by Marina and Kim Davis
My great uncle Bert Bluestein went to WW1 and sent back a letter to his father that was published in the Argus newspaper on Wednesday, 9th June, 1915. Read the letter here...
Charge of 3rd Brigade
Herbert H Bloustein sent the following interesting particulars to his father Mr. H. Bloustein, of Grey Street, St Kilda from Cairo on May 8 - "You will wonder at the above address. As a matter of fact, I am in the second general hospital here.
I was unlucky enough to stop a bit of shrapnel at 10 am on Sunday April 25. It was the first day of the war for the Australians . Thank God I had a wonderful escape! As we were just advancing into the firing line to the support of another company of our battalion a shrapnel pellet hit me just at the base of the neck, glanced off the bone and lodged in the muscle of my chest. I was quite stunned for a few minutes and was bleeding pretty freely. I had the impression that I could not move my right arm. I gradually moved it a little and then found it was quite free. I had not fired a shot up till that time having seen no one to fire at.
March out of Cairo
Let me begin at the beginning . We left Mena at half past 7 pm on Easter Sunday, marched into Cairo, got the train to Alexandria, and embarked on the ------- on Monday morning, left Alexandia Tuesday and arrived at Lemnos Island at dawn Thursday April 8. Lemnos is a pretty little place. There is a population of about 40,000 mostly Greeks. Their costumes are very unique. We went ashore a couple of times practicing disembarking under fire as we would have to do at the ardanelles. There is quite a fine harbour at Lemnos and 'tis deep making a fine rendezvous for a big fleet such as ours. There were crowds of transports and battle ships, amongst the latter being the Queen Elizabeth. The boys all call her "Lizzie". She's the pet. We left Lemnos at 2 pm on Saturday and anchored off the coast of Embros Island, which is much closer to the Gallipoli Peninsula. At 11 pm we heaved anchor and steamed slowly toward s our destination. Everyone was up at 3am on Sunday. We were to land at 8 am. The 3rd Brigade landed just before dawn and we could hear the bursting shrapnel and rifle fire.
A Hot Fire
It was very hot fire. Of course, you've read how the boys fared. General Hamilton said that he had seen British and Indian troops charge, but he had never seen anything like the charge of the 3rd Brigade when they landed. They were fired at while they were in the boats and, without awaiting orders they tossed off their equipments and jumped into water up to their necks with rifles and fixed bayonets. They never stopped once till they had driven the enemy about two miles from the shore. It was a marvellous feat. We landed about two hours later and worked our way up to the firing line. The hills were hard enough to climb without taking them with the bayonet. I could fill a book telling you of incidents. Please God, I will live to tell you all about it. It seems a long way to bring the slightly wounded from Gailipoii to Cairo, but they are sending everyone here and to Alexandria. My own opinion is that the casualties were not heavy, considering what we achieved. I dont think it will be very long before we are in Constantinople. The battle-ships did wonderful work with the guns. The ----------- silenced no fewer than 13 guns on an crusading point from which the enemy was shelling the beach where we were landing. When the Queen Elizabeth fires her 15in guns she shakes the earth. She confines her operations to the forts on the other side of the peninsula, a distance of about eight or nine miles. As soon as a gun of the enemy commences firing, Flight Commander Samson (who is a Sydney man and is the head of the Naval Air Corps), ascends in his seaplane and locates the position of the gun. He then sends a wireless message to the battleship and they open fire. He hovers over the gun until it is silenced. Samson is doing wonderful work. Aircraft and wireless have absolutely revolutionised warfare. The officer casualties on our side were very heavy . Captain Carter is now acting second-in-command of the 5th Battalion.
When we landed on Sunday, we got terribly ---ed up. I was in a trench on Monday with about 40 others, and they were from all brigades and battalions. On Wednesday we were relieved, and retired to muster under cover of the hills overlooking the sea. The ground we have to work over is awful. It is thick scrub everywhere. The enemy's snipers were picking off a lot of our men, being able to creep up close to the trenches under cover of the bushes. The snipers even got behind our lines and fired on our Red Cross men (non-combatants). The enemy is paying no attention to the rules of war. They are using dum dum and explosive bullets. They are rotten shots, their aim being very high. They are wasting a tremendous lot of ammunition. You need not worry about me, as I am quite all right. I have had the bullet extracted and will try to send it on to you. To show you how slight my wound is, I was digging trenches for three days after I was hit. I am very anxious to get back amongst our boys again. I cursed having to come all this way. The residents of Cairo are working wonders. The ladies come every day and assist the nurses and bring all kinds of comforts in the way of clothes, cigarettes, writing materials, flowers, etc. Our hospital is the beautiful Ghezireh Palace Hotel. There are spacious grounds for the convalescent patients such as myself. I have not heard from you for a long time. Suppose all my mail will follow me on here, and I shall have returned to the front and miss it again. Anyhow, that's one of the misfortunes of war. I believe all the Light Horse are going to be dismounted and sent on as infantry. There seems to be no need for mounted troops in this war. Horses could not work in the hills in Gallipoli. Our artillery horses were landed, but were no use at all. Mules had to haul our guns into position. The enemy's artillery is rotten, although they are doing a lot of damage.