Pops’ Gallipoli Diary
I have fond childhood memories of my grandfather, Fred Hall-Jones. He was “Pops” to us.
As a young lad growing up in Invercargill, I used to walk through the back of uncle John’s garden on Sunday evenings – and onward through the trees (really a forest to me as a youngster, especially coming home afterwards as the scary darkness fell upon me). Once through the trees, I reached Pops’s garden and with a hop, skip and jump, I was at Pops’ house. We’d pour ourselves some drinks; for Pops a whisky and for me, a bottle of lemonade. And we talked about all sorts of things. Although I didn’t realise until later, I developed a love of Shakespeare through hearing it spoken from memory by dear old Pops. He whet my appetite for history too; the New Zealand Liberal Party, the Wellington Waterfront Strike, King Dick Seddon, Mickey Savage and further afield – Thermopylae, the battle of Salamis, the Magna Carta, Agincourt and so on. We talked until our drinks ran out or until darkness began to fall, then I’d scoot home through the scary forest, before dark!
One evening when I was a little older (and Pops a little older too), he began our Sunday drinks with words along these lines. “You know David, your old grandad fought at Gallipoli”.
I knew that he had. And I knew too, from my father and uncles, that Pops never talked about Gallipoli. Never. So these words from him that Sunday evening were a sobering surprise even to a wayward teenager, as I then was.
On that particular occasion he told me about a night attack at Quinn’s post on June 4th 1915. He, along with some other brave souls had volunteered for the night attack, the aim being to seize and occupy some opposing Turkish trenches. I could tell – and I remember vividly to this day – that it meant a lot to my grandfather to say that he and other Kiwi troops that day had bayoneted as many Turks as they took prisoner.
I went home that evening and told my own father that Pops had just spoken to me about Gallipoli – about Quinn’s Post. I don’t recall what year this was but by my reckoning, I’d say it was around 1975. Whatever memories Pops had of those few hard months on the shores of Gallipoli, he had chosen to put them to one side, never speaking of them, for around 60 years. And he resumed a normal civilian life, practising law in Invercargill – and continuing to write, as he had always done.
Later, when my grandfather passed away, I inherited his Gallipoli diary with photographs and notes that he meticulously accumulated during his short time at the battlefront. Below is a picture of my grandfather before embarking as part of the Expeditionary Force, pipe in hand.
On that fateful day, 25th April, the Australian troops had landed earlier in the day. However, my grandfather was in the very first “pinnace” of boats carrying New Zealand soldiers to disembark. Here is a small collection of photographs from my grandfather’s diary which I guess would be among the very first photographs taken by New Zealand troops during and after the Kiwi landing.
Several of Pops’ friends and comrades were killed or wounded in the early days of the campaign but my grandfather made it through that part, at least, unscathed.
He didn’t emerge so luckily from the night attack on Quinn’s Post on 4th June. The hand drawn sketch below, also from Pops’ diary shows the battle lines that night.
It was all over in a few minutes. In those frantic moments, the Auckland and Canterbury troops took over 20 Turkish prisoners, killing almost as many. All for nothing as things turned out as the Turks quickly reoccupied the trenches that the New Zealand troops had won so dearly.
The following words (verbatim) from Pops’s diary show how his war ended:
“Bomb wound on the shoulder and on the left occipital artery (just behind the ear). I plugged it with my thumb until I made certain that there were no communication trenches from the 20 yards we had captured to the second trench in the rear. Then I discovered that the Turks were still on our right (as well as the left) and put a man on to watch them without attracting their attention. Then I put on a bandage which failed to stop the bleeding and came off. Mac in the meantime was building the barricade (“e” on the sketch above) as coolly as if on an uninteresting fatigue, while a couple of men protected him by firing along the trench. This was soon completed and we seven (three being wounded) slackened off a little and demolished the parapet. Finally, being soaked from my tunic to my socks I began to realise that it was a case of now or never if I wanted to get the bleeding stopped. So they heaved me up out of the trench and leaving Mac in charge, I carefully crawled over the parapet to our old trench, where I made an officer swear to send up reinforcements immediately. Then someone helped me down to the dressing station… and onto a joyride on a stretcher to the hospital to be bandaged up.”
Among his Gallipoli papers, Pops also kept some hand written notes (extract below) which were tucked inside his tunic on the night of this attack. The remarkable thing about these beautifully written notes perhaps lies less in the words themselves and more the in fact that the dark stains around the edge of the notes and in the creases through the text, are Pops’ blood that ran through this tunic during the attack at Quinn’s Post.
Fortunately for me, my grandfather survived Gallipoli, though many brave Australian and New Zealand soldiers did not. Pops made it back from the war and married one of the granddaughters of the early Central Otago explorer, John Turnbull Thomson (after whom our vineyard is named).
On 25th April, I shall most certainly raise a glass to remember Pops and all of the Aussie and Kiwi soldiers who fought at Gallipoli.