What Royston Did …

Accounts of Royston people from the Great War

Herbert Arthur Sermons

image herbert sermons

Sergeant, Gallipoli

An eye-witness account from Sergeant Herbert Arthur Sermons of Royston who landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli in August 1915.Upon arrival at the Dardanelles he wrote to his old schoolmaster in Royston,
Mr. C Attridge. He says: 

“No doubt you have heard of the work which has been carried out here in the Dardanelles. I can assure you that although our division has only been out here a short time we have seen some very rough work, and I am thankful to be alive. We are now having a few days rest and I think the lads deserve it. Whilst we have been in our rest camp we have been under the fire of the Turkish guns, which makes us to “get down and get under” as the song says.

“We live the life of hermits in dug-outs amongst the hills, trying to bury ourselves out of the way of the enemy who are very clever in soon finding out our positions. There are a large number of Germans amongst the Turks and I think it is they who are such good marksman. We get plenty of hill-climbing out here, which comes rather hard for us boys who are not used to it. It is very hot in the day and very cold at night. Water is very scarce, and we have to be sparing with it.

“One good point is that we are quite near the sea so that after a week’s hard work we get a bathe and it greatly refreshes us. On food is good considering the circumstances. Biscuits, corned beef, jam, tea, sugar and occasionally we get rice and raisins. We hope before long to get an issue of bread by way of a change.

“My brother arrived here with the horses and mules about a week after we landed. He is in the pink of condition but not at the same place as we are. I never thought when I was learning of these parts at school that I should ever have the privilege of going to see them."

He also wrote to Mr George Edwin Streather (stone and marble mason) in Royston to confirm:

"Our brigade went into action on Sunday afternoon, August 15th and made an attack on Kidney Hill from the Lone Tree Gully side. We were successfully in pushing the enemy some considerable distance. The charge was the first I had ever witnessed. It was very exciting and was made by the 1/5th Bedford’s, who were led by their C.O., Col Brighten. Before our men could reach the trenches, many of the Turks had fled, whilst others threw up their hands and begged for mercy, crying ‘Allah Allah’. The lads who have the hearts of true Britons, took them prisoners. We held the position for eight days, when we were relieved by another division.

“The whole of our Division marched to Lola Baba via the Salt Lake. We marched over about five miles of soft sand so that we were pleased when we came to the end of our journey. After two days our brigade took up the positions in the reserve trenches. On the afternoon of the 27th we watched a heavy bombardment on the Turks’ positions on Chocolate Hill by our Fleet and by our artillery. This lasted until about 5.30pm when a Welsh Division followed the attack and did some fine work. Their casualties were heavy.

“On the 29th we marched on to Anzac and on the following day whilst I was being shown the communication wires which we were taking over, I met an old school chum, Sergeant Ted Richardson of the 7th Gloucester Regiment. We were told we might be in this position for some time so we made ourselves comfortable in the dugouts.

“We have much admiration for the Turk as a soldier. We found him a fair fighter, although some dreadful stories have been told of the way they treated their prisoners. The Turks are fighting as humanely as possible and give our wounded the same care that we give their wounded prisoners. On one occasion the Turks shelled one of our Hospital Ships by mistake. They afterwards sent in an apology. The day is very hot here, but at night time very cold, much difference to the climate in England."