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   Chapter 11 THE KAPANJA SIRT

At Suvla Bay By John Hargrave Characters: 4958

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

One had his stomach blown out, and the other his chest blown in. The two bodies lay upon the sand as we stepped down.

The metallic rattle of the firing-line sounded far away. We man-handled all our medical equipment and stores from the hold of the lighter to the beach.

We had orders to "fall in" the stretcher-bearers, and work in open formation to the firing-line.

The Kapanja Sirt runs right along one side of Suvla Bay. It is one wing of that horse-shoe formation of rugged mountains which hems in the Anafarta Ova and the Salt Lake.

Our searching zone for wounded lay along this ridge, which rises like the vertebrae of some great antediluvian reptile-dropping sheer down on the Gulf of Saros side, and, in varying slopes, to the plains and the Salt Lake on the other.

Here again small things left a vivid impression-the crack of a rifle from the top of the ridge, and a party of British climbing up the rocks and scrub in search of the hidden Turk.

The smell of human blood soaking its way into the sand from those two "stiffies" on the beach. The sullen silence, except for the distant crackle and the occasional moan of a shell. The rain which came pelting down in great cold blobs, splashing and soaking our thin drill clothes till we were wet to the skin and shivering with cold.

We were all thinking: "Who will be the first to get plugged?" We moved slowly along the ridge, searching every bush and rock for signs of wounded men.

We wondered what the first case would be-and which squad would come across it.

I worked up and down the line of squads trying to keep them in touch with each other. We were carrying stretchers, haversacks, iron rations, medical haversacks, medical water-bottles, our own private water-bottles (filled on Lemnos Island), and three "monkey-boxes" or field medical companions.

Those we had left on the beach were busy putting up the operating marquee and other tents, and the cooks in getting a fire going and making tea.

The stretcher-squads worked slowly forward. We passed an old Turkish well with a stone-flagged front and a stone trough. Later on we came upon the trenches and bivouacs of a Turkish sniping headquarters. There were all kinds of articles lying about which had evidently belonged to Turkish officers: tobacco in a heap on the ground near a bent willow and thorn bivouac; part of a field telephone with the wires running towards the upper ridges of Sirt; the remains of some dried fish and

an earthenware jar or "chattie" which had held some kind of wine; a few very hard biscuits, and a mass of brand-new clothing, striped shirts and white shirts, grey military overcoats, yellow leather shoes with pointed toes, a red fez, a great padded body-belt with tapes to tie it, a pair of boots, and some richly coloured handkerchiefs and waistbands all striped and worked and fringed.

It was near here that our first man was killed later in the day. He was looking into one of these bivouacs, and was about to crawl out when a bullet went through his brain. It was a sniper's shot. We buried him in an old Turkish trench close by, and put a cross made of a wooden bully-beef crate over him.

The sun now blazed upon us, and our rain-soaked clothes were steaming in the heat. The open fan-like formation in which we moved was not a success. We lost the officers, and continually got out of touch with each other.

At last we reached the zone of spent bullets. "Z-z-z-z-e-e-e-e-e-pp!-zing!" "S-s-s-ippp!"

"That one was jist by me left ear!" said Sergeant Joe Smith, although as a matter of fact it was yards above his head. Here, among a hail of moaning spent shots, our officers called a halt, made us fall in, in close formation, and we retired-what for I do not know.

We went back as far as the old Turkish well. Here Hawk had something to say.

"Our place is advancing," said he, "not retiring because of a few spent bullets. There's men there dying for want of medical attention-bleeding to death."

The next time we went forward that day was in Indian file, each stretcher-squad following the one in front.

A parson came with us. I marched just behind the adjutant, and the parson walked with me. He was a big man and a fair age. We went past the well and the bivouacs. I could see he was very nervous.

"Do you think we are out of danger here?" he asked.

"I think so, sir" (we were three miles from the firing-line). A few paces further on-

"I wonder how far the firing-line is?"

"Couldn't say, sir."

A yard or so, and then-

"D'you suppose the British are advancing?"

"I hope so." And after a minute or two-

"I wonder if there are any Turks near here...?"

I made no answer, and marvelled greatly that the "man of God" should not be better prepared to meet "his Maker," of Whom in civil life he had talked so much.

It was just then that I spotted it-a little black figure, motionless, away beyond the bushes on the right.

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