Saturday, 1 April 2017

A is for letter from Anzac

In September 1915 the journalist Keith Murdoch (1885 - 1952) wrote to Andrew Fisher  Prime Minister of Australia giving his views on the conduct of the Gallipoli campaign. Murdoch's letter has been digitised by the National Library of Australia.

According to the Australian War Memorial the letter contained many errors, but it was seen by the Australian Prime Minister and led to the ending of the Gallipoli campaign.

Keith Murdoch outside C. E. W. Bean's dugout during his visit to Anzac Cove . Murdoch arrived at Anzac Cove on 3 September 1915 and left for London 6 September 1915. Murdoch was travelling to London on behalf of the Sydney Sun and Melbourne Herald newspapers to manage their cable service from The Times Office. Image held by the Australian War Memorial: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/A05396/



My great-grandfather de Crespigny, with other field hospital doctors, was mentioned on page 21:

Australians now loathe and detest any Englishmen wearing red.
Without such a purification of motive as will bring youth and ability to the top, we cannot win. I could tell you of many scandals, but the instance that will best appeal to you is that of the staff ship Aragon. She is a magnificent and luxurious South American liner, anchored in Mudros harbour as a base for the Staff of the Inspector-General of Communications.
I can give you no idea of how the Australians — and the new British Officers too — loathe the Aragon. Heaven knows what she is costing, but certainly the staff lives in luxury. And nothing can exceed the rudeness of these chocolate general staff soldiers to those returning from the front. The Ship’s adjutant is the worst instance of rude and disgusting snobbishness and incapacity I have come across.
With others, plain downright incapacity is the main characteristic. I must say this of them also, that whereas at our 3rd Australian General Hospital on shore we had 134 fever cases, including typhus, with only a few mosquito nets, and no ice, and few medical comforts, the Aragon staff was wallowing in ice. Colonel Stawell — you know him as Melbourne’s leading consultant — and Sir Alex M’Cormick are not sentimentalists. Ice for the officers aboard the Aragon ... none for the wounded men. But they really wept over the terrible hardships of the wounded, due to the incapacity of the Aragon. One concrete case is that of 150 wounded men landed in dead of night, with no provision and no instructions, at the hospital beach, to make their way as best they would to the hospital, which had no notice of their arrival.
Fiaschi, de Crespigny, Stawell and Kent Hughes will be able to tell you of the absolutely shocking difficulties of this hospital in the face of perpetual snubbing and bungling of the Aragon staff. Real need ... the hospital at Lemnos, where nurses and medics do their best with incoming injured.
While I was at the hospital a beautiful general and his staff rode in to make an inspection. Despite their appearance as perfect specimens of the general staff, I thought, we shall now get the ice from the Aragon on to the brows of our unfortunate men. But no ice appeared next day.
The navy is very good, and sent some comforts and ice across, but for the three days before my visit this ice had gone astray before it reached the hospital.


MS 2823-Papers of Sir Keith Arthur Murdoch, 1908-1967 [manuscript]./Series 2/File 1/Gallipoli letter from Keith Arthur Murdoch to Andrew Fisher, 1915 [manuscript]./Page 21





SS Aragon 1908
Passenger steamship Aragon, built in Belfast in 1905 by Harland & Wolff for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. She was requisitioned in 1915, converted into a troop ship, and sunk by a U-boat off Alexandria, Egypt in 1917. Image from Wikimedia Commons



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