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At Suvla Bay By John Hargrave Characters: 4353

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


The queer thing is, that when I look back upon that "Great Failure" it is not the danger or the importance of the undertaking which is strongly impressed so much as a jumble of smells and sounds and small things.

It is just these small things which no author can make up in his study at home.

The glitter of some one carrying an army biscuit-tin along the mule track; the imprinted tracks of sand-birds by the blue Aegean shore; the stink of the dead; a dead man's hand sticking up through the sand; the blankets soaked each morning by the heavy dew; the incessant rattle of a machine-gun behind Pear-tree Gully; the distant ridges of the Sari Bahir range shimmering in the heat of noon-day; the angry "buzz" of the green and black flies disturbed from a jam-pot lid; the grit of sand in the mouth with every bite of food; the sullen dullness of the overworked, death-wearied troops; the hoarse dried-up and everlasting question: "Any water?"; the silence of the Hindus of the Pack-mule Corps; the "S-s-s-e-e-e-e-o-o-o-op!-Crash!"-of the high explosives bursting in a bunch of densely solid smoke on the Kislar Dargh, and the slow unfolding of these masses of smoke and sand in black and khaki rolls; the snort and stampede of a couple of mules bolting along the beach with their trappings swinging and rattling under their panting bellies; the steady burning of the star-lit night skies; the regular morning shelling from the Turkish batteries on the break of dawn over the gloom-shrouded hills; the far-away call of some wounded man for "Stretchers! Stretchers!"; the naked white men splashing and swimming in the bay; the swoop of a couple of skinny vultures over the burning white sand of the Salt Lake bed to the stinking and decomposing body of a shrapnel-slaughtered mule hidden in the willow-thickets at the bottom of Chocolate Hill; a torn and bullet-pierced French warplane stranded on the other side of Lala Baba-lying over at an angle like a wounded white seabird; the rush for the little figure bringing in "the mails" in a sack over his shoulder; the smell of iodine and iodoform round the hospital-tents; the long wobbling moan of the Turkish long-distanc

e shells, and the harmless "Z-z-z-eee-e-e-o-ooop!" of their "dud" shells which buried themselves so often in the sand without exploding; the tattered, begrimed and sunken-eyed appearance of men who had been in the trenches for three weeks at a stretch; the bristling unshaven chins, and the craving desire for "woodbines"; the ingrained stale blood on my hands and arms from those fearful gaping wounds, and the red-brown blood-stain patches on my khaki drill clothes; the pestering curse of those damnable Suvla Bay flies and the lice with which every officer and man swarmed.

The awful-cut-off, Robinson Crusoe feeling-no letters from home, no newspapers, no books... sand, biscuits and flies; flies, bully and sand...

Stay-at-home critics and prophets of war cannot strike just that tiny spark of reality which makes the whole thing "live."

However many diagrams and wonderful ideas these remarkable amateur experts publish they won't "go down" with the man who has humped his pack and has "been out."

Mention the word "Blighty" or "Tickler's plum-and-apple," "Kangaroo Beach" or "Jhill-o! Johnnie!" or "Up yer go-an' the best o' luck!" to any man of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and in each case you will have touched upon a vividly imprinted impresssion of the Dardanelles.

There was adventure wild and queer enough in the Dardanelles campaign to fill a volume of Turkish Nights' Entertainments, but the people at home know nothing of it.

This is the very type of adventure and incident which would have aroused a war-sickened people; which would have rekindled war-weary enthusiasm and patriotism in the land. Maybe most of these accounts of marvellous escapes and 'cute encounters, secret scoutings and extraordinary expeditions will lie now for ever with the silent dead and the thousands of rounds of ammunition in the silver sand of Suvla Bay.

The stars still burn above the Salt Lake bed; the white breakers roll in each morning along the blue sea-shore, sometimes washing up the bodies of the slain-just as they did when we camped near Lala Baba.

But the guns are gone and there the heavy silence of the waste places reigns supreme.

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