In the early hours of 25 April, Andy Duncan was on board a destroyer – possibly the Scourge – anchored about 5 miles from the Gallipoli shore. A hot breakfast and a tot of rum gave some comfort in the chill night air.
The NCOs including Andy were responsible for enforcing the rules of no noise, no lights, no smoking while the men waited for the moon to set and orders to embark.
Andy’s battalion was part of the covering force for the Anzac landing and the first ashore. The 10th Battalion war diaries give some idea of Andy’s arrival at Anzac Cove
At 3AM on Sunday 25th April B & D Coy & Hd Qr Battn Staff Signallers & Scouts left the Prince of Wales in cutters life boats &c being towed to within about 50 yd of shore by steam boats. Absolute silence was maintained by all in our boats & directly the boats were cast off by the steamers we quickly rowed towards the shore. Dawn was just breaking 4.15 & no sound was heard except the splash of the oars.
We thought that our landing was to be effected quite unopposed, but when our boats were within about 30 yd of the beach a rifle was fired from the hill in front of us above the beach, right in front of where we were heading for. Almost immediately heavy rifle & machine gun fire was opened upon us. We had to row for another 15 yards or so before we reached water shallow enough to get out of boats. This was about 4.15 AM – we got out of boats into about 3 ft of water & landed on a stony bottom. The stones were round & slimy & many officers & men slipped on them & fell into the water, but all bravely & silently made all haste to reach the beach, under a perfect hail of bullets. Many men fixed their bayonets before reaching the shore. I ordered the men to lay down, fix bayonets & remove packs. This was done in a couple of minutes.
The men of 9, 10 & 11 Bn were all mixed up on the beach but there was no time to organize so I ordered all to advance. The men sprang to their feet at once & with a cheer charged up the hill held by the Turks & drove them off it, following up their success by firing on the quickly retreating foe.
For the next 96 hours the men of the 10th Battalion experienced continuous fighting, shattered nerves and little or no sleep. If Andy was with the parts of his battalion fighting around 400 Plateau, then he was where the shrapnel was the heaviest. Shells burst just above the Australians. Red-hot pellets whipped through the air, flaying the unprotected backs of the men as they sought cover from enemy rifle and machine-gun fire.
Andy was hit.
He was ferried from the beach out to the ship Ionian with severe shrapnel wounds to his back. Medical staff on board classified the wounds of the soldiers arriving, sending the dead and those beyond help to a makeshift morgue in the ship’s hold.
Andy’s condition was assessed. He heard a voice say, “put him in the hold”.
As Andy was being consigned to the morgue he managed to say, “Give us a bloody drink”. Those words probably saved his life. He was moved to lie with the wounded.
Plowman, P. 2013. Voyage to Gallipoli. Rosenberg Publishing, Kenthurst, NSW.
1915 AWM4, 23/27/2 – March – April 1915. First World War Diaries – AWM4, Sub-class 23/27, 10th Infantry Battalion.
Pedersen, P. 2010. The Anzacs: From Gallipoli to the Western Front. Penguin Australia.
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