HELLES - Dr William Ewing, (attached to) 4th Royal Scots, 52nd Division and Captain John Gillam, Army Service Corps, 29th Divisional Supply Train - Both these accomplished - and published - diarists mentioned a shell crashing down on the signal hut at W Beach the only question is which of them got the date it happened right! Dr Ewing claimed the incident happened on 1 August 1915.
Photograph: W Beach
"On the edge of the gully to the right, looking seawards, was the hut of the signallers. Here touch was maintained by telegraph and telephone with H.Q. and with every unit in the field. Cheerful and obliging fellows were in charge ; and it was a frequent place of call, lying as it did on our way to and from the beach. The wireless installation had been several times damaged ; but the hut seemed to bear a charmed life till Sunday,1st August. Just after eleven o'clock a more than usually violent bombardment took place. A 6-inch H.E. shell plunged through the corrugated iron roof of the dugout, and exploded with disastrous effect. I ran to the spot, and found the hut a wreck. Six men were killed outright, and nine were wounded, some of them grievously. More seemed to be hurt by fragments of the iron roof than by splinters of the shell. It had struck about the middle of the roof, and the effect of the explosion was forward. The men in front were killed, those in the middle were injured, and those at the back were practically unhurt. The instruments sustained only trifling damage. With splendid nerve, Corporal Walker, R.E., although shaken by the terrible experience, set himself resolutely to repair the damage; and he told me that within 35 minutes he had all connections restored and in working order. " He reopened communication," says Sir Ian Hamilton, "By apologising for the incident, and by saying that he required no assistance." These six poor fellows were eating their lunch at one o'clock : I buried them at three. Two hours later another shell killed two men in the A.S.C. Stores, on the other side of the valley ; and yet another killed two men in the R.E. Park, about 300 yards from our station. A pathetic thing about one of the last was that he was working on a notice-board for me, to be put up at the cemetery gate. His officer wrote to say that he had just finished the job when he was killed. Very well he had done his last bit of work."
Interestingly enough an account of what is definitely the same incident was attributed to the 31 July by John Gillam. However while a quick search for casualties shows only two REs killed on 31 July, there were three on 1 August - of which three are buried at Lancashire Landing Cemetery. Here is Gillam's account:
"While issuing this morning at depot, high explosive shells come over from Achi. They burst in different places, searching the beach. One bursts near Way's depot, and one man and two mules are hit, the man badly. Next one on aerodrome. An interval of two or three minutes passes between the arrival of each shell. Shortly after the one had burst near Way's depot, I, standing with issuers, drivers, G.S. wagons, A.T. carts, N.C.O.'s and ration parties all around me, hear the shriek of one coming straight at me, for it shrieks too long. Those who say that, if killed by a shell, one never hears the shriek of the shell that hits one, are quite mistaken that is to say, when being shelled by one, two, or three guns at a time. In a bombardment, of course, the din is so deafening that you can't tell which shell is addressed to you and which is not and after a bit you don't much care. A deafening explosion and dense smoke, dust, and stones, and I find myself locked in the arms of a transport driver with my face buried in the stomach of a fat sergeant, and mules kicking all round. Not a man hit, and the shell 5 yards away. The nearest I have ever had. It had burst in a mound of soft earth and right deep in the ground, and that saved us. I look up, and all the others get sheepishly to their feet, and I get out another cigarette and smoke. I smoked six of them hard, and tried to be facetious and to pretend that I did not care, but not one man there could have been in a more miserable cowardly funk than I was, while waiting for the next, which, however, gave us a long miss. Later in the morning we got a few high explosive shells from Achi. One pitched clean on the roof of our signal offices, which is a timbered erection, sand-bagged, and proof against splinter only. There the clerks work, 'tap-tap-tap' and 'buzz-buzz-buzz' to and from all over the Peninsula, messages being sent and received every minute, almost all the day and night, like a central telegraph office in London. Down came the shrieking thing: a deafening report ; splinters of timber, torn sand-bags, dust, stones, and smoke fly into the air, and then silence. A pause, and men rush, not away, but to the ruined office. Nine men and one Signal Officer have been killed outright. Several wounded are carried up the cliff to the hospital. Operators immediately get to work connecting up the severed wires to new instruments. Improvised tables are put in position. In half an hour a wire is sent off to G.H.Q. that all is "O.K.," and 'tap-tap', 'buzz-buzz' is heard once more, tapping and buzzing busily away, not for a weekly wage, but for the King. It was a near thing for old Findlay in his office, 20 yards away."
W. Ewing, From Gallipoli To Baghdad, (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1917). pp.105-106, J. Gillam, Gallipoli Diary, (Stevenage, The Strong Oak Press, 1989), pp.178-179