15 December 1915

SUVLA - Captain John Gillam, Army Service Corps, 29th Divisional Supply Train - As so often before the published Gillam diary gives us a wonderful detailed account - this time of the work being done in preparation for the evacuation of Suvla on 15 December.

Left: Commander Edward Unwin VC

The wind is cold and blowing steadily from the northeast, yet the sea is not too rough for the getting off of stores. Lord Howard de Walden and General Percival, the Brigadier of the 86th Brigade, which embarked last night, are now on the beach as part of the regulating Staff of the evacuation programme. This Staff, controlled by General Fanshawe, is almost as efficient as could be, with the result that the last stage of the evacuation is working like clockwork. Every man is accounted for. No man can leave before his time, no man should be left behind. Commander Unwin, who gained the VC at the landing of April 25th for gallantly on V Beach, is in charge of conveyance of stores, animals, and men from the beaches to the ships, and night and day he is on duty on the piers. He stands over 6 feet and is broad in proportion, with the typical clean-shaven face of a sailor, and with a voice that roars orders through a megaphone, causing those who are ordered to jump about a good deal quicker on their jobs than they probably would do otherwise. I go down on the beach with a Staff officer this morning after a few "Good-morning!" shells have crashed on the beach roads and on the mounds of earth, and we call at the embarkation office, in a sand-bagged house, dug and built in the cover of a rock. There we find a few of the Staff hard at work. The weather has been kind, and we are up to time with the programme. We talk to two Yeomanry officers who are on the Evacuation Staff. Everything is working perfectly, and I feel confident that we shall succeed in evacuating long before the Turk discovers our absence. Ships, when loaded full with supplies and passengers, proceed to Mudros Harbour, where they are unloaded quickly, coming back the following night. No ships pass to and fro between here and Lemnos during the day, so that every morning that the Turk wakes up he notices no extra ships lying anchored or the absence of the ships departed. The view of the shipping lying in the bay inside the boom appears unchanged, as is the case of the beaches day by day. Regularly at dusk we go up to the C.R.E. nullah and issue rations from the reserve supplies there. To-night we issue to the 88th Brigade only, and the work in consequence is quickly finished. The distance to the line is now short for the A.T. carts to take the rations up, for the best part of their journey is made empty, namely from the lines at the end of the promontory to our dump in the C.R.E. nullah. The journey back to their lines from the trenches is now made with empty carts, for all forward stores have been evacuated. There is no doubt that the Turk hears the carts approaching to the various cookhouses, for the carts rattle and the various parts of the harness clank loudly. Their sound is certain to be heard by him in his front line, for the nights here are so still. The Turk fires over towards the direction where he knows the roads lie, hoping to claim a casualty in mule or man. The late two Brigade H.Q. are now uninhabited and closed, and whoever opens the doors of the several dugouts will be blasted immediately into eternity by bombs attached to the doors, seats, and cupboards. I see my Brigade close by our dump in the C.R.E. nullah, and the atmosphere is cheery and full of confidence. Crack, crack, crack the rifles in front sing away. I hear one bullet pass, but the few bullets that reach this nullah are spent in force and drop harmlessly to the ground. Major Bailey, as cheery as ever, calls in our dugout when we arrive back, and we give him a good dinner of tinned roast fowl and champagne before he embarks with his Field Company. I go down again to 'Y' formation post, and the scene there is the same as last night, shadowy columns of men arriving in good order, lying down to await telephonic instructions to proceed to the beach. The beaches are full of hundreds and hundreds of men moving in single file along the piers and up the gangways and on board ship, while at little coves nearby lighters are busy feverishly loading with animals, baggage, and remaining equipment."

SOURCE:
J. Gillam, "Gallipoli Diary", (Stevenage, The Strong Oak Press, 1989), p.293-294.