Deadly weather horrors in Gallipoli


The terrible experiences of our soldiers in a November winter storm in Gallipoli, when men were drowned in a monsoon and others frozen to death in the terrible frost which followed, were recently described by Mr G. Ward Price, one of the official newspaper correspondents at the Front. His account of the horrors which followed on the storm is fully corroborated in a graphic letter which has just come to hand from Pte A. Turvey (pictured), 7025, 3rd Royal Fusiliers, whose home is at 55 Salisbury Road, Luton.

In his description of the storm, Mr Ward Price said: "First it rained in torrents for 12 hours. The narrow trenches, often cut in hard rock and tenacious clay, were flooded to the height of the thighs. The dug-outs filled with water. The steep saps that climb the slopes to the trenches literally became cascades.

Pte A. Turvey"The gullies along which the stores were brought from the beach resumed their natural function of water courses. It was impossible to light a fire and to have any food but cold bully and damp biscuits, and the men were soaked through to the very skin.

"Then the wind shifted suddenly to the north - and bitter, biting, piercing frost set in. The drench greatcoats grew so still that they could stand up by themselves. The water froze round the men's feet as they lay snatching the wretched sleep of utter exhaustion. Some of them were only kept alive by being made to work hard all night with pick and shovel.

"After the frost the blizzard. A wind sprang up from the north so strong that you could not stand against it. It lashed the face and inflamed the eyes. The gale, moreover, brought snow with it. Frozen, buffeted by wind and sleet, with hardly the possibility of motion to keep the circulation alive, the men endured agonies.

"Sentries watching through loopholes in the parapet were found dead at their posts when their turn came to be relieved, frozen rigid, their stiff fingers still clutching the rifle in an iron-fast grip, the blackened faces still leaning against the loophole. Yet through all this the troops kept uncomplainingly to their duty, and the men who died did so with firm lips."

Now note how closely this semi-official description is endorsed by one of the men who went through that rough time. Pte Turvey, writing from St David's Hospital, Malta, where he was suffering from frostbite, says: "On November 26th, when I was in the trenches, a monsoon came. It started about 8 o'clock at night and about two hours later the trenches were filled with water. It came over the top of them. It kept rising higher and higher up our legs, past our knees, and we thought we were all finished. I have never seen anything like it. There were hundreds drowned.

"The Turks were the same - all standing in the open as if in a huge lake. It was cold as well. We stood in it for about six hours; dared not move in case we slid in the trenches, for that would have meant certain death, as the trenches are from nine to ten feet deep.

"After about six hours the water, which was running away at a great speed, went down, until only about half our legs were in it. We had to think about ourselves, so we had to dig ourselves in as best we could with anything we could find handy.

"It was not long before morning came. Then the Turks started shelling us, as their guns were all right, being on the big hills. Shrapnel shells burst all round us, and I was lucky in not getting hit.

"We had no food that day. As you put your foot down you sank in the mud past your knees. All next day it rained and we were standing in mud and water, pulling our feet out as we kept sinking down in it.

"The next night it started snowing and freezing, and all the use went out of us. Chaps died with exposure; others were moaning. I was myself; could not help it. We stopped there all night, and it was terrible.

"The next morning a relief came, and we were told to get back if we could. It took me a good time before I could bend my legs. I could not feel my feet. The sight I shall never forget. There were men who stuck in the mud, could not get out, and were frozen to death. Some fell down, too done up to walk any further, and we could not help them as we could hardly get along ourselves. It was only desperation and a fight for life that got me back. I was sinking in the mud right up to the waist. I had to use all the strength in my body to get out. I knew I should be frozen to death if I did not."

Pte Turvey, only 19 years old, had been wounded the previous April while serving in France. After recovering, he came home to Luton and was then sent to Dover. He went out to the Mediterranean in September.

[The Luton News: Thursday, January 6th, 1916]