1916: Dardanelles survivor speaks out about the deaths of his comrades

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 04 January 1916


A TOUCHING NARRATIVE


PRIVATE SIFFLEET, OF HAYWARDS HEATH, RELATES HIS EXPERIENCES AT THE DARDANELLES

“A LITTLE DOSE OF WARFARE GOES A LONG, LONG WAY.”


Private A. V. Siffleet, the 1/4th Royal Sussex Regiment, only son of Mrs Siffleet, of Sussex Road is Home on six weeks furlough.


While at the Dardanelles he was taken to a hospital at Port Said suffering from tonsillitis and an ulcerated throat. There he caught enteric fever and on recovering was sent to Cardiff in Wales, there to recruit his health.


Chatting to a representative of the Mid Sussex Times on Wednesday last Rivate Siffleet said :- “I am not sorry to be home, as we went through something at the Dardanelles. We left Devonport on July 17, and landed at Suvla Bay on August 7th. I shall never forget the landing. On leaving the boat we had to wade up to our wastes in water to the shore – a distance of 50 yards. We had to be our own clothesline and walk about until our things dried. After that we went to sleep.

Suvla Bay landing - A Daily Mail photograph from 1915

On August 8, about 3 o'clock in the morning, we were informed that we had got to make an attack on Chocolate Hill. Lieutenant Colonel Campion spoke very nicely to us and asked us to do our very best, and we cheered him at the close of his speech. We kept before us his words that the eyes of Sussex were upon us, and we were all very jolly at the thought of having a good smack at the Turks.


For breakfast we had bully beef and biscuits, and we made a very good meal, not knowing when we might get another. As we advanced across Salt Lake – a salt bog more rightly describes it, perhaps – the Turks started shelling us.


Poor Tom Franklin, of Lindfield, I saw him fall. He got hit by a shell. The stretcher bearers picked up his body and placed it in a R. A. M. C. Wagon, which returned to the beach.


The ordeal of advancing up Chocolate Hill was a terrible one. The Turks had their machine guns trained upon us and our men were bowled over right and left. On nearing the top of the hill we were ordered to fix bayonets and charge, and all the boys cheered. When we reached the top we saw the Turks bolting in the distance, and we chased them for about a mile.


Then we had orders to hold, and we got something to eat. Over a bully beef and biscuits and tea we eagerly discussed our experiences, and those of us who had dodged the shells were very thankful.


When the meal was over we began trench digging. We remembered when we had some time to ourselves, that we had seen some fine black-and-white grapes and figs and blackberries and tomatoes and French beans as we came up Chocolate Hill, and some of the chaps went back to get a supply. It was a bit risky, four Turkish snipers were in the trees. But, as luck would have it, all the chaps returned without a scratch, and we had a lovely feast.


We had two hours on, and for off, duty in the trenches. The snipers made things very uncomfortable for us, and as they got up into the trees and painted themselves green it was difficult to locate them. Joe Whale of Lindfield, was hit in the head one morning by a sniper as he was going, with others, to repair a trench that had fallen in. He was killed instantaneously. He was always a merry chap, and he was particularly jovial that morning.


At night we buried him in the cemetery situated in a vineyard. Privates F. And H. Webber (of Cuckfield), private Taylor (Worthing, since killed), private Smith (Haywards Heath) and myself followed his remains, and a clergyman read the burial service. It was a beautiful night. The moon and the stars shone brightly, and everything was so peaceful. We placed a wooden cross upon the grave, bearing his name and age and regiment, and as some of us turned away from the grave we said “Poor old Joe !” – And we all felt very sad at heart.


I also saw private B. Dancy, of Cuckfield, killed. He left a trench to get some wood to make a fire to cook breakfast. He got the wood and was returning when a sniper sent a bullet through his heart. One of our boys went out and brought his body in, and he was buried the same night. I, and nearly all the others who attended Joe Whales funeral, went to the cemetery.


Private N. Fermor, of College Road, Haywards Heath, was another of our chaps who was shot when collecting wood (1). An order was then given for wood to be got in at night, and we used to go up into the trees and break off branches.


The Turks are fine strapping fellows, but, like the Germans, when they see the bayonets they're off! They used explosive bullets. One night – I shall never forget it – three Turks crept up to a trench to capture one of our machine guns, which was on top of the trench. Fortunately they were spotted by Captain Weekes, whose father lives at Hurstpierpoint. He borrowed a rifle, and shot all three dead! Two were shot through the head and the other through the heart. They were snipers.


On one was found 30 Australian sovereigns in a belt and 40 identification discs on an arm. For each disc or paybook a Turk get hold of he receives as a reward a sum equivalent to a penny in English money.


I must say the Turks were very kind to our wounded soldiers. They dressed their wounds and sent them back to our lines.


We were always glad when we got The Mid, and we read every bit of it – advertisements as well as news. We scanned the Roll of Honour very closely to see who had joined up. One day a shell blew up mailbag, and, my word, didn't the boys cuss!


I fell ill in September, and was taken to Port Said. To be home again is very nice. A little dose of warfare goes a long, long way”.


http://www.eastsussexww1.org.uk/sussex-suvla-bay/index.html

http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2020/07/what-happened-at-chocolate-hill-at.html


(1) Jill Harwood writes N Fermor was Nelson Fermor, a former St Wilfrid's pupil, he had been a grocer's errand boy and lived with his parents at 28 College Road. In 1912 he was caught redhanded stealing 3s 3d from the till of Mr Moore's newspaper and general shop in Queen's Road but as it was a first offence and he was from a "good" family the court bound him over for a year. (Co-incidentally the shop was owned by Charles Harwood, my relative)


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