Diary account of the Dardanelles campaign.
STEVENSON Lt. Capt. (1916.)
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Army Book 136. Manuscript in pencil. 8vo. Original linen covered printed boards. 23 September 1915 - 1 April
Stevenson departed Liverpool for the Dardanelles on HMT 2810, which was the Olympic sister ship to the ill-fated Titanic. Passing Gibralter they soon came across a life boat full of French sailors, whose ship had been sunk by a German submarine. They took the crew on board and immediately commenced pursuit of the enemy submarine: "About 4pm hostile submarine sighted... The siren was blown several times and was the most eerie and dismal sound we ever heard. It seemed almost as though the ship was uttering a cry of despair... Gun on fore suddenly fired & boat swung right round almost in our lengthand heeled right over so sudden was the turn Gunner on aft gun then fired and submarine made off when we were right round we were sull speed ahead up med. again so submarine could have caught us... Very noticeable no excitement but considerable curiosity. It is believed a torpedo had been fired but missed as boat swung round."
There's a detailed description of Lemnos, which Churchill felt was an ideal launching site for an attack on the Dardanelles, and much speculation among the men over their final destination. On October 7, they disembarked on W beach "along a 'Pier' which consisted of several boats joined up" and soon settled into trenches.
Stevenson's experience of trench warfare is dreadfully monotonous and many of the entries report the ongoing movements of Turkish troops, shelling attacks, moving between trenches, the occasional bath in the ocean. He regularly reports the death and injuries of fellow soldiers, often describing the manner of their death "shot while on sentry", "killed while on a fatigue party ... heavily shelled by shrapnel", "badly wounded by premature burst of catapult bomb" and records his thoughts on them: "His loss to the Regiment as a soldier was bad enough & his equal as a pianist will never be found again." and "he was a good chap full of life and go and will be sadly missed."
There are lighter moments too - "Important event occured tonight. 1st issue of rum. It's not the quantity but the quality. Gee but it's good."
"No uncommon sight to see dead lying about & feel hands protruding from side of trenches ... The gruesomeness gradually wore off as we became war stained. We are getting hardened already. The brute in man is easily discernible on service the callousness of individuals being very pronounced. Suppose squeamishness is not good for fighting."
He also notes that some of the men were beginning to suffer from dysentery and lice and provides brief, though detailed, descriptions of shelling attacks on either side - noting the (in)accuracy of their artillery.
The diary concludes with an offhand comment that sums up so much of what we know now about the Great War, "Passed a regiment who said they were straight out of England. Poor devils don't know what they are in for."
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