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Gallipoli Diary of Fred Symonds (Continued)


frev

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July 1st – Go on duty at 2p.m.

2nd – Quiet day. Went to beach for water after being relieved. Only doing 24 hours on at a time now; reinforcements make a difference, and a lot of them are arriving lately. Major Lockhart [sic – Flockart] brought me some cigarettes to-day; he was wounded, and has just returned; cigarettes are very acceptable. Very heavy firing at Cape this afternoon, they must be advancing.

3rd – Hear that Turks attacked in vast numbers at Cape on 30th and 1st, and were repulsed with very heavy losses. Lot of firing at Cape last night.

4th – Relieved for three days in supports, hope fatigues are not heavy. Had little rain last night. Have a cold; missed church; had bit of firing at about 8 o’clock.

5th – Fatigues, and quiet night.

6th – Fatigues.

7th – Went to firing line for 6 days; not on duty yet, but go on to-morrow; bit of a flutter about 10a.m.

8th – On observation duty 10a.m.

9th – On duty at No. 6 post.

 

10th – Relieved for 24 hours. Some of our big shells landed in Johnson’s Gully this afternoon and did a bit of damage. The Lord Nelson came up with six destroyers and did a bit of firing at something inland. We blew up some of the enemy’s saps yesterday and made a bit of a commotion, and a machine gun picked off the poor devils as they ran out – those who could run.

11th – On duty at 10a.m. for 24 hours, a long shift. Had a fire demonstration to-night; things very warm. Another attack at the Cape.

12th – Another fire fight this morning. Very heavy shell fire on our trenches. Edgar had a very narrow escape. A shell came through the loophole where he was observing and took the plate with it and a bit of the water bottle just behind him, where it exploded in the ground and never hurt him. Several of our fellows went down to the hospital hit or suffering from shock from shells bursting. A lot of shells landed on our trench. There must be a lot of casualties in other parts. Just heard that Major Lockhart got hit very badly and is not expected to recover. He was one of the best. A lot of men are going out of the firing line wounded. Heard later that Major Lockhart died.

 

13th – Relieved at 10a.m. Heavy shell fire this afternoon, and a lot of casualties. One poor fellow had both legs taken off; don’t think he can recover, although he seems cheerful enough. He had just returned from being wounded. Some were blown to pieces. Saw remains of one man being carried down in a parcel.

14th – More shells this afternoon. Our machine gun section got blown out; one killed and several hurt. Went for swim and wrote home.

15th – Went for swim. Quiet day, with few shells after dinner.

16th – Went to firing line this morning. Don’t go on duty again till to-morrow. Fair number of shells this evening – one on quarter-master’s store; hope it does not run us short of provisions.

17th – On duty No. 3 post; quiet day. Heavy firing at Cape. Holy Communion service at Brigadier’s headquarters at 6.30a.m.; missed it, being asleep.

18th – Quiet day. Went to beach for water. After being relieved at 10a.m. saw eight men put out by two shells while I was there. Saw one being carried along beach with face blown off. Went to church in evening; few shells about.

 

19th – On duty this morning; quiet day. Very heavy firing at Cape. They seem to be having a tough job to take the hill.

20th – Relieved 10a.m.; went to beach for water.

21st – On duty at 10a.m.

22nd – Went into supports for three days at 10a.m.

23rd – Went for swim and water; got wood; fatigues; stand to at midnight.

24th – Had three “stand-to’s” last night; evidently expected an attack somewhere.

25th – Firing line again. Will go to church if possible.

 

26th – Few shells and bombs, but don’t think much happened.

27th – Relieved for 24 hours; went for water and had a swim. Turks dropping lot of shells to-day. Got some eggs at 2s 6d a dozen.

28th – An attack this morning, enemy losing 200; we had practically no casualties; was not a very big attack. A good many saps have been blown up lately; one went this morning; are mostly enemy saps.

29th – Went for water. Been fortunate enough to buy eggs and flour from sailors, which they bring from Lemnos. They have been the saving of us as far as dysentery goes.

30th – Heard of great victory for our troops near Persian Gulf, and hope its true; gave enemy three cheers from trenches to celebrate occasion, and they fired like mad.

31st – Went to supports for three days. A German “fly” dropped a few bombs on our line this morning; bit of rifle fire last night.

 

August 1st – Quiet day; went to church and had good service; a big Salvation Army chap gave it, and delivered a good sermon. He’s often been in Inglewood; I’ve seen him there. He’s a big, stout chap; has Church of England hymns.

2nd – Water fatigues; the big gun fire at Cape not so noticeable to-day.

3rd – Firing line again. On No. 1 post, with Edgar acting as corporal. A Taube dropped some bombs about.

 

Wounded & evacuated

4th – Got hit with incendiary bomb on head at midnight just after coming off shift, and burnt my scalp and clothes, but luckily my cap comforter saved me from being very badly burned. I was taken down to the hospital after being dressed, and will be going away in fleet sweeper in the morning. My face is black and charred. Luckily I was not asleep, or I’d have got it in the face and been blinded.

5th – Left on fleet sweeper [Ionian] at midday. Was sorry to leave Edgar (who came down with some of my belongings in the morning) especially as there is to be a big attack in a few days. Three divisions of Tommies are landing before the end of week; [censored] landed last night. We reached Lemnos at 5.30p.m., and harbor is full of all kinds of craft, from warships down to cockle shells.

6th – Left Lemnos at 5.30p.m. [HMS Clacton] for Alexandria; won’t be away long.

7th – Grand to have a bed to sleep in, and no kit to wear all night. My head is doing well. Had beard shaved off to-day. Meals are fairly good.

8th – Had quiet day. Will reach Alexandria to-night. Fancy, I finished this diary on the day I started it, this day last year. Will post it home to-morrow, and start another. It is my birthday, too. Anxious that I should start this diary also on my birthday and finish it for post on my next birthday.

 

****************************

 

Fred Symonds was the 3rd of 6 children born to Samuel & Jane (nee Hartrick), in Port Albert, Victoria (not Inglewood as he stated on Attestation). His brother Edgar was 10 years his junior. Their father, an employee of the Bank of Vic, eventually became the Manager of the Inglewood Branch, where the boys grew up, and both Fred and Edgar initially followed him into the banking field. By the time he enlisted however, Fred was carrying on the business of an Insurance Agent.

 

Fred’s diary was published in the “Inglewood Advertiser” during the period of Sept / Oct 1915, when interest in Gallipoli was at its peak; but if he did keep subsequent diaries of his war years, they never made it to publication (perhaps as their content wouldn’t have been such a thrilling read).

 

After his return to Egypt and recovery from his injuries, Fred was employed in clerical work at the Base Medical Stores in Zeitoun. When the 5th battalion sailed for France on the 25th March 1916, they sailed without him; but his stay in Egypt finally came to an end a week before his 34th Birthday, when he instead, sailed to England on the 2nd August.

The following 14 months were spent in the Training camps and the Service Corps, until eventually in the October of 1917 Fred crossed to France to join the 4th Div Supply Column. In March 1918 he was taken on strength with the 2nd Motor Transport Coy, and then in the May he was transferred back to his original unit, the 5th Battalion. During his time in France he was affected by gas, and suffered a bout of bronchitis. As one of the ‘1914 men’, he began his trip home in the month before Armistice, arriving back in Melbourne in early December 1918.

 

Called to respond, during his ‘welcome home’ reception, Fred had the following to say:

One lesson the war had taught every soldier, if he was an honest-minded man, and that was what love of country meant. A man never did appreciate his own country until he was forced to live out of it under trying conditions, but he could tell them that they appreciated Victoria, and always maintained that there was no place as good.

 

In 1919 Fred married and started a family; he also purchased 47 acres of land at Quantong through the Closer Settlement Board, and worked that land as an Orchardist, until 1930 when the holding was cancelled.

The following year he was a ‘Reader’ at the C of E Vicarage at Panmure, and later that same year became a Minister of Religion in Bungaree. From Bungaree he moved on to Murtoa in 1936 and then Koroit in 1938, before dividing his time between Creswick and Ballarat, until his death in Ballarat on the 30th of September 1962, at the age of 80. His wife, Hilda died in NSW the following year, and of their six children, only three made it to adult hood, one of whom served in WW2.

 

Fred’s brother Edgar Bell Symonds (L/Cpl 625) also returned home, married, and served in WW2 before his death in NSW in 1964.

 

Endnotes:

Inglewood & District Soldiers mentioned in the diary: 1. Windsor / W. Rochester – Sgt 877 Alfred Windsor Rochester, 7th Bn – KIA 8/5/1915 Cape Helles. 2. F. Yorath – L/Cpl 303 Francis Leonard Yorath, 5th Bn – see Digger 36 (p.25-7). 3. The two Parkers (brothers) – L/Cpl 950 George Frederick Parker, 7th Bn, (KIA 25/7/1916) & L/Cpl 951 Thomas Picton Parker, 7th Bn, (RTA 7/11/1915)

Others: Fred & Rolun Adams (Mildura brothers) – Pte 868 Frederick James Adams, 8th Bn – KIA 25/4/1915 [AWM Photo H05906] & Pte 1127 Edgar Robert Adams, 8th Bn, died whilst POW 25/4/1915 [AWM Photo H14064]; Captain Dexter – Chaplain Walter Ernest Dexter

5th Bn Men: Mr Levy – Lieut (later Capt) Leopold Levy; MacQueen – Pte 551 Frederick John McQueen; McIlwraith – Pte 553 David Keith McIlwraith – KIA 25/4/1915; Vines – Cpl 524 Ashley Robert Vines; Lieut Hamilton – 2nd Lieut Charles Builth Hamilton – DOW 18/5/1915; Sgt Fairley – L/Cpl 993 Ernest Robert Fairlie – KIA 8/5/1915; Sgt Walker – Sgt 518 (later Lieut) Victor Langford Walker; Corporal Cole – Cpl 602 Eldon Torel Trevor Cole – KIA 18/6/1915; Major Lockhart – Maj Robert Pearce Flockart, DOW 15/7/1915

 

Heather (Frev) Ford

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