The history of Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK
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Gallipoli Diary

The diary of a young Royal Engineer who trained at Haynes Park and then when out and took part in the Gallipoli landings on 25 April 1915.

Thomas Poole Ball. 78276 Driver, 22 Sig Co RE (TF).
Headquarters Signal Company, A & NZ Army Corps, Special Expeditionary Force

Ball was born 19 August 1897 had been previously discharged from the Beds Yeomanry Reserve Regiment in November 1914, aged 17 years and three months, for being physically immature. The TF Western Signal Service moved to Haynes Park, Bedford from Liverpool in late 1914. Ball must have joined them there as soon as he was discharged from the Beds Yeomanry Reserve Regiment. Ball landed (second tow) at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915 from the SS Novian as part of the 2nd Brigade H.Q (Australian 1st Division) together with the 5th Battalion and the Indian Army Mule Artillery. Ball emigrated to Australia in 1925.

Wednesday 3 March 1915

Quite a large number of people turned out to see our departure from Clophill. Had an inspection of water bottles. Five batman, Skillicorn, Roberts, Gill, Hawkins and myself. Companies - Cable Section and Headquarters. Left Bedford - Ampthill Road (Railway Station). Picked up Southerns(?) at Bletchley.

Thursday 4 March 1915

Arrived at Avonmouth at 2.00 am. Slept in customs warehouse till daylight. Saw HMS Cornwall in dock, she was in the Falklands action. (SS) Minnewaska (III) entered port on Thursday morning March 4 - Atlantic Transport Line. Posted letter home Thursday night.

Friday 5 March 1915

Minnewaska left Avonmouth Friday night 9.00 pm. Good voyage to Gibraltar. Accompanied part of the way by two destroyers. Food was poor on ship. Vaccinated in Mediterranean. Passed French destroyer patrolling Algeria. Passed Malta at night, didn't see it.

Taken just before these chaps headed off to Gallipoli

Presumably taken just before these chaps headed off to Gallipoli. Thomas Poole Ball is far left.

Sunday 14 March 1915

Entered Alexandria. Alexandria a big town - but dirty in native quarter. Set up camp here - Australians, A.V.C (Army Veterinary Corps), R.A.M.C. (Royal Army Medical Corps), A.S.C. (Army Service Corps) and Lancashire Fusiliers.

Monday 22 March 1915

Left Alexandria for Cairo. Mena Camp 8 miles outside Cairo. Officers' mess managed by Batmen. Camped in desert under pyramids and close to the Nile.

Thursday 1 April 1915

Went inside pyramids, very wonderful. Sent several letters - had no answer. Several chaps in hospital with dysentery. Natives dirty. Egypt covered with disease.

Friday 2 April 1915

Had orders to prepare to leave Cairo. I had hot cross bun for Good Friday. Have sent later to Granddad, Mr. Hills (employer) and to mother. Postcards to Mr. Hills, Mr. Eagling, Mossy, Prentice, Miss Edwards,

Skinner, Charlie Bryant and George (sister) - had no answer. Face is swollen with mosquito bites. All the fellows are fed up with Egypt, me included. The general opinion is that we are going up the Dardanelles. There are about a dozen fellows in the hospital now.

Sunday 4 April 1915

Left Cairo station at 2.00 in the morning arrived at Alexandria at 9.00 am. Several transports in the harbour. Went back to old (Mena) camp in Alexandria. French soldiers as well as British there. I don't think the French are a smart or as well equipped as the English. Indian troops here as well. No mosquitoes here, much better than Cairo. Number one relief going away on Tuesday, Mr. Williams5 and Roberts going with them. French and American battleships in the harbour.

Monday 5 April 1915

Easter Monday spent day washing officers' clothes.

Tuesday 6 April 1915

Bathed in sea at Alexandria. Had tooth stopped - 20 piastre. Sent letter to Dad.

Wednesday 7 April 1915

Reveille at 5:45. Left camp at 8:00 am. Embarked about 10.00 AM on the Arcadian, a fine ship. It's five weeks today since I left Bedford and I haven't had a letter from home. Gill, Hawkins, Harold Skillicorn and myself have cabin to ourselves. Mr. Williams and Roberts are on the Caledonian - Anchor Line. The Arcadian is a Royal Mail Steam Packet - fitted out lovely, better than the Minnewaska. We are very lucky. First bed I have slept in since leaving Clophill. Troops embarking all over port.

Thursday 8 April 1915

Left Alexandria at 6.00 am.

Friday 9 April 1915

Passed Greek island at 6.00 am. 9.00 am; I am sitting in my officer's cabin. I have just washed his shirt, socks, collar and tie. We are passing another island, there is only one building on it and it looks like a lighthouse. Lieutenant Genge has just told me that we are in the Greek archipelago. We have to be out of our bunks by 6 am and have the cabin scrubbed by 9.00 am. Had salt fish and potatoes for breakfast. I had a lovely bathe in the swimming bath. We have passed several islands during the day.

Isle of Lemnos

Pages from the diary - Isle of Lemnos

Saturday 10 April 1915

Arrived in the bay of the isle of Lemnos at 5.30 am. Crowded with shipping including English and French battleships. HMS Queen Elizabeth super dreadnought is on starboard side. Also HMS Implacable. Worried about transferring to Minnewaska. Mr. Genge has had same disease as I had. This is an absolutely lovely bay.

Sunday 11 April 1915

Bacon and eggs for breakfast. A French Admiral came aboard (Admiral Guepratte?). Wrote letter to Cecil, Grandma and Miss Doggett. Waterplane in bay. Bought a watch Ingersoll off Crosby yesterday for three shillings. Served out with 50 rounds of ammunition.

Monday 12 April 1915

Minnewaska into the bay of Lemnos at 6.30 am. Transferred to Minnewarska in the afternoon. Accommodation rotten. 1,700 on board, mostly Australians sleeping anywhere.

Tuesday 13 April 1915

Landed on the isle of Lemnos for about 4 hours. Crosby fell in bay. Letters arrived, none for me. Chaps sleeping on deck anywhere. McAsey and myself managed to get in the glory hole on the floor.

Wednesday 14 April 1915

Not much food about. Chaps are buying loaves of bread off the bum boats. Bread and butter for breakfast, same for tea. Meat and potatoes for dinner. All our letters are censored. Sent letter to mother.

Thursday 15 April 1915

Bully beef and biscuits for breakfast, no milk in tea. Landed again on the isle of Lemnos. Had to wade knee deep in sea. Practiced lending scheme. Lived all day on bread and butter. Skillicorn came on Minnewaska with Lieutenant Sergeant.

Friday 16 April 1915

Still on bread and butter. Very hot and tiring with nothing to do. Corporal Sheldrake fell down steps and he's in hospital.

Saturday 17 April 1915

Landed again on Lemnos. Had a bathe in sea. Witley came from the Arcadian. Crosby on sick list.

Sunday 18 April 1915

Church parade 10.00 am. General Birdwood on board.

Monday 19 April 1915

Transferred from Minnewaska to the (SS) Novian. Not as good as Minnewaska. Received a letter from mother and postcard from Ken (brother), also sent letter to Miss Hodges. The Novian is of the Leyland line. We have to sleep on the open deck with just a waterproof sheet and our overcoats. No cabins for our officers.

Tuesday 20 April 1915

Slept alright but rather cold. This makes the third ship we have been on since leaving Alexandria.

Wednesday 21 April 1915

Poured with rain all night. I was very cold and wet.

We see plenty of warships, submarines, water planes and torpedo boats but time passes very slow. The people on the island are very respectable, they make lovely bread but things they sell are very dear.

Thursday 22 April 1915

Still at Lemnos, this is a rotten ship and even the officers have to sleep on deck, the grub is not so bad, 500 horses and about 1,600 men on board.

Friday 23 April 1915

Lovely morning. Bay is crowded with ships, we expect to leave every night. Lieutenant Genge is properly fed up, he has to sleep on the floor of the saloon. There is plenty of big game on the ship.

Saturday 24 April 1915

Left bay of Lemnos (Mudros) at noon on the Novian. Anchored outside bay. Had my hair cropped short, going to attack the Turks at daybreak. A submarine went ashore and the crew were captured by the Turks who tortured and then killed them.

These are the gentry we are up against. We had a message of encouragement from the King and Sir Ian Hamilton.

Sunday 25 April 1915

Hot meal on board at 2.00 am. Battleships opened fire on Turks in Gallipoli about 6.00 am. Australians shifted Turks from their positions by bayonet charge. We landed in the second tow from the Novian. Shelled all day by shrapnel from Turks. Slept in a trench.

Monday 26 April 1915

Battleships opened fire on Turks at daybreak. Rained most of the night. Turks have strong position in the hills. Aeroplanes flying all day trying to detect the enemy's battery. Living chiefly on biscuits. Thought about them all at home eating their Sunday dinner and having a quiet time while we were being shelled by shrapnel.

Tuesday 27 April 1915

Shelled all day with shrapnel by Turks. They sunk a trawler. Queen, Canopus, Bacchante (French) Triumph and Queen Elizabeth bombarded Turks.

Wednesday 28 April 1915

Busy day. Reinforced about 7.00 pm by Royal Marine Light Infantry. Several fresh transport ships arrived.

Thursday 29 April 1915

Rather quiet. Wondered what George and Nult were doing on their half day. Lovely sunset. Cold at night. Turks shelled us at night.

Friday 30 April 1915

Having good food, onions, potatoes, bully beef and biscuits, jam and cheese, but no bread. Chaps who came in our relief; Lieutenant Genge, Corporal Wainwright, Crosby, Lewis, Pease, Clarke, Carter, Ball, McAsey, motorcyclists Harrison, Blackburn, Jennings and McQueen. Clarke was not well. Wilson, Skevington and Bird are with Lieutenant Sergeant's Wireless Station.

Saturday 1 May 1915

No May-pole. Sent letter home. Lovely day, very hot. Shelled heavily with shrapnel.

Sunday 2 May 1915

Lovely day. I thought of home and longed for a Sunday dinner. Chaps came from Arcadian, they saw the landing of the 29th division lower down the peninsula. A boat called the River Clyde was run right ashore, she had doors cut in her sides and when she struck the troops landed on lighters. They made a dash for the shore but the Turks had machine guns trained on them and simply mowed them down. I don't think any of them reached the shore. Here it is a diagram of the Peninsula and the Dardanelles.

A great scheme commenced at 7.00 pm. All the battleships and land batteries started firing at once, troops then made bayonet charge and captured enemy's trenches.

Monday, 3 May 1915

HQ arrived. Major Evans wounded in leg. Sapper Battrick and Sapper Evans shot through stomach. Received a letter from George and Mr. Eagling.

Tuesday 4 May 1915

Lieutenant Mason came from the Arcadian - managing Officers' Mess.

Pages from the diary - Map of the Peninsular

Pages from the diary - Map of the Peninsular

Wednesday, 5 May 1915

Letter from Ma, Mr. Hills, Miss Edwards and postcard from George. Turks firing a lot of shrapnel.

Thursday 6 May 1915

Letter from Miss Edwards, Cecil, mother and postcard from Fred (brother). Shelled heavily with shrapnel. Bedford Times from mother. Very little progress made. Turkish officers captured.

Friday 7 May 1915

Shelled heavily. Moran killed.

Saturday 8 May 1915

Shelled heavily. Sunsets here are a glorious, Un (in) describable. No progress seems to be made. Mr. Keeling lost a man named Ranger. Lots of Indians with us 25 MB (26th Jacob's Mountain Battery?) comprised of them.

Sunday 9 May 1915

Lovely day. Aeroplane and balloon up trying to find enemies guns. Losing a lot of mules. Mr. Genge two shillings and sixpence to come.

Monday 10 May 1915

Lovely day. Shelled on and off.

Tuesday 11 May 1915

Rather dull, rained a little. Shelled heavily with shrapnel, our guns cannot find enemy battery.

Wednesday 12 May 1915

Wrote letters to dad.

Thursday 13 May 1915

Wrote a letter to George and postcard to Fred. Made myself a pair of shorts.

Friday 14 May 1915

Captain Denham came to take charge of Signal Office. Sent two pounds home. Sent postcard to Charlie Bryant. Mr. Genge said he owed me three weeks' money. It looks very strange to see Lieutenants Genge and Williams in shorts. I am having very good grub, same as the officers.

Saturday, 15 May 1915

Lovely day, very hot. Received a letter and Bedford Times from mother. It seems a very healthy country. Shell landed on top of Signal Office no one injured. Lovely bathing in the sea.

Sunday 16 May 1915

Very hot. Same as usual. Chap at Gaba Tepe firing at us, still it's a pity the ship's can't locate him.

Monday 17 May 1915

Wrote a letter to mother and postcard to granddad. Several 6 inch howitzers arrived on shore from ships. Dished out with fags and tobacco - 48 fags or 2 ounces of tobacco each week.

Tuesday 18 May 1915

Sent letter to Uncle Jim. Very quiet until the evening. Indians doing good work, it's very funny to see them making cakes.

Wednesday 19 May 1915

Shelled heavily with 14 inch guns. Turks retreating on left flank with heavy losses. Porter wounded rather badly in the right arm.

Monday 24 May 1915

Have just troubled to make up my diary - nothing has happened during the last few days. I received a letter from George with photos. Mr. Genge owes me another two shillings and sixpence altogether up to yesterday, he owes me 10 shillings. Today there is an armistice. I have been on the battlefield and in the reserve trenches and I saw the Turks burying their dead.

It's a lovely country; the sides of the hills are covered with shells and shrapnel bullets.

Tuesday 25 May 1915

HMS Triumph sunk by a submarine. I was serving in the mess at the time and I heard an explosion and, looking around, I saw the Triumph amid a cloud of smoke. I thought at first she had fired a broadside but when I saw her healing over I told the officers who trained their glasses on her. We soon saw that she was doomed. Picket boats from our shore went to rescue her crew - also destroyers from Cape Helles came to her assistance. She was struck by the torpedo at 12:20 at 12:50 she was underwater. The loss of life we do not know but I heard it was nearly 100. I don't know if they caught the submarine but several destroyers headed south in pursuit. We had a fine view of the whole thing and she was a good ship had done some splendid work. She turned completely over, her keel being the last to disappear. Received a letter from Miss Hodges.

Wednesday, 26 May 1915

No battleships about, only destroyers who tried to land troops in the afternoon but owing to shellfire drew off until the evening. Sent postcard to Halstead (Cocksedge cousins) and letters to Mr. Eagling and Fred. Met a fellow in our lot who went to (Earls?) Colne Grammar School named Blackwell. Have known him all this time and have only just found out that he was in the same form as Ted (cousin Walter Edward Cocksedge) and knew him well.

Thursday 27 May 1915

(HMS) Majestic sunk at Cape Helles. HM destroyer (HMS) Pincher shelled Turkish guns on left flank. Italy declared war on Austria.

Friday, 28 May 1915

Had letters from a Cecil and George.

Saturday, 29 May 1915

Sent postcard to Miss Smith and Miss Vintiner at Shefford. Washed Mr. Genge's trousers, shirt, vest towel and tie. Am digging a fresh dugout.

Sunday, 30 May 1915

Mr. Genge owes me 12 shillings and sixpence. Sent letter to Cecil and mother. Been working on my dugout. Shelled by Gaba Tepe.

Monday 31 May 1915

Veitch and Whitley arrived from Alexandria. Stan Evans died the following Sunday after he was hit. Battrick very bad going back to England. Shelled again. Had two bathes.

Tuesday 1 June 1915

Lovely day. Lazy Bob at Gaba Tepe shelled us. HMS destroyer Rattlesnake shelled Turks on the left flank. Flies getting about here now. Position of our forces; Quin's (Quinns) Post, Walkers Ridge, Plugges Plateau, Popes Hill.

Wednesday 2 June 1915

Lovely day. Wrote letters to Jack Prentice, Nult, George and mother. Had a bathe. Mr. Genge asked me for a photograph.

Thursday, 3 June 1915

Met a chap in Ceylon Tea Planters Rifles (Ceylon Planters Rifles Corp) who lives in Goldington Avenue (Bedford). Had a game in the sea with the officers. HM Cruiser Talbot shelled Ana Farta.

Friday 4 June 1915

Had a letter from Tom Guest, Cecil and George also Bedford Times, passed it on to the chap in CPR. Big bombardment going on down at the 29th Division. Mr. Mason gave me a tin of 50 gold leaf flake.

Saturday, 5 June 1915

Lovely day. Big attack on Queen's Post, captured 28 Turks. Recaptured a trench but had to retire.

Sunday, 6 June 1915

Lovely day, nice breeze. Mr. Genge owes me 15 shillings up to date. Sent letters to mother, grandmother, Cecil and Miss S Hodges.

Monday, 7 June 1915

Met Charlie Wright off the Triumph, he lives in Birkenhead. Very quiet.

Tuesday, 8 June 1915

Jenner wounded by spent bullet in leg. Monitor arrived off the coast. Lieutenant Mason lives at Wolverton. Absolutely overrun with flies. Several chaps in hospital with stomach trouble. Mr. Williams is quite a comedian, he causes a lot of fun at mealtimes, he cannot eat the hard biscuits we get. Had a big bag of bread from Mr. Scutt the Navy Warrant Officer (Signal Boatswain).

Wednesday, 9 June 1915

Windy. Built a new dugout lower downhill with Charlie Wright.

Thursday, 10 June 1915

Wrote letter to mother and Jimmy Murray. Good supply of bread for Officers.

Friday, 11 June 1915

Shelled by chap from Ana Farta. Comfortable in the dugout. Officers' dugout called Sea View.

Saturday, 12 June 1915

A lot of chaps sick. Shelled again by chap from Ana Farta.

Sunday 13 June 1915

HMS Bacchante and Chatham cruisers shelled Turk batteries at Ana Farta and Gaba Tepe. Mr. Genge owes me 17 shillings and sixpence. Roast beef rolled for dinner, good.

Monday, 14 June 1915

Shelled from Ana Farta. Sent letter to mother and FS postcard to Tom Guest. New shirt from quartermaster.

Tuesday 15 June 1915

Sea rough. Weather hot.


Taken ill and sent to Alexander, then returned to Lemnos. Temporarily attached to 1st Light Horse Field Ambulance. Taken ill with dysentery sent to Alexandria in hospital for 7 weeks.

Left Egypt September 8 and arrived in Southampton September 19.

Sent to hospital at Warwick Warrington.

Mr. Genge sent home paybook, notebook, etc and a cheque for £2.00.

I am indebted to Michael Cook, of Surrey Hills, Victoria, Australia, for permission to reproduce the contents of his grandfather's diary.

Thomas Poole Ball emigrated to Australia after the war. He named his house and pets (including a horse 'Clophill') after villages in Bedfordshire.

Royal Engineers mentioned in Diary

Driver, Harold H SKILLICORN, 78499, Royal Engineers.

Pioneer, Frederick ROBERTS, 78492, Royal Engineers.

Sapper, Edward GILL, 78324, Royal Engineers.

Driver, Percy HAWKINS, 78468, Royal Engineers.

Second Lieutenant, Matthew Hugh WILLIAMS, Royal Engineers.

Second Lieutenant, Walter George Pride GENGE, Royal Engineers.

Sapper, Frank CROSBY, 78307, Royal Engineers Transport.

Sapper, Thomas F MCASEY, 78217, Royal Engineers Date of Death: 19/06/1916

Lieutenant, Herbert Lee SERGEANT, Royal Engineers.

Corporal, Ernest S SHELDRAKE, 78539, Royal Engineers.

Corporal, John WAINWRIGHT, MM, 78416, Royal Engineers.

Sapper, William J A, LEWIS, 78358, Royal Engineers.

Driver, Herbert J, PEASE 78487, Royal Engineers.

Driver, Joseph CLARKE, 78446, Royal Engineers.

Driver, Richard CARTER, 78293, Royal Engineers.

Driver, Benjamin HARRISON, 78222, Royal Engineers Transport. or Driver, Frank HARRISON, 78242, Royal Engineers.

Mechanic Corporal Sydney BLACKBURN, 78444, Royal Engineers.

Corporal, Bruce C JENNINGS, 78245, Royal Engineers.

Mechanic Corporal, Douglas Broadfoot MCQUEEN, 78084, Royal Engineers.

Driver, Hadyn WILSON, 78510, Royal Engineers Transport or Sapper, Richard L WILSON, 78530, Royal Engineers.