Mexborough and Swinton Times, January 1, 1916
Wounded at Suvla Bay
Wombwell Lad’s Narrative
Lance Corporal J Sykes
Lance Corporal J Sykes, Wombwell
Writing to his sister at Wombwell, Lance Corporal J Sykes (6thBattalion York & Lancs) says:
“I am just sending you a few of my experiences whilst I have been active service.
It was on August 7, Friday night, we made our landing at Sulva Bay. We got off the gunboat into a lighter, which brought us to the side, where we disembarked, fixed bayonets and lined up. The word was passed down the line that we were to do all the fighting with the bayonets till daybreak, and that we hadn’t to fire a shot till the time mentioned. Orders passed down the beach telling us to push forward. The moon was shining gloriously, and after an advance of about a Hundred yards we encountered very heavy rifle fire, and we had to get down and crawl to the base of a very big hill, which proved to be a Turkish listening post. We charge the hill like deers, and very soon put this post out of action. The other side of the hill was lined with Turkish trenches. We charge the enemy positions, and lept into the communication trenches.
The Turks simply ‘screamed murder,’ but we continue to advance was very little loss. After we captured the hill, which is now called ‘Yorkshire Hill,’ we had to advance over about 4 miles of level ground, the Turks having retired to the hill behind.
At daybreak we realise what shellfire really was. The Turks simply rained shrapnel honours, and to make it better for the enemy we had the level ground to cross. They mowed us down but we kept on going till we had driven them into the hills.
We then advance across a bit of land about 2 miles wide, cold Salt Lake. We were up to the knees in water and mud. When night time arrives across all the level ground, and that capture the hill in front, called ‘Chocolate Hill.’ That was where the Turkish guns had been posted.
Well, we kept where we were to 9 August. We set off with one bottle of water and two days issue of rations, and although we were parched with thirst we struck it till night time, when 10 of us went in search of a well. After roaming about all night (you have no idea what it is like to go a day without water) we found a well. We filled our water bottles, after nearly bursting ourselves, and crawl back to our men the best way we could, as the country was infested with snipers.
Well, we got back off a bit of difficulty about 9 o’clock in the morning. After advancing again till you are well England, we dug ourselves in, and we all like to put our best like first and work like horses. We were as full of fight as anyone could be.
Everything went on as usual till August 21, when we had orders to take a portion of the Turkish positions, about 600 yards in front of us, and when we had taken them we were to advance another thousand yards to get in line with the Australian; the whole line had then to advance together. The Navy, aided by artillery guns and machine guns, bombarded the position for about three hours, and the noise was deafening. One would have thought there would not have been a single Turks alive.
We had orders to charge with our bayonets. The Turks waited until we got out of our trenches, and then simply rained bullets and shells on us; it was like hell upon earth. At night time we occupied the enemy trenches, but I’m sorry to say we had left three parts of our lads behind, dead and wounded. Anyway, we were not strong to hold the captured trenches. It was here that I was wounded with a bayonet, but I stuck on, and would have done if I had died after what I had seen. I was also suffering from a stiff leg, but I did my duty.
We retired at night into some reserve trenches, where reinforcements were awaiting us. The Turks advance offers in mass formation – I should say there would be thousands of them – but we gave them a taste of what we had gone through, and white practically the whole lot of them out.
One of the enemy, a German officer, made a brave attempt to get into our trenches, but he had a brain it run right through him, and of course that settled in.
When the Turks can see they are getting beaten they shout ‘Allah! Allah!
But of course that doesn’t go down with us. I have had some exciting times with snipers, and I will tell you about them, and how I got wounded, if the Lord spares me to get home again.”