LETTERS FROM THE FRONT.
HOW LIEUTENANT-COLONEL MIELL FELL.
Lance-Corporal Douglas B. Searle, of the 9th Light Horse, writing to his brother at South-terrace, Thebarton, from no. 2, Australian General Hospital, Ghezireh, on October 10, says:—
'Here I am back in Egypt, but this time on the sick list. I am progressing splendidly, and expect to be sent to a convalescent hospital shortly, and may be returning to the fighting line in the course of three or four weeks. We received our order to proceed to the front, and I can assure you we were all highly pleased. At Alexandria we embarked on a transport, and immediately steamed for Lemnos Island — a 'three days' trip.
At Lemnos we transhipped on to a British destroyer. The Lemnos harbor presented a lively sight, it being crowded with French and British warships, numerous troopships, and hospital ships. Soon we were on our way to Gallipoli, cutting through the water at the rate of 30 miles an hour. After a few hours steaming we arrived within sound of the big guns, booming out their death knocks. We were provided with full equipment and 200 rounds of ammunition.
We landed off Anzac, under terrible shrapnel fire, but all were fairly lucky, and we lost very few men. I realised I was in it then— no camp life about that lot. After landing we climbed many steep hills, and eventually reached Walker's Ridge, where we found our regiment stationed. When we saw the rough country it seemed unbelievable that the Australians managed to scale those terrible heights and drive the Turks some six miles back.
It was evidently a busy day for the Turks, for they were landing their shells all round our trenches, and kept up an unceasing rifle fire. This we had for several days, and soon we got used to it; in fact, we took no more notice of the shells and bullets than if they had been quite harmless. When we arrived our regiment was terribly short of its full strength, consequently for two months we never left the firing line, and for a month we fed on beef , biscuits, and jam. Later on the food improved, and we got such things as stews, rice, &c. During the day we were either in the firing line, on fatigue duty, or catching water for an hour or so— water was scarce, a pint being a day's, allowance, so a wash was out of the question. At one time I was three weeks without a wash.
At night we would again be in the firing line, doing shifts of one hour on and one hour off, or three hours off and one hour on. Many nights we had no sleep at all, many times the Turks attacked us, and consequently we had to stand to arms all night. The Turks attacked us six times while I was over there, and each time they retired very much the worse for their experience. On one occasion when we attacked them we were compelled to retire against a big force of Turks, who mowed us down with their machine guns. The next day they put up a notice outside their trench, which read, 'Come again. Light Horse, and wear your white badges.' I assure you they are a cheeky crowd, but we all admire the Turk on account of his being a fair fighter I have seen our wounded bandaged by the Turks, and they have allowed bad cases to return to our trenches unmolested. It can be seen they are fighting against their grain. German officers compel them to make attacks, and should, they retire they are threatened by the German officers that machine gun fire will be turned on them.
Shortly after our arrival we were unfortunate in losing Lieutenant-Colonel Miell. It was very sad; he was esteemed by all, and the pride of our regiment. He called our regiment 'The Gallant 8th.' He died on August 7— the morning of our making an attack on the Turks. He was in the firing line talking, and someone shouted, 'The Turks are retiring '
Colonel Meill said, 'Where?' and he put his head over the parapet. lt was only a matter of a second, and he fell back dead with a bullet through the head. We all felt his loss, for no man walked that looked after his men better.
Five weeks later we were again doomed to lose another colonel— Colonel Reynell—with three other officers, whilst making another charge with fixed bayonets. The charge in which the four officers were killed was nothing short of hell on earth. I never had so many narrow escapes in all my life. Bombs whizzed around us all the time. I was knocked senseless with the shock of one bomb. I thought I was out for keeps this time.
After the attack we lined up, and it was a sad spectacle. Many of our chums were killed, and the remnant presented a sorry spectacle. Many had lost their hats, and their clothes were torn. We were given 24 hours' rest, and made another attack. This time we pounced on the Turks and. took the trench. It was a deserving reward for all our work. We have had a lot to do with the Ghurkhas, who are great fighters. We get on well with them for the reason that more often than not they are with the Australians when attacking.
I have given up all hopes of getting letters. I have written 75 letters and only received three. We are in an Australian Hospital here, and we get the best treatment possible. It is the first home I have struck since I left Adelaide. The nurses are very kind, and cannot do enough for us. I was also at the Canadian Hospital at Lemnos Island for a couple of days, and the Canadian doctors and nurses were very kind. With all my narrow escapes and hardships I am glad I came. I am truly proud to be an Australian. I hope the time is not far distant when all this bloodshed will come to an end, and we shall be victorious.
1915 'LETTERS FROM THE FRONT.', Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), 20 November, p. 38, viewed 9 June, 2014, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87233072