Gallipoli experiences on Hill 60


Mr Sidney C. Fensome, of 21 Granville Road, Luton, has had a very interesting letter from his brother, Sapper Arthur Fensome, who is with the 1/2nd Field Company of the East Anglian Royal Engineers. He writes:

"I received your parcel and letter safely yesterday. In fact, all my correspondence for the past two months has arrived in bulk. We have had cartloads every day for our division. They have been hanging about different ports as out division has had three changes of camp since December 4th, and a lot of them have been spoiled in consequence.

"I daresay by this time you will have heard of the evacuation of the positions of Suvla and land as far as Anzac. Our division was in advance of the evacuation and, of course, we were relieved a week before the division left the Peninsula. We were under fire the whole of the time we were on the Peninsula, and we (as no doubt you know) landed at Suvla in August.

"Having a short time there we went to Lala Baba for a week and then on to Hill 60, the connecting link between Suvla and Anzac. We stayed on that position (our brigade) until we left the Peninsula, and it was the warmest place between Anzac and Suvla.

"When we first relieved the New Zealanders on Hill 60 we were 200 yards to 60 yards away from the Turks, but by continuous sapping we shortened the distance around the hill to 12 yards and never farther away then 50 yards, and that was on the right flank of the hill towards where the Norfolks and Londons (10th and 11th) were. Hill 60

"The consequence of being so close resolved in a constant duel of bombing and mining, and it got very sultry towards the closing stages. We got some mines out under the Turk trenches just where they had their most troublesome bombing stations and blew them up - machine guns, bombing posts and their occupants going into the air, but we were not allowed to go forward into the craters, as I suppose we were too far forward of the other lines and possibly might have been enfiladed by the Turks.

"They got a bit of their own back by blowing up one of our barricades which was used as a bombing station, and I had gone into hospital the same morning and so missed the affair. But I was working in the same sector, which was also destroyed the previous evening.

"I had a fortnight in hospital, and should have gone on the hospital boat, but instead I returned to camp to go through a week of terrible weather which will live in my memory as long as I live. Disease and sickness accounted for a large number. I understand the dysentery out at Gallipoli was quite different from the disease usually met with, and quite baffled the doctors.

"It made strong men look like ghosts and as living skeletons in a week, although they still stuck to their jobs until they had to be carried away. It was the biggest and strongest fellows that were carried off by this complaint - at least this was the general rule in our company.

"The Turks were affected just the same, many of the wounded having it, and prisoners. One of the prisoners from Hill 60 said they would knock us off those hills with sticks if it wasn't for our fleet. Anyway, I certainly think they would blow us off if they had more artillery. What they had got they used very persistently.

"There was one which used to play on our camp and also sweep our trenches which was the subject of a good deal of argument and discussion as to whether it was a captured 75 or a German 77 millimetre. That gun was the only thing the Colonials were afraid of, and our observers never did discover its whereabouts, and the fleet wasted tons of metal on it.

"There was also a longer range gun (or battery of guns) which we called "Beachey Bill," which shelled everything on or near the beach, even the bathers, and which cleared us out of the well-top for two days running. They got some very big guns up towards the finish and I was nearly caught by one when going on to the boat, the last half-an-hour I was on the Peninsula.

"I had many near goes from shells, bombs and bullets, and it is impossible for anyone - even one who has served in France - to realise what danger we were in whilst on the Peninsula. It was quite different from France, where troops could have a week in the trenches and go right away from shell fire and danger to a rest, a bath and possibly a good feed. We simply were kept at it until either wounds or sickness took us from our respective jobs or until we were relieves by another division..

"The wells were marked by the Turks and many were killed and wounded when going for water. I saw a fellow offer another 10 shillings for a bottle of water, and Woodbines could not be bought at 6d each in August.

"I had but one bath from September 2nd until I came to -----, and it was a luxury to get a wash out of your mess tin - it meant the sacrifice of your drinking water, and at one time I had a beard that made me look like a tramp.

"We were responsible for the water supplies and defences, in the way of trenching, sapping, mining, entanglements, barricades, all bombing posts, magazines etc. We got no bridging out there as there are no rivers, but we had roads to make for transport. The only one already there was a dried up watercourse, which no doubt by this time is restored to its natural condition.

"We earned a good name, and more praise perhaps than any other regiment in the division."

[The Luton News: Thursday, January 20th, 1916]