PREFACE by yaofenji


									   On Active Service


  John Harold Falconer

     Dedicated to

“My Loved Ones at Home”

    Ypres, Belgium

     15th Oct. 1916

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                    On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
Chapter I                               In Australia

Poem                                    And That‟s Australia

Chapter II                              On board H.M.T Ceramie

Chapter III                             Egypt

Chapter IV                              Into the unknown future

Chapter V                               Gallipoli

Poem                                    For Love and Empire

Chapter VI                              On board S.S. Canada

Chapter VII                             Furlough camp again
Chapter VIII                            The evacuation

Chapter IX                              On Lemnos Island

Chapter X                               Egypt (continued)

Chapter XI                              France

Chapter XII                             Modern Warfare

Poem                                    Gone

Chapter XIII                            Reflections


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                         On Active Service by John Harold Falconer

                                                                   Belgium, 15th October

In this booklet I am trying to convey to my readers some of the experiences, sights
and emotions, which have been my lot to pass through, during the time I was
sergeant in the Australian Infantry.

I am not or do not profess to be a writer of any merit, so I hope my readers will
overlook the mistakes in composition etc and understand that this booklet is only
intended to brighten, and in some measure bring my Father, Brother, and myself
closer to our home folk.

It is not a geography of any of the countries my experiences will be about. In fact, I
don‟t intend saying nothing else, other than the names of the countries and a few
towns which I sincerely hope the censor will pardon my mentioning and overlook

                                       CHAPTER I

                                     "IN AUSTRALIA"
I was standing on the high cliffs one Saturday afternoon in November 1914 which
surrounds the forts of South Head, Sydney Harbour, looking down at the picturesque
sight of an 18 ft sailing race. Intermingled with the sailing boats were motor
launches, ferry boats on their way to and from the pleasure resorts of Manly, Watsons
Bay, The Spit etc. The sea was calm, the sun, bright and warm, and I was content
with life in general. Suddenly my attention was arrested by the shrill and continuous
whistle of the sirens of half a thousand water craft of all sizes, together with this, the
bands of the ferry boats struck up patriotic airs, and handkerchiefs were being waved
by the thousands. I was wakened from my reverie, by a crowd of my fellow comrades,
who were with me in camp at South Head. We were in the 38th Infantry, in which I
held the rank of Sergeant. Our regiment was then guarding the South Head Forts.

After arguing some time as to the probable reason for all this excitement, our eyes
turned to three big liners coming up stream. I watched them closely for some time
and then it dawned on me as to their nature. They were troopships laden with our
own 2nd Contingent. By this time they were almost opposite us and were very close
in to us. Our regimental buglers doubled down and as the three troopships sailed
quietly by, played the general salute. The cheering was deafening and long; after my
comrades had returned to their tents, I sat down on the grass and thought. My
thoughts were somewhat mixed, and when I finally came to the conclusion that I
would enlist, my resolution was somewhat shattered by the fact that I was only 19
years old and that I could not enlist until my apprenticeship had finished or even if
that fact was doubtful I knew that I would have to obtain my Father's consent. Quite
undecided I went up to the Mess for tea, and then duties took my mind off the war

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and the possibility of my enlisting. A few days later we demobilized and I returned
home and I wrote.

Everything went smoothly for a few weeks, when owing to my thick headedness and
senselessness my apprenticeship was broken off, for which I have never been a scrap
sorry, and I was left to earn my bread and butter as a tradesman in engineering after
only three years apprenticeship.

The difficulty was soon decided for me by my regiment being mobilized again, and we
went to garrison South Head Forts once more. After being there for six weeks, it
dawned on me quite suddenly, that I was now free to enlist, providing I obtained my
Dad's consent. The following day Sunday, found me in the Watson‟s Bay ferry on my
way home, where I arrived in time for tea, much to the surprise of my home-folk. All
the next week, I thought the matter out in every detail saying nothing to those at

After a heated discussion with a friend I finally decided to ask Dad's permission that
same day. As we neared my home I saw Dad, my Aunt, and sister, with some of their
friends and my brother Arch on the front verandah. Feeling somewhat dubious I went
and buttonholed Dad right then, and put the matter straight before him. Imagine my
pleasure and surprise, when he, after giving me some good advice, and putting my
future after the war before me, told me he would not stand in my way. I can just
imagine you all now, when I told you my decision. How at first you wouldn't believe
me, and then when you realized that I was not joking how you didn't know whether to
laugh or cry. You all know what happened after that, when I got Dad's written
permission, how George Ritchie, Harold Williamson and myself went up to Victoria
Barracks, and after passing the required tests went into camp at Liverpool on the 8th
March 1915. In the depot at Liverpool I straight away was given the temporary rank
of sergeant, while at my recommendation both George and Harold, were given the
acting ranks of corporals. My word how ambitious I was in those days, and in fact
right through my elementary stage of service in the A.I.F. How this fine feeling was
crushed will come in later chapters in this book.

I will only run over lightly the happy days and memories of those times in Liverpool
Camp. About three weeks later, the company to which I was attached in the training
depot was split up to fill up the 5th Bgd., that was then being equipped to leave
Australia. Trent O'Donnell who was our O.C. in V.Coy. took me as a sergeant in
A.Coy. of the 18th Batt. and also George Ritchie as a corporal and Harold who was not
at all ambitious as a private. A few days prior to these happenings my eldest brother
Les had enlisted and when I was finally settled in A.Coy. of the 18th Batt. I obtained a
transfer there for Les from the depot. The four of us were together in this Company
until about three weeks before we sailed from Sydney, when after the examination for
sergeants, which I passed, I was transferred to D..Coy of the 18th Batt.

The bustle and excitement of the following four days would take a book in itself to
tell, but I cannot skip by the 23rd June when my Aunties Min, Jo and Fan, sister and
brother and cousins came up to Liverpool to wish me goodbye, God speed, and a safe
return. I was on guard as you remember and there out on the grass, in front of the
guard tent, we had tea which consisted of luxuries which I have tasted nothing to
equal since. I will remember when Uncle Fred called both Les and I apart, so as Dad
could not see him giving us some smokes. The boys on guard enjoyed the ample left
over of our feed and even today the very very few who are left sometimes remind me
of that evening. Personally I shall never forget that evening and the one following
when my Father came to bid me goodbye. The camp was all hustle and excitement,
but I managed to get away from duty for a couple of hours, and when the train was
leaving Liverpool station I watched with tears in my eyes, my Dad whisked quietly
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The following day was full of bustle and excitement. Reveille went at 5am and after
falling in, in the pitch dark and cold morning, we marched to and entrained at
Liverpool Station about 8am.

On our arrival at Sydney, the whistle of the trains in the yards was terrific. But more
was to follow. Everything was planned to be carried out in a regimental manner but
what hearts of even the most cold hearted of Officers could stay the outward show of
love by our citizens of Sydney that morning. It was magnificent and never will I or
anybody else that was there that morning forget it. I can still follow everything that
happened from our departure from the Central Station until we were finally barred
from our dear ones and friends, down at Woolloomooloo wharf. Just think could a
man 19 years old be prouder than I was with the knowledge of the beautiful love of
my home-folk, relations and friends.

Then again before I close this chapter I embarked on the troopship, the youngest
sergeant in the 18th Batt. under Colonel Chapman V.D. with Major Macpherson my
Company Commander, and with the best set of Officers and men, I think it was
possible to organise together for Active Service. The embarkation took place at
about lpm on the afternoon of the 25th June 1915.


All in the fun, each mother's son
Useful as Useful can be,
Soldiers each one, brown with the sun
Trained boys from over the sea,

Right in the thick of the fight are they,
Always as happy as "cornstalks" we say,
Laughing and joking with Death, come what may,
Into the scrum and never away
Are the lads who Die whilst they shout hurray!

Tom E. Limmins
                                                                            6th Royal
                                                                            Oct 1915

 (Capt Tom E Limmins was my neighbour in St Georges Hospital, London)

                                      CHAPTER II

                   "ON BOARD H.M.T. CERAMIC - TROOPSHIP A.40"

The "Ceramic" is, if not the largest vessel that has entered Sydney Harbour, one of the
biggest. She is 18,000 tons in weight and can do 18 knots an hour. We arrived on
board about Ipm and by 3pm we were all settled in our places. After the inspection
to see that everything was satisfactory on Board, we were allowed up on deck, to see
the last of Sydney Heads. A pretty sight was to be seen from the deck. Travelling
round and round in circles were numerous launches and ferry boats laden with
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friends and relations of those on Board. At 5pm we booked anchor and commenced
our journey. From my coign of vantage right up on the top of the rigging of the aft
mast, I turned my face toward home and a lump rose in my throat as we sailed
silently out of the Heads.

As we sailed away from the Heads and we dipped into the darkness of my first night
outside the Heads, a strange thought flashed through my mind which afterwards
turned out to be a sordid fact. It was this. Oh well! they can do whatever they like
with me now I suppose, and I can't object, I must just do it. However, the feeling of
depression soon left me and I went down to my men, to see how they were fairing
before going to tea. I found everything O.K. and then went to look for my own
quarters, which I found on the second class passenger‟s saloon. They were real
decent and our meals turned out to be a big surprise; nearly every meal we had
during the month‟s voyage was either a three or four course meal. The men too, I am
glad to say, had nothing to growl about as regards their meals and sleeping quarters.

We quickly fell in to the routine of life on board a troopship and everything went well
for some time. Our Regimental band was beautiful to hear of an early morning or an
evening, playing all the latest airs, both comic and sentimental. Our routine
consisted of early morning parade of physical exercises, then breakfast followed by a
parade in the morning of rifle exercises or bayonet fighting. After dinner parades
were held daily, with the exception of Saturdays and Sundays, then we had lectures
consisting of first aid, military work and life in Egypt. Sunday mornings and evenings
were held Church Services, which were welcomed on board.

The trip round the Australian Coast was beautiful. We arrived at Melbourne about
midday on Sunday, 24th June but only stopped for about 2 hours outside the Heads
to drop and pick up mail. After leaving Melbourne we encountered rough weather
going through the Bight, but very few were sick. Once through the Bight we had fine
weather all the rest of the journey although it gradually became hotter and hotter.
Amusement and sports were encouraged on board and there were some exciting
boxing matches and tug-of-wars held, as well and some tip top concerts. The day
came when we had to cross the equator, and as there had been a lot of trouble
takento make a success of the old time fabled Father Neptune, we, all on board,
looked forward to some good sport. We were not disappointed. A canvas tub was
rigged up on the forward well deck and
into this Officers as well as men were ducked, after first being white-washed all over.
The event turned out to be a great success and was appreciated by all on Board.

Happiness reigned supreme until a hush was passed all over the ship that one of our
comrades Sgt Halder of Mosman was dangerously ill in the hospital with double
pneumonia. After a long illness poor old Bob succumbed to the fever and died, just
as we reached the hottest part of our voyage, the Devils Light in the Red Sea near
Aden. This sad fatality occurred a burial at sea. A plank was fixed aft of the ship
pointing towards the water, then the body after being sewn up in canvas and
weighted was laid on the board, and after the burial service had been read by the
Padre and to the sound of the General Salute and the Last Post on the bugle, and
three volleys from our rifles, the body was slid into the water and its last resting
place. These sad proceedings, cast a gloom all over the ship for a few days after.

One morning we were trying to find a cool place to sit on the boat deck, when land
ahead was passed from mouth to mouth. Looking forward eagerly to see what part of
the globe we were at, I saw one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Out in
front rose a great high rugged mountain, surrounded by a thin purple haze. The sea
was calm and deep blue while the sky overhead was cloudless. Right away on the
horizon we espied three warships, and as we neared the land, which we had been told
by now was Aden, hundreds of fishing boats came dancing out on the waves to meet
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us. They didn't come very close however, but just near enough for us to catch a
glimpse of the inhabitants of Aden. They were niggers and a fine big stamp of men

Aden was our first stop since leaving Melbourne, nearly three weeks back and we only
stayed there one hour awaiting orders. We went down to dinner and by the time
dinner was over, we were well out of sight of Aden. Four days later we arrived at Port
Suez where we pulled up to await our turn to go through the Canal. We arrived there
about 10am and at 4am next morning we started on our way through the Suez Canal.
It was a beautiful trip which lasted about twelve hours arriving at Port Said at 4pm in
the afternoon. During this trip we passed through Indian Camps all along both sides
of the Canal and the scenery from start to finish was lovely. About half way through,
we passed a French Man 'O' War, and in honour of our 'Allies' our band struck up the
„Marseilles' while all on board stood to attention, after which three good Australian
cheers answered those of the Frenchmen.

Our entrance to Port Said was much the same, as we passed by war ships of all the
different Allies. By dusk we had made fast to a wharf to coal up. This procedure was
rather interesting. Alongside came eight barges neatly packed with coal and in
smaller boats came a couple of hundred 'Gyppos'. After tying up and running planks
from the barges to the coal bunkers down below, these niggers grabbed a basket
each, and walked one man per yard in a continuous stream up one plank and down
the other on both sides of the ship. I watched the process for some time and was
surprised and highly amused to see what followed. A chap close to me, happened to
drop a cigarette down among the niggers, who were filling baskets. A wild scramble
followed, each nigger trying to get the cigarette. Of course the lads on board saw
this and from all over the ship cigarettes, biscuits, and even money was dropped
among the darkies below. This was very amusing to us, but it did not appear to be to
the ganger, because he happened to see the fights between his men, and he ran
down the plank, and started to belt into the niggers with a great whip. This action
aroused our sense of
fair play and in a very short space of time, the ganger was being pelted with old
boots, old clothes dipped in oil etc. The darkness spoilt our sport and we retired to
The next morning we sailed away from Port Said and the following day arrived at
Alexandria, exactly 28 days from the time we left Sydney, the date being the 23rd July

                                     CHAPTER III

                                       " EGY PT"

Our disembarkation took place at 4pm on the afternoon of the 25th. It was carried
out quickly and well and by 5pm we were on the train bound for Heliopolis. The
Egyptian State Railway in ordinary times, must be very pleasant to travel on, but the
compartments we found ourselves on, were anything but pleasant. The only
difference between the Ist, 2nd and 3rd Class carriages in my opinion is: the Ist Class
are horse trucks, the 2nd Class dog boxes and the 3rd Class pig pens. These trains
are called nigger trains. Whilst waiting to start on our journey to Heliopolis we
experienced our first look at the rookery of the Egyptian natives. These 'Gyppos' as
we invariably term them, are mostly well built men, strong as lions, black as soot and
as simple      as a baby. They are the dirtiest creatures physically and morally you
could meet anywhere, and the greatest of thieves. In fact thieving in Egypt is a
profession with the natives, just like medicine, or astronomy in European countries. It
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has got to a stage where it is very clever and far surpasses anything in our countries.
They have      the heart of a chicken, but on the other hand their temper is awful. I            saw on several

We were marching along Heliopolis one morning, when a fellow bought some oranges
from a Gyppo. He robbed the fellow of a few piastres (a piastre equals 2½) and had
been found out. The purchaser upset his basket of oranges, and the chaps downed
on them and pinched them. The nigger when he realized that his fruit was gone, ran
off into the desert crying and howling dismally. The next thing we saw him doing
was kneeling down in the sand and throwing sand and rocks up over his head until
he was almost buried. To quieten him, a little chap went across to him and gave him
some money. Of course he was satisfied, but under the circumstances it was the
worst possible thing -anyone could do. The good nature of the Australian has spoiled
the Egyptian native absolutely.

We eventually steamed out of the railway yards of Alexandria and were very soon
bowling along at a good speed toward Cairo. Our interest was aroused by the
wonderful irrigation system that we saw. All along the line was rich country well
watered with all kinds of vegetables growing in profusion. Cotton seems to be their
main industry and on two or three occasions, we passed big cotton factories.
Darkness soon overtook us and -we went to sleep, as there was nothing to be seen

About lam we reached a big station where one engine changed ends and we again
started away. This station we were quickly informed ,was Cairo. About half an hour
later, we pulled up at a siding and disembarked. To the tune of Rule Brittania we
marched to the aerodrome camp, Heliopolis, where we arrived about 3am. Our arrival
was evidently expected, for much to our surprise, the tents were already pitched and
there was a good cup of tea ready for us. Owing to the intense heat of that time of
the year, troops were not allowed to drill between the hours of 9am and 4pm. Our
first parade was 6am to 9am, the next being 4pm to 7pm. Our routine consisted of
bayonet fighting, trench digging and rout marches, with the ordinary company drill to
fill up time with. We found the dust and heat very objectionable at first, but as the
tucker was fairly good, and we had plenty of showers to refresh ourselves with, we
were very soon in tip top condition, which resulted in a very small sick parade. The
climate is peculiar in Egypt in this way, that however hot it is in the day time and
however dusty, it is always followed by a cool bright night.

It was Saturday morning when we arrived in camp, and that afternoon we were
granted leave to Cairo. The aerodrome camp is situated about a mile out on the
desert from Heliopolis. To get to Cairo the quickest way from camp was to walk to
Heliopolis and catch the electric railway to Cairo. Our first trip to Heliopolis I shall
never forget. When
about 100 yards away from the town a herd of little Gyppos, both male and female,
rushed to meet us, wanting to clean our boots. Others called out "Gib it bucksheesh".
He had our boots cleaned for half a piastre and by the way, it was the very best clean
they had ever got and after breaking away from the mob of Gyppos, we walked
through the town.

Heliopolis is a beautiful city and the architecture most quaint. The buildings are pure
white and something in a mild form, like the Japanese buildings. The roads are wide
and asphalted, with trees growing down the centre and also both sides. The
beautiful class of buildings so clean and pure looking contrasted vividly with the dirty
unkempt niggers. Very few of the high class Egyptians were to be seen about as their
world commences about l0pm each night. After spending an hour in Heliopolis we
intended to go to Cairo. I boarded the train for this purpose in view and when about
half way, Les got on to the train and told me he was going out to see Nurse
Campbell. I cancelled my engagements for the afternoon with my fellow comrades
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and after apologising for my swift departure, left them and as soon as the train
pulled up in Cairo, both Les and I hired a garry and were quickly driven to Gizeriah
Hospital, where after a few minutes wait we met nurse who took us into the garden.
Our meeting was so unexpected that poor old nurse could not stop the tears that
welled up in her eyes when she told us of the death of her brother Jack. It was a
great shock to me and my heart went out in sympathy to her and also to my poor old
Auntie Min. After looking over the hospital, we both left, promising to call again later
on in the week, and returned back to camp not feeling fit for amusement, after the
news we had just heard.

The next day however, I visited Cairo and was not prepared for what I saw. Cairo is a
filthy city in more ways than one. From the time of entrance to the time of exit, there
is an unhealthy smell which in some places almost suffocates one; this is due to the
bad sewerage system. There are some beautiful sights to be seen in and around
Cairo: The Zoo, the Gardens, the Museum and not forgetting the pyramids and

On arrival in Cairo in company with some of my pals, we started in a tour round the
city. I again noticed, as in Heliopolis, the absence of the elite of the city. After
standing for some considerable time outside the largest and best hotel in Cairo,
"Shepherds", watching the heterogeneous procession of the inhabitants, we winded
our way to the lower quarters of Cairo. I have been even before the war, more or less
mixed up with the people of the working classes, as I thought I understood their
ways. I don't know whether the absence of home or relations, or the monotonous life
of a solider, which at the best of times has very little charm, drove off soldiers to do
the things I saw done that day in Cairo. I was prepared owing to what I had heard
from friends, to see something rough, but I was not expecting to see anything like
what I did. I am only speaking of a very small percentage of our men, but as I am
fairly broadminded I was not prejudiced against them, for which as in later chapters
of this book you will read, I was very glad.

The dwellings in this part of the town were filthy to a degree unbelievable.         If I
had not known the love of pure women before I visited Cairo that day, women would
have been of very little concern in my future life. But as I did know what love meant
the sights in that portion of Cairo only added to my mind, and taught me a different
side to life as I had known. As it is I can only find pity and not contempt for those
poor women. It is a big question and I only wish my pen was more fluent to describe
in pleasant phrases the life I have tried to describe. But as my dictionary is too
limited and my composition too poor, I will let this question drop.

Owing to a feast of the natives, all the next week, which is called the Ramadam Feast,
all the leave to Cairo was stopped, and in consequence our chances of visiting the
numerous sights of Egypt were limited. However the week passed pleasantly enough
and the following Sunday a friend and myself visited the Pyramids and Sphinx. From
Cairo you take a tram to the Pyramids, which is about three quarters of an hour run.
The first mile or two is taken up with arguing and trying to convince about thirty
niggers that you do not want a guide. The argument gets tiring in the end and
eventually we had to kick a couple of them out of the tram or else pay their fare.
Seeing that we were in earnest, the rest bolted, all except one little chap, who was
rather good lookng and who also spoke English fluently. Liking the look of him we
hired him for about five piastres for the afternoon and as soon as he was paid, he
started off at 110 to the dozen on the history of Egypt.

We arrived at the terminus at last and no sooner had we alighted off the tram, when
we were mobbed by a swarm of kids, with donkeys and camels for hire. Our guide
came in, useful then during our negotiations for donkeys. Mounted on a donkey we
had rather an amusing race across the sands to the Sphinx and Pyramids. I had a
good look over the different sights of interest, and later on went right into the centre
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of „Cheops‟ pyramid, which is the largest of the three. After taking our boots off we
followed our guide through a small opening, into the pitch darkness inside. The floor
and sides being of marble & highly polished owing to the amount of feet passing over
them for years was very slippery and with a fairly steep ascent. An evil foul smell
added to the stifling heat, made our journey rather unpleasant until we eventually
found ourselves right in the centre of the Pyramids, namely the King Chambers,
where King Cheops had been buried. This stone coffin was still to be seen, but little
else, only the big square room. A strange feeling of awe and wonder are in there,
which quietly vanished once outside. As you all have seen photos of the pyramids
and sphinx I will not attempt to describe them, only I could not help but wonder how
on earth they had been built. If I think hard at all I get a headache, so to overcome
that painful ordeal, I will not attempt to fathom the problem. That trip to the
Pyramids, turned out to be the last sight-seeing expedition during our first day in
Egypt, as after a busy week of training and equipping we received our sailing orders
and on Sunday night the 15th August 1915, we struck camp at Heliopolis and
entrained for Alexandria where we arrived early next morning.

                                      CHAPTER IV

                            "INTO THE UNKNOWN FUTURE"

In my previous chapters I have tried to throw some light on to the time leading up to
my entry into the real thing. Previous to this chapter my life in camps had begun to
jar on my nerves, and when at last we were off to fill the gaps in the ranks of the first
division and also to make new traditions, for the rest of our Australian Army, I
couldn't find another feeling, however strict I was with my own examination of myself,
than joy. The 5th Brigade composed of as fine a lot of fellows one could wish for and
who were well trained and in the very best of condition and spirits, was the first
formed Regiment of the 2nd Division to leave Egypt for Gallipoli. Are we proud you
as; of course we were. Proud of ourselves and proud of that for which we had come
to fight.

On our arrival at Alexandria we were marched to our ship, on to which we embarked
about midday, the ship being the S.S. Saturnia. She was a filthy ship, the food tainted
and the accommodation rotten. We sailed from Alexandria about 5pm and after a
miserable voyage lasting 5 days, we arrived at Lemnos, one of the small islands in the
Aegean Sea belonging to Greece. The scenery during the voyage was good to see, the
sea calm and blue, the sun hot and, owing to the zig zag course the ship took, the
travelling was slow. The Aegean Sea is infested with enemy submarines, hence the
zig zag course. Lemnos, a bare and bleak island, has a beautiful deep harbour fairly
large and with high hills all around which break the force of the winds from all
directions. It was infested with hundreds of ships of all kinds, and on our trip right
up the harbour, we passed by war ships of all the Allies, troopships, storeships and
hospital ships. No sooner had we dropped anchor, a number of us dived over the
side of the ship and enjoyed our first decent wash for a week.

It was a Friday when we arrived at Lemnos and all that day was taken up with letter
writing, issues of rations, communication etc and later that same night we were
transferred on the S.S.        a much smaller vessel, also one recently captured from
the Turks in the Dardanelles. We were now fairly started into our unknown future
and after the bustle and hurry of that day, I sat down a little apart from my men &
thought hard. I had not seen Les since leaving Egypt and I knew that he was
somewhere about. Where? As we were now running a great risk of submarines no
smoking or any lights were to be shown on deck. A couple of hours I thought of
dear ones at home, of happy
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memories and wondering what was to come. Again those words which I referred to in
my preface crossed my mind & I prayed for strength to face bravely all that was to be
my lot to face.

I was wakened from my reverie by the dull sounding of a big gun. Everybody around
was standing to, looking, and a good few rumours went around as to what it was. A
search light flashed out, way over on the hill and everybody was full of interest. A
few minutes later we could hear rifles and machine gun rattling. At last we pulled up
and lighters came along side on to which we speedily transhipped and were very soon
landing on that famous beach “Anzac”. As we neared the shore dawn commenced to
show an appearance and then after some real quick work our landing was completed,
unopposed on the early morning of the 21st day of August 1915. This is some of the
kit we carried ashore: 300 rounds of ammunition, pack full of clothing, together with
overcoat, blanket, waterproof sheet, four days rations, water bottle full, also a bundle
of firewood per man and a dixie of water between each man.

While waiting to be taken aboard the lighters, we had our first casualty in the 18th
Battalion. As this man, Cpl Shapira by name, turned out to be one of my best pals in
every way in the remaining period I was in the Infantry, I would like my readers to
make a note of his name. Corporal Frank Shapira. He was bandaged up and returned
to Alexandria where he went into hospital returning to Gallipoli some three weeks

                                      CHAPTER V


We formed up on the beach of Anzac Cove and after a very tiring march along the
shore turned up into a gully called "Rest Gully" and there we dropped our kit, and
were told we could rest until midday. Midday arrived and as we had a terrible lot to
do, before we could move off, we were kept very busy for sometime. The weather was
frightfully hot and the flies and mosquitoes very troublesome. I had the opportunity
with some of my men to have a swim, in the sea off the shore of Gallipoli. This was
very refreshing, but if we had known previously the risk we ran while in swimming, I
doubt if we would have gone in at all. The particular part where we swam was shelled
regularly by 'Beachy Bill'. The excitement and bustle of dishing out comforts that had
preceded us there kept my mind off the future. However when all that was to be
done was finished, and all we had to wait for was darkness, I had plenty of time to
think. Remember dear ones I had not seen Les, George or Harold for over a week, and
as I knew they were somewhere ahead of us, I felt a little worried. There was plenty
to interest one in the immediate vicinity, however, and I quickly put aside my fit of
depression and had a good look around. In some dugouts a little higher up the hill,
were some “Indians” who were resting. As well as these were some of our own lads
who had been there since the landing. The sight of these poor fellows made my
heart bleed. Practically no clothes, unshaven, unwashed and after living for the last
four months on bully beef and biscuits they looked far from well. The tales they told
us of the landing and of the fighting that followed made us realise the seriousness of
the task we had undertaken.

At 1.45pm an observation balloon went up from one of the war-boats out at sea. By
2pm a number of war ships and destroyers had come close in to shore and at 2pm
sharp they commenced to bombard the hills over on our left. This was our first
experience of a bombardment of any kind, and we all thought it wonderful. A little
later Turkey commenced to reply with a few shells at our ships, and we could plainly
see them falling in the water, all round the ships, but not one hit any of them.
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                                                 On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
Machine gun and rifle fire, was to be heard, now growing louder and louder every
minute. Everybody was filled with wonder and excitement and even awe at the
sound. A little later I was told by my platoon officer, Lieut Addison, that the big
attack of Hill 60 and 971 had commenced, and also that we were to be in it before
very long.

Standing on a hill overlooking the beach our attention was suddenly arrested, by the
sight of some Turkish shells searching for one of our Howitzer Batteries which was
situated in a small green patch, about 20 yards in from the water. We were watching
this for some time when all of a sudden our hearts stopped beating, with the sight we
witnessed. Along the beach, a horseman came galloping for his life. He was a
despatch carrier, on his way from headquarters to the battery that was being shelled.
Numerous shells burst around him, but I am thankful to say he escaped unhurt.
Word came round to us, that we were to move off at 7pm and at that hour we march
off from Rest Gully, I marching at the head of my platoon with Lieut Addison. Our
way took us for some considerable distance along a communication trench deep and
wide. It was here that we encountered the first wounded to arrive from the big attack
now in progress. Some sights were pitiful to witness, but in answer to our excited
questions, as to how things were going, they gave cheery and confident replies. On
various occasions we replied, to them as new soldiers would, that as soon as we
arrived on the scene Johnny Turk would hook it. These replies helped the 2nd
Division to earn the name of "The Dinkums".

After a hard march of five hours we arrived in "Australia Gully" where the remainder
of the 18th Batt was camped and with them Les, George & Harold. I did not see them
however, and as we were all dog-tired, we were told to dig in and rest until morning.
No sooner had we dug in, than we had to arise, take up our equipment and rifle etc
and march away. My Coy.D was the last to leave, and as A.Coy passed, I kept calling
out for Les but I got no reply. We marched all night until dawn through open
country, sometimes through trenches, with the sound of the attack fading and then
increasing stronger than ever.

We eventually arrived behind a high crestwork Iong after dawn had broken.
 The officers had been called out by the Colonel and we were left to our thoughts
 again. Bullets were whizzing overhead and now and again cheers sounded very
 close. We wondered time and time again how our comrades were faring. In a few
 minutes our officers came back, and Lieut Addison told me, that we were going to
 charge almost immediately. I asked for orders, but was told, that they would be
 communicated to us later. We moved off in single file, and had been marching for
 about half an hour past Indian & English troops, when the order came down the line
 to "Fix Bayonets". No sooner had we done this, than another one came down to
 "Unfix Bayonets" and load magazine with five rounds. We had no time to comply
 with this order, when another came down to “fix bayonets” again. I had drawn my
 bayonet from the scabbard when all those in front of me were running like "blazes".
 Following Lieut Addison and followed by my platoon and fixing our bayonets as we
 ran, we were met by a thunderous rattle of machine gun and rifle fire. Men were
 falling in dozens, and still we went on. Looking round and taking in everything I
 saw. I realised that I was separated from my platoon, and was among the very few
 left standing so down I went. The first sight I saw was Major McPherson, my O.C.,
 throw up his hands and fall down dead. Someone was crawling up to me, and when
 he was near enough I looked into the face of our Coy Sgt Major Roy. It dawned
 upon me very soon, that a ghastly mistake had been made, and as we had received
 no orders, we had to act on our own initiative.

 All around were dead and dying comrades, while the incessant, whiz, whiz, whiz of
 the bullets made it dangerous to move. Together the Sgt Major and myself crawled
 about and tried to get a message down the line. This could not be done as the Coy
 had been absolutely wiped out. All our Officers were either killed or wounded, and
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                                                On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
 as the Sgt Major was now in charge, he did the only possible thing to do, and that
 was to crawl along the line, to the survivors and tell them to retire. We came across
 the Sgt Major's brother wounded badly in the face & as we thought him dead, we
 left him there. He managed to get back later on when he regained consciousness.
 We both managed to crawl about 200 yards when I felt a hard shattering knock on
 my arm, which knocked me over. When I realised that I was wounded, and that I
 was alone, I slid off my equipment & threw away my rifle, and started to crawl on my
 stomach in the direction I thought we had come. The sights I passed out there I
 shall never forget. But still I had only one thought to get back to some shelter. My
 arm was now useless and paining intensely and my head commenced to swim.
 After crawling around out there, for as near as I can judge three hours, I crawled up
 to a prickly hedge. Something seemed to tell me that once on the other side I was
 safe. So taking great risk with the snipers I stood up and dived head first through
 the hedge and landed on the other side all of a heap.

Looking around I saw a trench facing me and a periscope looking at me. A few
seconds later a turbaned head as black as soot, peeped over the top and beckoned
me in. I stood up and ran like blazes into this trench, and landed into the arms of an
Indian doctor, almost exhausted. The happenings of the last few hours rushed
through my mind, while the doctor dressed my wound and by the time he had
finished I couldn't realise or distinguish anything. He pointed the way for me to go
and a few minutes later, I found myself among dozens and dozens of my comrades,
who but a few hours ago had been strong, light hearted and happy, but who were
now suffering agonies, that they themselves could only know. Strong men cried over
the pals that had been lost and who could, who possess any heart at all, help but feel
the bitter loss, that a few hours had done to the finest body of men who have ever, or
will ever, leave Australia - "The 18th Battalion".

I don't think it possible for me to feel a more bitter sense of anguish of soul, than
when a few minutes later, I started on my way to the dressing station. On Anzac
Beach I passed A.Coy in which somewhere was my brother Les. I could not see clearly
for my eyes were dim. I heeded not the greetings of my friends George & Harold as I
passed them, my eyes were searching for the face of Les - I came up to him at length.
I could not speak to him, if I had I would have broken down completely. The thought
that he had to yet go into that which I had come through was too awful for words. I
could only grasp his hand for a few seconds with my good one & all I could say was
"good luck Les" and I turned and left him. The emotions of those few minutes are
absolutely indescribable and
I am certain that whatever the circumstances I will never again experience
The like.

My way to the dressing station took me over some ground, that had just been won
from the Turks, and at places it held pitfalls for the unwary, in as much that at certain
places snipers had set rifles on certain points as well as machine guns. I had my
wound dressed again by our Regimental doctor, Captain Dunlop, who was afterwards
wounded, while dressing patients at the same spot. Two pals and myself eventually
winded a painful journey to the beach, and there after our wounds had been dressed
again we enjoyed a cup of tea. It was at this dressing station that I found out how
lucky an escape I had had with a bullet that penetrated my pocket, four letters, a pay-
book, diary & stopped in my Bible. You my dear ones at home received my Bible and
have seen the diary, so you can realise how fortunate I was on that morning 22nd
August 1915. Now everybody knows that the first charge of the 18th Battalion on
that Sunday morning was an awful mistake, but as I do not know the cause I will say
nothing, only that, I too join and share the deep sympathy of the mothers, wives,
sweethearts and loved ones, of those brave comrades of mine, who lost their lives in
the charge at Hill 60 on Gallipoli, on the Sunday morning the 22nd August 1915.

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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
 “For Home & Empire”

 0. Soldiers of Australia
 Who marched on Egypt's sands
 Or stormed the Turks Peninsula
 Ye fought for just demands
 Of honour and of liberty
 For distant kith and kin
 Ye faced the foe, unflinchingly
 Victorious peace to win.

 Our wounded bore the battles brunt
 While thousands still prepare
 To take their places at the front
 And all its perils share
 Alas! Alas! we mourn the brave
 Who've paid the awful price
 And who, for home and Empire, gave
 Their lives a sacrifice.

 0 God of nations, hear our prayer
 Our enemies withstand
 Uphold our armies everywhere
 And still protect our land.
 Soon may thy righteousness and might
 From war the world release
 Defeat the wrong, defend the right
 And send a glorious, Peace

With kind thanks to Cousin Annie

                                     CHAPT ER VI

                            "ON BOARD THE S.S. CANADA"

My wait at Anzac Cove lasted for two hours, when we were taken off on lighters,,to a
hospital ship about a mile out from shore. I had dinner on her and was then taken on
to a steam pinnace to Imbers Harbour, where we transhipped on to another boat.
This boat took us as far as Lemnos, when we were transhipped to the S.S. Canada.
Early next morning we sailed in the direction of Malta. Two days out, my arm getting
gradually worse, I was operated on under chloroform, to get my arm drained. This
necessitated a third wound. The next day we arrived at Malta, where we laid in the
stream for three days. Life on board this ship was anything but pleasant. It was an
ordinary troopship converted hurriedly into an auxiliary hospital ship. It was over
crowded with Tommys, the food tainted and very scarce, the washing utensils scarcer
still, and as far as clothes there were none. The nurses were kind, also the doctors, &
treated us very well. We left Malta, and three days later reached Gibralta where we
stayed another three days expecting to go into hospital there. Imagine our delight
when on our third day we were informed that our destination was England. From
Gibralta to Davenport took three days and we were escorted by a destroyer all the
way. It was real pretty to see the destroyer cutting zig zag across our bow and we
felt perfectly safe.

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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
We had fine weather all the way and I was feeling fairly well, when we landed at
Davenport on the morning of September 1915. From Davenport to London took us
eight hours, and we travelled through some beautiful country. The reception we got
at the stations our train stopped was very enthusiastic and made us feel very proud
of ourselves. We arrived at Paddington Station, London at midnight. The station was
in darkness and the people to whom we spoke told us that there had been a Zepp
raid the night before, and that they expected another one that night. We were duly
impressed but at the same time didn't care much if all the Zepps Germany had, came
across so long as we got to bed. We were taken in cars to the various hospitals and I
together with one of my pals Claud Bell, found ourselves in St George's hospital Hyde
Park corner, situated right in the centre of London and about 500 yards from
Buckingham Palace. Will I ever forget the sights we saw on entering into our ward.
Just imagine, a long corridor with beds, pure white along each side, a long dark
polished table down the centre. Just inside the door sitting at a small table, with a
large vase of flowers upon it, sat a pretty young nurse, while overhead, hung the one
solitary light, softly shaded with a red lamp shade. As we entered she rose, smiling
at us the while, and welcomed us into the hospital. Then followed my first bath for
three weeks. After a bath, we had supper and then into bed, afer having our wounds

My stay in hospital was one delight. I was visited by Dad's cousin, Mrs Moore, also
the mother of one of my fellow sergeants in the 18th, Mrs Everson. The kindness of
the people touched us greatly, also that of the nursing staff and the doctors.
Everywhere we went we were welcomed warmly and they could not do enough for us.
Every afternoon we had some outing, either a theatre or a home party, to which
professional artists, used to come and amuse us, or else a motor drive round the
suburbs of London and even through London itself. While in hospital, the lists of
casualties of the 18th Battalion were published in the English papers and as Les'
name did not appear I was somewhat relieved, as I had been worrying a good deal
about him. In consequence of our trips around London, I saw a good deal and I
decided to spend my furlough when discharged at some of the other places. After a
very pleasant stay in hospital, I was discharged on the ----- September after nearly
three weeks spell.

                                     CHAPTER VII

                              FURLOUGH & CAMP AGAIN

One bright Friday morning the --- September at 9.00 a.m. three other patients and
myself were discharged from hospital and went from St George's hospital to Millbank
Military hospital, Westminster where we were fitted out with a second-hand suit of
Tommy's uniform. From here I went by taxi to the Australian Imperial Forces
Headquarters in Victoria Street. Here after being examined by the doctor we were
granted 14 days furlough. I received a train warrant to Edinburgh as well as all the
pay due to me on my pay book. After that was all done, I was free to spend my
fourteen days alone in London. All my business took some considerable time and it
was late in the afternoon when I eventually found myself free. It then being too late,
to go out to Mrs Moores, so I decided to book a room and then go to a theatre to
pass away the evening.

Darkness overtook me before I had reached Waterloo, and I found myself wandering
around, in the dreary drizzling rain that had commenced to fall. I was indeed alone
in London. At Waterloo I was fortunate enough to obtain a room in the Y.M.C.A. and
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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
this done, retraced my steps to a restaurant I had passed on my way. After tea I went
to the Lyceum Theatre and after a very pleasant evening I went to bed.

Next morning early I caught a motor bus at Hyde Park Corner and 1 ½ hours later
arrived at Mrs Moores, Upton Park. I spent the day there, and at 11.55 p.m. that
night found myself leaving Kings Cross Station bound for Edinburgh, where I arrived
at 7.30 a.m. next morning. I spent five days here looking at all the sights of interest.
The chief places I visited were, The Castle, Holywood Palace, Forth Bridge, and the
seaside places of Portobello and Musselberra. Staying at the Regent Hotel, Regent
Street just off the main street, I was very much surprised to see the old cable system
of trams, and also highly amused to see them still in use. Edinburgh is a beautiful
city. The first sight that catches the eye as you walk down Princes Street is the
Castle. Between the road and the Castle, the ground dips down and forms a gully,
which is laid out in form of a garden. On the other side of the garden, the ground
rises high above the road level and is rough and rocky. High on top the Castle is
built and, if a misty morning, is exceptionally beautiful. Holywood Palace is another
beautiful sight, only to enjoy the full visit one has to know history pretty well. The
trip out to Forth Bridge is full of interest and well worth a visit.

From Edinburgh I took a seat in a big motor charabang, the fare being a I/- each
return. The journey lasts just on an hour, and then pulls you up at a quiet little
fishing village. In ordinary times a ferry runs out under the bridge, but owing to the
war, it is not running now, so we had to be content with looking from a distance. It is
a magnificent structure and spans the width of Forth. We were delighted to see some
of our own Australian war-ships, and we found out that this is their base. My five
days came to a close and on the ---- I caught the 10.30 p.m. train for London where I
arrived at --- a.m. After breakfast I returned to Upton Park where I stayed and caught
the train at Waterloo for Aldershot, and the home of my friend's mother, Mrs Everson.
I spent a very enjoyable though quiet holiday here, during which time I was made
very welcome. I returned to Upton Park on the --- October and stayed with Mrs Moore
until the --- October when on that day my furlough came to an end.

I reported at Victoria Street and was then taken by train to Weymouth, the depot for
the Australian and New Zealand troops. Our camp was named "'Mlonte Video" and is
situated some two miles out in the country. I arrived here about 10.00 p.m. and was
allotted to my hut. Life here was very pleasant, a very mild routine of military work
was carried out. The food was real good and plentiful, and the washing and sanitary
arrangements perfect. Leave was granted almost every night and weekends, into the
town of Weymouth, which is a town built right on the seaside, and in the season, one
of the leading seaside resorts of England. It boasted of a rather fine promenade built
along the shore and at one end a decent theatre. There are two theatres in
Weymouth and various picture shows which we frequented.

I met some of my comrades who had been wounded in the same charge as myself,
and we had some decent evenings together, talking of old times, and mostly of
comrades we had lost. One morning volunteers were called for, to form a draft to go
back to Gallipoli and most of us volunteered and went into hard training to get fit.
Eventually on the morning of the -- November, we left our camp to the tune of "Keep
the home fires burning" and "Keep your eyes on Germany" played by the depot band.
The train took us to Liverpool when at 11.00 p.m. that night we embarked on the
"Olympic". Next morning at dawn we sailed away from "Blighty" and after an
uneventful voyage arrived at Lemnos on the ---- November. We disembarked and
went into camp for a week. Nothing happened to relate during that week and on the
morning of the ------ we embarked on the Princess Ena bound once more for Gallipoli.

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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
                                    CHAPTER VIII

                                 "THE EVACUATION"

My thoughts, as in darkness and silence we pushed through the night on our way to
the Peninsula, were varied and many. I thought of the light hearted and happy
comrades whom it was my honour, to be amongst on the last occasion I travelled
these same waters. I thought of home and loved ones, and how they were faring, I
thought of Les, what he was doing and where he might be, and last of all what I was
to do. I prayed for confidence and strength to meet whatever was my lot, bravely and
confidently. I had had no word of Les or George, but in one of the London papers I
had seen Harold had been reported killed.

The landing was carried out, in very much the same way as on the last occasion. It
took place at midnight and at dawn on the ---- I reported back to my company who
were then at Courtneys Post. Imagine my surprise and delight to see my old pal,
Harold, looking at me, as large as life and in better condition than I had ever seen
him before. After breakfast I went round the trench to see George. My word he was
glad to see me. We were talking of our experiences, when I looked up and saw poor
old Les coming along the trench to see me. I was overwhelmed with joy when I shook
hands with him and saw how well he was looking. I was glad to know that he was a
Corporal on Ordinance, and as I knew that his work, kept him out of the firing line, I
was real pleased.

The tales that both he and my pals told me of what had happened after I had left the
Peninsula wounded, made me realise how fortunate I had been in missing the second
charge on the Friday following the one I was in and also the heart-breaking and
deadly work they had done even after that. My Company was sadly in want of
reinforcements, in fact there were only 22 men all told that still remained in the old
Battalion. In the charge of the 22nd August the Battalion suffered somewhat like 70
casualties and after the second charge the total strength was a little over 200 strong
out of the 1100 who landed there. Our old Officers had suffered too and I found
myself a total stranger to our new ones, also to more than half of the men. Corporal
Shapira had been promoted to Sergeant and from then on Frank and I became very
close pals. I quickly became acquainted with my duties and settled down to trench
life fairly well. Les came up fairly often to see me, and I often saw a good deal of
George and Harold. We were only about 50 yards off the Turks and at one post called
the “crater” it was only 10 yards. I was often on guard at this post. I was very much
interested in the network of underground tunnels and also in the mining operations
that were in progress. We were shelled every afternoon by the Turks between 2 p.m.
and 5 p.m. and this necessitated a permanent staff of parapet builders; bombing and
machine gun duels were held nightly, but in the day time things were very quiet. The
food was very scarce and I lived solely on biscuits and bacon fat. We had a little
bacon each morning, practically no fresh bread or meat and very little jam or cheese.
Water was still scarce and other than the half pint of tea at each meal we had none.
Consequently we became very lazy, our casualties were light the majority being from
snipers and sickness.

About the 15th December a rumour came round that the evacuation of Gallipoli was
to take place. Some heated discussion took place on this subject, but no-one realised
that for once rumour would continue. A couple of days later however, a circular came
round from General Birdwood, that we were going to evacuate and telling us that
those responsible for the operations relied on our secrecy and discipline. This was
received with a mixture of gladness and sorrow, glad because we would get away

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                                                  On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
from what seemed even to us, a hopeless task, and sorrow on account, of the fine
lives that had been lost there.

To whoever the honour of the evacuation belongs, he must congratulate himself upon
the strategical and well-formed plans he made, that led up to so complete a success
as the evacuation proved to be. We were highly amused on the first night the
strategical moves were practised. It was as follows; an order came down the trench
to the effect that a complete silence was to be maintained between the hours of
twelve midnight and 3 am. Of an ordinary night sniping, bombing, and machine gun
fire was kept up until dawn and consequently when Johnny Turk missed these regular
sounds from our trenches, he was completely bamboozled and straight away started
a terrific fire at us. We kept a strict silence nightly only at different hours, and
sometimes longer and sometimes shorter. The Turks took a tumble at last, after
three or four nights, and answered our silence in the same manner.

It was about this time a week prior to the last of the operations that Les and I had
another narrow escape. Les came up from Shrapnel Gully to bid me good luck and
goodbye, as he was leaving that night with D.A.D.O.S. I was in charge then of the post
on Courtneys Post and after chatting to Les for about ¼ hour I went out on to the
platform in rear of the trenches. We had just shaken hands and I was turning to go
back to my post, while Les was just descending the steep hills, which led down to
Shrapnel Gully, when a broomstick bomb, lobbed among six fellows who were
standing about 10 yards from us. Two were killed and three wounded. Iwas knocked
down with the falling body of one of the poor chaps, but I escaped covered in blood,
and with a sprained ankle. Les was unhurt. The result of the silences maintained by
us during the night led to in my opinion, our complete success during the three last
critical nights of the evacuation.

I will only dwell on the last night in which I took part. George and Les safely away I
felt comparatively happy. In the first and second nights small parties had left but
this night the -- December 1915 was to be the deciding night. The afternoon was
occupied in various preparations like burying ammunition, bombs, etc packing up our
belongings and equipment and also blackening old shiney metal parts, so as not to
show in the moonlight. We had already sent our covering Party, who took up their
position on “Pluggs Plateau” their duty being to fight a rearguard action in case of
necessity. At 5 pm practically all our troops left the trenches and formed up on the
platform in rear leaving sufficient only to man each post with two men and one N.C.O.
in charge of four posts with one Officer per Company. I was in charge of cro‟s 5, 6, 7
and 8. From 5 p.m. our task was very tedious. On us remaining in the trench
depended on the safe evacuation of the majority of troops now on their way to Anzac
Cove in case Turkey attacked. Everybody was filled with excitement and sniping was
carried out until 11.30 p.m. I wandered from post to post chatting to the men and
now and again went along to have a chat to Harold Williamson who was one of the
machine gun crew, and who was one of the very last to leave the trenches. At 11.30
p.m. all rifle fire ceased, and at 11.45 p.m. we filed out silently on to the platform,
where we all congregated leaving only the machine gunners and Officers in the
trenches. These men were to leave at 2.00 a.m.

At midnight we started down the steep, rocky hillside on our way to the beach. Our
feet being muffled also our rifles and bayonet handles, we made no row, and all that
was to be heard was the deep slow breathing of the men. On our way we passed
several cemeteries and our eyes grew dim at the thought of leaving our brave
comrades remains, in the hands of the enemy. Our small party soon swelled in
numbers as we were joined in the gully, by our men filing down from various other
parts of the line. We eventually arrived at the Beach and as we marched along the
wharf, we were counted by two Officers, and without a moments delay we embarked
on the lighters and quickly steamed away to the troopships lying about 1000 yards
out from the shore. Now that we were safely away from the shore, we waited to see
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                                                On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
what would have been a most spectacular sight. I refer to the lighting of the mines.
The last fortnight on the Peninsular, was taken up by sinking huge mines all along
the Anzac front. This work kept going day and night, was very hard and tedious, as
all the earth excavated had to be put in bags and carried out behind the trenches.
A few days before the operations started these mines were completed and connected
up by electric wires to the beach. As we heard, when on the way to Lemnos, that on
the last night an order was given to the effect that, the mines were not to be let off
unless Turkey attacked, as they did not attack we were cheated out of a very fine

Once safely aboard our troopship we waited anxiously for the machine gunners and
also the rear guard of which the majority of men were from the 18th Battalion to
come aboard. About an hour later, everybody being safely off the Peninsula, we set
sail for Lemnos, where we arrived about 9.00a.m. on the morning of the ---- December
1915. We disembarked at 2.00p.m. and after a very solid march arrived at our camp
at West ???
about 7.00 p.m.

                                      CHAPTER IX

                                 "ON LEMNOS ISLAND"

Nothing in the shape of food was forthcoming that night, so after allotting our men
to their tents we turned in to bed and slept soundly until morning. Lemnos is a bare
and barren Island, at this time of the year, situated in the Mediterranean Sea and
belonging to Greece. It is poorly inhabited and the buildings are crude and dirty.
Studded here and there around the island are small villages built of mud and stone.
The people are quaint and so are their ways. The chief industry seems to be
grapevine growing, also a little wheat and corn. Their farm implements are of a type
hundreds of years old, their ploughs being the same as described in the Bible and
pulled by oxen.

Our first day on Lemnos was taken up by sorting and delivering mail and comforts of
which there was quite a quantity. The weather was just nice until the day before
Xmas, when on Xmas day it turned very windy and cold. Xmas day being a holiday,
Frank Shapira, Les and myself, hired donkeys and rode out to a little village about five
miles from our camp. This village is the only one on Lemnos that offered any
attraction at all to us. Here we were fortunate to obtain a hot spring bath. It was in a
square room built many years ago, and built of marble with the hot spring water
oozing out of the four corners. This bath was the first bath most of the chaps had
had for four months and so you can imagine how welcomed it was. Two days after
Xmas a modified system of training commenced until New Year‟s day. That turned
out to be very wet and cold and consequently we spent a very miserable day. All our
spare time Frank Shapira and I spent in visiting the villages round about and
purchasing various eatables for the Mess. We averaged 6 dozen eggs a day while we
were on the Island.

We struck camp on Tuesday, 4th at 9.00 a.m. and after the worst rout march I have
ever been in arrived at the landing stage and embarked on the “S.S. Simla”. The
weather delayed our departure for 8 hours but at 3 p.m. on the 5th January sailed out
of Lemnos harbour bound for Alexandria where we arrived at 2 p.m. on the 8th
January 1916. No leave was granted at Alexandria and after spending the night on
board disembarked at 9 a.m. on the 9th January 1916. I need hardly say how glad we
were to be back once more in the land of the Gyppos to a well earned rest.

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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
                                       CHAPTER X

                                  “EGYPT CONTINUED”

A couple of hours march took us to the train and once on board we quickly sped
away to a destination unknown. We thought we were on our way to Cairo, but when
we reached the station of Zag-a-Zig which is the junction between Alexandria,
Ishmalia and Cairo, we branched off and an hour later arrived at Tel-el-Kebir. The
Australian Camp here is about the largest I have seen. There were thousands and
thousands of infantry and artillery here, but the camp being new the water
arrangements were very poor, and water to wash in was hard to obtain. On Tuesday,
11th I went up to find Dad, and after looking around for a few minutes, espied him
standing near his tent. I gave him quite a shock, when I called out to him, but he was
pleased to see me. I returned back to camp a couple of hours later, but I visited Dad
daily and took Les, George and Harold up with me.

Tel-el-Kebir is only a siding without any town at all and is only a bare, barren place in
the desert. It is an historic place as it was here that the English fought that great
battle, where the conquest of Egypt was decided. Even now are to be seen the
crestworks used in that battle and souvenirs like old time cartridges are to be found
round about.

The usual routine of a soldier's life was carried out here and on Saturday afternoon
the 15th, the whole 2nd Division was inspected by General Murray. Leave was hard
to obtain here, but nothing daunted Frank and I faked a pass and went into Zag-a-Zig
on Sunday and enjoyed a good feed. It is an hours run in the train from Tel-el-Kebir
and is a fairly large town, but just the same as the rest, very dirty and immoral. Our
trip being undiscovered we repeated it on several occasions. My feet were beginning
to trouble me here and I reported to the "Quack" and this is the cure he gave me:
wear two pairs of socks and go out into the desert three times daily and rub my feet
with sand. Rather a unique cure, eh! Needless to say I never attempted the cure.
However my feet beginning to get very bad, I reported to the 5th Field Ambulance
and was sent to hospital in Cairo where I arrived on the 28th January. I was in this
hospital until 23rd February when I was discharged and I reported to Base Details at
Zeitown. My bunions have not troubled me since.

At Zeitown we had a very easy time and I had several trips into Cairo. While here
"achne" broke out very badly on my chest and I reported sick on the lst March and on
the following day was taken to the Ist A.D. Hospital Abbassia. I was here until 15th
March, when I was discharged quite cured. Base Details having moved from Zeitown I
went out to the 2nd Division Overseas Base at Gizeh. Gizeh camp is a very
comfortable little place and is situated on the banks of the Nile about three miles out
from Cairo on the way to the Pyramids. Leave was granted every afternoon and so I
had a good look round. I visited the Pyramids and Sphinx again in company with a
friend Cyril Charge of the 20th Battalion. This trip took place one moonlit night and
was very picturesque and enjoyable. I visited the zoo, which is one of the finest in
the world, on several occasions. Gizeh gardens are very fine too, and I used to go
there often of a night and play with the little English children. I enjoyed this holiday
very much, but as I was anxious to rejoin my unit, I volunteered for a draft, and left
Gizeh, on the morning of Saturday the 25th March.

After a frightfully hot and dusty march through Cairo, we arrived at Heliopolis
aerodrome camp at 2 p.m. after a march from 9 to 12 miles. The aerodrome camp is
very much altered since we left here nearly eight months ago. Cool huts have taken
the place of tents and Canteens and Y.M.C.A. huts are all over the place. On arrival
here I was attached as Act.Sgt.Major to the 9th Reinforcements of the 18th Battalion
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                                                  On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
and as they were to leave in a couple of days, I made special application and was
allowed to leave with them. At 4 a.m. on the morning of the 27th March, we marched
away from the Aerodrome Camp once more and entrained at Zeitown and journeyed
to Alexandria and embarked on the S.S. Saxonia at 5 p.m. for destination unknown.
The Saxonia is a comfortable ship and four of us shared a cabin. The food too is tip
top, and the washing arrangements, which most troopships lack, were very good.

Next morning at 8.00 a.m. we sailed from Alexandria the date being the 28th March.
Life on board troopships in the Mediterranean Sea is very dangerous owing to the
submarines. Each man is given a life belt, and each unit is allotted a special position
in case of alarm, also a certain number of boats, rafts etc. The ship taking a zig-zag
course to deceive those on watch on the submarines. After a very pleasant and safe
trip we arrived at Marseilles at 10 a.m. on the morning 2nd April 1916.



The entrance to the harbour of Marseilles is very beautiful, and is the nearest
approach to Sydney Harbour I have ever seen. Sailing down the harbour one sees two
totally different kinds of scenery. The foreshores are high rugged peaks some of
which are thickly studded with vegetation of all kinds, while others are barren chalky
peaks. The town is situated at the foot of these hills and the town, mingled together
with the green and white hills in the background, make a fine picture. We
disembarked at 5 p.m. and marched to a rest camp about 2 miles away. As no leave
was granted, we turned straight into bed and at 5 a.m. next morning left camp and
marched to the train. Those of the population that were astir gave us a very good
welcome. We entrained at 9.30 a.m. and at 10 a.m. steamed away from Marseilles.
Our first stop was at the station of "Orange" where we arrived at 4 p.m. At this
station we had a meal issued consisting of bully-beef and biscuits with tea, to which
was added a little rum. It was a relief to get something to eat and drink. About
midnight we reached the station of Macon where we were served with a similar meal,
our next stop being Laumes at 10 a.m. Tea was served at 5 p.m. at the town of
Montreaux and here we got a very big welcome. We passed Amiens at 7 a.m. next
morning and at midday on the 5th April disembarked at Etaples which is the base for
Australians in France, after a trip of 50 hours.

Our journey commenced down at the south of France and finished up north. The
scenery during the trip was simply beautiful, especially travelling through the valley
of the rivers Seine and Rhone. The roads took our eye almost at once, and as well as
here, everywhere I have been in France the roads are very good. A good deal of grape
vine growing is undertaken in the south of France. We went into camp at Etaples and
as the camp was just forming it was not very comfortable. The routine here consisted
of rout marches, bayonet fighting, physical drill etc. I was told to report to No.1
training camp, which I did on the morning of the 8th April and was installed there as
an instructor to reinforcements. Etaples is only a small fishing village itself, but
about five miles out on the coast to which a tram runs, is one of the fashionable sea-
side resorts of France namely “Paris Plage”. I visited this town on one occasion, but
most of the people had gone elsewhere on account of the war, and it was practically
deserted. On Monday night the 24th April, we were visited by a Zeppelin which
dropped six bombs about 500 yards away from our camp. There were no casualties.

On the 25th April, the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, a big ceremonial parade
was held on a large field, behind a big Canadian hospital. We marched with fixed
bayonets from camp, through all the English and Scotch camps to this field where we
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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
were inspected. Then followed a service. This ceremony was the most impressive I
have ever witnessed. A large number of wounded soldiers, also nurses joined in the
singing of hymns, and as their soft feminine voices blended with ours, it brought
tears to more eyes than one. After the service a “Royal Salute” was sounded after
which we marched past and returned to camp. A few days later a draft was sent for
to join the 18th Battalion in the trenches, and after some difficulty, I was allowed to
go with it.

We left Etaples at 2am on the morning of the ---- May, and after travelling all day
disentrained at Steenwerck. A Guide from the Battalion met us here and then
followed a rout march to the trenches at Bois Grenier. A little incident happened
here, that made me realise that this class of warfare in France, was totally different,
to that which I had experienced before. We were in the danger zone, and had been
marching for about one hour, and feeling a bit tired we sat down on the roadside for
a spell. Close by was an old farmhouse known as "Charlies Farm". We had been there
for about five minutes when a shell came over and landed on the road about 20 yards
behind us. Luckily no one was hit, and we up, and started to move on, when we
heard another one coming. I saw this one, and it appeared to be coming directly for
me, so on the spur of the moment, I hopped to the side of the road, and alas in a
ditch. My! wasn‟t I a picture, mud up to my waist. I arrived at the trenches at last
and reported back to D.Coy and was put in 15 Platoon. I met George and Harold and
after a good long talk with them, went down to the S.M.'s dugout and got a good big
batch of letters, the first for nearly four months.

Life in the trenches was ideal compared to Gallipoli. The food was good and plentiful
and that's the main thing. Things were very quiet except for the aeroplanes. Each
morning “Stand to” was passed along the trenches at different hours. At this time of
the year, it was at 2.30 a.m. and lasted about an hour. The time varies with the dawn
and likewise at dusk. These times being the most preferable times the enemy would
attack. The order would come down in this manner; “D.Coy stand to from Captain ----
---”. On this order the men would all tumble out of their beds and seizing their rifles
stand up on the fire step ready for action, until the stand down was given. On each
bay two sentries are posted and they occupy their time by observing and sniping.
Observing by day with periscopes and by night over the bags. After “stand down” in
the early morning, the platoon Sgt would issue out rations, rum and letters to his
platoon, and after seeing that the place was all cleaned up, rifles cleaned etc., we
would all be free to turn in again until breakfast which was about 8 a.m.

Everything was quiet in the daytime until between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Between these
hours Fritz used to open out on to our trenches. As soon as the bombardment
started, we would all lay flat down on the bottom of the trench, or else crouch low to
the parapet until it was over. Our usual length of time in the trenches was anything
from ten to fourteen days, and then we would be relieved by the 20th Battalion and
March back to billets behind the line about two miles. I saw Dad and Les a good deal
when out for a spell, as Dad's billet was close to mine and Les used
to cycle over from the village of Fleurbaix, a distance of about five miles from “Bois
Grenier". Our spell out of the trenches was mostly fatigues of a night        time and
consequently we did not get much rest. About
the end of May, early June, things started to get very lively in the
trenches. After dark we would send out different parties into “no man's
land” such as listening posts, patrols and barb wire fatigues. These jobs
were very dangerous as we never knew when we would bump the enemy, or
have his machine guns turned on us. The barb wire fatigues were
exceptionally dangerous. Both we and Fritz use rockets fired out of
a pistol which rise high in the air and throw out a strong light, making
no mans land almost as light as day, and if we were working and not
thinking of “flares” we would easily be caught and have the guns on us.

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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
However, those jobs have to be done and by somebody and such is the life
      of a soldier.

About the end of June the raids started and this kind of warfare showed us the real
thing as far as artillery goes. A party of picked men would gather together in the
front line trench, faces blackened and with nothing on them other than their clothing,
so as not to give any information to the enemy if any were captured by them. At a
given hour the artillery would open out a terrific bombardment on the enemy
trenches. Under cover of this our raiding party would crawl out into no man's land
and as soon as the artillery lifted rush the trenches of the enemy, kill as many as
possible and take a certain number of prisoners, then a signal would be given and
they would come back as fast as possible to our own trenches and the raid was over.
Meanwhile those left in our trenches would be having a hellish time. No sooner had
our artillery opened out than Fritz retaliated and kept it up for almost two hours.
Luckily our casualties were slight. The object of these raids was to get information
and to put the “wind up” the Huns. Needless to say my regiment was in the fashion,
and we held the honour of being the only Battalion to have a raid on their own, while
we were on the Armentiers front.

Between the ---- June and the ---- June these raids were held every night and we had a
very strenuous time of it. Rumours commenced to fly around at this time, about us
going to another part of the line and so on the --- July we marched away from our
billets at Erquingham to a destination unknown. Our first days march was from
Erquingham to -------- a distance of about ---- miles and was through some magnificent
country. We billeted at a farm house that night and early next morning marched
away from --- and next evening arrived at ----- a distance of ----- miles. We Stayed the
night here also, and next morning moved off, on the road and at 2 p.m. arrived at the
station of “Arques”, where we entrained and after a 10 hour journey during which we
passed St Omer, Calais, Boulogne, and Etaples, arrived at Amiens, where we
disentrained at 2 a.m. and set out on the road once more.

We know our destination now is the Somme as we have got papers telling of the
marvelous success the Allies achieved on July Ist, 1916. We pulled up beside a
stream on the roadside for breakfast (bully and biscuits) and later on reached the
village of ---- about ------ kilometres from Amiens. On the ------ July Harold Williamson
and myself broke leave and visited the town of Amiens, which we found a rather large
town, but like all the rest terribly behind the times and dirty. We left ------ on the -----
July and a few days later reachd the town of Warloy, passing on the way several
villages too numerous to mention. We are now only a few miles behind the big push
and were interested to see the aerial activity. We counted as many as 40 observation
balloons and as many aeroplanes up at the same time. We stayed here ---- days and
on the evening of the --- July moved of f from Warloy and late that night arrived on an
open field outside the town of Albert, which is the most principal town on the Somme
front, and from which a railway is still running. It is shelled even today, but in spite
of this, there are a few inhabitants. Les is situated in this town also while the 5th
Infantry Brigade are on the Somme front.

                                       CHAPTER XII

                                   “MODERN WARFARE”

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                                                     On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
Early next morning we were told that the lst Division were to take the town of
Pozieres, and that we were to hold ourselves in readiness to move up to their support
at a moments notice. We were inspected by the Colonel and issued out with tin discs
about 6" in diameter and these we tied on the centre of our backs to reflect the sun,
so as our aeroplanes could recognise us from the enemy. All that day was spent
watching the shells exploding on the ridge in the distance, and with getting
everything ready for our turn in the push.

At 8 p.m. on the night of the ---- July we moved off from our bivouac and passed
through Albert and soon found ourselves among the bustle and excitement that was
going on. We went as far as the old German first line trench that night, and as we
were all dog tired slept until morning What a sight met our eyes when we wakened.
All our military ideas went west when we beheld the scenes before us. Hundreds of
guns were almost wheel to wheel, 18 pounders among 9.2s and 12”s. They had no
cover at all nor any concealment. We were wonderstruck after always believing that
the most essential thing for artillery was concealment. This was due however, to our
magnificent airmen who were so busy, that Fritz simply could not, put up any of his
planes and balloons. If he had we would have lost hundreds of guns. But this was
not all, thousands of Infantry were moving up and down transports of all kinds were
simply congested, they were so thick and all this on the battlefront of the biggest
battle in the history of the world. The dressing stations were very busy and wounded
were to be seen coming down on trolleys stretchers, and any way that human aid
could give them. They were our own troops, to the good old lst Division who as we
have been told, had made such a brilliant success of the capture of Pozieres.

We moved off to relieve the lst Division that night, and it was an experience I for one
will never forget. It took place at night and as we were going up they were coming
down from hell. They gave us cheery answers to our questions, well meant advice as
to what to do to the Huns etc but gradually we began to think seriously of this game,
and silence reigned supreme, except for the deep breathing of the men and the rattle
of our equipment as we bumped up against the sides of the communication trenches.
Shells were flying overhead and a few landed uncomfortably close to us, but we had
no casualties. The relief being over, D. Coy were told to dig ourselves in, which we
did behind a small natural bank. We had quickly dug a fairly deep trench and then
we were allowed to sleep.

The next morning we fairly copped it. The 17th Battalion had started a bombing duel
with the Huns. This duel lasted 36 hours and I in charge of 30 men, carried up
bombs, water and ammunition to them through the remains of a communication
trench, on to which the German heavy artillery played incessantly. I was fortunate
enough to get through this hellish time, but my party suffered heavily, as did others
on the same job, and in the end we had to walk on dead bodies. It was awful but
worse was to follow, and at the end of 36 hours the 17th Battalion gave the knockout
to Fritz and wrestled two trenches from him. I lost one of the finest officers any one
could have during that stunt, namely Lieut Mosie.

On the ---- July D.Coy, now sadly depleted of its number, was sent down to Sausage
Gully on fatigues. I made enquiries here and eventually found Dad at his guns. My
wasn't he pleased to see me. We were here until the ---- but owing to the 7th Brigade
failing to take their object on the night of the      July, we had to move up to the
trenches again on the night of the ------. We were told now that the 2nd Division had
to advance 1000 yards           from Pozieres before we could be relieved. With this in
view we went into no man's land at night and dug trenches deep and narrow. The
next night we would go out and occupy those trenches and later on do the same
thing only advance a few more hundred yards. All this was done under constant shell
fire and was terribly nerve-racking to all. Our casualties were mounting up too, and

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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
this made all the more work for those left. After 11 days solid work in this manner
with little food and less sleep we had our trenches dug all ready for the charge. We
were in tramway trench, which was a secret trench, and into which both Fritz shells
and our own used to land and it was a trying ordeal. Our casualties were very heavy
here and I was practically buried three times in one night together with two of my
men. However, I was spared to come through alright and on the night of the 3rd
August, we were relieved by C.Coy. and we went back to a communication trench to
have a days spell. I had a good sleep that night only we had several narrow escapes
on the way down, as Fritz saw us moving across the open, and opened out with his

Next day at midday we were told that we were to go “over the bags with the best of
luck” that night. Our O.C. sent down word to platoon Sgts and we met him at his
dugout and received our final orders. (Our O.C. was Captain Bruce M.C.) At 6 p.m.
that night we marched off from our communication trench to take up our position for
the charge. Just previous to this I sent my diary together with a note down to Dad in
“Sausage Gully” in case I was to fall. On our way up I passed George Ritchie, and we
just had time for a handshake as I passed. It was just commencing to get dark as we
eventually found ourselves all ready and waiting for the signal to go over the bags
with the best of luck. The charge was to go over in four waves 50 yards between, the
first two were to rush and capture the German first line trench, and the last two after
a 12 minute delay were to go over our heads and capture the second line. The fun
was to start at 9.15 p.m. the date being 4th August 1916. I will not try and describe
my thoughts, but after a short prayer I felt more confident and calm, than I had for
days passed. My platoon was sadly unchristened, and gazing along the shallow rut,
we were waiting in, I saw that they too were longing for the signal that was to decide
our fate. A lot depended upon this charge to the 2nd Division and more so to us. We
had not suffered a defeat yet, and did not want to on this occasion especially after
the success of the Ist Division. Then again, if this charge was successful we would
either be killed, or on the other hand be granted a few days spell. These things were
passing in our mind as we waited in the fast gathering dusk.

At 9.15 a.m. our artillery opened out on to the enemy first line trench and kept there
for three minutes. This was our signal and as soon as the first shell came screeching
overhead we jumped over the parapet and started at a walk towards our objective. It
was just light enough for us to distinguish the forms of the first wave in front, I being
in the second wave. The scene is and ever will be imprinted on my memory as the
most spectacular sight a man could see. Just imagine, reader, men, your own kith
and kin, each carrying two bombs, 4 sandbags, a pick and shovel, a rifle and bayonet
going at a jog trot, across no man's land at dusk, behind a deafening roar of artillery,
overhead the shrill swish of the smaller shrapnel shells, mingled with the deeper dull
roar of the heavy high explosives, all around our comrades keeping in a thin line,
with an interval of from four to five yards falling into shell holes, picking themselves
up and going on again and in front and in fact by now the shrapnel (our own)
bursting right above our heads, and the enemy. By this time the 3 minutes given to
the artillery to remain on the enemy first line trench being up, they lifted on to the
enemy second line. This lifted just as our first wave got to their objective and we
consequently caught the Huns, deep down in their dugouts, and consequently
comparatively harmless. A few seconds later I arrived together with our second wave.
We had some difficulty at first in recognising that we were in a trench, and only for
the dugouts we would not have in all probability recognised them as trenches so
ruined were they from our artillery. As soon as I jumped into our captured position
three revolver shots rang out from the mouth of a dugout killing a man directly in
front of me. This necessitated strong measures and as a preventative to such a
cowardly action being repeated we hurled six bombs down the mouth of the dugout
and at once filled up the entrance. We quickly found out that there was no
opposition and at once set to work to consolidate our new position. At this juncture
our third and fourth wave passed us on their way to Fritz‟ second line. Among them
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                                                 On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
was George Ritchie. We heard from wounded that they had had as complete a
success as we had and were needless to say highly delighted. Fritz had been
absolutely routed. However work had to be done and this consisted of 10 hours solid
pick and shovel work, first aid to our own as well as to Fritz‟ wounded, also the
removal of the hundreds of dead.

By dawn our trenches were fairly decent, and we thought we could have a rest until 4
p.m. when we were to be relieved by the 4th Division. But this was not to be for with
the dawn came Germany's 12” shells and as he had the range to an inch, our
casualties which had up to this time been light, mounted higher and higher. The
picture that beheld my eyes that night when the 4th Division came up was simply
awful. The barrage which Fritz kept up on to and behind our lines made it impossible
to get
the wounded to a dressing station and as the dugouts were full the poor brave men
who had been wounded were simply left out in the trenches at the mercy of the big
shells and not a few were killed. The relief took place at about 8 p.m. on the night of
the 5th August and this operation was a thousand times worse than the actual
charge. The saps and communication trenches were filled with dead and dying, and
dozens were buried alive from the debris from the flying shells. We got through their
barrage all right and I found myself in Sausage Gully about 4 a.m. on the 6th August.
An hour later I arrived at Dad's dugout, and knowing that he would be anxious about
me I called out and woke him up, and there while the din of battle raged outside I
told him all about it.

I must have looked an awful picture. Just try and imagine me dear ones, not having
washed nor shaved for 15 days and with very little sleep and food, clothes torn and
unkept and there you have me. I will not disguise the fact, that those fourteen days
of modern warfare, showed me the most brutal, ghastly and piteous sights
imaginable on the one side, while on the other I had a glimpse into the innermost
corners of real men's souls, and I also learned the value of comradeship.

I left Dad about 6.30 a.m. and marched to a hill at the end of Sausage Gully where the
Brigade was to meet. After breakfast we were inspected by General Birdwood who
spoke in honeyed language about our- deeds, and we could not help but feel proud
of our feat on the first occasion of our trial on the Somme front. At 4 p.m. we
marched away from the battle ground, my platoon strength being 8 men and myself,
out of the 58 I took into action. We again marched through Albert and imagine my
pleasure, dear friends, when on the corner of the street, I espied Les waiting for me.
He walked along for about a mile and promised to cycle down to Warloy that night at
which place we were to billet. He did so and we had a good old talk over a cup of
coffee and biscuits. The next day we were on the road once more and that night we
bivouaced in an orchard proceeding to -------- the next day where we arrived at 2 p.m.
Our spell out consisted of rout marches and the ordinary routine of an infantry man's
life. It was while here that I decided to transfer to the artillery, and I will tell my
reasons to you all when I return home. With this end in mind I rode over to the town
of St Ledger, where Dad was billeted and got him to put in a claim for me, which he
did, and it was granted and I transferred to the 13th Battery A.F.A. on the 22nd
August 1916 as a gunner after being 14 months a sergeant in the 18th Battalion in
Active Service.


They left brave memories behind!
We, who remembered all their cheery ways
Which sun-swept the drab days -
                                     26 of 29
                                                On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
We, who remembered all their plucky ways
Which shortened cares long miles
When feet grew road-worn, and when wills grew slack
And some had fain turned back
We thank God, for the souls, who breast life‟s wind
With grit - and leave brave memories behind

                                                                               Lilian Gard

                                      CHAPTER XIII

                                   "ODDS AND ENDS"

I have now come to the end of my experiences in the actual fighting and now intend
to give my readers a brief view of life "Behind the Lines". We have just been relieved
in the front line and are marching back for a few days rest. The climate of France
being so changeable billets are provided for us instead of tents. Our billets vary
somewhat. Sometimes we occupy a farm house, other times we use stables, sheds or
anything at all with a roof on, and then again around Erquingham way we had
wooden huts erected amidst small groups of trees. Of course we are sometimes
shelled in our billets and I assure you it is not a very pleasant sensation waking up
just as a 5.9 comes through the roof next door.

 Our spell out includes, fatigues, and working parties up to the trenches at night,
 and drill and gas helmet inspections at daytime. A spell is considered a big ioke
 among the boys for the reasons I have mentioned. we have practically more rest
 when in the trenches than we do out, but there are not so many shells to contend
 with and that‟s the main thing. Life in a convalescent camp, or even at the base is
 rather pleasant in this way. Everything possible is done for the troops by various
 institutions including the Y.M.C.A., Soldiers Christian Association, Salvation Army
 and The Catholic Women‟s League. At these institutions we can buy cocoa, tea or
 coffee and biscuits, cake etc at very reasonable prices. Then again the authorities
 organise all sorts of concerts free, and the music, singing of both professional &
 amateur artists is really enjoyable. But life at the Base jars on ones nerves, but
 sometimes it is a struggle which to put up with, the front line or the base, and the
 front line invariably wins the day, and you volunteer to go with the first draft
 possible and in a very short time, you find yourself “up the line with the best of
 luck” & when you commence to call yourself all kinds of idiots for coming away
 sooner than you would have done, if you had waited for them to send you. But it is
 always pleasant to know, when you are among the horrors of war, that you came of
 your own free will, instead of being forced to go.

 Thinking over the times I have been through, and of the pals I have fought with and
 whom I have lost, I feel proud that I was one of them in the big venture, they laid
 down their lives in. I need hardly say, that this life being as it is, devoid of all that a
 man holds dear in life, and that makes life worth living has not altered me. I have
 witnessed joy at its highest, sorrow at its deepest, my views on life, comradeship etc
 has broadened. I think I am telling the truth when I say that I also know the
 principals on which a man's life must be based. I am not going to give my readers,
 the opinion that I have conquered sin entirely, because it would be a lie. But I have
 learned lessons by painful experiences that I will benefit by all my life. It is easy
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                                                    On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
 enough under normal conditions to live rightly, but on active service, a man being
 months at a time among horrors unspeakable, and away from the soothing
 influences of home life, it is very hard, and one must learn by experience and I am
 sure it is the best way of forming the base to the life one wishes to live. And I am
 sure too that as long as one does benefit by the pitfalls and skies clear in future his
 mistakes will be overlooked and forgiven.

 I thank God for his love and protection of my Father, brother and myself, and for the
 love of my dear ones at home, knowing as I do know that prayers for our welfare
 and safety, from that dear country 14,000 miles away have been answered so far. I
 cannot help but feel that they will be answered right through this war.

 And now dear ones, I have completed what I set out to do, but am only too
 conscious of the poorness of my attempt but as long as I know that it gives you as
 much pleasure to read it as it has given me to write it for you I am content. It has
 been written a good deal under shell fire in my dugout and at other times in our
 billets. Now my dear ones, may God keep you all from sickness and danger, and
 may he grant that very soon, we will all be reunited in that little town "'Bexley" in
 God's own countrv - Australia.


Boulogue, February 5th, 1917


Why live – when life is sad
       Death only sweet
Why fight - when closest fight
       Ends in defeat.
Why pray - when purest prayers
       Dark thoughts assail.
Why strive - and strive again
       Only to fail
Why hope - when life has proved
       Few best hopes vain.
Why love - when love is fraught
       With us much pain.
Why not cool heart and brain
       In deep wave
Why not lay down and rest
       In the still grave

Live - there are many round
         Needing thy care
Pray - there is one at hand
         Helping thy prayers

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                                                   On Active Service by John Harold Falconer
Fight for the love of God
         Not for renown
Strive - but in His great strength
         Not in thine own
Hope - there is Heaven's joy
         Laid up for thee
Love - For true love outlives
         Its agony
Fight, pray, and wrestle on
         Loving God best
Then - when thy work is done
         Lie down and rest

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                                                On Active Service by John Harold Falconer

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