Learning Curve, The Great War
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Transcript: Source6
Soldiers' experiences of conditions at Gallipoli during the campaign in 1915
(Catalogue ref: c. The National Archives RAIL 253/516, a. & b. Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, 007396, 008667)

Source 6a

I well remember the very first time we went up these trenches. A lot of the parapets – that is the side facing the enemy – had been built up – it sounds awful – with dead bodies, which were partially buried under earth. And that was as much a means of self-protection by the troops that had fought on the spot and gained that ground, as their self-protection as anything else. But it was a pretty gruesome business.

And just as we entered the trench going up into the system there, half-buried, was a body. And a hand was sticking out. Well, the first time we saw that it wasn't awfully funny. But – you'd hardly credit this – but we got so callous and so used to that sort of thing that every time when men went … they always used to shake hands with it.

Source 6b

And of course one of the biggest curses was the flies – there was millions and millions and millions of flies. The whole of the side of the trench used to be one black swarming mass and anything you opened – if you opened a tin of bully or went to eat a biscuit in the next minute it would be swarming with flies – all round your mouth, on any cuts or sores that you've got, which all turn septic through it. It was a curse really, it really was.

Source 6c

It's awfully hot, and we are eaten up by millions of flies. Life in the trenches is not a picnic either, we have about four or five days out of them and eight or nine in them. When we are out supposed to be resting, we have to go on working parties, digging etc, then wherever we are, we are always under shell fire, so it's not much rest after all. The last shell we had in camp, there was four killed and seventeen wounded.

We have been under fire for three months now, and we should like a rest as the strain is tremendous on one's nerves. I dont think the troops in France get it quite as bad. Then again, the only comforts we have are sent from home, as the country here is quite barren, and we cannot buy anything in shops. I would give a quid for a pint of beer down the club. Our food consists of half a loaf of bread per day, bacon and tea for breakfast, Bully beef & biscuits for dinner, and Jam for tea and cheese. Lime jiuce is served out about four times per week, that is, a drop is put into a dixie of water and a cup full served out per man, and rum is served out twice a week (sometimes) that is about four table spoon-fuls each.

We live in a trench and it's a mercy it don't rain other wise we'd be washed away. The fighting just lately has been terrible. Our shells knock the enemy all ways and the sight in the trenches that we take is awful. We wear our respirators because of the awfull smell of the dead. I'll never get the sight out of my eyes, and it will be an everlasting nightmare. If I am spared to come home, I'll be able to tell you all about it, but I cannot possibly write as words fail me. I can't describe things.

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