In this article from the North Devon Herald Pte. Frank Knott talks about his experiences on board a hospital ship travelling to Gallipoli to take care of the sick and injured…
Pte. Frank Knott, son of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert J. Knott, of Bear-street, Barnstaple, arrived at Southampton last week after making his first voyage to the near East. Pte. Knott belongs to the R.A.M.C., and is a member of the staff of one of the largest hospital ships. Spending a few hours with his parents in Barnstaple on Thursday and Friday, he was seen by a “Herald” representative. Expressing himself in a general sort of way, Pte. Knott said he had enjoyed immensely his first visit to the actual war zone, but the voyage had brought him into touch with grim realities of the conflict. Happily they were not troubled with enemy submarines, although this was no doubt due to good luck, or the ever increasing vigilance of the Allied fleets, rather than to any consideration on the part of the pirates to the humanitarianism and merciful work in which the vessel was engaged. Pte. Knott dismissed with scorn the German assertions that the sick berths were loaded with munitions of war, and that the coal bunkers of the hospital ships were but the hiding place for battalions of soldiers. On reaching the Mediterranean the requirements of a modern army and the absolute necessity for complete command of the sea in order to establish oversea bases was brought vividly home to one’s mind. Ships of all descriptions were to be seen travelling hither and thither engaged in the work of supplying the armies in the Balkans and in the Dardanelles. Warships were also frequently met with. The dashing destroyers ploughing their way through the waters at a tremendous speed hunting enemy submarines demonstrated to the full that the underwater craft were being given no rest, and that while they were kept “on the run” they could do little or no damage. The hospital ship called at several Mediterranean ports, at one of which members of the Red Cross staff were able to go ashore for a couple of hours. This was a welcome concession, for it gave one a peep at the Oriental and other life, for the population was extremely cosmopolitan in character, being drawn from almost all nations under the sun. Some of the quaint and picturesque costumes of the people were both interesting and instructive. After several hours’ hard steaming, one could hear a rumbling noise in the distance, faint at first, but gradually broadening and deepening until it merged into one perpetual roar. It was the sound of the artillery and the guns from the Allied fleet around Gallipoli. Some little time later one could see the flashes of the bursting shells, and with the break of day we beheld Gallipoli—a place the thought of which is mingled with so many happy and sorrowful memories in different parts of the world; happy in that many of the most gallant and glorious deeds have been wrought on that narrow strip of land, and sorrowful because it has swallowed up so many of Briton’s bravest and best. One had only to scan the rugged mountainous country to realise the tremendous obstacles, natural barriers, which the Allied troops were endeavouring to overcome. It was really wonderful to think that they had obtained such a footing as they had on the Peninsula. As the hospital ship steamed into Suvla Bay—the scene of a memorable landing—the Turkish batteries were busy shelling a transport making for one of the landing places. Happily, however, only one shot struck the vessel. British monitors quickly got into position, and gave the enemy gunners their change, with perhaps a little “extra” to go on with. High over the land could be discerned two of the Allies’ airmen, looking like little specks in the heavens. They were engaged in the necessary and valuable work of “spotting” for the guns. The British shells were presumably falling too near the Turks to be comfortable, for the enemy opened a furious fire on the airmen, who, however, were well out of range of the enemy’s guns. From the decks of the hospital ship one could see an improvised hospital on the beach with the familiar Red Cross attached. Here were congregated some hundreds of men, awaiting shipment to various hospitals, where they would obtain the necessary attention and nursing. Lighters filled with their human cargoes pushed off from the shore, and soon the Red Cross workers were busy tenderly moving the wounded and the sick to more comfortable quarters on the hospital ship, replete with every medical and surgical convenience. The work of taking the wounded on board took some little time, and subsequently more wounded were “picked up” from the islands around. By a singular coincidence Pte. Knott soon came across a Barumite, Mr. Nightingale, of Green-lane, who was a member of the crew of one of the warships. He was suffering from dysentery. Needless to say a chat on the “doings from home” considerably cheered and enlivened the invalid. Later Pte. Knott came across Company-Sergt.-Major Charles Medway, a brother of Mr Herbert Medway, of Lynton, who had been serving with his regiment on the Gallipoli Peninsula for some months past. C.-S.-M. Medway was suffering from rheumatism. Lance-Corpl. A. Dobbs, of Marwood, a member of the Royal North Devon Hussars-(whose death was reported in our columns a week or so ago)-died during the voyage to Malta. When removed from Gallipoli he was suffering badly from dysentery. Lance-Corpl. Dobbs was accorded a hero’s burial at sea, the solemnity of the service making a deep impression on those present who had never before witnessed the solemn rite.
Among the wounded on board was a member of the Royal North Devon Hussars—Trooper Gregory, who hails from the Lynton district. He was suffering from a shell wound in the leg, and in the course of a conversation with Pte. Knott he stated that he was standing by the side of Sergt. Symons, of Swimbridge, when when he was killed, a portion of the same shell which killed the N.C.O. placing Trooper Gregory hors de combat. Many of the bad cases, were taken ashore at the Mediterranean ports, and a number of convalescent soldiers brought on board to be landed at Southampton. With Pte. Knott on the hospital ship are Pte. H. Morrish and Pte. W. Jarvis, of Barnstaple, and Pte. Walter Wills, of Westleigh, all Red Cross workers.
Transcript from the North Devon Herald 2nd December 1915 page 5 column f. 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.