Topic: Edwin James (Ted) Sherlock
Transcribed by Ted’s wife Dot with minor corrections and editing by Dianne Noonan (nee Sherlock) of Wellington in May 2007. Dianne is Ted’s youngest grandchild. Published in the 48th Hauraki News and digitised by Tauranga City Libraries.
Image from Cenotaph Database
Edwin James (Ted) Sherlock (Service record 12/458) was bom at Clive, New Zealand on 27 February 1893. He was the eldest son of Alfred and Mary (Minnie) Sherlock, at that time of Bowen street Parawai, Thames. Ted joined the 6th Hauraki Battalion to go and do his “bit” for the Empire, Ted who had previously served with the territorial Hauraki rifles, initially enlisted on 11 August 1914, with Major Frederick Stuckey taking Ted’s attestation at Epsom Camp on 18 September 1914.
Ted's younger brothers Lawrence Arthur Sherlock 21104 (Joe, born 7 August 1894) and Alfred Charles Sherlock 34447 (Alf, born 4 November 1896) joined up in 1916. Joe served with the Rifle Brigade and returned home to New Zealand in 1919. Alf was killed in action during the Battle of Broodseinde in Belgium on 4 October 1917.
As described to his sister Nell in this letter, Ted’s first action in World War I was the landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, on the morning of 25 April 1915. He received a gunshot wound to the right thigh during this battle and hospitalised in Egypt to recover. He rejoined the Auckland Battalion and embarked for France on the ‘Tunisian’ on 10 July 1916, and next saw action on the Western Front, with the New Zealand Division joining the Battle of the Somme in September 1916 as part of the second big push of the offensive. Ted was badly wounded in the left hip during the battle on 27/28 September 1916, spending three days in a shell-hole before being picked up by some Canadian stretcher-bearers and taken to a dressing station at Camiers near Etaples on 30 September 1916. This was the end of Ted’s war, he transferred to London on a hospital ship and there spent many, many months convalescing from osteomyelitis, a compound fracture of the femur and a paralysed sciatic nerve, all resulting from the Somme injury. Classified as unfit by the Medical Board on 7 July 1917, he was eventually removed from the strength of the NZ Roll on 9 October as no longer physically fit for war service on account of the wounds he had received in action. Ted embarked for New Zealand on the troopship “Marama” which left Avonmouth in the Bristol channel on 14 July 1917, arriving in Wellington on 22 August 1917.
Ted married Florence Edna Moorman (Dot), a workmate of his sister Nell on 28 September 1921. They settled in Westmere in Auckland and raised three children, Bettina, Bruce and Maxwell. Ted was a boot maker by occupation and was a leader in the Boys Brigade Association in Auckland. Throughout his life, he suffered from recurring problems with the hip would sustained during the Battle of the Somme, causing him great pain and discomfort.
Ted died on the 13th of May 1961 – nine days after the birth of his youngest grandchild, and 46 years after writing this letter. He was survived by Dot, his three children and eleven grandchildren and is affectionately referred to in the family as ‘pop’.
Letter transcript follows.
14 May 1915
Just a bit of a note in answer to your most welcome letter which I received while we were aboard the troopship "The Litzew” (a captured German ship) in the Mudros harbour on the Island of Lemnos, said Island being in dispute - both Turkey arid Greece laying a claim to- it but it is peopled mostly by Greeks, only about one-tenth of the-population being Turks.
The same little island plays an important part in the training of our British Jack Tars, for it is in this same harbour that the Mediterranean Squadron practice all their mine laying in peace time. It was a fine sight, all those ships, lying together -100 or more altogether and all sorts. About 60 of them were Naval craft- dreadnoughts, battleships, cruisers, torpedo, submarines and dozens of supply ships. One of them carried a seaplane and two light aeroplanes, and one with an observation balloon. I don’t know the name of all of them but some are the Queen Elizabeth, Queen, Triumph, London, Swiftsure and some I have forgotten. There are also some French warships but they don t impress much, being built in all sorts of curious shapes. One had the appearance of being bottom- upwards. She had a very small deck tor the size of her and she bulged away to the waterline, which must have twice the area of the deck, but I didn't go much on her. But her guns may have been better than the ship. There were some fine ships among the troopships too, the “Minnawaaka” being about the pick of the bunch. She is an American ship, so the U.S.A. are doing a little bit. The “Arcadian” came next, I think, and our old ship wasn’t far behind, but enough of ships.
I’ll try and tell you something about the island. The first thing that took our notice was a lighthouse on top of a small Island at the mouth of the harbour. [There were] oblong objects all over the place -sometimes they were in rows of from six to eight. They turned out to be windmills when we got close to them, but at first we took them to be targets and had some good arguments as to whether they were for the warships or rifles and a few other impossible and silly things. These windmills were used for all sorts of purposes, though chiefly for drawing water and for grinding corn. We went ashore there for training a few times and son the way in we passed a fairly large ship ashore with a great hole in her starboard bow – after the effects of colliding with a Turkish or German mine, it’s a wonder they got her in and beached her.
When we landed, we found lots of the inhabitants awaiting us with all sort of things to sell, but as usual we were stoney and they didn't do much trade anyhow. They weren't bad sorts and always willing to explain anything we wanted to know, well those who could speak English did and those who couldn’t made grand attempts, but beyond throwing their arms about a lot and gabbering like a lot of geese they didn't do much good, although they were very willing. We marched up to a small village a couple of miles away and It wasn't a bad sort of a place at all, very clean and bright, but the girls and boys were funny. They went for their lives as soon as they spotted us, just like a lot of goats. A mate and I strolled round a comer and four little kids playing in the street spotted us and made a beeline for home- it was only a few yards away, but when they got there an old woman appeared at the door and wouldn't let them in. They scrambled about for a while and tried to dodge past her, but they soon gave it up for we coming toward them all the time. So they just turned about and fairly bolted. It took them about two seconds to get out of sight. You bet I don’t laugh!
The chief industry appears to be farming, but they do it in a different way to what we do, there are no fences between the farms and the only building on them is a cowshed and sometimes a windmill. The animals are very small, the cows about the size of sheep and the sheep like rabbits, while the donkeys are about as big as a gun dog, but able to carry quite a big load and stagger along under the weight of a fair size quite manfully. When they are loaded up with corn the only part of them to be seen is four hooves and a couple of ears. The houses are all built of stone and clustered together in smell villages of about a hundred inhabitants. There is about two miles between each village which are quite pretty little places, especially after one has been used to Egypt where the Arabs build one large mud hut (some I wouldn't let my dog go into) and stock it with about a hundred people, flocks of fowls, a dozen or two of dogs, a camel and a herd of donkeys and sheep!
15 May 1914
Well Nell, I left off last night for it was bedtime and no use sitting up here to finish for at 9 O’clock they turn all the lights out. After the day’s work on the farm is finished, the labourers load their donkeys and ponies up with the milk and tools and make for the village, leaving a dog or two at the edge of the cultivated patch to keep the stock off, for these patches aren’t even fenced at all, except that some of the houses have stone walls built around them. There are also vineyards farther back from the shore , and a fair amount of wine is made - some of it not had stuff either. My mate and I had a couple of bottles each at 1/- a bottle - another two bottles and I think I should have been talking about my rich relations but we couldn’t afford any more than one shout each!
One afternoon while we were here we heard guns firing and next day got the news that a Turkish destroyer had got out of the Dardanelles, which are only 40 miles from Lemnos and was chased by some of our destroyers, the chase ending up by the “Turk” being bailed up off an island about ten miles from us. She ran ashore there and our boats had no chance of getting close to her for fear of torpedoes. I forgot the name of the island but it is where the Apostle Paul [corrected by Dot to read the Apostle John] wrote the book of Revelations. Anyhow, that is what out sky-pilot told us.
We stayed at Lemnos ten days and on the tenth day we upped anchor and pulled outside the harbour where we dropped anchor and waited until we wore ready to get on to Gallipoli, which was next morning *Sunday) at 10.30. At 3 o’clock we were roused out of bed for we had a terrible day in front of us. As soon as I was dressed I went on deck and the first thing I heard was the warships firing at an awful rate, then the flashes of the guns could be seen and an occasional flash up above them where the Turkish shells were bursting. As we got near, we could hear the rattle of the rifles and machine guns and they made quite a clatter.
It got daylight soon after then, but we were standing well off shore out of the way of any shells we couldn’t see any shells we couldn’t see much except the bursting shells but the racket the guns were kicking up showed us that it was a hard fight. We were served with an early breakfast and told to eat as much as we could, the date of the next meal not being known. At 8 o’clock we stood to arms down in our sleeping quarters while the boats stood close to shore. It was a weary wait especially as now and then we could hear the burst of a shell dose to us. We stayed there until 10 o'clock, when we were marched on deck and down the gangway into the naval cutter alongside, When these cutters were loaded, a steam pinnace came along and took us in tow and this was where the real danger started.
By 11 o'clock we were ashore and most of us wet through, for we had to jump Into the water as soon as the boats landed. By jove, the shrapnel was flying here, even the poor wounded lying in rows on the beach were getting it, but there was no way of getting cover than. Men were working like slaves to got: shelters made for them – a long job and very few men, for all the fighters we needed to hold what ground we had gained. Right in front of us was a steep hill - almost a cliff covered with sage and holy bushes and trenches from which the Turks had been driven earlier in the day by the Australians.
Half way up this hill we halted and took our packs off, then we made for the top. When we got there, we struck the full force of the fight. The first thing I knew was the man In front of me falling, shot through the head. The bullets were whistling past us like a lot of flies, but we couldn't get a shot back for our own men were on the next ridge and we had to get to them. There was a long trench along the top of this hill which we got into and made our way along. In places it was full of dead Turks and wounded Australians but we had no time to stop to look after them, for it was touch and go with our chaps on the next ridge.
Coming to the end of the trench, we were met by an Australian Guard, which put us onto a track leading down into a gully between the two ridges, with strict orders not to leave the main track on account of land mines. We started to make our way to the next hill, but it was murder going down this track in full view of the enemy, who pumped in the lead to some effect - about a quarter of the follows were missing when we reached the shelter of the gully. At the bottom we met some wounded Australians who told us mat their boys were only hanging on by their eyebrows to the tops of the ridge and saying that another half an hour without reinforcements would have settled them.
After a short rest, we started to climb the hill to the firing line. It was not bad going up this side and we lost very few men. A few yards from the top a party of our men were told off to carry ammunition and benching tools - me being one - this kept us out of the fight until 4 o’clock, besides making us very tired. When we were relieved, we didn't take long making our way into the firing line, for we were tired of being shot at without shooting back. We struck just as the Turks were making an attack, being about 400 yards away when I got up and advanced fairly fast. I soon got down and began firing and me thought the extra rifles had made some effect for the Turks in sight remained where they were, but their ruse was a clever one for under cover of their fire another line was creeping up through the bushes. We got quite a shock when a large body of the enemy suddenly appeared about 100 yards away, but we soon got busy with them: as their style of fighting is to stand up and fire from the hip. We dropped quite a few of them, they outnumbered us and sift came on but we stuck to them for we had word that more supports were close to us.
Shortly after this, we put the order to retreat to entice the enemy to come forward; with a caution on our supports concealed a few yards behind us. They took the bait ail right, but It was hard work for us poor beggars in the front retreating and taking our wounded with us and there was a few of them. The man I had could walk and all I had to do was to shoot any Turks that showed up near us. I hung on a bit too long, for when i turned to see if I were over the ridge I spotted a Turk taking aim at me. I moved in a hurry, you can bet and he missed me but I didn’t miss him and he fell and that’s all I waited for but got about five yards when one of them put a bullet through my right leg, bringing me down with a rush. As soon as I hit the ground, I hopped up on my knees in a hurry to see a Turk coming at me with a bayonet. He was only about 20 yards away, but before he got within ten yards I brought him down and, springing up, made my way over the ridge past the supports and sat down to watch the Turks get a surprise, and I wasn't disappointed for no sooner had showed over the ridge than the boys up and at ‘em driving them back a good deal faster than they came.
I lost interest in the fight soon after this, for my old leg was paining a bit and getting stiff. I could hardly bend my knee, so I left for the beach after I had pointed out the enemy's positions that I knew of to the officer in charge of the supports. Soon after I left the firing line I met one of my mates, the one I had helped out of the line he was in a bad way, having been shot through the lungs. I helped him down the hills until I met Austin Coakley, who was coming back alter having taken one of his mates down to the beach, so I gave my man into his charge for I couldn't help him much - he died that night, poor chap.
Well, Nell, there is not much else to tell. We were put on to the hospital ships, the "Seang Choon” was the one I got onto - and sailed for Egypt, arriving in Alexandria on the Friday when we were all sent into hospital. I was sent first to the Palace Hotel at Heliopolis, but only stayed there one night. The place was too full and it holds about 3,000. Am now at Mena House Hotel, just opposite the Pyramids.
I think I shall have to make this the end of my narrative, for I still have two letters to write and the mail closes tomorrow. I am going to send two of these photos, one for Aunt Hannah, they only cost 2/6 each so I can afford it. Give my love to all at home, aid expect a P.C. next week.
your loving brother