Diary of Private Ernest Law

Many thanks to Steve Wright for allowing us to publish his Great Grandfathers diary on the website.

Private Ernest Law's Gallipoli Diary (1/6th Lancashire Fusiliers - 42nd Division)

Ernest was born on the 1st August 1885 at 4 Oak St Todmorden, one of 8 children born to Thomas and Jane Eliza Law, his father was a Mule Spinner at the cotton mills and Ernest was Cotton Weaver.

He enlisted in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Lancashire Fusilier at Todmorden in 1905. In 1908 battalion became the 6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, due to the Territorial Forces Act.

On 17th July 1909 he married Martha Grindrod, the daughter of a prominent music teacher and violin maker, and settled down at 10 Cross Bank, Meadow Bottom, Todmorden. They had their first child, William, on 2nd September 1911 and Albert on the 16th October 1918, whilst living at 17 The Fold, Meadow Bottom, Todmorden.

Ernest left Todmorden on 7th August 1914 along with 221 other men from the 1/6th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers for Rochdale. One of the new enlistments included Ernest's brother-in-law Harry Grindrod, the 'Harry' he mentions in his diary. He volunteered to go overseas whilst at Rochdale, along with other Todmorden men, leaving Turton on the 9th September, travelling to Southampton and then Egypt. At some point on the way Ernest gets attached to the No.2 Section, East Lancashire Divisional Signal Company, hence the comments relating to using the telephones in the diary.

After Gallipoli he serves at the Sinai Peninsula and leaves in April 1917 probably as a time served solider. For his military service he received the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and the Territorial Forces Efficiency Medal. After the war Ernest went to work on the railways as a platelayer and a mason. He died on the 18th November 1935 at the age of 50. 

Historical Introduction: The 1/6th Lancashire Fusiliers formed part of the 125th Brigade, 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. The battalion was raised in Salford in August 1914, and landed in Egypt during the following month as part of the force build up in the Middle East. The main reason for British troops to be there was to protect the British Empires interests in the region, in particular the Suez Canal. With the conception of 'Gallipoli' this division was used as the initial reserve, sent to Cape Helles to support the battered 29th Division. They began to embark at Alexandria, Egypt on 1 May 1915 for the Peninsula, and within the week over 14,000 men of the Division had landed at Cape Helles. The 42nd Division was involved in several actions to capture the village of Krithia and the Achi Baba heights; the Second Battle of Krithia (6-8 May); The Third Battle of Krithia (4 - 6 June) and the Battle of the Vineyard (6-13 August). Apart from these three actions it was trench life for the lancashire men, and unlike the Western Front they were never outside the range of Turkish shelling. Heat, flies and sickness plagued the troops with more becoming casualties through sickness than battle. By the time of the evacuation in January 1916 the battalion were a shadow of its former self. Here follows the diary of one man from this battalion. 

Friday, Sept 25

Arrived in Alexandria Harbour at 9am. Towed to the landing stage at 10.20am.

Saturday, Sept 26

Disembarked at 10.40am. Left at 1pm arrived at Cairo about 6.30pm, got to barracks about 8.30pm.

Jan 7, 1915

On desert about nine hours in sand storm walked about 2.2 miles.

Jan 8

Route marched round Cairo, walk about 14 miles.

Saturday, March 20

Left Polygon Barracks for Citadel Barracks.

Saturday, May 1

Left Citadel at 11.45am.

Sunday, May 2

Left Cairo Station at 2am arrived Alexandria at 7.30am. Embarked at 8.45am on SS Nile. Set sail about 5.30pm.

Thursday, May 4

Within sound of Naval guns at 5pm. Arrived by the side of the other troop ships at 6.15pm. Bombardment going on both sides. Firing all night.

Wednesday, May 5

Got up at 5am still on board ship. Saw three or four aeroplanes reconnoitring. At 10.50am off SS Nile into steam tug and had about half-hour sail to the land. Was under fire from the forts and ship guns all the time. We could hear the shells whistling through the air over our heads.

We walk about one mile to some dug outs overlooking Lancashire Landing, where we thought of sleeping for the night, but no such luck. Got orders to fall in at 7.30pm and march to the firing line, where we arrived about 1.30 in the morning. Heavy firing going on in the centre. The rifle fire just looked like lightning going from each others firing line.

Thursday, May 6

Got orders to attack a ridge where some of the enemy was sniping at us. D Company went over the top about 11am and C Company followed a few minutes later under heavy machine gun and shell fire, some of them was hit before they could get over the top. It was terrible going across the open – was at it until dusk and suffered heavy losses. I saw your Harry coming down the trench going down to the hospital, which was at the bottom of Eski Line.

Friday, May 7

Fierce fighting going on all day. The 5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers came over the top instead of going up the Gully and lost very heavy. An observation officer got shot through the head when he was telling some of the 5th LF to go to the trenches on their right and left.

We was fighting very hard until some of the regulars came up and relieved some of our men. It was about 11pm before headquarters' signallers was relieved. Then I had about two hours taking the wounded down to the bandaging hospital.

Saturday, May 8

About 1am I set out for a very long walk to the dug outs at Lancashire Landing where I arrived about 7am. Then I was able to get something to eat and some warm tea to drink, which felt a treat as I had very little chance for the last 48 hours as I had three telephones to look after. I thought we should have got a day or two rest and I had just finished my dug out and got it ready for the night. I was just getting down to it when orders came for us to fall in and go over to the right centre to some more dug outs by the side of the French.

Tuesday, May 11

Moved at 7.30pm; the 7th and 8th Battalions went into the firing line with the 5th and 6th in reserve. Got to the trenches about midnight.

We had been in the trench about half and hour when it began to rain and we got an hour or two sleep the best way we could.

Wednesday, May 12

Very quiet until 6.30pm when heavy bombardment started and went on for about four hours. The shrapnel was bursting over our head and the bullets was just clearing the top of the trench.

I went on the telephone at midnight and I cannot tell you how I felt when some of the men around me was asleep and I could hear the bullets dropping very near to us. Lord Rochdale said our casualties was one killed and two wounded.

Thursday, May 13

Very quiet during the day. We got orders to move back to some more trenches as we had got into the wrong ones.

I was helping with the telephone wire and it was awful walking over the open ground and shrapnel bursting over your head and bullets dropping all around you. I thought my time had come and I was very glad when we got to a place called Clapham Junction and could get a few hours' sleep.

Friday, May 14

You would have laughed if you had been here as there were very few shots fired and the boys was walking on the open ground as they would have done in peace time. But it was the same as usual after tea with the shot and shells bursting over our heads.

Saturday, May 15

The men had to get up and stand to arms at 3.30am. Plenty of firing going on as the dawn of day is the worse time for an attack. Our battalion was alright except for stray bullets.

Very quiet from 5.30am until 5pm – just a few shots fired to let them know that we was alive. I went on the telephone at 8pm and you cannot tell what it feels like to hear all the rifle fire and when the shell burst it made it like daytime. I was on the telephone until 12pm and was very glad to be able to get down for an hour or two sleep. There was plenty of work to do and you was very lucky if you could get down for four hours at once.

Sunday, May 16

Very quiet all day except for a few stray bullets and some shrapnel sweeping the road down the Gully.

Monday, May 17

Went on duty at the telephone at 12.10am; plenty of rifle fire but very few shells. Got relieved at 3am, but as it was stand to arms at 3.30am you have to get your sleep in the daytime.

Tuesday, May 18

Went on duty at 3am until 6am. Very quiet later until 8pm when heavy bombardment started. I went on duty at 9pm. There seem to be hundreds of bullets flying over our heads. I was relieved at 12 midnight and was very glad as I had been at it for 21 hours.

Wednesday, May 19

Very quiet until night. I had to go down to our brigade headquarters with bullets flying all around me, and it is no easy matter to walk a mile or two in the dark. I had just got there when both J Nash and J Nuttall got wounded in the foot and both by the same bullet. But I manage to get back to my trench alright.

Thursday, May 20

Still at Clapham Junction. Very heavy gun fire going on all day, shells bursting all along our trench about 7pm. One dropped about 70 yards from me when I was on the telephone.

Friday, May 21

Rifle fire going on, on both sides bullets was dropping within a few yards from where I was sleeping and shrapnel bullets knocking the dirt of the parapet on to us.

Saturday, May 22

Plenty of rifle and gun fire going on all day. Our platoon officer, Lieutenant Wyatt, got hit when stepping into the trench. Bullets was dropping all around me as I sat at the telephone.

Sunday, May 23

Very quiet until 9am when the Turks sent a few high explosive shells our way. Two dropped about 100 yards short, then one about 60 yards over our trench. The fourth dropped just behind the trench where I sat at the telephone. Lieutenant JS Lord was about three yards from me but the explosion lifted him from the ground and knocked him unconscious. One of the Signal Service men got a hole made in his head. I was very lucky again as I got nothing but dirt. When the smoke and dust had cleared away I had a look around and found three large pieces of the shell about one foot from where I sat and about 50 shrapnel bullets in the trench which was about five yards long.

Heavy bombardment started about 10.30pm and went on for four hours.

Monday, May 24

Very quiet all day; few shots fired on both sides.

Tuesday, May 25

Heavy rifle fire going on all night. Very quiet during the day. About 5pm it started to rain and the trench was soon up to the waist in water. We had a nice job draining the water off and catching the equipment that was sailing down to the gully. We got rid of some of the water and mud by midnight so that we could lay down for an hour or two.

Wednesday, May 26

Very quiet during the day, just a few stray shots dropping. We had to do a bit of trench digging to get rid of all the mud.

Thursday, May 27

Very quiet all day, only a few shots fired.

Friday, May 28

Bombardments going on at intervals during the day.

Saturday, May 29

Very quiet all day.

Sunday, May 30

Bombardment going on at intervals during the day; heavy firing during the night.

Monday, May 31

Very quiet until tea time, then heavy shelling for about an hour.

Tuesday, June 1

Very quiet during the day, but heavy rifle fire during the night.

Wednesday, June 2

Bombardment going on all day.

Thursday, June 3

Heavy bombardment going on all day and night.

Friday, June 4

Very quiet until 11.30 then heavy bombardment started. Our battalion was attached to the Royal Engineers but went over the top with the others, some of them carrying barb wire crosses and some of them with picks and spades beside their rifle, and had to do the fighting with the rest and then put the crosses up and do a lot of the fatigue work. Very heavy losses.

Saturday, June 5

Heavy bombardment going on all day and all night, bullets and shells dropping in all directions. The boys fighting very hard on the firing line.

Saturday, June 6

Heavy shell and rifle fire going on all day. Battalion headquarters moved to No 2 Australian Line headquarters on the left of the gully.

Monday, June 7

Rifle fire going on all day. Bombardment started about 7.30pm.

Tuesday, June 8

Rifle fire at intervals during the day, very little shell fire.

Wednesday, June 9

Very quiet all day.

Thursday, June 10

Rifle fire going on all day, shells and shrapnel bursting over our trench at intervals during the day, very heavy at night.

Friday, June 11

Very quiet during the day, moved about 5.30pm for the second line, just on the left of No 8 sap. Bullets dropping very thick when moving and during the night, got our sleep the best we could.

Saturday, June 12

Dropping shells about our trench all day. The 5th LF was coming out of the firing line and one of them got his head clean blown off by one of the Turk's shells about three yards away from me.

Sunday, June 13

Very quiet all day. I went into the firing line and had a look at the Turk's trenches about 200 yards away.

Monday, June 14

Very quiet all day. Got relieved about 3pm, went to No 2 Australian line.

Tuesday, June 15

Very heavy shell and shrapnel fire from the Turks bursting just in front of our trench.

Wednesday, June 16

Turk bombarding all along the line.

Thursday, June 17

Our guns very quiet all day but the Turks sending us plenty of shells and shrapnel.

Friday, June 18

Turks giving us plenty of shrapnel and high explosive bursting just behind our trench. They started a heavy bombardment after tea, our guns replying at intervals.

Saturday, June 19

Very quiet during the day, went up into the firing line at 6.30pm.

Sunday, June 20

Plenty of shelling during the day, heavy bombardment going on during the night with our ships and artillery guns.

Monday, June 21

Plenty of shelling going on our right in front of the trench, but very quiet on our front. Got relieved about 9pm and went back to our old trench, the Australian line No 2.

Tuesday, June 22

Very quiet all day, scarcely any shots fired.

Wednesday, June 23

Very quiet all day, moved to some dugout behind the East Lancs Divisional headquarters at 9pm.

Thursday, June 24

Still at the rest camp, Shrapnel flying over our trenches at intervals during the day.

Friday, June 25

Left our dug out at 10.30pm, had about two hours sleep on the road. Went to Lancashire Landing to embark on a steam tug at 4am for a place called Imbros,

Saturday, June 26

Landed at Imbros about 8am, had about 10-minutes walk to our camping ground where we stopped until July 9th.

Friday, July 9

Left camp about 5pm, set sail at 6.15pm, arrived at Gallipoli at 9pm, got to our trenches about midnight.

Saturday, July 10

Moved again about 5.30pm for the reserve trenches. Very quiet all day.

Sunday, July 11

Moved again to the support trench, some of the boys went into the firing line. Very quiet during the day.

Monday, July 12

Bombardment going on from 4am until 6pm, then the men on our right made an attack.

Tuesday, July 13

Heavy rifle fire going on. Plenty of shells dropping into the enemy's trenches on our right. Heavy bombardment started at 4pm and went on until 6pm.

Wednesday, July 14

Very quiet all day.

Thursday, July 15

Very few shots fired on either side.

Friday, July 16

Moved back to some trenches in the gully called Redoubt Line.

Saturday, July 17

The Turks sent a few shots and shells, our guns very quiet until night, then they put plenty of shells into them, very heavy rifle fire.

Sunday, July 18

Went back to our old headquarters, the Turks put a few shells into the gully.

Monday, July 19

Very quiet until dusk, then our artillery put a few high explosive into their trenches.

Tuesday, July 20

Very quiet all day, very few shots fired.

Wednesday, July 21

Moved further back to some dug out about 11.30am, got there about 1pm. Moved again at 8.15pm to some more in the rear, arrived about 9pm.

Thursday, July 22

Very little rifle fire, only a few shells fired.

Friday, July 23

Very quiet until dinner time, then the Turks on our left made an advance but was repulsed with heavy losses.

Saturday, July 24

The Turks sent a few shrapnel shells around our dugouts.

Sunday, July 25

Very quiet all day.

Monday, July 26

Very quiet, just a few shells bursting about us.

Tuesday, July 27

The Turks shelled our dugouts heavy all day, but well out of the road of bullets.

Wednesday, July 28

Moved about 2pm back to No 2 Australian trench.

Thursday & Friday, July 29-30

Very quiet both days.

Saturday, July 31

Very quiet until tea time, then our ships started to send high explosives at their front line, just clearing our firing line.

Sunday, August 1

Very quiet all day, we moved into the firing line at 9.30am.

Monday, August 2

The Turks was very quiet but we gave them plenty of iron rations.

Tuesday, August 3

Very quiet except for a few shells we sent them.

Wednesday, August 4

Moved at 9am back to No 2 Australian Line. After tea our guns gave them a small bombardment.

Thursday, August 5

The Turks very quiet but we gave them plenty of shells.

Friday, August 6

We moved into the firing line and a very heavy bombardment going on the left and our side, the 29th Division went over the top and took a good bit of ground.

Saturday, August 7

Very heavy bombardment started about 8am and went on all day. Our battalion went over the top between 9am and 9.30am and took a place called The Vineyard after very hard fighting. We suffered heavy losses.

Sunday, August 8

Heavy fighting going on, shot and shells flying about in all directions. A good many more wounded during the day. Bombers working like niggers in the trench that we took, day and night.

Monday, August 9

Fierce fighting going on all day in the advance trench. Our battalion got relieved at different times of the day.

Tuesday, August 10

Plenty of bomb throwing going on in the trench that we took. Heavy gun fire is going on all day and night.

Wednesday, August 11

Moved back to the dry Gully Line or nullah at 11am with the battalion headquarters. Quiet all day.

Thursday, August 12

Very quiet until 6pm and then our battalion had to go and reinforce the 4th East Lancs. Lost about 26 killed and wounded. Lieutenant Smith killed.

Friday, August 13

Moved back to some dugouts by the side of the East Lancs Division headquarters. I had the pack on for about seven hours.

Saturday, August 14

Very quiet all day.

Sunday, August 15

Very quiet until night, then heavy firing started and went on all through the night.

Monday, August 16

Very quiet all day, few shots fired either side.

Tuesday, August 17

Very quiet all day.

Wednesday, August 18

Very quiet all day, you would not think there was a war on as our men were walking about the top.

Thursday, August 19

Very quiet all day. Lord Rochdale came back and we got our orders to move at a minute's notice. We started about 3pm and had about four-hours marching to the left to relieve the 29th Division.

Friday, August 20

Very quiet until tea time, then the shells and bullets started flying about.

Saturday, August 21

Very quiet all day. I went into the support line and did about three-hours sniping.

Sunday, August 22

Moved at 10am to some dugout about half-a-mile further back. Very quiet all day except for a few shells flying about.

Monday, August 23

Very quiet all day, few shots fired either side.

Tuesday, August 24

Plenty of shells flying about at intervals during the day.

Wednesday, August 25

Moved about 11.30am for the beach, arrived about 1.30pm.

Thursday, August 26

Very quiet all day, still at the beach.

Friday, August 27

Had a heavy storm, started about 8pm and went on until 11pm, when we got a few hours sleep. Very quiet during the day.

Saturday, August 28

Our ships gave them plenty of shells.

Sunday, August 29

Still at the beach. Our ships gave them a few iron rations.

Monday, August 30

Very quiet all day.

Tuesday, August 31

Very quiet all day, only a few shots fired from the ships.

Wednesday, September 1

Very quiet during the day. Plenty of rifle fire during the night and our ships gave them a few shells.

Thursday, September 2

Williams Birthday.

Got up at 4.30am and got ready to move at 11am. Had about three-hours marching and arrived at Fusiliers' Bluff about 2pm.

Friday, September 3

Very quiet all day, plenty of shelling going during the night.

Saturday, September 4

Very quiet during the day, but plenty of rifle fire during the night – bullets dropping around my dugout.

Sunday, September 5

Moved out of firing line about 10am, went back to Y Ravine, arrived about 12 noon.

Monday, September 6

Very quiet during the day, plenty of rifle fire during the night.

Tuesday, September 7

Very few shots fired on both sides, our ships gave them a few shells at tea time. Plenty of rifle fire during the night.

Wednesday, September 8

Moved about 10am to go back to Border Ravine, our battalion in the firing line, arrived about 11.15am. Plenty of rifle fire during the night.

Thursday, September 9

Very quiet all day.

Friday, September 10

Very quiet all day, had a good look around the firing line, which was like a puzzle garden.

Saturday, September 11

Moved back to Y Ravine about 9.30am, arrived about 10.15am. Very quiet.

Sunday, September 12

Very quiet during the day, our artillery sending them a few iron rations over.

Monday, September 13

Very quiet during the day.

Tuesday, September 14

Moved up to support line about 9am, arrived about 10am, in charge of station. Plenty of bombing going on.

Wednesday, September 15

Plenty of rifle fire through the night and a few bombs thrown. I was on the telephone all night and would hear the bullets going over my head and hitting the top of the trench where I sat. Very quiet during the day.

Thursday, September 16

Very quiet during the day, but plenty of rifle fire during the night. On telephone all night.

Friday, September 17

Very few shots fired.

Saturday, September 18

Moved about 11am to go down to the beach, arrived about 2pm.

Sunday, September 19

Very quiet all day, out of road of rifle fire and very few shots come down here from the Turk's guns.

Monday-Thursday, September 20-23

At the beach, doing about four-hours buzzer practice.

Friday, September 24

Moved about 8am, went up gully from the beach to the firing line. Plenty of firing going on until about 4pm, before we got settled. Heavy shelling about 10pm.

Saturday, September 25

Very quiet during the day, plenty of rifle fire during the night.

Sunday, September 26

Plenty of bombing going on during the day and night.

Monday, September 27

Moved to other side of gully about 11am. Fire a salute at 7pm in event of the French successes in France.

Tuesday, September 28

Very little firing during the day, plenty during the night.

Wednesday, September 29

Very little rifle fire during the day, but plenty of guin fire.

Thursday, September 30

About one-hour of heavy fire from one of our trench mortar, then the Turks gave us plenty of shells and rifle fire in return.

Friday, October 1

Moved down to Gully Beach about 10am, arrived about 1.30pm and stayed there until the 14th doing fatigues and buzzer practice.

Thursday, October 14

Moved about 5pm for the firing line, where we arrived about 8pm.

Friday, October 15

Very quiet all day.

Saturday, October 16

Very quiet during the day, plenty of rifle fire and bomb throwing during the night.

Sunday, October 17

Moved down to Fusilier Street and stayed there until the morning of the 21st. Very quiet except for a few bullets and shells the Turks sent us to let us know they were there.

Thursday, October 21

Our battalion moved into the firing line at 8.30am. I stopped in Fusilier Street in charge of our telephone there.

Sunday, October 24

Our battalion came out of the firing line, all very quiet.

Monday, October 25

Very quiet during the day, plenty of rifle fire during the night.

Tuesday, October 26

Very quiet all day.

Wednesday, October 27

Our battalion went in the firing line, but I stopped at Fusilier Street. Plenty of rifle fire.

Friday, October 29

Our battalion got relieved about 9am; still in Fusilier Street.

Tuesday, November 2

Part of our battalion went to Mudros for a rest. I got up at 3am, moved at 4.30am for Lancashire Landing where we arrived about 7.30am. Set sail at 8am. Arrived at Mudros about 12.30pm and had about three miles to march to our camp.

Saturday, November 6

Still at Mudros enjoying ourselves.

Wednesday, November 24

Fell in at 9am, march off at 10.30am. Set sail at 4pm, arrived at the Clyde about 9pm. Had about five miles to march back to Fusilier Street, where we arrived about 4am the next morning.

Friday, November 26

Moved about 10am for Eski Line. The Turks sent us a few shells.

Saturday, November 27

Very quiet all day.

Sunday, November 28

Snow on the ground when we got up. The Turks gave us a few shells.

December 10

Moved out of Eski Line and went up to Fusilier Street. Left at 8.15am, arrived at 10am.

December 11

Bombardment started at 8am.

December 17

Moved up into the firing line at 10am.

December 19

Bombardment started at 2.15pm. The first party of bombers went over at 2.17pm and the second party at 2.19pm with no casualties. Heavy firing on both sides from the rifles and guns went on all day.

December 22

The Turks made an attack to try and take the crater back, but were repulsed with heavy losses.

December 24

Moved in the afternoon to our winter dugouts just below Eski Line.

December 27

Left our dugouts at 5pm, arrived at W Beach at 11pm and I can tell you it was hard work, as it was up to the waist in mud and water coming down the gully.

We embarked at 1am and I went down below to sleep and the boys told me in the morning that shells had been dropping very close to the ship during the night.

We set sail about 6am and arrived at Mudros at 9am, then we had about seven miles to march to our camping ground.

We stayed there until the morning of January 12th and did very little work.