The Valley of Death

Entrance to Gully Ravine, June 1915. This is how it looked around the time of Sgt. Evans' account.
Gully dwellers.

The following account details the horrific and somewhat disturbing conditions that were all too common in Gully Ravine at the beginning of June, 1915. This account was written by Sergeant S. Evans of the 1st Border Regiment.

We soon descend through a pathway to the shore again where we are sheltered from the enemy's view and what is till better, from his shells as well. We then arrive at the entrance to a ravine, which winds it way through the centre of the peninsula and from which we can reach our position under cover. This ravine is known locally as the Saghir Dere but it has been nicknamed by the troops 'The Valley of Death' presumably on account of the number of small cemeteries that have been laid out in it. This is the main line of communication between the landing places and the line of the British trenches higher up on the peninsula.

The march up and down this ravine in marching order is trying in the extreme. It is covered with fine dry sand, which soon covers us from head to foot. It penetrates one's ears, nose and mouth till one is nearly choked with it. There is little sign of any vegetation with the exception of some fine withered-looking and scorched grass and sand seems to be the order of the day. On the whole we appear to have landed at a very inhospitable spot. A short march up the ravine and we reach the Headquarters of our Battalion which is at present in the trenches. However, we do not go straight to the trenches but are halted whilst we have some breakfast of fried but fat bacon and hard biscuits washed down with a welcome draft of tea without milk.

The sun has now become very hot and we soon find another unwelcome enemy in our midst. The plague of flies is worse than one can imagine. They are present in millions and settle on one's food until it is almost in the mouth. A tin of tea will soon contain dozens of them struggling in the liquid whilst there is no part of the bare human body that they will not attack. Through the whole campaign the fly was one of our worst enemies. They would settle on the dead in clouds and the agony of the wounded was invariably added to by these pests settling on the bleeding wounds of the sufferer.

As we sit at our breakfast a constant stream of stretcher bearers is winding its way with the wounded to the numerous little dressing stations situated in little inlets of the main gully. Some are obviously badly hurt judging by their groans. Others not so badly hurt seem to be relieved at the idea of a little rest from the turmoil that they had to endure. Occasionally a stretcher will pass with the face of its human burden covered up. He has passed beyond all human aid and his destination will be one of the little cemeteries that we have already observed.

Rest was impossible. The flies see to that. In additional battery of our guns just above the gully is engaged in blazing away at the enemy positions to the accompaniment of a series of ear splitting crashes so that although we are tired out from want of sleep, sleep is out of the question.

References / notes

  • Text and image: Chambers, Stephen, Gallipoli: Gully Ravine, Battleground Europe, 2003, pp.57-59. ISBN 0 85052 923 9
  • Original source: My Gallipoli Story by Sgt S. Evans, The Gallipolian, Spring and Autumn 1984 editions.
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