24 May 1915

HELLES - Captain Norman Dewhurst MC, Machine Gun Officer, 1st Royal Muster Fusiliers, 29th Division, Helles - As one of the surviving officers of the Munsters, Dewhurst found himself in the line at Gully Ravine. "Finally on May 24th we moved into the front line to relieve the 6th Gurkhas - on our right was a large nullah and it looked a nasty place to have to hold."

"There was a terrible smell all around coming from decaying bodies, and the parapet were I got my machine guns behind was partly built from piled bodies of the fallen, both ours and Turks. It was a hectic night, there was continuous firing from both sides with all arms. We also tried to make a start at clearing up the area of dead bodies but the barbs of the grapnel irons pulled out from the decomposing flesh. So they lay there in no man's land covered with thousands of green flies as big as bumble bees. When disturbed these flies rose in swarms and were so thick around us that we had to eat with a cover over our heads to avoid swallowing them. We were in the sector for 72 hours, the Turkish line was only 40 yards away and what wit hthe smell, the continual firing and the knowledge that it was a sticky place to be holding, we got no sleep at all during that period."

 

 

 


ANZAC TRUCE - After informal contacts between various Australian and Turkish units on 20th May, formal negotiations on the following day led to an agreement between Hamilton and Liman von Sanders that an armistice would take place on 24th May between 07.30 and 16.30 to allow the removal and burial of the dead which lay between the two lines.

At 07.30 the fifty strong delimiting parties of each side crossed the wire and moved into No Man's Land to meet their opposite numbers and begin to spread out across the whole length of the line with a man from both sides about every 100 yards.Every man was provided with two packets of cigarettes, one to smoke and one for his immediate opposite number amidst the Turks on the same grim task. Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Fenwick a senior New Zealand medical officer was appointed as delimiting officer during the armistice. For him it was an awful scene.

"The Turkish dead lay so thick that it was almost impossible to pass without treading on their bodies. The stench was awful. The Turkish doctor gave me some pieces of wool on which he poured some scent and asked me to put them into my nostrils. I was glad to do so. The awful destructive power of high explosives was very evident. Huge holes, surrounded with circles of corpses blown to pieces, were scattered about the area over which we walked. Everywhere lay the dead - swollen, black and hideous - and over all a nauseating stench that made one feel desperately sick. As we moved along the plateau the trenches became closer and closer together. In one place I calculated the distance between the Turks and ours was only 17 feet. I made this calculation from the fact that four Turks lay head to heel; the front Turk had his hand actually on the side of our trench; the back one had his feet touching his own trench. He had been killed as he leapt over the trench wall." (Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Fenwick, Headquarters, NZ&A Division, NZEF)

 Private Harry Barnes of 15th Battalion spoke of his growing respect for the Turks as worthy enemies.

"The Turks had a very big man, he must have been about seven feet tall and our own man was nearly as big. I suppose it was prestige that made them chose big men. They both had white flags and they stood in the middle. I wasn't one of those burying the dead, but I sat on the parapet and after a while walked over and offered bully beef to one Turk. He smiled and seemed very pleased and passed me a whole string of dates. 'Jacko', as we called the Turkish soldier, was very highly regarded by me and all the men on our side. I never heard him decried, he was always a clean fighter and one of the most courageous men in the world. When they came there was no beating about the bush, they faced up to the heaviest rifle fire that you could put up and nothing would stop them, they were almost fanatical. When we met them at the armistice we came to the conclusion that he was a very good bloke indeed. We had a lot of time for him." (Private Henry Barnes, 15th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Australian Division, AIF). 

SOURCE:
Noman Dewhurst MC, (H.J. Edmonds, Brussels 1968), P. C. Fenwick, Reminiscences of Anzac (Reveille, 31/3/1932), p.39, H. B. Barnes, IWM Sound Archive, AC 4008