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George E. Lillie, 3rd Brigade, 9th Batallion
by Heather Noakes
Here is a transcript of a WW1 diary kept by my mother's young brother, George E. Lillie, 3rd Brigade, 9th Batallion, who was killed in the Gallipoli campaign.
The first page, unfortunately, is missing. I also have photos of George Lillie and a mention of his name on the Wall of Honour, National War Memorial, Canberra.
It would seem that George was killed during or not long after the landing. He was good with horses and loved working on the land. I am sure that his story is typical of many young men who went to Gallipoli.
The Diary was transcribed by his niece, Heather (myself).
First page missing....picking up on second page.
Left Enoggera Qld. on September 24th for Pinkemba and at noon on same day left Pinkemba by T.S. Omrah for Melbourne, where we arrived on 27th at midnight and anchored out in the bay for 2 days and then proceeded to the quay. After stopping in Port Melbourne for three weeks we again shifted out to resume the voyage to Albany. During our stay in Melbourne we had a fairly good time of it. After leaving Melbourne we struck very fine weather. Once a week we go on guard. We also have a few games by way of amusement. After 5 days sailing we arrived in Albany on the 24th October. When we anchored we all were mustered and put aboard a tug which made two or three trips and thereby landed us on the shore. When we landed we went for a route march and passed through some very nice scenery. We were very lucky to get ashore at all as some of the other troops were not allowed to land and we were only there one day as the next we went out into the bay to anchor. Albany is a nice place also very clean and the hills etc. round about make it a place to be remembered.
October 26th. Raining pretty hard and all drill is off but we enjoyed ourselves packing and unpacking our kitbags. The harbour here is open to the sea and the wind blows straight through the heads making it pretty rough. The troops are all eating like horses and are getting fat and lazy as a result of no work. They are beginning to get full of sticking on the ship for there is nothing to do only eat, sleep and do a bit of physical drill.
October 31st. We went into the wharf again today to get water and all the troops with the exception of our company (who were on guard) went for a march similar to that we had on the previous occasion the only difference being that it was raining and this marred what would have been a pleasant march. All the boats are anchored here now and such a sight has never been seen before there being about 40 odd boats all waiting for the signal to steam off.
November 1st. We got up and were glad to see that all preparations were finished and that the boats were starting off headed by the Oureto. Such a sight as they went in single file out of the harbour and out to sea will never again be witnessed by anybody. We were all on deck watching and waiting for our turn to come which wasn't very long. We were all in sight of one another on the high seas and had the same sight to see every morning we got up. There is an escort of 5 cruisers.
November 3rd. Sports on board were carried on quite successfully there being great excitement as every event went off.
November 5th. The sea is very calm and the weather is beginning to get hot the consequence being that an awning and a big canvas bath have been fixed up on the lower decks. The Osterley passed quite close just about dusk. We gave them a few cheers as they went by. They are very lucky to see the sights they saw of the boats all in a line making for Colombo.
November 9th. We are still making slow progress to Colombo steaming about 250 miles per day. This morning about 7 O'clock the cruiser Sydney was detached from the convoy to proceed to the vicinity of Cocos Islands where a German warship was seen. It appears that as soon as the German cruiser exchanged a few shots with the Sydney and got ablaze it stranded itself so as to avoid sinking. The cruiser is believed to be the Emden. The British casualties were 2 killed and 13 wounded. But the Emden's casualties are believed to run into 3 figures.
November 9th. After finishing off the Emden the cruiser Sydney gave chase after the collier which was coaling the Emden in the Cocos Islands and after a small run succeeded in overtaking and sinking her after she had taken the crew prisoners. Great praise is due to the men of the wireless station on the Cocos Islands for the way in which they stuck to their posts amid bombardment from the Emden and succeeded in delivering their message although the Emden tried to intercept the message by sending different words. Old Neptune had his day out crossing the equator.
November 15th Sunday. We arrived at Colombo and anchored outside. On the following day we went inside the headwater. Got 40 prisoners from the Emden put on board. The sight of Colombo from the ship makes a chap feel like going ashore and having a ride on one of the rickshaws he can see from the boat. We stopped in Colombo from November 15th to November 18th during which time we had got water aboard. We left on Tuesday, 19th November.
November 21st. We all got up in the morning to find all the boats had stopped and we naturally thought something was in the wind but it was only caused by two boats coming into slight collision. We arrived in Aden on Wednesday morning 25th November and after stopping there a day for coal and water supplies left again on Thursday 26th November and on the same day went through Hell's Gate into the Red Sea on our way to Suez.
Aden is a very desolate looking place, no vegetation grown at all, it being all desert and barren looking rocks. The Red Sea was very calm and the weather very mild from Aden to Suez. We arrived at Suez on Tuesday morning 1st December and after waiting our turn we followed the rest of the boats into the Canal on our way to Port Said.
The Canal is a wonderful sight. There were troops consisting of Sudanese, Sikhs and Ghurkhas. A batch of Manchester Engineers patrolled both sides of the Canal. After 14 hours steam up the Canal we arrived at Port Said on Wednesday December 3rd.
Port Said is a fairly large place and the sight as we passed each boat and cruiser in port (both French and English) to the tune of the different anthems was the best I have seen in my life. The natives in all these places starting at Colombo were all on the go doing their bit of biz over the side of the boat but they wanted a lot of cutting down in price before we would bite. After getting coal and water supplies on board at Port Said we proceeded to Alexandria where we arrived on Friday 4th December. While at Port Said we got rid of our German prisoners, the Hampshire taking them away. I swear they had the time of their lives while aboard with us.
December 4th. Measles broke out on board and there were about 40 went ashore into quarantine. It is very monotonous on board here. We have not been off since leaving Albany which was 5 weeks ago. This is the cheapest place of the lot to buy anything in the shape of fruit, figs, dates, etc.
December 6th. Went into the wharf and unloaded the horses and disembarked 4 companies of troops. We will not land 'till morning. There was an accident in the unloading of the horses one of them falling and cutting himself badly.
December 7th. We disembarked off the Omrah this morning and boarded the train bound for Cairo. We passed through some beautiful scenery and the irrigation along the line is wonderful. The Egyptians working in the fields with mules, camels and buffaloes make the scenery very picturesque. We arrived in Cairo at about 4 p.m. and proceeded about 10 miles to our camp in trains. We are bivouacked on the sands at the foot of the pyramids.
December 9th. It is all fatigue here now going to the top of the hills and bringing stones down to mark out the boundaries of the camp. The camp is composed of NSW., VIC, QLD, TAS, WA & SA troops and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd Batteries. We went to Cairo last night and thought it a peculiar place easy to get lost in. Leave is granted at the rate of 20 each night. The pyramids here are a fine sight and it is marvellous how they built them as there is no stone like what they are comprised of for miles around and the size of them is very large.
December 11th. We had a day off and went to the Pyramids to see the ancient ruins. We climbed to the top of the big one of Cheops and also the little one inside of which is a temple with tombs of some ancients the names of which I cannot remember. Rameses, Cephrum? We also visited the Sphinx and the temple alongside of it in which the floors are composed of alabaster. I managed to procure a piece. There are temples and wells and tombs and villages all over the place and the sight of the huge masses of stone and granite make anyone wonder how they managed to set them here and the tools they must have used.
There is some excavation work going on in one of the ancient cities now by some American syndicate. While at the top of the big pyramid, I carved my name on a rock up there. There are pyramids all over the place but none as large as the two we can see from our camp. There is a big hotel here called Mena House Hotel which has been converted into a hospital for the sick soldiers. There is a fair sized swimming bath at the rear of the hotel where we go for bathing parades.
A chap gets his eyes open when he goes for a stroll around the pyramids for when he gets on top of the big one and sees the country for miles around which is composed of sandy waste he sees a wonderful sight. And then he goes round the native villages and sees the different styles of houses and caves built into solid rock and looks over the wall and sees the cow down below feeding away as happy as you like. A day's outing to the Pyramids takes a bit of explaining as you can't express your opinion in words.
December 21st.Egypt was proclaimed a British protectorate today and Cairo town is full of flags. Flags of every nationality are flying from nearly every building.
December 25th. Christmas Day in camp. Church, parade in the morning and leave for town at 11am which we took advantage of. There are very peculiar places in Cairo and since the Australian troops have arrived the hotels and cafes have put up their signs so as to take the eyes of the soldiers...such as Sydney Marble Bar, New Aust. Bar, Colonial Cafe, New Zealand Cafe, etc. When we first came to camp we did not understand the money and everyone doing a bit of business made a harvest out of us. The Territorials who are camped on the other side of the Nile said that we put the Kybosh on them as what they used to get for 4 or 5 piastres we used to pay 10 piastres.
December 31st. Sir Geo. Reid visited the camp and addressed the troops from a platform erected on the sand and after making a stirring speech he took his stand with General Maxwell, the Brigadiers and staff officers to take the salute as the troops marched past.
We had a very painful duty to perform today and that was marching at the funeral of one of the members of the company who died of pneumonia. He was buried in the soldier's cemetery at Ghinzeh.
January 9th, 1915. We had a dinner in the mess room it being got up by the money which was sent to us by the people of Queensland and we also were issued with plates and pannikins. We have been going to the range this week to do a bit of shooting the result being a good majority of the men shooting very far. On 29th January, 7th and 8th Battalions left camp for Ismailia to engage with the Turks who were reported to be on the banks of the Canal but it seems when they got there the enemy were in retreat pursued by the Sikhs, Ghurkhas and some English regiment.
The Australians brought to Cairo about 175 prisoners and these together with others amounting to 500 show the reception they received when they came within fighting range.
February 3rd. The 7th and 8th Battalions arrived back in camp. The gardens, zoo and museum of Cairo stand out on their own and the buildings at Theliopolis which is a suburb of Cairo are said to be the best in the world. The hotel out there which has been converted into a military hospital is absolutely the biggest hotel in the world.
February 28th. Instead of going to church we got the order to down tents etc. and at about 2pm the baggage transport together with escort moved off on their 10 mile march to Cairo Station . I being among the baggage guard was up all night boarding kits, stores, provisions etc. and consequently did not leave Cairo until 5 a.m. on 1st March. There were a couple of train loads of troops, goods etc. which left Cairo on the night of 28th February. While we were camped at Mena we went through the whole of our training but were glad to get away from the sands of the desert as we used to go out on the sandy waste every day to the same place and see nothing except endless waste of sand and gravel.
The 3rd Brigade were the first to leave Mena Camp they being chosen before the rest to undertake the work which they are now going on with. We arrived at Alexandria on 1st March at 10.30 a.m. We boarded the Ionian, a troopship number 136 and such a dirty old tramp she is. There are 2 Battalions on board and consequently the troops were overcrowded there being space of about 40 sq. allotted to 40 men.
March 2nd. We leave Alexandria at noon. One of the troops was put ashore in a critical condition as a result of an attempt at suicide. The Ionian is an old cattle boat of the Allan Line weighing 9600 tons. She has been carrying troops over since the war began. After steaming due north for a couple of days we arrive at Lemnos Island in the Grecian Archipelago where we anchored at nightfall on Thursday March 4th. There were a good few cruisers around both French and English. The scenery on the Island reminds me very much of Albany in Australia. Lemnos Island is 30 miles off the Dardanelles.
March 6th. The 9th Battalion went ashore on to the Island my means of the ship's boats which were towed by a pinnace of the HMS Blenheim. On Sunday the troops went for a route march over a large portion of the Island. There are a good few cultivation paddocks and some sheep grazing wander about. There are also the old windmills for crushing the grain and making flour. The population of the Island who are Greeks are all a healthy sturdy race and they say that they don't know what sickness or medicine is and consequently they live to a great age. The dress of the peasantry is very comical. The villages are not very large but they are scattered all over the Island.
March 7th. On Sunday night we were on guard and the rest of the battalion were bivouacked when it rained very hard and the whole Battalion received a severe drenching. As the weather here never looks promising we got our tents brought to the island and pitched them and therefore there is a fair sized camp on the island comprising the whole of the 9th Battalion. The harbour here is a fair size and consequently there were a lot of transports and cruisers and ships of all description, French and English, anchored inside the entrance. The village which is nearest is called Madros.
March 19th. The whole Battalion was beginning to get lousy so they were marched down to a creek to wash their clothes and rub kerosene over themselves. I was mess orderly and had a day off as I washed my things.
St. Patrick's Day. During our stay on the Island we were kept very busy with fatigues such as wharf camping and we also built a pier. It was all getting pretty monotonous. The tucker rations were beginning to run out and there had to be an uproar to get what we were supposed to get. The prisoners got a bad time of it being pegged out like rabbit skins to dry.
March 21st. Church parade, a corporal having charge of the service. Football in the afternoon.
March 22nd. Fatigue - road making. We had a visit from General Birdwood. On Sunday night a torpedo boat was wrecked but fortunately all lives were saved. We heard that on Friday 19th, the French and English received a hot reception when proceeding up the Dardanelles. A French cruiser sank with all hands and two British cruisers viz. Ocean and Irresistible being beached, the damage being caused by mines.
March 23rd.Battalion grouped to be received by Sir Ian Hamilton who was accompanied by Major General Birdwood. After the inspection we went for a route march along the Island. For 24 hours we were on guard over the prisoners at the detention tents. When the Torpedo boat got into difficulties on the 21st March some of the 9th Battalion went to the scene of the wreck with blankets etc. and the sailors found them very serviceable. The cause of the mishap was due to the shortage of coal. It appears that the collier 'Doris' was out near the Torpedo boat when asked to supply her with 10 tons of coal to allow her to proceed to Madros. But the collier could only supply 5 tons and the Torpedo boat of course didn't have enough to complete the journey so she anchored in what looked like a well sheltered bay but in the night the wind changed and a fair gale had the little boat at its mercy and consequently all hands had to put on life belts and leave as she was being sent by the force of the wind on to the rocks and nothing could be done to prevent it. She eventually struck the rocks and broke in halves. The members of the 9th Battalion who helped in the rescue work received a letter of appreciation from Admiral Weir.
March 24th. There was a French officer buried and all the Heads turned out on the Island to pay their last respects to the deceased who was wounded by the Turks in the Dardanelles and subsequently died on the hospital boat.
March 25th. Fatigue. There were a good few cases of dysentery amongst the troops. The Marine Artillery and Blue Jackets off the Queen Elizabeth landed on the Island. There was another funeral on the Island the victim being one of the troops.
March 26th. Day off. Airing blankets and were shown the mechanism of the machine gun which was bought off the Torpedo boat which ran ashore.
March 27th. Company drill in the day and Piquet in the night. Kit bags came ashore from the Ionian.
March 28th. Church parade in the morning and fatigue rest of day for all who were not on Piquet.
March 29th. Fatigue. Carrying 14 feet of pipe to lay on water to the camp for a distance of 1000 yards. In the afternoon carrying timber from our wharf to the engineers for wells etc. In the night we received a night alarm to practise turning out and firing at an imaginary aeroplane which the enemy might send along at any moment. We were issued with ammunition.
March 30th. Day off. Slept all day in camp.
March 31st. Went for a march to a point on the Island about 5 miles from where troops generally disembarked. Here we practised embarking and disembarking in some of the ship's boats. In the afternoon we had a spell and went on Piquet in the night. We received mail for the first time since landing on the Island and it caused great excitement as each mail call blew.
April 1st. We had a day off on account of No. 8 platoon being called out the night previous to assist guard the 30 odd prisoners who were somewhat rowdy on account of hearing that they were to be removed to Malta. Their behaviour entitles them to the just punishment to which they were sentenced. Good Friday- church parade in morning and rest of day off. Went for a swim in the afternoon.
April 3rd. Went on a bathing and washing parade in the morning and had rest of day off. Two of the cruisers which left the harbour yesterday were attacked by a hostile aeroplane but received no damage. An English aeroplane is in pursuit of the foreign one.
April 4th. Easter Sunday church parade. Mounted guard at 3.30 p.m. on the pier. We were on guard in the rain all night and day and consequently got drenched to the skin. It was terribly cold. We were relieved at 4 p.m. April 5th but it was still raining.
April 7th. Getting prepared for our departure. Down at the wharf loading horses on barges to be carried to the transports.
April 8th. Went aboard the Malda which is worse that the Ionian on account of her being smaller and because we also have all the transport horses on the boat. We were kept busy all day loading her with stores etc. and worked late at night.
April 9th. Still out in the bay at anchor and still loading with stores.
April 10th. Issued with iron ration and a further 150 rounds of ammunition making the total 200 rounds. Still at anchor in the bay. Received pay.
April 11th. Still out in the bay.
From 12th to 17th didn't do anything. Only stopped on the ship.
April 17th. Went by means of boats to practise embarking and disembarking.
April 24th. All the troops got a bit excited as this was the day we got orders to have everything ready to leave the Malda.
We left the Malda and embarked on a torpedo destroyer and subsequently boarded the H.M.S. Queen. At about noon we left the harbour at Mudros on the battleship. There are a lot of things of interest to be seen on a battleship and we kept ourselves busy looking around.
Last entry. G.E. Lillie was killed in action at Gallipoli and is buried at Lone Pine Cemetery, Turkey. Photo's: from Left, clockwise. Army photo, George Lillie's casualty form, George Lillie - Loss of your son letter, George Lillie - Beach Cemetery, G Lillie Miliary papers, Roll of Honour, war memorial