Extracts from the 1916-17 diary of Alexander Joseph Bennett (Sept 28th 1892 – June 21 1969).
Wed July 5th 1916 – Left Wareham and marched to Swanage (UK). Trying march via Corfe Castle. Very hot, arrived at Swanage 12 o’clock. Went down to Swanage to tea with Billy Keen and a walk along sands to a beautiful place, hilly and lovely view of sea and vessels from hut. No letter from Lou since last Sat. Lovely air going and would like to take Lou around these hills.
Tues July 11th – 2pm our vessel ‘Nestor’ set sail. Grand send off by all vessels sirens and waving hands via Plymouth.
Thurs Dec 14th 1916 – Up at 2am march still south west, then up the west bank of river. (Tigris?) We are now, after continued marching, required to dig tranches, advance again and dig trenches again, south of Cut, Samara.
Sat Dec 18th 1916 – … Order came to advance and we steadily moved forward then to the right face of Cut. Cut shone out, lordly in the sunshine with trees on either side under a hail of heavy gunfire.
We two could scarcely keep up when a whizz – bang came clapping along only a few yards in front of us. … I waited for death – it was hell itself and I waited there for hours. I was dead thirsty and my wounded pal lay on my water bottle. I got my left hand onto it and it was agony as I watched the last drop running out of a bullet hole.
Sun Dec 19th 1916 – Just as day was breaking the RAMC men ran up. … Then began the long stretcher journey of three miles over nullah and heavy brushes and rough ground. It was a long journey with only the stars to go by.
Mon Dec 25th – A Christmas Day I shall never forget – one biscuit for breakfast and a fight for tea. Dinner was half a cup of stew and would you believe – Christmas pudding! How grand! How wonderful. In tins and not like Mother’s.
Jan 1st 1917 – About 11 o’clock in comes a Doctor who looked at and squeezed my leg, causing terrible pain. Four native bearers took me on their shoulders up the steps of the palace and through beautiful art-filled rooms to the operating theatre. I was propped on the operating table. The room is full of instruments and other strange objects. Then a Doctor came and started jumping and holding a gag to my face. Gradually I inhaled the fumes and my thoughts diminished. Then I shouted ‘Stop – don’t go on – do you know what I am here for? Do you know what you have to do?’ … I awoke laughing out loud. It was amusing. Such a good laugh I had, to think I should stop the doctor and ask him such a question as that.
Jan 3rd 1917 – The hospital ship arrives. We leave No 3 General Hospital about 11am. As we step off that detestable land, I pray that it will be for the last time.
He married Lou, they took Free Passage to Australia early 1920s and settled in Geelong. Story and photos ANZAC Dawn Service at Point Danger, Torquay & 23 yo Alec 1916: Jacqui Bennett (Granddaughter)