A letter from the Dardanelles
November 1915 was a quiet time in the diary of Sister Muriel Wakeford. She had returned to Australia after serving on the hospital ship Gascon in the Dardanelles for several months.
Here is an extract from my novel Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty, partly based on Muriel’s diary. My main character Sara has returned to Australia and received a letter from Sister Edwina who is still on board the Gascon.
Thursday 18 Nov
There were two letters for me. One in a beautiful cursive script I did not recognise and the other in Ed’s dark, firm handwriting. I opened it.
3rd Oct 1915
I have lost your address but hope this scribbling of mine catches up with you in this lifetime.
Not much news. More of the same. Three hundred and fifty on board tonight but we will double that tomorrow. They are a mixed bag so far – walking cases, acute surgicals, dysentery and now typhoid added to the mêlée.
We have two new nurses on board. Good sorts although I had to stop one of them giving water to an abdominal case. It so reminded me of poor, dear Lily. But this nurse cannot blame extreme youth on her error as the old duck is forty if she is a day.
We rowed out to W Beach and I took the oars as I was better at it than most of the men. It came as no surprise to me but they were speechless with astonishment to see my efforts. I saw the upturned hull of the Majestic, looking like a beached whale. We landed by the French camp and trudged and stumbled our way uphill over thistle-clad rocks. It was worth it for the view. The bay below looked idyllic. I wonder if the Turks have a similar deception from Achi Baba.
My mind was racing so hard from the contents of the other letter that I had to re-read Ed’s several times to take it in.