Where would we be then? Lemnos, Imbros, Murdos and bloody Chaos! I say Blanco, a penny for your thoughts old bean?”

“Sorry Cecil, I was just wondering about that demonstration Bunter mentioned. A nice little trench raid would be just the ticket."

Chapter 12

A View From the Far Side

23rd of June 1915

“Your report?” Liman von Sanders Commander of the Turkish 5th Army was not renowned for his sense of humour.

For Staff Captain Charles Jorgen von Rohleder, the 6:30 PM briefing was not exactly the highpoint of his day. “There has been no action of note since this mornings report sir.

The enemy Artillery has been moderately active and there have been no bombardments by naval vessels on our forward positions. The usual interdiction fire was carried out by a single warship with moderate accuracy, we suffered no serious loss.

There have been three reconnaissance flights over our positions today and the usual long range sortie to Constantinople. Our aircraft made four sorties, two of which were intercepted with one casualty. The Dawn flight to Lemnos suffered engine trouble and did not reach it’s objective today. The Luftflott commandant believes the benzine is contaminated sir, he has prepared a separate report on this matter.”

Von Sanders grunted acknowledgment of this latter point with deep disapproval, this was far from the first time they had encountered these problems. The usual culprit turned out to be some storeman who was diluting the fuel. Lamp oil fetched a good price.

Von Rohleder continued. “We believe the enemy have made substantial troop movements on the Southern Front in the last forty eight hours Herr General, as I reported this morning the enemy sent out strong patrols last night but little work seems to have been done between the lines. I believe this indicates that the Tommies have moved another Infantry division into the line. Observation of the enemy’s cooking fires this morning revealed a definite reduction in smoke across the area we know holds the British reserve and there was also less smoke to be seen behind the French left, but an increase in the Moto Bay region. From which we deduce that the British have occupied the French left with their reserve Division and the French have withdrawn the 1st Division to rest..” Charles was quite happy with this little piece of detective work, but he only got another grunt in reply.

“As yet we do not know the identity of this new Division, it is most likely to be the 42nd Infantry Division but there is a possibility that it could be the 52nd Lowland Division. Without a reconnaissance of the islands or other reliable data it is impossible reach any firm conclusions at this time. I have taken the liberty of instructing Major Hakim to send out a series of raids tonight to identify this new unit and to determine weather the French have pulled the 1st Division back or moved it sideways and withdrawn their 2nd Division..”

von Sanders made a note on his blotter and signalled for the Captain to continue.

“The Australian lodgment is still very quiet sir, I have had no reports of any movement in the areas we can observe since the morning report. We have reached no further conclusion on the meaning of these events on the Western Front sir. There would appear to be no pattern between the silences on the West or those to the South, sometimes both are quiet at others time only one. There is obviously something happening sir, but as to exactly what the enemy intends to achieve by this passivity we have no foundation to base any judgments upon. All we can say for certain sir, is that if both are not silent simultaneously, experience has shown that the active front will be more active than normal”

Nodding his acceptance of this continuing mystery, Von Sanders asked for the intelligence forecast for the next twenty four hours.

“All quiet on the Western Front sir, limited raiding activity overnight on the Southern Line with increased Artillery activity and I expect there is some chance of further troop activity in the French sector this evening sir.” von Rohleder clicked his heels and bowed.

“And in the longer term?” von Sanders asked. This was the bit the intelligence officer had not been looking forward too.

“Of the four British Divisions only one is fresh, the other three range from “tired” through to ‘under strength.’

The 42nd has been resting for almost two weeks so we can not know it’s present strength, but it was very active in the operations on the right flank in the first week of the month. If it has received reinforcements two weeks while better than nothing, is still very little time to thoroughly reorganise.

The 29th Division that was holding the right of the line last night, is in our estimation very tired. It has been in action now since the first landings in April and has had no significant rest periods none longer than a few days.

The Royal Naval Division which was on the right of their line but could now be in the middle, has also been present since the initial landings with out a substantive reset period. To the best of our information this Division has never been up to strength as a full Infantry Division, it normally only fields two brigades though it often has a third assigned to it.

The French 1st Division…” von Sanders raised a hand and cut von Rohleder off in mid flow.

“I am aware of the enemy’s order of battle thank you Captain. What I would like to hear are his intentions or at the least your interpretation of them. From what you have said, the enemy now holds six point four kilometres with perhaps sixty thousand men. A man ten centimetres! The French have a man every…” he scribbled a quick calculation “… every eighty millimetres! Do they mean to attack? Do they think I will? It is your duty to present me with reports, not raw data.”

“Jawhol Herr General.” Rohleder snapped to attention, clicked his heels and bowed. Respect was never wasted and in this case put of the inevitable for just a few seconds longer. “I regret to report Herr General that at this time I have no firm conclusions worth bringing to your attention sir.” The truth, however ugly was just that, the truth. He had too much information to be ignorant, but not enough to make a clear judgement. Rohleder was deep into the no-mans-land of Staff work and von Sanders was firing off flares.

Sanders was not quite ready to savage his intelligence officer, not yet anyway. But such a reply was hardly acceptable. “What is this? That is no sort of report for a German Officer to make, I am surprised at you sir!

As Rohleder stood there and listened to this very mild rebuke, he was once again reminded of a drill instructor who had once told him that the only wrong answer was “I don’t know.” ‘Better to be wrong but attentive than honest and uncertain’ had been the advice.

“Well…” von Sanders considered “…you are honest. That is something at least.. Now sir if you can’t give me a proper report, give me what you do know.”

“As the General whishes..” Rohleder clicked his heels and bowed again. “The posture of the enemy is a strange one sir. While the Divisions I have mentioned are weak, they have made attacks before in similar condition. As the General has pointed out they have a sufficient concentration to make another assault, by our calculations they have been ready since the first week of June. Yet they make no move in either direction. They can attack but they do not, they just sit there and raid. I would suspect a political motivation sir, but politics are matters above my station.” Rohleder inclined his head modestly. “The movement by the French could equally be the preparation for an assault, the result of some new administrative regime for resting men, the start of a withdrawal or perhaps they believe we are going to attack. All are possible but to say which it might be requires some other indication sir.”

“You have a piece of the puzzle, it has a straight edge but you do not know if it the blue of the sea or that of the sky.” Von Sanders said in the same even tone he used for praise and condemnation. “You need more pieces, and never have I seen a such a perfect location to observe an enemy. He is on the lawn, you are in the balcony and still you can not gather enough pieces?”

Corporal Bleiarsch had been proven wrong once today, so Rohleder thought he might as well keep telling the truth. Still, he couldn’t establish the state of his Generals temper. ‘An 80% chance of fury’ he though ‘with a good chance of a tirade to follow.’ So it was with out much confidence that he answered. “No Herr General. I have many pieces but they make no pattern.”

As far as the General could see, the Captain’s only real fault was inexperience. Given the choice between tearing the him to shreds or making the best of an officer he had no immediate replacement for, there wasn’t really that much option. “Come, come. I too have been a Staff Officer. I understand the responsibility and I know how disconcerting it can be when the enemy does not conform to the textbooks. Tell me, where is the difficulty Hmm? Why is this matter not clear to you.”

“The problem is the enemy sir.” Von Sanders raised an eyebrow at this revelation and Rohleder hurriedly continued. “There is no pattern to his activity at any level sir. I had heard the British were disorganised but if there is any order at all to their movements we can not see it. If I may provide the General with an illustration? Little parties of men just wonder across the landscape. From where their supply trenches stop, there are no check points we can see, no set routes between points, they just stroll about like civilians! Naturally there are some paths but these are the ones that offer them the most cover. We have tried to count the men passing a certain point, it’s hopeless sir. For every man who uses the correct paths there are as many who do not. They have no discipline sir. Now they have men are carrying stores back to the beach, turning about and returning with more. We are sure some of these men are moving empty boxes, but in which direction we cannot tell.”

This all made perfect sense to von Sanders. “I see they are practicing dispersion, two men and a donkey are not worth a shell, so are safe. A hundred men passing a fixed point every day will find a battery directed at them. You see they are no so foolish.” He thought for a moment. “You must concentrate you observations on the depots at either end, ignore the middle of the chain and look to the larger effect.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir.” Rohleder had done that too and been frustrated. “Sir we have been monitoring the size of their depots and they do not change except to grow at either end. Major Hakim has had his men pay much attention to the beaches and piers sir. He also watches the shipping, we think some of the ships move by night but other than they we cannot say sir.”

“Ignore the ships, they are a navy matter and so far they seem to be coping well. No, concentrate on the developments ashore it is there our business lies, not playing with boats.”

“I did not mean the warships Herr General, we have been watching the merchant ships and transports…” murmured Rohleder.

“And they are still not our business! I will not waste artillery on targets the navy has torpedoes for. A ship is but a moving warehouse or barracks, if a ship is anchored here today and there tomorrow it makes no difference. The Britishers are sailors, they know to move a ship is easy, as do I. We are soldiers, professionals. Amateurs talk of tactics and strategy, we know that only logistics hold the key to war. Their depots grow, either they are lying to us or they are not.” The General was being patient but very firm. “So next you must look at the men who are not carrying stores, they have work parties?”

If the General wanted to ignore the finer points of traffic analysis, Rohleder was not going to argue with him. “Yes sir, they have many men working at the moment, from our observations they would appear to have three large projects at the moment and of course many smaller ones.

The project we have seen the most work on by day has only started in the last week, it is a major series of improvements to their network of communications trenches. We are mapping the new works as they are being built and the Pioneers believe they are consolidating and rationalising their positions. I consulted Major Drekhute and in his opinion they are the almost the same as he would recommend if he were in charge.”

“They work by day because there is nothing to conceal and their men are in little danger.” Von Sanders commented.

“Yes sir.” If it pleased the General to state the obvious, Rohleder wasn’t going to complain. “It is the other tow projects that cause me the most confusion sir. The first is a series of Feste’s they are building behind their line. The second what looks to be a campaign of random earthworks. The feste’s are well positioned to command the vital ground between the front and the beach and normally I would take this as an indication of defensive intent, however they are not being built with any vigour and the positions are small, in the estimation of Colonel Ehernhut they would not be capable of prolonged resistance. The earthworks seem to have no purpose at all, small parties of men seem to be going about filling in old trenches and generally cleaning up the field. Some times they do a little digging or level off an area, but they only work on any one thing with a handful of men for an hour or two. I have seen the same group work all day on four different tasks completing none of them.”

“Would you say this looks like work to keep men busy Captain?”

“I think it very possible sir, that is why I…”

“It is not a clear sign. I agree that this could be important or it might be trivial. So these are the pieces you have? Men working to no purpose, depots that only grow with an effort to deceive us, a consolidation of positions, an expansion of British positions and a contraction of French and finally improvement to the lines of communications. I would point out to you and Major Drekhute that fighting trenches can be excavated quickly where good supply trench need much time and effort.” Von Sanders needed a few moments to digest his analysis and in these cases he usually found it best to let his subconscious do the thinking.

To leave his mind free to work, he turned to continuing his subordinates Military education. “If I may say so Captain, I think in this instance your confusion stems from a tendency to wallow in detail. Your view of the whole has been obscured by a concentration on the part. I do not dismiss detail, however a good Staff Officer must be able to step back and see things in perspective. Detail is vital when it is required but at other times an excessive attention to minutia saps momentum. The key to good staff work is momentum, to always be rolling forward. Like driving a dog sleigh, even if one does not try to understand them you must always keep your dogs rolling Rohleder.”

Having finished his homily it was time to think, he steepled his hands on the desk closed his eyes and said. “So how do we put this puzzle together…”.

Chapter 13

Haste Makes…

23rd of June 1915

Marine Elliott had never been much of a runner, either before he joined the colours or since. His appointment as Lt Paterson’s messenger had more to do with a couple of bits of gravel that had been blown into his shoulder a few days before. Still for a wounded man he made good time taking Morant’s answer back to his commander. Paterson made even better time from his dugout back to Morant’s little nest of Armoured Cars.

“So in short you have been given the dirty end of the stick.” Marlowe spoke with all the judgment and authority of a Barrister.

“In short Captain Marlowe I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t!” he only met the Gunner once before, but Morant seemed to value his opinion so Paterson was willing to be candid.

Morant could see the causes and effects as clearly as either of the other two, but he was far more concerned with solving the immediate problem. “If Cam is willing to give me a hand I think I can set up in time…”

“Of course old boy, but I would need to borrow some equipment so I’d have to…” Paterson interrupted to thank Marlowe for his assistance but Morant cut him short.

“Hold on a second. With Cam’s kind assistance I can set up in time and Cam you’ll need to move your guns out of the way as I need to sit on those points. But the question is can I get hold of all I need in time.” Morant was unprepared for this particular emergency, he had very little ammunition above the set load for his cars. “Cam can you borrow the instruments you need, are you sure man? How long would it take you to get it?”

“Oh Gravy will lend me what I need, no doubt I’ll have to pledge the lives of my children but he’s a good chap. It might take an hour or two to walk over there and back again perhaps ten minutes to square the old sod, so an hour and a half?”

“In the dark?”

“Well I might be a little longer…” Marlowe admitted.

“Not fast enough, not by a long chalk. I’d send you over in the Tender but I’m going to need that.… Look you can take the Indy. Parsons can run you over. “ He turned and yelled over his shoulder. “Barrow! Pass the word for Mr. Barrow. Parsons! Front and Centre! I’ll run down and see Jimmy One and see how much ammo he can let me have. What time to you need to know by Michel? “he asked Paterson.

“The moon sets at twenty too midnight, I want to move out in the last of it to do the business in full dark so I aim to leave by eleven pip. I’d need to know one way or the other by… say half past ten?” Paterson was far from happy about any of this, he didn’t mind moving fast when the opportunity was ripe but it ran against the grain to rush about like a headless chook.

“So we have a little less then three hours what a buggeration all this is. That’s not a fling at you Michel. Thy will be done old man, come hell or high.” Barrow came panting around the mound of Inflexible’s position and stopped before the group of officers, throwing up an impressive salute in front of the Army and Royal Marines. Before he could say anything Morant started to give his orders. “Mr. Barrow, clear for action if you please. We must provide a Vickers Barrage to support an Infantry operation due to commence at eleven pip emma. We will use all four guns from Mr. Marlowe’s gun pits. I shall want every round, spare barrel and gallon of water you can find in place by half past ten. I will need the Tender as I am going to try to round up what ever else is available.” He noticed Parsons had appeared next to Barrow. “Mr. Marlowe will be taking Indefatigable to borrow a Theodolite to set our aiming points.” He turned to his driver. “Parsons, you will get Indy started and run Mr. Marlowe to where ever he needs to go. I want him and his cargo back here as fast as you can manage. Run over mules, don’t run over men but shoot anyone who tries to stop you. I don’t care how you do it, but get back here fast, and if you roll that car… Any accident you can’t drive away from fire two red Very lights and a green. Mr. Barrow you will keep watch for that signal if you should see it, dispatch another car immediately, I will be using the same device if I need assistance. Is all this clear Mr. Barrow, Parsons?”

“Aye Aye sir! Barrow answered for the both of them.

Parsons asked if he might use headlights. “If you must Parsons, if you must. But do try to avoid it. You know how the Turk loves to shoot at things, off you go man.” replied Morant. “Alright then lets be about it! Oh, Mr. Barrow, I’ll take Hawthorn and Leslie, you had better send an extra man with Parsons as well, just in case.”

“Very good sir.” Answered Barrow with another snappy salute and ran back around Inflexible, calling out orders and apparently tripping over a guy rope.

Morant turned back to his friends. “Michel, I’m sorry. We're heading directly away or I’d run you home. I’ll send word if we can not make it. I’ll try to send word what ever happens, you shall have our best efforts in either case. But I beg you, don’t rely on us. The one thing I can’t promise you is a repeat of last time. Cameron, I’ll see you in an hour or so, Parsons is a good fellow and tell him to give you my black folder, it has all the notes from the last barrage so you can get cracking.” He gave his hand to Paterson, waved at Marlowe and he to trotted off into the night calling out for his men.


The Tender with Morant and a pair of Tyne-siders had just taken off in a cloud of dust, when a GS wagon pulled into the centre of the lager. The RNASACD had naturally chosen their position with an eye to wheeled access, so it had been arranged for ‘Q’ to deliver all the tools to Morant. The wagon driver was shocked to be literally torn from his seat by CPO Barrow and could only watch and curse as his horses were detached from the wagon and a dozen men pushed the ungainly carriage into the mouth of the dugout that normally protected the Tender. He could only scream “Mind me fark’n axel!” in outrage as two men held the rear wheels with chocks and the other ten simply picked up the front of the wagon and slid it’s load out like so much coal down a chute. He was ranting still as an officer approached him and inquired politely if he had any documentation that needed a signature.

“Ouse seen what them fark’n h’nimals has done to my dray!” he screeched. “If they gone and fark’ed my far…”

“Do shut up, there’s a good fellow. Now these would be for me I take it?” Marlowe plucked a wad of crumpled paper from the drivers top pocket and turned to enter the dugout, calling out for a lamp.

The Driver was about to resume his tirade, in fact he managed to get out the first two predictable syllables, when someone grabbed him by the greasy hair at the back of his head and wrenched it down and backwards. “The h’officer said ‘shut up’ so ‘ouse shut’s up see?” hissed an anonymous voice in his ear. “We’s got bigger fings to do tonight than listen to your gobshite, so ‘as unless you’se want ta see what an’ ‘orse looks like from the h’inside…” the rest of the threat was left unspoken. A very much shaken wagon driver wondered off to accept Marlowe’s signed chits and a quietly amused voice from the darkness drawled “Nicely put sailor. But I’m not sure a horse would take too kindly to your suggestion.”

“Well sur. I can’t say as I’ve h’ever seen it done, but a foal’s no bigger ‘han that runt so…” Damien Wheeler was a big lad, you had to be to swing the quarter ton turret of a Rolls Royce. Paterson gave a quite chuckle that was drowned by Mr. Barrows call for ‘All hands.’

“Thank you sailor, I needed a good laugh.”

Wheeler nodded a reply and departed to answer Barrows summons. Marlowe inquired out from the gloom of a dugout. “Lieutenant Paterson can we give you a lift, we’re headed in you direction for a little way and it would save you a few minutes walk.”

“Thank you, that would be lovely” answered Paterson. He reached the lumpen shape that was HMAC Inflexible under it’s tarpaulin, just as the canvas was thrown back by Petty Officer Parsons, another PO by the name of Curtiss appeared on the other side and together they began to roll up the heavy cover.

The shape they unveiled was rakishly angular, tall skinny wheels and a body that was all flat plates, simple cylinders and rivet heads. The only concession to the elegance with which the same chassis was normally attired were the sweeping running boards that ran from the back wheel along the length of the car cupping the spare tires to flare up and over the front wheels. The drum of the turret with its rakishly bevelled sides, looked strangely cyclopean with out its machinegun.

“Hansom in this light isn’t she” said Marlowe and Paterson could only agree as the moon made the polished grey paint of the long bonnet gleam like pewter.

The same moon also illuminated Parsons as he reached in through the drivers window, Paterson watched him pump some handle a few times and the engine chugged, coughed and caught. He played with the hand throttle for a second and when the seven and a half litre six had settled down to a steady purr Parson announced “All aboard!” in the manner of a railway conductor. Curtiss standing at the back of the car waved the two officers over to him.

“I’s rigged h’up the dicky seat sir, so if you’d care to step inside sir.” He indicated that Marlowe should climb up onto the rear platform and crawl inside. “Straight h’across sir h’and sit on the left o’ the driver. Oh and mind your ‘ead sir.” To Paterson he said. “Sorry sir, but you’d best sit out ‘ere wive me sir.” Parsons excused him self as he brushed past them in the narrow confines of the earthwork and slipped eel like through the low doorway. The two made the assent onto the rear deck and when both were sitting on the tool boxes that served as the rear mudguards Curtiss advised “Best ‘ang on sir!” and banged the side of the turret with his fist.

Driving with out headlights Parsons could never get the Roller up to a decent clip, about fifteen miles an hour was the best he could manage. At this speed and given the indirect route the car had to take, Paterson soon worked out that he could have reached his men faster on foot. But the ride was fairly comfortable, and cruising along in the moonlight he felt a strange sense of detachment that offered him a few moments peace. ‘Anyway’ he thought to himself ‘I’ll still have two hours left to worry by the time I get back.’

Inside HMAC Indefatigable, Marlowe was discovering the joys of claustrophobia. The dicky seat wasn’t a seat at all, it was more of a harness of leather straps slung from the roof, Curtiss’s remark about ‘rigging’ made far more sense to Marlowe now that it had at the time. The hanging seat gave an even smoother ride than the blanket covered toolbox Paterson was sitting on. But Marlowe couldn’t get used to the swinging, rocking motion and the sight of the landscape lurching past in the jiggling frame of the open armoured flaps was making him slightly seasick. His discomfort made all the more acute by the whistling howl of the breeze through the open gunport and the strange confluence of currents inside the car that sent a chill draft right down the back of his neck.

“Feeln’ a bit queasy like sir?” inquired Parsons solicitously. “It takes most folk a while to get used to it. When we’s picked the car up from the works, we’s didn’t get five mile down the Lunnon’ road a fore Mr. Morant tossed h’up ‘is lunch. I’s was feel’n quite poorly me’self and’ that set the lot o’ us orf. Gawd, didn’t it half make a mess!” laughed Parsons with the innocent pleasure of one tormenting the nauseous. As soon as Parson’s had mentioned it, the faint odour of old sickness had crept into his nostrils and now Marlowe could only clamp his teeth together and pray, both for his dignity and revenge.


Morant found Jim in his office come dugout, the Major was enjoying a Bully Beef sandwich made palatable with lashings of HP sauce and ‘Gentleman’s Relish.’

“And what do you want young fella me’lad? ‘tis a trifle late for even you to be wondering about.”

“Sorry sir, I’ve come into a small emergency. I really wouldn’t have disturbed you at this hour if it wasn’t…” Morant was cut off by a raised hand.

“For a start, this whole business is one great big emergency. Two, I am eating what passes for my dinner in this hour of strife. Three, can I offer you a sandwich?” asked Jim evenly.

Business was business, pleasure was pleasure. If the two should mix who was Morant to object? Morant accepted the invitation to dine al mode with great curtesy.

Maidstone! Two more sandwiches and a pot of coffee.” Jim called through the curtained doorway. The response from his batman was curiously muffled as if through a mouthful something. “That is when you’ve finished stuffing you face at my expense!” added Jim with a smile. “So tell me your troubles and we shall see what we shall see.” The last chunk of his sandwich disappeared.

“Do you know a Lieutenant Paterson sir? Michel Paterson?”

“I can’t say as I do, one of your Naval lot no doubt.”

“Yes sir, Chatham Battalion.”

Jim grunted and shook his head to acknowledge that this ‘Paterson’ fellow had gained a few bonus points, even the Australians had been heard to say good things about the Chatham Battalion RMIL but that Jim still hadn’t heard of the man.

“Well sir, he is due to go over top in at eleven o'clock this evening and I desperately need ammunition to give him some covering fire. I only have enough on hand for about ten minutes sir, that’s with burning the allotment for my cars. The man is staging a company raid with almost no artillery and no preparation…” At this point the sandwiches arrived. Maidstone paid for his access to Jim’s private larder with prompt service and hot coffee if not honest stewardship.

“So tell me how your friend got himself into this awkward predicament?” asked Jim as he accepted a mug of black death and turned it into treacle with sugar.

“The usual poisoned chalice sir. Corps picked a Division, the Division picked a Brigade, the Brigade chose a Battalion and the Battalion handed it to Mickey Paterson. He’s their unofficial raiding officer sir, so I suppose it’s understandable. But the word only came down at about four o'clock and Mickey had just taken over the company this morning after his Captain took one in the thigh.” Morant paused to make an attempt on the door stop of a sandwich that had been plonked down in front of him. Jim was busy chewing so Morant took a large bite. The fresh bread was a delight to the teeth, the soft ‘squish’ of the filling bought a promise of things to come, but the flavour that filled his mouth was almost a solid thing.

“So you intend to step into the breach with your pop guns and cover his exposed behind? Very charitable I’m sure and I think we might be able to help you here, but tell me how much artillery has he got?”

Morant relief was almost palpable. “Ten rounds a gun from a battery of 18pdrs sir.” Jim almost choked on his mouthful.

“A company raid with only ten round a gun! Good lord, who’s daughter did he elope with? That’s…”

“That’s not the half of it I’m afraid sir. His orders are to ‘Attempt to make a lodgment and if so to hold it until relieved.’ No company sized raid that gets to its jumping off point can fail to size a lodgment sir. I mean if you don’t get spotted and plastered too hell crossing no-mans-land, a company should be able to over power a section of line, the trick is in getting home afterwards. Poor old Mickey is stuck sir, if he does his job properly and makes a clean attack he can’t get out again. If he fouls it up, well…” Morant shrugged.

“Come on man, there must be a better plan than that! How’s this relief supposed to happen, in the morning I presume?” Morant finished his sandwich before he replied.

“As far as I know sir that has been left to the Battalion. The Colonels no fool..” Jim snorted at this. “No, sir, he might be fresh out from England sir, but he took the order straight back to Brigade to protest. They told him that he if he wanted to argue the toss he’d better make an appointment with Hunter- Weston and while he was down on the beach, book a good cabin on the first ship leaving for home and to pick out a nice plot just in case!” Said Morant with some heat.

“Oh aye.” Was Jims sole contribution at this point.

“Yes sir! As I said their Colonel’s no fool, if he must throw a company away he has no intention of wasting any more men with a move across the open in daylight. He has had a platoon working shifts since dusk cutting a supply sap across no-mans-land and there is a reinforcement platoon that is to follow C Company out and wait until called. But it’s still murder sir.”

“So how long do you need to cover him?”

“As long as I can sir. As long as I can.” Morant breathed this last as almost a sigh.

“In that case I suppose we had best find you some ammunition then, not to mention spare barrels and water. The clock’s not running backwards my boy. Do you think this friend of yours would like some Malta grenades?”

Chapter 14

Ask Not…

24th June 1915

Tubby Bradshaw had been lying in the same position for hours and it seemed like he had not seen a friendly face in years. But he wasn’t feeling lonely, he wasn’t feeling anything at all really except numb and thirsty, he was ever so thirsty.

He had lost contact with Rattler in the chaos of the first few minutes as their raid had cross the path of Turkish patrol and things had started to go to hell. As the first flares were going up and left with Hobson’s choice, Paterson had ordered them forward. The nearest cover had been the Turkish trenches, better to risk them than be exposed in the killing ground of no-mans-land. He had ended up with a bunch of blokes from 7 platoon, Tubby wouldn’t have thought there was anybody in the sixty odd men of C company he didn’t know, but he hadn’t recognised these fellows.

They had tumbled into the trenches just as the first machineguns had started to clatter away and fought the residents back with club, fist, rifle and bomb until they had some room to breath. He had seen Paterson a couple of times in the night and Mr. Crater as they had tried to organise a defence. He remembered watching Sargent Adams with one hand gone to a Cricket ball, bandaging the stump of his wrist left handed before heading back into the bomb fight that had raged for what seemed like half the night. Then some bastard had opened up with heavy artillery, the early shelling had hardly registered with Tubby. 18pdrs, 77’s even the 105’s, unless an HE landed close to you it didn’t really matter in a deep trench, not when you had other things to think about and most of had been shrapnel anyway.

He didn’t know whose they were, Turkish 5.9’s or British 6” perhaps it had even been the Navy. But when those heavy shells had started dropping in the ‘war’ stopped. The only thing anyone could do was find a corner, crawl into it and pray. To God or Allah it made no difference, the shells didn’t care.

That had been the longest part of the night, lying there huddled into the corner where the wall meet the floor, feeling the impacting shells rattle his teeth and rattle his body, the flashes like bolts of red lightening so bright they pierced right through to the back of his skull. He had no idea how long the barrage had lasted, if the Turks had counter attacked or if every one had just packed up and gone home. The only event that had penetrated the solid wall of his terror was when the far wall of the trench had caved in after a near miss and buried him. He hadn’t really noticed being buried. Face down flat on the floor with his arms wrapped around his head, he had only been aware of the weight pressing him flatter and that a beam had fallen across his legs. It was when another near miss had blown away the earth that covered his head and shoulders and left his ears ringing like a bell, that he found breathing was a new and pleasant experience.

The shell that uncovered him must have been one of the last because dawn had not be far off. Daylight had shown Tubby a new world, the next bay along the trench had taken a direct hit. Where there had been a block of solid earth, he could now see almost thirty yards across a crater and down the next bay. The rest of his view was defined by the ragged lines of the parapets and the dome of sky he could see between them. But if Colin Bradshaw of Southwark was absent with out leave, driven into hiding in some deep recess of his subconscious by the artillery. Lance Corporal Bradshaw of the Royal Marines was some how still functioning.

He had lost his cut down “raiding rifle” somewhere along the way, but the dirt within his reach had produced a replacement. Perhaps it had belonged to the man whose hand he could see if he craned his neck around to the left, or perhaps not. A Marine though, as he was clearing the Lee Enfield of dust and dirt some part of him noticed that it was a BSA gun and the serial was less than a hundred numbers from his own. There were now only four thoughts in Tubby’s head; he had sixty four rounds of ammunition, one grenade, no legs that he could feel and no water.


Tubby was still half buried in the same position and he still had his grenade, but he was down to fifty eight rounds now. He might not have been a first class shot like is mate Dai, but at thirty yards from prone he couldn’t really miss. The far bay he could see along must have been the junction of a communication sap with his trench and every so often some one would make a dash across the gap. Tubby might have been interested to know the sap back to his own lines had finally been opened at about five am, he might even have been fascinated to hear that the men cutting it had been relieved at about two by a file of Malay Gunners with proper picks and shovels to replace the tired Marines with their entrenching tools. However Colin’s focus had narrowed in the hour since dawn. Life, death or gardening implements had no meaning to him now, only two things that existed in his universe; shooting anyone who crossed the gap and an immense, overwhelming thirst.


If Tubby was too preoccupied to notice the appalling stench of death, excrement and high explosive that he lay in. Andrew Morant was all too aware of the terrible pong that pervaded Marlowe’s gun pits. The morning breeze might have dispersed the brown haze of cordite smoke, but it took more than that faint zephyr to clear away the smell of boiled urine. Morant’s guns had been firing solidly for the better part of seven hours and had gone through an amazing quantity of ammunition. He had been forced to bring up shovels to shift the mounds of empty brass and every mans fingers were sore and swollen from re-filling belts and pulling them through the wooden gauges CPO Barrow had knocked together to reduce stoppages.

Ammo he could beg borrow or steal, water was another matter. None of his men had drunk anything since they had opened fire and hour before midnight nor had any of the Marlowe’s gunners. They had emptied the urine tubs at about half past five and he had even sent men to fetch sea water though it would ruin the guns, but they had to walk as the radiators of all his cars except the Tender had been drained by three am.

Jim One had answered a note with some hope of relief and General Paris who had come up at dawn to have a look, promised to see what he could do. However Morant’s mind was turning over the possibility of using an Armoured Car engine as a still, when PO Babbcock drew his attention to Marlowe’s signal.


Just before dawn, Marlowe had taken a couple of his men and climbed up to the Artillery observation post on a nearby ridge. From there he could see the trenches Paterson’s men were holding and he could blink corrections back to Morant by heliograph.

His fellow artillery men had provided a cup of tea so Marlowe was better off than Morant or Bradshaw, but he didn’t feel too guilty as his was a task that required a good deal of concentration. Lying up there on the ridge looking through his telescope, it was easy enough to pick the out the dust kicked up by the bullets, but working out which gun had fired which burst and sorting out friend from foe was no easy business.

He was just working out if it was number three or four that needed to come up and right, when he noticed a line of bayonets appear in a trench he had thought was British. ‘@#%$ we’re high’ he thought. “Bombardier! Quick man! Signal all guns drop…” how much, how much “Drop eighty yards, two taps towards the centre, rapid fire!” The more he looked the more bayonets sparkled in the rising sun.

“What happening old fellow?”

“Marlowe rolled over and looked up that the Observing Officer. “Counter Attack, grid J3485. Get some guns on it now.” He snapped and turned back to his telescope.

“Right Oh.” The spotter gestured to his signaller who started tapping out the warning message on his Morse key. “Shrapnel, troops in the open J348...” Marlowe interrupted him.

“Aim high and correct down man, we have people down there too.”

“Correction J3495, close contact drill, repeat close contact drill.” He slapped Marlowe’s ankle. “A hundred yards be enough?” he asked.

Marlowe didn’t answer so much as grunt his agreement, he couldn’t take his eye away from the telescope. The first wave of Turks was moving now, vaulting out of their trenches and running across the bare ground and he could see the beaten zone of the Vickers guns moving down into them. He couldn’t hear the thin crackle of musketry that the few defenders sent out to greet this attack, however he could see that eighty yards wasn’t going to be enough. “Bombardier! All guns down a smidge! Yes man a ‘smidge’!” The sights on a Vickers were only calibrated in 50 yard increments and tired men couldn’t be relied on to read spirit levels nor spare the time to use them so Marlowe had worked out a spoke on the tripod’s elevating wheel was worth forty yards at this range. He didn’t need forty yards, he didn’t need twenty, ten or perhaps fifteen was all he could apply with out shooting the Marines in the back.

Unfortunately there was no telegraphic short-hand for ‘smidge,’ the signaller had to spell it out and even though Morant was reading the Morse himself and took a leap of faith at ‘sm..’ to order “All Guns! Drop a quarter spoke! A quarter spoke, hear me!” The delay was still to long.

Marlowe could only watch in frustration as the second rush of Turks wilted in the fire but first line of soldiers slipped under and raced on towards captured trench. The Observing Officer flopped down beside him and set up his own telescope on its little knife rest. “Here it comes” he informed Marlowe. A coughing bark from somewhere behind them announced a battery of 4.5” howitzers had answered the call.


The Turkish soldiers did not reach the Marines in a neat line, some had fallen to the machineguns and the defenders rifle fire had thinned their ranks too. But it was the broken ground, pock marked with shell holes that had broken them up into little clumps.

The group that reached the western end of the British position had seen a caved in portion of trench with fire coming from left of it and none from the crater to the right they had naturally made for the empty section. The eight men tumbled down into the bottom of this hole and were just picking themselves up when a grenade exploded in their midst. The two men who survived the blast were shot before they could gather their wits.

The Malta grenades certainly did a good job, the three second fuse might have been a trifle short but who ever had fitted them with a friction igniter deserved a medal. If there had been a fuse to light he wasn’t sure how he would have coped, he didn’t even have a match to light a fag with not that he had any cigarettes either. Fifty six rounds, a thirst like the Sahara it’s self and now a craving for a smoke. Tubby slipped another two rounds into his magazine.


The machinegun fire had not been a total waste by any means, even if the first wave had largely escaped it, the Vickers had stopped the second rank dead in its tracks and delayed the rest of the Turkish attack long enough for the British artillery to respond. The Observation Officer had only taken two salvos to get the howitzers ranged in and aligned and now the thirty five pound shells were plastering the line with shrapnel. Marlowe was in the process of adjusting two machineguns to cover the flanks of the British lodgment and the OO was ordering a change to HE, when there was a rumble of thunder from the north.

The two officers barely had time to exchange a questioning glance before the whole British front line as far as they could see in either direction vanished under a cloud of dust.

SOS 1J!” the OO snapped to his signaller, remembering the change in disposition since the Marines had gained their little foot hold he corrected “SOS 1J Less J38, repeat less J38.” Marlowe grunted his approval for this order and told his own signaller to order a reduction to slow fire, it looked like this wasn’t going to end any time soon.

The call of ‘SOS’ had the same electric effect on gunners as ‘Thar she blows’ had on the whalers of old. Dead drunk or dead tired ‘SOS’ meant some poor bugger was in trouble NOW!. Half dressed, half shaved or stark bollock naked, men dropped what ever they were doing and sprinted to 'Take Post.’ As soon as any two or three men reached a gun they opened fire. Every gun that wasn’t already firing a mission started to lob out shells as fast as the scratch crews could feed the smoking breaches, pausing every so often to allow the regular crews to step into their proper roles.


White and Aspinall had been having breakfast in the First Class Dining Room aboard the Aragon when a messenger bought them news of heavy barrage on Cape Hellas. Tea and muffins forgotten, a butter knife slid off the table as the pair rushed out on deck to hear the guns for themselves.

“Do we wait?” asked Aspinall. It was a matter of minutes for any report to be telegraphed to the Arcadian then relayed across to the Aragon.

“We go” replied White, who had little faith in CHQ to report either promptly or with any accuracy.


Dai Jones had experienced a very different battle to his mate Tubby’s. As usual he had been told of as a grenade carrier for the raid, while a wicked shot and a good sniper everyone realised Dai didn’t exactly shine in a close action and Paterson believed in using men to the best of their abilities. If they lasted to daybreak, a good sniper would be more valuable than an indifferent bomb thrower. So Dai had spent the night dragging sandbags full of bombs and sparing what few moments he could find tending to the wounded.

He made two trips back to the British lines before the communication sap opened and several since. He had hardly noticed the heavy barrage that so affected his friend. As far has he knew it had only lasted a quarter of an hour and that had hardly been long enough. The artillery had provided him with enough cover to drag a couple of men out of no-mans-land and there were plenty more he could have reached if only the shelling had lasted a bit longer.

Dai was lighting a cigarette for ‘Slapper’ Maurice when he had been told of Tubby’s death, Maurice had been surprisingly gentle about it for a man with no hands and only one eye.

With the coming of daylight Rattler had stopped running errands and started shooting, from the right flank of the little lodgment he had found a good ‘possie’ and settled down to working out his anger on the enemy. Paterson with one arm shoved into the front of his blouse and hair like a matted red helmet from a bullet crease to his skull, had been standing in the same bay as Dai during the first wave of the big counter attack. The officer was astounded to see the Welshman climb up onto the parapet, take up a perfect ‘Bisley’ kneeling position and start shooting like a machine, oblivious to the shot and shell that buzzed about him. He was close enough to register that Dai had actually started to sing.

Paterson hadn’t picked the song before the wave of Turks screaming the one true name of god broke upon them, to be honest he hadn’t even tried. But as the battle descended into the madness of bayonet and foul breath, a little part of Paterson’s brain clicked.

The private from Yozgat had no idea what “Men of Harlech” meant, but he stabbed forward with his rifle anyway and in return Paterson’s revolver turned his head into a bucket.


The Chatham Battalion RMLI had been stretched very thin by the events of the last eight hours. Of it’s four under-strength companies two were needed to hold the battalion sector, one had gone off this fools errand of a raid and Colonel Roberts had been sending his sole reserve down the sap to relieve Paterson when the artillery barrage fell along his line. He had begged Brigade repeatedly for reinforcements and apparently some were on the way, but they would have been hard pressed to hold there line against this onslaught if not for the Communications sap and D Company that was moving along it.

Why the Turks had decided that one little raid was worth counter attack across the whole Divisional front, Roberts didn't know. But who ever it was that made the decision, how ever lamentable thier sense of timeing they had certinaly picked the weakest point of the weakest Division to attack.

Captain Donell of D Company had seen the barrage for what it was. He left his subaltern with the two Vickers guns they had been carrying forward and two platoons to line the sap, while he took the other half of the Company and raced on to relieve Paterson. The thin line of riflemen, barely thirty five men all told who manned the sap were at right angles to the Turkish advance and in front of the covering barrage that was suppressing the rest of the Battalion in it’s trenches. The fire of fifteen men (for they had to face in either direction) was hardly enough to stop the waves of Turkish infantry, but enfilading the advance as they did, the Marines were in an ideal position to make their mark.

By the time the Turkish barrage lifted, the hundred yard gap in the advance made by Paterson's lodgment had been widened even further by the fire from D Company in the supply sap. This left only the outer quarters of the Battalions line under threat and as the artillery lifted onto the now empty British reserve line, heads began to pop up all along the trenches. The head were quickly followed by men and machine guns so while the first wave of the attackers reached the British trenches, the men behind them were exposed to the full fury of the defenders fire. In this sector at least the Turkish assault slowed, stopped and withdrew. The little pieces of line sized by the first wave were slowly mopped up with bomb and bullet, but else where across the divisional front the fighting raged on.


The two platoons of D Company spread out from the sap head, unable to use their bombs for fear of hitting any of survivors from C Company. They waded down the unfamiliar trenches tripping on bodies and cursing all of creation as they fought to clear out the line.

They probably could have used their grenades for all the survivors they found, no shortage of dead and a scattering of wounded but very few men still on their feet. They found Paterson with bayonet wound in his side and an empty revolver, lying half buried under some corpses. Dai had nearly been shot again by one of his own. A Marine being startled by the movement as Jones had crawled out of a ‘rat hole’ in the side of the trench.

Donell bought up his men from the sap and spread them out, setting his machine guns to their best advantage and detailing men to start clearing the wounded.


The first Tubby knew of all this was when a couple of Turks had scrambled over the cave-in he was lying under and took off along his little shooting ally towards their own lines. Not knowing how many there were to come, Tubby dared not take a shot at them. It was only when a group was chased by a ragged volley of shots, that he felt safe enough to fire.

He could hear men settling in behind him, the scrape of entrenching tool on a stone, the ‘thud’ of a filled sandbag being dropped into place and the chough and chatter of familiar accents. As dearly as he would have loved to cry out, to be pulled from his semi grave and be saved. The best he could manage was a muffled moan, between the dust in his parched throat and his thirst swollen tongue there was no way he could be heard over the rumble of battle that still filled the air. He could have fired off a shot or made some other noise, but Tubby reasoned that the most likely reply to that would be a bomb. As he lay there in increasing frustration, a cigarette butt landed a few inches beyond his reach and sat there smoldering.

Chapter 15

It takes two …

24th June 1915

The Chatham Battalion RMLI were asleep, officially they were in reserve having been relieved just after lunch. But ten minutes after they had arrived in their new positions, hardly a man still awake. Brigade had wanted to pull them back to the beach for a proper rest, but the men simply didn’t have the energy to walk the three miles. Instead they had stumbled back to the old lines the French had occupied before the May offensive and collapsed into the dirty positions with relief. Now an hour later the only noise to be heard from two hundred odd men was a rumble of snores and the occasional nightmarish moan.

Rattler had found a nice two man hole, thrown in the three rifles and two sets of equipment he had carried back then flaked out with a spare shirt over his head. In the baking heat of mid afternoon, it was even hotter and stuffier under the shirt and the light that filtered through the threadbare cloth gave him no artificial darkness. Rather he wore the shirt to keep the flies off his face, unpleasant as it was with his head wrapped in a stinking shirt and re-breathing his own foul breath, it was far better than having flies crawl into his mouth and up his nose. Rattler didn’t like flies.

Jones was so tired he probably would have slept through the second coming with out much trouble, the intermittent shelling that was still spreading hate and death along the line didn’t disturb him in the least. Neither did the gentle hands that lifted him into a sitting position and rummaged through the pack he had been using as a pillow. He didn’t notice the same hands take one of the water bottles he had stored safely between his back and the rear wall of the nook and the sound of the bottle being drained certainly didn’t register. What did wake him was a sharp irritation in his ear.

He had snuggled his head about and shifted his body to try to eliminate the jabbing pain, in the end he surfaced into semi-consciousness long enough to tuck some more of the shirt under his head has padding, but in the process his hand met a strange obstruction and it was this that dragged him partially into the present.

As Dai yawned and peeled the shirt off his face a slow, tired voice mumbled. “Sorry mate, did I wake you?”

Blinking in the glare Dai turned and said with equal fatigue. “Why Colin, it is your self dear. For a dead man your ghost is quite solid I find.”

“Aye, that I am.” Tubby draped the shirt back over Dai's face with a gentle hand. “Go back to sleep mate. Go back to sleep.”


Marlowe and Morant were sitting in armchairs made from bully boxes in the front of Indefatigable’s dugout. With the ends of the tarpaulin raised to trap what breeze there was, it made quite a pleasant place to sit in the shade.

“Another peg?” Morant hefted the stoneware jug and sloshed a measure into Marlowe’s cup.

“Thank you my dear fellow, don’t mind if I do. This stuff is certainly a cut above Army issue.”

“Pusser’s Rum? Yes your SRD is pretty average stuff compered to proper ‘Nelson’s Blood.’ It’s about the only thing we still draw through naval channels, my chaps’d mutiny if I served them that battery acid your lot provide.” Morant banged the stopper back in the jug with a soft ‘ponk.’

“Speaking of ‘Provisions’ would you mind if I borrowed your Tender? I’d hate to have to send my lads down for this evenings ration party, they’re quite done in the poor dears.” Marlowe didn’t sound too much better himself.

“I dare say we can sort something out, your boys have every right to an easy night. No problem with the Tender old bean, she’s got one more trip left in her, but we’ll have to strip her down tomorrow and change the tires. I say…” Morant yawned. “Pardon me. Could your lot do a water run for us in the morning?”

“Yes” replied Marlowe. “Oh here. A rather nice young chap gave me this cigar, didn’t have the heart to tell him I don’t smoke…”

“Why, thank you kindly good sir.” Morant pulled out his pocket knife and trimmed the end off, lit it with a vesta and sitting back luxuriously puffed a smoke ring. “Nice flavour. You know, we fired off nearly four hundred thousand rounds? About seven and a half thousand rounds per gun per hour, not too bad if I do say so myself.”

“Really? I would have thought it rather more given the mess you left behind.” He waved down Morant’s apology before any words could emerge from around the Havana. “Never worry yourself old man, we’re getting used to cleaning up your empty brass. No, but it’s a funny old world when you lot fire off all that ammunition from an artillery position and my guns didn’t fire a shot. If we ever do this again, we must find some better sighting arrangements… How’s you friend Paterson, have you had any word?”

“No, I haven’t heard a thing. Look… “ he drained his mug and yawned again. “I don’t mean to be rude old boy, but I’m one for beddie bye’s. Let’s sort out your ration run before I drop off.”


Cyril Aspinall’s combined office and cabin had been a second class berth before the SS Aragon was requisitioned as a floating headquarters and any of its pre-war passengers would still have felt quite at home. The only major change had been the removal of a single bed and its replacement with a trestle table. It was from the neat piles of paper on this desk that Aspinall looked up to greet Colonel White. “Hello old boy, what news from the front?” White just nodded his greeting and dropped into an overstuffed armchair.

“That bad?” asked Aspinall as he turned to the bell push.

“Oh yes” groaned White. “All that and enough left for second helpings.”

“Well you might as well tell me the worst of it. Tea for two!” he informed the white coated steward who knocked on the open door.

“Three” growled White. “I’ve asked Edwin to join us.”

“Three then please.” Aspinall amended.

“And bugger the tea.” rumbled the dusty figure from the armchair. Aspinall took the hint and pulled a bottle of Teachers from a cupboard.

“Well then?”

“The RND will have to come out completely. I know London will moan, but we are going to have to commit the…” he was cut off by the arrival of the steward with a tea tray.

“Thank you” said Aspinall politely to the steward. “Could you close the door on your way out?”

As the Mahogany door closed with a well oiled click, White continued. “The 52nd must go in, the sooner the better. I know we had hoped to refresh the sailors in place …”

“Winnie’s Children can’t hold on then?”

“They’re knackered man. Shot to hell. If you don’t believe me go over and see for your self!”

“After one little raid?” It wasn’t that Aspinall disbelieved White, rather he was groping about for any reason not to put the 52nd Division ashore. London would do a lot more than moan about this change of plan.

“One little…” White was incredulous. “You really have no idea what’s happened have you?”

“CHQ’s report said that the RND had mounted a Company raid on some grid reference which despite firm resistance, succeeded in it taking its objectives and a strong Turkish counter attack was seen off with heavy losses.”

“Thank god I went over!, You really should have come with me. Talk about blind! Honestly, a dispatch to the papers is one thing, but feeding rubbish like that back to your own HQ…” White was caught between anger and despair at the degree of ‘spin’ that had been applied to this report.

Aspinall passed White a cup of China Black, well laced with scotch. “You’d best tell me what did happen then.”

White drained his cup, helped himself to more tea from the silver pot and sat back with a sigh. “Well the RND did send a Company out last night but it wasn’t a raid, they had orders to hold. Where’s your map?”

Aspinall spread the map out on the coffee table and both men lent over it, White producing a gold pencil from his shirt pocket..

“Right then, about here. What are these contours?… Ah ten foot, right. Well see this salient here?” he pointed to a line of trench that bulged out of the Turkish front like half a cogwheel. “The map don’t show it, but this is actually a small rise. Five or six feet not much but…”

Aspinall was reading the contours with a professional eye. “The main line is on the crest of the nullah I take it, so this rise would give a reasonable command over…” he borrowed White's pencil. “All this.” He sketched a rough arc on the map. “A worth while objective I’d have though.”

“Yes, you’ve got it.” White reclaimed his pencil. “A very useful piece of ground. The whole salient has about three hundred yards of frontage and the distance from the switch line here across the base to the front line is about eighty yards. These two communications tenches divide the line into roughly hundred yard sections…” He went on to explain he the Marines had approached, been spotted and charged home their attack.

“This was a single Company you say?”

White nodded. “About sixty men all up, they were under strength going in.”

“Sixty? Not a bad size for a raid, but a bit small to take three hundred yards” said Aspinall with considerable understatement. “Two or three companies would be more the mark to take and hold that lot.”

White could only agree. “As it was they only took this middle section and with the Turks alerted, we haven’t a hope of taking the rest which is a pity. Now from what I can gather, both our lot and their’s tried to bomb along the line in either direction until about three am and the Turks tried a couple of small counter attacks from the switch line, by dawn we held about fifty yards here in the middle. We have a sap across through here…” the pencil flashed again. “Our fellows were just being relieved, some delay with runner being hit I understand, about an hour after sunrise when Jocko put in a big push from the switch line. Figures are a bit hazy but it looks about a battalion in three or four waves, only two made it out of the trench and one all the way across.”

“Well so far CHQ seem to have been reasonably accurate” commented Aspinall.

White cocked a sarcastic eyebrow and shook his head. “Did they mention the rest of the counter attack across the whole divisional front?” he asked. Aspinall made no reply. “As this battalion was hitting ‘Paterson’s Corner,’ which is what people seem to be calling it now. The Turks put down a barrage on our main line from here to about there.” The pencil marked off about fifteen hundred yards of the British front. “And followed it up with what we believe to have been two brigades worth of troops, here and through here. Bunter didn’t say who took the ‘heavy losses’ did he?”

“How bad?”

“It could have been a great deal worse.” replied White. “This was about an hour after ‘stand too’ remember. We got our own SOS down fast enough to knock some of the stuffing out of them, but they still got men into our trenches all along the line. It took a good three or four hours to winkle out the last of them.”

“Did we lose the lodgement?” inquired Aspinall.

“No, but we did lose a company of Royal Marines.”

“Even so, why relieve the rest of the RND?”

“Look man, they were only ever two thirds of a proper Infantry Division to start with. Now I’d say they could probably muster a reinforced Brigade, if we weeded out the sick probably not even that. No, I’m sorry, but there is no help for it. They must come out…” White finished his tea and reached for another refill.

“Could we not reinforce them with a Brigade from the 52nd?”

“They already have the Indians, I suppose giving them a Brigade of Scots would hardly…”

“Exactly old boy. You say they can mount a composite brigade and a bit, well if we rest the ‘surplus’ and give them a fresh brigade they could still hold a Divisional sector.” Aspinall pressed White relentlessly. “Their command is already so diverse another attachment makes no difference and if we shifted them back along towards the 29th a bit they would certainly hold the quietest section of the line.”

“We’d need to bring the ‘resting’ portion back to the islands for a proper refit.” warned White. “And bring over another Brigade of the 52nd to do the labouring. I tell you these men are shot, asking them to hold a line is one thing but there’s no way on this earth they can do that and work as well.”

Aspinall was happy with this compromise. “Done!” he said. “We can bring the Navy out tomorrow nigh…”

“Tonight.” White cut in. “No time tomorrow. Borrow the reserve brigade of the 42nd to patch the line, bring the Navy out tonight and put the 52nd in tomorrow morning.”

“In daylight?”

“Why not, it kills two birds with one stone.” White sighed. “Oh that stupid bloody man. Why did he have to go and make a mess of things now.”

“I seem to remember you agreed with the need for action, it’s hardly fair to blame...”

“Blame! Gods strength. Blame? No, Bunter was right, he usually is in principal. It’s the execution he falls down in and that’s Street’s department. I’m not one for scape goats, never have been. But if there are any fingers to be pointed, it’s you and Street that are first in line old boy. Not Bunter or I.”

“Me!” Aspinall could hardly believe his ears. “What on earth have I got to do with it? If this is your idea of a joke, I must say…”

“No joke, no joke at all. You said it yourself they needed more men last night. They didn’t get them for two very good reasons. One, because Street is a twit. And two, because some bugger at CHQ decided to do some creative accounting. Did I mention the raid was only assigned sixty rounds of 18pdr? One round a man!” White laughed sadly. “A single Company operation, is the biggest that can be mounted with out reference to the set ammunition expenditure tables. Tables you drew up and control my dear sir. CHQ reasoned that the raid would soon hit trouble and after that any ammunition expended in supporting fire could be booked to ‘Emergency Operations.’ Rotten bastards preferred to let sixty men hang out to dry rather than have to justify some additional expenditure to you. Oh I dare say avoiding the paperwork might have had a little to do with it but…”

Chapter 16


25th of June 1915

A good nights sleep had done Morant a world of good. CPO Barrow had obviously let him sleep in, because he had been woken by the gurgling sounds of Babbcock and Foster refilling the Indy’s radiator. After a cheerful greeting Babbcock had told him that there was some biscuit and a bit ‘o jam for breakfast with a mug of cold tea to wash it down with.

Breakfast had been the usual battle with the ‘Turkish Auxiliary Army’ otherwise known as Musca Aedes or the common Corpse Fly and he had intended to have a shave and change into his least dirty uniform. However the little balls of sweat and dust he rubbed off his fore head and one look at the two days worth of growth on his face in the mirror was more than enough to change his mind.

With the log open on the rear platform of Indefatigable, he had given himself “Permission to Discontinue Shaving” and with a flourish of his fountain pen he had filled in the rest of the columns for the forenoon entry with "Company employed ATSR.” And in Morant’s decided opinion, at this precise moment the ‘Service Required’ that he go for a swim.

With his clean-ish uniform, a change of underwear and toilet bag wrapped up in his towel. Morant moved around the iron bulk of the Indy, lifted the flap and walked straight into a neatly dressed young Lieutenant.

“Morning!” chirped Morant.

“Good morning.”

Morant ignored the disapproving chill in the strangers voice and asked brightly. “Are you lost?”

“It would seem so…” replied the man Morant now observed was wearing red tabs on his lapels. “I was looking for the Royal Navy, instead I find a gang of pirates. Rude pirates at that!”

“Don’t worry old man, as soon as the Staff sets us up a proper laundry and wash house my pirates will start to look like Guardsmen!” Morant’s good humour was robust enough to survive almost any assault. “Now what can I do for you, this fin…” the ‘Tab Wallah’ cut him short.

“I am here to discuss your progress or in this case the apparent lack there of, in the field tasks that have been set for your unit. By our reckoning you would appear to be some two days behind in work completed and I arrive here to find men lounging about idle and their commanding officer about to bathe!”

While the arrogant tone in the mans voice was starting to grate, Morant had to admit he had a point. Well half a point. “Look here old man, my men are not idle nor have they been. Now I’m sorry we haven’t dug our patch, but we’ve had a few of the Kings enemies to kill over the last few days…”

“What you have done ‘old boy’ is none of my affair, what you have not been doing is your duty! If the state of your uniform is any…”

“I beg your pardon! But if you fat, lazy, bast…”

“Excuse me, but you would be Leftenant Morant?” Neither man had noticed the approach of three officers who were standing a few feet away. The two younger men wore looks of restrained amusement, the elder was just smiling politely as he interrupted the argument. Both Morant and the Staff Officer did however notice the crown and the cluster of pips on the older mans epaulettes.

“SAR!” the Staff Officer snapped too like a Grenadier and threw up a salute that sizzled.

“Sir.” Morant gave an equally precise salute but it was hard to act like a sentry on Horse Guards Parade with a bath towel and a pair of underpants tucked under his arm.

“Gentlemen.” Brigadier Trotman RM returned the salute. “Mr. Morant, pardon me for interrupting you and …?”

“Craven. Sir! ADC to Gener…”

“Mr. Craven. But I was heading down to the beach and just thought to pop in and thank you for your assistance yesterday. It really was most helpful.” The Brigadier extended his hand to Morant and they shook firmly.

“No trouble sir, no trouble at all. But you really ought to thank Captain Marlowe of the…”

“Dropped past on the way over here. He seemed like a thoroughly nice chap for a gunner, had to thank his fellows for all their splendid work. Speaking of which, your lads seem a trifle occupied at the moment, not to mention a little greasy…” he looked past Morant’s shoulder to see PO Parsons crawling out from underneath the tender, his hair dripping with oil. “So if you would be so kind as to extend my best regards to them as soon as you have a moment, I would be obliged.” He turned to Craven. “And I rather think young man, we should both be on our way. Leave Mr. Morant to his ablutions, what?” Salutes were exchanged and Trotman turned to lead his entourage off to V beach, but he stopped and turned back. “Oh yes, I meant to ask. Did you really fire off half a million rounds?”

“No sir, only about three hundred and seventy thousand sir.”

“HA! There you are Merryman.” He slapped his Brigade Major on the shoulder. “I told you half a million was rubbish! Still a very fine show all the same.” He turned back to Morant. “Good show old boy! A very good show and thank you again.” Trotman touched his cap and gathering Craven firmly in tow, walked off towards V beach.

Morant paused there in the sun for a few moments, staring after the little cluster of officers with bemusement. He’d always heard Trotman who commanded the Royal Marine Brigade was a decent chap, so his little visit was hardly surprising yet very welcome for all that. ‘Still’ he thought. ‘I’d better get the lads digging this afternoon.’

He was walking over to find Barrow when he heard foot steps behind him.

It wasn’t Craven returning for round two, rather the younger of Trotman's aids. “Sorry about that, the Governor really did want to thank your men personally, but with that fellow…”

“Oh that’s all right, perfectly und…”

“No man, the Brig wouldn’t care if it was Bunter himself giving you a rocket. I think he wanted to have a word with Craven. Don’t ask me why, he seemed like a revolting little chap to me. Anyhow I wanted to thank you myself. Michel is a cousin of mine you see.”

“Mike Paterson?”

“Yes.” the Captain laughed. “You know what they say, we don’t recruit Marines we breed ‘erm.”


Morant had decided to swim off W beach, apart from it being safe from Asiatic Annie’s attentions, he really didn’t want to risk hanging about CHQ. The best spot to bathe was near the pier, the movement of the lighters and tugs kept the water clear of the rubbish that tended to foul the rest of the beach. True a swimmer was more likely to be run over by a ship and a few men had taken some nasty wounds from bumping into the naval traffic. But if there was any such thing as a ‘safe’ activity on Hellas, Morant had yet to hear about it.

Thus far it had been a fairly peaceful morning on V, the Turks were obviously saving their ammo after the heavy barrages of the day before and very few shells had fallen anywhere near the beach. Morant had stripped off, left his clean clothes under one of the rocks that marked the unofficial bathing area, sunk his dirty ones under another rock to soak and dived in. If the Aegean in June wasn’t exactly tropical and even if the water did have a faint tang of oil, coal dust and dead horse, it was still as close to paradise as he had been in days. He didn’t swim far, just fifty yards out and back but as he sat there in the shallows trying to work up a lather with a bar of salt water soap he felt like a new man.

He was just surfacing after rinsing the soap out of his hair when a wave sloshed across his face. Spluttering on a mouthful of water that he’d taken the wrong way and with the salt water burning in his sinuses, he looked up to see a lighter full of men pull into the pier. With a couple of muted squeaks and the odd squawk. Morant was dumbfounded to see four pipers come marching down the pier playing ‘Dumbarton’s Drums,’ kilts swirling and pipes skirling they swung off the pier and with barely a pause, about faced to pipe the rest of the of the men ashore now playing ‘The Barren Rocks of Arden.’

Exactly what the men of A Company, 4th Battalion The Royal Scots thought of a naked man sitting up to his chest in water applauding like a loon it’s hard to say, but the Turks certainly didn’t approve. The first shells started there wailing decent before the second platoon had cleared the pier.

With the NTO and MTO both yelling at all and sundry to “Cast off the fore spring! Move! Move! Clear the Pier there!” The pipers shifted tune with nary a break and to the strains of ‘Scotland the Bray’ rifles fell from ‘Slope Arms’ to ‘At the trail’ and the soldiers doubled ashore. The running men didn’t notice their soapy audience sprint naked from the water dragging a pile of soggy laundry, but one of the pipers did and his snort of laughter almost cased him to miss a B flat.

Chapter 17

A Stokers Lot

25th of June 1915

“You finished in there yet then?” the bosuns voice boomed down the ventilator like the crack o’ doom.

“Not yet Bose!” Ordinary seaman Tony Simms yelled back. “You bastard.” he added in an undertone.

“Was ya born idle, or did ya mother ‘ave to train ya special?” the thud of retreating boot steps indicated that this last question had been purely rhetorical.

Simms was a very ordinary seaman, he was a slightly better stoker and could generally be trusted to trim a coal bunker with minimal supervision but he cursed the day his mother had talked him into going to sea. In the turbulence of August the year before, she had thought signing onto a merchant ship would preserve her little boy from getting killed by ‘those horrible Germans’ and that as a stoker she wouldn’t have to worry about him catching a chill. Nobody had told Mrs. Simms about submarines.

‘Not being told’ was the story of young Tony’s life so far. He heard about submarines soon enough on the 500 ton coaster that he had made his first few short voyages on and he hadn’t like the sound of them one bit. Sweating away down in the bunkers Tony had found his mother was right about him keeping warm, just very wrong about keeping her boy safe. As far as he could remember the two trips from Bristol to Cherbourg had been one long nightmare. Every piece of driftwood had been reported as a periscope, every porpoise a torpedo. It was bad enough down in the stokehold knowing any moment could be you last, but it was damned hard work as well.

As soon as he could, Simms took his pay and had a good run ashore. A night in the police cells at Liverpool Dock insured the boat sailed with out him and delivered at the gangway by a friendly Policeman the next morning, he signed aboard his next ship as a deckhand.

Given the option Simms probably wouldn’t have picked the SS Belgrave as his first choice, he wouldn’t have gone to sea again come to that. Unfortunately while he had been told that press gangs were a thing of the past and that telling the Desk Sargent you were in the Merchant Navy was the best way to avoid being charged with ‘Drunk and Disorderly Conduct.’ No one had thought to mention that the Police simply delivered you back to a ship instead. If a hot press was only a distant folk memory, so was being ‘Shanghaied.’ Captains in need of a crew just paid the police instead. Thus with nothing but his proverbial fifty three pieces (a deck of cards and his ticket) Simms shipped out aboard the Belgrave.

The main reason Simms had hated the Belgrave on sight was that she was a collier and coal was the one of the things he would liked never to have seen again. His other reservation was based on her size, to Simms ‘big ships’ meant going foreign and Belgrave was more than big enough qualify in this respect. At a little over four hundred feet long and about ten thousand tons she had been built in 1905 to export Best grade Welsh steam coal to the far corners of the earth. But Simms had been wrong in his fear of ending up amongst the Hottentots and Chinese. The Belgrave was not clearing out for the deepest darkest Amazon, rather she spent most of the first half of 1915 running coal across to France.

Tony had settled into this life well enough, the weekly convoys were boring and neither Cardiff nor Le Harve were exactly his idea of heaven, still it was regular and he had the chance to see his mother from time to time when the ship put into Bristol. He would have been quite happy to while away the rest of the war feeding the furnaces of French industry, except someone had gone and offered him more money. That the ‘someone’ in question happened to be the government came as a pleasant shock and if ‘Long Term Charter’ and ‘Full War Coverage’ made Belgrave’s owners rub their hands with glee. ‘Bonus pay’ and ‘Hard Lying Money’ certainly claimed Simms attention. Naturally he hadn’t intended to join the RNSR, it wasn’t until ‘X Tony Simms his mark’ was scrawled across the bottom of a form that he found ‘Bonus pay’ was really ‘Active Service Allowance’ and that ‘Hard Lying’ had nothing to do with were he was going to sleep.

He hadn’t found the three day spent in Pembroke too bad, while they had been confined to the Dockyard, as Special Reservist they hadn’t been issued uniforms so were spared the endless ‘Bull’ that seemed to be most of navy life. The first day was the worst, washing out the holds with fire hoses then blasting the muck over the side with steam ejectors, the plumes of filthy water had turned a patch of the normally black Milford Haven into a sheet of midnight velvet. The worst part was of course shovelling the black sludge out of the bilges and into coal skips to be dumped over the side then drying the holds out with steam hoses. By lunchtime even the seagulls had been avoiding the Belgrave.

The Cargo started to come aboard as soon as the first holds were cleaned. The ships company had only been required to keep steam up and run the winches, the manual work done by drafts from some of the warships in Dock. For the most part, the cargo proved to be ‘Ships Stores’ in bulk, engineering supplies and tinned provisions. As there was nothing to steal the crew ended up spending their free time in the Fleet Canteen where both the beer and cigarettes were duty free.

There had been a few small issues over working the clock round in three shifts and a delegation had been sent off to see Captain about ‘Overtime’ and ‘Penalty Rates.’ But alas they found their old Captain gone, replaced by a sour faced RNR officer who replied to their threats of Union action with a reminder that they were under Naval Discipline now and so could all be put up against a wall and shot. It was the first they had heard, no one had told them…

Tony had been too busy working hard and sinking beer to wonder why the Admiralty wanted a middle aged collier. Coal is after all just a flammable rock and riveted ships always have a little movement in their seams. Between the abrasive coal dust, salt and hard work, colliers usually wore out their hulls before anything else so the Belgrave at 10 years old was hardly new, even if she could still do a comfortable ten knots on her single screw.

Although the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty might not have taken the time to explain their choice to Mr. Simms, they did know what they were doing. Colliers might not be hansom or fast but their large holds did give them a certain utility, the most outstanding of which was range. After all Cook had chosen a North Country collier to explore the far side of the world hadn’t he.

The main reason the Admiralty had decided to take the Belgrave over a dozen other comparable ships, was that it was fitted with a de-salinator. Not a big one, but it was large enough to keep her boilers and crew in fresh water for as long as the fuel lasted and she was a collier…

They had left Pembroke Dock in the second week of June for Gibraltar if not a happy ship than one only mildly disgruntled with its lot. The change in status of both Crew and Ship, being off set by a certain pride in the spiffy Blue Ensign she now wore, the smart white caps that had been issued just before sailing and the guns, the old girl fairly bristled with ordnance. All the seamen had seen ships fitted with a 12pdr or something and some had felt just a little jealous given Belgrave’s previously naked stern. Not any more, the poop now not only held a brand new 4,” but some kind soul had provided a brace of 6pdrs and another pair of 3pdrs mounted around the island in addition to four Maxims.

If under normal circumstances the crew viewed work as something best avoided and cleaning anything on a collier generally a joke, caring for the guns were the one exception. The bronze water jackets of the Maxims gleamed like gold matched by the silver of the canon’s breach blocks. The Second Mate had to stop men brasso-ing the ammunition and even after kicking a few arses and threatening to “Putch the fust bogger” who dared take cleaning rag to his bullets again “… ova’ the syde, fr’n the blurry sharks ta feed’s on!” The belts of fat .45 cartridges still looked suspiciously bright and the belts themselves had changed from the dull fawn of raw webbing to chalky white.

Guns aside, things would have fallen back into the old convoy routine quickly enough, the new officers were all ex Merchant Navy after all, if it wasn’t for the passengers. The one thing Belgrave most certainly was not, was any form of a liner. Her accommodation was strictly utilitarian in the best traditions of penny pinching ship owners. Forecastle for the deck hands, poop for the engine room and the centre island for the officers. If the Officers now had to double up in their cabins to make room, it was much worse for the crew. The black gang had been moved forward into the focsle which was never a good idea and everyone had to hot bunk, the ship had gone from two watches to three just so there were enough beds and hammock’s available. The normally fetid conditions in the fore peak had deteriorated to the point where even the seamen were starting to complain about the filth.

If living cheek by jowl in a pigsty wasn’t bad enough. The crew still had to put up with fifty idle passengers who did little but complain endlessly about the food and conditions and for all their boasting about being skilled tradesmen, spent most of the day sitting around on their duff’s doing sod all as far as anyone could tell.

True the passengers had earned their pay once Belgrave had cleared Biscay. Tools had appeared from No. 5 hold and all the precious guns had vanished in a flash along with many other fixtures.

The Belgrave didn’t call at Gibraltar, she cruised almost down to the Madeira then turned North again and dropping the workmen off onto a homeward bound ship they rendezvoused with off Malta. The only contact they had with Gibraltar was a boat load of Naval Ratings that had been taken aboard off Tarifa as they had passed through the straits in the dark of the moon. The extra twenty men hadn’t helped the accommodation issue any, but the mild weather and the extra cover that the dockyard maties rigged up had eased that problem.

Through all this mucking about, Tony Simms had been working harder than he believed possible. No sooner than they had emptied No. 2 hold of it’s paint, timber and angle iron than four men had stepped out of the carpenters crew and started to assemble barrels from the knocked down staves, hoops and plugs that formed the bottom layer of its cargo. Simms had been assigned to assist the Cooper and there after spent his days running around fetching small coal and pumping the bellows. Apart from sweating out the last of the Pembroke beer, Tony had been burnt singed and otherwise painfully scorched in more places than he could count. If he had learned to respect hot iron in his time as a stoker now it was right up there with coal on his list of things to avoid.

No sooner than they had filled No. 2 than the Cooper’s party moved to No. 5 hold and repeated the process. Ten or twelve hours a day every day Simms scampered around the Cooper and his three apprentices as they assembled the two hundred gallon casks. In some ways he was actually quite lucky, for while Simms had to move quickly the work its self was fairly light. The rest of the crew had spent much of their time emptying No. 1 hold of the cases of corned beef, beans, stew and jam and repacking them on top of the barrels with out the benefit of either winches or derricks. That had been hard work, especially under the stiff awning that now covered Belgrave from stem to stern. When No 1 hold turned out to have the same foundation layer of casks as No. 2 and 5. Simms was seriously tempted to jump overboard and make a swim for it.

But the last of the heavy work had finished a few days before and as they steamed past Crete only a few hands were kept busy with brushes. The ships routine had returned to something approaching normality which left Tony Simms in his present dilemma. How should he wipe the stinging sweat from his eyes when both his hands were covered in carbolic and submerged to their elbows in the heads?

Chapter 18

Mohamed’s Molehill

25th June 1915

“Gawd almighty, they wanna shift that lot?”

“They certainly do Mr. Barrow, this little bit is all ours…” replied Lt Morant.

The two men stood and contemplated the steep side of the nullah for a few moments.

“I supposed we’d best be about it then.” said Morant with out the least hint of enthusiasm. At this point the little gully was about twenty feet deep by thirty wide and to Barrow and Morant standing in the bottom it felt like the Grand Canyon. “Well if that stake marks the top… One in six wasn’t it?”

“That be your department sir!” by his tone, Barrow was well pleased with this division of responsibility.

“Well one in six seems to be what’s written here.” Morant consulted a crumpled scrap of paper for the about the tenth time. “I do whish they would just print rather than scrawl.” He muttered, largely to himself. “So if that’s say twenty five feet, then we want to start a hundred and fifty feet that way.” He gestured back down the nullah towards the beach. “Twenty five by one fifty, is three thousand seven and fifty by…” he checked the work order again. “Fifteen feet wide gives us about…. Fifty six and a quarter, thousand cubic feet. Correct?”

“If you say so sir…”

“And that’s a little over two thousand cubic yards.” Morant was down on his haunches confirming his arithmetic with a finger in the dust.

“But we want ‘arf of that sir, ‘tis only a ramp.” Barrow reminded him softly.

“Good point, but then earth expands about three times when you dig it up, so…” a few more figures and Morant swept a hand across his workings out. “Bugger! Divide not multiply, you idiot.” A dusty hand smacked into a sweaty forehead. CPO Barrow said nothing, he just stood ‘at ease,’ staring off into space and whistling silently.

“Right then! Half of two thousand and eighty four is one oh four two, times three is… Three thousand one hundred and twenty five cubic yards!” Morant’s note of triumph faded as he came to terms with the further implications of his new calculations.

“’bout a fee quarters h’ ton per yard, for fresh turned earf’ sir. Me uncles a navvy see.” He explained.

“Ah, thank you. In that case Mr. Barrow we have about twenty four hundred tons to move. That can’t be right surely?” He looked up at Barrow’s impassive face. “Two and a half thousand ton!” Morant started scribbling again.

“Do’ it really matter sir? We gotta shift it what ever it weights. Now where do’s they want the spoil. H’up on top or down ‘ere sir?” asked Barrow.

“And which would you suppose Mr Barrow?”

Midday at the Oasis

25th of June 1915

One benefit of summer in the Orient was the definite improvement in the general efficiency of tea cosies. To most people this wouldn’t have been much compensation for the dust, flies and stench, but Q liked to look on the bright side of things and he did like his tea hot.

Cyril Aspinall was as fond of a hot cuppa as the next man though Orange Pekoe was hardly his favourite tipple at noon and he was hard pressed to hide his distaste as Q added tinned milk to his fresh cupful. He was more of an Earl Grey man himself. “The thing is old boy, we would like you to move across to Mudros.”

“Mudros?” Q was quite pleased that his merits were being appreciated at long last.

“Indeed.” Confirmed Aspinall.

“Really… Well ‘A change is as good as a holiday’ or so they say. Who’s to replace me here?”

“No one” said Aspinall as he took another careful sip of his tea.

“Oh good. I’ve been trying to get young Selfridge promoted for ages…”

“Sorry old man, I mustn’t have made my self clear. We are moving your whole establishment, except for a small issuing section of course.” Aspinall blew gently across his tea.

“I’m not leaving my inventory here for any one to pillage dear boy, Were they are I stay!”

“You are moving. So is your store, lock, stock and barrel old boy. Every last nut and bolt.” Aspinall informed him firmly.

“Ahh, you’re speaking to wrong man there I’m afraid” laughed Q.

“What?” Aspinall spluttered with confusion. “Come again?”

“My dear fellow! Careful there, you wouldn’t want to choke would you? Here, have a some more tea. Where was I?” his brow furrowed for an instant then cleared into a radiant smile. “Oh yes, as I was saying. You definitely have the wrong end of the stick or the stick the wrong way around. Either way, rifles are Ordnance and Fasteners are Engineers consumables. You want Major Owen old boy, not me! Now if it were Spanners or accoutrements, then I could…”

Aspinall didn’t wear the red tabs of a Staff Officer and the pips of a Colonel for nothing and he was not going to be trifled with lightly. As he mopped the sweat from his brow and the tea from his chin, Cyril sat up very straight in his chair and held up a single finger. “A lighter will be coming into the Clyde pier at precisely one twenty five ack emma tomorrow morning.” The finger came down to point directly between Q’s eyes. “You sir, will have no less than five and no more than twenty tons of stores and portable equipment waiting in holding area ‘B’ ready to load by one fifteen ack emma. With the assistance of a working party from the MLO and under his direction, you will have the said contents of area ‘B’ loaded aboard by no later than two twenty ack emma and your men clear of the pier area. You may chose to send two.” The finger lifted and was joined by a second. “I repeat two men..” a third finger. “And an officer or NCO with the load to supervise and coordinate its transfer to your new location on Mudros.”

Q was caught like a rabbit in the head lamp of a train. “…” he tried to interject with just a few of the very good reasons why all this was impossible.

But Aspinall ignored him and continued right on with out a pause. “…These men may if you so desire remain in Mudros as your advance party. Another lighter will dock at the same time every morning until the 29th of this month. That is a total of four lighters, each of latter three shipments may be accompanied by two men. These men however, will return to Cape Hellas the same day aboard the first return transport. Is this clear sir?” he reached into his briefcase and presented Q with the written orders like a Sheriff serving a warrant. “And speaking of Major Owen, he will be placing a somewhat larger load aboard the same lighter. You may whish to speak to him about this with a view towards coordinating your efforts. In that event, I must point out that you each have an equal priority for space and time and that the word of the MLO is both final and absolute.”

Since his failed attempt to make a positive contribution to the conversation, Q had sat back and let the details wash over him. Instead he concentrated on the real issue at hand. “Exactly how are we to function from Mudros?” he asked.

“As I mentioned earlier, you will still have a presence here. I think you will find your orders specify two men, one NCO and an Officer are to remain here…” Aspinall said warily. “With stores and equipment to a total weight of no more than one ton. There has been an allowance made for you to ship a further ton per diem from Mudros back here to replenish…”

“A ton you say? Oh jolly good, exactly enough. I must say you chaps seem to have worked this out to absolute Tee. A most impressive piece of staff work if I might say so, I haven’t see anything like it in years …”

Aspinall was not quite sure how to take this change of heart. As he sat there listening to Q’s flattery, he couldn’t help but wonder why the quatermaster was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

Misery Loves Company

26th of June 1915

“Oy there matey. Watch it! Gawd love a duck. H’out board an’ ta leeward man.” Tubby shoved the soldier towards the rail. “Come on now mate, better out then in. Just you remember, if youse see’s a hard brown bit. Bight down ‘ard, ‘cos that’s your arse ‘ole.”

“I never thought to say it, but it looks quite pretty from here don’t you know.”

“What’s that Rattler?” Tubby tuned back from the soldier.

“I said it looks quite pretty from a distance Colin. Like Blackpool from the end of the pier.”

“Well I dunno about that. More like Crystal Palace wive most o’ the bulbs blown if’n ya ask me.” The two friends stood and watched the sparkle of lights across the black mass of peninsula. “When was you h’ever in Blackpool?”

“Oh I did a little work there with a cousin of mine. We are every where you know.” Tubby and Dai stood alone amidst the crowd on deck and watched Gallipoli recede slowly into the night.

“Well…” began Tubby.

“Yes” finished Dai.

“I…” Tubby tried again. “I… It’s funny. I’s hate’s that place more than…”

“I know Colin. It feels…” Rattler to felt unable to complete their thought.

“Oh bugger this!” Tubby broke their little bubble of silence. “Come on, let’s get h’our selves sorted. See if we can find some place out o’ the wind.”

“A very fine suggestion Colin, a bite to eat would be most welcome too and perhaps a little tea…” Still neither man moved away from the rail.


“It wasn’t really such a bad place you know. The weather was quite nice on the whole and the beaches were sand, not the shingle we have at home…” Dai sounded almost wistful. There wasn’t much of the battlefield left to see now, just the odd flash on the horizon.

“You want you ruddy head examined mate! We have so got a proper beach in Lunnon. Why, every blooming Sunday we used ta go down wive the ‘ole family….”

“Ah, yes how could I forget the London Riveria. Why it must be all of a hundred yards lon…”

“Now you ‘old on a minute! The ‘Riv’ beat’s any o’ these poxy bit a dirt inta a cocked ‘at any day the week. Struf! You tell me then? Where can ya buy a winkle ‘ere? Or a Mussel let alone a bloom’n eel. Na’ can you see ol’ Abdul sell’n youse a Strawberry H’ce like a Christian? I ask ya… “

“I seem to recall in Egypt…”

“An’ that’s another fing. What's there to see ‘ere? Now down on Tower Beach, why it’s like a bleed’n parade! The bridge an’ all the boats an’ ships…”

“And Ash lighters and sewage barges and…”

Chapter 19

The bells, the bells…

26th of June 1915

“’ere you are then lads. Latrines over there, Cook ‘ouse is round the johnny ‘orner an’ the showers an’ laundry is fifty yards back the way’s we came turn left an’ ya can’t miss it. If youse want’s my h’advise you’ll take ‘erm in any order youse please, but you’ll ‘ave to run to get a bar’f in before breakfast an’ the latrines is best faced on an h’empty stomach if you ask me. I’ll leave’s ya to it then.” Their guide a voluble little private, nodded encouragingly went about his business.

They took the kindly offered advice and three hours later Tubby and Dai were reclining comfortably in their tent, washed, freshly clothed, deloused, fed and voided.

“Don’t ‘arf mind a bit o’ this.” remarked Tubby, with a yawn. “Fink I might just drop off and ‘ave a kip. Give us a nudge when the war’s over.”

“Right you are there Colin. I too could sleep for a few weeks, but pass me your rifle first man and I will give it a proper cleaning. Look you at the filth I have removed from mine.” Dai had not handed in the rag he had been wearing as a shirt to the laundry section. Rather he had taken it through the showers with him and left it to dry during their meal. Now it served him as cleaning cloth and after two rifles the shirt was already almost as dirty as it had been before it had been washed.

Tubby lifted the bolt on his rifle, checked that the chamber was clear and handed it across “She don’t look to bad.”

Dai had the bolt and magazine out in a flash. ”I did not think they were either, but the dirt I find… Would you be a Christian Colin dear and empty that a’fore you go to bed.” He tossed the magazine back to Tubby.

Unscrewing the bolt head, he started to perform a detailed strip and clean of the Lee Enfield. He ran out of clean shirt long before it was finished, dirt seemed to ooze out of the woodwork. Eventually he left the snoring Tubby to guard their kit and made another trip to the laundry for more cleaning materials and the stores for rifle oil.

An hour and a half later, Dai was still sitting propped up against the centre pole of their Epeehipee* tent in a nest of grimy rags. Yawning from time to time and slowly working over the weapons for the second time. Four bayonets and a gleaming rifle lay next to Tubby’s feet (sharpening was Colin’s job). Dai’s own short rifle was on the straw plisse he should probably have been sleeping on, equally immaculate in its film of oil.

But tired as he was, Dai just didn’t feel like sleeping. There was a quite peace to be found in the exact fit of machined parts and caress of smooth wood that he found soothing. More than just the pleasure of a manual task done with skill and precision, there was a poetry in the silky action of a bolt or the ‘snick’ of a magazine catch that had nothing to do with its ultimately violent nature. For Dai the mechanical universe had an order and purpose that his real world was sadly lacking. He was gently burnishing the trigger guard, when a voice out side repeated basically the same instructions that the two Marines had been given earlier.

The flap of the tent was drawn back and three very young looking soldiers fumbled through the entrance, catching rifles and equipment on the canvas and blinking in the dimness after the bright daylight.

“’ello! Any one at home?” one asked.

“Yes” replied Dai in a voice about a thousand years old.

“Watcher Taff. ‘owes tricks? I’m Archie Buffet, he’s Tom Price and him muck’n about with the flap is Jack ‘iggins though we call’s I’m ‘Prof’ on account of always ‘aving is nose in a book!”

“A pleasure it is to make your acquaintance gentlemen I’m sure.” Replied Dai softly. “The good corporal snoring in the corner is Colin and I am David Jones, but if you could do me a small charity and permit my friend and I to sleep, I would be obliged.”

“Right you are then Taff…” Tom Price was a mountain of a man, even in a whisper he had a voice like a base drum. “you ‘ave your kip. Me an’ the lads ‘ill stow out kite and bugger off. Quite as mice, ‘ave a good chin wag after lunch we will.”

The three piled their gear against one side of the six man tent and crept out. The last thing Dai heard before his eyes closed was Buffet muttering “’ere then Tom, what’s the idea scrapin’n to that ugly little cove…”


“Rise and shine mate, I got your lunch.” Tubby gave Dai a gentle shake. “Come on old fella, get it while it’s ‘ot.”

If Rattler objected to be dragged from his first safe, comfortable snooze in months for a plate of warm stew and a mug of tea he didn’t show it. “Why dinner in bed, how slothful. Thank you Colin.” Before Dai could reach into his pack, Tubby handed him a fork.

“’ere you go. I swiped you a new one from the cook ‘ouse, an’ there's bread an’ butter for afters.”

As he was wolfing down the meal Rattler noticed his bayonet was back in it’s scabbard and so he surmised Tubby must have been awake for some time. When they reached desert, fresh bread with real butter, ‘from a cow not a tin’ as Tubby took great pleasure in pointing out. Dai asked “Have you been awake long then?”

“Oh an hour or so, one o’ the new lads tipped me the wink that the new Rupert wanted a word.”

“So you have met our new officer then, what is he like?”

All the good humour dropped from Tubby. “You’ll find out yourself mate. ‘e wants to see you, after ya finish your scoff.”

“Why what ever is the matter Colin?” Rattler asked with concern. “We are not in any trouble I hope?”

“Could be mate, could be. I dunno really. Still the worst they can do is shoot ya.” Tubby brightened. “’ere ‘ave a Thomas Cook at this!” he reached over to Dai’s webbing and pulled out the second bayonet he wore. “I took our sharps along to give ‘erm a touch up. Thanks for the clean’n to bye the bye. An’ I found a proper bloody wheel what the ‘Tiffies’ as got, so I’s finally done it!” The blade slid out of its sheath with a metallic hiss and he presented it hilt first to Dai.

“Oh Colin! Now that is lovely man.” When the Royal Marines had been rearmed in May trading their Long Lee Enfield’s for the new Short Rifle’s neither Tubby nor Dai had handed in their old bayonets, keeping them instead as trench knives. The old double edged 12” blade being much handier than the newer 17” swords. However even 12” was a bit long and Tubby had been wanting to reshape them ever since. “A beautiful piece of work it is too. Hardly regulation now though is it. Eight inches?”

“Aye, eight an' a trifle.” confirmed Tubby. “But don’t you ‘ark on at me ‘bout ‘regulation’ or as the King gone an’ said h’every man can ‘ave two guns now?”

“You leave Gweneth alone.” As a ‘semi-official’ sniper, Dai had clung stubbornly his old rifle as well as its bayonet. “I know you care not a farthing for accuracy, cutting down perfectly good rifles when ever you so please. It is all envy you know, just because you cannot hit the side of a railway station at twenty paces…”

“Oy! Steady on naw. Twenty paces… If you’ve finished stuff’n ya face, haven’t you an officer to see? ‘Dereliction’ this is, neglect’n you plain duty to ‘arass…”

“Oh! Typical! Typical Englishman, no sooner a good Welsh boyo speaks the truth and you have to go and oppress him with your superior rank! I should be used to it by now you’d think. But no, I had thought you improved by the company of a civilised man such as myself…”

“Be ‘owrf with ya, ya daft taffy bugger. Don’t make me ‘ave to put you on a fizzer.”

“Oh yes sir. No sir three, bags full sir.” Dai had been slowly putting on his boots and getting his himself straightened out ever since he had mopped up the last of his gravy. Now he threw his friend a sizzling salute, perfect except for being left handed and stalked off.

“Don’t you call me ‘Sir.’ I work for a living!” Tubby called after him, then when there was no reply he reached for his sewing kit.


“I say could you direct me to your officer?” None of the men working on the road that afternoon had any identifiable marks of rank, which was understandable in the circumstances as they would have had to have been tattooed on. Shorts boots and a verity of floppy sun hats seemed to be dress of the day for the work gang. Christopher Muir addressed his question to a hunched figure sitting on a mound of dirt, as an astute judge of human nature Muir figured that the man doing the lest was probably the one to talk to.

“Certainly old boy, 29th Div HQ ask for Commander Simpson.” Morant was to exhaust to even stand up.

“Oh, I beg your pardon…”

“Drew Morant, overseer and general salve driver at your service Lieutenant?”

“Muir. Christopher Muir, 5th Battalion the King’s Own.”

“You will pardon my ignorance but the King god bless him, has a reasonable number of battalions…”

“KOSB old man, the King's Own Scottish Borderers.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry but the old brain isn’t firing on all six today and I find it tends to offend if one calls a ‘Fusilier’ a ‘Rifle’ or some such thing. You’d be our relief then?” Morant asked hopefully.

“Ach. I dunna know about that. I’ve no orders to relive anyone as best I ken. No my men are to make a length of road from here back…”

“Then you are our relief!” Morant used a shovel to leaver himself to his feet. Even upright, he resembled a question mark more than any normal human should. “Well we have marked out the…”

“My orders are to adjoin my section with that being built by some seamen, you haven’t seen any about have you?”

“Seamen? Seamen! No I haven’t seen any, we’re all artificers from an Armoured Car Detachment. Now look here my fine fellow, this ramp runs down to floor of the gully from this stake, it’s all marked out, fifteen feet wide all the way with a curve at the bottom. There’s a string line to show you the gradient and we pegged out the top. All the earth is to come up here and be piled along the side as you can see….”

“Wait a wee minute there Mr. Morant. I was told to make a hundred yards of level road, nothing was said about ramps, pegged out or otherwise. We have been given our marker at t’other end and by my pacing we should finish at the top of your workings there.”

“Look about you dear fellow.” Morant flung an arm out into the growing gloom. “Do you see any ‘level’ ground to build a road on? In this context, ‘level’ means even, smooth. It’s got sod all to do with the actual contour. May I ask who gave you your orders? It wasn’t Bill Ninnis I’d warrant….”

“It was not this ‘William Ninnis’ you mention. My…”

“Bill’s the divisional Sapper.” Morant informed him.

“Thank you, as I was saying my orders come from my Captain who I presume had them from the Colonel via the Adjutant. All of whom I might add would seem to out rank you. Now if you are not the men who I am to connect with I shall…”

“Hold on man. Your Colonel would have had his orders from Brigade HQ, who would have had them from Division where they were drawn up by Bill Ninnis. God only knows how they have been mangled in the process, but I have it from the horses mouth. Now as you have paced over here you will have realised that while this country is as rough as a baboon’s arse, it’s still passable for men and vehicles. What we can’t do is get into or out of this gully. It’s a matter of simple priorities, the road is no use with out the ramp. Do you build the bridge after the roads that meet on it?” Morant was jovial but earnest.

“I am a soldier not some grubby engineer and I obey my orders. What you say might all be very well but…”

“I don’t really mind if you’re a piebald Aardvark old chap.” Morant ignored the implied insult which he put down to petulance. “But if this ramp isn’t built, then Division is going to complain very loudly indeed, Brigade will no doubt have words with your Colonel and trouble like most things rolls downhill old boy. Downhill all the way to dare I say it, you!”


“Don’t worry about the tools today Mr. Barrow, we’ll clean them in the morning. No, ‘Make and Mend’ I think and then a quiet night for all hands.”

“I told you not to lift that stone sir. I said ‘ow it would do your back in.”

“If you’ve nothing better to do than tell me ‘I told you so’…”

“Sorry sir, but I did! I said ‘That stone needs two men Sir.’”

“Oh shut up man! I feel like bloody Quisimodo.”

“Quasi-who sir?”

“Never mind Mr. Barrow. Never you mind.”


“Where is he then? Tell me one of you, tell me now or so help me…” In his fury, Dai had stormed into the conical tent like a 5’9” tornado.

Tom Price was the first of the three reinforcements to decipher Rattlers demand through an accent thick enough to smother the English language like a furry blanket. “Your h’opo? Gone to the ‘ave another shower Taff, ‘e shouldn’t be long back.”

“Thank you, Tom is it?” Dai made a visible effort to calm himself and the trio watched in silence as he crossed the tent to his bed place and sat down.

Dai had never liked feeling angry, odd flashes of temper might escape his control but in general rage frightened him, especially his own. ‘Be calm and all will be well’ were words he lived by, even in battle he never found the bezerk euphoria some men seemed to achieve. Rather to him the world just simplified down to its most fundamental level. Combat was a chaotic machine and Dai played his part with a certain detachment, killing was a matter of mechanical precision. The man, the gun and the target were all cogs the mechanics of which Dai could play like a master. Where true rage was needed, in the foul breath and fists of close quarters, he felt lost.

Long walks had replaced beer as his protection from his foreign emotion and he had just done three miles across the rocky hillsides of Lemnos at almost a jog. But he found that walking had lost its calming effect, now he needed to shoot something.

He was totally unconscious of the silence that had descended since his abrupt entrance, nor did he feel the eyes of the young men watch his every move as he started to titivate ‘Gweneth’ yet again. Dai vaguely remembered hearing the crackle of a rifle range on the way up from the landing place that morning so now he started to fit his target backsight to the rifle.

Tubby walked back into the tent and found himself staring down the barrel of Dai’s weapon. “Oy watch out! Mother didn’t teach ya that it’s rude to point guns at people?”

Dai slid the bolt home and turned the head into its locking grove, but he didn’t apologise. “You Colin Bradshaw are a bastard!” he said with some venom. “A silver plated, diamond encrusted, gilt edged bastard of the first order. You knew dam well what I was in for, don’t you… don’t you even try to deny it.”

Tubby just grinned like a fool and sat on his bed.

“I told him I do not want them, I would not have it! No, but then he makes mention of a few facts that I shall not repeat before witnesses. Things only you could have told him. Betrayed by my… my own.” But he couldn’t finish his denunciation of treachery.

“It was a fair trade mate, I ‘ad to do the best by all.” Tubby let the towel fall from his shoulder.

“Judas! You shameless Iscariot! Oh… I see a stripe is worth ten pieces of silver in this shameful army” said Rattler bitterly.

“Come on, lets be ‘aving your shirt then.” He reached over and pulled the corporals stripes from Dai’s top pocket. “I can’t teach these sprogs ‘ow to survive on me own na’ can I?”

*EPIP European Personnel India Pattern or Epeehipee, which is funny because they looked like Teepee’s :-)

Chapter 20

Hell Hath No Fury…

27th of June 1915

“I say this is superb fruitcake Cam.”

Marlowe was deep in contemplation. Given the choice between English or Irish Breakfast, he was like… “That Greek feller’s mule! Sorry, say what?”

“I was just saying how very good this cake is, but I can’t for the life of me work out any possible relationship it could have to a Greek draught animal.”

“None dear boy, none at all. It’s dreadful the holes old age leaves in one’s memory. I was trying to decide upon which tea to make you see and I can’t. I’m like…”

“Ah, I have you now. The mule, actually you know I think it was an ass, but never mind. Caught between to mangers, starved to death or something.” Morant was certain he must have been taught it at school too, but he couldn’t remember either. “Still hardly important is it.”

“I suppose not, but to tell you the truth it’s damned annoying. The wretched name is on the tip of my tongue. Asepo, Essop, Issop… Anyhow which would you prefer? You know sometimes these blasted packages from home are more trouble than they’re worth. In exchange for a few small luxuries, we suffer the memory of all we don’t have…”

“Oh I don’t mind, as long as it’s hot and wet, either one will do me nicely. We’ll have… that one.” He reached over and flicked a packet with his fore finger.

Marlowe noticed the grimace of pain his friend displayed at the movement. “You all right old man?”

“’Old man’ is about right! I threw my bloody back out yesterday, it’s a bit stiff but I’ll live. Still, it’s a fair trade. My back.” He explained.

“How so?” asked Marlowe measuring out a very careful two spoons of his precious Irish Breakfast and adding one more for the pot.

“Oh I passed off that rotten ramp we had to make onto a battalion of Scotsmen.”

“That was very careless of them, it was a good sized job if I recall rightly. You’re well shot of it though, beastly thing. Have some more cake, go on.” Marlowe cut another two generous slices.

“I will too. It’s very good.”

“Yes Ms. Malar makes them for me.”

Morant showed not the slightest curiosity in whom ever had make the cake he was devastating with such gusto, rather his attention had been attracted by a dusty man in a naval cap walking briskly over the rise from his camp.

“Commander Simpson’s compliments sir.” The messenger saluted the officers, who replied with waves of varying degrees of formality. “H’and ‘e wonders if you would care to join ’im for luncheon. A Picnic Luncheon sir, I was told to say most specifically ta say. A picnic sir.”

“Good grief! A picnic? What on earth… Any idea what this is about Jack?” Morant asked the orderly.

“Naa sir, sorry sir. H’if I may be so bold sir. What answer shall I give?”

“My respectful compliments in return to Commander Simpson and I should be delighted to accompany him at his convenience. Is there a time or…”

“Sir. Midday at H’ex Beach sir. Dress h’is informal sir.”

“Thank you very much and I shall see Commander Simpson at Ex Beach at noon.” He raised an inquiring eyebrow at Marlowe, who reluctantly nodded. “Here have a slice of this to see you on your way.”

The sailor took the chunk of fruitcake with thanks and trotted back from whence he came.

“What on earth was that about…”

“Not a clue old boy, not a single, solitary… A picnic?”


The Naval messenger was not the only visitor Marlowe’s dugout had that morning. “Informal” or not, lunch with you commanding officer called for a little preparation, so Morant had gone off in search of a clothes iron. Marlowe actually had a small private wager running on the outcome. Iron’s being one of the many necessary items the Admiralty did not issue to its Armoured Car Squadrons, but one of the few Morant had yet to acquire through his less official channels. Probably because he hadn’t felt the need before now.

Since his Battery did very little real gunnery these days, in some ways it was only fair that Marlowe now found himself drowning in paper. With the current ‘Shell Crisis’ as the paper’s had taken to calling it, ammunition for his 2.75’s was in short supply. So driven in no small part (though he hated to admit it) by Morant’s example, he had sat down with the Divisional CRA and they had decided that the best use that he could put his guns to was harassment. Their chosen target was a small valley about five thousand yards behind the Turkish lines. It was a known support area and probably held a small HQ, but it was generally safe from all but Howitzer fire and the overworked Howitzers couldn’t spare the time to suppress it properly.

So with a little lateral though and some digging, Marlowe’s popguns could drop a shell into the little valley as neatly as a gunner could desire. True they couldn’t say exactly where in the valley, accuracy was a bit much to ask of guns that had been dug in to fire a good thirty degrees above their normal elevation. However, three times an hour a shell whistled across to spread a little hate over another patch of Turkey and they all felt the better for doing their little bit to edge General Hamilton’s Cocktail cabinet 6” further towards Constantinople.

This though was hardly enough to keep a single gun crew fully occupied and given idle hands the Army soon finds something for them to do. Thus the Singapore Battery had taken over ration distribution for a portion of the Royal Naval Division, which in turn left Marlowe with a table full of ‘blasted’ paperwork.

“Excuse me sir. I am looking for a Lieutenant Morant of the Royal Navy and I was given to understand I might find him here, but I appear to have been mistaken. Perhaps you might possibly be able to direct me to him?”

Marlowe was almost grateful for the distraction. Not being the sort of fellow given to flashes of intuition, he put his visitors air of brittle dignity down to the natural concerns of any man dressed in a skirt on a windy morning and greeted him with polite good humour. “No my dear sir, I haven’t a clue as of this moment. The chap could be damned near anywhere and most likely is…” he chuckled. “Though I’d be happy to take a message…”

“Thank you sir, Muir is my name. Mr. Morant will know where I might be found. Good day.” The tall young man turned and departed as quietly as he had arrived.

‘I wonder what that was all about’ though Marlowe as he returned to his ‘bumph.’ ‘Odd fellow.’


A tolerably trim Morant had walked down the steep path to X Beach in plenty of time to meet a noon departure for places unknown. Apart from anything else, half his success as a scrounger was due to an intimate knowledge of what was where and this was a perfect opportunity to have a snoop around.

It was as well that he had come early, for his first discovery was that this was not going to be an intimate meal. He recognised most of the little cluster of officers gathered at the foot of the landing stage mostly from briefings, Staff meetings and the like and it looked as though he was going to be ‘hobnobbing’ in some lofty company.

They were for the most part Colonels and Majors with the odd Captain or two. No red tabs here, these men were not the Staff Officers from Divisions or Brigades rather they seemed to be a cross section through that part of the Army that actually worked for a living. He even recognised a friendly face that should have been miles away on one of the Greek islands.

“Drew! You’re looking well lad. Been keeping out of trouble?” A gangling Captain RM in immaculate kaki’s noticed Morant’s arrival with evident pleasure.

“Charlie! You’re not looking too shabby your self old man, how’s a life of ease and comfort? Sick of the dancing girls and Champagne yet?” yesterdays blisters yelped with pain as Charlie Hogg the Adjutant and acting second in command of the Chatham Battalion Royal Marine Light Infantry wrung Morant’s hand.

“Ah, the nurses! You’re not missing much there old fellow. They’d not look twice at a mere Lieutenant, let alone an ugly washed up sailor like yourself. But a dashing Marine with good prospects…. Precious little Champers though. Still it’s go…”

“Prospect’s of what I’d like to know, getting your damned fool head shot off? They can’t be all that fussy it they’re throwing themselves at the likes of you anyway…”

“I resemble that comment! How dare you go throwing Nasturtium’s in my direction.”

“Not half old boy, they’d be the only flowers you ever had... I say, Charlie, any news on Michel Paterson?”

The cheer dropped from the Marines face like the mask it was. “Sorry old boy… I knew you were friends.”


“Infection, that bayonet nicked his… I’ll… Look I did see him on the hospital ship before he went and he was most insistent on thanking you and your lads for their help. The Skipper has written a formal letter to you and to that Gunner chappie, so you’ll probably have it in a day or two…”

“Oh bugger that.” They had lowered their voices to a more private murmur with the change of subject, but Morant’s outburst broke above the babble of conversation and drew some curious glances from the ‘Picnic Party.’ “I…”

“Steady on. Mike said they couldn’t have lasted five minutes in that place with out your fire, if the ruddy Turks had been able to keep their heads up for more than a… Look this has nothing to do with… It’s not ‘compensation’ you idiot. You did the Battalion handsomely there Andrew and it’s only right that some acknowledgment is made, from us man. So be a brick and take it with a smile. Oh and a polite note in reply, alright?”

“Sorry Charlie…”

“Ah Morant, you’re here I see. I think we can get under way now gentlemen. All aboard for the skylark!” If Commander Simpson made a poor impersonation of an Omnibus conductor, he was far more effective at getting the group of officers moving towards the picket boat that was waiting at the stage.

Morant was surprised to see a Midshipman handling the painter and Sub Lieutenant at the helm, but he wasn’t exactly thinking about matters of naval routine as they swung away from the landing stage and headed out to sea.

The Aegean might have been it’s usual placid self, but the mass of seaborne traffic off Gallipoli could set up a wicked little cross sea in places. It was the wash from a passing Destroyer, reflected off a moored Hospital ship and amplified in the wake of Tug that jerked Morant out of his preoccupation. It was also a bit too much for one of the Infantry Officers who made a rapid exit towards the side, the age old mixture of amusement, contempt and sympathy bought Morant back into harmony with his surroundings which was fortunate as a few minutes later Simpson ordered him to “… sort that fellow out and bring him back below if you pleases.”

“Most of you have been on one of these jaunts before.” Simpson stood against the aft bulkhead of the small cabin, swaying gently with the boats motion as he addressed the officers. “For those of you have not, a few rules. Much of that which you will hear today and a great deal of what you will see is and must remain strictly confidential. As far as anyone not present here today is concerned, this is a Picnic on Samothrace. You will not be told the final reason’s behind any of this and for that I do apologise. However in your ignorance rests the safety and well being of the future of this campaign and all who take part in it.

While you are all bound by your Oaths and Commissions and under normal circumstances no more can be asked… In this instance I must impose upon each of you for your personal word on this matter. And I must warn you to say absolutely nothing about any of this under any circumstances what so ever. Only with express sanction of a permanent member of the ‘Committee’ may you speak about today after we return. Have I this assurance?” there was a quite chorus of consent that reflected the very mixed emotions felt by all and while curiosity probably out weighed anything else. This was very potent medicine indeed and to some asking for this additional promise was verging on an insult.

“Thank you gentlemen. It isn’t that we doubt you, only that more than a few lives do indeed depend upon this… After such an introduction, the first of today’s ‘revelations’ might be a touch anticlimactic.

This should come as a surprise to you but as it’s probably the worse kept secret in the Mediterranean I rather doubt it will. We are leaving ANZAC.” Indeed this was greeted with few signs of amazement, though to receive official conformation was certainly unexpected. Simpson continued “The reasons should be obvious to you all, ANZAC is a dead end and a very expensive one at that. As it cannot be linked with our main position to the south and offers no real advantages in any attack that might be made to it’s north, there is no justification to retaining the beach head any longer. Exactly ‘When’ is none of your business and even if I knew myself, which I might add I do not, it would be one of my business either.” At this point Simpson was interrupted by a recently promoted Lieutenant* from the reforming Nelson Battalion.

“Pardon me sir, but they’re not putting us in to replace the Colonials are they? I’d say that…”

“Thank you…” Simpson stared the young man down. “This is not a ‘Chinese Parliament’ and to the best on my knowledge there are no moves towards employing the RND anywhere on ANZAC at the moment. Rather gentlemen we are going to ANZAC as Ex vulgus adveho sapientia.” This time it was an elderly Major from the Indian Army who broke in.

“I canna speak for all, but I dinna ken yon Latin from a cane so I dunna think shell fire will improve ma conjugation…”

“But it will do wonders for you concentration old chap!” quipped Charlie.

This time Simpson didn’t object to the interruption, he allowed the tide of good humour to ebb and flow before he continued. “For those of you with the good Majors grasp of the classics, your purpose here today is to inform and provide advice individually as required. The drill for this evolution is pleasantly simple. You will wait at a discreet distance until called, answer the questions asked as succinctly as possible, withdraw and promptly forget the whole thing. Your part should in all probability last no more than an hour or two.

Unfortunately it will be necessary to spend a good portion of the remainder of the day ashore to maintain the pretence of a pleasant afternoon of wine and cheese amid the olive groves, but how you amuse your selves until the boat departs is your affair. Again remembering not to compromise our prime purpose.

I’m no expert in these matters, however I have been reliably assured by those who are, that ANZAC is the most sophisticated work of entrenchment in modern history. I rather think this war will not be over by Christmas and I dare say you gentlemen might encounter trenches again before too long, so perhaps a few hours studying the position ashore might not be wasted? Thank you.”

“Well what do you think of all that then?” Charlie whispered in Morant’s ear.

“Not much to tell you the truth.” Morant replied in a low mumble. “I understand about pulling out of ANZAC alright but why on earth tell us? If secrecy is so ruddy important it seem like… Well…”

“Because young Morant…” Simpson must have had the ears of a cat to catch their conversation over the hum of other voices. “You’re bound to find out anyway. Every man ashore knows it and your not here for you good looks and sparkling conversation man. There is more than blood and bone between those flopping great ears of yours, you’d have worked it out soon enough.” If Simpson was a generally humourless man, he didn’t believe in wasting opportunities for instructing his subordinates. “Security is like an onion, you peel it in layers. But there is no point tying to take a portion of a layer or a slice out of it, the whole thing just comes apart in your hand. It’s better to have the whole layer off and be done with it. There are precious few things worse than some chap who is too cleaver by half. You have been told enough to appreciate the grave nature of this matter, so now you know there is an onion you can avoid the tears that might come from peeling it further.”


Morant had never seen ANZAC of course he had heard all about it, Marlowe had spent most of May some where amid the maze of ravines and ridges with his battery and Gallipoli was after all a fairly small world. But he had not expect this, no not this. He had been staring at the southern end of the same range of hills since he had first landed and had thought they were formidable. He was familiar with the Krithia Dere, the great gully that ran up from the top of Morto Bay almost half way across the peninsula like the ditch of some ancient fortress. But seen side on, the same range moved beyond merely ‘formidable’ and began approaching ‘impassable.’

It wasn’t the hight of the ridges that was so impressive, the peak at Achi Baba was no more than 700 feet but that it reached it from sea level in less than a thousand yards. The first line of erosion scared ridges rose straight off the back of the beach to about 200 feet then sloped more gently to the summit and every where he looked Morant saw some sign of men.

“Lovely isn’t it.” Charlie had joined Morant on deck to watch their approach. “We were up along that ridge there in the middle and along to the right, see where that bomb fight is…” Hogg shuddered.

“I’d forgotten you were here before old man.”

“I haven’t.” he said simply and added quietly. “God I hate this place.”

“Sorry.” Murmured Morant.

“That all right old bean, no harm done. See that lump there on the skyline to the left? That’s Baby 700, the spur that runs off from there diagonally towards us is Russell’s Top and Walkers Ridge runs from there north-west down to the sea. We hold Walker’s and Russell’s, Abdul has Baby and the bit that joins Russell’s to Baby 700 is The Nek. Pardon me.” Charlie stepped back to the Subbie commanding the boat and borrowed a telescope. “Here have a look at The Nek.” He handed Morant the glass.

“Ours or theirs?” was Morant’s only comment as he studied the hundred and fifty odd square yards.

“Both. Mostly their’s of late so I understand.”

This put the Paterson’s raid into a different perspective, “But it’s…”

“Like attacking an upside down frying pan from the handle.” Finished Hogg.

“With Russell’s being the handle I see…”

“Correct. Sweep right, you see that ridge behind Russell’s? Not the main one on the horizon, that’s Mortar Ridge, Johnny holds that. The next one down towards us, running north-south yes? It meets the foot of Baby 700 just around from The Nek at Pope’s Hill, well that ridge is our front line. The Gully behind Russell’s is Monash Valley, see all those trenches on Mortar Ridge running south from Baby? The ones that look like wrinkles on an old mans forehead. That’s the Chessboard, it looks right down Monash Valley, sweeps the lot. May I?” he took the telescope and had a quick look before handing it back. “Ta. From here you can see Quinn’s Post just to the south, past the end of Russell’s… See it? Above the big spoil pile. It looks like boys have been busy swinging the banjo up there.”

When Morant indicated he could make out Quinn’s, Charlie resumed his role as tour guide. “Well Quinn’s is the northern end of German Officer’s Ridge and the end of our southern line. Running south along GOR you have Courtney’s and Steele’s Posts. 'Posts' becase we didn't hold the whole line, just those three spots, but that could well have changed by now. From Quinn’s down there’re all between fifteen and sixty odd yards from the Turk’s, it’s just one long bomb fight. Then there’s a bit of a gap, say seventy yards for Wire Gully, then up again onto Johnston’s Jolly and across to Lone Pine and so down Bolton’s Ridge to the sea again. Wire Gully and Monash Valley meet up at the foot of Russell’s Top and become Shrapnel Valley. You wouldn’t guess it from here, but Lone Pine and the Jolly are actually the edge of a plateau with a bit of a gully almost separating them. Probably the biggest bit of flat ground in the place, the lines are a fair way apart there, up about a hundred yards if I remember rightly.”

Morant had followed this line in his telescope, picking out the points he had heard about and filling in the blanks. Now he lowed the glass and asked. “What’s behind Russell’s Top? There along the ridge between Quinn’s Post and Baby 700…” the wince with which his friend received the question made him regret having ever spoken.

“A gap. Between Pope’s hill at the head of Monash Valley and Quinn’s there’s a six hundred yard gap. The ridge is too low you see, the Chessboard, Baby 700, Russell’s and Quinn’s all look right into it. No one can hold that that bit of ground, though god knows we tried, god knows…”


Morant’s interview with the nameless committee was mercifully brief. After he entered the cramped dugout that already held four men and would have been hard pressed to hold three in any comfort, Simpson had introduced him as the “Proprietor of the only general delivery lorry on Cape Hellas.” He was asked about movement between certain points, his opinion on the new ’roads’ across the whole area not just the sections he had helped with. A map was produced, lines or amendments sketched in and searching questions asked about the difference in mobility between his Tender and Armoured Cars. The brisk nature of his interrogation was infectious and Morant answered some of the very odd questions with honest fluency that did not go unnoticed.

About the only issue he equivocated on was where the tender could go as opposed to the Rolls Royce’s. As he explained for the same weight, the Tender had a lower centre of gravity and much better visibility, both of which made route finding easier. Quite often it would be a case of ‘Suck it and See.’ He received instructions to ‘Suck’ several areas and report what ever he ‘Saw’ to Commander Simpson as soon as possible.

From his perspective Morant was left wondering why he had been dragged all the way up here to be asked questions about his own ‘backyard’ as it were. The only event of any note as far as he was concerned was about half way through his session a hulking great man wearing nothing but ragged shorts, his boots and a suntan flung open the canvas flap and asked “Oi! Any o’ you lot seen me billy?” The only reaction apart from a stunned silence was a bearded Colonel who said calmly “No Bruce and bugger off back to Woolloomooloo. Sorry my batman.” he explained after the apparition had vanished.


* A Naval ‘Lieutenant’ serving in an Infantry formation like the RN Battalions held roughly the position of a ‘Captain’ in the Army, that is a company commander. This didn’t hold as neatly in the RNAS where there was no army analog, Naval ranks and positions were distributed on a more nautical basis. Thus a ‘Section’ of Armoured Cars to use ‘Morant’s Mob’ as an example, rated a Lt. (Army Captain) or a Sub Lt. (Army Lt.) to command it and a ‘Squadron’ had a Lt. Commander or Commander (Army Major/Lt Colonel/Colonel) because it was viewed as a minor ship of war. The same ‘Squadron’ would have been seen by the Army as roughly a ‘Company’ and so been commanded by a Captain. Sorry, just thought I better clear that up. :)


Chapter 21

Hell Hath No Fury…

26th of June 1915

Morant emerged from the stifling dugout dying for a smoke and a cup of tea. The cigarette was no problem. His mother had given him two fine Dunhill “Military Pattern” cigarette cases as a departure present. While they might have been plain to look at and fairly hefty, the silver cases were almost water proof (he’d never tried one out so couldn’t say for certain) and he had promised faithfully to carry both of them at all times. He was rather less certain about his chances of a cuppa. If water rationing was tight on Hellas, it was positively draconian on ANZAC and if he’d know this was his eventual destination he would have bought his water bottle.

He'd been the second man called in to face the Committee and when he had left his companions they had been milling about looking for a place to settle into. Now he found the rest of the officers had gathered about another dugout twenty yards away. By the time he was half way there his head was wreathed in fragrant smoke and he had noticed not only were his fellow travellers sitting comfortably in the shade of an awning but they were sipping something that certainly looked liquid.

It was a pleasant surprise to find Commander Simpson hadn’t been completely untruthful when he had invited them all for a ‘Picnic.’ If nothing else the Committee was organised, they might have dragged him twenty odd miles to ask questions he could have answered just as easily from ‘home.’ But while he was being quizzed about the mobility of armoured vehicles on Cape Hellas. Someone had unloaded a four gallon can of water and a box of sandwiches from the boat that had dropped them in the lee of Hell Spit and Morant was pleased to note there was still a reasonable verity left for him to choose from. Even better, they had hardly started to go stiff around the edges.

Roast beef and pickle seemed like the best option, there were some devilled egg left and quite a few plain egg and mayonnaise, but he wasn’t going to touch anything that rich, not if it had been stewing in an ammunition box for a few hours anyway.

They had to fight the flies for every mouthful, but after half an hour of contented chewing, slurping and general gossiping all the sandwiches and half the water had gone. There was a mutual if unspoken desire to reserve the rest of their water for the end of the day to wash the taste of ANZAC out of their mouths. Sitting about doing nothing was starting to pall, when Charlie walked out of the committee meeting and strolled over to Morant.

“Come on old fella me lad, let’s go for a wander.” He extended a hand down and lifted Morant to his feet. “Any one else care to join us?” he asked the rest of the group. No one did.

“Andrew old boy.” Charlie said when they had moved around the side of a small spur. “You’ve spent a bit of time on the line but please don’t take this amiss. ANZAC is different, watch me and listen. If some one tells you something, then for god sake do it, alright?” Morant nodded his acceptance of this, but Hogg continued. “No, really old boy. You don’t turn a corner with out checking, you never leave the path if there is one and you go nowhere where there isn’t. Just round this corner is Shrapnel Valley, last time I was here men were still being killed by snipers there every day. The ethic here is a little different to Hellas, officers can duck and run if the have too. In these parts you don’t get bravery points for walking through a barrage, they just think your stupid. No one here will have any respect for you anyway so don’t worry about looking a fool or being cautious.” He smiled to soften these last words but Morant could see that Charlie wasn’t pulling his leg.

“Alright old man, I’ll follow your lead and duck when ever I feel the need.”

Charlie had seen far too many men do too many stupid things to believe a word his friend had said, but he had tried, no one could say he hadn’t. “Just remember Andrew this is the easiest place in the world to die.”

Charlie didn’t lead them into Shrapnel Valley, rather they walked north along the beach, then inland into the chaotic muddle of little spurs and wash-a-ways that ran off the seaward face of Russell’s top. True to his own advice, Charlie stuck to the well trodden paths that wondered in odd loops and zigzags, sometimes dipping into shallow trenches, ducking behind berms or cut through small ridges.

Morant wasn’t exactly lost, the hills offered plenty of landmarks and so their general direction and location was reasonably easy to track, but it was a maze that obeyed only the logic of the sniper. As they walked for all the world naked and exposed along the lip of a narrow little ravine that seemed to offer perfect cover. Morant could see the bleaching remains of earlier pedestrians who had been mistaken in that same assumption.

“’Lovers dip’ they used to call that one.” remarked Charlie.

Eventually they reached the foot of Walker’s Ridge and began the slow climb to the top. Half way up the view out to sea was already a spectacular contrast to the dusty slopes they were walking on. Charlie collapsed onto a well worn bench that had been caved out of the hillside with a grunt and muttered something about ‘getting old’. The Aegean was a brilliant blue that seemed to make even the dun blob of Samothrace sparkle on the horizon. “Best sunsets I’ve seen in my life here. Like a Turner done by God, if that makes any sense. Oh I forgot to ask, are you lousy?”

“Not really, just a few fleas. Though I expect I will be in due course.” answered Morant.

“That’s alright then, just as long as you realise. Not much further to the top.”

It wasn’t until they reached the crest of Walker’s Ridge that they started to meet other people in any numbers and Morant soon found Charlie’s words had been all too true. No one paid them the slightest attention, the two officers might well have been invisible for all the notice they attracted. Hogg borrowed a periscope from a sentry, his Globe and Laurel cap badge seemed to earn him a grudging acceptance, but Morant’s Royal Navy insignia cut absolutely no ice (if ice could be imagined in such a place) with the locals.

The view from Walker’s was quite interesting. A mile or two to the north west they could see the flat lands behind Suvla Bay, while to the north a spur from Baby 700, two or three hundred yards away cut across their line of sight like a curtain. “A better place for a landing over there I would have thought” said Morant looking at Suvla.

“Yes, some say that’s where we were supposed to have landed in the first place. It wouldn’t surprise me, even now it’s hardly defended as far as we can tell. The Kiwi’s have had patrols out as far as that village over there. You’ll have heard the whispers of course?”

“What, that we’re going to land up there? Yes, it’s what all the stores people say when ever you ask for something, ‘No, it’s reserved of Suvla.’ Or..” Morant added “Salonika.”

Salonika? Really? I hadn’t heard that one lately. The Canal Zone is the current favourite with my lot. The latest I’ve come across, is that the infantry from here will be withdrawn to cover the Canal Zone and the ANZAC Mounted Brigade with our Yeomanry Brigade will be landed up there.” Charlie gestured towards Suvla. “Along with the 52nd to hold the beach head while the Horse make a dash for the straits…”

“Good lord, that sounds almost sensible. That is, if the cavalry could be landed quickly enough. I say, could that be why those fellows down there were so interested in my… ” discretion prevented Morant from completing his question.

“Now that’s an idea! How…” Morant cut Charlie off with a frown and a glance at the sentry.

“Pardon me, but is there a place where we might obtain a better view of the Suvla Plain?” Morant enquired of the sentinel.

“Five bay’s doon hun chew kun see the whole blasted place.” The man remarked casually.

The view from the fifth trench bay towards the sea was very good indeed, they didn’t even need to use periscopes as a sort of tunnel had been dug through the parapet for the benefit of a big telescope on a tripod. Morant’s conclusion after twenty minutes of study was that it might be possible. There were parts that looked perfectly suitable for motor traffic broken by ground that looked rather rough. He would need to have a look from another angle and see if he could get his hands on some of those new fangled aerial photographs.

As there was nothing further to be said or done with out more information, they continued their tour of Walkers’ Ridge, eventually reaching The Nek where Walker’s and Russell’s met. The Nek looked just as ugly up close as it had from the sea and the entrenchments were just as intricate as Simpson had implied. Ten feet deep in places with overhead traverses like archways three feet thick and as many as three different levels of fire step, floor and walkways.

From Russell’s Top, Charlie showed Morant the feature he had been so reluctant to name on the boat. If Baby 700 was the palm of a mans left hand stretched out across the map with it’s wrist to the north-east. Then Mortar Ridge, the highest of the five spurs, would be the long and misshapen little finger pointing off to the south-south-east and the unnamed spur that had blocked Morant’s view of the Suvla Plain would be the thumb sticking out due west. The Turks held these two fingers and the palm while the three middle finger dangled into ANZAC.

The pointer finger was The Nek, which inturn branched out into Russell’s Top and Walker’s Ridge (Russell's was the next highest after Mortar Ridge). The middle finger had been amputated at the first knuckle and its stump was Pope’s Hill which was about level with Russell's Top.

Dead Mans Ridge was the ring finger. The lowest of the five and running almost due south. It was more of a saddle than a ridge, spanning the seven hundred odd yards between Baby 700 and German Officers Ridge where the precarious lodgments of Quinn’s, Courtney’s and Steele’s Posts fought a continuous battle with their counterparts across the crest.

In theory Dead Mans Ridge formed part of the ANZAC line, but no man stood watch there. From Russell’s Top Morant could look down and see quite plainly that trenches could never be deep enough for protection on Dead Mans.

Towards the Chessboard which was the series of Turkish trenches that lined the face of Mortar Ridge, Dead Man’s fell a few gentle feet to form the head of Legge’s Valley which then widened and deepened as it came to German Officers Ridge to the south, forming one the main Turkish support areas. However on the ANZAC side Dead Mans Ridge plummeted into Monash Valley so steeply that Morant was hard pressed to believe any man could climb it. A small spur ran back from the centre of Dead Mans into Monash forming a steep and shallow little gully that Charlie explained was known as Bloody Angle.

Both sides had tried to occupy this ground. The Turks with the advantage of hight from the Chessboard and from Baby 700 could turn any attack into a shambles with a storm of cross fire, then counter attack from the dead ground and clear away any defenders in a rush of infantry and bayonets. But from ANZAC, Russell’s Top and Quinn’s Post gave the same command. Thus while the Turk’s could clear Dead Mans Ridge they couldn’t stay there either lest they be wiped away too. Stalemate.

What Charlie didn’t explain to Morant, was that the ‘Dead Man’ in question had actually been his ‘Dead Men.’ Royal Marines, that had littered that bullet torn slope for two days until one night a man had climbed the ridge and kicked his dead mates down the slope to safe ground where they could be buried.*


On ANZAC distances were deceptively short. Monash Valley from the end of Russell’s Top to Quinn’s Post was only four hundred yards across. But in an enclave that was about a mile long by two thirds wide, there were 11,000 yards of manned trenches. A longer front than Cape Hellas (7,000 yards). By the time they had walked around and climbed up to visit Steele’s Post which at 60 yards from the nearest Turk, was considered as far along German Officers Ridge as it was safe for any ‘tourist’ to go. It was almost time from them to start heading back to the boat.

If The Nek had been entrenchments on a lavish scale, Steele’s was more like a Swiss watch. Tiny and intricate, a mass of overhead traverses (several of which Morant noticed had bits of bodies sticking out them). Every curve and dip in the floor line exactly calculated to extract the maximum protection from fire that could come from almost any direction. The machineguns that defended German Officers Ridge were over on Russell’s Top. There was no room for them in the Posts and they had a better field of fire from the other side of Monash Valley so friendly fire was as much an issue as any Turkish sniper.

It was in the third (reserve) line at Steele’s that they were accosted by a tired and shabby looking officer. “Marine’s ‘ay. What battalion?” he ignored Morant.

Chatham” replied Charlie.

“So you’ll have been here before then.”

“Once or twice.”

“Fair enough.” The man smiled through a weeks growth. “She’s a bit different now I expect.”

“I noticed coming in that you chaps had been busy. I’d have though you too close for mines?”

“Yeah” he laughed. “‘bout two ‘undred pound is the biggest they reckon we can use here, not much bigger than ruddy crackers. Most of it's replacing trenches with tunnels, much safer to have a few feet of good dirt overhead. Look mate, this is as far as you can go at the moment. The gentlemen up the road” he jerked his head towards Courtney’s and Quinn’s. “Are in no condition to receive visitors at the present. Mo-hamad is a bit on the frisky side today.” He winked. “But if you hang about here I can promise you a good show, Billy Sing will be starting work in half a mo.” He nodded in a friendly fashion to Hogg and went about his business.

“Who’s Billy Sing?” Asked Morant as quietly as he could in the incessant din of rifle fire and bombs.

“Not a clue old boy.”


“’Scues me mate. You’re in our possie.” A tall softly, spoken man in a ratty slouch hat addressed the two officers but spoke only to Charlie.

“Awfully sorry old boy, pardon us. Come on Andrew let’s give the gentlemen room to work. Mr Sing I presume?”

“No mate, Idriess. Ion Idriess. Me friends call me Jack.” He stuck out a grimy paw. “I’m Billy’s spotter.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance Jack. Charlie Hogg and this is Andrew Morant.”

For the first time an ANZAC took notice of Morant. “Any relation?” asked Idriess as he shook Morant’s hand.

“Relation to whom?” asked Charlie, who had almost forgotten Morant owned a tongue of his own.

“The Breaker man, the Breaker!” replied Idriess in apparent bewilderment at this ignorance. “Harry Morant.”

“I’ve a distant cousin called Harold.” confirmed Morant. “If he’s the man you’re referring to, I wouldn’t know. We’ve never met and my people never speak of him.” Morant smiled and shrugged.

“Ah well, I’ve not come across many ‘Morant’s’ in my time, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt there.”

“The benefit of what exactly.” Billy Sing was a short, half Chinese ex milkman from Proserpine in Queensland with a goatee and moustache. “Come on Jack, let the dog see the rabbit.” He ignored the Englishmen.

“Right you are Bill.” Idriess raised a small periscope above the parapet and scanned the Turkish lines. “I’ve had a word with the lads and they reckon there’s a bloke or me’be two just under the Jew’s Snoz who’s been bloody accurate today. So that’s about three hundred as the crow flies and ‘bout a hundred an’ fifty feet up.” A bullet spat dust from parapet. “Gotcha!”

Billy Sing had been pulling sandbags out of the parapet to expose a little tunnel that had been cut through the cover and boxed in with wood. Now he worked a round into the chamber and slid his rifle through muttering ‘bloody trenches.’ “I’m set he informed Idriess. “Where is he.”

Idriess directed him to a small portion of the Chessboard opposite Bloody Angle. “… he’s got some bloody good cover, but he’s kick’n up dust every time he fires and the bugger’s got no patience.”

Sing called out “Ready up the line!” and several distant voices yelled back their conformation. “Count us in Jack.”

Idriess never stopped scanning with his periscope as he boomed “One! Two! Three!” On three he had swung back to watch the target and five shots cracked out from the Australian lines. Four had been aimed at nothing in particular, the fifth shot was Sing’s. “Good for line, down about two clicks I say” and he put the periscope up again and began scanning then counting down. It took two more volleys before Idriess pulled out a note book and started jotting. “Right then, next customer.”


As they started down the back of German Officers Ridge, Morant discovered the Shrapnel Valley was well named.

“4.7’s” remarked Charlie as he pulled Morant into the shelter of an artificial overhang. “from the blasted Olive Grove I’ve no doubt.” As at Hellas the Turkish barrage consisted almost entirely of shrapnel shells and Morant was surprised to see the canisters falling to the ground after they had spewed out their load of balls. He’d never witnesses a barrage from ‘above’ as it were, the shells were fused with the precision of long practice to burst well below the ridge tops.

They waited out the barrage with the help of Morant cigarette cases and Charlie’s hip flask, taking the opportunity to strike up a conversation with pale and dusty pioneer who was marooned with them.

“You’ll be from ‘ellas then.” he asked as he lit one of Morant’s smokes. “What’s it like?”

“I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s better than this” said Morant with some conviction.

“Now that wouldn’t be ‘ard. Not much of a place this, she might be a bit on the dry side but this grit” he ran a hand through the dust. “wouldn’t grow a bleed’n thing.”

“Farmer.” Diagnosed Charlie.

“For me sins” agreed the Australian. “an’ I pity any poor bugger what’s gotta live off this sh1t. If this is Turkey I wonder why they bother fight’n for it. Though I’ll grant ye’ it’s easy'nuff to dig. Me cobber’s miner, an' ‘e reckons if this dirt payed ‘alf a penny weight a ton they’d walk out o’ ‘ere million-airs in a week. Gold you understand.”

“So you’re tunnelling I take it?” said Morant.

“Yeah, it’s a good wicket. A bit o’ hard yakka but it’s about as safe as it gets ‘ere. ‘Cept in the mine drives of course. It’s mostly shallow stuff. Nah, the worst thing we have ta deal with is hitting the odd grave now that gets a bit rich I can tell you…”

“You can’t be that deep then?”

“Nah mate, eight or ten foot mostly. Just deep enough to clip the bottom of an’ old trench.”

“God help you if Johnny ever gets any high explosive then.” Murmured Charlie.

“Amen ta that.” Replied the digger. “But we’ve been ‘ere two months and hardly seen a single round of it.” The talk drifted on for another twenty minutes as the 44lb shells continued to crack over the valley.

There was no question now that they were going to be late for the boat home and while Morant was tempted to rush down the slope and be off. Charlie insisted they be cautious “Wouldn’t be the first time they stopped for a smoko.” Agreed the digger.

When they eventually reached the floor of Shrapnel Valley and parted from their acquaintance who ‘ ‘ad to see a bloke about some Zackies.’ They were a good half an hour behind time, but although it was a scant quarter mile back to the beach Charlie stopped at head of Monash Valley and left Morant safely tucked behind a sandbag barricade with orders to ‘stay.’ If Morant felt not at all like a dog, he didn’t think this was either the time or place to mention it. He just watched in silence as Hogg vanished up Monash, ducking and weaving between the barricades had been built across the valley floor like baffles to stop the Turks on the Chessboard shooting anything that moved in the ravine.

Looking around Shrapnel Valley, of all the many words Morant could use to describe it ‘Deserted’ seemed the most appropriate. There might have been fifty men in the acre or so of the valley he could see, so it was hardly empty. However the walls were a rookery of little one and two man scrapes and the whole place gave the impression that it was normally teeming with life.

The Turkish battery had obviously taken an extended coffee break and they were a good hour late by the time Charlie returned. If he had been a little subdued since their arrival on ANZAC he was almost morose now, merely grunting at Morant as he left Monash and started walking slowly down Shrapnel.

It was Morant who first broke the silence as they left the gully. “I say, there’s that ship again!”

“What ship?” Hogg seemed to snap out of his lethargy.

“That one! Say twenty thousand odd tons, five turrets and painted a fetching shade of grey. Dreadnoughtus Britanicus, vulgarly known as a battleship. That one.” Morant might have been a touch acidic but Charlie didn’t seem to notice.

“Oh yes. I see what you mean, haven’t see one of those in a while. I wonder what it’s doing here.”


*So far I’ve been unable to find this Marine’s name, else it would be printed in letters of gold.

Ion “Jack” Idriess later became a well known author and penned one of the most readable Australian books about WWI. Billy Sing of the 5th Light Horse survived the war and lived quietly in Brisbane until he died peacefully in his sleep in 1942. His final tally was well over 200 men before he left ANZAC and that increased later in France to an estimated 300+.

Chapter 22

Snide Remarks?

26th of June 1915

“Ah Tasker, there you are. Keeping up with the mess accounts what?”

“Yes sir.” Tasker looked up from a pile of bar chits for No. 3 Flying Squadron RNAS and leapt to his feet.

“Good man, I understand you took a Tabby for a test this morning yes? Everything tickety boo?”

“Oh yes sir. Marvellous sir.”

“Ah, then you’d best take her for another turn what. Say a submarine patrol up to Nabrunesi and back? Puddle about over the shipping for an hour, then home in time for tea. Just the ticket for a young fellow on a fine day.”

In 1914 the Sopwith Tabloid was every schoolboys fantasy Christmas present, having won the Schneider Cup in April it was probably the fastest aircraft in the world. By mid 1915 it was more ‘Scut’ the ‘Scout.’ With no machinegun, observer or a bombload worth mentioning, only the uninformed were impressed if a pilot claimed to fly a ‘Schneider’ or a ‘Cup Racer’ but as most of the feminine world fell under this description there was still a little mystique in the Tabby. Of course in 1915 no one knew that the ‘Tabloid Formula’ would evolve through the Baby, Strutter, Pup, Triplane, Camel, and Snipe to be one of the greatest fighter families of the war.

While the Tabby might be employed as a hack to spare more valuable airframes, to a pilot who had spent three months flying as an observer and gunner with only just enough hours behind the controls to keep current, even a clapped out old Sopwith was a chariot of the gods. And this to be his first combat patrol! A chance to open the batting at last.

“Off you go then man, chop-chop.”

The realisation that he had just spent fifteen dazed seconds grinning inanely at his Squadron commander snapped Tasker into the present like a bucket of cold water.

“Yes sir!” he yelped and took off like a scalded cat.

“Oh Tasker!” Commander Samson called.

“Sir.” Tasker slid to a halt and about faced.

“Four, twenty pound Cooper’s should do you well enough.”


“And Tasker.” this time Michel had managed three paces.


“Don’t bring them back there’s a good chap. If you can’t find a submarine, give some Turk a jolly headache what.”

“Yes sir!”

Not counting his abrupt halts while taking his leave from Commander Samson, Tasker only stopped running twice between his briefing and his plane. A quick visit to the latrine to ensure his bladder was empty and a few seconds in his tent to collect flying kit and pistol belt. Another five minutes of eternity to clip on the bombs, turn through three blades to prime the 80hp Gnome and “Contact!” ‘This is probably my reward for clipping that Taube the other day’ thought Tasker contentedly as skimmed across the bright blue Aegean.


Tony Simms wasn’t sure exactly how to take life in the Navy. The pay and food were better, the tobacco was cheaper and wonder of wonders the rum was both free and regular. It was all the little irritations that irked him, they didn’t do much saluting in the Belgrave and they never even tried to do any square bashing, so the formal aspects of the service had made little impact on life aboard. He just couldn’t see the point to washing perfectly good paintwork or changing his sock’s on a daily basis. The old tub had been sailing around just as well for years without her crew bathing and changing their bedding more then once a week and as for shaving! Scraping his face was one daily ritual Tony had dropped with relief as soon as he had gone to sea. Giving face, hands and armpits the once over on a Sunday had been the general rule now they almost needed a full time barber.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom of course. After the dockyard matey’s had left, the engine room crew had been able to move out of the forecastle and that had reduced both the overcrowding and the aggravation forward. The navy fellows had been easy enough to get along with and since almost no one slept below anyway these days, a new routine had sorted it’s self out quickly. Mostly the work fell into two categories, the ship still ran Merchant Navy style under the thinnest veneer of RN formality. Potato's were peeled, coal humped from No. 4 hold to the bunkers and the bow and stern were kept in approximate alignment with the same lack of fuss that had prevailed under the Red Duster.

Where the Pussers Navy did run things was on the ‘Weather Deck.’ The Superstructure gleamed with all the love of immaculate paint that drove executive officers into raptures of love (or was it lust?), brass shone like gold and the rope work was as ‘tiddily’ as the Royal Yacht. In general the original crew left the navy to get on with it, unless they were hijacked to wield a swab or a paint brush they confined them selves to the 'iron‘ deck as much as possible.

About the only thing that did bring the two together was gunnery and of course here the navy had the advantage. But this was slowly changing under the careful hand of the ‘Buffer.’ PO Quick might not have been a typical product of Whale Island, being rather more introspective than the usual ‘Guts and Gaiters’ gunnery types. Which was probably just as well all things considered. But as a regular with more years in the ‘Andrew’ than he cared to count, Quick was used to taking scruffy material and turning out proper seamen.

Gun drill was a twice daily event that every man looked forward to, they might not have fired many live rounds but they had the dummies fairly flying after a week of expert tuition. As was only natural the original Belgrave’s had started out lugging ammo and nothing more, by the third day some of the brighter ones were shifted about and mingled with the navy lads and after a week the crews were thoroughly mixed.

Tony had ambitions on the starboard 6pdr and he'd polished and titivated it with more vigour than he had ever shown toward anything else that couldn’t be eaten, drunk or slept on. Although the bosun had warned Quick that Simms was ‘as thick as shite and twice as useless.’ The Buffer had detected a glimmer of potential there and as a man who believed in making the best of what was available. He’d assigned Tony to the port Maxim where he could put his skills with a polishing rag to good use, hopefully pick up a few rudiments of the trade and if he didn’t, then he was in a position to cause the lest harm.

This might not have exactly pleased Simms, the Maxim wasn’t a ‘real gun’ like the 3pdrs that had been remounted fore and aft or the 6pdrs aft on either beam and it bore no comparison what so ever with the pair of 4” (No. 5 hold had produced a second carefully packed away in a crate still marked ‘Elswick’) mounted on either side just behind the bridge. But being the No. 3 (on a two man gun) was better than passing ammo up a ladder from the depths of a hold.


“Ach so. She is there just as we were informed. Bearing on… Now. Range… call it 4,000 meters. ‘Asparagus’ down.” A mechanic tugged on the switch cord and the periscope slid into it's well. “25 meters, 4 knots.” U 21, dipped slightly as it planed down from periscope depth. “Target course 010 degrees, speed between 8 and 10 knots.”

“Fat and stupid, oh lovely.” Muttered the chief engineer to himself as he bent over his valves.

“One Dreadnought, identity unknown, 'King George the Fifth' or 'Orion' class. Five turrets, two funnels, tripod mast, no casemate guns under the forecastle.” Otto Hersing turned and snatched a book of silhouettes from over the chart table and rifled through the pages. “Note.” He addressed the funkmaat who was keeping the running diary. “She does not match the profile we have for either class.” he closed his eye’s recalling the ship he had seen in the sunlight then returned to the book. “Nor do her differences match any of those we have recorded for any ship of these two classes.” He paused again. There would be other opportunities for noting the exact differences later, ‘but better to do it now. Later might be a little busy.’ He thought.

“Parts of her upper works are slightly different and the funnels are equal like a Revenge class. The bridge structure is… Lower. Small guns possibly for anti-aircraft defence mounted on B and X turrets, fewer boats on booms but a pair of sea boats on the starboard side. This might indicate recent dockyard work possibly repair. That will do.” He finished.

“Course for a 70 degree 800 metre attack, 050 degrees sir, speed 4 knots. 90 degree attack, 055 degrees 5.8 knots Herr Kaptain.” Reported the coxswain from his blizzard of calculations.


“Twenty five almost twenty six minutes at 4 knots, seventeen to eighteen at 5.8 knots sir”

Hersing juggled time, distance, light and battery charge. “6 knots 060 degrees.” He ordered. “We shall be early… After all a lady should not be kept waiting on her wedding night.”


The main complaint against the Tabby, at least with the two early examples 3 Squadron had on strength, was the engines. There was nothing wrong with the 80hp Gnome, poetry had been written about the joys of flying behind these motors and as a rotary they were as smooth as silk. But somewhere in the clash of harmonics generated by that mass of whirring steel, there was a particular vibration that stuck a chord in the Tabloid.

At anything close to full power the little biplane rattled like pea in a drum. A pilot could stand a spot of vibration on take off and the difference between 70 and 90mph wasn’t really here or there, it was just that the aircraft were not as resilient as the pilots. The plane might not have exactly shaken it’s self to pieces, even if rigging wires snapped, bolts worked lose and copper petrol pipes cracked. It just came very close to doing so and unfortunately about the only thing absolutely certain to make a Gnome play the fool was too throttle it back. Wide open the French engine was a very model of reliability, close the air leaver and it would turn petulant in a flash. Needless to say this wasn’t the best news if one was flying over water, something seaplanes were in the habit of doing fairly often.

Tasker wasn’t that worried though. He listened to his engine carefully enough, giving it a touch of juice now and again to keep it happy. But it was mainly inexperience that left his mind free to roam the paths of glory to be. Dreams of German submarines and Turkish counter attacks vanquished by his quartet of bombs had a far higher place in his imagination than a good pilots natural fear of flying over water behind a single and some what dubious engine. ‘Anyway’ he though when a nasty bust of spluttering distracted him monetarily from daring deeds. ‘There’s no shortage of shipping down there to pick a chap up. There might even be a chance of another Tabue, perhaps even one of those new Enidecker’s…’

If Tasker had spent less time thinking about aerial combat and more time doing his job, there was a chance he might have noticed the faint feather of a periscope as he cruised past ANZAC at 2,000 feet. In fact if he had pulled the Bowden cable to release his bombs at the exact moment he had been slipping two rounds of chainshot into his Holland & Holland Aero Gun, he could well have frightened more than just a few fish.


Four Cooper bombs would certainly have scared the pants of Tony Simms, so would any other indication of submarine activity. He had heard the tiny plane bumble past on it’s way north but it was far from the first Tabloid he had come across, they were a regular sight around the coasts of Britain and France at lest if you were a collier sailing in convoy. No, Simms just stepped out onto the wing of the bridge, recognised the Tabby for what it was, nodded to the lookout and walked back into the wheel house to finish polishing the binnacle.


Nibrunesi Point was the tip of the southern arm of Suvla Bay and although Tasker could see what he took to be a few scattered Turkish positions in the area, there was no sign of any other aircraft.

To celebrate reaching the far end of his first patrol he reached up and saluted the heavens with a round from his Aero Gun. As an air gunner he’d fired the conventional H&H shotguns they had been issued with, the islands had a fair number of snipe and a sort of oriental partridge that tasted quite well in pies. But he’d not as yet tried the fixed version. It wasn’t exactly a thrilling experience. Hardly any ‘Bang’ and the plane barely shuddered. So he opened the breach, watching the little flaps close over the muzzles to stop the slipstream blowing the cartridges out of the gun and reloaded. Both barrels together where a little more impressive. There still wasn’t much of a ‘Bang’ from the shot, but the aircraft gave a sort of ‘whang’ like a violin string being plucked and he felt a definite twitch run up through the joystick.

He still had plenty of fuel and his bombs so he pulled around in a snappy bank and began to zigzag back down the coast.


“Bearing… Thus! Range 1,000 metres. Down! Target speed 8 knots.”

“We are early Herr Kaptain…”

“So? If you must state the obvious, kindly keep such observation to you self. Course?”

“Sir Torpedo Angle or Director Angle?”

“Call me old fashioned, Director Angle - I like my fish to run straight.”

From the speed with which the coxswain replied either he had either calculated both or he had a good idea of his commanders opinions. “ For a 90 degree attack, maintain current speed and steer 085 degrees sir. Director Angle 13 degrees oh 3 minutes sir.”

“Good. Steer 085 degrees hold revolutions and depth. Confirm torpedos to run at 6 metres and open bow doors. Set DA 13 degrees, zero 3 minutes. Time?”

“Two minutes sir.”

“Very good, inform me in one minute.”



It might have been a little boring but Samson had been right. This was a splendid way to spend an afternoon. Not wanting to be reported for mucking about by the captain of the battleship he could see off ANZAC, Tasker jogged along at 2,000 feet making wide sweeping turns to cover a good swath of sea.

He still didn’t notice the feather of wake thrown up by a periscope at four knots, but he did see the two faint chalk marks moving slowly across the sea towards the battleship. He didn’t see the shadow cross the face of the sun.


“Close bow doors, depth 30 metres, course 300 degrees. Running time?”

“45 seconds total, Herr Kaptain. 40 point…… 40 seconds remaining sir.”


“Submarine!” Tasker screamed uselessly to himself. He jammed the stick fully forward, slammed the throttle wide open and the Tabby bucked as if shot then started diving like Skua.

The wind and engine note rose to a banshee screech and the vibration threatened to shake loose a few teeth but Tasker held the nose down and shifted his left hand to be bomb toggle.


The lookout on the port wing of the Belgrave noticed the little seaplane’s antics and called out a warning. Lt Commander Clifford up on the Monkey Island inturn ordered the signalman to sound four blasts on the siren which was their version of ‘Action Stations’ and this had men tumbling out of hatchways and doors all racing for their posts.

The first to actually reach his station was Tony Simms, from the wheel house to the port Maxim was about a dozen paces if that. The canvas gun cover came off easier than one of his socks and since this was hardly the time to polish the bronze water jacket, he did the only other thing he had been trained to do.


The four bombs had about 50lb of explosive between them, this might only have been 10% of a WWII depth charge and even though Tasker dropped them at the point where the torpedo tracks started, which was a good 30 yards from where U 21 had been before she started her turn. The bombs still rattled out almost as many dental fillings in the submarine as the Gnome had dislodged from Tasker.

There were two things Michel really should have done either before, during or possibly even after his dive. The first was to have a look around, as any good pilot should be aware of his surroundings.

Second he really aught to have reset the fuel leaver. One of the many joys of early aircraft engines was that they were fully adjustable, so adjustable in fact that that they were completely manual. When he’d whacked open the throttle with all the elan of an ace, he had been rewarded with a surge of power. He’d also weakened the mixture to the point where much of the vibration he felt in his hawk like swoop had in fact been his engine ‘pinging’ on every cylinder.

One of the stranger quirks of rotary aircraft engines, is the virtual impossibility of stopping them in any plane that is still flying. Not only do they have an enormous ‘flywheel effect’ but as long as there is air flow through the propeller they will keep turning. It’s almost impossible to ‘stall’ one.

Alas the same can’t be said of Sopwith Tabloids.


“Time?” Snapped Hersing loudly, his ears still ringing from the detonations.

“31 seconds Herr Kaptain!”


Loading a Maxim was hardly intricate, as the elderly reservist who was No. 2 on the gun had explained. “Youse shove the widdle brass tag frew da feed block, gives it a yank, whips back da charg’n ‘andle, anuffer tug on the belt an’ and charge 'er h’again an’ then why lad, Bob’s ya Mums bruvver.”

This action took much longer to describe than to perform. Insert, tug, c0ck, tug, c0ck all took Tony Simms perhaps three seconds. He had spent the next five seconds waiting for the rest of his gun crew to arrive. ‘Ahhhh sod it!’ he though.


Released of the weight of its bombs, the aeroplane had made a little leap skywards and this combined with Tasker wrenching back on the joystick until the wings could be heard creaking even over the abused engine had prevented him from joining U21 30 metres below sea level. The blast from the bombs had given the Tabby a helpful shove too.

But if Tasker had speed he still lacked altitude and as any good pilot knows the second most useless thing in the world is altitude overhead* and that speed can be traded for hight. At a little over 1,200lb the Tabby soon converted its speed into a lot less hight than Tasker had hoped.

As he was hanging there under a windmilling propeller, wondering why the world seemed to be slipping backwards. He didn’t hear the bullets started to hum, buzz and crack around him over the ‘anvil chorus’ that the Gnome was playing .


“25 seconds!… 24 and half!” the coxswain had decided it would just be easier to announce the passing time with out being asked.


“Fuel! Bloody hell.” In a Tabloid there was no one to hear the pilot scream, but that had never stopped anybody. Flywheels don’t run for ever and there wasn’t much airflow to keep the propeller spinning as the Tabby mushed along trading hight for nothing except gravity.

This time Tasker did not play the controls like a blacksmith. True he nearly punched the joystick through the dashboard in an effort to get the nose pointed in a more attainable direction. But his left hand had the touch of a concert pianist on the fuel leaver and his feet were shuffling on the rudder bar like church organist.

Speed and altitude didn’t matter a damn as long as he kept the Tabby straight, a spin at any hight was a death sentence, a spin at 150 feet was…


“Check! Check! Check!” screamed Captain Clifford from the compass platform and Tony did check. He still had plenty of ammo, his gun was pointed in the right direction and as best he could tell the old Maxim was working just as it was intended too.


“18 seconds…”


“Torpedo to Port! Torpedo to Port!”

It was probably a good thing Tony didn’t hear the lookout’s warning over the yammering of the Maxim, it was a little less fortunate that Captain Clifford had the same problem.

The signalman had sharper ears, his eyes weren’t to bad either and being less the six feet from his captain he had no trouble attracting his commanders attention to the threat streaking through the water.

“Two torpedos, 400 yards, Port bow!”


The Third Engineer was a bright young chap from Swansea who was rather more fond of life than the engines he controlled. When the bridge rang down ‘Full Astern’ and ‘Collision Stations’ hard on the heels of ‘Action Stations’ he made the natural assumption that someone was either making a great mistake or they wanted ‘Full Astern’ NOW.

Since the Chief Engineer was still panting and wheezing his way from the Saloon down to the engine room. ‘Taffy’ Parish lost not a second in ordering the greaser on the throttle valve to “Get her open, to the stops man, to the stops” and manned the Reverser himself. Snapping shut the drain c0cks and banging open the steam line he was winding change leaver across even before the pressure gauge on the little donkey engine had stopped swinging.


Michel had caught the engine just in time and the relief he felt as its slow, sickly, blat-blat-blat shift back into the normal thrumming purr was almost indescribable. He might have been at about 20 feet, but as he was upright, ‘flying’ if that was the right word for sloshing along on the verge of stalling and now had power. The day was definitely looking up.

‘Looking up… what a good idea!’ he though.

It was to.

Aviatik CI was a fairly conventional two seater biplane that under normal circumstances the Tabloid could out run with ease. Tasker’s first thought was ‘Oh yes another target!’ then he noticed big black machinegun that the man in the forward cockpit was aiming at him. Well it didn’t actually look like a machinegun it was more a big black circle, a point that Tasker thought did not bode particularly well for him.

Low, slow and barely in control the Tabby was toast. He had been bounced as neatly… Tasker realised that the Hun had him cold as the German pilot banked around to cross the Sopwith’s nose to give the gunner a clear shot right down Michel’s throat.

With the engine already at full power there wasn’t that much he could do. However the idea of sitting there like a duck in shooting gallery didn’t hold much appeal. Climbing would only provide a better, slower target and banking in either direction at his present speed was an invitation into a spin that Sir Isaac Newton was sure to accept. So lacking any other choice, Tasker stuffed the nose down yet again and as a final act of defiance he gave the Hun that must have been loitering up in the sun, both barrels of his Aero Gun.


“10 seconds…”

“Asparagus up!” It was too late for the battleship to do anything about his fish now and Hersing wanted to watch this one sink. It might even do a slow roll like the Triumph had in May… If only he had a camera. “Pom-papa-pommm pa. Pomm-papa-pom…”

The control room smiled, when the skipper started humming Wagner all was going very poorly indeed for some Tommies.


Deep in the bowels of the Belgrave a different sort of music was playing, the groans of twisting steel and distorting bulkheads was like the agony of some giant metallic beast. He’d heard it as he ran down the companion way to the lower tween-decks and to the Chief Engineer it was the sound of his heart being torn out. Some bastard was going to pay for this and sights were set firmly on Taffy Parish.


“Periscope! Seven ‘undred yards, red ni-hine ho!” The signalman had earned his keep on this day and Clifford resolved to give him amnesty for all sins bar sodomy and theft next time he met the man across the defaulters table. If he ever did, for there was nothing he could do about the torpedos heading towards him. Except shoot back that is.

“Target periscope bearing two seven oh, range seven hundred. Open fire!” Clifford might not have PO Quick’s lungs of brass, but his megaphone helped get the message across over the Maxims chatter.


“Note. Enemy has opened fire with secondary armament. Time?”

“4 seconds sir…”


It was hard to tell if it was one of Simms .45” lumps of lead or some of Taskers three ounces of lead shot strung together on wires that took the German pilot in the stomach. Which ever it was had the desired effect. The Aviatik rolled out of its banking turn, seemed to lurch backwards them plunge into the sea.

Michel Tasker didn’t have much of a chance really. He might have been able to reef the little seaplane around and turned inside the Aviatik, but a zero feet he was just as likely to dip a float into the water and go cart wheeling. Still, almost anything would have been an improvement on half a ton of German aeroplane falling on his head.


The shells made U21’s hull ring like an oil drum as they crashed into the sea around the submarine and the white columns of water falling back to the surface sounded rather like rain on a tin roof.

Hersing wasn’t that worried though, he knew full well that things appeared closer than they really were through a periscope and sounds were an unreliable indication at such close range. But he had seen the two guns that were presumably on stand-by fire and they had both missed. His fish would give the Tommies something more important to worry about before they could fire again.

“2 seconds… less a half… one second!” the note of excitement in the coxswains voice was infectious and Hersing was wondering if this might call for an issue of Schnapps all round when... "…!”

“Torpedo’s still running sir.” Stated the man at the hydrophones flatly.

“Plus one second… plus two seconds… plus three seconds.” The coxswain was methodical but dejected. “I think they have missed Herr Kaptain.”

“Wait!” Hersing could see the battleship was not turning. “Open stern tubes, hard starboard!” perhaps he could get in a second shot.


“Well thank fook for that!” Clifford would have liked to agree with his signalman but he had more urgent business to attend too.

“Seaboat Away! Bosun, head for those aeroplanes. Wheel house ‘Full Ahead,’ and tell those black buggers to slap it about. To Flag Officer Dardanelles. Attacked by Unknown….”


“I got I’m! I got the fecken beggar! D’ya see that I fe…” the Third Mate’s fist dropped Simms like a sack of spuds.


“Losse!” the submarine bucked and the Chief cursed over his trim as Hersing’s snap shots speed out of the stern tubes.


“What is the range Herr Kaptain?” asked the coxswain calmly.

“How should… 800 metres!”

“Then 45 seconds Herr Kaptain.”

“Jah, 45 seconds… Course 270, 30 metres and get that cursed stick down!”

“44 seconds…”


“What ‘e do that fore…” Simms plaintive voice was muffled behind a protective hand and smashed teeth. “I feck’n…”

“You shot ours you thick stupid, bone headed, fook’n…” the port lookout was scathing.

“Not our’s the other one! I got the other…”

“An’ how the fook were you it’n one an’ not the other? Hay. You tell me that, at a thousand fook’n yards how were you shooting one an’…”


With the lookout berating Simms, Clifford and his yeoman sorting out signals and most of the crew busy with the seaboat. It was Quick who first saw the ominous lines of bubbles. He had been watching the periscope and trying to bracket the grey pole when he saw the streaks in the bottom of his binoculars. “Torpedo! Red free oh! Six hunn’ard yards.”


Down in the engine room Taffy had hardly noticed the zinging humm of torpedos swishing past 5 feet under the keel. He had been far to busy, divided between getting the engine reversed and fending off the Chief. He was finally getting both sorted out when the telegraph chimed through four complete cycles and the pointer swung around to rest on ‘Full Ahead’ again.

While the Chief exploded, almost ripping the cover off the voice pipe and screaming his indignation up the brass tube before the wheelhouse had even answered his call. Taffy ignored the telegraph and started cranking the reverser back the way it had come.

The groaning resumed as the propeller shaft began to twist.


With his propeller churning in a welter of foam and self induced turbulence and with out enough way on the ship for her to answer the helm, Clifford was out of options. Oh he ordered the fore deck cleared and the men up from the engine and boiler rooms but he was little more than a passenger and he watched the approaching kippers with a strange detachment.


“12 seconds… 11 seconds…


‘She’s not a bad old tub…’ thought Clifford. ‘Would have been a nice little command in civvy street. Coal’s a bit mucky but it’s no worse the guano or copra…’


“8 seconds…”


“I reckon that one’s gunna miss sir.”

“Rubbish man.” Belgrave felt a fraction more alive, ‘In for a penny’ thought Clifford. “hard a Port!” he shouted down the voice pipe to the helmsman.


PO Quick had taken over the training wheel of the port 4” himself. “That cheeky bastard is gonna come up for a look see.” He told the gun crew. “An’ were gonna get the booger. Right?” The chorus of affirmation probably owed more to habit and enthusiasm than any confidence, but it was hearty enough. “Keep the range as she lies, we was a bit h’over last round. Just you be ready see. Nah sing h’out if ya see’s as much as a whisker an’ I want that next round sharpish right.”


“Up!” Hersing pointed to the mechanic on the periscope switch.

“Ahh!” Every man in the control room was watching the little circle of daylight that lit up Hersing’s right eye.

“She has not moved! No wait, she is starting to swing. But it will not be enough Herr Englander!” The control room crew cheered, silently. They were going to get another juicy battle wagon. This was war!

“2 seconds…”


“Got I’m!” Quick gave the wheel a smooth turn to centre the periscope in his sights and lead it by a fraction.

“On!” screamed the layer.

“On!” echoed Quick as a warning to stand clear.


The little patch of daylight reflected in Hersing’s eye blinked out as a shell splinter ripped through the top of the periscope. Not that anyone noticed. The whole sub felt like it had been hit with a steam hammer, pipes started to weep, glass shattered and a hiss of escaping compressed air had the Chief twiddling valves like madman.

“Zero.” Said the coxswain as his world dissolved into chaos.


*The most useless thing to a pilot is runway behind him.

Chapter 23

Hell Hath No Fury like a Snide Remark?

26th of June 1915

“Plugge’s Plateau.”

“What?” asked Morant.

“This flat part…” replied Charlie. “its called ‘Plugge’s Plateau’.”

“Oh, sorry old lad. I was watching that ship… There might be some aeroplanes out there as well. A little far to tell.”

“They do seem to be up to something Andrew… Submarine perhaps? Good lord! I think they’ve open fire!”

“I do believe your right Charlie! Why is it that I always leave my glasses… When ever I need the blasted things. “ Charlie cut Morant off by garbing his arm.

“Never mind about that wretched ship Drew, look at Watson’s!”


“The pier man, the ruddy pier!”

Watson’s Pier was just the sort of structure you would expect a group of men who were clinging to a cliff and dependant upon the sea to have built under shell fire. Narrow and no longer than it had to be, the pier had not a single frill but it was built like a brick cathedral. ‘Was,’ because as the blast wave reached the pair standing on lip of Shrapnel Valley, all they could see of Watson’s were a few hefty timbers spiralling out a pillar of water that marked it’s former location.


“… a torpedo” finished Charlie. “I saw the wake, that’s why I…

“The Boat!” they cried almost in unison and took of across the plateau in a dead sprint.

They really could have saved their energy, as the plateau dropped down towards the beach Morant pulled up. He didn’t say anything, rather pointed to a tangled mess of metal and wood that had crashed through the roof of a small dugout.

“What on earth’s that?”

“Look’s to me like what’s left of a triple expansion steam engine Charlie….” They walked the last 20 yards.

The beach and sea were littered with wreckage; animal, mineral and vegetable. On the whole strand not a single person could be seen standing upright on two legs. It wasn’t that the explosion had killed every man there, or that shock and fear had induced the unwounded to flee. No the real reason that Anzac Cove wasn’t already a seething mass of stretcher bearers and rescuers lay screaming on the sand at the foot of the path. ‘Screaming’ might not be the best description of the noise, while it did have a madcap screech there was also ringing metallic note, a sort of band saw ‘Zing’ that set teeth on edge and turned bowels to water.

“Oh @#%$. Yrrrrk!”

Charlie didn’t even bother to speak, he just sized Morant by the collar and dragged him back into the cover of a spur.

“Look here.” Said Morant pulling his shirt back down. “I thank you for the thought, but really old fellow. It’s perfectly safe…” Morant was interrupted by the first wave of shrapnel cracking over the beach. Charlie just raised an amused eyebrow. “Alright, point taken dear man, point taken.”

Even over the Turkish barrage the dull “WHOMPH” from seaward had heads popping out of holes all along the cove.

“One in three… Not bad” remarked Charlie.

“One in four, would be more likely. Two tubes at a time you see…”

“Ah… So there’d be another floating around then?”

Morant didn’t reply, rather he appeared to be digging into the side of the hill with his shoulder blades.

“Andrew?” the implications of third torpedo heading in their direction dawned upon the Marine and he too pressed himself back into cover. “Bugger.”


Simms looked at the Third Mate and wasn’t quite sure how to feel. True he hated the man as a slave driving bully and Tony’s pulped lips had hardly elevated the man in his esteem. But no man deserved… “Get back ta it ya dopey cu…” The bosuns size 11 distracted Simms from the pair of legs dangling from a ventilator on the poop. “I want’s this ‘ere boat tuned out. Careful with that fall there!” the Bosuns wrath and boot shifted focus to another victim.

Clifford and the signalman had untangled themselves from the back of the Monkey Island as the Belgrave started to settle by the head. It was hardly the first time Clifford had been torpedoed, if being mined counted, then this was the third occasion he had suffered from an underwater explosion. He could feel the old girl slipping, but she wasn’t going fast and a single hit right forward? It might not be the end of her…

“Avast below! Bosun, kick that man. Still there I say.” The megaphone might have been a little crumpled from the yeoman falling on it, but his commands still boomed out like the voice of god. “Carpenter! Sound the fore hold and secure the hatch covers. Don’t worry lads plenty of time to get the boats out, so start acting like seamen not a bloody Chinese fire drill! Now pass the word for the Chief, I want the pumps going and steam on NOW! All officers to the bridge.” he dropped the megaphone. “To Flag Officer Dardanelles. Have been torpedoed, Anzac Cove bearing zero nine fife, three miles. Attempting to control flooding, will advise…”

‘Chippie’ Blake had been a ships carpenter man and boy for most of his forty odd years. Shipwreck and disaster were, if not old friends, then hardly new to him. Down on the iron deck, under the false timbers of the disguise. Chippie took one look at the blast torn hatch covers and shook his head.

“Nah, them’s has what ‘ad it. You my lad “ he turned to one of the old Belgrave’s. “Start get’n the tarp off ‘a number free, ‘cos this un’s nuffink but moff holes and lift the ‘atch boards while ya ‘bout it.” He peered over the coming of no. 1 hold. “Fook’n ‘ell.” Was his only comment on the mass of barrels and broken staves that pressed up under the deck as they floated on the rising flood. He wasn’t going into that lot, not for a golden handshake and a pension.

The bells tinkled for slow astern as soon as the black gang had started to pour down into the engine room, so Taffy found him self at the reverser winding Stevenson’s link back yet again. With the steam pumps clattering away in the bilges and the lord knew what mess in the stoke hold, this shift to astern was far more dignified then the last few changes of direction. The Greaser at the throttle shut off steam and as the pistons slowed, the gear quadrant swung across into the reverse half of its arc. The great shaft came to a gentle halt, then started to ‘shunt-whish-shunt-swish’ as it gathered momentum again.


“A hit! A hit Herr Kaptain!” the shout of the hydrophone operator cut through the commotion in the control room. Every man had heard the distant thump of an explosion, but all had been too busy to analyse the sound and that was ‘Big ears’ job anyway. Success and victory were fine things, but then so was life and of the three seeing tomorrow was a little more important.

“Danke!” called Hersing. As an island of calm in all fuss, the Captain stood next to the now useless periscope and waited for the Chief to correct the trim and get sorted out. ‘Pola’ he thought. ‘It will have to be Pola again. Constantinople cannot fix a periscope.’ “Lay out a course for Otranto.” He ordered the coxswain and to the Chief. “Get me a proper damage report!”


“I say Andrew, how long will that bloody thing keep going?” Charlie yelled over the combined racket of shrapnel and torpedo engine.

“How the hell should I know!”

“For gods sake man, you’re the sailor….”

“I’m not a sailor, I’m a glorified cab driver!” Morant's mind flashed back to the pre war lectures he had received on naval weaponry. Hazy memory’s of boring Saturday day afternoons in stuffy drill halls… ‘Torpedo’s.’ he could remember the TGM’s nasal whine and dust motes drifting in the sunlight. ‘Torpedo’s! A big air bottle, no Flask is what they call it and a little bottle of lamp oil. A blow lamp, steam? No matter. A big blow lamp running an engine… Range 10,000 yards? Speed, time… Guess. Five mile, thirty knots, one every two minutes… “Ten Minutes!” he jabbed Charlie in ribs. “It should run for total of about ten minutes, I’d say. How long do you think it’s been going?” Charlie just shrugged. “But I know how to turn it off.” ‘Or I think I do’ thought Morant.

“Well your not going out there!” Charlie jerked his head towards the beach.

“It’s alright, I can do it from here.” They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.


Belgrave never got her sea boat away to investigate the tangled wreck of wood, canvas and aero engines that still floated of the port bow. There was not need, a passing trawler had cast off it’s lighter of stores and waddled across to take care of that problem. Rather the ships effort now concentrated on the two issues that were a trifle closer to home. First there was the forward bulkhead of No. 2 hold to shore up and then they really had to see about keeping up appearances. Turkish observers from the shore would have seen the torpedo strike and going astern not only reduced the pressure on the wounded collier, it also kept her undamaged side to all the curious eyes on the high ground above Anzac.

If the Turks wondered why a ship that was sinking by the head had twenty men standing around doing nothing on the fore peak. Clifford wasn’t going to tell them that it was to weigh the false bow down and stop it snapping off, for the same reason he ordered counter flooding into the barrel packed No. 5 hold aft. If keeping the bow from floating away was a concern, then so was keeping the false stern from lifting out of the water.


Charlie had been watching his friends face, not his hands. So when Morant rolled to his knees with a drawn pistol the Marine was hardly expecting or in a position to do much about it.

Morant wasn’t so stupid as to assume this was a particularly good idea. But along with words like ‘Air Flask’ and ‘Burner’ he had also remembered ‘Water Cooled’ and if there was one thing he knew for certain at that point, it was that the German torpedo lay a good six feet clear of the nearest water. Morant was all too familiar with the effects of overheated engines so the two unknowns tumbled over themselves, was a sized engine more likely to set off the warhead than a misplaced bullet or shrapnel ball? ‘Only one way to find out’ he thought. ‘I’ll just have to be careful.’

If he had remembered the figure of ‘2,500psi’ there was a very good chance he would not have set the sights on his Webley Automatic to 50 yards and shot the air vessel. While Morant had some notion that it might ‘pop’ like a paper bag, physics had never been his strong suite.

Chapter 24

So much for a 3 hour tour…

26th of June 1915

“Herr Kaptain! Damage report.” Warrant Engineer Neger clicked his heels formally.


“Some broken lamps and gauge glasses sir, a small leak in the HP air system which we have isolated, the fore planes are a little stiff and will not reach ‘Full Down’ (we think there is a shell splinter jamming them) and of course the periscopes are kaput. E-Motor and D-Motor rooms report all is correct, Torpedo rooms also Herr Kaptain.

“I see… Thank you.”


Charlie looked down at his friend lying on the sandy path. “You bloody idiot! If that wasn’t the stupidest thing I have ever…”

“Steady on, I resemble that remark…” Morant croaked, then spat out a mouthful of sand. As he scoped the grit from his eyes with one hand, the other explored the rest of his body ‘Well I seem to be in one piece.’ “I say Charlie?” He blinked open a cautious eye. “Are…”

“Oh spare me… and give me your hand” Hogg dragged Morant to his feet. “You look like a ruddy ghost.” He slapped Morant’s shoulder roughly and raised a cloud of dust. “Hold up…” Morant staggered under the blow. “Perhaps you’d better sit down.”

“I think… that might be a good idea.” Morant folded at the knees, shedding another wave of dust and sand and he came to earth with a thud. “Christ my ears are ringing” he groaned and wiggled a dirty finger in an ear hole.

“What do you expect, setting off five hundred pounds of…”

“No I didn’t” He might be weak and groggy, but he knew that much. Hard in the wake of ‘I’m alive,’ the second though that had flashed through Morant’s brain had been ‘So it didn’t explode.’

As far as his reasoning went, Morant was right. He was alive and the torpedo had not detonated. However ‘Explode’ was a reasonably accurate description of what had occurred.


“Gawd almighty. Skipper!!!! Skipper!!!”


The ’Committee Room’ had survived both blasts with out more than a few minor avalanches from the roof and of course the Turkish shelling didn’t effect it much at all. So it was from this little haven and dozens of others just like it all along the water front, that the first waves of rescuers emerged to tend to the wounded, salvage what they could and to take stock.

“Four days! Four blasted days!” Colonel White surveyed the gutted beachhead.

“Well, can it be fixed?” Aspinall had eyes only for the shattered remains of the pier, to him the rest of the devastation was inconsequential.

“Do I look like an Engineer?” White replied. “I suppose it will have to be, how much…”

Commander Unwin came marching back along the beach and the expression on his face silenced White. “Inside.”

Back in the dugout and safe from unwanted listeners, Unwin dropped his bombshell. “We’ve lost Simpson and his whole party, half of our second level liaison is… gone.” He finished simply.


For all the wavy gold stripe on his jacket announced to the world that he was a lieutenant in His Majesty’s Naval Reserve, Hector Boyce still thought of himself as a ‘Second Officer’ in the merchant service. So when he swung a leg over the coaming of No. 1 hold and started groping for the iron ladder, he didn’t ignore the carpenter when that worthy advised him gently “Don’t be a fool son. You’m worth more with two legs than ye are with one.”

Captain Clifford agreed with Chippie as soon as he had taken a look for himself. The Boson who had gone over the side on a line had confirmed that there was “an’ ‘ole ya could take a dingy frew. Ten, twelve foot wide sar.” So there was no point in risking men down amid the mass of broken timbers. Like so many men of his age and position Clifford had ‘done ‘is time’ under sail; wood, rope and canvas were his natural materials. No one was surprised when he ordered the spare hatch cover broken out.


“So we have two distinct problems. Anzac and Hellas… Thank god for compartmentalisation.” Aspinall was speaking as much to align his thoughts as for the others benefit.

“Except when we are struck square on the junction between the two…” murmured White.


“It looks like a gutted fish”

Morant was still a little unsteady on his feet but could only agree with his friends analysis. “More a smelt than a herring.” They both ignored this feeble joke. The German torpedo was still in one piece, well one main piece. The tail and engine compartment were intact as was the nose with its explosive cargo, but the two were connected by a thin strip of metal rather than a stout cylinder. The compressed air flask had split from end to end and it’s jagged remnants were flayed open like an anatomy specimen. Only the side that had been resting on the sand had remained intact, like a spine holding together the head, tail and opened chest.

Charlie bent over to peer inside. “Lookee here, I suppose this should be returned to it’s… No. Well now, I don’t think this was ever fired out of a Webley.” He took Morant’s hand a dropped a Turkish shrapnel ball into the open palm. “So where….”

“I missed?” asked Morant weakly.

“Not quite, here.” Charlie pointed to a neat half inch hole in the motor casing. “In the best traditions of the service, you aimed for the guts and hit it in the knee caps. Well done old….”

“You there! Leave that alone! Get back you bloody fools, s’truth…” The Australian Engineer was furious, mostly with the world in general, but any two men playing with a fused torpedo would have provided him with a suitable focus. “Can’t you see it’s a…”

“German nineteen inch torpedo. Yes we know… The question is what to do with it. Personally, if I were you I’d send a message off to that battleship over there, asking for her Ordnance Tiffy and his tool kit.” Morant smiled. “Unless you’d like to have a crack at it yourself?”


’It is the only way…’ mused Hersing. “Pardon me.” He leaned over the coxswain’s shoulder to look at the chart.

“Her Kaptain, my course for h…” Hersing just nodded the man to silence.


“The men we can still move over the beach, animals will be a little harder, but it will be the stores…” Unwin was trying to see how this would upset their careful planning.

“Stores are a small matter, we need to replace our liaison, we can’t work with out…” Aspinall cut in and was interrupted in turn by White.

“You’re both right, however this is neither the time nor place for either. Cyril…” he turned to Aspinall. “We can’t do much about Simpson from here and Edwin we must plan for the worst, but lets not be too pessimistic. There is quite frankly sod all we can do here at the moment except get under foot. I move that we adjourn to the Aragon, so if Edwin would get on the wire and rustle us up a boat we might as well have a quick look around before we go. Agreed?”


Anzac had weathered worse trials than this, so had it’s long suffering inhabitants. If order didn’t exactly spring from chaos, then the chaos contained a great deal more order than might be apparent to the casual observer. The engineers were already scratching their heads and saying ‘What if..’ and ‘Well, if we…’ While the wounded were being carried up and layed out at the doors to the dressing stations behind the beach.

Morant on the other hand had a far less charitable reason for heading inland. Charlie reluctantly convinced of his friends recovery, remained to guard the torpedo from any Anzac who might be tempted to 'souvenir' it and allowed Andrew to stomp off towards Plugge’s Plateau alone.


“Them all fook’n barrels! Christ I’d hate the bastard fings.”

“Shut it Simms, an’ pass that bleed’n hook.” No. 2 hold was a dank and airless place, with no ventilation thanks to the false deck and little light for the same reason, the sweating men were working their way down the forward bulkhead by lamp and touch. The bilge pumps were spitting a stream of gritty water over the side so the bulkhead must be leaking. But as to how, where and could it be plugged, these would remain unknown until they had dug through the hold full of barrels and found the source.

“Message just flashed over from Anzac sir.” The yeoman handed Clifford a signal slip.


“Plot me a course from the attack position to Murdos, mark it off by the hour for speeds of three, four and five knots.”

“Jawhol Herr Kaptain.” If the coxswain comprehended Hersing’s reasoning then he gave no sign of it as he busied himself with pencil and chart ruler.


“Oy Cobb’s, yah got a nail?” the tired orderly reached for his pocket but Morant was closer.

“Here you are then, a light?”

“Ta boss, if yah wouldn’t mind…” Morant squatted down beside the stretcher and flicked a Vesta into life with thumbnail. Morant had seen no end of wounded men, he kept his eyes on the mans face.

“Mmm, fanks. Yara life saver.”

The man blew out a stream of smoke and coughed. Morant’s eyes flicked down far enough to see no sign of a chest wound. “You look like a drowned rat old fellow, were you on the beach?” One cigarette case empty he pulled out its pair, looked at it in bemusement then put it away.

“Yeah, bugger if I know’s what happened. One minute she was all serene, next phuut. Yah a bit dusty yer self mate, you cop a wack of it too?”

“No. I was up here at the time. You didn’t by any chance happen to notice a boat at the pier did you?”

“Did I? My oath I did, bunch of bloomin’ pommie…. Nah offence ta your self, but talk about idiots! Hang’n about they were like this was fuc’n Luna Park an’ they was wait’n for the ferry. The whole mob o’ galahs out on the end o’ Watson’s, chatt’n like this was a church out’n. They copped it mate, all copped it. I’m sorry if yah had some mates there…”

“That’s alright, they were waiting for me… Here take this one for later.” He tucked his last undamaged cigarette behind the mans ear and stood up. “Thank you and good luck.”

“Don’t thank me mate, bad news is a curse. But thanks for the durry!”


“Well Mr. Quick, what do you know about torpedo’s?”


Naval caps might not be known for there aerodynamic qualities, but Morant’s had flown a good hundred yards back into the mess of little camps and dugouts along the southern wall of Plugge’s. He eventually found it in the hands of a bronzed giant who was sitting by a fire boiling a billy. He could only watch in dismay as the man used it’s white crown to lift the can of water off the fire, then still holding it by the wire handle and Morant cap the man proceeded to swing it around his head.

“Settles the leaves mate.” Morant looked around to find himself being addressed by a midget. Well he wasn’t that short, but in an army with a 5‘10” hight limit not to mention a 40” chest specification Morant had the impression that Anzac was a land of giants and this man looked to be a refugee from Liliput. “The billy, Tom’s swing’n her to settle the leaves. You want a cuppa?”

His new friends proved to be Tom, Eddie and Howard. Three brothers from New South Wales; Eddie the ‘Short’ as Morant thought of him, Tom the ‘Big’ and Howard who emerged from a dugout at the call “Tea’s up!” the ‘Huge.’

With a refreshing pannikin of tea in one hand and his slightly scorched cap safely retuned to its proper place. It took all of two minutes for Eddie to tell ‘Andy’ their life story. “…See nah Toms six foot seven, ‘oward is seven foot two an’ I’m five five. The ‘cruit’n sargent let me in ‘cos if yah average the free of us out, why we’re still free regulation sog’ers!”

“And we weren’t gunna go wive out ‘im” added Howard.

“All or nuffing” confirmed Tom.

“The three Musketeer’s.” said Morant.

“Nah mate, Light Horse.”

Morant was trying to picture a horse that could cope with Howard’s twenty odd stone of brawn when Hogg appeared at their fire.

“Ah there you are Andrew, gentlemen.” Charlie nodded to the brothers. “Your presence is requested on the prom. With some dispatch.” He added as Morant showed no sign of moving.

“Yah mate want a cuppa?” asked Tom.

“If you would be so kind Tomas. Sit down Charlie, there’s a good chap. Tom, Howard and Eddie.” He nodded the introductions. “I say Charlie, I couldn’t borrow your hip flask old lad?”


“Sir that trawler, she has a wounded man on board and was wondering if we could take him off.”

“Why does everyone think were a bloody battleship!” Clifford snapped. “Don’t say it!” he warned the faithful signalman. “Damnation, tell them that we have too many of our own casualties, they’d best take him ashore.” Clifford hated fobbing the Minnow off with such an excuse, but it wasn’t to far from the truth. Apart from the third officer who had been flung into a ventilator by the blast as he was lowering the sea boat, the rest of the Belgrave’s casualties were little more than broken bones and a shattered jaw. All the same, without a sickberth attendant, the carpenter was going to be splinting and splicing for a good few hours after he had finished his more important work.


“Mr. Morant, you understand the current situation? That Commander Simpson is dead?”

“Yes sir.” Morant was naturally all too aware of the possibility nay probability that that was the case. “And I must accept full responsibility for…”

“Oh shut up man. They were not waiting for you or Captain Hogg, It is my understanding that the boat was equally tardy and had only just arrived. The point is, they are dead and you sir are not. Mr. Hogg, you will excuse us for a moment if you please.” Unwin watched Charlie retreat to a safe distance. “Now I take it that you are the next senior officer of the Armoured Car Squadron?”

“Not really sir, I have equal seniority with…”

“None the less you were the one chosen for a semi-independent command and Simpson had a high opinion of your abilities. Stop squirming man! For the moment you will consider your self the extempore commander of your Squadron and I expect conformation will arrive in due course.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “You will be aware that Commander Simpson’s current duties were a little broader than just commanding your unit. The Committee have decided you shall pick up from where Simpson left off, not all of his duties, you don’t have the rank. But there are certain tasks ashore on Hellas on which you have already been consulted and these you will continue. To that end a boat will collect you from W- Beach at seven ack emma tomorrow morning at bring you out to the Aragon for a fuller briefing.” Unwin smiled. “Cheer up lad, if you couldn’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined.”

If Morant was shaken by this turn of events Unwin’s attempt at a joke almost sent him over the edge. The best he could do was respond with a smile and an assertive “Aye Aye Sir.”

“Good, now this is strictly hush-hush. Simpson would have given you a warning on the way over here, but that was nothing compared to your current situation. If you divulge as much as a hint… Commanding your Armoured Cars is a ‘public’ function, you may shout it from the rooftops. Your other duties are strictly ‘private’…”

“I understand sir.”

“No you don’t boy. One stray word out of you and I will hunt you down and cut your balls off.” It wasn’t the vulgarity as much as the tone that had Morant nodding like a jack-in-the-box.

“Aye Aye Sir. ‘Message Acknowledged’ sir.”

“Good, I’m glad we are clear on this.” In a louder voice, for ‘public consumption’ he continued “So you will take the first available boat back to Hellas and assume your new duties. The first of which will be dealing with Commander Simpson’s effects.” This last with a knowing eye.

Chapter 24

Waltzing the Turkey

26th of June 1915

The bosun waved a bronzed arm over his head to signal that steam was on the cable holder. Clifford had checked his charts and reluctantly ordered the telegraph rung to ‘Stop,’ once committed he wasn’t one to turn back so now lifted his megaphone and ordered. “Let go forward!” and as the yeoman flapped useless flag signals that the cable party couldn’t read (they were a ‘battleship’ after all, appearances must be maintained) he added “Gently man, don’t let her run!”


“And so…?”

“I’ve got the Squadron Charlie…. Do you think those nurses of yours would look at me now?”

“He gave you the Squadron, I had no idea it was his give. That’s a fine… Well here’s to you then my lucky lad! Bloody wars and sickly seasons.” Charlie took swig from his flask and handed it to Morant to finish.

“No, thank you all the same.” He laughed. “I rather think I’m going to need a clear head for the next few hours…”

“I expect you will indeed dear boy. ‘Dead men’s shoes,’” he shook his head. “It rather cuts both ways in my experience. Still I dare say it will make that other fellow.. Robin.. what ever his name is. It will make him stare, I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Oh, Finchy will take it like a good ‘un. A solid chap is ‘Twitter.’ No, it’s a big… damn me it’s a bloody big…”

“Never mind about that, things will sort them selves out. They always do. So tell me why did Unwin pack me off like that? Promoting an officer to replace the dear departed is hardly a secret of the realm now is it?”

“Oh I have to secure Simpson’s papers and effects, turn them in aboard the ‘Arrogant’ in the morning.” This was hardly Morant’s first experience with deceit, but customers and clients were not friends. If all was fair in trade, it certainly wasn’t in friendship and so Morant simply told the truth, the expurgated version.



As Clifford turned to face the messenger, he reflected that filthy, blind or stinking drunk a naval rating still stood out in a ‘merchie’ ship like a sore thumb. “Yes?”

“Three and a Half to Four feet o’ water in No.2 Hold Sir, but the Pumps be Holding…”

It was the way they could pronounce capital letters.

“The word was passed h’up from below sir, I can’t say as who made the Report sir.”

“Three and half to four foot. Very well. I am to be informed of any change immediately and they are to continue rummaging. Thank you.” He dismissed the seaman with a smile and a nod then paced across to the voice pipes. “Chief! Three and a half to four feet and holding… No. 2 hold! Yes… So how big a hole are we looking for? I said HOW BIG A HOLE ARE WE…. I know you’re not a plumber man!” The captain listened patiently as the Belgrave’s engineer rattled on about gallons per hour and heads of water. “Chief! Don’t baffle me with bollocks, just tell me! Right so it depends on how deep the hole is… yes I worked that part out for myself… and how big the hole is… I know, that’s what I’m asking you! Four feet above the keelson… so, twenty five. I SAY, TWENTY FIVE SQUARE INCHES, YES? A four inch hole, right four inch. Thank you.” He closed the brass flap over the pipe and reached for his battered megaphone. “Bloody man”


“Excuse me!” said Morant as he scrambled to his feet.

“You all right old son?” inquired Charlie from his comfortable sprawl behind a wall of ration boxes.


The tiers of wooden casks that filled half the volume of No.2 hold had been packed in tight and lashed down my men who knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. So getting them out again with out proper derricks or winches was far from easy. It was all block and tackle, holdfasts and ‘two, six, heave.’ Clearing the first run seemed to take forever, but although they felt along every seam and down every line of rivets in the forward bulkhead there was barely a trickle through the straining wall of steel.

It was easy enough to tell where the water level in No. 1 hold was. A couple of the men had pulled the ‘crown’ off the seaward side of A turret so they could at least work with out lanterns. By the time the men’s eyes had adjusted to the filtered light, they no longer had to feel the bulkhead to sense the chill of seawater on the other side. Much of what they had thought was seepage was in fact a sheet of condensation that marked the hight of the flooding as neatly as any gauge glass, though there was no sign of any big hole, four inch or other wise.

Second Officer Boyce who by now was as black as any stoker and wetter than most fish decided there was nothing for it but to work their way along the sides. His announcement bought groans of protest from the dozen men ‘down the pit’ and echo’s of discontent from those on deck tallying onto the falls. Not that the grousing made any difference to the speed with which the kegs were plucked out and re stacked.

“Butter this than fah’kan stich’n mun.” said one voice. Tony hardly shared the sentiment as he bit yet another splinter out of his bloody palm.


“Roght Gilly. Yon pier’s boogered, yah’ll ‘ave tah row’m ashore. You’n Ginger get the poo’h laddie int’a dinghy h’an weel tug yah’s h’in as fah as mebbe.”

“Shite, ‘an I’s joost don mah naharls tay.” Grumbled the red headed ex-trawlerman at the helm.

“Pipe off moan’n!” the Skipper snarled. “I dinn’a like h’un nary more the ye. Sod aft.” He flicked a thumb over his shoulder and moved his formidable bulk across to the wheel. As the ‘click-clack-click’ of the helms mans footsteps receded beyond hearing, he caressed the wooden spokes and crooned softly “Nah me little sprat. Daddy’s home.”


Charlie Hogg knew they had orders for the ‘first available transport’ and if he had not looked forward to returning to Anzac that morning, he was thoroughly sick of the place by now. And so it was with a predatory eye that he watched the boat being run up the beach. ‘Better fetch Drew’ he thought.

He didn’t get very far before he was intercepted by one of the engineers.

“Pardon me mate. Where’s that cobber of yours, the navy fella.”

“I believe he is indisposed at the moment.” Answered Charlie quietly.


“He… He has gone to… “

“Oh, you mean he’s on the dunny. Fair enough mate. Look when he surfaces could you be a sport tell him the torpedo bloke is ‘ere and wouldn’t mind a quick word. Alright?” he waved casually and trotted bach to the cluster of men about the gutted torpedo.

‘Australians’ marvelled Charlie. ‘there is enough explosive in that to flatten Albert Hall and they stand there like it was a confounded ‘two-up’ school.’


“The Bitter End! Bitter Ho!” the Bosun hailed up from the bows.

“Is the cable on the slip?” Clifford boomed down the megaphone.

“Aye! Slip on and clutch out!”

“Then break the Cable and slip in you own time Bo’se!”

“Aye Aye Cap’n! Break ‘er an' slip!”


“Hello Jimmy are you free for a moment?”

“Just the fellow I was thinking of. Come in Cameron, come in and sit down. Tea for two!” Jim One bellowed through the door to his batman. “As I was saying, you’ve saved me a trip up to see you.”


“Yes but never mind about that for the moment. What can I do for you?”

“Well…” Marlowe pulled a thick wad of paper from his breast pocket. “I rather think I might have a little trouble covering this part of…” the little sea of paper expanded to cover the Sapper’s desk as knotty problem in mule-based logistics was explained. “You see normally this would not be concern. I’d ask Andrew to bring the loads up on ‘Annie,’ but he’s off on some jaunt with his commander at the minute, so until he returns I can’t be certain about…”

“Ah yes, that why I was coming up to see you.”


“Ah the tea, thank you.” The tea offered little distraction and Owen soon returned to the point. “There seems to have been an accident with the boat young Morant was travelling on..”

“Nothing too serious I hope?”

“I’m afraid it was, or should I say is. Quite serious.” He looked up from his cup. “We have no details as yet I’m sorry to say. All I do know is that of those aboard, the majority appear to have been killed. We have no names as yet nor numbers, just rumours and the conformation that something nasty has happened. I’m dreadfully sorry to leave you hanging from a cliff like this but…”


Any lingering euphoria that might have remained from the recent action evaporated the moment PO Quick saw the torpedo. He knew that he was no Torpedo Gunners Mate, but over the years he had been mess mates with more than a few and with the knowledge of explosives usual in a professional gunnery man he had felt reasonably confident that he could help pull a simple fuse. “That ain’t a torpedo, tis fook’n ‘umpty Dumpy.” He muttered. “Jayses wept!”

“Probably because he had to ‘chat’ a torpedo…” Quick looked up to see a pale faced RNR Lieutenant had joined him.

“Petty h’officer Quick sir.”

“Morant, RNASACD” he offered his hand. “Well I rather hope Whale Island prepared you better for this than it did me. You didn’t bring a TGM with you?”

“H’un available sir.” Quick stuck to the formula Captain Clifford had given him for answering questions about the Belgrave.

“Ah, I see.” Fearing he might be touching on a sensitive loss Morant changed the subject. “Have you any idea where to start? Please don’t think I’m trying to rush you Mr. Quick, far better late in this world than early in the next. But these gentlemen…” he indicated the army officers standing now at a respectful distance. “would rather like their beach back.”

Quick who had no intension of rushing anything now, not even at gunpoint, just huffed. “I’ve a few ideas sir, but I was given to understand you was a torpedo man who needed a ‘and and few tools like.”


As Morant conferred with Quick, Charlie was happy to leave them well alone with their toy. Pacing the strand at a safe but not ‘too safe’ distance he spied another small boat coming in. After the bearers had carted off the man that had been the obvious purpose for their trip, Hogg strolled over to the two men who were stretching their legs before heading back out to sea.

“Pardon me Jack, are you headed towards Hellas by any chance?”

“An' what if we was?” snarled the stringy little man in a crumpled white cap and distressed red jumper.

“My friend and I are looking for a lift that way and…”

“It’ll cost yah!”

“Cost me? What…” Charlie was puzzled.

“That likker yah got, I can smell it’ h’on yah breaf! We ain’t had a decent dram in six month nah. Hell I’d row’s yah down me self for a proper sniff, so’s that far a start. Then I’s reckon youse can work summ’at out wive the Skipper. Right Ginge?” he turned to the lanky carrot top for confirmation. Ginger just put a hand on his hip and nodded.

Charlie could only hold out his flask and invert it with a sad smile. “Sorry lads that well’s dry, but I’m sure we can come to some other arrangement.” He spread his hands expansively.

Unfortunately his desperation and honesty were misinterpreted. “Scrag you Charlie, we’re inboard.” The ugly little figure turned on his heel and stomped back to the dinghy.

Hogg realised the use of is name was generic and took on offence on that account, but before he could attempt to reason with the other sailor Ginger just sneered at him and hissed “We’s might be dumb, but we ain’t cheap!” and left Charlie to watch speechlessly as he awkwardly swayed down the strand after his friend. Sea legs and tall heeled boots are not best adapted for walking on sand.


The Belgrave’s bows had slowly lifted as the port anchor and its cable had paid out to rest on the seabed. The movement had been imperceptible up to the moment when the bosun took a sledge hammer to the Stenhouse clip and freed from the weight of half her ground tackle the collier gave a small lurch. It wasn’t much of a movement, perhaps an inch or so but it was enough to provoke a cheer from the crew and a smile from the captain. It wasn’t his full strength grin, he was too worried for that. Even so it was less than might other wise have been the case, for with the movement he thought he detected another rumble.

An inch might no be much, but it had been enough to dislodge one of the casks piled up in the hold. As one fell it upset another and eventually a dozen old beer barrels cascaded down to shatter at foot of the empty work face. The hatch was ringed with grimy faces looking down and cursing at this new mess to be dealt with.

Clifford was only too glad he had pulled his men out before slipping the chain. “Ring down ‘Slow astern’ again if you please.” No seaman ever likes to be with out his ground tackle, but each anchor and its cable represented 76 tons. Weight that was right in the eyes of the ship, poised on the very tip of the see saw that the Captain was trying to balance. Reluctantly he raised the megaphone to his lips.


“I presume this propeller screws into the gubbins to unlock the fuse.”

“Aye it does on ours sir, but it might wind out on these Bosh ones. I just dunno sir.”

“In or out, what does it matter, the blades will only turn it one way. If we wind it back the other…” Morant made a twisting motion in front of the fuse.

“It might just blow h’up in h’our faces sir. I reckon’s we’d best pull the ‘hole fing h’out and be done sir. This ring ‘ere should…” Quicks finger wavered over the brass nut.


Tony Simms didn’t much appreciate having an eight foot square cargo net dropped on his head, but it raised a laugh amongst the other ‘moles.’ “You’ve got the net Simms. Start squaring away the broken ones over there to port and the rest of you get working to starboard. Come on slap it about. The faster we’re done the sooner we’re out!” The Second Officer called as he worked on a pile of tangled sister blocks.

Tony found that if you tried to pick up a broken barrel by the hoops you ended up holding the metal rings and not much else. As always he found himself stuck with the one job he couldn’t find the shortcut for. Still the net filled and was replaced then filled again.


“I’d keep an eye on your mate if I were you.”

“Er what?” Charlie snapped out of his doze and recognised the chatty engineer from their earlier meeting. After his brush with the crew of the Minnow Charlie had sat down to wait for the next boat, it never came. He had never seen an 'active' beach on Gallipoli so empty and it didn’t take a flash of inspiration to work out they had closed the beach until the danger was resolved one way or another. So much for ‘first available transport.’ Hogg had just found a quite spot to sit and close his eyes in a vain attempt to forget where he was. “I beg your pardon.”

“I said watch out for that mate of yours. He’s look’n bloody crook if you ask me, been off ta the loo twice now and ‘es just painted the side of the shed…”

“I’m sorry I don’t quite follow. You’re saying my friend, the Naval chappie over there is sick. ‘Painting the shed?’” Charlie shrugged in incomprehension, he had a grasp of Australasian dialect but he was far from fluent.

“Been ill, vomited…”

“Ah thank you. Really thank you. I haven’t been paying much attention I’m afraid and...”

“No worries mate. He’s taking care of us, so you take care of him right?” the man smiled and handed Charlie a mug of tea.


Clifford lent on the railing across the front of the monkey Island and watched the forecastle of the Belgrave where the cable party were still hard at it. The bosuns tongue kept the lads working and busy men have no time to fret, unlike captains.

There were twenty eight Admiralty shackles of 2 ¾” chain in the Starboard cable, three hundred and seventy fathoms and Mudros harbour was generally less than seventy. So while the starboard anchor dangled into the water on the end of the first half shackle, the focsle party had broken the cable and was manhandling the free end down the port hawse hole. Another fifteen shackles of chain amounted to thirty eight tons of wrought iron that neither Captain nor ship needed.


“Fook’n left handed threads! Yah mean we’m being screw’n the bitch the wrong bloody way!”

“Easy man, calm down…. Not in front of the Army!“

Once Quick had absorbed the cunning Teutonic ploy of making things backwards and Morant (wildly extrapolating from the German sewing machine that had been his first mechanical toy) explained the ins and outs of using opposed threads to lock rotating components. The body of the fuse came out with the ease of a well made piece of precision machinery, which is of course exactly what it was.

But the effort and strain had drained both men. As one of the locals carried the fuse, gaine and booster off to a safe distance the two men flung down their tools and staggered away. If Quick was wrung out like a soggy tea towel, Morant was one that had already been hung out to dry.

Morant stumbled off perform in private the two biological acts that no human ever wants to do in concert and Quick just collapsed on the sand, watching the cup of tea some kind soul have given him grow cold.

Charlie forewarned by the friendly engineer, correctly surmised Andrew had a case of ‘Abduls Revenge.’ As there was little he could do to assist him in his ‘Anzac Waltz’ and all to aware that the ‘Turkey Trots’ were (baring brain haemorrhages) only potentially fatal after the second day. The Marine decided his best move would be to exploit their current high standing into a quick ride home.


Tony was hardly working in his sleep. It actually took a great deal of concentration to stay upright in the bottom of the hold, let alone keeping ones person relatively intact. But he still wasn’t firing on all burners. For example he never noticed stepping up almost out of the water, nor the act of balancing on his new perch. In fact as far as he noted this event it was to recognise that it made reaching the net a little easier. It was only the growing chill in his thighs that alerted him to the fact that where the water had been around his waist it was now sloshing about his knees.

Naturally his first thought was that the pumps were gaining, but a quick glance across the hold proved this to be a false assumption and it was at this moment the man working next to him noticed Simms extra elevation. “Hoy numb nut’s, what’re you standin’ h’on.”

“Boggered h’if I know.” Rejoined Tony. “’Ang about, this’s a bit…” as he squatted down to touch what ever it was, one foot slipped and he plunged sideways into the black water. Simms came up again spluttering and cursing, but hardly single head turned to watch him struggle and splash. Every man had slipped under a few times. Not that anyone present would later admit too not having seen the look on ‘Dopeys’ face at that moment. it was really his shout that drew universal attention to his antics. “A current! I’ve found a ruddy current! Over ‘ere!”


“I say! Pardon me.” Charlie looked up into the sparkling eyes of a cheerful if rather damp naval Lieutenant. “Those Colonial chappies over there said you were the fellow to talk to about that torpedo?”

Charlie rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Sorry old man, not me. The fellow you want is the Petty Officer in command of that boat.” He pointed to cutter pulling steadily away from the beach and already well beyond hail. A boat he rather whished he was on himself.

“Oh, what rotten luck. Are you positive? They were most specific that I should speak to you.”

“Well I suppose my friend could help you there, but he’s a trifle unwell at the moment. Though I dare say he might spare you a few moments if only we didn’t have these wretched orders to head down to Hellas 'with all dispatch.' I’m dreadfully sorry but we simply don’t have tim…”

“Why that’s no problem old boy, no problem at all. We’re headed there ourselves directly. We could run you down and have a natter on the way. I say, if you should fetch your friend and join us over by our launch the we can be off in a jiffy.” Hogg was only too pleased to accept the mans offer and they parted companionably, agreeing to meet in five minutes at the boat.

Charlie rescued Morant from the malodorous privy and half carrying him arrived in time to watch the remains of the German Torpedo being manhandled aboard the picket boat. “Oh splendid, oh this is just bloody marvellous.”

With out a pier the little steamboat grounded her forefoot about ten yards out from dry land. This rather explained the moist condition of the Lieutenant, but neither a bit of water nor a highly explosive fellow passenger were going to stop Charlie from getting off Anzac, not this time.

Serval of the men bathing in the sea came forward to help him with Morant and a few minutes later and wet from the waist down. Charlie was seated in the cuddy with a mug of thick Kai fortified with medicinal rum. Morant was equally happy with his new accommodation, naval heads were far more comfortable than the crude latrines ashore and he had a bucket as well.

With nothing better to do Charlie pulled out his pistol, then pausing a moment in thought and looking about the small cabin he rose and opened the door into the head. “Pardon me old man” he swiftly pulled Morant’s weapon from its sopping holster, snatching the hand towel from over the wash basin he retuned to his seat and began cleaning the two weapons.


If the bosun and his rust covered slaves on the focsle couldn’t read Semaphore, Quick at the helm of the sea boat most certainly could. ‘Urgent Recall, POQ to Return aboard Immediately’ was the first signal Quick had ever had addressed to himself personally. “Stretch out lads” he called to the oarsmen. “Come on for H’ngland, ‘ome and beauty! Pull you bastard sons pull. We’s wanted on the barky!”


Not that the extra strain the rowers put on their looms made any difference to the picket boat. Down in the cuddy Charlie felt the engine slow to a stop and briefly back water. He finished working the breach pin out of his pistol, removed the slide then laid all four components of the stripped automatic neatly on the towel and climbed up on deck to see what was happening. Even if this stop was of no concern to him, he still needed to cage a spot of oil.

He emerged to find a shouted conversation in progress between the Lieutenant and PO Quick. He only caught the final words from the Officer as he said “…We’ll tow you! Stand by to take a line.”

It obviously had nothing to do with Hogg so he stuck his head into the engine room and borrowed an oil tin and some rags. Returning to the cuddy he noticed the crossed torpedo badge on the sleeve of a sailor he brushed past. ‘Typical, there’s never one around when you need one, that chappie would have been damned handy…’

Charlie was admiring the neat and very cleaver adjustable sights on Morant’s commercial model when the engine started to rumble again. ‘I wonder what that was all about?’


“Why canna we just shove it out mon! I canna see why we…”

“Because you stupid Scotsman, if we do there’ll be a bloody great hole in the side. It’s a plug man can’t you understand simple…”

“Enough!” Things had already gone to hell. The last thing Clifford needed was his First Officer and Chief Engineer at each other throats. “Stop it the both of you.”

“Sir, I don’t thing we could get it out even if we wanted to.” Having actually examined their new cargo the second officer had a certain advantage over his superiors. “There’s about a yard of sticking through sir, it came in between two frames, missed the doublers and hit plum in the middle of the plate. But the whole thing has distorted now. Between it’s weight and our movement, it’s sitting at about 45 degrees and it’s bent the plates around it. I’d say she’s stuck sir. Stuck fast.”

The Chief cocked his head smugly towards the First who looked about to respond but Clifford got in first. “Well that settles it then, thank you Mr. Boyce. Now I have sent for PO Quick and he seems to have picked up some assistance so he will be with us shortly, until then what can we do? I think Mr. Boyce should clear away as much of the space around the damned thing as possible, and do you think it might be packed… gently you understand gently with some hammocks to reduce the inflow? And chocked in place to stop it moving about.”

“I don’t see why not sir. There’s plenty of barrel staves and dunnage to pack in from the sides with. If we can bung her up a bit could we get the water level down?” Boyce asked the Chief. Clifford just smiled, it was exactly what he had been thinking himself, but he did like to encourage his men.

The Chief ran a grubby hand into his boiler suit and scratched himself absently. “Well, we’ve squared ourselves away below, most of the coal is back in the bunkers where it belongs, an’ we’ve plenty of pressure… I don’t see why we can’t rig an ejector or two. That will shift some bloody water. Mind you’ll want to rig the suction line to the far side o’ where you’re working, wouldn’t do to suck some ones foot in now…”

Everybody seemed to agree to this and except from some muttering about “soock’n googly eggs” from the First they dispersed to ‘Extract a little work from all our hot air’ as Clifford was pleased to put it.

“Oh Number One? Before you go, how much longer do you think you might be…”


Major Watson the engineer, had walked away from his meeting with Colonel White, taken one long hard look at the ruins of his Pier and vanished into his dugout. Apart from calling for tea once or twice, there he stayed until the word arrived that beach was open again. He re-appeared like a whirlwind.

Once he could get into the wreckage for a proper examination, he had men swarming all over it, ripping out beams and salvaging all they could. Half an hour later the Aragon received two pages of requests for materials, a demand that Aspinall had on General Hamilton’s desk in minutes and was signed in seconds.

But long before Hamilton’s immaculate copperplate had dried, Watson had the NLO (ANZAC) penned into a corner demanding a pair of trawlers, a couple of lighters and heaviest lump of iron or steel under two tons that could be found.


If Morant was now a spent vessel (literally), Charlie Hogg had put enough distance between himself and Anzac to recover a little peace of mind. Having had almost as much of the cuddies solitude and Morant’s various noises as he could stand, when the engine beat changed again his curiosity prompted him into action.

He was at the foot of the ladder to the deck when the rectangle of daylight was blocked by the Lieutenant. “Ah, just the fellow!” he beamed. “Is your friend feeling any better? It’s just I would rather like a quick word with him…”

“Well I’d say he should be empty by now, but if I know the Gallipoli Gallop he’s probably not up to much. Andrew! How are you feeling?” Charlie moved towards the head. “Andy old lad! Are you up to a visitor? “I say, what is this all about?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Oh nothing of any great importance old boy. Just another unexploded torpedo to clean up.”

Chapter 25

Another Day

27th of June 1915

“Top of the morn’n sar! Got yah breakfast ‘ere sar nice and warm…”

“Oh Christ…” moaned Morant. “Go’d morning Alfie, time?”

“A quart’a ho six sar, h'an a lovely day it looks to be too if hi might be so bol…” in his weakened state Morant surrendered what little moral authority he retained over his batman and allowed the mans gormless prattle to wash over him. A clean-ish shirt, yesterdays socks and his last pair of decent trousers were hardly the armour of a hero but Morant still felt the better for being upright and dressed. It was only when a pannikin of burgoo was thrust under his nose and a spoon shoved into his fist that he summoned the will to resist.

“What the ruddy hell is this? Good lord…” he exclaimed weakly “It looks like it belongs between a pair of bricks not on a bloody plate.”

“Well hi dunno, sweat’n slave u’vver an’ ‘ot…”

“You know dam well what I mean blast you. Porridge is one thing this, this is something altogether different. Pounded biscuit and hot water is… Why is it grey? No, it’s not grey, black. This is black. Why?”

“Nh’ever yah trouble on that sar. Just eat it h’up like a good h’un an’ she’ll be apples!”

“No” said Morant after the first mouthful. He had almost been looking forward to this plate of blandness, the idea of actually having something in his stomach to throw up again had been one of his few comforts through the most miserable night of his short life. But even if he could ignore the odd colour, which in its self wasn’t easy, the texture was too much. In fact it almost reminded him of something…. Anyway pap was meant to be thin and lumpy, but this ‘stuff’ was sweet with a silicate grittiness that grated on his teeth. It was like eating soft sand mixed with sugar syrup and bread crumbs. “Tell me.” He commanded.

Alfie Parsons just shrugged. “Charcoal sar.”

“Charcoal! What the blazes do you…”

“Bestest thing for when yo’ve got the trots like is charcoal. Bungs yah h’up like a barf plug it does. I fought it’d be easier to eat crunched h’up like, but I can fetch a few lumps…”

Morant weakened. “It works does it? This isn’t some old wives tale…”

“Nah sar! Get that lot down yah an’ you’ll be as right as a trivet! Honest sar really…” Parsons watched carefully as Morant forced down another few spoons full. “See, I’s told…”

“Morning all, and how the patient!” a shockingly cheerful voice boomed into the dugout and Charlie Hogg’s thin frame slipped into view next to the bulk of the Indefatigable. “I say, you’re up! I rather expected you to be flaked out and pining for a quick death at this stage. The second day is usually the worst…”

“If it’s to be a repeat of yesterday, I’ll not be asking for quietus old man. I’ll do the honours myself, though I thank you for your kind regards.” Replied Morant, with some petulance. “Shouldn’t you be off somewhere, playing silly buggers with your Jollies.”

“And I thank you very much too… After I drag you home like a sick puppy, sort out old Simpson’s baggage and get everything squared away. All I ask is a little… I say old chap what is that goop?”

“Parsons Patented Plugger-upper-er.” He waved at his driver cum batman.

“Yes sar!” Parsons beamed proudly. “Black Burgoo Bum…”

“That will be quite enough thank you Alfie.”

“H’ll just nip h’out and fetch the shav’n water then, with yah leave sar.”

“What bloody shaving water?” Morant called weakly after Parson as he slithered up the dugout.

“You have to go out to the Aragon this morning if you recall.” Charlie reminded him gently. “You don’t remember much about yesterday do you?”

“Yesterday? More than I think I want too…”

“The torpedo on the beach?”

“Oh yes…” breathed Morant with a shudder. “Oh god!” now he remembered what the gritty porridge reminded him of. “Coal… Did we really play silly buggers with a torpedo in the bottom of a coal mine?”

“Never mind about that, you my lucky lad have bigger fish to fry. Now I had a word with your Number One last night and put him in the picture. Seems like a decent sort of fellow, he picked it all up very quickly, your adjutant seemed quite miffed ‘though. Anyway Lieutenant Finch will cover for you here this morning, so all you have to do it wonder over to the Aragon and hand all this over to the staff wallahs.” Charlie plonked a packet of papers down next to the plate of porridge.

“My Number One…” Morant was taking a few seconds to absorb this torrent of information, “That’s right… I have the Squadron now haven’t I.”

“Are you sure you’re feeling alright?” Charlie had some difficulty himself believing that this fact had slipped his friends mind for more than a few seconds. “Yes old lad…” he smiled encouragingly “this is your show now. ‘Morant & Co. Cartage Ltd.’” He laughed. “Come on snap too, here’s you shaving water. Are you alright with a razor?”


The gentle chugging of the steam launch was the most soothing sound Morant had heard all morning, with the swish of water passing down the side and the rhythmic motion of the boat, the whole effect was almost hypnotic.

“I say, don’t go to sleep on me now. Wake up!” Charlie gave his chum a nudge in the ribs.


“I must say, you seem to have bounced back awfully quickly. You looked about as far gone as anyone I’ve seen when we put you to bed last night. The ‘iron gut’s of sailors’ hay hay! If that breakfast was a fair example, I can see where you developed them…”

Humus absentis.”


‘Peep peep peep’ The coxswain muffled voice called out “Backed of all! Hook on for’ard!” then he blew another blast on his whistle to stop the engine and the launch nuzzled up to the platform with a gentle thump.

“Now you’ve got everything? Papers, handkerchief… have you washed behind your ears?”

“Oh haven’t you got a home to go to Charlie?” replied Morant as his friend handed him across onto the accommodation ladder like a boy scout helping an old lady across the street. “I’m sure I can hear your Colonel calling… And thank you Charles. I won’t say it’s been a pleasure old man. But really you’ve been a great help…”

“Think nothing of it dear boy. I hold a commission in the Royal Marines, it’s my sworn duty and sole purpose in life to go about pulling sailors chestnuts out of the fire… Oh yes I cleaned your pistol last night; full magazine, nothing up the spout.”

“That was…” Morant was cut off by the coxswain’s whistle as the boat cast off again. As the boat chugged of towards Mudros and Hogg’s battalion, Morant gave his friend a final wave and called out “Would I have a chance with those Nurses of your’s now?”

“Not a hope old boy!” was the faint reply. “They wouldn’t look twice at a man with shaving cream on his chin!”

It was all Andrew could do to save the packet of papers.


“There seems to be some misunderstanding. These are Commander Simpson's personal papers.“ Unwin’s thick fingers rifled through the pile. “Cheque book, letters, private correspondence. The only thing here that has any relevance is this diary. Young man, you were supposed to secure his professional files, the papers that deal with matters other than those of your squadron. These… these are matters for his executors and next of kin.”

“Yes sir. I realise that sir. But these were all I could find sir. I was taken ill last night and so I could not attend to this immediately after I retuned. I did however order that the Commanders effects were to be placed under lock and key and I made a through search this morning. This is all there was sir, everything.”

Unwin studied Morant carefully, the man was pale, appeared a little weak was very earnest. He showed no sign of being hung-over and there wasn’t the faintest whiff of alcohol or peppermint. “Well that is as may be, but there should be a number of memoranda, several draft reports, maps and no doubt some notes. Now I suppose they could very well be concealed, Simpson was a careful man. But I will have those papers, even if you must slit the seams of his clothes and excavate his dugout. Speak to his servant… You will keep me informed if you please, a report of your progress one way or the other by this evening or word of success the instant you have any.” If Morant’s interview the day before had won him ‘the job.’ The mixed results from this first test, left Unwin with some reservations about his new assistant.

“Aye aye Sir.”

“Now on to other matters. Amongst your late commanders effects you will no doubt have seen his work regarding the road net…”

“Sir, if I may? The Commander had handed over the Squadrons books to the Adjutant a week or so ago and those are kept in the Squadron ‘Office.’ That..." Morant pointed to the papers spread across the desk. “is every scrap of paper I could find sir. The lot!”

“Well then, you have another reason to find our little prize, don’t you my boy. As you may have gathered Simpson was coordinating the roads we are constructing. You will be taking on this task in his place, in a bridging capacity for the present but if you prove up to the job I see no reason why this would not become permanent along with the command of your Squadron.” Unwin sat back to see what effect this would have. Very little as it tuned out.

“Yes sir.” Said Morant calmly. “Though I don’t suppose I am to be told the real reason for building them… other than to motorise resupply of course.”

‘Oh dear’ though Unwin ‘I do hope this lad isn’t to cleaver by half.’ “Exactly what pray tell do you mean by that?”


“Don’t be coy man! I can’t stand lolly gagging. If you have something to say, then say it.”

“Sir” Morant wondered exactly how to say this. “If... If those tracks we are making are intended to supply the front sir. Then they are very poorly laid out. I said so at the time sir. And if you recall I mentioned it yesterday. We could have had better roads with less effort sir, not just in routing but we have far more then we need. We could have half as many at twice the width, to carry they same traffic with less work…”

“And it’s too late to alter this I’d suppose?” inquired Unwin quietly.

“No sir, there are still some places we could fix. Most of it’s done now sir for better or worse. But if I’m to…”

“You will of course make some changes, I dare say you can improve the show in any number of ways. However as you imply the ‘die is cast’ there…”

“Sir.” It was Morant’s turn to interrupt, and he lent forward to hold Unwin's glare. “forgive me, but I should have said that I don’t expect to be told why we need roads that offer clear fields of fire across our rear areas, but…” he raised an eyebrow in mute appeal.


“Thank you Shortland.” Morant looked at the pile of neatly bound luggage laid out for his inspection. “That looks splendid, an excellent job. It would be a pity to have to ruin it all…”

“Sir? Commander Simpson’s servant looked perplexed. “I assure you sir, everything is correctly packed and I have taken the liberty of addressing all the valises to the Commander’s sister in Working. She is his next of kin sir. I have also…”

“You served the Commander before the war I take it?”

“Yes sir, I have had the honour of being in the late Commanders service since nineteen hundred and ten sir. I was Under Footman to His Grace the Duke of Bedford and Mister Simpson, was kind enough to offer me a place as Valet…”

“Then you should have some idea as to where Commander Simpson might have concealed any official correspondence of a confidential nature?” Morant found himself speaking with a formal correctness that his mother would have approved of. Shortland had that effect on people.

“Would this be an official inquiry sir? You will pardon me for asking but there are certain matters that…”

“It is indeed.”

“Then if I might suggest sir examines the contents of the larger of the two trunks sir. There is a writing box that might be of some interest…” Shortland coughed discreetly.

The box was of course locked. Morant carried the cube of walnut into the Squadron Commanders dugout ‘My dugout now I suppose’ he though as he pulled up a packing case chair and rested the box on the blanket covered slab that severed as both desk and table. “Oh dear” he sighed and opened his penknife with a reluctant snap. It was a lovely box.


Morant looked up to see Shortland had followed him inside. “Yes?”

“If I may sir” Shortland reached over and with a quick flick of the wrist sprung the lock.

Morant looked at the box, then up at Shortland.

“It’s a knack sir” said Shortland modestly.

“Right. Now lets see what we have here.” Morant opened the box. Like most of its kind the secretaire was hinged just below the middle and unfolded to form an angled writing surface covered in green baize with small pockets for pens and stoppered sand and ink wells along the top. The cloth covered boards opened up to give access to storage compartments. “Shortland, where was this box? It certainly wasn’t here this morning.” Asked Morant as he delved into the contents of the lower compartment.

“Indeed it was sir. The Commander kept it in a small excavation beneath his Uniform Trunk. In an oilskin jacket sir” he added. “I made use of the jacket to preserve the Commanders photographs from the damp sir, the box would take no harm amid the shirts.”

“I see, a hole in the floor you say…” muttered Morant, distractedly leafing through a wad of notes on “Jam Run” what ever that was. 'Well I've found Unwins bumph' he thought as he stacked the contents of both halves of the box neatly on the table. Having emptyed the box of all the lose paper, he turned to the pigon holes and drawers that filed the end of the upper box under the pen and ink wells. Stamps, wafers, nibs, a stray cufflink that Shortland sized upon with a grunt of satisfaction. Nothing of any importance.

Shortland was about to make another discrete cough but Morant spared him the effort by pulling the sandbox and inkwell out of their spaces, then cleaning out the pen cavity. There was a guinea under the sandbox. He tipped the whole box on its side and started running his fingers over the polished wood. With one hand on the inside and the other mirroring it on the outside he carefully gauged the thickness of the walls. Turning to the little compartments he pulled out all the drawers and then thrust a finger into each pigeon hole and finally the draw space, this last yielded a pleased cluck of his tongue. “Well?”

“Ahhh no sir, I knew it was there sir but…”

“Never mind.” This time Morant’s fingers probed the nooks and crannies with a touch sensitive to the least movement of the wood. Nothing moved or slid under his gentle pressure and he sat back with a faint smile. “This is a good one.”

“Nothing but the finest was suitable for Mr. Simpson.” Agreed Shortland.

Morant examined the brass keyhole and probed the back of it with the tip of his penknife “No…” he went back to studying the intricate woodwork, turning the guinea between his fingers in thought. “Hello..” He dropped the sandbox back into its compartment, it fitted perfectly. “Why the cunning dogs!” The sandbox sat on four little spaces in the corners of its well, forming the space that had concealed the coin. Morant pushed, prodded and wiggled each of these slivers of wood in turn. To a sideways pressure one of them moved a fraction of an inch and the facia board across the top of the pigeon holes popped off, spilling a single sheet of folded paper into the empty box. “Well what have we here? A draft on Threadneedle Street for a thousand pound! Good lord. Simpson certainly believed in insurance I see.”

“Yes sir” sniffed Shortland. “A very prudent man sir.”

“Well that’s one for the paymaster.” Morant placed the bank draft into his pocket book with due reverence. “But still leaves this big space behind the drawers….” It took another ten minutes of pulling and prodding before the bottom of the pen box sprung up with a click.

Chapter 26

…and tell the truth.

27th June 1915

“Well corporal Jones, how are they shaping?”

“Would you like the truth sir, or just an approximation of it?”

“That bad? Oh dear, they drill well enough though…”

“Yes sir. Now if we can teach them which end of a rife goes bang, there might be some hope for them yet.” Dai Jones hadn’t forgiven either his officer or his sergeant for blackmailing him into his new rank, but Lieutenant Williams seemed like a decent sort.

“They have San’t Bradshaw for bomb and bayonet practice after tea don’t they?”

“Yes sir, but why for I do not know. A horrible brutish weapon is the bayonet, the section's time would be better spent here at the butts sir. If I can bring them to hit something a little smaller than the side of a Greek mountain and fire a little faster than a funeral salute, it would be far more use than pitching hay bales or tossing cricket balls sir.”

“I doubt Sarn’t Bradshaw would agree with you there Jones.” Williams smiled. “In fact only this morning he was saying how rifles get far more use as clubs…”

“Colin Bradshaw is a lovely man sir, but alas only a second class shot. In an ale house brawl or a Donnybrook Fair he is a wonder to behold, Ajax come again sir. But he would miss a battleship with a blunderbuss so he would. A less trust worthy opinion on the value of marksmanship and musketry you could not find. Now if I might have the lads back here for an hour or two after luncheon sir I dare say given time and the lords favour, we might be proud of the result.”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you Corporal. The Company have been told off for a fatigue this afternoon and that will most likely keep us occupied until dusk. We are to build a new camp for some troops who will be arriving in a day or two… ”

“Ah, there you are Luke.”

“Sir.” Both men came to attention as the battalion 2/ic stepped out from behind a stone wall.

“As you were, as you were.” Charlie Hogg set them at ease with a casual wave. “I just wanted to see if you have your people organised for out for this 'Boy Scout' lark old chap. Dib dib dib what?”

“I was just informing Corporal Jones of that now sir, Captain Quillon has us down for ‘erection and pegging’ sir.” Williams blushed.

“Good show. Well done old man, however there has been a slight alteration. Best laid plans and all that… It seems we won’t need your platoon this afternoon after all. They’ve given us a company of Maltese to help put the tents up, so I was wondering if you’d mind taking over the fire watch instead?” Hogg smiled brightly.

“Fire watch sir?”

“Yes, nothing too it old boy. All your lads have to do is wonder about and keep the fires going, hardly strenuous what? Fine! I’ll see you in the mess then.” Charlie nodded to Dai, slapped Williams on the shoulder and strolled off.

“Why do I get the feeling I’ve just been had?” Williams muttered under his breath.

“Most likely because we have sir.” Replied Dai.


“How goes the new jetty?” asked Unwin around a mouthful of cucumber sandwich.

“They’re working like boongs up there. Watson reckons they should be finished by the end of the day, so all in all we’ll have only lost a single night on Anzac…” Colonel White put down his tea cup and lit a cigarette.

“You would almost think they were eager to leave.” Remarked Aspinall dryly. “Is that blasted submarine still hanging around Edwin?”

“No sign of it since last night.” Replied Commander Unwin. “It seems like he tried to have another shot at the Belgrave on the surface, but either that old girl has a guardian angel or the Hun was just having a bad day, because he popped up almost directly under a star shell some idiot had fired off over a porpoise… “

“Speaking of which, exactly what are we intending to do about our paste board battleship now she’s sprung a leak?” asked Aspinall

“Well Cyril.” Unwin looked placidly across at the Staff Colonel as he stuffed his pipe. “I wouldn’t say she has a leak. More like a twenty foot hole, and that’s pretty much a dockyard job under normal circumstances…”

“But these are hardly normal circumstances are they old chap.”

“Honestly…” sighed Unwin. “don’t you ever give up? Here we have a ratty old tub with a crew that gives the Pier-Head-Jump a bad name, who have just had the bottom blown out of barky and you want to slap on a plaster, kiss it better and pack them back off to soak up torpedoes. “ he shook his head sadly.

“That is as may be my dear fellow, but there is a war on you know. They also serve who sit and sink, and we must make sure the naval covering force has a clear run. I really am sorry about your sailors, but would you rather we lost a real boat.” Aspinall asked in tones of sweat reason.

“Boat! Lord preserve me for pongos…”

“He has a point Edwin, horrified as I am to agree with anyone who calls even a mock Dreadnought a ‘boat.’ But we really do need that ship off Anzac on the 29th. God knows why your lot sent her up yesterday.” Said White leaning over to the ashtray.

“Well we didn’t intend for her to get hit you know… Just wanted to give the Turks a look at her, there’s no point in having a decoy if the other chap doesn’t know it’s there now is there? I grant you it was a risk and one that we’ve been called on I’m sorry to say. It was a valid decission if an unfortunate one and I don’t regret it for a minute.”

“But what are we doing about it.” Pressed Aspinall.

“All is not lost old boy, have a little faith in the navy. They have fothered both the holes and as I understand it the Belgrave isn’t short of timber what ever else she might lack. Last I heard they were hunting up some Portland Cement... of course they probably have Malta in mind rather than Anzac but she should be able to make five or six knots.”

“’Fother’? I do which you’d speak English sometimes Edwin.”

“They rigged a Thrum mat… a canvas patch. ‘Fother’ for your information Cyril is a fine old Anglo-Saxon word and one that you will find in Dr. Johnstone Dictionary, not that I’d pay to much attention to his definition. The canvas holds back the water and tonight they are going to build a wooden form… a box around the hole and fill it with concrete. Alright?”

“So they are putting a plaster over it!” laughed Aspinall. “Will it be able to what we ask though?”

“Yes. Or rather yes and no…”

Aspinall tilted his head to one side and waited with obvious patience.

“Look old boy, we had intended that she should be able to steam about, soak up any lurking submarine's torpedoes and then sink gracefully, leaving the way clear for the big lads to move up in safety. Now, I’d say she will probably take one hit before she goes. So as I said, yes she should be able to make it in time. But, no the old girl will not be as effective as we might have hoped.”

“Thank you Edwin, you might have said ‘don’t worry about it’ and spared us… Oh never mind. Blanco.” Aspinall turned to White ”Please tell me everything else is going to plan.”

“Plan? What plan? Frankly old lad I’m making it up as I go along. As far as men and material we're all right. The numbers are with in our margin of error if a little high, and we should be able to take off the excess tonight if they get the pier open.” White consulted his note book. “There should be; twenty one thousand three hundred and fifteen men (give or take) with rations and ammunition for six days, thirty guns with one hundred and twenty rounds each, seventy two mules with two days fodder and between eight and nine ton of assorted stores left ashore as of dawn tomorrow. But!”

“Here it comes.” Muttered Unwin.

“It does indeed. Birdwood isn’t happy about the artillery.” White shrugged.

“For god sake!” Aspinall spat. “We’ve already let him keep five more guns than he should have and I thought there were only supposed to be a hundred and ten rounds per gun…”

“We didn’t let him have anything old bean. With out a functioning jetty I couldn’t get the drifters in last night to take them off. As it was we had to manhandle five 18 pounders through the water, which pleased the gunners no end I can tell you. They are going to need a full refit before they can be fired again.” Explained Unwin.

“That isn’t the point! The blasted man still has more guns and ammunition than we had agreed and I fail to see what grounds he has to complain.”

“Cyril, calm down for heavens sake. I agree it is a little inconvenient for us, but the General does have a few worries of his own you know; defending a 'pie crust' perimeter, organising the fall back positions implimenting the deception plan... it’s hardly fair to blame the old boy for getting a trifle windy at this late stage. After all we did promise to make up his deficit with naval support and when he looks out his window all he sees floating around is a fake battleship. Hardly reassuring now is it. Edwin…” White turned to the Commander. “can you scrape together a couple of Cruisers to go up and hold his hand?”

“Cruisers? Oh I suppose we might manage a Destroyer or three, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for Cruisers if I were you. I shall see what we can do, probably have something up there in time for the good Generals dinner if we’re lucky.” Unwin sniffed. “But to be honest, the navy has put a lot of iron on the bottom off Anzac lately. While we are always happy to help, I’d rather hold back until our support was really called for.”

“A token now or a formal request through Sir Ian tomorrow?”

“Well if you put it like that old man…”

Chapter 27

The road to nowhere

28th June 1915

“Let’s be off then Alfred.” The hull of Rolls Royce boomed as Morant thumped the armoured side with his fist.

“Aye aye sar.” Parsons pulled out the choke, set the mixture to ‘Rich,’ gave the Kigass a couple of quick strokes, flicked on the magneto. “Com’on me lovely lass…” he crooned as he snapped the ignition leaver from ‘Retard’ to ‘Full Advance’ and back again. The straight six chugged over like asthmatic beagle and died. “Bogger.”

“Well confidence go-eth before the fall.” Commiserated his officer from the passenger seat.

“That is does sar.” Agreed Parsons as he craned his head around to yell out the back doors.

“Alright then Alfie?” inquired PO Wheeler through the side window.

“Shite!” Parsons jumped. “Don’t do that ta me you bastard. Scared bloom’n the life out’a me ya did.”

“Ah pack h’up ya moan’n” replied Wheeler as he walked around and bent to the crank handle. “Switches?”

“Switches Off. John” Confirmed Parsons as he rested both hands on the steering wheel in plane view man at the crank. “Best give ‘er a couple to clear…”

“Aye…” Grunt ‘Chuff.’ Grunt ‘Chuff.’ Grunt ‘Chuff.’ “Three do ‘er?” asked Wheeler

“More o’ less. Petrol On, Priming. Suck In.” ‘Chuff’ “Switches On.”

“Switches On, Ready!”

“Come on old girl lets be av’n ya.” Muttered the Indy’s[i/] gunner as he shifted his grip “H’allly Hoop!”


Lt. David Treadgath looked to be an inoffensive creature, short, rotund and with his pebble spectacles the very image of a clerk. That his appearance was so deceptive was all the more surprising because he was a clerk. Well he had been, before his TA squadron of the Royal Engineers was mobilised.

When he had joined the Territorial Army to escape the tedium of the Great Western Railway, Davey certainly never conceived that his peace time occupation in Bristol would drag him from his beloved sappers and deposit his tubby form in a Steerage class cabin aboard the Aragon[i/]. It might have been along way from Ilfracombe to Gallipoli, but who better than the son of a Cornish fisherman and a former timetable clerk for Gods Own Railway to choreograph the movements of an amphibious army?

All of which might explain why he was Commander Edwin Unwin’s deputy in charge of shipping, but not why he looked fit to chew the carpet. Or so thought Unwin as his assistant came stumping through the door.

“Mornin’ sur.”

“Good morning Mr. Treadgath, what have you for me today… sit down old man, sit down.” Unwin wave down his salute and gestured at a chair.

“Thank you sur, h’i don’t mind if I do.” Treadgath leant forward to place a thick tape bound folder on Unwin’s desk and dropped into the indicated seat. “That, you will find to be my draft Movement Order for this evening and tomorrow sur.”

“Thank you dear boy.” Unwin dragged the folder across onto his blotter and pulled out knot. “And a great deal of work it is too. Although I presume by the less than cheerful expression on your phiz that this is not all of it?”

“Well sur, I have been reviewing the ships time sheets and landing dockets and…”

“Ahhh yes.” ‘That explains it’ thought Unwin.

“Yes indeed sur. Yes indeed.”

“Fraud, corruption or incompetence?” inquired Unwin sweetly.

“Ha!” Treadgath broke into his more usual grin. “Now that’s not for me to say sur. An’ to be honest, I doubt it’s as clear cut as that either. By n’ by, if I’s had to make a choice, it would be the former an’ the latter sur, with only a moderate dose of corruption. Just enough to grease the wheels as may be. But that’s neither as important as getting some order amongst these blasted fisherman. Take this one sur, the currently HM Drifter 125021 the former SS Minnow[i/] out of Hull. Skippered by one Jonas Grumby esquire. We sent her up to Anzac the other day on a milk run, an’ don’t they whish she had some milk… Any how, a simple cruise, three hours no more, an’ they take, well it might as well be forever sur. See here, their indent of fuel and consumables, what on earth they want with all this bamboo and copper tube and they refused some perfectly good desiccated coconut…..


“Right Alfie, we’ll try that nullah. The one on the right…” Morant pointed to the depression in question and stepped up onto the running board.

“Aye aye sah.” Parsons let in the clutch gently and carefully dragged on the big wheel, bringing the Rolls Royce around in a slow, gentle arc.

Drew Morant was less worried about falling off than having the armoured car roll over on top of him when the long bonnet dipped down into the gully. Even so he jammed his left arm into the open gun port and shifted his grasp on the inside of the turret ring as the whole chassis lurched and bucked over the uneven ground.

“H’in coming!” yelled Wheeler from his perch on the rear platform as the Turkish shells began there shrieking decent.

“Bloody hell! A trifle faster if you please Mr. Parsons!” ordered Morant through the side window, and as the big car skittered down the drift, Drew was almost certain he heard his driver grumble something about ‘…getting what they ruddy well deserved for buggering about in the open.’


“Which brings us to Quartermaster Generals traffic to an’ from Hellas sur.”

“Oh and what has old Wubbly Buggs been up to now?” Unwin looked up from the tea tray.

“Wobly Boggs’ sur?”

“His initials, my brother shared a Dorm with him at Winchester, ‘Ulysses Uriah Bothwell,’ Double U Bee, you see…”

“Ah I have you now sur.” Said Treadgath although he didn’t sound quite so certain. “most folk call him ‘Q’ as I understand it sur….


“Whoaaa! Whoa I say!” Sheer terror gave Morant’s voice a foghorn like bellow as the Rolls Royce bucked and swayed down the nullah. Loud as he was the crump of bursting shells seemed to have deafened Parsons, for he showed no sign of stopping despite Andrew’s repeated injunctions. In desperation Morant thrust his free arm through the open windscreen and made a swipe at the ignition switch.


Bells seemed to have been ringing for ever, Sub Lt. Tasker couldn’t remember a time when the world wasn’t black and if a tide of voices ebbed and flowed, only the bells remained a constant. It was a friendly sound, one he knew would never desert him or cause him harm, like an eternal Sunday morning… peaceful.

Dorothy White checked the time on the small silver watch that hung from her breast and made a notation on the patients chart. ‘No Change’ 10:15 AM 28/6/15 ‘Patient bathed, no bowel movement.’

“Morning Dot, how’s this one?”

“Good morning Doctor.” Normally Dorothy was none to fond of being called ‘Dot’ and she most certainly had not joined the Australian Army Nursing Corps to find a husband. But Doctor Solomon was hansom and he was charming and he did take particular notice when she changed her hair… So rather than just handing over the chart as she would have to any other man rude enough to use her diminutive…

“As well as can be expected, the poor dear. He just mumbles away doctor, Nurse Tickwell bathed him this morning and he seemed to find that soothing. But he was rather tender about the ribs again.”

“Cracked or broken perhaps?” asked the doctor.

That was the other think Dot liked about Doctor Solomon, he was never too proud to listen to nurses, unlike some she could name. “Nancy thinks so, and there is some bruising…”

“We’d best have a look-see then, who took the admission?” he referred to the chart Dot handed him. “Ted Craven...” Dot’s sniff was eloquent in expressing her opinion of Dr. Craven. “Let’s have a peek shall we?”

As Dot gently pulled back the sheet, Taskers lips started moving and she looked up and the doctor. “He’s started again.”

“Well it shows that some one’s home at any rate.” Gregory Solomon looked down at the hunched figure on the cot with great compassion. “Can you make out what he’s saying Dot?”

“Not really Doctor, if anything it sounds like ‘The bells, the bells’.”


“When I say ‘Whoa’ I mean Whoa god damned it!” Parsons wilted under his officers wrath. “If you’ve cracked a ruddy spring with your bloody capers I will[i/] have your guts for sodding garters. I need someone who can do as he’s told, if you can’t do that, then I shall get another chauffer and bang goes your life of ease and bloody comfort I can tell you…”

CRUMP, Crump, crump. The artillery salvo ‘walked’ up the valley in front of them, sending fountains of dust and grit into the pale sky.

“See, we’d have been right under that lot you twit, and you nearly ripped my bloody arm off.” Morant shook his head sadly. “Check the springs would you. I’m going to take a dekko and see if I can find a way out of here.”

Parsons slid under the front of the car and began the awkward process of stripping back the leather covers from the leaf springs.

“Whatcher.” Parsons looked up to see Wheeler squatting in the dust wearing a broad grin.

“Sod off John!” grumbled Alfie.

“Now, now! Just ’cause the nice orf’icer tore yah a new…”

“Fook ‘im! What’s ‘e matter ta me then ‘ay? Nuffin’ that what. An’ ye can shove that an all.”

“Temper, temper Alfred.” Admonished his mate “It’s no like ‘e gave you a right bollock’n nah is it? An’ you was in a right flap, darn near rattled me orf’ me bleeding perch you did, but yah ‘ear me complain’n? Nah you…”

“I said ‘sod off’ ya fook’n lumock’s, I’s got fook’n work ta do an’ the last fing I need is great idol boof’ed, yammer’n in me soddin’ ….”

“Well I’s never! ‘Ear I was thinking that as youse was pulling the gaiters orf we might as well butter ‘erm and all I get’s is abuse!” John produced a grease syringe. “So Alfie old chap. Youse pull the leathers on this side, an I’ll do t’other right?”


“So let me see if I understand you. He is shipping in more than he needs and is sending out more than he could have had in the first place, am I right?”

“More or less sur. An’ if my bird be telling me true, he’s issuing stores like a man with eight arms sur. It just won’t add up no matter how I twist it.”

It was the note of bafflement in Treadgath’s voice that sold Unwin. If his man couldn’t untangle it, then there was definitely something fishy going on. “Very well, what sort of numbers are we talking about, shipping is tight enough as things are, without some clown wasting it.”

“Well now, the QM was allocated about fifty percent above what we thought…” David stressed the word ” he might need, for flexibility sur. But if he pushed everything into the first couple o’ nights. Why he might have moved thirty or forty ton. Perhaps fifty.”

“Fifty! I’ll not be having that.” Unwin sounded ominous. “No, I’m all for the quiet life, but fifty ton is more than we can tolerate at this point. Do we know where any of this is going?”

“Why no sur, I have not had the time to chase th…”

“Of course you haven’t man. We’re supposed to be fighting a bloody war not playing silly buggers. He has one last load tonight yes?”

“Yes sur.” Confirmed Treadgath.

“Right then, I think I can handle things from here David. Thank you. Now about these fisherman of yours…”


“Well that’s certainly one way of doing it I suppose….” Colonel White scratched the back of his head as he surveyed the new pier. “Edwin will be thrilled, but I rather think Cyril will be less than pleased. Will it do?” he turned to the engineer who had built a pier fifteen feet wide and a hundred yards long in record time. The man looked exhausted.

“I reckon.” Watson paused, then added with a tired wink. “She’ll be right mate.”


“Springs all right then?” Morant addressed the two petty officers in a very different tone from his last conversation. “Alfie, get the gaiters back on, today man, today. And Wheeler lets get the Vickers in.”

“Sah?” replied John doubtfully.

“Come man, chop-chop. Vickers gun, ‘bout yeah big, little round hole in the front, I’m sure we have one around somewhere.”

“Aye sah.”

“Well smack it about man, smart’s the word, quick’s the action…” Morant chivvied the gunner towards the rear of the car. “I’ll give you a hand.”

“Sah?” asked Wheeler as opened the offside tool chest where the machinegun and a pair of rifles were stored. “Do I fill th’ jacket sah?”

Morant pondered this matter as he climbed up to join the gunner on the rear platform. “No, I don’t think we need go quite that far” he laughed. “But you’d best have a belt handy.”

“Aye, aye sah.”

There were two reasons why the Indy’s[i/] turret was trained over to about 45 degrees over the drivers head. Firstly it gave anyone riding on the running board some where to hold on, and the second reason is that no one had to stand on the bonnet to help fit the gun in place. Still it meant the assistant had to support 30 odd pounds of steel over his head, just the man inside the turret had to manoeuvre the whole weight about inside the cramped cylinder to get it sticking out the gunport in the first place. Both men were perspiring with more than just the heat before Wheeler slipped in the trunnion pin and they could both relax. It hadn’t taken long for Alfred to fit the last of the leather gaiters back over rear quarter elliptic springs, and after he had unlatched the turret and bought it around to point forward John had opened the roof hatch and stood up for some air. So both crewmen had plenty of opportunity to watch curiously as Morant spat on his handkerchief, cleaned his face, then wonder of wonders beat his naval cap into some semblance of regulation trim and squared it carefully on his head. “Mount up lads, and for gods sake Alfie, do listen to what I say.”


Tubby Bradshaw might well have been a sergeant and so above manual labour, but he did enjoy working with his hands and what’s the point of rank if you can’t make the best of it?

The axe swung through a precise arc and bit into the round of timber with a meaty ‘Thwock,’ a deft flick of the wrist added two more bits of firewood to the piles mounding up on either side of his block. Rattler swept a splinter off the battered surface and balanced another round ready for his friends attention.

“It is not the lack of sleep to which I object Colin, no really it is not. Nor why we should have to stay up all night tending fires for no good reason that I can see. That is only the way of the army after all, and no man can expect to fathom that. No, not in many a long year.”

“An’ I bloody well ‘ope we’re not ‘ere that long” chimed in Tubby as he split another round.

“Right you are there Colin dear, the sooner we are clear of these lunatics the better in my opinion. The Navy might be bedlam, but it bares no comparison….” Rattler set up the next piece of wood. “No as I was saying, I do not mind the night duty, but why we must then spend the morning cutting more wood to burn. That is what I cannot understand. It has thrown our training into a sad muddle, so it has. And when I can get our boyos together, I fear they will be too tired to see their shoes, let alone focus on their foresights like Christians.” He sighed.

“Never mind old c0ck, they’ve done the short course…”

“Six months! A proper marine has a full year in camp and even then he is but a babe in arms. Pah. Six months!”

“’Babe in arms’… that’s a good one that is.” Thwock! “Since we’s only passed out ta the fleet in March!”


Standing on the very end of ‘Bully Pier’ White could only admire the superb job the engineers had done in so little time. Every step he had taken to reach the end, had felt like a pace upon a stone quay. He turned to his companion. “What about afterwards? Surely a little water…”

White beamed through his fatigue like a proud parent after a long labour. “We punched a nail hole in every one sir, every ruddy one! Twelve hours in the drink and they’ll be no good to man nor beast.” He sighed in satisfaction.

‘And there is no going back either.’ Thought White.


Morant ducked down from his position in the top hatch of the Rolls Royce, hardly noticing the shift from the hot, dry, dusty air of a June morning on Gallipoli to the clamorous, oven like stuffiness of the armoured car. He shuffled past his gunner, tapped Parsons on the shoulder and spoke directly into his ear. “Drop your visor before the next bend! Slow down all you like, take a peek if you must, but close up hear me?” Parsons nodded. Morant couldn’t see the frown that creased the Petty Officers forehead, but he could imagine it, and Andrew smiled quietly to himself as he moved back to his hatch.


Edwin Unwin’s port hole was the source of a constant if very personal pain. Sir Ian Hamilton was a very modern general in many respects, almost the very model of a modern general in fact. Brave, loyal, highly intelligent and a man of letters. But in spite of, or possibly because of all this he still liked to do some things the old way. One of the first things they had done when his head quarters had moved out to the islands to avoid the German submarines, was to run an telegraph cable the 17 odd miles back to Cape Hellas.

So far it had proved eminently reliable, ‘unlike the men on the either end’ as Cyril Aspinall had quipped a few days before. Even so, Sir Ian still demanded the services of a dispatch boat. On the rare occasions he felt justified in interfering with the ‘man on the spot’ he liked to do so in autograph. It was typical of the man in so many respects, pride in both his penmanship and composition might have had something to do with it, however mostly it was for the benefit of ‘his’ people.

A written instruction, direct from the ‘hand of god’ was the clearest method of communication the general was capable of, and he was very capable when he felt so inclined. That it also provided his subordinates with an iron clad cover should misfortune strike as it had all to often since April, was probably the least considered reason for this habit. Sir Ian’s loyalty was of the instinctive kind and it flowed in both directions.

None of this had any direct baring on Unwin’s private anguish though, except by indirect extension. Because every time the Naval Officer looked through it, there sitting square in his little round window was moored a Destroyer with steam up and ready for sea. Four months ago he had commanded HMS Hussar[i/] before a chance remark about the best way to land troops had plucked him from the only job he had ever wanted and left him with a table full of paper work and a disaster to manage. Unwin shook his head, put his fears for the future and regrets for the past firmly back in their bottle and returned to his mound of paper.


Parsons dropped the heavy steel plate over his windscreen with a clang that made the car ring like a gong. As his vision reduced to a narrow slit it made driving in such rugged country very difficult and so he cut his speed back to little more than a walking pace as he came around the turn Morant had indicated. It was as well that he had, for the washaway that had twisted and turned like a broken backed snake since they had been chased into it by the Turkish guns, now widened out to a good twenty yards. Oh yes and it was full of men in kilts.

Chapter 28

Never the twain.

28/29th of June 1915

“They fak’n what? No fear mate, yeah’ll not fool this muvver’s son.” Simms might have been up to his knees in concrete but he wasn’t falling for that lark. “Daft they me’be, but they’d be…”

“You mark my words Tone lad, soon as the last o’ this ‘ere mortar’s in, we’s h’up anchoring. That be gospel boy, why ain’t the stoke’s trimming as we speak?” the grubby seaman clouted Simms across the back of the head in a friendly sort of way and returned to mixing more concrete with a wooden slat.

“Fark… But this lot’ll never be set.” And if anybody should have known it was Simms, after all he was the one treading the stuff in to compact it.

“Orders son, we be in the Navvy lad, ‘case it slipped yeah mind like. Nah get back in yon tub, this lot be ready.”


One of the advantages of being friendly with the new commander of the Navy’s Armoured Cars was access to his transport and Cameron Marlowe was making the most of it. What would have been more than a day’s hard work for his pack train, was a simple exercise when there were two RNAS tenders on hand. Cameron couldn’t imagine what quirk of fate had washed three tons of 2.75” ammo up on the strand at ‘W’ beach, the workings of the QMG’s and Ordnance were more than he cared to contemplate. But as he half turned in the bucket seat and patted the hairy wooden boxes, he blessed his lucky stars. “Now” he thought ‘if I can only survive the trip home with my kidneys intact.’


At that moment in time Morant was equally grateful to dame fortune, she was after all a Lady if not one from hell. As he would later put it to Marlowe ‘In Kilts all Scotsman look alike.’ Which if not exactly accurate, did explain why he didn’t have to account for his little slight of hand with a few hundred tons of dirt a few days before.

“Take the next left Aflred. We want to work over to the East.”

“The Frenchy’s sar?” replied the driver.

“Yes…” Morant flattened the map on his knee. “I want to see how far forward we can get.” Parsons groaned. “And how fast we can get out again.” Added Morant with a grin.

“Aye sar, looks like we’ll be coming h’out in the open rightly. This ‘ere…” Parsons double declutched down a gear “null’h is ris’n sar.”

“Right.” Morant contorted himself around in the web of leather straps that formed the passengers seat and yelled back over his shoulder.

Perched out on the rear platform, PO Wheeler was dusty but a lot cooler than his companions riding inside. He too had noticed the rising ground and while he could only make out three of Morant’s words; ‘Inside,’ ‘Shelly’ and ‘Button Up’ were more than enough to give him the picture. With a sigh of resignation he clambered back into the car and clipped the doors shut behind him.


“Last load tonight Sargent.”

“Yes sir.”

“Everything ready?”

“Yes sir.”

“Are you certain?”

The QMS bought the clipboard from under his arm with a precision that bespoke years of practice. “Sir! Item: One Gross Shoes Mule India Pattern Large. Item: Three Dozen Buckles Harness GP. Item: Seven…” The two men fell into the welcome drill that had given their lives meaning for so many years.

Well before they reached ‘Baggage Personal’ at the end of the list, Q noticed his Sargent was using a pencil, indelible HB rather than the fine new pen that had sealed their bargain. ‘That’s odd.’ he thought. ‘I do hope he hasn’t lost it.’


The centre of the Hellas Peninsula was the sort of rolling terrain that offered a good deal of cover for a careful man, but sod all for a 6’4” Armoured Car moving across the grain of the country. Almost as soon as Indefatigable rose from the wadi she was spotted. And although the Turkish guns didn’t open fire immediately, the crew inside felt like ants under a magnifying glass.

The dust plume certainly didn’t help either, the Rolls Royce was only doing between five and at most fifteen miles per hours, however Gallipoli is a dry place in June and the soil is little more than dry silt.

Morant wasn’t all that concerned about shrapnel, provided it burst correctly. Solid rubber tires and 9mm of hardened steel could deal with the heaviest shrapnel ball or shell splinter. Only the radiator was vulnerable, it had shutters, but to close them in this weather was a sure way to boil the engine. So shrapnel was a hazard and a potential inconvenience, rather than a threat to life and limb. High Explosive on the other hand…


In the strictest sense, it was a criminal offence, but Morant was willing to forgive Wheeler for kicking him in the back. Actually given his choice, Morant would rather have been kicked sooner and harder. But that was after the Armoured Car had dropped it’s drivers side front wheel into a shell hole and tipped over.

The Indy wasn’t the first RNAS vehicle the Turks had observed and they had directed a fair few shells at them at one time or another. But this was the first that car they had seen lying on its side in the open. Morant and Parsons hadn’t yet untangled themselves before the first shells started to whistle in.


“Any other business?” White had been a solicitor, and he still liked to do these things properly.

“Not from me.” Aspinall mashed out a cigarette and lit another one.

“You could have lit that off your last one and saved the match.” Remarked Unwin.

“I don’t know about the Navy old boy, but a chap has to have some standards.” Aspinall sniffed.

“Now now gents, let’s not get our smalls in a twist. Are you sure Cyril?” asked White as he scooped up a digestive biscuit and dunked it in his tea.

“Now that is a revolting habit.” Aspinall poked a nicotine stained finger at the offending biscuit.

“Just as well you’re not my mother than isn’t it.” Replied White with a smile. “Stop avoiding the issue old man, is there nothing from your end we need discuss?”

“For heavens sake! No. Everything on the first and second tier is signed sealed and delivered. The first level stuff is ready too, only as you have constantly harped on about flexibility we’re leaving it to the last possible moment for amendments. Alright?”

“Wasn’t so hard now was it?” smirked Unwin. “My end is all tied up, if you’ll pardon the pun. Only a Briefing for the minor players tomorrow afternoon, apart from that…”


It was a very long afternoon in the belly of the Indy. Shrapnel balls rattled on the hull like hailstones and the reek of petrol made smoking an impossible dream. Wheeler had something wrong with his ribs, standing in the open hatch when a car tried to do a barrel roll tends to be hard on the ribcage, but other than that they had gotten off quite lightly. Bruises mostly, the leather seats come harnesses did more than just minimise the vibration. Morant couldn’t help thinking that some sort of restraining belt might be a sensible addition to any automobile.

Of course it could have been worse, they had water, food and three hours until nightfall. “Hardly any right to complain at all really.” As Morant remarked to his companions. “ It’s not like we’re lost or anything!”


Captain Clifford gripped the Belgrave’s rail and smiled like a Cheshire cat. “Now this is a bit more like it, ay Number one?”

“Aye sir, that it is.” The first officer could only agree that an escort of three destroyers certainly made all hands feel much better. “the lads are right cheerful now sir.”

“Ha! I dare say they are, why a man would have to work at being drowned under these circumstances. Look…“ he pointed to the closest Destroyer “…they’ve already got their boats turned out. Yes a definite improvement on yesterday. Still I would like to keep the old girl above water.” he patted the rail gently “She’s not a bad old hooker.”


Artillerymen are not by nature stupid, nor are they on the whole wasteful. Nobody can say exactly who first worked it out, or how they came to the conclusion. But an interval of between thirty five and forty five seconds was considered the most economical rate for suppressive fire. And every thirty eight seconds on the dot a shell cracked over the Indy. They weren’t perfect, some burst high, others low or to either side. Once it stopped, for all of two minutes there was blessed silence. “Just Jocko playing games.” Was Morant’s reply to Parsons suggestion of making a break. He was right.


“Where are they?” Lieutenant Finch spoke no French, his guide spoke no English, it was a perfect compromise. The Frenchman just pointed to a distant dust cloud and shrugged.

The view from the top of the turret didn’t offer that much more information, but through his field glasses Finch could see just enough to confirm the Indy’s position. “Oh dear” he sighed.


“It’s curious really…”

“What sar?”

“Sorry.” Morant hadn’t realised he had spoken aloud. “Oh how little HE the Johnny’s use, that’s all.” Morant could have bitten his tongue as soon as he had spoken. His morbid thoughts were hardly the thing to keep up moral.

“Noticed that me self skipper.” Panted Wheeler. “No end o’ shrapnel like…”

“But bogger all ‘ight h’explosive. Finished Parsons.

‘Oh well” thought Morant. “Yes, it’s odd, shrapnel is more expensive and harder to make, but it’s all the Turks seem to have. Even their howitzers seem to have more of it than common shell.”

“Not that’d h’us much good, that ruddy ‘ole! Oh don’t I whish ta’ get me ‘angs on him that put that sodd’n, fook’n ‘ole there! Nah all it needs is one coon…”

Morant held up a grimy hand to silence the driver. “For all we know it was one of ours. Blaming anyone for a crater here is like pinning the grief for a pea souper on a coal merchant. So let it rest man.” After all he had his own moral to think about.


Dusk fell over the eastern Mediterranean with all the grace of a ballerina slipping on a dog turd. Shells kept falling, machine gunners and riflemen either stepped quietly away from their “Stand Too” positions or stayed behind to snipe, Lieutenant Finch decided to see about his superior, Commander Unwin finished his tea and every thirty eight seconds a man cowering in a tin box cursed.


“I want a shake at ten James, boarding togs rigged out and a cup of tea if you please.” Unwin’s steward nodded his understanding and Edwin continued. “Now I might be out half the night, so don’t wait up old chap and let me have a bit of a calk in the morning ‘till say half past nine. Then breakfast and bath as per normal.”

“Aye, Aye sir. A shake at ten this evening sir, third best uniform, Sam Browne, boots, whistle, pistol and round cap, with a cup of tea. Will sir be requiring his sword?”

Unwin laughed. “I think not, not tonight anyhow. Just the light rig James, I hardly think I’ll be needing the cleaver.”

“Very good sir. Boarding attire, less sword. Bath and Breakfast at nine fifteen for half past. And a very good night sir.”

“Thank you James and good night to you too. Oh and don’t wait up!”

“Of course not sir.”


Finch walked ahead of little procession, he was hardly a Red Indian Scout but the pair of wheel marks he followed were not exactly the blood spore of a wounded deer either. A few yards behind trailed his Rolls Royce rolling along in bottom gear and some yards astern of HMAC Australia came New Zealand. He would have bought a tender but the idea of risking such a prize in the open… Well he wanted no further casualties if they could be avoided.

After a quarter mile or so, the whistle and crack of a shrapnel shell indicated they were close enough and Finch walked back around his car and ordered New Zealand to halt. The he climbed inside his car, and ‘buttoned up’ Australia continued on alone.


“Good lord! You look like something the cat dragged in.”

“And a very good evening to you to Cam.” Morant collapsed in the spare seat. “You wouldn’t have a cup of tea for a ship wrecked sailor?”

“Oh I dare say we might rustle up something old boy.” He turned to his batman. “Now tell your uncle Stalky why on earth you look like you’ve been dragged backwards through a hedge.”

“Oh nothing much really old fellow, just a little car trouble…”


Lighters are never the most elegant of sea going craft. They can hardly be called ‘sea going’ at all really, being lessor cousins to the humble barge and devoid of even that dumb conveyance’s amenities. Strictly speaking a Lighter is for ship to shore transport, so a pedant could take issue with the application of the title to HML 0115 as it was currently employed between Hellas and the Greek harbour of Mudros. Not that corporal Meyer would have given a tinker’s for the difference however, all the low iron butter box meant to him was a ticket off Hellas and for that he was truly grateful. In fact he was so busy contemplating his good fortune and the joys of a warm Aegean evening he didn’t even notice the naval picket boat that chuffed out of the gloom.

“Ahoy there! We’re coming along side.” A voice called from the darkness.


“Morning Mr Finch!”

Finch sat up in bed and groaned, shaking his head and scrubbing the rime of sleep from his eyes. “You sir are supposed to be dead, or at least missing.”

“Yes!” Morant laughed “I heard about you little trip last night. Thanks for the thought old bean…”

“Oh don’t thank me sir, I just wanted to make sure. No point in pinching your spare socks if you were still alive now was there?”

“So that’s where they went. I did drop around last night, but you’d gone to bed by the time I got in and it didn’t seem worth waking you.” Morant sat down on what had once been a biscuit box.

“No, it was more fun to let me spend a night happily dreaming that I was in command of this shambles instead.” Rumbled Finch gruffly.

“Of course, and I have the added pleasure of waking you up with the bad news you see. Now get this sorry excuse for a brew down you and put some trousers on. Breakfast in thirty minutes at my place right-oh?” he handed Finch a mug of muddy tea and stood up.

“Yes sir. Oh, Drew. By the way, how did you get out of there?”

“Can’t tell you, trade secret I’m afraid. Now get some skates on Finchy, we’ve go a Roller to salvage before those blasted Frenchmen strip it bare.” Morant smiled and left the dugout.


The dull copper coin spun on the polished mahogany table until Aspinall slapped a hand down on it and picked it up. “Well what is it old man.”

“Don’t ask me, you’re Grecian Cyril. But if you ask me it’s a coin.”

“Oh very droll Edwin, very droll.” Aspinall polished the token with his serviette for a few moments and held it up to the light. “It looks like an Imperial head, Latin old boy not Greek, let me see. Claud.. Rex um Hex, hex. … Claudian I suppose. Roman say first century. But…”

“Did I mention we had a little shipping problem Cyril? Your friend over in the fort was playing fast and lose with his shipping allowance.”

“The QM?”

“The very man. I had thought he was rifling the till, after all it is the usual way with his sort. But I was sadly mistaken.”

“Oh, you took a peek I suppose Edwin?”

“I did indeed Cyril. But as I say I was wrong, it wasn’t pilfering. God knows how he did it, but what was manifested as Personal Baggage and I had though his ill gotten gains turned out to be ammunition boxes full of all sorts of stuff.”

“So what’s he looting then? I wouldn’t think there was much to be had on Gallipoli.”

“Shame on you a Cambridge man too. What’s directly over the water?”

“Huh?” Aspinall looked confused.

“Troy man, Troy! Men have been living here about’s for millennia, and I dare say a few of them decided to live out on the peninsula over the years. Ancient Civilisations old bean. And we’ve been digging all over the ruddy place.”

“So you are telling me Q’s been doing an ‘Elgin.’”

“So it would seem. Fifty tons worth by our calculations, well to be honest that’s Gross not Net. But still quite impressive hay? Pottery in straw, coins, all sorts of metal odds and ends. There’s even what looked to be a bit of mosaic floor.” The commander shook his head. “He must have put the word out for any odd bits of stuff the lads dig up. Cleaver, you have to hand him that.”

“So…” prompted Aspinall.

“Oh I think we still need to go over his books with a fine tooth comb, there is the small matter of where he got what he paid for all this. I don’t think a personal cheque would find many takers over there, rum or tobacco would be more the sort of thing and he is definitely getting a slap on the wrist for misuse of HM’s property. But…”


“Oh dear.” Morant might have put it a little more firmly that that, but he couldn’t disagree with Finch’s sentiment. “Oh dear, oh dear.”

“I don’t know what you’re complaining about old man, we spent four hours under that lot. Parsons counted three hundred and eighty three shells and that’s not much better than a jab in the eye with a sharp stick I can tell you.”

Finch looked across at his superior and frowned. ”Yes sir, but sitting inside is one thing, how do we get her upright and out of there. We can’t just wait until it’s dark and then run like the clappers can we.”

“No, and I’ll have you know that was a tactical withdrawal in the face of the enemy, a most difficult exercise calling for iron discipline and skill of the very highest order. ‘Run like the Clappers indeed!’” Morant sniffed. “Still I haven’t a clue how to do this, They can’t have been pounding it all night surely?”

“No sir, they are doing what a round every five minutes or so? Probably started again at dawn. Well at least we can be sure no one’s stripped it.”

Morant only nodded and returned to his study of battered armoured car and it’s own personal hailstorm. “Well, we could drag it on its side…”

Chapter 28

The Shell Game

29th June 1915

Cyril Aspinall stood in isolation on the bridge wing of the Arcadian, Sir Ian Hamilton’s ship had made a rare excursion up to Hellas specifically for the occasion and now Aspinall waited like an conductor for his orchestra.

As if prompted by a celestial first violin tapping his bow against a chair leg, the sun dipped, bobbled and finally dropped below the western horizon.


“Sir!” Morant dressed in full field equipment as laid down per Admiralty instructions and polished as only a pre war valet could manage came to attention and saluted.

“Ah, good of you to join us Mr. Morant.” Unwin gravely returned the salute, and smiled. “I take it your men are equally resplendent?”

“Short notice sir, but I dare say they will stand an inspection.”

“And I’m sure they will, not that we have time for one this evening.” Unwin stepped down from the compass platform where he had been enjoying both the view and the feel of a destroyer under him and lead Morant back to the flag lockers, seeking a little privacy on the small bridge. “I’m sorry you missed the briefing this afternoon, but we can hardly blame you for that. It was, as you say short notice. Still… Time is even shorter now so I will be brief, any questions speak up now. There is an Admirals barge waiting to take you back to ‘Y’ beach where you will find another. Split your men between the two and do what ever you must, but I want both boats off Anzac by midnight. You are to report to Colonel White at the command post off the pier no earlier than twelve fifteen and no later then twelve thirty.” He paused for questions.

“Is this a reinforcement sir? And what on earth am I to do to or with these boats? I’m sorry sir I don’t under…”

“Of course you don’t dear boy.” Sighted Unwin. “I want as much…. “


If Cameron Marlowe was either tense or bored he hid it well. Sitting in the mouth of his dug out with the gramophone playing quietly, he penned a letter in the light of a hurricane lamp. Peaceful as it was, the calm was far from absolute. Turkish guns still thumped in the background, the odd angry shot cracked out and gentle breeze made the awning flap occasionally. But the Turks seemed to be getting the message of these ‘Quiet Stunts.’ Nobody on either side went so far as to actually relax of course, but Abdul seemed to enjoy the break as much as Tommy. ‘Lord knows’ he wrote ‘what is really going on. Nobody tells us anything of course and all the signs are contradictory, but my dear I have to say that something is definitely in the wind. One minute we are as busy as bee’s then they tell us to drop every thing and hide for a day. But never mind my love, on to more important matters. The tea was delightful and I thank you for the thought, as a little bit of home it was a marvellous tonic. I felt as if I were sitting on the veranda with you my sweet, and Ms. Malar’s cake only added to the joy. Please thank her very much for her kindness. But I have to say it must have spoiled in the post (Though what can taint a fruit cake I do not know,). We only had to trim a little mould off the sides. I know you’ll not mention a word of this to her, but a friend an I ate it and we had such a dose of Gyppie tummy I can not tell you…’


White’s foot steps were strangely soft as he made a last tour around Walkers Ridge. He wasn’t alone in his journey, every man and his dog seemed to be walking the lines. It made the trenches seem almost crowded. Some of them were actually working, a line of white crystals traced along the dark floor, slightly scuffed where a careless foot had brushed them. The Colonel dipped a finger into the powder and touched it to his lips. ‘Sugar.’ He followed the trail around a right hand turn and out along Russell’s Top.


“Evening Cameron!”

“Ahhh Gravy, my dear chap. Here I was thinking of friendly faces I haven’t seen in ages and you show up! Come in, sit down you old rouge. I was just writing a few lines to ‘She who must be obeyed,’ would you care for a cup of tea? Sit down man, don’t stand there like a stranger.”

“No tea. thanks muchly old bean, though I will take a seat. Sorry to say, my dear fellow but this isn’t a social call.” Major Tomb dusted off Marlow’s spare chair and sat down with a sigh.

“No?” replied Marlowe. “What on earth can you be wanting with a washed out old scribe and a battery of pop guns? Do pray tell, I’m all ears…”

Tomb smiled “Modesty is a wonderful thing old man…”

“I know ‘and I have much to be modest about!’” laughed Marlowe. “Now stop, trying to put me at ease. For you to have ventured out in the dark like this, there must be something important in the offing.”

“Well now you mention it, there might be a little favour you could do me… if you were so inclined.”


“Right oh Finchy me old lad, we’ve got a little job of work to do.” Morant greeted his second in command. “These two gash boats have to be up north by midnight, which gives us about an hour to get them looking like porcupines.”

“Sir?” Lieutenant Finch was a big man with a voice to match. “We’ll be wanting the Vickers then.” His brain wasn’t too shabby either.

“That’s it. I have had a look and 4 per boat should do the trick.” Morant looked at the two Sections of his squadron lounging about in the semi-darkness. “We’ll need to send a tender back for the guns and…” he paused to think for a second. “two parties.. yes two. One to start working on the mountings, I’ll leave that in your capable hands if I may?” Finch grunted his agreement. “The second to see what we can find in the way of water, ammo and the like. Mine I think.”

“Aye, aye sir.”

“Good man. I’ll show you what I want in the mounting line, then if you will see to the tender, I shall go off and have a scrounge! Now look here, we’re only going to need worry about broadside fire. So I thought, one in the bows, another…”


“Honestly Gravy, you are a pest!” the back of his letter home covered in scrawled calculations, the table awash in gunnery tables and tea cups. Marlowe wasn’t the cheerful soul he’d been twenty minutes previously. “Why you couldn’t have bought this along earlier…”

“Don’t blame me old boy, just following orders.” Tomb wasn’t particularly contrite.

“That’s no bloody excuse and you know it! It won’t be your fault if this lot ends up in Bunter’s front yard, you’re supposed to be a gunner for gods sake, surely you realise this sort of thing takes time to do properly…” Marlowe picked a splinter from his lip and went back to chewing his pencil.

“If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t have joined.” Remarked Tomb placidly.

“And stuff that up your jumper and all!” spat Marlowe. “Well there it is.” He pushed back the sheet of paper and drained his tea. “Of course you realise its all guess work, the tables aren’t calibrated for this sort of thing…”

“Stop moaning you old woman, this is exactly the sort of thing you’ve been doing for the last week!” Tomb be turned the page around and examined the workings with a professional eye. “Aye, it seems alright to me, you sure about this windage…”


“Good evening sir!”

“Oh god…” Jim One looked at the man leaning on his door post with sigh of resignation that bordered on a moan. “What do you want now?”

“Oh sir, can’t a fellow drop in for a cup of tea and a chat?” Andrew Morant smiled brightly.

“No, not when it’s you. Certainly not at this time of night. What is it then Hmm? Another lost kitten up a tree, a friend of yours ordered to take Constantinople with a bayonet and a can of bully?”

“Nothing quite so drastic sir, actually it’s hardly anything at all really sir.”

“Yes, right, well I shall believe that when I see it. You might as well sit down, but I warn you, I have nothing spare, the cupboard is empty.”

“Of course it is sir.” Morant sat on the upturned jam crate. “But if you will just glance at this sir….” He placed a torn out page from a field note book on Jim’s desk, smoothing the wrinkles and squaring it precisely in the centre of the blotter.

“Oh god…”


“Fire it is raining. Battery 3 are under bey!” the telephone operator called across to duty officer. The note of surprise adding a shrillness to his rough German.

Given the choice between learning Turkish or putting up with this mans crimes against his mother tongue the young artillery officer from Luneburg was almost willing to go back to school. ‘Still’ he reflected. ‘he was easier to understand than that Italianate idiot Morosini up at HQ.’ He picked up his own phone and cranked the handle. “Spotting post? Duty Officer here… Any activity?”

“Fire Battery 3 are shooting the air bey.” Cut in the operator.

“Shut up- no not you Franz. Can you see any fire from the Tommies, we have a report from Number 3… No? Well look man!” The import of the operators message stuck home. ‘What were Battery 3 firing at?’ He hung up his hand set and turned to snap the question to his assistant but the man beat him too it.

Battery 2 are now firing bey, Battery 1 too are firing.”


“What now!” he snatched up the phone. “Franz! I’m… You see no flashes, the sound… nothing definite… NO! I don’t know what we are shooting at, Battery 3 say they are taking fire that’s all…” the second phone on the duty officers desk rang with an angry rattle. “Franz, I have to… yes keep watch and report.” He slammed down that phone and snatched up the other. “Duty Officer!”


The hammer glanced off the spike and gouged into the coach house roof. PO Parsons straightened the nail with an expert tap and ignored the coxswains howl of anguish, ‘Wonder what the bogger will say when we go’s below to clench ‘erm over’ he though maliciously.

Between the tenders tool box and the engine rooms of the steam launches, Morant’s men had found enough tools to be getting along with. Now cleats were being nailed into the holystoned decks as fast as they could be sawn from broken packing cases and rusty steel strapping from the same source was leaving horrible marks across the varnish and polished paintwork.


Aspinall checked his pocket watch by the green glow of the starboard lamp. “Right on time” he muttered smugly.


“And lets hope they find a good home.” Remarked Major Tomb loudly from his chair. He hadn’t realised how close the mountain guns were to Marlowe’s dugout.

“Well if they don’t…” replied Marlowe as he stepped back into the circle of light. “It’s not from want of trying.” He paused as the guns fired another salvo. “Now look here old boy, you wanted four rounds per gun, we’ve cracked off three and the forth will be along directly. So can you tell me why? It’s not like we can do much damage you know.”

“Ah, there you hav-“ the mountain guns fired for the last time. “ me old man. You’re quite isolated out here, nicely tucked into a reverse slope, haven’t had any counter battery fire in ages… I can only think the powers that be must think Johnny’s forgotten you exist.”

“Well, I dare say there might be something in that.” Conceded Marlowe. “But what now. Do I keep beating that battery all night or might I get back to my letter?”

“Ah. Now on that I’ve no instructions, but if I may extrapolate from current events…”

“Oh please do Gravy dear chap, please do. Nothing on earth would give me greater pleasure.”

“And how kind of you to say so my good sir!” Tomb believed firmly in giving as good as he got. “I’d say this ‘Quite Period’ is well and truly over, thus the obvious course for you dear boy is to take up where you left off this morning.”


“No her General, I…” the duty officer held the handset away from his ear and hoped his Turkish assistant couldn’t understand enough German to make out General Konigsmark’s words. “Sir?” he ventured. “Sir Battery 3 came under fire, they replied as did Battery 1 and 2. The spotting post saw nothing from any of the Tommie batteries they watch… yes sir I have ordered them to stop firing. ‘Or I will as soon as I get of the phone’ he added silently. “No sir, I don’t know what any of the other batteries are doing… no sir I don’t have a window, I’m five meters underground sir. NO SIR! I’m not being impertinent sir…”


Colonel White had been keeping an eye on the time as well, and by his reckoning it had taken almost eighteen minutes for the general firing to spread from Hellas north to Anzac. He’d guessed ten and the plan had called for thirty so all in all he was pleased. A round of drinks was a small price to pay in his opinion. White put a periscope up and scanned slowly along the front. Not that you could see much through two dusty scraps of mirror in the darkness, but at lest it didn’t attract fire and he could see the flicker of muzzle flashes as the Turkish infantry resumed sniping from Mortar Ridge and the Chess Board.

The Australians he was watching on Quinn’s Post, fired back almost casually, White could only detect a handful of shots. He was about to go and have a word to the local commander when a distinctly Kiwi voice six feet away in the next bay, yelled “Eggs-a-Cook!” and let rip with a long burst of machinegun fire across the valley. ‘That’s more like it’ he thought as crackle of musketry spattered into the unyielding bulk of Russell’s Top.


Morant stagged along the shoreline with a box of .303 on one shoulder, a spare barrel tucked under his arm and a kerosene tin of water banging against his knee, the wire handle cutting uncomfortably into his hand. It wasn’t that far from the boats to where the tender ran out of road, but after three trips Andrew was beginning to wonder if he shouldn’t have enlisted as a pack hose. Still things were going much quicker now he’d roped in the boat crews. The extra hands made all the difference and it let Finch get on without out having to listen to endless complaints about damaged brightwork.


Edwin Unwin heard the same Vickers gun echo through the maze of valleys and like White he checked the time and grunted in satisfaction. Even half a mile off shore the small arms fire was loud enough to partially mask the rattle of anchor chains and the muted cacophony of shouted orders mixed with the inevitable sounds of small boats in close company.


There were twenty five steps from the dugout to the surface and Lieutenant cursed his lot up every one of them. His family had never been lucky, generations of faithful service to the crown unrewarded, no success in business and male members seemed prone to all sorts of accidents. His own father had drowned in the bath, the last letter bar two had bought news of Uncle Herman being killed by a pitchfork falling from a hay wagon. Great Aunt Athena claimed they were cursed and even the Lieutenant had to admit the gods seemed to have it in for them. Now here he was stuck this cultural desert, fighting for barbarians and worse being yelled at by his General as if this mess was all his fault.

As he stepped out into the dusty evening and walk up the narrow wadi towards the front, the young man almost gave way to despair. He felt the need to destroy some thing, anything. Something big, something precious, important, significant, old. Something white.

The little 2.75” shell smashed out of the night sky like a lighting bolt and burst like the thunder crack of doom almost directly overhead.

As he lay there bleeding to death the nameless young officer from Luneberg thought he could hear laughter, divine laughter….

It’s a long wat to Tipperary. Part XXXa
Posted By: The Argus - Lord of all he Surveys
Posts: 2078
Posted At: (
6/19/03 4:16 am)
A Systematic Overture
19th of June 1915

Cyril Aspinall was standing in the anti-room to the First Class Smoking Room of the SS Arcadian. The Rear HQ ship had been bought up from Mudros much to the consternation of most of its residents for two reasons. First and foremost shipping was becoming increasingly scarce in the western Mediterranean, thanks in no small part to the increasing presence of submarines and the new energy the Kaiser’s Navy seemed to be showing. Second and perhaps as important in the eyes of some of the planners as it was impish, the desire to show some of the more entrenched staff wallah’s a bit of the real war. Whatever the true motivation, Arcadian provided Aspinall with a box seat for the evenings entertainment. As the big white liner eased her way into the crowd of shipping heading across the straights to Gallipoli, Aspinall took the time to brief his small group of assistants, mostly naval writers, signalmen and a few army clerks.

“Good evening. As by now you will all know why you are here, and before we sort out your individual tasks, I think it best if you are introduced to the tools with which we will be working tonight.

This is the Departure time table for our little stunt.” He raised a hand to the large coloured chart pinned to the bulkhead to his left. “As you can see it is marked out in five minute increments, with the departure points down the left hand side here - berths A and B which on Anzac are either side of the main pier, C and E on the jetty and here F and G on the beach.

This board is the key element, everyone and every thing is set according to it, and providing our Australasian friends can keep with in, as they so colourfully put it ‘a Cooee’ of these times, all should go well.

To explain how this table works, let us take a berth A as an example.” He placed a neat if slightly chewed fingernail against the box in the upper left-hand corner.

“The first departure was at six pip emma, so it will be well on it’s way by now.” He glanced up at the big regulator clock on the wall. “In fact we should be up to… never mind we shall bring this up to date this when we are finished here. As I was saying. The entry in this box gives us the details of the movement that is taking place at this time. The letter code ‘Dee Dee Bee’ indicates that this departure from berth A is, or rather was, a double string of dumb, that is to say unpowered, lighters towed by either a Drifter or tug.

The first figure of the number code tells us that this is lighter string ‘one’ and the last pair, in this case ‘oh one’ implies that this is the first trip for this string.” He looked up and was relieved to see comprehension or at lest attentive intelligence one the faces of his audience. “This astrix, star if you will, means that the lighter string is not loaded with men, rather it contains equipment, probably artillery in this instance.

IF DDB 101 were carrying troops, then it would hold 400 men as a regular load. 200 men per barge or lighter is the standard to which this has all been calculated, though at a pinch they could take as many as 300 each, if the men left most of their baggage behind. Lifeboats, Whaler’s, Launches and the like we rate at 25 men apiece.

If we follow the time-line along we see that the next occupant of this berth is the first journey for string number four and it leaves at six forty five. The next, forty five minutes after that and so on, the same applies to berth B on the pier.

The jetty as you will note has more departures at less regular intervals. This is where we have concentrated our few motorised lighters, observe the code ‘ML.’ They are interspaced with a small number of dumb barges again note ‘SDB,’ obviously a single dumb lighter. A single barge a side being all that can get along side the jetty or so I am reliably informed. The five minute difference in timing between the ‘ML’s and ‘SDB’s is a reflection of the different berthing times required, as I’m sure the sailors among you will appreciate. Never the less we still have a departure from each berth on average every twenty-five minutes.

Lastly we have the beach, we aim to move eight boatloads of men from the beach each hour.” Aspinall paused and took a sip of water.

“The boats of course take much longer to manoeuvre about the beach, but once off shore they are towed in strings of four to their destination by a naval steam launch.

Before I move on to the destination board, a word about the colour coding.

You will observe that the board is predominantly yellow and blue. These colours are an indication of the available light, you will see here that at twenty one minutes past six local time or seven by Greenwich time, twilight ends. We have darkness in blue until the moon rises a few minutes short of eight o’clock and the rest of the chart is yellow. The moon is ‘Waning Gibbous’…” he assumed a knowing expression. “But it should provide enough light to be useful.

These bands in purple indicate the hours, but these more colourful ones here on the right have rather more specific meanings. The green line at ten past one is the point at which we hope to have finished, there were a little over fourteen thousand men ashore as of midday and…” he tapped the board for emphasis. “By the time we reach the green line, some sixteen thousand five hundred people could have, in theory, left Anzac.

The blue line at ten past two is not a momentary eclipse…” Aspinall paused but as no one even tittered, he moved rapidly on. “Rather it indicates first light, however we do hope to be done well before then. Lastly we have the black line here at a quarter to three. This is sunrise and we’d better bloody well be finished by then!

Turning too the departure board, you will see that each buoy has a ship and a time, with the due arriving loads listed… ”


An hour later with the Arcadia resting to her anchors of Anzac Cove, Aspinall and his party were well into their real work for the evening.

In theory every lighter could have held it’s 200 men with their baggage, and if they had then the job could have been over by midnight. But the army in its wisdom didn’t package men in neat bundles of exactly 200, and even if it had no unit was ever at full strength let alone one that had been fighting for months. So how to fit irregular pegs in regular holes?

Back in the first week of June, the original idea had been to have the soldiers line up and just pack them off as required, but that notion hadn’t survived the first formal planning session. Colonel White the chief active representative of the Australian New Zealand Army Corp staff, had been the first to object and his objections rapidly turned into orders from on high. The planning brief changed from ‘getting out of the Anzac beachhead with the minimum of fuss,’ to ‘getting every one off Anzac and not leaving a single man behind.’

This complicated matters more than just a little, but after looking at the alternatives for a few days, the staff came to the same conclusion that White himself had put forward at that initial meeting. The men had to come off as whole units, so many complete ‘packages’ rather than as 14,000 individuals. And the only ‘package’ that came close to the magic 200, was the ‘Company.’ Of course no Company was the same; some held as few as 50 men some 150 or more. Never the less it was established that one lighter would transport one company how ever big or small it was. Of course, Battalions were ordered to condense smaller companies together, but one company one lighter was to be the rule.

Prudence demanded a certain amount of ‘excess capacity’ in the arrangements, White himself had wanted 50% and many had agreed with him, but eventually 5,000 ‘spare’ men was settled on as the best that could be done.

However mix 5,000 imaginary men amid 14,000 real ones and making sure that last fuddle minded soul wondering about Turkey was accounted for, accurately accounted for, wasn’t going to be easy.

Double entry book keeping turned out to be the answer and this night Aspinall was to be the comptroller in charge of the Balance Sheet.

The beachhead was the first checkpoint, each company commander ‘booked’ his men off Anzac and the Army’s ‘Account’ and they were ‘issued’ to the Navy in the form of a ‘Cheque.’ The men were counted aboard the barge or what ever was applicable by the Assistant Naval Transport officer and the Company Commander. The Cheque was reported back to the Army as ‘Cleared’ when the company’s transport left the shore.

The Navy signed the company back over to the Deputy Military Transport Officer on each transport who counted each man as he boarded the ship and both he and the Company Commander agreed. When that vessel reached it capacity, the MTO signalled the total loaded to Aspinall at ‘Head Office’ aboard the Arcadia. Then the transport departed.

Every hour the Beachhead signalled their balance by both light and messenger to the Arcadia, and Aspinall tallied the numbers first in pencil than in ink as they were confirmed from shore. He only prayed his little pot of red wasn’t going to be required.

The mechanics of the movement from shore to ship were refreshingly simple. Every string of barges, motor lighter or cluster of rowing boats had an assigned berth on Anzac and a buoy off shore. Their only task was to shuttle between the two, loading on Anzac and discharging to whichever ship was moored to their buoy as fast as humanly possible.

When a ship had taken aboard its assigned load or a little over, as might be the case, it cast off, sent it’s total back to the Arcadia and the next ship moved into the vacant position. Each buoy had a pinnace or tug to handle the lines and the whole change over didn’t take more then ten minutes… well not much more. Every ship to visit Anzac for the last fortnight had been practicing the procedure, just as every trip made to and from the little enclave had been rehearsing some other part of the drill.

A few of the more fastidious souls on the planning committee had wanted to set every soldier his place and fix every detail in stone, fortunately reason had prevailed in the form of Commander Edwin Unwin. After a lifetime in the Royal Navy and tempered by his more recent experience in charge of the landing ship River Clyde at Cape Hellas on the first morning of the campaign and as NTO. Unwin was convinced that meticulous planning, while essential in part, was limited by chance and circumstance. Some things just had to be ‘played off the cuff.’ In this case he proposed that getting the men off shore, was more important than exactly where they ended up once safely at sea.

When this attitude was described as ‘A trifle sloppy old boy.’ He replied that he would rather ‘…put his faith in simple concepts, clear instructions and intelligent well motivated subordinates infused with the fear of god’s almighty wrath if they should muck it up. Than with any nitpicking, poodlefaking plan full of unrealistic pettifogging that hasn’t a hope of being met in any detail!”

While not quite the answer that the original critic had been looking for, it certainly answered his question. The committee decided that if the Army wanted their men to come off the transports in any particular order, then they must load the lighters at the pier head accordingly and bare any risk that this may incur.

Colonel White bought back a reply from his superiors indicating that provided it got them off in one piece the committee may ‘… pack us all into a ruddy sardine tin and leave the blasted fish in too.’


If the Army only seemed to care about removing its men (and the Gunners seemed more concerned about their weapons than the men who served them), the Quartermasters were more than a little concerned about the mass of material ashore. In this, Anzac was only a moderate example, but as this was to be a dress rehearsal for later operations. The QM was of the belief that any laxity for Anzac would only be the thin edge of the wedge. That once set, the precedent would be extended to Cape Hellas, and there the stakes were much higher than the few measly tons of Anzac.

Thanks more to the efforts of the Turkish Artillery and the precarious nature of the lodgment at Anzac, then to the muddle of British logistics. Anzac had lived a fairly hand to mouth existence. From the first few hours of landing demand had always outstripped supply in most areas and only by concentrating on the absolute essentials had any reserves at all been accumulated. After rations and small arms ammunition, everything else, even water had come a distant second.

That isn’t to say twenty thousand men didn’t or couldn’t collect a vast quantity of the Kings goods and chattels over the course of a few months, and just in rations, alone the quantities were more than just substantial. With a man eating and smoking his way through three and a quarter pounds a day, ten thousand men needed nearly fourteen and a half tons a day net. With a further five thousand gallons of water or another twenty-five tons if they were to drink anything but the issue half gill of rum. With medical, trench and other sundry store this amounted to some sixty tons a day on average for the final garrison. On top of which must be counted the better part of forty tons of ammunition on a bad day.

The small surpluses and deficits were easily dealt with, by balancing the ever-reducing demand from the dwindling garrison, with a reasonably constant rate of supply. This also helped to keep the beachfront active and so deceive the wily Turk. Back loading was almost eliminated, with only the artillery ammunition built up for the anticipated June battles considered to valuable to consume away.

Of course nothing was perfect, and the bitterest pill was that for all the careful juggling, they were still going to have to abandon most of the emergency reserve, that had been set for the withdrawal to cover inclement whether and other unforseen contingencies. Two weeks worth of everything for fourteen thousand men was a very great deal of jam, tea, bully beef and bullets.

Still the planning staff had done what little they could. The garrison had started to eat it reserve two days before the final evacuation, the new pier had absorbed the better part of the excess tinned stores and ration issue on the final day was on the basis of ‘help your self.’ But men with shrunken stomachs and dysentery could never eat their way through a fortnights food in three days. Not with the best will in the world, and army rations didn’t offer much to tempt the epicure.

The best they could do for the rest was to mark out the evacuation routes with trails of flour, salt, sugar and for one short but expensive stretch white pepper.

Small Arms Ammunition was the other great problem, in fact it was a greater problem than rations or even water. Because unlike food or drink men couldn’t alternate feast with famine, a delay in the evacuation could be compensated for with short rations but men can’t hold a position for long with rationed bullets. Even once it had become obvious that there would be no significant delays, the strict firing patten prevented disposing of much from the stockpile. Of course, every man leaving was to be given a double allowance to carry off, but this was barely two days worth. The rest would have to be blown up. A spectacular if wasteful farewell. Something that might sum up the whole campaign.


A Policeman’s lot is not a happy one…

29th June 1915

‘Naval Transport Officer’ was an innocuous title. ‘Lord High Pooh Bar of anything that floats’ would probably be a closer reflection of Commander Unwin’s status, at least for this evening. As such, he could have had his pick of any one of a hundred vessels from cruisers to rowing boats to make his headquarters.

But if Edwin was anything, he was a practical man when it came to matters he understood. So this night, he had chosen a naval Picket Boat, while not much too look at, it did mean he had freedom to go where he would hopefully not be needed.

“Beach first I think! Unwin ordered the young midshipman who was his official chauffer for the night.

“Aye aye sir! Cast off forward there! Hough watch the stern, Slow ahead!”

“Slow ahead Aye ‘ye sir.” grumbled the petty officer at the wheel, as he reached back to give the bell two gentle taps, and the boat gathered a little speed, swinging away from the Destroyers pilot ladder.

Unwin could have retired to the small cabin in the stern. However being wise in the ways of midshipman, petty officers and boats crew in general, he made a quick tour of inspection.

He had bought three signalmen with him. Even though he expected to do most of his communicating through a megaphone, Edwin believed in covering all his options and no doubt if he needed to flash a message, then he’d need to do it fast and accurately. So he was pleased to note Petty Officer Chant had already sorted out his equipment and had his men setting up the signal projectors. Aside from the small knot of electrical leads around the Aldis lamps the rest of the launch was as trim as a yacht, and he finally settled into the stern sheets with a gratified sigh.


“Sir?” PO Chant called in reply and hurried back to stern. “Aye sir?”

“Mr. Chant…” Unwin reached into a satchel and produced a weighty tome and handed it across. “This will be your signal log for this evening, and as I shall not be keeping a deck log you would do me a great service if you would expand your record keeping to include such events and remarks as I should indicate.”

The PO took the ledger with one had and touched his brow with the other “Aye aye sir. By your leave sir, I’ll be need’n some light an’ a table like, if youse want this done proper sir.”

Unwin nodded. “Yes, you had best use the stern cabin then. Make your first entry ‘Took aboard control party for BCP’ that is Beach Control Post.” Edwin checked his pocket watch “ at let us say six oh five local time.”

“Aye aye sir.” Chant repeated the entry and walked forward ducking into the low cabin.


The launch crossed paths with the first flight of evacuation craft a few hundred yards offshore. As the leading wave of an exodus it wasn’t much to look at; a naval launch towing a string of lifeboats, a motor lighter and a tug towing a pair of barges. As the tug chuffed past spewing a cloud of coal smoke, Unwin could see the spindly shapes of field guns amid the sombre crowd of men. This silence worried him; a low hum of conversation was all he could hear from 300 men who were departing hell. He’d almost expected singing, or some sight of joy. However, these men showed no sign of jubilation. ‘Oh well’ he dismissed the thought ‘I’ll ask Blanco when I get ashore.’

Colonel White wasn’t at the BCP when Unwin arrived; no one there had seen him for an hour or more. This wasn’t unexpected, as White had mentioned he was intending to start the night up on Russell’s Top. So Unwin let word to report his visit and left the smoky dugout to see what he could see.

The beach with in his limited view, which extended from Hell Spit north to Ari Burnu, was not that crowded. Edwin had seen more men on it bathing in daylight. But as the last light faded into darkness, the shadowy forms shuffling along held a sense of order that to him boded well for the night ahead.

Twenty past Six was the scheduled departure time for the second load to leave Bully Pier and Unwin was just in time to see it cast off. DDB02 was just a pair of scruffy lighters towed by an impressed Drifter that had started life in Whitby ten years before and still held an air of stale herring about the rigging. But the crew obviously knew their business, lines flew from the pier’s bollards, the skipper standing in the doorway of his little wheelhouse gave two peeps on a policeman’s whistle and the little argosy slipped away from the land. ‘Another 400 odd men gone-’ though Edwin struggling with the mental calculations ‘another thirteen odd thousand to go.’


“Thought I might find you here.”

Unwin suppressed a start, he hadn’t forgotten the thirty odd thousand men on the Turkish side of the line that were not scheduled to cross the beach that night, and turned to greet White. “A nice evening for it Blanco.”

“It’ll do.” Replied White. “No dramas at your end?”

“Not so far old boy. All the buoys were filled when I came past, things would seem to be moving smoothly here…”

“That they do. And the transhipping?”

“There I can’t help you. That is next on my list.”

“Ah you’ve got ‘em on your list, have you?” White smiled in the gloom.

“Yes, I have them on my list, I’ve got ‘em on my list.” Said Unwin in an odd sort of tone.

“Well we know they’ll not be missed.”

“No, I have them on my list.” Laughed Edwin.

“Well just as long as we don’t end up with too many wandering minstrels.”

“Very true Blanco, very true. If there’s nothing else?”

“Nothing I can think of at the moment.” Replied White.

“Well then I have a list to cross off, and you can go back to polishing your door knocker, see you in an hour or so.”

“Oh bugger off! I’ll see you at seven then Edwin.” It wasn’t until he was back in his dugout that Blanco White thought up an appropriately cutting reply. ‘Ah well wasn’t it always the way.’


The transhipping was going as well as could be expected, but that was nowhere near as well as Unwin would have liked. Soldiers were not sailors, nor even marines, and these men were far from the peak of fitness. No one was going to ask them to climb cargo nets loaded with their various burdens. Every operation has a bottleneck, and this last stage was obviously going to be tonight’s. The only practical route from lighter to ship was via the accommodation ladders, these simple hanging stairways where the one funnel through which all must pass and each ship had but two.

One by one tired men carrying awkward loads stepped off the lighters and started to climb the long flight of steps. Unwin had watched from below and then climbed up (via a pilot ladder) and observed from the deck. The longer he watched the grimmer his face became. Picking a man who was cursing in a steady monotone and so identifiable in the gloom, Edwin timed his progress up the stairs.

He had seven ships with fourteen gangways between them and fourteen thousand men. One thousand men to each, the numbers were inescapable, two men a second had to cross the brow, three would be better and he had hoped for four. But they had underestimated… well some one had blundered and Unwin feared it was he. They were averaging little more than one man per second. Things might improve after the moon had risen, but something had to change, and soon.


“Look sir, these blokes are on their bootstraps. Yah can’t ask ‘em ta…”

“Listen to me Lieutenant, and mark me well. If they do not, there will be an awful lot of their comrades sunbathing over there-“ Unwin nodded to the dim bulk of Turkey “Come tomorrow.”

“Sir with respect…”

“I’ll thank you not to argue man, just…”


“Don’t you raise your voice to…”

“Listen here you Pommy bastard! There’s only room for one man wide on that bloody ladder of yours. My blokes are not running up it lugging all this tripe in the flamin’ dark. If they run, they’ll trip. If they trip, they’ll fall and if they bloody well fall, then it’ll be a bloody damned sight slower than if they walked up in there own good time! Understand? Now if you want…”

Unseen in the darkness Edwin’s face had mirrored his emotions from shock through rage and had now settled into a pale blankness that the Australian subaltern would have been hard pressed to read even if he could have seen it. “That will be quire enough thank you.” His tone was tense if quiet and the Lieutenant sensed correctly that he had had his turn. “Young man you are right. Under normal circumstances that in its self would not prevent me from stringing you up by the testicles for the gulls to peck your eyes out. But these alas are not normal circumstances.” He took a deep breath and continued. “You say your men are tired, I don’t doubt that for a moment, but do you think those unencumbered with extra equipment could climb a normal ladder?”

The Lieutenant too had regained a little composure, and he answered with some degree of contrition. “No sir. I’m sorry, but even with just their packs and rifles I doubt they could make that sir.” He glanced pointedly up at the cliff like side of the transport. “No sir.”

“I see. Have you any other suggestion?”

“Not with out dumping the gear sir, an’ we’d rather not do that… though couldn’t we just leave the stuff here sir? I mean why carry it up… But then…”

“That’s right, what about the men after you and those who follow them.” As they both paused in thought, the wooden deck boards quivered under foot as a 4.5” howitzer was lifted from the lighter by the ships derrick and swung over head.

“We couldn’t winch the baggage sir…”

“Possibly… no.” sighed Unwin “No room to spread the net down here and it would take extra men more time to rig them. Well do you best to hurry your men along anyhow… and a word of advice. Watch that tongue of yours.” Unwin nodded and stepped into his launch with out further ado.

“Bloody hell boss.” Muttered the sergeant who had been standing to one side of his officer during this exchange. “I thought I’s was gunn’a need to have a UD* there for a minute.”

“You idiot. If’ida come to that I’d have just clocked him one.”

“Alright boss you want to go ‘round clobbering Colonels, in future I’ll leave yah to it!”


Destroyers are useful ships. Every navy appreciated the mix of firepower; speed and versatility these ‘Greyhounds of the Sea’ gave their fleets. They made good landing stages too. It had taken Edwin the better part of an hour to organise, but by a quarter to eight, his troopships were each flanked by a destroyer.

It took men almost no time to reach the deck of the destroyer from a lighter; it was a climb of a few feet at most. And while it took longer for them to cross the destroyers decks and make their way up the troopships ladders, the destroyers acted as a sort of surge pool for the influx of men. They could swarm off the lighter, which then departed, leaving the men to trickle aboard the trooper. The destroyer also offered enough space to spread a cargo net and an expert crew to work it, so relieving the soldiers of much of their baggage.

It was far from an ideal arrangement, and the commander of the covering force had made his objections all to clear. Never the less it did get men on ships and when the moon rose a little after eight they moved even faster.

‘Anyway’ thought Unwin. Between Turkish attacks, shell fire and collision at sea, what was the added risk from submarines?’


Edwin was a little late for his appointment with White. It was going on twenty past eight before he walked into the BCP.

“I was wondering where you’d gotten to. There seems to have been some problems with your Gondoliers old fellow.” White smiled up at Unwin’s stooping figure.

“Oh spare me the Trial by Jury Blanco, it was your Yeomen of the Guard that were the issue anyhow. We rather under estimated the time it would take a soldier to move up an accommodation ladder…. By a factor of three or so.”

“Ah I see, that might explain the lack of returning craft and the general slow down of movement.” White gestured up at the timetable pinned to the wall, each missed departure had been crossed out in red and the actual time marked in the appropriate box. There were quite a few red boxes.

“How far behind are we?” asked Unwin scanning the board and trying to make sense of the markings.

“Well running on the tally not the schedule, we’re between an hour at worst and thirty minutes at best.” White drained the remnants of a cup of tea and grimaced. “I’ve made a few changes to the loading order, held back the guns in favour of men.”

“Ah then think of it as an hour rather than the half.” Said Unwin dragging up a crude wooden stool “It’s the men that are the problem you see.”

“Oh dear.” Remarked White packing his pipe. “Well what’s done is done. You say you’ve fixed it?”

“Patience old lad, I never said that… “


The Picket Boat was making yet another run between the loading area and the shore when the PO Chant spotted trouble. “Sir! Looks like a collision ‘bout Green fife oh sir.”

“What!” Unwin was out of the cabin like a shot, eyes already probing the night. “Where away man.”

“Thar sir.” Chant held out an arm towards the distant horizon Green Fife oh a’comin’ ‘round to Fife fife sir.”

“I have it. Cox’n! Star’brd fifteen.”

“Starb’d fifteen sir, aye aye.” Answered the coxswain as he spun the teak wheel deftly.

A few minutes later, all had become clear and much to every ones relief, it wasn’t a collision at sea. Rather, it was a fishing skipper who in the best traditions of his breed, had found the easiest way to do a difficult and repetitive job. Other than unloading, the greatest delay had been in docking the lighters at either end and shifting the tow alongside Bully Pier.

As the Skipper himself said to Unwin, “… all dat frigg’n bout was ‘tart’n tay get on mah tits, an’ with yon’ offices geet’n at a’wee to gey faster….” As any true seaman knows when moving a vessel in tight harbours, his most useful tool is a spring line. A couple of thick fenders, two stout warps and a pair of cross springs, all browsed down hard with the drifters steam winch had his pair of lighters almost welded together. Towing from along side was hardly revolutionary either and it certainly wasn’t the most efficient way to do the job. However, it did offer a tug the most control over the tow, it was a matter of minutes to shift from one direction to the other, and the skipper wasn’t paying for the coal. Neither was Commander Unwin.

Ten minutes work while a string was loading and every subsequent journey was at least five minutes faster, possibly even ten. Edwin couldn’t spare the time to work out the exact difference. He was far to busy juggling the various lighter strings around to put each tug on the best side and balancing who was then to load from which side of the pier.

As an added bonus, it freed up the naval pinnaces that had been used as docking tugs and line handlers for other work. Unwin made certain the Skippers name was recorded that man deserved more than a bottle of Scotch for his inspiration.


“Late again Edwin. I do hope this isn’t a new habit the Navy is developing.” White handed Edwin a steaming mug of tea.

“Careful there Blanco, while your script is most uncommon neat, it’s not round enough yet.” Rejoined Unwin as he buried his face in the mug.

“Ha! You may not have a ruddy complexion Edwin old chap, but you certainly have a bloody cheek!”

“I’ve a favour to ask Blanco.” Unwin didn’t look at all put out by the insult.

“And what pray might the Australian Army do to serve the most Royal Navy at this juncture?” White struck a vesta and put it to another pipe full of tobacco, sucking wetly and sending up pungent plume of smoke.

“I’d like you to a keep a very close eye on movements for the next hour or so. If I’m right, we should see a real increase… or we wont.”

“Oh? What’s up?”

“I’ve changed the way the barges are rigged for tow. Honestly-“ he laughed ”if there was one thing I’d have sworn on a stack of Bibles I’d not be doing tonight… This new way, well it cuts down the berthing time, might only be a few minutes now but if we do strike trouble we can turn the barges around as fast as we can cram men aboard. The thing is you see, I’m not sure if it will save us any time now and I had to change most of the strings around.”

“Why on earth…”White looked up at his timetable and feared for his sanity. “What possessed you to so fundamentally bugger up every trace of organisation…”

It’s a matter of propeller rotation you see Blanco, on some ships they turn clockwise to go ahead some anti- and the ship swings differently with the… Sorry old bean. Really I am, to be… I didn’t even think… You see it was such a good idea.”


Midnight had come and gone, with it when the theoretical ‘best case,’ now they were into extra time, and dawn was a little under three hours away.

“So you’ve finally made Ruler of Queens Navee then Blanco.” Unwin took the cup of tea that was thrust towards him automatically.

“I beg your pardon Edwin, you’ve lost me.” White tore his eyes of the now chaotic timetable and glanced at Unwin.

“The covering force man. You changed the plan for the inshore covering force.” Replied the Commander from around a cigarette.

“Oh that, yes well I thought it for the best.” Said White distantly; his attention still fixed on the tally that read 8600 against the forecast of 15,000.

“Well you bloody near strung the lad out to dry you know.”

“Did I? Oh dear…” White shook himself. “I did?”

“Oh most probably my fault old man, you see he had….”


The Aegean held beautiful sunrises, and the Gallipoli Peninsula held some of the most spectacular in the region. Neither White nor Unwin was looking forward to seeing this one however. Oh there had been a pick up in movement once the last of the guns had gone. A two-barge string could now hold six hundred men at a pinch and everybody on the naval side were well practiced if nothing else by now. But Unwin felt it would be close damned close. So did Cyril Aspinall.

“And its about time you showed up Edwin.” As Aspinall strode impatiently across the plush carpet worn threadbare by the passage of so many booted and hobnailed feet, Unwin reflected that the only thing this bright lounge had in common with White’s little dugout was the thick haze of smoke. Even the air of tension was different, not that there was much air, when tobacco smoke formed three distinct layers ranging from fresh at the ceiling down to stale at the floor. Edwin knew most Canaries would be having a kip at the bottom of their cadges, a kip…now there was an idea.


“What! Oh sorry Cyril, do you think we might step out side for a moment?" Unwin immediately regretted his phrasing as a look of trepidation filled Aspinalls face.

“Of course Edwin, it is getting a bit stuffy in here…” they walked to the door in silence.

Unwin opened the door out onto the whether deck and stood in the opening taking deep breaths. “Ahhh that’s better… Sorry Cyril, I was nodding off in there.” Edwin noticed the flash of annoyance in Aspinalls face but ignored it. There were to many bigger things to worry about.

“That’s alright Edwin old chap, it’s so nice that you could find the time to join us.”

Before he bit Aspinalls head off, Unwin though about what it must be like sitting out here all night, knowing only what reports fed you, unable to actually do anything except record events…. “Hmm” he nodded. “No plan survives contact with the enemy Cyril.”

“And this one is no exception I take it? Could you at least tell me why no movements seem to match the timetable? We’re sitting here trying to…”

“Well to answer your first question old fellow.” Said Edwin looking across at the big coloured boards “That timetable is about three revisions behind as best I can tell and the movements wouldn’t match anyway as the whole thing is shot to hell.” He smiled. “However I can tell you one thing!” he licked a finger and strode over the blackboard where the running tally was kept. “This is a sight closer to reality!” he wiped away three digits, inserting there replacements with smears of moist chalk dust, and increasing the number evacuated by almost two thousand. “Now Cyril, I’d love to stop and chat, but there isn’t that much I can tell you. The stuff you really want is between Blanco’s ears, not at my fingertips. I need a clean shirt and a quick trip to the heads, not necessarily in that order. Must dash and thanks for the hospitality!”


Stepping back onto Bully Pier, Edwin noticed a subtle change in the men filing past. It took him a moment to identify what was different, but when he did, it set his feet racing down the planking towards the BCP.

The atmosphere inside the dugout had taken the same shift too. Men were almost smiling…”

“Home cometh the sailor, home from the sea!”

“And a happy two o’clock to you too Blanco old chum. It’s the rear guard isn’t it.”

“Yes it is! Division HQ has long gone, Brigade HQ left an hour ago, so now it’s just we few...we happy few. Just us with… let me see. Nine hundred and forty three men, not including your good self of course Edwin.”

“And a hundred thousand odd Bashi Bazzoks of course.” Added Unwin dryly.

“And yes, we mustn’t forget Johnny of course, but I fear if he isn’t quick smart Abdul might just miss the boat!”

Edwin noted that White tapped not only the wooden tabletop but also the magazine of a rifle propped against the table next to him. The Colonel was taking no chances in any respect. “When do you leave then Blanco?”

“Well we were about to start packing up now actually, I’ve pencilled us in on a motor lighter leaving in about twenty minutes. Why do you ask?”

“Oh I was just going to offer you a lift, there isn’t much left form me to do out there. We handed off the last trooper at a quarter too, so there is only the one ship out there at the moment. Another few hours and I’ll have the tugs back pulling the buoys.” He yawned. “Well someone will be sending the tugs back, not I.”

“The offer is much appreciated Edwin, but I must decline I’m sorry to say. I intend to go out with my fellows in good order; drums beating, flags flying, all that sort of thing.”

“For a rude Colonial Blanco, you’re a most remarkable sentimentalist. But right you are. Flags flying it is!”

“Come on Edwin, let’s get out of the way. Give my boys a chance to clean up.” White hauled himself to his feet, slung the rifle over his shoulder and pushed out into the early morning.

“Where are we of to then Blanco?” asked Unwin catching up with his shorter companion in a few long strides.

“Oh I just thought I’d take a last look around….”