Royal Engineers at Gallipoli


The members of the East Anglian Royal Engineers, who sailed for the Dardanelles with the Division to which the 1/5th Bedfordshires are also attached, were not engaged in the severe fighting which fell to the lot of the infantry after landing, but since they landed on the Peninsular they have repeatedly been under shell fire, and one Lutonian has already been killed.

On Wednesday Mr A. Bunker, harness maker of 4 Bridge Street, received a letter from the Officer Commanding the 2/1st East Anglian Field Coy, announcing that his son, Saddler Albert Walter Bunker, 1779, was struck in the head with a fragment of shell while the camp was being shelled on August 21st, and died within an hour without regaining consciousness. He was buried early the following morning close to the camp on the upper part of a ridge overlooking the sea, his comrades being present at the short service held.

Sapper Jack Roe, of the 1/2nd Field Coy, EARE, in a letter written on August 19th to his mother at 27 Grove Road, Luton, wrote: "We landed on Monday [August 16th] after a rotten time aboard. I think we are somewhere in Gallipoli, although we have not yet had any scrapping. A shell comes where we are every now and then, and kills a mule or two or a couple of men.

"There are Gurkhas and Australians here as well as English and Welsh. Water is very scarce. Tobacco is issued out to us. Haven't seen bread for four days - we have all biscuits to eat instead."

Sapper Percy Cook, 1715, 1/2nd Field Coy, EARE, has also written to his parents, Mr and Mrs Alfred Cook, 65 Langley Street, saying how thankful he thinks everybody was to find the journey was over. We were taken from the troopship in open boats, he says, and camped out on a side of a hill.

"After we had landed about half an hour we were surprised by a few shells bursting a little distance away, and they did not half startle us for the minute, as we had been watching the shelling and we thought they were a mile or so away. There is a continual bombardment going on all the time between some of our warships and the enemy. It is all hills and rocks about here, and it affords splendid covering.

"I hear the Bedfords are in the firing line, which I am told is about four miles from here, and I should think it is about right by watching the shells from the guns. It is very warm here in the daytime, but seems to be a bit chilly at night."

In an earlier letter that was posted at Alexandria, Sapper Cook says they arrived in that city on the 9th, and speaking of a visit to the native quarter, he says: "A funny place it is too, what with its peculiar houses, palm trees, and asses roaming about the streets. It was quite dark when we started back, but the streets were lighted a lot better than Luton streets are."

Another Sapper of the EARE has also sent home an account of his experience after landing. All the morning, he says, we have been watching the shells bursting on the beach and the hills all round.

"We thought that the place was practically deserted and we couldn't understand why they were shelling it, but as we got nearer the shore we saw that there were thousands of troops near the beach, although from a mile or two away they are practically invisible.

"The troops keep rolling in every minute, and the camp reaches as far as we can see. About ten minutes after we landed a shell came screaming over our heads. I fell down flat at once, but it went hundreds of yards away. From that time to this the shells have been coming every three or four minutes. Some are near and some a long way from us. We can determine from the whistle of the shell whether it is going to drop anywhere near us or not, and if we think it is, down we drop instantly. Our fellows are expert judges now.

"We are some miles from the trenches, but all out batteries are just near us so, of course, we come in for more shells than the fellows in the actual trenches. While I was bathing this morning a shell exploded some hundred yards away from where I was. and bits of it dropped about 10 yards away from me.

"A Taube aeroplane came over yesterday evening. Our warships in the harbour, and our batteries on land, made a great fuss over it. Shots were exploding just behind the tail of it, and it was simply a miracle that it got away without being hit. A lot of bombs were dropped from the Taube, but didn't do much damage.

"About six of our chaps have already gone up to the trenches, and I don't think the Company will be long before it goes. From other chaps it appears that the worst danger is going to the trenches and coming back. The road is lines all the way with snipers. There are a few Turkish prisoners here, and they seem a pretty decent lot."

[Luton Reporter: Monday, September 6th, 1915]