Sunday, 1 November 2015

What the Engineers Do in Gallipoli

Monday 1st November 1915: A sapper in 2nd Field Company, East Anglian Royal Engineers, currently in Gallipoli, has spoken to us: “Of course our boys have, on many occasions, been working side by side with the lads of our County Regiment. The tasks the Engineers have set before them in this peninsula are many and varied. We are responsible for the water supply in this particular part of the scene of operations and considering the fact that we have several wells now in use and more being dug, you will see that this is not a small matter. Of course pumps go wrong and have to be repaired and overhauled etc. On one occasion when a tank was riddled with shrapnel, I remember how it was brought to our workshop one night, repaired during the day and taken back the next night. When the tank was replaced it was reveted and disguised in such a matter as to guard against further trouble. That is an instance of the work we are doing behind the firing line”.

“In the trenches in the firing line our work comprises sapping, mining, dug-outs and generally improving the trenches. This work keeps our lads busy at all hours, day and night. Often at night we have parties working on wire entanglements, out on the parapet between our own and the trenches of the “unspeakable Turk””.

“We are quite proud of our workshop. Dug in the ground with its walls of sandbags, the smith’s forge and anvil in one corner, benches for the carpenter, fitter, tinsmith etc. and tools at hand for almost every kind of job. We consider our workshop quite up-to-date. Jobs of all descriptions are undertaken. In fact the nature of the work is so varied that it is impossible for me to enter into any details”.

“We spend what little spare time we get in letter writing or reading (although literature is rather scarce). Just recently some of us have been spending a little time in improving our dugouts. Of course we all look forward very eagerly to the arrival of the mails. We fare much better with our food than we used to, as we occasionally get fresh meat and bread – a huge luxury. We usually have a short service in Sunday evenings, and it is very impressive to hear our boys sing hymns to the accompaniment of the boom of artillery and the crack of rifle fire. We get the war news from the Continent through the medium of the Peninsular Press – a leaflet published by some of the Res on another part of the peninsula. The sunset in this part of the World is a glorious sight – one to be remembered”.

“Our working parties often return to the camp with some very amusing and exciting experiences. On one occasion a party were going through a sap when they met two Indian soldiers carrying water. The latter suddenly dropped the water and shouted what sounded to our boys like “Sniper! Sniper!” Of course they quickly dropped down to take cover, when they discovered the cause of the trouble – a snake about six feet long just crawling out of the trench. The warning that the Indians shouted was “Viper! Viper!” The party returned to camp with the dead snake on a pole as a trophy and it was very amusing to hear them relate how many times they struck at the reptile before they killed it”(1).

Source: Bedfordshire Times 22nd November 1915

(1) Most viper species in Turkey get no bigger than two or three feet; some whipsnakes can grow to six feet but are not dangerous to humans.

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