The Last To Leave (Part I)
The guns were silent, and the silent hillsHad bowed their grasses to a gentle breeze.I gazed upon the vales and on the rills,And whispered, ‘What of these?’ and, ‘What of these?These long-forgotten dead with sunken graves,Some crossless, with unwritten memories;Their only mourners are the moaning waves;Their only minstrels are the singing trees.’And thus I mused and sorrowed wistfully.I watched the place where they had scaled the height,That height whereon they bled so bitterlyThroughout each day and through each blistered night.I sat there long, and listened – all things listened too.I heard the epics of a thousand trees;A thousand waves I heard, and then I knewThe waves were very old, the trees were wise:The dead would be remembered evermore –The valiant dead that gazed upon the skies,And slept in great battalions by the shore. Leon Gellert, 10th Battalion of the Australian Imperial forces “Up, you brain-dead buggers!” Sergeant Cooling screeched. His sudden bark woke up most of the men in the barracks, and a few from the one next to theirs. The men grumbled and cursed Cooling under their breath, but got dressed and headed into the burning Alexandrian sun. The men sat down at the mess pavilion, some using their water to wash their faces. Others hastily wolfed down their food and went for a jog. Most of them, though, were chatting like schoolboys. “So I say to the bastard” A tall man boasted, “what do you mean that’s 3 pounds? You can’t gamble and you can’t count either!”. His audience laughed, and even Sargeant Cooling broke his usually stern appearance to give a small sign of approval to the lanky man. Once breakfast was over, the soldiers of the 4th Australian brigade lined up in the camp’s center field. A union jack hung low, with no wind to give the banner it’s cheerful flow. From the officer’s quarters emerged Colonel Monash, commander of the 200 men. “Nice to see you’re all in uniform” he commented, “but we have news for the lot of you. We’re being deployed to Gallipoli. We’re expected to arrive in a few days. It’s going to be dangerous out on sea. And the last thing I want is some bloke to forget his rifle across the ocean!”. He gave a pause for his subordinates to laugh, but the prospect of combat was grim for them. They realized they were now to be soldiers, no longer young boys hoping for an excursion to an exotic country and carry a fancy weapon. They had a job to do. Colonel Monash dismissed the men, and they proceeded to their sergeants to receive their orders.25 April, 1915- The Turkish coastPrivate Neumann was terrified. He was onboard a transport, and the officers discussed landing today. He had ended up taking another man’s cabin, as he caught malaria a day before the voyage. I wish I could be pampered in some hospital he yearned. The trip was rather peaceful. No surprises were to be found, whether it be mines or enemy ships. The Mediterranean was calm for them, and the cooks even brought out a fishing net. It seemed idyllic for him, if it wasn’t for the battle he was to participate in. But in the dark of the night, it was dangerous. Lord Winston Churchill had ordered a massive invasion of the Dardanelles, hoping to free the crucial strait and make a path to provide supplies to the impoverished Russians, who were losing ground to the German army. The Ottomans were no threat to the British, who had exploited their weakness to gain Egypt into their empire. If what Edward Neumann heard was true, the Ottomans still had emirs and sultans ruling their land. A strange land with strange people, and Edward, alongside hundreds of thousands of other men, were there to see it with their own eyes. A sailor in a coat shoved him aside, running to the captain’s room. Edward rubbed his eyes, and realized they were in sight of land. The coast stood out, a dark slope against the chopping sea. The rowboats on the sides were being lowered. Panicking, Edward grabbed his weapon and climbed onto a boat. He cursed as the rough rope chafed his hands, leaving red marks. He clung to his gun as he sat in the wooden transport, when a shadowed man handed him an oar. He adjusted his seating and watched the pattern of the other men. Following their rhythm, he could see the line where the water reached the sand. He was almost in Turkey. His heart pounded louder than a freight train,he gripped his gun tight as he prepared to step out to shore. The men were surprised- no enemies were to be found. One of the soldiers brought out a flask of beer, and began downing the alcohol, whooping and celebrating. Even the officers were relieved, expecting heavy casualties on the way to the shore and onwards. As boat after boat landed on the shoreline, more exhilirated soldiers arrived. It seemed far too easy, Edward thought. He was right.As the officers began ordering their men to advance, the familiar yet terrifying boom and thud of an artillery barrage became audible. The sand shook, and the infantry readied their weapons. But they knew what was to come. “Turks on the hill!”The shore then flashed bright with sparks from guns atop the steep cliffs. The enemyhad buried themselves deep into the rock. Lines of barbed wire were interrupted by machine guns and snipers. It was chaotic. Edward fired a round in the direction of the enemy and took to cover on the rocks. Men were falling all around him. Some he didn’t know, others he had eaten and drilled with, until they seemed like brothers. And this family of his was now being ripped apart by endless gunshots, countless more on their way to the slaughter. It was far too late to fall back. The pounding of artillery and moans of the dying filled his mind. He was petrified. He lied down for what felt like years,watching wave after wave of men from every corner of the empire leap out of their boats and march over their comrades. Edward scrambled up, hoping to find a way around the defenses, when he glimpsed a horse running towards him. It’s the Turkish cavalry he realized. He dropped his weapon, held his hands up, and walked to the horseman. “I-I-I surrender, sir!” He cried, holding his hands in the air. The horseman merely muttered in Turkish and ordered him to move to the right of the beach. Neumann paced towards the other prisoners, when he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head, and fell u*********s.