Excerpts from the 1915 diary of Staff Nurse Lucy Daw

Lucy Compson Daw was a nurse, from Mount Barker, South Australia, who served in the 3rd Australian General Hospital and Reinforcements in World War 1. She left Australia on 20 May, 1915 on the RMS “Mooltan” and served in Dardanelles, Egypt, Belgium, England and France.

July 30th 1915,  Friday

Arrived at Alexandria at 7am, were anchored out of the harbor for some hours, went ashore at 2pm. Found out that No 17 General had some RAMC nurses from Australia. So up we went to it – and to our surprise Barrow, Wilkes, McMannus, Conway and many more of our friends were there and soon to be off duty, so Reid and I waited for them, and we all went to the city, and to the catacombs and had a right royal time together, we were all so excited at meeting.

July 18th 1915, Sunday

The 30 sisters and Matron in charge, Colonel Dick have gone on one boat and Major Kent Hughes, Sister Hoadley in charge of 50 of us, are on a captured German boat, our cabins are beautiful, superior to the Mooltan, but nothing to compare in lounge and music rooms, it has been converted into a transport boat, it’s very large. Reid, Donnell and I have a cabin together.

There are 3000 troops on board, Welsh reinforcement. We are sharing the Officers’ quarters. We are sailing tonight, the coaling has just started.

 I have enjoyed my visit to England if I never come again.

July 19th 1915, Monday

Can’t get off the boat and unfortunately we neglected to buy mosquito nets. My bed didn’t come on board, must have gone on the other boat or I hope so, we have no chairs on deck, ours have also gone from South Hampton with our officers.

4pm sailed away and left dear old England, nobody to see the troops off, poor fellows not many of them will return, 500 are on duty on the decks watching, no room to move for men.

The officers are being nice, or seem to be so far. It‘s getting cold. Had a life boat and belt parade, our belts are too big, have to alter them to fit us.

July 20th 1915 Tuesday

Recovered my bed today, am glad to say.   Life belts again today, and all positions given, half in charge of Major Hughes to go on starboard side – the others to port side in charge of one of the other officers. If boat is torpedoed on starboard side we all have to go to port side and vica versa.

We went to bed last night in bloomers and brown sports coat. Then intended putting my life belt over my shoulder if I get into water, shall have nothing clinging round my legs.

A torpedo boat destroyer was with us through the danger zone, left us at dawn.

July 26th Monday

Arrived at Malta early, have to coal and take on water. Got ashore at 10am went first to a Hospital to look for wounded Australians and found many, not many S.A. but my word they were pleased to see us. They were just being paid, getting 2/- a week and looking very disgusted, poor fellows it is sad to hear the tales. They are all anxious to return to Australia, and say never again to leave it, it’s the best spot in the world.

July 29th 1915, Thursday

Once more we pack up and one gets sick to death of it. Major Kent-Hughes told me this morning that the officers call him “the Master of the Harem”. The weather is perfect, a nice cool breeze blowing.

This boat was correctly the (German)’ Derflinger’ but has been renamed ‘SS Huntsgreen’. It is quite historic, was in the Dardanelles was fired upon by enemy ships but the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ fired right over her and quietened the enemy guns. It then took wounded to Egypt and England, those who are here now tell of the terrible and awful sights of those poor men bleeding and nobody to look after them, only 3 doctors and a few orderlies and there were 500 wounded men, the chief steward said nobody would credit what it was like.

July 30th 1915, Friday

Arrived at Alexandria at 7am, were anchored out of the harbor for some hours, went ashore at 2pm, found out that no.17 General had some R.A.N.C. nurses from Australia. So up we went to it and to our surprise! 13 nurses, Wilkins, McMannus, Conway, and many more of our friends were there and soon to be off duty, so Reid and I waited for them and we all went to the city and to the catacombs and had a right royal time together. We were all so excited at meeting, it was such a surprise. The sisters who arrived before us, Matron and all, are allocated to different hospitals until we move on, or until something is settled.

August 5th 1915, Thursday

Got into harbor at Lemnos at 8am, the whole of it is full with war ships of almost every description. Saw several submarines for the first time. Torpedo boat destroyers and a larger with 5 small boats led behind to go to Dardanelles for wounded, hospital ships are fired across so have to keep back. Colonel Fiaschi met our boat, came on and told us to our horror and disappointment that our tents have not arrived and that here we have to stay, its all a most dreadful muddle.

Some letters have arrived here for us so Major H K has gone to get them. How I hope some are for me.

A transport boat in harbor and Australians on board, we were both very delighted at ‘Cooee” being returned.

August 6th 1915, Friday

Some of us volunteered for transport duty, as we are doing nothing here, just living on a boat and goodness knows when our tents will come. Matron is very nasty about it, and says we have done it to avoid the discomfort of the camp. In Egypt the nurses called us “Kitchener’s tourists”.

After noon we were all having a rest, a nurse came down to the dormitory and told us to be ready to disembark in 15 minutes, it was a mad rush, had no idea where we were going, we got a steam launch and were taken to another boat , where we are to stay for a while or until it is wanted. Reid McIllictroy and I have a cabin together, were just settled in it luggage and all, when Reid was called and told to be ready to disembark in 5 minutes. She with 5 others have gone on a transport ship to Alexandria.

August 7th 1915, Saturday

The boat we are on is wanted. 130 doctors and nurses are to come on it tomorrow so off we have to get – so the only spot on earth is the site for our hospital which I believe we are to go to today, we are ready to disembark in five minutes, living like this gets on our nerves.

The harbour is full of transports, boats, a new landing has been affected at Gallipoli, a little higher up than where our boys landed, if Achi Baba is not taken in the next 3 weeks, we shall have to retire. Troops cannot be landed, the battle evidently commenced as the wounded were coming down. We are not going off (the boat) until 8am. We hear Warsaw has fallen. We are getting quite blasé over submarines, have seen so many of late.

August 8th 1915, Sunday

All ready to go ashore at 7am. Spent a wretched day waiting to get to the hospital. At 7pm a boat came for us. So we had dinner and then went off, it was quite dark when we got to our landing place, which is on a peninsular the other side of Madras Bay, we had a mile to walk over rough stones, one of the orderlies played the bagpipes as we marched. But when we got to our destination only tents up – not even a chair to sit on, we had a cup of tea, Colonel de Crespigny helped give us tea and of course Colonel Stowell.  I miss Reid sadly, if she won’t get back, I don’t know how I’ll feel.

It is the longest I have ever endured, but still good news is coming, I believe they have gained four miles and joined the Australians at the new landing which had been affected. We are the only women on the island.

 The guns can be heard from here, it’s only four hours sail from here.

August 9th 1915, Monday

Our tents are pitched quite close to the sea, as there is scarcely enough drinking water, none can be spared for a wash. So got up early and had a bathe, managed to get enough water to clean my teeth, had breakfast and at 8.30, went with 16 others to help at No2 Stationary.

We haven’t a bed nor a cup to give a patient and by 6am they came teaming in, nearly all could walk but it was a sight to behold – poor fellows, tired, dirty and wounded, we got to work at their wounds they hadn’t had anything to eat since Friday, but are so thankful to be here, that they are quite cheerful.

The flies are worse than anything I’ve ever seen.    

August 10th 1915, Tuesday

On duty last night, the poor fellows couldn’t sleep, they were so good, never a murmur, the awful dearth of water and of everything imaginable, one towel to do half, nurses and I had a piece of soap between us and used one pannikin of water to wash each patient, but when we got off duty couldn’t get a cup to clean our teeth.

Had breakfast which was awful then a bathe, cleaned our teeth in the sea, how our clothes are to be washed I don’t know.

Banging of the big guns all night, went simply through me.

Can’t sleep, have had 2 hours.

August 12th 1915, Thursday

A hospital ship in with letters for us today, I got a fine lot, some from Mac Hawke, he told me of several of his friends who are orderlies here, I haven’t seen them so far, but am on their tracks now.

A poor boy last night cried for his mother. Oh it is too awful that they should suffer so. I don’t they will ever get through the Dardanelles.

 I got some water in a bucket and had a wash for the first time this morning before going to bed.

Every nurse cries and cries.

The awful part of the whole thing is, if a man is very badly wounded he can’t get away. Some crawl for miles and even get shot while fleeing.

August 14th 1915, Saturday

Cut off my hair yesterday, left a little in the front.

It has been very hot today. Couldn’t sleep much, 125 men were admitted last night, none of them wounded . I got 2 New Zealanders, been in the trenches since the first landing 16 weeksago, they are all tired out.   You couldn’t imagine what the poor fellows look like, unshaven and dirty, and then to hear them speak, so well!

The Turkish women are helping in the battle, they are painted green and carry ammunition for the snipers.

The fighting continued last night and they are at it today, boys are being admitted deaf and dumb, hundreds of wounded lie on the beach and field to die, just slightly wounded, nobody can get to them there, get shot by afar.

 A naval band came and played to the patients, it was very nice.

August 16th 1915, Monday

An Austrian submarine was caught in the nets near the entrance of the Harbor, the crew are prisoners on the island.

The firing of the guns started about 2am, was simply terrific, they ceased again about 7am, the men say that is the time they attack.

Everybody gets sick here, 34 orderlies are ill and 6 nurses today and we have only been here a week. The food, I can’t describe it, it’s absolutely unfit for navies. My room companion bought a tin of biscuits 30/- from a boat we were last on. So we live on them. I have made friends with the store-keeper and he gets anything for me, tin of milk, arrowroot tonight. Butter of course we have never seen, the bread is sour. We don’t sit to a meal, no tables in the mess, only a plank, and the flies!

August 18th 1915, Wednesday

Caddy came and had a talk with me last night, is absolutely disgusted and disappointed with the whole thing. Told me how they landed, started to walk up and were sent back and made to march properly, “and told they looked like a lot of bloody civilians coming up the road”.

The Colonel (Fiaschi) told Matron that he quite expected half the Officers and Sisters to die here, it’s a most awful feeling that one may never leave this dessert island and get home, when I think of it I feel I should go mad, but I simply must pull myself together, night duty is not the best thing to help.

August 21st 1915, Saturday

We had 3 quite cold nights. I wore my little brown coat last night and love it. It’s fearfully cold here in the winter, shall need all I can get in the way of warm clothing.

About 400 Turkish prisoners are at work here picking up stones.

Our ship has come in and is to be unpacked today, it will be great to have beds for the patients and some comforts for them and for ourselves to live like civilised people again, but still the food is quite the poorest of it all, is cooked so abominably and served shockingly, if it doesn’t improve a good many will be ill, most are now, and diarrhoea everybody gets, the majority of the patients get it.

 Never hear a word of has the war is going.

September 18th 1915, Saturday

A perfect day, the nurses arrived at 4pm. Sister Williams and Riley, from the Adelaide, I was pleased to see them! Haynes and Blake at No2 Stationary, they came along as soon as they could go off, such a meeting.

October 12th 1915, Tuesday

Got a move today to the other one of Caddy’s wards, but this time in charge. Colonel Cudmore sent me, I’m jolly glad, am quite sure I shall like having a ward of my own.

October 14th 1915, Thursday

Col. Featherstone arrived today, we expect great things. Anne Donnell also rejoined the unit.

October 15th 1915, Friday

Col. Featherstone did the Hospital and gave Col. Fiaschi what oh!   Col Featherstone said if things were not improved for the Sisters he would have us all removed from the Island. Matron told him we only had latrines at the far end of the grounds and that we were sick and ill from waiting. Col. Featherstone turned to Col. Fiaschi and said “do you want to kill all the women?” and another instance Col. Fiaschi said “they are all on active service”, Col. Featherstone said “Yes but they are women too”.

Haynes, Williams, King and I went to Mudros, Capt. Le Mesurier met us with motor ambulance, we did the shops, bought apples got about 10 for 2/-, had a jolly nice afternoon tea at the Hospital, they brought us back in their sailing boat, it was a pleasant afternoon.

October 16th 1915, Saturday

The ‘Aquitania’ is in!

The excitement is great, about 700 patients are to go away from here to England, they are nearly beside themselves with joy, it’s great to get our Australians from the rest camp the trip and we have as many as can go.

 Bulgaria declares war on Serbia.

November 1st 1915, Monday

We have a patient with bacillary dysentery, it is a very violent form even more so than the amoebic– he is going to die. If so it will be the first death in the ward I have been in.

November 4th 1915, Thursday

The ‘Mauritania’ went out today, took away more of our Officers, the poor fellows can’t stand this life. Poor Col. Fiaschi is really very ill, had ‘berri berri’, he was carried on to the boat. Dr de Crespigney and Major Gibson were on the Mauritania as she sailed before they could get off, they had quite an exciting time trying to get back off as by the time the boat was at a stand-still, she was nearly out of the harbor.

November 8th 1915, Monday

The New Zealanders went off this morning, back to the Dardanelles.   Their band played, they marched down our main street, we all crowded out to see the last of them, but it is one of the saddest sights, and when a man you know sees you he is almost overcome.   One Maori came out of the lines and shook hands with me, poor fellow he couldn’t speak.

 Going back is fifty times worse than the first venture, it was then all so new.

November 11th 1915, Thursday

Our Ward is to be used for dysentery. Several of the surgical wards have been converted into such. We had one boy die of it this week and we have an Australian with it now very badly. I’m afraid he is going to die, unfortunately he is in the same ward as the one who died last week. So naturally he is a bit nervous.

 Lord Kitchener drove through our hospital this afternoon on his way to the rest camp where he reviewed the Australian and New Zealand. He got out of the car and went into one of the wards, spoke to all the men, told Sister Walpole who was in charge, that her patients looked very comfortable and happy, shook hands with her, lucky boys!

 He told our men that they were not to be disappointed that they had not got on further, but that they had kept a large Turkish army engaged.

Lucy Daw had used this picture, cut from a newspaper, in the diary pages. Lord Kitchener visited the Hosptial on 11th November 1915.

November 20th 1915, Saturday

We are getting splendid supplies from the Red Cross, foods and smalls, and warm clothing. A man has been appointed for the families of looking up wounded and missing men. He was the Post Master General of New Zealand.

A Red Cross canteen has been opened for the privates, they can buy a bun, a cup of coffee. The Officers and Sisters can go there and bur from 3 to 4 every afternoon.

November 21st 1915, Sunday

It is fearfully cold and the wind is terrific almost impossible to walk along it fairly blows you, on one or two occasions blown me off the road onto the side. The tents are tearing and ripping to pieces.

The wind blew 70 miles an hour today.

 We had Tommies overcoats and pants issued to us today. We need all we can get in the way of warm clothing to keep us warm.

November 26th 1915, Friday

 The yarn goes that Kitchener while up at the Peninsular, addressed our lads! He said “I’m proud of you! England is proud of you! Australia is proud of you and no doubt you are proud of yourselves” A voice from the ranks, “my B… oath we are!”

 Twelve months today since Haynes left home for active service, she says it is her birthday, the officers of No.2 are giving her a party tonight.

November 29th 1915, Monday

Have 3 men in from the 10th Battalion who were in the famous landing at Anzac. They tell lots of stories. “Beachy Bill” seems to have got them all beaten, it is about a 3 inch gun buried, the position of her cannot be detected, but she is responsible for nearly three thousand casualties.

 Another of the Turkish guns, also the boys have named, “Tucker time Liz”, as soon as the bugle sounds “come to the cook house dear boys” this little but powerful gun plays the very mischief with them.

December 2nd 1915, Thursday

The Ladies in Adelaide had an afternoon at Austral Gardens, to which people were asked to take parcels for the Sisters on active service. I had a letter from Miss Graham telling me she had the distribution of them, so is sending ours along as soon as she knows the number of South Australians. We were all very excited at the prospect of Xmas presents.

December 4th 1915, Saturday

Admitting hundreds of patients from Suvla Bay suffering from frost bite. Some of them are simply terrible, one poor fellows feet and both and hands are gangrene. They hold out a little hope of saving his hands but his feet none.

We hear all the troops at Suvla have been withdrawn.

They seem to think in Australia that the Dardanelles is going to be given up but the men here say they cannot retire as it is an utter impossibility to vacate their positions, they’d simply be wiped clean out long before they’d even get to their boats.

December 8th 1915, Wednesday

We have to evacuate all patient possible and be prepared to take one thousand wounded, we hear there is to be a big bombardment, some say Kitchener says 971 is to be taken at any costs. The men all say the cost would be tremendous, it is fearfully serious now that ammunition can be got to Germany through Bulgaria.

 The patients are always talking about when peace is declared, what they are going to do, one man said today it is going to be declared about January 1916. I feel as though the day will never come. Of course it must.

December 12th 1915, Sunday

Two thousand troops are taken off the Peninsular last night, they marched through our lines, all Australian.

We hear the Peninsular is to be evacuated, some of the men will not believe it.

December 13th 1915, Monday

The troops are still coming off it has made us all so sad in case the rumour is true.

My patients are fearfully down about the evacuation, evidently it is only time.

The 2nd Australian stationary came off this evening, it got a bomb into the middle of it, and serves it right, there was a big supply of ammunition not far away, which the Turks asked to be removed, the next thing a bomb lobbed in the middle of it, two orderlies were killed and few patients injured.

 Got our Xmas mail today, I got 24 letters.                        

December 14th 1915, Tuesday

The war news has got me down today, all this loss of life and nothing attained –

It will take something to make our men keen again, they all seem broken up over it, I feel the same but must keep my end up.

December 15th 1915, Wednesday

The men who have come from the Peninsular tell of the hardships they had to endure during the Blizzard, every drop of water was frozen for three days, in one place a shell burst over a pipe and burst it, up went the water and the men rushed out under terrific fire, but they were so desperate.

 Major Newland and Colonel Powell come in today, they were telling of their experiences at Anzac, they had a great time, shells bursting round them all the time. They are lucky to have escaped, one of their orderlies were killed, one named Stoltz. I suppose Miss Stoltz brother, they were playing cards and a shell burst in amongst them.

December 16th 1915, Thursday

We are sending patients to the Convalescent Camp each day, evacuating our hospital, getting ready for any wounded who have the good fortune to get off the Peninsular from the final fight.

 Each day we hear rumours of who is to fight “the” rear-guard, it is very terrible at the last, they have it all arranged. Mined to blow the Turks up as they came down, ten barbwire entanglements, then machine guns every 12 yards, so Mr Turk will not gain ground very quickly.

December 17th 1915, Friday

Volunteers were called to remain amongst the stretcher-bearers.  They were told by their Colonel that they would probably be killed if not taken prisoner for sure, so the ones who stay are brave men.

The Navy goes out from here every ship each night and return in the morning, we’re expecting the final blow up on Monday, all stores, guns and ammunitions have to be blown up before the last of them get off. The boys are all very sad about it, they say it’s “our home”.

December 19th 1915, Sunday

Tonight is the final at Gallipoli, every man who remains has to be got off, so stores and trenches are to be blown up. The ones who remain to do that then have to run and swim to a destroyer which has volunteered to get within 100 yards of the shore.

December 20th 1915, Monday

Last night everybody seems to have had a restless night. The thought of what our men were going through. The night Sisters said the Australians in each ward scarcely slept, the Tommies were not disturbed.

 A Major came over from the camp and gave us the glad news that there have only been 5 casualties during the evacuation of the Peninsular.

 There doesn’t seem to have been one hitch in the arrangements, which has been wonderfully planned. General Birdwood is responsible for the whole success, it was left entirely to his charge.

December 21st 1915, Tuesday

Some of the men came in today and told us a little of how things were managed at the last. For the last week previous to the evacuation they had what they call a “Silent Stunt”, no firing for so many hours each day or night as the case might be.

 Rifles were placed in position with water in a tin and a tin hanging on the trigger. As the latter one fills, the weight sends the shot off. Also a great deal of movement where only a few men were to make it look as though there were many. The movement of the troops was like clockwork, boots muffled and not a work spoken, they were to be at a given spot at a given time, the tail of one battalion would be moving off as the other came up.

The battalion left their table set in their trench with little notes, which said “farewell Johnny Turk, we like your fighting but don’t like the company you keep”

December 25th 1915, December; Christmas Day on Lemnos Island

All my patients went off, but 12, onto the “Aquitania” yesterday.

We bought a turkey for the men and made puddings, fruit salad and gave them a jolly Xmas. In the afternoon the whole unit was photographed, it being a glorious day. Johnny Turk would enjoy his Xmas, however, we all did in a simple way!

December 28th 1915, Tuesday

Had orders that no more patients are to be taken, all are admitted to No27 British.

Cape Helles is being evacuated, we hear there are a good many casualties. The Turks are up to it now.

 Several wards were shut up today, about half of the Sisters are off duty, Sister Selwin-Smith has come to my ward so there are three of us and we are having time off every day.       Sisters Redman, Selwin-Smith and I went with Corp. Savage, the x-ray photographer and two other boys for a walk, had afternoon tea in the mess, and he took several snaps.

The photograph Lucy describes above appeared in the ‘Sydney Mail’ newspaper supplement “The Last Days on the Island of Lemnos” March 29th 1916. The photographs were by Corp. Savage, the camp x-ray technician.

December 29th 1915, Wednesday

Orders came through today to be prepared to take in 1600 wounded, so all packing has ceased and tents which have been taken down have been re-pitched. Things are a bit more lively at Cape Helles than was anticipated, in fact we hear the Turks are attacking.

December 30th 1915, Thursday

We are having perfect weather.

December 31st 1915, Friday

We had a concert and invited friends. I asked Dr Staninghan. We had it in our mess tent, afterwards a supper, then filled in time by dancing. The ground floor all stones and holes, nobody minded.

At 12 o’clock the boats in the bay blew whistles and sent up rockets and we sang “auld lang syne” and cheered the place nearly down.

 Most of the troops have gone from here. We think to Egypt but goodness knows.

 Didn’t get any wounded from Cape Helles.