UTS Library

100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli Landings

I thought I would try to post a few items relating to some of the books we selected for our Level 2 display to mark the Centenary of Anzac Day in 2015. Actually they may all relate to just one book that is on display: The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War by Bill Gammage. First published in 1974 by ANU Press, it is based on Bill's PhD thesis at ANU. I think that if you want to understand the Australian experience of the Great War, it is probably the best single volume account. It tells the story through the soldiers' own words as written in their letters, diaries and postcards from the front. Nowadays a lot of this material has been digitised by various institutions including the Australian War Memorial and is available to view on their Anzac Connections site. 

Last night I was trying to find something about the thoughts of those heading to Gallipoli and saw this diary entry from William 'Jack' Echlin Turnley, 1st Field Company Engineers. He took part in the landing on 25 April 1915:

Shall we be seen, or not? That's our anxious question.

'Why don't the __ fire at us?'

'Look there's a light!'

'No, it's only a bright star creeping up behind the hill.'

... no challenge rings out. How we wish they would fire - or that we could land ...! The suspense is nerve-racking. All we can do is follow the pinnace towing us about. The thought comes to me that perhaps we are the unfortunate ones to be sacrificed in drawing the enemy's fire, Such a cheerful thought! ... Oh, why the Dickens don't they fire at us! There are a couple of lights flashing about - they must have seen us ... Crack! Swish! Ping! At last we breathe a sigh of relief, the suspense is over! ... some get ashore safely, some are hit slightly, others are drowned in only a couple of feet of water because in the excitement no one notices their plight ... [One] fellow remains in the boat after all the others have disembarked ... he ... looks at us dazedly, leaning forward on his rifle. A sailor ... touches him on the arm, and the soldier falls forward in to the bottom of the boat, dead.


Sergeant (Sgt) William 'Jack' Echlin Turnley AWM P07146.001

Jack Turnley later became a casualty of this war. He was wounded in July 1915 but remained on duty. He developed oedema in the left leg and was eventually repatriated to Egypt, where he developed cardiac complications. Later found unfit for active service he was repatriated to Australia where he was discharged from the military in August 1916. Jack returned to civilian life and worked as a Shire Clerk in Coraki, NSW. He died at Annandale, NSW, in 1934, aged only 43.

On page 49 of my 1980 Penguin edition I came across this quote from Edgar Sydney Worrall who would then have been a Private in the 24th Battalion. He didn't land with the first troops in April, he was being sent to reinforce the troops on the peninsula and writes these words in a letter home on 1 Otober 1915:

Today I am eighteen [looks like he probably put his age up on enlistment in June 1915] ... and I received the best news I think I ever got ... In forty eight hours, we proceed to the place Australia had made famous!! ... I dont think I was ever so happy in my life ... should ... you have to make the supreme and grand sacrifice, it will be easier to bear when I say that since I left home I have always acted absolutely square to my mother's teachings and always as an Englishman should. Have no fear for me; I have made peace 'twixt God and man. and am prepared to join the glorious list.

Born in Sydney, Edgar enlisted as a medical student from Prahan in Victoria and two of his brothers, Henry and Norman also served in the Great War. He was promoted to Corporal on 15 December and was one of the last men to be evacuated from Gallipoli on 20 December 1915. In his diary he claims to have fired the last shot at Lone Pine. Edgar went on to see active service on the Western Front and was wounded in the leg on 30 June 1916. He received officer training and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 31 May 1917. In the photo below of the officers of the 24th Battalion, Edgar can be seen grinning in the middle row, third from the left. 


Officers of the 24th Battalion, 1917 Image source: AWM.

Sadly though, he was killed in action on 4 October as a Platoon Commander when fatally hit by shrapnel from a high explosive shell in the attack on Broodseinde Ridge, Belgium. A collection of his private records is also held at the Australian War Memorial in their Research Centre https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/1DRL/0607/

Bill Gammage does a wonderful job in selecting these records and in forming a narrative around them. After quoting Edgar, Bill writes:

Perhaps truly for such men death had no sting and the grave no victory. The gay Cavalier had touched their spririts; they thought themselves equal to twenty Turks, they bowed to no man, and with the eagerness of children they restlessly awaited their glory.