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   Chapter 19 THE RETREAT

At Suvla Bay By John Hargrave Characters: 5095

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


It happened on the left of Pear-tree Gully.

Pear-tree Gully was a piece of ground which neither we nor the Turks could hold. It was a gap in both lines, swept by machine-gun fire and haunted by snipers and sharp-shooters.

We had advanced right up behind the machine-gun section, which was hidden in a dense clump of bushes on the top of a steep rise.

The sun was blazing hot and the sweat was dripping from our faces. We were continually on the look-out for wounded, and always alert for the agonised cry of "Stretcher-bearers!" away on some distant knoll or down below in the thickets. Looking back the bay shimmered a silver-white streak with grey battleships lying out.

In front the fighting broke out in fierce gusts.

"Pop-pop-pop-pop!-Pop-pop!" went the machine-gun. We could see one man getting another belt of ammunition ready to "feed." Bullets from the Turkish quick-firers went singing with an angry "ssss-ooooo! zzz-z-eeee!... whheee-ooo-o-o! zz-ing!"

"D'you know where Brigade Headquarters is?" asked the adjutant.

"I'll find it, sir."

"Very well, go up with this message, and I shall be here when you come back."

I took the message, saluted and went off, plunging down into the thickets, and at last along my old water-course where I had crawled away from the sniper some days before.

I made a big detour to avoid showing myself on the sky-line. I knew the general direction of our Brigade Headquarters, and after half-an-hour's steady trudging with various creepings and crawlings I arrived and delivered my message. I returned quickly towards Pear-tree Gully. I stopped once to listen for the "Pop-pop-pop!" of our machine-gun but I could not hear it. I hurried on. It was downhill most of the way going back. I crept up through the bushes and looked about for signs of our men and the officer.

I saw a man of the machine-gun section carrying the tripod-stand, followed by another with the ammunition-belt-box.

"Seen any Medical Corps here?"

"They've gone down-'ooked it... you'd better get out o' this quick yourself-we're retreating-can't 'old this place no'ow-too 'ot!"

"Did the officer leave any message?"

"No-they've bin gone some time-come on, Sammy."

Well, I thought to myself, this IS nice. So I went down with the machine-gunners and in the dead grass just below the gully I found a wounded man: he was shot through the thigh and it had gone clean through both legs.

He was bleeding to death quickly, for it had ripped both arteries. Looking round I saw another man coming

down, hopping along but very cheerful.

"In the ankle," he said; "can you do anything?"

"I'll have a look in a minute."

I examined the man who was hit in the thigh and discovered two tourniquets had been applied made out of a handkerchief and bits of stick to twist them up. But the blood was now pumping steadily from both wounds and soaking its way into the sandy soil. I tightened them up, but it was useless. There was no stopping the loss of blood.

All the time little groups of British went straggling past-hurrying back towards the bay-retreating.

It was impossible to leave my wounded. I helped the cheerful man to hop near a willow thicket, and there I took off his boot and found a clean bullet wound right through the ankle-bone of the left foot. It was bleeding slowly and the man was very pale.

"Been bleeding long?" I asked.

"About half an hour I reckon. Is it all right, mate?"

"Yes. It's a clean wound."

I plugged each hole, padded it and bound it up tightly. I had a look at the other man, who was still bleeding and had lost consciousness altogether.

It was a race for life. Which to attend to? Both men were still bleeding, and both would bleed to death within half an hour or so. I reckoned it was almost hopeless with the tourniquet-man and I left him passing painlessly from life to death. But the ankle-man's wound was still bleeding when I turned again to him. It trickled through my plugging. It's a difficult thing to stop the bleeding from such a place. Seeing the plug was useless I tried another way. I rolled up one of his puttees, put it under his knee, braced his knee up and tied it in position with the other puttee. This brought pressure on the artery itself and stopped the loss of blood from his ankle. I could hear the Turkish machine-gun much closer now. It sputtered out a leaden rain with a hard metallic clatter.

"Thanks, mate," said the man; "'ow's the other bloke?"

"He's all right," I answered, and I could see him lying a little way up the hill, calm and still and stiffening.

I found two regimental stretcher-bearers coming down with the rest in this little retreat, and I got them to take my ankle-man on to their dressing station about two miles further back.

It's no fun attending to wounded when the troops are retiring.

Next day they regained the lost position, and I trudged past the poor dead body of the man who had bled to death. The tourniquets were still gripping his lifeless limbs and the blood on the handkerchiefs had dried a rich red-brown.

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