Although somewhat belated as a description of the work of the 5th Beds Regiment in Gallipoli, the following extracts taken from a letter written by one of our wounded Terriers are well worth reproduction as showing the hardihood and the endurance, the cheerful spirits and invincible equanimity of the heroes of the Dardanelles.
The letter was written by Pte James Ward to his brother Tom, who sent it on to the soldier's wife. Mrs Ward resides at Mill View, Letchworth Road, Limbury, and in peaceable times her husband was a well-sinker.
Pte Ward described the journey to Gallipoli, the ports of call and incidents of the voyage and, after telling of a route march through Alexandria, he says: "Then on to the land of Turks and fortresses, whistling crickets, prickly bushes, rocky hills, bullets and shells. We were about to land when a German Taube [aircraft] came into sight, but the guns opened fire and drove it off. It dropped some bombs, but they all fell into the sea and did no damage.
"After that we all got safely landed and unloaded all our stuff the same day, and then we made ourselves as comfortable as we could for the night. Next day we learned what we were expected to do. e were then only a short distance from the firing line, and could watch the firing between the Turkish guns and our own Navy. They did let it rip!
"At night we went up into the reserve trenches and got a taste of being under fire, which is a funny sensation for a start, and we got a few casualties. Next day we had orders to dig ourselves in. The Turks must have spotted us because then they opened fire on us, and then it was a case of 'bob down - he has got his book out!'
"You should have seen them work. Those trenches were dug in record time. It would have done [Luton builder's merchant] George Powdrill's eyes good to have watched them. His own navvies could not have beaten them. A good thing for trench digging are a few shells flying over the diggers. We had that experience until the Sunday dinner time, August 15th, and then we had orders to get on our fighting kit and war paint and proceed to the scene of operations.
"When everything was ready, off we went up the hills to meet the foe. We had not got very far when they opened fire on us with bullet and shrapnel. At first it sounded like an iron foundry collapsing, but on we went, past our own artillery which was giving us covering fire. It was there the men began to fall. I saw several go down, and then a shrapnel shell burst overhead, and down goes poor old Jim [the writer].
"I got up and tried to follow the others, but down I went again. I tried to get up, but I was done. I had been hit too hard and my leg began to swell. I had lost the use of it, so there I had to lie for a time with the bullets flying all about me and the shells bursting in the air. I dare not move for fear of being hit by a sniper looking for a chance of handing in your time-sheet.
Caring Indian mule-drivers
"So I had to stay where I was for a time, and them i slipped off my equipment and put it on one side and started to crawl, dragging my leg along the best I could. I had crawled about 100 yards and stopped to rest under cover of a big rock, when a dark object looked over the top and bobbed back again.
"At first I thought it was Johnny Turk and says to myself, 'Hullo, Jim, your number's up', but in a short time he returned with another one. They happened to be two Indian mule-drivers, and seeing my head go up and down and thinking I was wounded, they had come to fetch me.
"When I made them understand where my wounds were, they picked me up and carried me into a gulley, where there were about two dozen more taking cover with their pack mules. There they put me down amongst them and examined my leg and gave me some drink, filled my pipe and lit it for me.
"While smoking, over came another shell. They pushed me down and fell round me as a protection, but it went whizzing over. They then got up and saw me all right before they left to take some more tackle up to the firing line. They drive three mules each and carry water, provisions and ammunition right into the firing line day and night. They don't forget to keep that little cheese-cutter of their well sharpened, and it was woe betide Mr Turk if they got hold of him.
"After waiting a little while where they left me, a chap came hobbling along with a sprained foot, and he stayed with me until a doctor came and bandaged me up and made me comfortable until the stretcher came and carried me down to the base. I was given some hot tea and cigarettes, and the wound was freshly dressed and preparations made for my removal to the hospital ship.
"Next day there was a lot waiting, and nearly all of us Bedfords. We were lucky to be shifted early next day, as the Turks began shelling the hospital, and several of the men got hit again. On the Saturday before they had shelled the wounded in the dressing tent, killing eight of the men and the officer in charge.
"When we got to the ship the doctors and nurses were waiting to receive us, and the treatment was grand. We were stripped and given a hot bath, our clothes taken away, and then they put on each of us a suit of pyjamas. You would have laughed at us. Talk about old 'Guy!' Then they put us into bed and attended to us there.
"We had three days of that, and then we were landed on an island, and here I am now. I daresay I shall be back in the firing line before you receive this, as we are not very far off, and we can listen to the guns bombarding."
[The Luton News: Thursday, January 20th, 1916]