SUVLA - Second Lieutenant Edmund Priestman, 6th York and Lancaster Regiment, 32nd Brigade, 11th Division - On 23 September Lieutenant Edmund Priestman wrote a letter describing in comic tones the various types of artillery shells he ha discerned from his trenches at Suvla.
Cartoon by E. V. Priestman
"When you have lived for ten days in a region where they wander whistling overhead, where they somersault eccentrically in circles, where they drop bits of themselves with the buzz of a drunken bumble bee, where, in fact, they do everything but burst, you come to know the projectile family fairly intimately. In fact, some poetically constructed Bulldog has christened the various members of the family. First there is 'Whistling Willie', a bustling soul, who does his journey, between the boom of leaving his front door and the moment when he sneezes up a cloud of dust in front of our parapet, in about four and a half seconds. You can almost hear him saying to the Turkish gunners: "Now then, you chaps, come on, buck up, look alive! That’s it, off mw we go, Booooom! Zizzzzz! "Here we are—tishoo!" Yes, he’s a brisk, pushing lad, is Willie, but rather superficial really. There’s more swagger and dust about him than the result justifies - although it’s only fair to say that he once threw up a stone large enough to upset the adjutant’s tea. Probably the war will end (if ever) with that deed of questionable military significance to his credit, and no more. Willie’s cousin, 'Whispering Walter', also of Ottoman origin, is a fellow of infinitely more worth and solidity. Though he takes longer over his trip from the muzzle to the mark he makes up for lost time when he gets there. It is rather as though he gave his gunners instructions to push him off slowly so as to give him time to pick a good place to drop. "Very good," they say to him, "off yer goes!" Boooom! A pause. Then Walter comes into our area-" Whizzlizzlizzle!", he whispers to himself confidentially, as much as to say, "Now where, down below, is a good fat Brigadier, or a mountain battery, or a pile of stores (dash it, I must hurry up and spot something; I’m nearly exhausted) - oh, a girls’ school, a cabbage-patch - anything!" And down he comes - whang - as often as not half a mile from anything he could damage. There is a lesson on the futility of procrastination in Walter’s methods. Walter has two brothers, 'Clanking Claud' and 'Stumer Steve'. Claud always sets out, like his elder brother, in a meditative mood. Having travelled a sufficient distance and found nothing worthy of his mettle, he decides, apparently, to show his independence by never coming down from his airy height to earth at all. So "Kerlank! " he says, and disappears ostentatiously in a cloud of white smoke some 50 yards above us. True, he showers down a lot of little leaden marbles, but that merely shows his spiteful nature. And then there is poor 'Stumer Steve. "If ye have tears, prepare to shed them now!" for Stephen is both blind and dumb. Though he sets out full as his brothers of resolution, though, like Walter, he whispers promises of daring deeds, like Claud, passes with discriminating deliberation over the ground below, yet his final descent is a hollow and meaningless affair, though pathetic withal, “Plunk!" In a word the requiem of Steve. A young and apparently vigorous life robbed of its final destiny, a career despoiled of its rightful goal. Often we find he is filled with sawdust! Sawdust! Like any sixpence-halfpenny doll! Sometimes he is empty altogether. Poor Steven, the best that can be said of him, even when in desperation he lands upon a stone and goes hurtling away in spiral somersaults, is - 'stumer' and even that's an American word! Quite another kettle of fish is 'Greasy Gregory'. There is a solemnity, a grandeur, and a determination about Greg that inspires respect. Also he is just about twice the size of his fellows and takes quite twice as long in making his way to earth. The mysterious and rather awe-inspiring feature of his performance is that you never hear him start! Possibly you are sitting over a slice of bacon or a savoury bully stew when he makes his advent known. Just a greasy flutter overhead and then "Crash!" Gregory has come. Everything gets up and changes places in a cloud of yellow dust and smoke. The atmosphere being thick, things that have no sort of right there get into intimate and inconvenient places (teapots, tunic pockets, etc.), and I have spent as much as 20 minutes in a time of famine separating Gallipoli Peninsula from raspberry jam after one of Gregory’s little jokes. Last, and least, comes the clown of the party - 'Airy Archibald'. His speciality is aeroplanes, and his efforts are acknowledged to be purely humorous by both sides. His methods are something like this. On some still, cloudless afternoon a distant buzzing sound is heard, heralding the approach of an aeroplane. Instantly Archibald springs into life. 'Whoop-pop!' Somewhere (it generally takes a good deal of finding) a tiny puff of smoke appears against the blue. Never by any chance is it in the same quarter of the sky as the aircraft. 'Whoop-pop! 'Whoop-pop!' One after another they leap up to have a look. The airman never takes the smallest notice, but sails serenely on, and never yet have I seen Archibald get within a thousand yards of his object. Once, so rumour has it, he did get nearer, so near, in fact, that two of his bullets hit a wing of the machine. But the shock of success was too great, and Archie’s empty shell falling to earth put two of his own gunners out of action! This story I cannot vouch for, but this I know, that after a monoplane has actually disappeared over the horizon I have seen Archibald jump viciously at him four times and every time miss him by quite three miles! Well, here’s to you, my comic friend. You add a humour to life, and I wish the others could follow your lead, and, taking life less seriously, give us as wide a miss"
E. Y. Priestman, With a BP Scout in Gallipoli: A record of the Belton Bulldogs (London: George Routledge & Sons, 1916), pp. 237-241.