Gunning Brothers

Gunning Brothers

George Cecil and Frank Douglas Gunning were born in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. George, the eldest was born in 1890 and Frank was born in 1894. 

Both worked in the banking sector and after the outbreak of the war they decided to enlist with the 'D' Company, 7th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers. They trained at the Curragh Camp and departed for Gallipoli in May 1915. 

While at Gallipoli George contracted dysentery and was brought to hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, where he stayed until 1917. In 1918 he was transferred to the Royal Air Force; however by the time he had completed his training the Armistice had been signed.

Frank also contracted dysentery but was shipped back to England to be hospitalised. After a number of weeks in hospital he transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and went on to fight in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 where he was killed at age 22. 

They wrote a diary together throughout their time in Gallipoli which was donated to the Dublin City Archives and can viewed there, along with other items. 

The Gunning Brothers' diary will be updated throughout July and August. 

Diary Tracker

Follow the stories of the Irishmen who fell at Gallipoli from a century ago via their personal stories, ephemera, archive material, census details, military archives and diaries.

  1. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    27 August

    The first night after we left Gib we had a concert on board and some of the patients who were not too bad contributed to the evening’s enjoyment, as well as some of the ship’s crew. The funniest thing was a little Englishman with glasses who has one foot in a cradle and covered with bandages. He got up and sand ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’, trying to swank on the prom with his lame leg and a walking stick! It was a typical example of the British Tommy’s cherrfulness, no matter what trouble and trials he may have been through, and in spite of the ghastly sights he may have witnessed only the day previous!

    At Gib, too, we had about fifty Jack Tars drafted aboard who made it more lively. They were going home on furlough, after a long spell of Foreign Service in the Mediterranean. They used to give us a sing-song on deck, but I must say their songs were a bit stale; things that were the rages two or three years ago, they sang accompanied by a Melodeon.

    In the Atlantic, we were followed by the porpoises, as usual, and once or twice we had a good view of a whale or two in the vicinity. It was quit calm in the Bay of Biscany and on the outskirts of it we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a lot of wreckage, boats, oars, planks and lifebelts everywhere. We immediately slowed down, and sailed round it twice, but found nothing living. It was the ‘Mary Jane’ or something of Glasgow which had an explosion on board a few hours previous, but the transport ahead of us had picked up all the survivors. If you ask me, I think she struck a mine. That evening, we passed Ushant and on the morning of the fourth day, we sighted the English coast. In the afternoon, we passed the Isle of Wight Netley Hospital and eventually sailed into dock at Southampton. We passed a pleasure boat full of people bound for Ventnor, and they gave us a great cheer. That evening, of the half a dozen trains awaiting out boat, we were put in the London one and swissed off. The other transports landed at different ports all over the Kingdon. We got out at Clapham Common and in the midst of a most enthusiastic crowd at eleven o’clock at night, were driven off in private motor-cars to the 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth. We were very well treated there. After a week, they wanted to send us to a Convalescent Home, but AP and I were not ‘having any.’ We wanted to get straight back to ‘ould Ireland’. So we arrived at North Wall one fine morning, after being up on deck since dawn looking for the first glimpse of Ireland. I had breakfast with Aunt E and then proceeded home, where a wonderful welcome awaited me, which I shall never forget.

    So ends my diary! Except I might add, after two months in Cork, I got my Commission in the 6th Inniskillings, said ‘Goodbye’ to the dear old Dublins, and am now a young pup of a ‘sub. I never regretted one hour of my career as a Tommy, for those were the happiest days I ever had, although in many ways the saddest. 

  2. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    26 August

    One night it got so bad and still with a touch of dysentery that I was awake groaning all night: so, in the morning, I determined to get the doctor to extract the tooth immediately. I went to him and he nearly killed me. He just put my head tight under his arm, broke the tooth of course, and took it out in bits, so that I had a pain for two nights afterwards as well. You may say it was ‘pretty good comedy’ but that’s what I got when the red-haired Scotch doctor said, ‘I’ll do it in a jiff, laddie, it won’t hurt you, laddie.’

    When we got to Gib, we had to wait for four days till there were seven liners, each with two or three thousand wounded ready to proceed home through the Atlantic with an escort of six destroyers and not one of us was a Red Cross boat into the bargain. I meantime, we got coal and medical dressing and thick khaki uniforms were given out to all the walking cases to prepare for the changes in the climate. Up to this, I am Orangeman, was parading in a bright green shirt like a lady’s blouse; and JB, an RC, had a most glaring orange one which the Nurses had given us. Many a laugh.

    J and I had over this; we had thrown our other shirts overboard when we got on the hospital ship and I am sure the fishes got a fine feed. A few very bad cases, as well as four corpses, were landed at Gibraltar, and it was awful to think on the journey home there were sixty-five burials at sea on our ship alone. 

  3. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    25 August

    Next morning I was bringing him hot milk, and I noticed he was lying stuff, so called the Nurse. He had died in the night and the Nurse cried when she saw that one of her most helpful patients was dead. Though within sight of England’s shores, the poor fellow was buried at sea in the Chanel. I call that very hard luck! If we had arrived one day sooner, perhaps his life would have been saved.

    Just about this time, I got awfully bad with toothache or neuralgia from a stump at the back of my right jaw. For a few nights, it nearly drove me mad, and used to pain my eyes and right cheek terribly. 

  4. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    24 August

    Next morning, we steamed into the right section of the harbour. We intended to land all the bad cases, but the hospitals there were crammed full, and so only a few cases were landed who needed a big operation immediately in order to save their lives. We also tried to get a supply of dressing and bandages and to coal-up, neither of which were we able to supplied with. As usual, the vendors were all round the ship in their blue boats, and one dysentery cases, who was really no worse than I was, bought some grapes thro’ a port-hole at his bunk. Grapes, above all things, to eat. Well would you believe it, the fellow died the next day.

    In the evening, we set sail once more, and on our left as we moved out there were about twenty German prize boats anchored side by side, which had been captured in the Mediterranean on the outbreak of War. We took three days to get to Gibralter, and during that time, AP and I, with some others, volunteered to help the nurses in the different wards, for they were absolutely killed worked day and night. We just helped to bring round the meals and medicines in No. 1 ward at the bow of the boat. They were all Scotch nurses and doctors, and the Matron was young and pretty, and had a smile for everyone. But some of the cases were very bad indeed, and one did feel so sorry for those mortally wounded. One poor soul who was dying had five or six machine-gun bullet-wounds all in his abdomen: all I was told or knew was that, whenever he beckoned for water, I was to give it to him. He lay there moaning softly, and waving a straw fan all the time, and just as I passed asked for water. I gave it to him; and immediately, it trickled out through his abdomen unto the sheets, as he groaned with pain. It was terrible, I can tell you, and I felt so sick afterwards that I had to go up on deck for a while. He was landed in Gib for an operation, but I am quite sure he did. There was also a young chap of nineteen who got shrapnel in the head and was unconscious for ten days. The Sister was delighted when he opened his eyes for the first time, and he was getting on splendidly and always asking us to come and talk to him. But his was a very sad case. He was quite alright till the night before we got to Southampton when he got convulsions. 

  5. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    23 August

    I don’t know what time we left, but the following morning, we steamed into Mudros Bay, Lemnos and lay just next to Sir Thomas Lipton’s steam yacht, also a hospital ship, but on a smaller scale than ours. Well, as good luck would have it for me, Lemnos was overflowing with wounded: so they could not take many more ashore to the Hospital there. We then went further into the bay and up along side (would you believe it) our old transport Alaunia. She had been fitted up as a hospital ship in a few days, and it was arranged, as she could take 2000 cases, to fill her with three ship-loads of wounded.

    There was quite a party on board of chaps I know in the Dublins… We dysentery cases, managed to be put in the same ward: so it was nice having chaps we knew well to talk to. I don’t believe there were six doctors for the 2000 cases, and the poor nurses and RAMC had to work night and day without ceasing.

    Well, we got to Malta the following evening. We made a rush to get berthed before dark, but were too late; so had to anchor off Valetta just near a big fort on a rock. 

  6. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    22 August

    But, early in the morning, there was a lot of shrapnel which fell quite close to us, but I felt so weak, I didn’t care if it did hit us. When the Orderly came round, he told us that one of the shells did not burst, but stuck in the ground. He and a friend opened it; and instead of bullets, it was full of splinters of wood and scrap-iron: so perhaps the Turks were running short of shells at that time. It was a pity we could not have got shipped off immediately, for here were some wounded cases who needed comfort and quietness very badly. As it was, that afternoon we were all shifted to the 30th Field Ambulance, as the 31st were given orders to move elsewhere. The next morning, we were all brought down to the beach and labelled like parcels by a doctor, my destination was to be Lemnos, and my illness dysentery. On the way, I noticed two big French 75” guns that had been landed, and in the distances I saw a shrapnel light right on a group of Sikhs and their mules. I am sure there were a few casualties, and the mules were awfully frightened. We lay under the shelter on the beach for hours before we were taken off by the boats. On the low cliff on our left, there were rows of graves and wooden crosses, and the shrapnel continually fell among them. There was a little dog on the beach, too and he bark and growl whenever a shell fell near. He belonged to one of the sailors who were putting the wounded into the boats and lighters. I heard one of them say he had been so busy packing the boats that he had no time to have something to eat since the night before. At least the pinnace, with four boats in tow behind, arrived to take our batch off, and I can tell you we were glad. Those who could not sit up were put in stretchers on the lighter instead.

    Another thing I might mention, though rather a gruesome sight, was that there were any amount of RAMC Orderlies on the beach washing awfully blood-stained stretchers. They would throw them out into the sea and let them drift in again.

    Anyway, to proceed, on we were towed, passed the battleships and transports, out to the hospital ships which lay further out still. Our destination was the P&O Liner Delta which was now a beautiful hospital ship, splendidly equipped. As we arrived at the gangway, a Sister gave us each a packet of Flag cigarettes, doctors looked at our labels as if we were parcels, and we were detailed for the different wards. All afternoon, we lay in our bunks while an awful cannonade was being made by the battleships, and the noise was awful, the whole boat quivering with the vibration. Since then, I believe that was the day our troops advanced to within a mile of the railway line, and I don’t believe they ever got any further. But it was awfully homely to see the Nurses flying around business as usual, for it seemed ages since we last saw any of the fair sex. We were given hot milk, and it was delightful. The Sister kept coming round to us every hour or so, and insisted on us taking medicine each time. And such medicine, the most awful taste imaginable: how I longed for a sweet or something to swallow after it each time. Lying asleep at the top of the stairs was a prisoner, a wounded Turk, and somehow you felt sorry for him, all the same he was lucky in a way, for he knew he would be well-treated.

    The seamen and cooks on board were all Lascars and all sorts of Indian castes. Through the hold I saw one chap, at sunset, worship the sun by saying his prayers. He had a little mat tied round his waist which he took off and barefooted, he started salaaming and bowing up and down. It was a curious sight for me. 

  7. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    21 August

    So, as the following day we were to start road-making, he persuaded me to report sick in the morning. As I felt absolutely dead-beat and fit for nothing, I reported to the doctor, and he sent me, with a lot of others, down to the 31st Field Hospital. After a very rough and rocky journey, we got down and our rifles etc were taken from us, all except our haversacks. It was about half-a-mile inland from the beach, and sometimes a shell fell quite close to us. One of the sick was a chap from D Company. I can’t remember his name, and his complaint was a bad heart. He was being sent home, and he did look awfully ill, I can tell you. There was one tent for the doctors, and the wounded and sick were put in stretchers under brown blankets fastened up on sticks, so as to shade them from the sun. They had no room for our batch, so we were put in fours under the ambulance waggons. I can tell you, we were glad to get a lie down with a blanket over us, and before dark an orderly came round and gave us each a small bowl of arrowroot. Being both hot and sweet, I will never forget how delicious it tasted, and then we fell into a deep sleep, knowing that we would not be surprised with an alarm or attach in the middle of the night. 

  8. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    20 August

    The next morning at daybreak we actually had a shower of rain for half an hour, when it became quite cold and cloudy. And such big drops, too! I remember C, GP and I tried to cover our bodies and bare knees with some furze-bushes, but the rain came right through, and we all got quite wet. Then, when the sun came up, we just let it do the drying process, and we were not a bit worse after it. That day, the Reserve arrived from Lemnos, including F and we were delighted to see them. It was so funny, when he was telling us all the news, there happened to be some shrapnel dropping about half a mile off and at every whizz he would duck his head, expecting something. Of course, we were quite used to it, and never bothered except when a shell fell near us: so we laughed heartily at it. I expected to see S with reserve too, but I could not find him, so asked F where he was. It appears the poor fellow got dysentery at Lemnos, and later on he was sent to Egypt. I heard no more about the poor fellow till I saw in the paper unit that he had died in Cairo, without ever getting to the Front at all. I was very sorry, as S and I had left Sligo both to enlist in the Pals Battalion on its formation. That evening, I felt the dysentery more than ever and C noticed I was quite pale. 

  9. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    19 August

    In the morning, the Adjutant called the remains of the battalion together, and of the ‘D’ Company along there was over a hundred absent. He spoke, in a trembling voice, saying how well we had held on to the ridge against fearful odds, how proud he felt etc etc and of his sympathy for all those who had fallen. Also, he said, “Dublin would be the proud city when it read the news of how gallantly we fought and fell.”

    That evening C and I were sharing the same dug-out, and we sat there looking at the sun sinking in the west and thinking of home, sweet home. We did feel miserable, thinking of the heavy losses and our pals who were missing, besides I had the shivers; and, although we couldn’t, I am sure a ‘blub’ would have made us feel better. 

  10. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    18 August

    And then, what an attack at dawn! With the noise from that onwards, we were absolutely dazed and stupefied, but did everything mechanically, which shows the value of discipline. Then, masses of them with an attack with bombs and hand-grenades, which fell right, left and centre. And, of, the pity of it, we had no one to reply with. It was nobody’s fault in particular, it came quite unexpectedly, and no one could expect us to have had a supply of bombs on the spot, when you consider the only way up was a miserable goat-path. We, on the right flank, replied with rapid fire and when firing round a stone, a bullet glanced off the next stone to me with an angry spit. The Turks were running about everywhere from stone to bush, and we gave it to them hot. Then, Sergeant K roared to us from up a line behind the others in front, with fixed bayonets, and if I had not happened by good luck to be in that line, I probably would not now have been here. The men in front were actually catching the bombs and flinging them back before they exploded. Most of them were eventually killed or missing, and yet not one of their names appeared in the papers for VCs or DCMs, simply because the officers were practically all knocked out also. They charged over the ridge, poor Paddy Tobin straight in front of me, leading with his revolver. The second he fired, he fell back, gave one kick, and not another sound. I saw no one return, I think I was blinded; then Sergeant K prepared to lead us over with a charge. I swallowed a lump in my throat, ground my teeth saying to myself ‘Its all up now, anyway’ and ‘I know the Almighty gave me strength in that awful moment. But: a Staff Officer ran up out of breath and instead yelled to us to get back and occupy the trenches on the left, previously taken by the Munster. We hastily jumped into them and instead of finding the Turks coming right on top of us, the original charge had caused them to run right down the valley to the slope on the other side opposite our ridge. But the trenches that we occupied were half full of wounded and dying and there had to be a space of from five to six yards between each of us for this reason. When I jumped in, there were three unexploded bombs lying at my feet. The fuses were burnt out, but for all I knew they might have only landed there a few minutes previous: so I gingerly lifted them out and let them roll down the hill. Sometimes, a bomb with a smouldering fuse may be alive for 15 or 20 minutes after being ignited: so I thought it best to get rid of them as soon as possible, before any accidents happened.

    It was ghastly! There were two poor chaps on my right lying badly wounded at the bottom of the trench; they lay quiet and said nothing, just waiting till nightfall when the stretcher-bearers could come along in safety. But, worst of all, a poor dying soul was flat on his back on my left. There was a big slice of his should and neck blown clean off by a bomb, and he lay moaning for water, while the sun straight above beat down in a most unmerciful way. I managed to find his empty water-bottle, but, as my own was not half full, I could only give him a thimble full. I never knew when it might be my own misfortune to be bowled over. He put it to his mouth and drank it with one gulp, thus choking himself, coughing and spluttering for about ten minutes. I looked on in terror, for I really thought I had choked him, and that he would never stop coughing.

    To make things worse, a few yards above, in front of us, a body lay handing over a rock with the half of the head blown right off, and the tunic black with blood. You can read of these things, but there it was straight in front of me; upon my soul, I don’t know now how I stood it, it’s a wonder I didn’t go mad with the awful heat, and everything included. I lay dozing there all afternoon, and then relief came, and they brought any amount of hand-grenades with them. To tell the truth, I really don’t know exactly what happened; I couldn’t bother trying to think what we were doing. Anyway, we hobbled along the path back again, till we found ourselves in our old dug-outs. It was then I first felt the dysentery, but I thought the pain in my ‘little may’ was due to hunger and fatigue, and nothing else. Poor old GJ, who was killed later, was quite deaf for a while. I went to speak to A, but he stared at me and said nothing; I thought he was going mad, but that evening he was carried down in a dead faint with dysentery. 

  11. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    17 August

    The night after the bathe was very peaceful and as we had made our dugouts more roomy, we got quite a decent night’s rest: but, later on, the snipers got busy again and I think at night time a few of them got right along the shore between us and the sea. In fact, one morning, we noticed a few men half left in front of us and though we could not distinguish clearly, I believe they were snipers retiring behind shrubs and rocks as daylight appeared. I don’t know why we remained here and there was ‘nothing doing’ but we made up for it by the big attack a few days later. Well, our first mail-bag arrived just then and you never saw such excitement; it was the only batch of letters I got till I came home again. We got two from mother, one from Kathleen, two from jack and one from Aunt Emily. We read them over two or three times and they made us feel terribly homesick and miserable. Lots of chaps got newspapers, cigarettes etc and I had the pleasure to see the Punch Summer Annual. Some of the jokes were good enough; but at the time I thought it seemed awfully tragic for people at home to be laughing over such silly things, while we were in such a game of life and death. But now, at home, I say why wouldn’t they? Especially our womenfolk, for they need something amusing to drive away trouble and anxiety from their minds at for at least a little while. Two cakes came for us and you have no idea what sweet cakes taste like after living on ships biscuits so long!

  12. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    16 August

    The next day we were troubled with Taubes again and the whistle to keep heads low was continually blowing. Soon we were able to distinguish the German aircraft from our own in quite an expert way, even when they were miles away.

    By this time the Sikhs with their mules had a continued service along a goat-path from the beach up to us. But, no matter how often they journeyed, the supply of water for each regiment was very limited, as each mule only carried two skin bottles: so we endeavoured to find a well or two. One was about two miles back, and the other was by the Royal Engineers. One day I joined a party for water and the Engineers well dried up and the other was shallow, filthy water but it had to do. We wanted another bathe one quiet morning and to show how high we were above the sea. Later on, after I left G wrote saying that they were bathing one day and a shell fell right in amongst them and four or five of the poor chaps were killed in the water. 

  13. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    15 August

    We got a hail of shell-fire next morning; but our position was excellent, for is a shell did not burst on the crest above us; it went sailing right away down to the sea. There were few casualties so; some chaps, however, were knocked out and some got attacks from shell splinters, including one of the K’s who got a flesh wound over his eyebrow. One shell in the evening, burst above our dug-out, which came rather close, for it sent the pebbles and clay rolling in on top of ‘our little grey home in the east’. 

  14. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    14 August

    We slept for about two good hours and as the sun was up the water looked very tempting for a bathe and a wash. So, along with a crowd, we stripped and got in, and Sergt A gave us a tip how to wash in a prehistoric fashion. That was by grabbing a handful of sand from the bottom and rubbing it on our heads, neck, arms etc to scrape the dirt off us. Even while in the water, there were some shells bursting in the sea about half a mile away, trying to damage the lighters and pinnaces running in from the transports lying out in the bay. There was a great commotion on the beach, food-stuffs, ammunition-mules and a thousand things being brought ashore, jettys and landing stages being erected and troops lying everywhere. At one jetty, a steamer was engaged condensing (if that is the word) salt water into fresh; but I may say it does not taste very much, the water being brackish and quite warm: so we may say ‘it was nothing to write home about’.

    In the middle of this rumpus, I’m blowed if we hadn’t to fill in again; and before we knew where we were, we had started up the mountain side. Such a country you had to pick every step over rocks and stones, and our poor knees were pricked with the tropical plants and bushes. On we went, till we came to a sheltered plateau, we managed to bring up jam and tea; so we had wuite a decent tuck-in, but indeed we needed it badly after the previous night. We had thought we were going to bivouac there for the night, but at about four o’clock in the afternoon, FC came round and awakened us all, saying that the battalion were moving off. Right enough, they had all fallen in; and as we were the last batch of chaps to arrive up, about twenty of us, were kept in the rear as a fatigue party under FM for the Company. Well, we had to carry up ‘dixies’ of water and such a job it was on such rough ground. On we went right along the ridge over the sea known, I think, as Kislar Dagh. We were absolutely dead and JC at the last quarter of a mile or so persuaded M to run on and set a relief party; so we sat down and waited till the other party arrived. When, eventually, we did arrive, we had to set to dig ourselves in with our entrenching tools, so you see there was no rest for the wicked. We were hidden from the enemy’s view, as we were on the seaward slope, but such ground to try and make dug-outs in, about an inch of soil and then hard rock to hack into. However, with sods and flat stones we did not do too badly. There was one accident to one of the Dubs, and that was; there was one chap who was half-way down the cliffs, or rather it was more like a stone quarry, looking for suitable stones for his dug-out. 

  15. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    13 August

    It was after ten o’clock when we left and we never stopped till two or three in the morning, just before daybreak. Such a march, with extra stuff to carry, I will never forget it! We went along the South side of the Salt Lake, making for the sandhills in front. We could walk on the lake, as it was dark and the enemy could not see us. It was like frozen snow (of course it is water in the rainy season). 

    Again, I must express my great respect for the Navy and everything in connection with it. I mustn’t forget to tell you that one day on Chocolate Hill the well-known AB some old chap, and a few of the RNSS came down through our trenches: so you bet he knows what he is writing about in his book on the Dardanelles.

    To continue: We were now advancing to the beach and soon were covering the ground we crossed on that awful day we landed. We were absolutely dead with fatigue and some chaps were really in an awfully weak state and then walking on the soft sand made it even more difficult work. There were mounds all along the beach, representing graves where different brave fellows had fallen and in the darkness, we kept standing over these by mistake. On past Shrapnel Gully, where the lake enters the sea, we continued along the coast, till just before dawn, we arrived at another beach where any amount of stuff was being landed. It was well-sheltered, as the sandhills developed into low cliffs, and the end of the beach finished with along ridge of mountains stretching eastward. Just before we halted, I discovered, as a pleasant surprise, that C was just a few yards in front of me, and nearly all of my own section were close by. 

  16. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    12 August

    The next morning at dawn, a blooming Taube aeroplane came sailing right over us to reconnoitre, and immediately our machine guns and even the naval guns were having a smack at her, but of no avail. Of course, we were not supposed to look up but we were twisting our eyes heavenwards all the time, expecting to see a bomb on our heads every minute. Presently, a hydroplane of ours came sailing up from one of the ships, and immediately the Taube turned tail and fled, our lad following it full speed. He chased it right back to the Turkish lines but then they bombarded him so he had to return. Later on, the Taube’s used to visit us two or three times a day, and sometimes we made use of naval anchored balloon to find our position from the bay. It was one of these days that I went away found the trenches to see where C and a few of the other boys were. They were all in great form but poor St J M got a bad attack of dysentery and had to be taken down to the Field Hospital. Their trenches were not as good as ours; for one thing they were not as deep, and the soil was very sandy and always falling in. But, on their right, they had a great view of the Gurkhas in the distance and one could see their knives flashing in the sunlight. That reminds me, lots of our regiments had triangular discs of tin hung on their backs. The idea of this was that, when they were at close quarter with the enemy, our artillery could distinguish which was which by the reflection from the pieces of tin. One afternoon, when there was nothing doing, some of our sergeants were having a chat in a trench just beside where C was, when suddenly without warning shrapnel came crash on the parapet and knocked out three of them. I think it was the hardy S who got his in the leg, HD in the shoulder and D in two places, I believe. The latter was brought down on a stretcher, I remember, and though rather pale he had the cheek to be smoking a cigarette. FM had his puttee singed and nothing more, but three sergeants out of one Company was a glorious job for one miserable shell to have accomplished. Talking about stretcher-bearers, it was glorious the way our Company stretcher-bearers worked and FC was the life and soul of them. Somebody would be knocked out and that monotonous cry of stretcher-bearers would be raised after a while you would see them coming round the traverse, F leading with a board grin on his face. Some of the narrow shaves were marvellous. I saw any amount of chaps with the ‘pugaree’ on their helmets burnt, and one chap had a bullet-hole right through the side of his helmet and out without ever touching his head. One of the Captains, Paddy Tobin, had flesh wounds on his arm, but he carried on with a handkerchief tied round it. Of course, during these days we still had to get water at any price, and I had another experience when going to a different well with the bottle for water … one never knew how near a sniper might be. I got to the bottom of Chocolate Hill and in an empty trench, I found a lovely water-bottle which I kept as an emergency bottle for myself. It was evidently a Belgian officer’s water-bottle and had ‘something Belge’ on it. I can’t account for it, except that, when Germans got to Belgium they sent a load of these waterbottles out to the Turks, who may have had an insufficient supply. I started off for the well, and very soon, a sniper from somewhere started potting: so you bet I went as quick as possible. There were hundreds of chaps going to and fro to this well and yet in that afternoon there were only two or three got wounded. I filled the bottles, with water the colour of mud and when returning a bullet whizzed past me and hit the sand a few hundred yards on my right: so I thought it better to run back. So would anybody under the circumstances. Well, what if my b—y nose didn’t start to bleed, or rather pour, so that I had to lie down on the ground where I was. Other chaps were running to and fro and they would say ‘are you hit’ and I replied ‘No, it’s my darned nose bleeding.’ Soon it stopped a little bit, so I continued my journey to the base of the hill at the double. Well here came the saddest part of the day – lying behind the back were two stretcher-bearers and a wounded man. It appears that the fellow had been sniped when going for water and the two SBs went out to bring him in, Well, what if the sniper didn’t shoot at them too and when returning with the care, one was shot in the arm and the casualty got a second round lying in the stretcher. The lucky man had banged the other two and they had just decided to lie there till dark and then make their way to the Field Hospital. I didn’t think a Turk could do such a rotten crime. 

  17. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    11 August

    So the following morning, in spite of the snipers, two of the chaps got out on the parapet, and a few yards in front they found the half buried body of a Turk. Ugh!! It was horrible, but they covered it with clay and that finished, they jumped into an empty trench lower down. Here they found some bags of Turkish clothes nicely washed and folded, and any quantity of rifle ammunition in cardboard boxes, all made in Germany. In fact there were hundreds of rounds of ammunition in all the trenches we were in, so we couldn’t be bothered carrying them about. However, they brought up the laundry which consisted of caps, fezs, coarse socks and shoes, gaudy waistcoats, papers and letters etc. We all managed to get a swank waistcoat and one of the knuts of the party put one on and also a fez on his head and crawling round the traverse, peeped into the next trench for fun. It was “some” fun right enough, but suppose some nervous blokes shot at him. I guess he would have ran “some”! we used to wear these waistcoats under our tunics at night, and I can tell you, as they were lined, they were a blessing. These clothes probably belonged to Turkish peasants or farmers from the village above who had joined in the fray, for the Turkish soldiers were splendidly equipped with yellow grey uniforms, etc. My waistcoat was about the only thing I brought home as a souvenir.

    About this time too I may as well mentioned C I believe found a grand heavy overcoat, probably a German officer’s, but he had to leave it behind as it was too heavy to carry when we left Chocolate Hill. Sometime at night, we would get any amount of messages sent along the trenches and the queer part was half of them were false. I firmly believe the snipers used to creep up round the trenches from all directions at night and you could never tell where the shots were coming from. A great dodge of their’s was, for a number of them to get together at night, and all fire about fifty rounds rapid to make us believe there was a big counter-attack going to be made, but we soon got cute at recognising this. It just shows we must have been short of men when we did not send out sniping parties and no matter whether shrubs or trees were behind our lines or not, when going for water, we always made sure not to venture too near the trees because of their damned snipers. 

  18. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    10 August

    At this time, we were at the burnt side of the hill, but the next day we were brought round to splendid deep trenches facing the village of Anafarta. From here we could not advance till the troops in the vast plain due North were able to get forward. Now in the day from our trench, we could see these troops, mostly Territorials, trying to get forward, but every time when they would advance three or four hundred yards, they were put back again. They were under shrapnel fire, but not rifle fire and yet they could not advance. In front of them were bushes and trees which became thicker as they approached the slopes of the hills. It was not for us to criticise, yet was it through bad leadership or through hundreds of snipers in the bushes that made the men hesitate or what? Anyway, the censor can’t squash me for I mentioned no names! Of course it was impossible for us to know exactly what was going on but we knew that everywhere reinforcements were wanted and Lieut ---- said if we were not able to reach the mountains within three days, it would be all up as the Turks would have so many thousands reinforced from Constantiople in that time. You see, the railway ran to Anafarta, and I may as well say the Naval guns in the bay were always pounding at it. Though there was a big mosque with a tower, they never once aimed or shot at it; though they often set houses on fire, and you could see them blazing and burning at night. This is a good example for the Germans who should also learn to respect churches! That following night; there came an awful bad smell down our trench, and we could not tell where it came from, but we knew, by that time, what it was, the smell of a dead body. 

  19. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    9 August

    I don’t know how the days went from this on, but I think it was Tuesday that I wanted to see where G and M were: so I volunteered to get the water, thereby, when passing down the trenches, you see I could find out where they were. Of course, I knew they were all right, for I enquired of anyone I knew who was passing down, and who knew where they were. Well, this well I went to this day, was south-west of the hill, and was just a big hold in the sand where some engineers had tried to get water. There were several chaps down at it, and though now and again a sniper’s bullet whizzed past, there was not much danger, as he must have been a long way off. When you go for water, you always take your rifle with you, of course, and a bandolier or two; you tie the different hot ties on your belt or loop the cords on to a stick, as the bottles when full cause the cords to cut your fingers. Comprenez? When I got to the well, I found everybody plunging empty biscuit tins into the water ‘about the foot deep’ which was a good 10 ft down. As I had nothing to use as a rope to put on a tin, would you believe it, I used my brains for once in my life, and took off my right puttee which did excellently. Of course, the water was dirty, but it was the best I could get. Well I found C, A and M in a grand wee dug-out on the way back. They had some experiences to tell me, the most dangerous being when they had to bring up heavy boxes of ammunition to Major H in the firing line under very heavy fire. Poor old JW was C’s partner at that game, and that was how he ruptured himself. M also had to take a message to Major H and I heard afterwards that he was to be recommended for the DCM but the poor Major was killed a day or two after - so nothing was heard of M’s gallant deed. It is not a yarn, for all the chaps who saw it were telling me about it.

    About this time, one morning there was a violent counter-attack from the Turks. We (the chaps in my trench) had moved up to the summit, and were in a trench just behind the fire trench and though we had no field of fire, there was a machine gun of the Royal Naval Division just above us. I remember I could not help admiring the fine chap with his pals who had made the foundation for the gun. There he was working, in his shirt sleeve, with sandbags, not bothering about anything, though the shrapnel were bursting every now and again just behind us. We were talking to him; he was a tall, fine build of a chap, very brown and he told us he had been out for four months at Achi Baba before he was sent up to Suvla.

    After a very long day of lying low in the trenches from heavy artillery fire. We were feeling awfully ‘peckish’ and had nothing but a little water, any amount of biscuits and a few tins of bully beef; but the latter we could not bother eating, for it made us twice as thirsty. I went down the trench to see if I could get hold of a tin of condensed milk, but our Company had been issued a few and they were all opened and gone. That’s the worst of it when you get mixed up with some other lot! However, I came back and went up an old communication trench, and met all the boys of our Machine Gun section, making their trench comfortable. BM (killed) who was awfully decent and knowing that Frazer had six tins of milk, went and obtained one for me. Then C, CM and I had a great feed, at the time, it seemed absolutely glorious to have something sweet to eat. We squatted down, and spread the milk over our biscuits like jam, and ate till we finished the blooming tin; it was too nice to leave over. We had to satisfy ourselves with one mouthful of water per biscuit. 

  20. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    8 August

    First morning, there was nothing doing, but generally the Turks at dawn always gave us a dose of heavy rifle fire. It was a Sunday, and was really the only quiet day we had, except for some shrapnel in the early morning. It was then that we discovered there were two wounded Turks lying quite close to our trench; and in the middle of the shrapnel and snipers fire, Lieut W jumped calmly out, and carried the two blighters into a place of safety under a bank. We managed to boil water for Oxo cubes that day by lighting little fires, and some of us made tea, too. But, later on, we preferred to keep what water we had in our bottles, and take a mouthful every hour or so, for the heat was intense, and we had no shelter from the sun. At first, we did not realise what it was to be without water, and somehow it seemed to be a waste to try and make soup or tea when you only got one bottle to last the day. No one realises how awful the Salt Lake was. It is just a big lake of dry salt, for all the world life frozen snow, and, of course, in the winter time is full of water. The hot air rises off it in the daytime, as off a furnace, and you could see a rim of white scum formed on our lips by it. In this state, you could drink anything, and it was this maddening thirst, I am sure, that helped me to get dysentery. For after a few days, when the few wells there were, were dried up or half empty, we were just drinking mud and gravel as well; our teeth used to be black with the dirty water.

  21. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    6 August

    Well, on Friday morning, I remember 6th August, 1915, at daybreak, a steamer called the ‘Fauvette’ arrived at Mitylene, and the whole of the 7th Royal Dublin Fusiliers were drafted on to her. Our diary was parcelled up by C. and given to a steward on the ‘Alaunia’, as we had heard she would be soon going home for repairs, and then it could be posted home to Mother. So, all in the best of spirits, we left Mitylene, at four o’clock in the afternoon. As usual, poor old ‘D’ Company were given a rotten part of the ‘Fauvette’ (quite a small boat) that being a large empty coal cellar which filled the bow of the boat. We had our tea and breakfast there, and, needless to say, the dirt of the place had our light drill uniforms in a horrible state. I remember having a yarn with poor old Sergt C (missing) about different Dublin people we know, and later on was talking to a middy on deck who took part in the first landing at the Dardanelles. As we knew, dear knows when we might get another night’s decent rest, G., M., J.B. and myself all went up on deck to sleep under the lifeboats. Though excited, we managed to get a few hours sleep and, I suppose it was about 3 or 4 o’clock, I awoke to find ourselves off the Gallipoli coast, thought it was pitch dark.

    At first, we could hear the low boom, boom, of the guns in the distance and gradually I became more distinct. We were not just off the Peninsula, where the first landing was, and we could see the star shells shooting up now and again exactly like rockets at a display at home. Gradually, it became lighter and, though we could see the land, we could make out no details. We were all very excited the whole time and, after we had our breakfast, we came up again on deck and found ourselves off Suvla Bay. It was full of transports and battleships, and we were right between two first-class cruisers. Well, the fun had started before we had arrived, and some troops had ben landed. With the naked eye, we would see the flash from the Turkish guns coming from the big ridge of mountains, some shells dropping into the sea in front of us, and hundreds bursting on land. We could see our men landing from the lighters, and the stretcher-bearers very busy bringing down and collecting wounded on the beach.

    The battleships were trying to silence the enemy’s guns, and such an awful fierce roar those naval guns make! The whole bay was quivering with the vibration, and they had not started three minutes before my blooming nose began to bleed. The boys did laugh when they saw me. But we were proud of the Navy!

    I think the lighters accommodated a full Company, and on ours of ‘D’ Coy 13 and 14 platoons filled the cabin or covered part, while 15 and 16 platoons were above the deck. It was here that we first saw a casualty. Some poor chap lay in the centre of the hold on a long table. He was unconscious, looked a nasty green colour, and his head was all bandaged up. Evidently, he had been hit on landing and was just put back on to the lighters; and, as they had no time to put him on to a Hospital ship, he had to be brought back with our lot until that lighter had the troops,detailed [sic] for it, landed. Well, we got unto the beach safely, but others were not so lucky. A shell hit ‘A’ Company’s boat and three or four were killed and several injured. Sgt B. being injured, also. I believe the poor chaps were all japed with blood and the deck was all red. Well, we immediately threw off our packs, and started off in sections, the ‘bould SG leading our No 2 section.

    At first, a blooming shell lit about three or four hundred yards away and we of No 7 section immediately lay flat on the ground. But it was remarkable how used one gets to it, and in a few minutes we never bothered ‘ducking’, unless the shell was quite close to us. Before I go on, I must say the discipline stood to us marvellously; we seemed to do the right thing at the right time mechanically, for you must remember we were more of less stupefied.

    We got on passed stretcher-bearers, wounded, dying and dead and though at first we did not like looking at them, we got used to that also and didn’t bother. After crossing these low cliffs or sandhills, we arrived at a long strand. In one glance it looked awful. Shells dropping in the water, boats and pinnaces trying to tug out loads of wounded, the strand littered with casualties and more shells dropping, in the long grass of the sand dunes behind, men groaning and the RAMC working and the bandaging like fury. 

    We then moved forward again and took a turn to the right, having the Salt Lake on our right flank and Chocolate Hill straight in front of us. As we advanced over these barren fields the shells were falling everywhere, and soon we were under rifle fire as well, so we opened out into extended order at about ten paces interval.

    Well, it happened that most of us in ‘D’ Company did get right through, though I saw one chap who had got a bit of shrapnel in the thigh, and there were one or two chaps in the battalion who were never seen after that advance.

    I now found myself with CF on the right and C, I mean F on the left, and we all lay with our backs and heads well covered under a low bank waiting for the next run forward. Sometimes, we would be waiting for only a few minutes before advancing, but before the end of the day we would be half an hour or more. Suddenly, without any warning, a blooming shell came down with an awful thud not five yards in front of us. The three of us were covered with clay and sand, but not a splinter or a bullet got any of us. C leaned over and shouted ‘Are you hit G?’ and I said ‘No, are you?’ so I brushed the sand out of my eyes and clothes. Did you ever hear of a more narrow shave? Well says G to me, ‘there’s no use us being hit together, so we’ll separate and you go to the right and I’ll go to the left.’ So, very soon, as all the regiments were all intermingled with each other by now, I found myself with no one I know but ‘Crackers’ all is Noonan. So I determined to stick to him by hook or by crook. 

    It is impossible to give an accurate account of the day. Now it all seems like a dream; and you must remember we were absolutely dazed and stunned with excitement and the noise. In fact, we did everything mechanically, and I believe we owed it all to the way in which disciplined had been drilled into us. However, I remember, when we got to Chocolate Hill, we heard a great cheer as the first line, including some of our men and most of A Coy took part, drove the Turks right over at the joint of the bayonet. We had now occupied all the trenches on the hill, and night found the Turks a good mile away on the low slopes of the big range of mountains in front. The range I mean runs right down the peninsula to Achi (missing) and on these mountains the enemies big guns were all placed. Chocolate Hill is only a mere hill in the vast plain before reaching the main ridge. Before all this, as it was getting dark, we risked standing up and trying to collect ourselves together, though there was still come rifle fire. I saw HD our hardly old Colonel, in the distance talking to somebody in a devil-may care fashion as if he was strolling about a garden, with his walking stick in his hand. 

  22. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    5 August

    As we are leaving the HMS Alaunia today, we may not have as good a chance of sending this (diary) home, so we are taking the opportunity of leaving it with one of the stewards, and trusting that he may soon get back to England and have it posted home.

    Goodness knows when he will get back home, but he certainly runs a better chance than we do of being home first.  

    There are thousands of things we would like to say, but we have no time now. However, we will try and continue the diary, but we won’t be able to write it so well.

    We are being transhipped to another boat and when happens then we have not the remotest idea.


  23. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    4 August

    We were up at three this morning, and had breakfast at four. One of the strange things about this part of the world is that it gets light and dark very suddenly. It was quite dark when we were having breakfast and when we had finished it was broad daylight. Well we boarded a boat, a big steam launch that is able to put the whole battalion on board her, and when we landed we went for a route march. We went across to the outside part of the island and saw Asia Minor away in the distance.

    One of the things that we were told about, but never experienced before, was that, after the first hour’s marching, we hardly perspired at all. It sounds very strange with such a hot sun burning down on you, but it’s a fact. 

  24. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    3 August

    As well as the usual parades today, we have a rowing parade and, as each of the ships big boats hold a platoon, of course we had raves. No 13 platoon won one race out of three and drew another so we still held our reputation. Such big oars. You might as well row with tent poles. We got rotten grub today and the canteen have run out of almost everything: so everyone was grousing. 

  25. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    2 August

    We consider today a very important day. First of all, we are not likely to forget that it was this memorable night last year that war was declared; and secondly, if things had gone on as usual, we would all be enjoying ourselves at home. My word – the August bank holiday! Never will I forget this time last year. Jack and Gollie left Dorothy and Gladys home and came back with the news about the moratorium. Last night, we had the best concert since we left home. It was really a very tony affair. We entertained about three hundred dead sailors from the French Battleship La Touche Travaille, and with the exception of a few of their own men’s songs, I think the programme must have been boring for them: but we could see that they were very pleased with our attempts at entertaining.

    In order to make the programme really good, we had a glee party from the HMS Euralusc, and several soloists from HMS Canopus. It was really most enjoyable, and on account of being safe from submarine, we had plenty of light on the deck: so between the light and the decorations, it was really a lovely sight.

    G and I were on guard: so when the concert was over we had to do our two hours from twelve midnight until two am. Then, we had a four hours sleep and were on again from six until eight. We have to do two of these guards a week now. That is one of the many things that officers are not worried about. 

  26. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    29 July

    Today a Khedivial mail boat arrived in the bay to take our reserves back to Lemnos. So I really think our Division is going to make a new landing. The worst of all was the reserve consisted of 50 men from each company, and lots of pals were separated through their chums being put on the reserve list. Fortunately only one was taken from our section, poor GF. It’s a blooming shame that he should be separated from Noonan. There are plenty of similar cases. They did not leave till sunset on account of submarines. We were awfully sorry to part with Fisher. He was one of the nicest fellows in our action. G and I liked him very much and he liked us all too. He was the blasé knut in our section, and it did me good many a time to look at him moving about aimlessly when, perhaps, the rest of the section was head over ears in excitement about something out of the common.

    Well, our general routine of life is very much the same these days. We always manage a bathe before breakfast, and after breakfast, we have drill and another bathe, then dinner and after that a short parade and after tea, another star bathe, between the parades and bathes we either sleep, read or write: so the army is not so bad at all. These boat-loads of bathers, that G alludes to in a page or two before this, are certainly the very best of fun. You see, we all parade with nothing but our towels so, when we all scramble on to these old boats, we don’t mind whether we full overboard or not. This evening, for instance I was wrestling with the Red lad (in other words, A) and in the general disturbance that followed, not only did we two go overboard but we brought four other fellows with us. My word, such a splash! However, it’s all in the day’s work: so ‘nuff sed!’

    The sunsets here all still splendid and, when the moon comes up well I may tell you, it is just as well we have none of the fair sex here. Beded, the old moon make us talk sloppy speeches by the score. Mind, I’m telling you!

  27. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    28 July

    Nothing much happened, as it was too rough and windy to go in the small boats to bathe. We have some fun at night though with JW. Three of us had made our beds between two lifeboats, but he attacked us at ten with a pillow. We nearly killed him, but A hit a chap by mistake with his pillow who was sleeping and he threw a boot down at C and just grazed his head. 

  28. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    27 July

    It was a bit windy today, but it was delightful swimming. This morning at six, we swam to the French boat, but we could only see the sentries and so did not parlez much. In fact, we shouldn’t have said anything to them as they were on duty. We had parades as usual and this evening at five we had a bathing parade. We are not allowed to bathe in the heat of the day, only from 6 to 8 and 5 to 7, and no more bathing off the boat, we must go over to the shore in the fishing boats. I was in Capt H’s boatload, about sixty or seventy of us managed by four Greeks. It was just the same kind of ancient boat, I am sure, that St Paul used to travel in. it was glorious; we were out sailing in the bay for nearly an hour after the bathe.

    On shore, we could see a road on which the women rode on a donkey, while the men run behind with a stick. This also looks biblical.

    In the olive-trees, you can hear the locusts, which make a funny noise like starlings. 

  29. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    26 July

    We are still lying here and the natives are selling melons, nuts, tomatoes and bottles lemonade and Nestle chocolates. How funny, and I thought we were off the globe somewhere. We wonder is Greece in the war, or how is it we are allowed to have a base here. The natives are Greek and very nice too, compared with the Dago and cute Egyptians. One boy of about fourteen in a boat is the prettiest I have seen. A bronze complexion, beautiful curly yellow hair and fine features.

    This morning, it is just life Lake Geneva with battleships in the middle of it. The Sixth Dublins are allowed to bathe over the side of the ship and have a raft out. Of course, we are not allowed to. (No spunk in our officers at all.)

    Since G wrote this, our officers have come up to the scratch and after tea we were allowed bathe round the ship, and it was great sport. Of course, only the swimmers were allowed go, so D Company was well represented. Some fellows dived from the liner’s decks in their eagerness to get in. this is at least 30 feet. G and I, we climbed down a rope ladder and the water was almost luke-warm so we never stayed so long in the water before. He swam over to the shore and back (a good mile) I codded round the boat and met him coming back.

    Tomorrow, if we are allowed, we are going to swim to a French battleship, and have a ‘Parlez-vous; with the crew. Some of our fellows went over to a British cruiser, and had a chat with some of our Jack Tars. They informed us that a German submarine was sighted outside the bay, and one of our destroyers went out and chased it away. Wonderful times! What! What! Nothing like the Active Service for sport! Well, this is really a wonderful place. In one instance, when we were coming in yesterday, we went through a strip of water and honestly it was not much broader than Portora stream. Imagine a liner in Portora stream. The hills go sheer up from the water’s edge, so the depth must be tremendous in some places.

    A terrible mania for stealing clothing and towels especially, has developed on the boat. Several times, we have had stuff stolen and in two cases, it was towels: so today G got another towel bagged on him, so he bagged another one to make up for it: and when I was bathing, I hid my towel under a stairway for safe-keeping and I was fairly raging when I came out to find it gone. When I cooled down, soon after I reported the matter to G but instead of sympathising with me, he went into fits of laughter. The reason was this: the towel that he took so much trouble to bag was the one I had taken so much trouble to hide! 

  30. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    25 July

    We stayed at Lemnos overnight and would you believe it just when the Church service parade was being formed, we steamed off for where? Well, no one knew. At five o’clock, we arrived at Mitelene and went right through a narrow strip into a beautiful big bay. You never saw such scenery. Talk about sailing up the Fjords of Norway or the Lakes of Killarney. Big steep hills and rocks sweeping down to the sea. White villages dotted here and there and olive trees galore. We are the first transport ship to arrive, but there are about a dozen English and French battleships here. At the entrance, we had a searchlight playing all night for fear of submarines. What a night it was with a full moon shining on the waters. 

  31. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    24 July

    Well, being on guard tomorrow, we thought we would go to Communion this morning instead. There was a big crowd there, and the Service took over an hour. It has been a lovely day and has got quite calm again. It is just six ‘clock and we have arrived at Mudros Bay, Lemnos. Such a sight was never seen! It is a big, beautiful, natural harbour about the size of Donegal Bay. We have a double layer of torpedo nets at the opening, and our boat has just come in and is lying for further orders. The most wonderful sight I ever saw, dozens of battleships, destroyers, minesweepers, liners armed-cruisers, hospital boats, trawlers, pilot boats and some sailing boats. A few camps on shore, wireless stations, a big lighthouse at the entrance. The golden sun setting on the hills behind, and you have the picture. It fills you with pride at the enormous strength of the British Empire with its wonderful Army and Navy. 

  32. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    23 July

    It was very rough today and some of the boys were sick. All the same, we had bathing and physical drill as usual. I have just washed some shirts and socks etc. I wish I had a girl to do it. It is a job I cannot do right. M caused a sensation at tea today. Somehow, we were all in good form and throwing crusts at Antipon. You know our table, 1st shift No 19 Mess, 20 men, is always causing rows. Well, the ‘bould’ M had half a big roll in his hand, and he stands up and says ‘Friends, Romans and Countrymen, lend me your ears’, and with that he hit P a terrible crack on the ear with the loaf.

    I have just learnt C and I are on another guard tomorrow, worse luck, till 12 mid-day Sunday. These guards and fatigues are our only worry. We were given mosquito nets for our heads today. I am sure, when the time comes, those bally insects will kill me.

    We, of course will sleep on deck again tonight, but not the same place as last night on the poop deck. I was to the outside, next the railings over the lower deck which the sailors start to swab at about two in the morning. The first thing I felt was the hose turned on me, and I was soaked, especially my blanket, which I used as a shield. I had to lie in my overcoat for over an hour, until the wind dried the blanket. I think it was no joke, indeed! It may not have been done purposely, for the sailors never look what way the hose is turned when they are starting. I laughed when I thought what you would have thought at home. You all know how mad I used to get when I got a wee bit wet etc. However, those whims, I think, are gone forever, for  in the army you have to put up with what you get.

    Well, this evening, Crete or Candia is in sight so I suppose we will be in the Grecian Archipelago before we know where we are. We are coming to the war zone now, but are we downhearted? No! So, goodnight. Mizpah! 

  33. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    22 July

    We were busy all day hurrying up to leave Alexandria. I spent some of my time watching the wounded come off a beautiful hospital ship. The hawkers on the quays gave us a great send off when we left at six ‘clock, in fact, the best since we left Dear Dirty Dublin. Nobler was a great chap on the quays: he wasn’t an Egyptian. I think he was an African nigger. We would throw him coppers and he would sing ‘Tipperary’ in great style, also ‘Yip I addy I A’.

    One time, we caused a great row among these loafers. They nearly killed each other when scrambling for pennies and the native police had to use their big long canes. One divil not a policeman was hitting everybody with a big lump of coal on the head. Such fun! On the whole, the Maltese were cleaner and the children quite pretty, compared with these noisy blokes. This evening, it is blowing and looks like a rough night, but the moon is shining and we are off for the Biblical Lemnos Island. 

  34. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    21 July

    Wonderful news has reached us today. We are not landing here at all, but are going on to Lemnos tomorrow. To pass the day, the CO order a route march through the city, so we had a grand time. We were allowed go with equipment, but without coats so we were not so roasted as we expected to be. We thought the whole thing wonderful. We first of all went through the poor part of the city, and the people were very interesting characters; then, as we went on, we got into a much nicer quarter of the town and suddenly we heard a powerful blowing of bugles and beating drums – most weird music, I must say. Well this was the Khectives mounted band playing outside his palace. Well, we all roared, when we heard this funny Eastern music. G nearly went into hysterics. Then we passed this palace, and it was a grand place. Next we came to the European part and it was simply lovely. There were several grand hotels, and the gardens and trees looked lovely and cool in the hot sun. After giving the inhabitants some song such as ‘Tipperary’ which I may say all the youngsters know well, “Are we down heartened? No!” and ‘Who’s your lady friend?’, we got back to the boat, tired and hot, but satisfied that we had seen the place.

    We passed several hospitals and were talking to the wounded and the doctors and they were all very cheerful about the forcing of Achi Baba at an early date. 

    After the march we and ten others were on a fatigue from 1.30 to 5.30, putting our sea kitbags on shore and shipping blankets. We also had some stuff for Sir Ian Hamilton. When the fatigue was over, we asked Mr Crighton our officer (who used to be a D company private) if there was any chance of bathing parade for us, we were so dirty and hot. And guess what the decent chap did? He took the twelve of us out in an Egyptian sailing-boat and we made for the bathing beach near the lighthouse. We had a most glorious dip and the water was awfully warm. We sailed home again after two of the finest hours of enjoyment I have ever had. 

  35. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    20 July

    We arrived at Alexandria this morning, and such a big harbour as it is. It was packed full of huge boats like our own, and we are lying out here waiting to get a berth. The hawkers are round the boat again, this time Egyptian boys with gaudy bloomers and perfect white teeth. They have the sailing boats exactly as one sees in Biblical pictures, with the triangular sails. I bought a watermelon for 4d, but it was very tasteless, I must say. There is a prize American boat here lying till the War is over. It had petroleum for Germany and was captured by us. For fear of being shot at, the big cowards had printed in big letters along her sides Garggyle of New York USA. I guess and calculate the Garggyle will be a h—of a long time before she gets back to her beloved USA.

    This is a tremendous harbour. Liners, troops and sailing vessels are here in dozens. The little Egyptian sailing-boats are all over the place and now and again I can see a very smart British yacht gliding past. The heat is bad enough here in the middle of the harbour, what will it be like on land? I am afraid to think of it. However, ‘sufficient unto the day’ etc etc. The officers are gone ashore, but have to be back before seven this evening. Rumour has it that we may not land at this place at all. We have just been towed into a dock, and the natives are crowding round us, selling fruit, chocolate etc. 

  36. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    18 July

    We had a glorious dip before breakfast in our canvas swimming bath and then had a full dress parade. The first one since we came on board. Previous to this, we had physically drill in the morning, finishing with a bathe before dinner, and in the afternoon all we were troubled with was a rifle and ammunition inspector.

    We had a good dinner; and then, after gorging into apples and oranges, we went to sleep and did not waken until tea-time. We were told that we were going into Alexandria in the morning, and I for one was very sorry to hear it, as I liked the life on board very much. 

  37. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    17 July

    When I awoke at six, we were just coming to Malta and it was a grand sight. The island seems to be quite large and the town Valetta is a city with theatres and plenty of churches. We lay just inside the breakwater, and the harbours was packed with boats of all sorts and descriptions, while hidden well in the rear were two French cruisers and a number of destroyers. The Forts are fine and the town looks most Oriental. Soon after us, a Red Cross boat arrived from the Dardanelles, full of wounded soldiers and Indians. Lots of hawkers came round the boat to sell cigarettes, sweets, fruit, silks, etc and all purchases were made by means of a basket on a string. Lots of little Maltese boys were diving for pennies. They are marvellous. It is glorious to watch them. Never a miss. The officers went ashore, but we were not let. Worse luck! Some of the boys got boxes of Egyptian cigarettes at 6d 100. All the boats are coloured and built after the gondola. You would imagine you were on the Grand Canal, Venice, it was so picturesque. This is really a sweet spot. The inhabitants are very fine-looking people and nearly all are of Italian extraction. The little boy divers are grand wee chaps. The island reminds me very much of the Isle of Man, but there are no big boarding-houses anywhere around. Our big liner is causing a lot of interest. It is only about twenty yards from the shore so that gives you some ideas of the magnificent harbour there is here. By far the finest building in the place in the Naval hospital. It is not unlike the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin, and it stands on the top of a cliff overlooking the harbour. The merchants in the boats below us are offering us beautiful presents. Lovely silk scarfs and handkerchiefs etc etc but we are waiting until we are coming back and then we will do some purchasing.

    Alas! We are getting up steam already, and the coaling is finished. We could spend a week nicely here, but it does not seem as if it is going to happen now. Lots of English people are rowing out to see us now. We are off once more! Malta is already well behind us, but it looks very pretty with the sun setting away behind it. A British cruiser left us out a few miles, but we have left her in the background, also. The sea is as calm as glass, and bluer than ever. I was talking to a sailor off HMS Lord Nelson. He spoke very cheerily about the Dardanelles. His boat was wounded in the fighting, and was being patched up in Valetta. Valetta, like all big seaport towns, has its little recreation town nearby and Sliema answers this purpose on this occasion. In the Daily Malta Chronicle, I saw that there was to be a band promenade this evening in Sliema, and the programme had some good music, too. The same paper is the first one we have seen since we left England, and we were expecting to see lots of news, but whether there was no fresh news or whether the afore-mentioned Daily Malta Chronicle was slightly behind-hand, I don’t know; but the fact remains that we saw absolutely nothing new.

    Here we are on the sea once more, and we don’t yet know where we are bound for, but we seem to be going south-east so that looks like Alexandria. However, a few more days will soon tell. We will be awfully sorry when the journey is over, because we are enjoying the whole thing immensely and we are all quite hardened sailors now. 

  38. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    16 July

    G. NC. and I, we all slept on deck last night and it was ever so much cooler than in our berts. There was a lovely warm wind blowing all night and the stars were magnificent. In our little talk before going to sleep we were just working it out that we are over two thousand miles from home already. Just fancy being so far from ‘ould Ireland’….

    We have heard some very interesting tales from some of the crew about the landing of the British troops on the 25th April last on the Gallipoli peninsula. This very boat was in the firing line all that famous Sunday. This boat (The Alaunia, Cunard Line) was cruising between the battleships and the shore and she was to draw the enemy’s fire, but fortunately she was not hit. All her boats were used for the landing parties, and five of them are lying in the Peninsula today absolutely riddled with bullets. The crew have a great regards for the Queen Elizabeth, and her big guns do tremendous havoc. They saw the shells from these big guns smashing forts just like so much matchwood. The army and navy worked splendidly together, and I believe it was wonderful to see Generals, Colonels, Majors and Captains all shouldering the rifles and doing magnificent work hand to hand with the ordinary ‘Tommy’. The Turks had all the top of the different cliffs lined with machine guns, and caves built half way up the cliffs which were filled with ‘snipers’. Other snipers had all their clothes off, their bodies painted the same colour as the ground and branches of twigs strapped to them. The barbed wire under the surface of the sea, as well as sharp spikes, did a lot of damage also. The crew later on saw the ‘Dubs’ make a grand bayonet charge which was completely successful. There were bombs aimed at this boat from hostile aeroplanes, while she was up at the firing line, but fortunately they all fell behind her.

    The grubs continues good. For breakfast, we often get porridge. We got it this morning and boiled eggs as well. For dinner, we had a very tasty pea soup, followed by boiled beef, beans and potatoes. The butter, instead of being oily and soft with the very hot weather, is served up to us too hard, if anything. This if the refrigerator’s doing.

    We passed a good many steamers today and also several sailing vessel. We are still in touch with the Algerian coast. It looks very picturesque, but is awfully sandy and dry-looking. 


    It has been boiling hot today and four chaps have already got sunstroke so we are compelled to wear our helmets from eight to six pm. There is a boxing tournament on this evening so I’m sure it will be good fun. We passed an island today called Pantaleria. I believe it is a French convict settlement. The African coast has enormous rocks and reefs, and the sand is almost orange in colour. No sign of life at all for hundreds of miles at a stretch. 

    When sleeping on the top deck last night, we had on only our undervests and pants (Aertex Cellurar we got in Basingstoke) and one blanket! Yet, though there was a breeze, we were warm all night. No coldness at three in the morning or dew, as at home. The way the journey affected me at first was: The second night when I was on guard, I had a violent fit of sneezing and a cold in my head. The next day, my bloody nose bled frequently and now I couldn’t be in better form. Just at dusk today, we got a fright. We saw two destroyers on the horizon, and we were anxious as we thought they might be German. As soon as they spied us, they dashed over like h.l. We put up the Union Jack and they hoisted a flag, but we couldn’t see what it was at first. However, they turned out to be Italian and gave us a welcome. Where I was, a sailor declared they were Austrian boats; so we were in a state of excitement. There we all stood on deck with our mouths open, waiting to be blown up. It was awfully funny and really nobody cared if we were shot at. Everyone took it so matter-or-fact. We were wishing inwardly they were hostile craft, because we had the boats ready and land was quite near, besides the Austrian boats cant shoot for nuts. 

  39. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    15 July

    Well it is very hot and we do nothing but perspire. Last night, half of us slept on deck. I slept in the hold underneath the canvas ventilator, but was hot all night, although the air was blowing down it all the time.

    Today I am on porthole guard and have to stick down here and see that no water comes in while the portholes are open from nine to seven. Each of us have two to look after and we are on two hours alternatively. No other parades whatever. We are keeping a very southern course and can see dimly land on the starboard. I presume it is round about Tripoli and Algiers. It is not quite so calm as yesterday and we are putting on steam and travelling faster. This evening, when we had all finished tea and were upon deck basking in the sun and thanking goodness we had finished parades for the day, we suddenly heard the bugle sound the alarm. Well we all knew it was a false one; so we had great fun getting down to our bunks and getting our lifebelts on. However, we did it all in good time and without any confusion. 

  40. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    14 July

    Today has been a very interesting day in our cruise. Before reveille went this morning we were nearly all up and dressed and the cause of this unusual happening was; we were going up towards Gibraltar, and we all agreed that the sight was magnificent. The sun was well up in the sky and there on our right or – to use the nautical term – our starboard were the greyish-blue mountains of Africa, and on our port, or left, was the southern shore of sunny Spain. As well as that, we were bearing quickly down on good old ‘Gib’. I have never seen anything like the lovely view we witnessed. Africa looked magnificent in one sense, but very barren and dry whereas Spain looked much more habitable and her big mountains that came sweeping down to the sea were fertile looking and much more inviting. We were not long before we came right up to Gibraltar, and two or three destroyers came out to greet us. We just went into the bay for about half an hour and away we steamed again. We could easily see the houses and a few, you could not call them streets, because they went sheer up the side of the rock to the top – ‘paths’ would be more suitable. Well I thanked Providence that that famous rock belonged to Great Britain, and to no other power. Its importance as a key to the Mediterranean cannot be overestimated.

    There was a steamer just going away when we arrived, and we found out that it was packed full of Italian reservists, going to do their bit for their country. Tonight we are once more out of sight of land, but the sea is like glass, the sun has set, the new moon is shining, and it is as warm as an oven. We are wearing our drill uniform from this on, and the ship’s officers look grand in their pure white uniforms. Today, the sailors rigged up a canvas swimming bath for us, and we had a tremendous fun splashing about in it. G as usual was in his element when this item came on. Tonight, there was another concert on the deck and we enjoyed it immensely. On a couple of occasions some good songs were murdered by fellows trying to ‘vamp’ an accompaniment to them, but we are not supposed to have our music albums with us, so ‘enough said’. Several sharks followed us for a while, and it was very uncanny to see them rolling over and showing us their big mouths and sleeky white ‘tummies’. Some dolphin also gave us some jumping displays when we got lonely.

    Before I close today’s programme, I must say a word about the good catering they are working for us. We can buy apples and oranges, sweets, biscuits and chocolate, but apples and oranges are taken out of a refrigerator and they are icy cold; so it us the height of luxury to get one of these and eat them with the perspiration rolling down you. 

  41. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    13 July

    A beautiful morning and all day there has been a blue sky and it has been very hot. We paraded with our boots off and nearly burnt our feet off doing gym on the deck. Had a great marathon race today twenty times round our decks. The sea is quite calm and there seems to be a land breeze. Saw land for the first time miles away in the distance. I think it was Cap St Vincent. An air shaft of canvas has been placed down our hold, so we will have more air at nights. Must go and have a look at the sky before retiring. You never saw such lovely bright stars all twinkling. 

  42. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    12 July

    Today in old Ireland is a great day among the Orangemen of the North, the Ulstermen in our company all seemed to remember it although they were hundreds of miles away.

    This morning we had a very vigorous physical exercise, and I am sure we ‘doubled’ round and round the decks a good mile.

    Well, last night turned out to be quite warm, after all. Early in the evening, there was plenty of porpoises following us, and it was great to see them dive. But the best sight of all was when I was on guard from ten to twelve midnight. The whole sea was lit up with phosphorous and you would really imagine we were sailing through myriads of stars. Even the crests of the waves were a lovely yellow colour. It was quite the loveliest sight I ever saw. But what a change today, it is cloudy and we have had a few showers. We are really skirting the outside edge of Biscay, and there is a great swell on. The boat rolls anyway and every way, and lots of chaps have been sick. Just before I got off guard, I was feeling a bit squeamish, but I went down and had a good dinner and, would you believe it, felt splendidly after it! My sea-sick-ness preventative is ‘keep warm and eat plenty’. This evening, it is not so rough, so we may have a singsong before turning in. We did not see even one ship today of any description but our own lonely selves. 

  43. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    11 July

    We got up at seven this morning (Sunday) after a splendid sleep and soon got our sea-legs. It was not a bit rough, though a few of our chaps were sick. We got a good breakfast of porridge and sausages. At ten the two destroyers which accompanied us left us on our own when they had seen us safely down the English Channel. We had Church service in the dining-hall. All the nice hymns were sung. No sooner was I out when I was given 15 minutes warning for 24 hrs guard from 12 o’clock. Each man on guard stood at a boat and was to give the alarm if he saw a mine or a submarine, fix his bayonet, put on his lifebelt and see that no one got into the boats. They have taken every precaution and the davits with the boats are right over the sides. Two machine-guns are placed at the bow and two at stern. You see they could easily burst up a periscope. As it is, there was a mine floated by on the port side. Our chaps thought it was a buoy, but the Captain says it was a mine. So you see they have to be most careful.

    I have had my tea and now it is cloudy, not so sunny as the morning. They say we are coming into the Bay of Biscay, but we are keeping a course right out in the Atlantic and there is no sign of other boats or land. I wonder why we are going so slow? Only about 15 knots an hour. There are a few Inniskillings on board. SB and LF are two of the officers and they are playing deck quoits on the deck above where my guard is. ‘D’ Company is unlucky. Here we are, stuck right at the bottom of the boat, while ‘A’ Company have lovely berths and cabins next to the officers. I must wear my overcoat to-night, it is chilly enough on our side. We have put our watches back 40 minutes. There is a good canteen on board, so we want nothing. Before we left our dock at Plymouth on Saturday, we saw the much talked of armed liner Carmania. She is the boat that had the duel with the German liner at the beginning of the War, and thanks to the superior British seamanship, the German liner was sunk. As the Carmania was hit several times, she was in Plymouth being repaired and she was also getting larger guns put on her.

    We were accompanied out of the submarine zone by two ripping little destroyers, who manoeuvred in front of and behind us with ease, and before they left us, they signalled the following message, ‘We wish you a speedy success and safe return.’ We thanked them for their hearty message, and they left us to take care of ourselves. There is any quantity of hot and cold water on board, and the salt water baths are a great luxury. The food also is very good and the change from the routine of the last ten months, combined with the good feeding and sea air is making us feel very fit. G (Gollie) has been on guard all night but I have been lucky for once, and had a grand sleep. 

  44. Gunning Brothers

    Gunning Brothers

    10 July

    We embarked at six in the morning but did not leave the dock till three in the afternoon. Then we lay in the Sound till dark. The grub was good. I think the whole feeding arrangements are in the hands of the ships company. They supplied all. We had pork for dinner and very nice too. After tea C, M and I managed to have a salt water bath which was great. We went to bed at nine and the boat started about 10.30.