In a previous post containing a first hand account of the Royal North Devon Hussars landing at Suvla Bay letters from Sergt Cater gave an insight into what it was like for the Royal North Devon Hussars in Gallipoli. In this article, published in the North Devon Journal there are further glimpses into what life was like for the men…
Sergt. F.J. Cater, of the 1st Royal North Devon Hussars (son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Cater, Victoria-street, Barnstaple) who is on active service in the East, writing to his parents says:- “We are on land at last, and I am writing this from a very different place to any I have occupied as a home before. We landed on Saturday after being on the water just 17 days. We left the big boat—which, by the way, is the same boat I came back from New York in—on Friday for a much smaller, and were expecting to land here the same evening, but a rather severe storm sprang up which prevented it. A part of the Brigade did get off on the lighter, but it was so rough and the lighter was pitching about so much, that the officers thought it unsafe to attempt landing. So they ordered the men back, which was a very risky undertaking, each man having to be practically thrown abroad our boat as the lighter lifted on the waves. It was pouring with rain all the night and a great many of the men were wet through. I was fortunate in getting into the smoking saloon. There was quite a crowd of us in there trying to sleep, and it was nothing to doze for a little while and, waking up, find another fellow;s feet on your head or sticking into your ribs. Saturday turned out a topping day, the only complaint being that it was too hot. Our turn to land came about 2 o’clock, after a delicious meal of bully beef and biscuits. We were pretty heavily loaded with our pack, wet equipment, rifle, ammunition, entrenching tool, and kit bag, weighing in all, I should think, about 90lbs, which we had to carry about two mile, before reaching our present position. I suppose I might tell you that we are somewhere in the Peninsula, being only a mile in the rear of the first line trenches. Our shells pass screaming overhead at intervals and from where we are we can watch the enemy’s shells pitch. We live in dug-outs on the side of a hill covered with stones and scrubs. We are fed very well. For breakfast we get bacon, bread and jam, and tea. At dinner, stew one day, and tinned beef and biscuits the next. For tea, bread and jam, and tea. Water is not too plentiful, and has to be fetched two miles down the hill. We get enough to drink, but for washing we should be hard up if it was not for a chance of a swim in the sea about every other day. There is a lot of old and dirty clothes lying about on the beach and hill, also old clips of ammunition, which tell of strenuous times for the landing party that took these hills, Flies are our greatest nuisance here, although every precaution is taken by a great many of the fellows to ensure cleanliness as far as possible.”
In a later letter Sergt. Cater said:- “Quite a lot of fellows are down with dysentery. The climate and change of living are naturally sure to make themselves felt, especially in our case, not having had the opportunity to get climatised before coming here. We are all being inoculated against cholera—my turn this evening! If we get done many more time we shall be proof against every disease. We ought to be able to live cheap after the experience we are getting here—just a pit in the ground with a small blanket for a bed; and for washing, that will be entirely unnecessary, for if we like we may secure about a pint of water once in two days. First we shave in it and have glorious bath in the remainder! The weather has changed considerably and instead of going without coats, we are glad to put on an extra one, the nights especially being cold. The enemy shells burst, but now we take very little notice of them. I forgot to tell you that we have to give up our motor cycles, the part we are in being altogether too rough for that kind of work, and I am now an infantryman. Of course, I still retain my rank as Sergeant, and when we get to more suitable ground we shall use our cycles.”
Transcript from the North Devon Journal 18th November 1915 page 6 column c. You can find more articles covering North Devonians experiences in Gallipoli on our Facebook page or by going to the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon which is also the home of the Regimental Collection of the Royal Devon Yeomanry.