Gallipoli 6: News management

News management was more effective than military management. Kitchener allowed only one correspondent with the troops and his reports were heavily censored. Nevertheless, some glimmering of the true state of things must have dawned on some. In Coventry, starting with an account of Jarrett’s ‘heroic death’, casualty lists were published each week through the year.

Sad stories for those in Earlsdon and Chapelfields. Paddy Long’s brother, Jack: shot down in the water; the bridegroom and best man of January: gone. Sergeant O’Donaghue did not survive to carry his flag to Berlin. Martin O’Malley did die in his new boots. A photograph of ten-year-old Elsie on her bicycle was found in his effects and returned to her family with a covering letter. Most of those who received the mascot were dead, though the Graphic published a cheerful account of how the mascot, Buller, skipped onto V Beach through a hail of bullets and survived unharmed.

Many of the names might convey nothing though, doubtless, there would be sharper mourning in obscure Irish homes.

Reports and photographs regularly appeared of wounded in Alexandria. Later many large houses were converted into convalescent homes for wounded soldiers. There were 23 in Warwickshire.

The War Cabinet would perhaps receive less filtered news of Gallipoli. A ‘sulphurous’ contest of blame game was about to begin in London. Next moves on the Peninsula would depend on decisions taken there.

On the Peninsula, slowing of the pace of battle may have given the soldiers a brief chance to lift their eyes from the battlefield. They would have been all too aware of the military aspects of the landscape: the jagged terrain was as effective as barbed wire in resisting attack. Now, observer after observer commented on the extraordinary colourful and flower-filled beauty of that fresh Spring. The experience was brief.

Fresh Spring moved towards hot Summer. All around were the dead and the smell of death became unforgettably awful, the bodies food for flies. Food could not reach the mouth without clinging flies. The inevitable result was disease, particularly the debilitating dysentery, which the soldiers called the Turkey Trots.

The geography of the place had another unhelpful consequence. Soft limestone meant no water. All water had to be shipped in, so tiny rations of water had to suffice in the dreadful heat.

For the next three months, the war became almost routine, if agony can ever become routine; the smell of death and the sound of shell and bullet almost normality.

Not without incident. On 20th June a private Davis was posted as a flying sentry for two hours. One and a half hours later, when the sergeant checked, he was missing. He reported back to the guardroom three hours later. No field officer being available for his court martial, 2 majors and Guy Nightingale formed the court. Davis claimed that he had continued his duty till two o’clock, when he was struck by severe stomach pains and had to find a latrine, where he remained for two hours. He was disbelieved and, having a bad previous record, was executed. Nightingale appears to have had no qualms about this verdict, arguing that such conduct endangered other men.

At the end of June, Hunter-Weston ordered yet another attack to try and take Krithia. As so often, it began well; as so often, it faded against determined Turkish defenders and relentless machine guns. By the end of July, only three officers remained of the 26 who had landed in April and 314 other ranks, half of whom had returned after treatment for wounds.

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