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LA 002 Pat OConnor 26th July 1918 smPatrick O'Connor's Story

Patrick's parents Edmund and Agnes O'Connor selected land in The Patch when the area was opened up for selection in 1893. Their 10 acre block was situated on the big sweeping bend on The Patch Road in The Patch. Before enlisting, Pat played football for Monbulk. He played in the 1912 Premiership team.

Patrick O'Connor recorded a long and detailed report of the days prior to his capture and all his subsequent difficulties as a Prisoner of War including brutal treatment, torture and ill treatment until final repatriation. The report includes reference to life in the trenches and a minor wound before capture, several wounds on the day of the capture and an attempt to beat him to death with a rock before being taken away for internment. He also witnessed the murder of an Australian wounded soldier by the Turks.

When Pat first returned home he lived on his father's property at The Patch. He rode round on a horse. Pat was once heard saying to his friend Smasher, (Harold Wakeman) who was just a little bloke. "You know, Smasher, you'd make a decent leg for a man!"

Pat was known as Patsy O'Connor to many of his friends in Monbulk.

The road opposite the O’Connor selection property was the beginning of what was once known as ‘The Bridle Track’ which ran from The Patch Road through to Gleghorn Road in Kallista. The Patch end of that road was later re-named “O'Connor's Road” after Patrick O'Connor.

Patrick's story was related by Jill A'Vard at the 2017 Monbulk RSL Anzac Day service. You can read the Anzac Day speech here.

1919 Repatriated Prisoner of War Statement

(The original handwritten Repatriated Prisoner of War Statement can be viewed here.)

PATRICK O'CONNOR
Reg. No.:    1568
Rank        Private
Name        O'Connor, Patrick
Platoon    No 16
Company    "D" Coy.
Battalion    14th  Battalion

Circumstances of capture.
(a) Date     August 8, 1915
(b) Place    Near Anafarta, Gallipoli
(c) What happened before capture

Our Brigade objective was Hill 971. My Brigade - the 14th Brigade, made up of the 13th, 14th (Pat's), 15th and 16th Battalions left ANZAC Beach on I believe, the 6th August at any rate it was two days before I was captured. My Battalion had been in the trenches at Courtney's Post, but for some weeks prior to the date of my capture by the Turks we had been lying in Rest Gully. There we were doing fatigue work and mounting guards in the gully and on Anzac Beach. One fatigue job we were on was the widening of a trench towards Aneparto Village so that pack mules could pass along it.

Anzac CoveWe left Rest Gully about dusk on the 6th August and moved along the beach. We passed through fields of stubble and fields of corn until they reached a comparatively level plot of land at a right incline to a lofty hill. There on this level plot, we got orders to "dig in". We could see the Turks on the hill on our right front and, indeed, here and there all along our front. Alas facing the Turks, on our extreme right, were the Ghurkas. We had to dig in on virgin land. As soon as we had dug enough earth to fill a sand bag we used that sand bag as a protecting barrier in front of us until we could dig enough to fill another. In this way we built up a soil of parapet as we dug. While we were digging in we were subjected to a heavy rifle and machine gun fire by the Turks. Eventually it was found that there were too many of us for the trench we were digging. We were in one another's way and could not work in comfort. So the extra men put to work at digging a sap that led into a gully at our rear. The Quartermaster detached me and some others to bring water up from Headquarters which was down a gully. Just as we led off I was hit on the left shoulder by a piece of shrapnel. It was nothing very severe; it merely marked the flesh but bounced off the bone. I got down to the water where the Quartermaster (officer) ordered me to find the stretcher bearers and tell them also to find a hand in carrying water to the lads up in the trench. I found the stretcher bearers, some of them carrying wounded men down to the beach on stretchers, others returning from the beach with empty stretchers. I can remember one who was carrying a wounded Turkish officer. While we were digging in from time to time we noticed some Turks crawling towards us through the bushes. They were armed, carrying rifles, but although they would creep out now and again, they would not come boldly forward.

We found out later on that they were trying to give themselves up. A mate of mine - Pither, of the 16th Battalion (now missing) fired at one. The Turk fell down in the bushes. I also fired at one and believe I hit him in the back. He never fell, however, but ran back and re-joined his comrades. Those Turks then all scuttled into a little gully. An Imperial officer (Captain Rose) who was often with our Battalion, when he saw that the Turks were endeavouring to surrender, ordered us to cease firing. Roughly, about 20 Turks came in and surrendered. They were all unwounded. One of them spoke to Captain Rose, neither English or French. At any rate Captain Rose evidently understood what he said. This Turk gave an order and the others immediately put down their arms. They had rifles and bayonets. They had come out of a gully behind us, as we must have passed them so we advanced. The country was covered with bushes and we could not see at all well.

Anzac Hill 971Hill 971 - the highest point and the objective of O'Connor's BrigadeThere were about 10 or a dozen of us in the water carrying party with which I was. When we got up to the bunch with the water we found that Q.M.S. Scott had been shot through the throat and had gone back to Headquarters. My platoon sergeant, Sgt. J. Allen, had also been wounded while in the trench. We had no sergeants, but someone gave the order to dish out the water to the men as they came out of the trench. By this time it was growing late - say 6pm. Pither and I had both been with the water-carrying party and were now waiting our turn at the trench digging. The trench was very narrow and we were trying to widen it. We originally understood that we were to dig a trench and then hold it as supports. That was the understanding from the N.C.O.'s and - through them - the men. When we were in Reserve Gully, I remember the N.C.O.'s being called up to receive these instructions. But at about midnight, or there abouts, we were ordered to cease digging, the reason given being that we were to advance again to the hill in the morning.

It was just breaking day when we advanced, the 13th Battalion, I understand, remained behind to hold the Trench. By this time my wounded shoulder had become very stiff, for I had not been able to see a doctor nor had I been able to have my wound dressed and bandaged. Pither asked me if I was going to remain and have my shoulder attended to or was I going on. I replied that I would go on with the rest.


THE ADVANCE

Hill 971 map positionFrom the trench we went down a hill, crossed a gully and went up the other side. Eventually we came out onto a stubble field. Here the orders were given to open out into extended order. We were now being subjected to sharp machine gun and rifle fire though we could see no Turks. Advancing from the stubble field, we  struck bushy country again and from behind the bushes we could see Turks rising up every now and again. There were four of us who kept well together. Besides myself and Pither there were Keenan and Rose. We fired whenever we could see a target and I know we knocked over some of them, at any rate an odd one here and there.

But by this time our own fellows began to drop. For the worst part they were wounded low in the leg - below the ankle, the damage being done by a Turkish machine gun mounted on a hill opposite. There was a six foot gully on our right and a number of our wounded lads went down into it to bandage up their hurts. At the one time I saw about a dozen of them down in that gully bandaging their wounds. Pither and I pushed on for about 50 yards. Pither being slightly in advance. We spied some Turks on a hill opposite and Pither dropped down to have a shot at them. I was getting down into "the prone position" also, when I received a bullet through the right instep. I fell pretty heavily, luckily behind a fairish sized stone. A chap on my right who had also been wounded made an attempt to hold up my leg. But while doing so he was mortally wounded; in fact he fell dead across my legs. I do not know who he was beyond that he was an Australian. I moved his body off my legs. The pain of my wound made me roll over and in doing so I must have exposed myself. At any rate I was being persistently sniped at. One shot tore my _ and went into the thick muscle of my leg. I heard bullets repeatedly strike the big stone behind which I was lying. In my right tunic pocket I had 10 rounds of ammunition. We had carried as much small arms ammunition as we could when we started out on the advance. A Turkish sniper's bullet exploded this ammunition but I was not injured by the explosion beyond having my skin taken off my right hip.

TURKISH MARAUDERS

Shortly afterwards I saw a Turk coming towards in through the bushes at my rear. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. The Turk touched me with his foot. Then he unbuttoned my tunic and saw a money belt that I was wearing. Apparently he was unable to see how it unbuckled for he seized hold of it and bumped me up and down by it until it snapped. The process gave me intense pain. The Turk took the belt away with him, gaining thereby about 8/- and left me. Another marauding Turk came along shortly and went through my pockets. He got a few cards and letters, but missed my watch, which I had strapped into a Havelock tobacco tin.

As soon as I was wounded I had worked off my equipment, hiding the water bottle in a bush within easy reach of me. This second Turk emptied the beef and bully beef out of my haversack but did not take them away. Then he left me. A third Turk came along. He was a luckier man than his predecessors for he found my watch and also robbed me of a ring I was wearing. I had not been able to "gammon sleep" all the time, seeing that I was awake and conscious, he signed to me to come along with him. I signed back that I couldn't walk and that I wanted a stretcher. I was stalling for time, thinking that the longer I could keep him the better chance I should have of being picked up by some of our own fellows. However, he too, eventually went away and he never came back.

BARBARIAN BRUTALITY

Within 10 minutes another Turk came along. On his way to me he had to pass a number of other Australians wounded. I saw the brute draw a bayonet from the scabbard of a wounded Australian and then thrust into the wounded man's stomach. I yelled out at him. I could stand it no longer. He heard me all right. I cursed him in good Australian. I could no longer "lie dumb". When he came towards me I at first pretended to be asleep, but he soon made it clear that he had heard me speak. He picked up a 4 pound lump of rock that lay nearby and holding it in his hand, began to pound my head with it. When I raised my hands to fend the blows off my head he transferred his attentions to my body, about the ribs. Eventually he batted me till I lost consciousness. When I came to, there was a party of four or five Turks nearby. They were talking loudly and rapidly and it was their voices that had wakened me. They signed to me to follow them, but when they found that I was helpless they seized hold of my hands and began hauling me down towards a gully nearby. My idea is that they intended down there to "do me in" properly and then strip me. But an officer suddenly appeared, accompanied by a Turkish orderly, the latter carrying a rifle. I think the officer was a German; he certainly was not a Turk. As soon as he saw the officer they dropped me and started to run away. But when the officer called them they came back again, the Turkish orderly covering them with his riffle. At the officer's orders the Turk picked me up and carried me to him. He did not speak English but I heard him say "hospital". I was handed into the care of the armed orderly. He also ordered me to walk.  I worked myself along for about 10 yards, backwards, using my hands. So far the fire had been as intense that I had not been able to sit up and apply my field dressing. When I had scrambled along, in the fashion indurated, for about 10 yards, I signed to the orderly that I could go no further. He cocked his rifle and put the muzzle to my ear. But I spied a dug-out in the side of the hill and eventually managed to scramble my way up into it. When I got there the orderly apparently wanted me to go further. He prodded me with his rifle and again threatened me with it. But when he saw that I was "clean done in", he left me.


FIRST AID BY RED CRESCENT ARMENIAN

In the course of about half an hour an Armenian in the uniform of the Turkish Red Crescent came along and bandaged my wounds. He was very gentle in his treatment of me and cut off my socks to get at my wounded instep. Furthermore, he gave me a drink of water and a couple of cigarettes.

Just in front of the dug-out in which I lay was a main track along which Turkish horse trains were carrying stores from the boats. I noticed barrels of water passing along on pack horses. The Armenian stopped an empty pack horse and instructed the Turks to have me put on it. Then he left. The Turks fairly threw me and I landed on that pack horse. When I came to, we started off, one Turk leading the pack horse.

While on guard on Anzac Beach I had learned the Turkish words for "bread" and for "water". I asked the Turk who was leading the horse for "soo" (water) and he left me to get some. But just then our shrapnel opened up and the Turk came running back. He hurried me along across a small field. In this field there were quite a number of dead Turks - about 30 or so I should say. We passed some Turks drawing water at a well. They called out; "English!" Thinking that if I took no notice of them they might stone me, I waved my hat. I was taken into a dressing station where there were already a number of wounded Australians.

SOME WOUNDED AUSTRALIAN I SAW

Among the wounded Australian's I remember having seen there were –

Hennessey, a North Melbourne man of the 14th Battalion. He afterwards died as a Prisoner of War in the Turkish military hospital at Tash Kishla.

Barney Woods, also of the 14th, who used to work in the Quartermaster's Store. This man already had three wounds in the arms and three also in the legs. A German nurse afterwards told me in Harbia Hospital that Woods died that night.

J. Leyain, also of the 14th Battalion, was wounded in the head and also died that night.

There was another of our chaps, badly wounded, who died that night, using my folded coat as his pillow. I cannot recall his name.

While we were at this dressing station our shrapnel opened up and poor Woods received another wound in the arm, making four.

At about 5 O'clock in the evening Turkish Red Crescent carts came for us the wounded. Each ambulance cart carried four stretcher cases and in them we were taken adjoining up some 10 miles to another dressing station. Here there were two German doctors and we were put to bed on pallets of clean straw. The German doctors gave us tea; in fact they were good to our wounded in every way. But we only remained at this dressing station for about an hour. Then we were carried about a quarter of a mile on stretchers and placed on other carts. These were Turkish transport carts - wide at the top but narrow towards the floor. They were jolty and uncomfortable and riding in them under our circumstances was something to remember. They were also short in the body, these transport carts; the tail-board appeared to be too close up, and we could not stretch our bodies. I had to hold up my wounded leg the best way I could. Then the Turks in charge were very bad drivers. They loafed along over the smooth patches of road and trotted over the bumpy patches. Moreover the surly driver we had refused to allow us to do what we could to make ourselves comfortable.

At about 2 o'clock in the morning two of us were capsized out of our cart into the middle of the road. The cumbrous cart had lurched and thrown us out. We narrowly escaped being run over by the carts that were following up but the drivers managed to pull up in time. My comrade in misfortune had been shot through the stomach and we both fairly succumbed with pain. Our sorry plight learned to highly edify and amuse the Turks. They gathered around and laughed heartily at us. We were too badly done up to properly cuss them. The Turks heaved us back into the cart and we journeyed on without mishap until about 8am. I can't say precisely where we were but it was on the coast. Alongside a pier there lay a small steamer, probably a pleasure launch before the war. She was flying a hospital flag but I rather fancy that she had been carrying stores also.


TRUE ORIENTAL POLITENESS

We were hauled out of the transport carts and dumped into what appeared to be a convalescent camp for sick and wounded Turks. We were given yet another exhibition of Turkish hospitality and true Oriental courtesy. Whenever the opportunity presented - and these were pretty frequent - these Turkish convalescent patients spat upon us and kicked our wounds. They gave us a very rough time of it, but we stood it as long as we could. Then we formed ourselves into a ring, planting the more badly wounded of our chaps in the centre where they could not be so readily molested by the Turks. I did see a Turkish officer there but he was 200 yards away. The Turks would not give me a stretcher and I endeavoured to crawl along the pier to the little steamer on my stomach. I suffered fearful agony! Eventually I wrangled a couple of orderlies who were returning with an empty stretcher and persuaded them to put me on board. The little steamer almost immediately pulled out from the pier. The reason was soon clear. Our aeroplanes were bombing a village near by and had started a fire there. The men evidently afraid that the Turks might take control of the steamer so they pulled her out from the pier.

There were still two of our wounded comrades left on the pier and when the vessel pulled out I thought that was the last we should see of them; but, to our great surprise, later on that evening they were brought alongside in a rowing boat and taken aboard. The small steamer carried us to Constantinople.

ACCOUNT OF LIFE AS PRISONER OF WAR IN TURKISH HANDS

When we reached the Turkish capital we were placed in the Haria Hospital. But before we got off the steamer some Turkish people gave us a cup of tea a piece and a few biscuits. We were carried off the vessel on stretchers and placed under guard at a railway station. It was bitterly cold. Some Turkish "heads" came along and greeted us with "Welcome, soldiers" We retorted: "Give us some blankets". But they took no notice and passed on. Then Turkish "gharries" or carts took us to Harbia Hospital.

In peace time the building used as a hospital at Harbia had been a military college. It was a very big place and the institution turned out to be - as Turkish hospitals go - by no means a bad place. We were put into nice warm beds and given a change of dry clothes of the Turkish hospital pattern. In the room in which I was moved to, were 15 of us wounded and captured Australians. It was here that we noticed that Barney Woods was missing and as a German Sister who spoke English told us that one of our comrades had died the night before, we presumed that it was he. This German nurse at Harbia Hospital was a really splendid woman; I wish I knew her name. She gave us cakes and lollies, tobacco, cigarettes and papers. She did not appear to be able to do too much for us. In fact she was "a toff" to us wounded Australian prisoners in every way.

I was kept in Harbia Hospital for 11 days, when I was taken to Tash Kisschler Hospital, in Taxim, a suburb of Constantinople. As the hospital at Harbia, a Turkish doctor who saw my wounded leg had said that it would have to be amputated. But the same afternoon a German doctor who saw my leg said there would be no need to have the leg taken off. I asked the friendly German doctor to let me have my leg examined by the principal doctor at the hospital - the "Pascha Doctors" he was called. Then he arranged it and the "Pascha Doctor" proved to be a really good man. I told him that if my leg had to be amputated I was content to let it be so but that I did not want to be practiced on or experimented upon. He replied that it would be a shame to take my leg off. It might take some little time but the leg could be saved. Furthermore, he asked me if I fancied any special diet. When I mentioned a cutlet and 2 eggs he instructed the sister to let me have them. I got them all right. This "Pascha Doctor" was a Turk - but a rare one. Altogether the treatment extended to us at Harbia was very good.

AN UGLY TRANSFORMATION

When we had been in Harbia Hospital 11 days word came that we were to be taken to another hospital where there were English. We were taken in carts to Tash Kisschler. When we got to the place I thought that we had pulled up at a livery stable & that we were waiting for another "ferry" or something of the sort. There was no light, the windows having been boarded up, we were transferred to mattresses on the floor. I had no trousers on and so had to sleep in my bandages and a short shirt.
During our first night in this abominable hole J.P. Kelly of the 15th became delirious and died on a mattress alongside me. In the morning, for breakfast, we were given a basin of wheat, boiled in water, precisely the same as you would feed fowls on. At 9 O'clock that morning I was carried on a stretcher to a dressing room. Here the bandages on my wounds were unrolled and my wounds examined. A chloroform "bag" was thrust over my nose and when I resumed consciousness my leg had been amputated. A chap named Callaphan, or O'Callaphan, from Brisbane was close by when I came to. At my request he lifted up the bed clothes and we found that my leg was gone! When I left Harbia Hospital my leg was real well. The German Sister was looking after it splendidly, assisted by an Armenian doctor who also spoke English. It was about noon when I recovered from the influence of the chloroform. Almost immediately a meal was placed in front of me. It was steamed wheat with some dirty molten fat formed over it. And that was quite soon after my leg had been amputated. Needless to say, I didn't touch that "meal". Altogether I had a rotten experience there at Tash Kisschler.

Private J. P. Hennessey, of the 14th Battalion, also died there. He was a North Melbourne man and had been wounded in the left leg in the face. For a full fortnight his wounds were left unattended and undressed. To make matters worse the poor beggar was suffering from diarrhoea and his wounds became fearfully fowl on that account. Hennessey also had been setting along splendidly at Harbia.


DUTCH AND AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP

We had been held in this hole at Tach Kisschler until January 1916.

Until October we had a very rough time of it indeed. We were fed alternately upon dishes of boiled wheat and steamed wheat with fat, just as I have already described. There was no change.

But in October 1915, Dutch ladies commenced to visit us. They brought money to us that we understood came through American channels. They brought in gifts of Sanatogen, Wincarnis, eggs, condensed milk and sugar. These ladies came to the hospital every morning. They were the two daughters of the Ambassador at the Dutch Legation in Constantinople - the Mademoiselles Bertha and Frida Willebois. To the wounded Australians in that hospital they behaved as "trumps".

Men who could walk were expected to act as orderlies - to bring in medicines and the like. A "Tommy" Corporal named Harry Turner had the distribution of a lot of the gifts brought along by the ladies I have mentioned. He was a "waster"; his own Tommy "cobbers" will tell you that. He gave more of the gifts to the Turkish wounded men than to ours. He could squeeze "baksheesh" out of the Turks. Perhaps that was the reason there was a large number of Tommy wounded in this hospital.

I remained at Tash Kisschler Hospital till January 27, 1916. At Christmas time 1915, the Dutch ladies, asserted by the Roman Catholic Bishop, gave us a really splendid turn out. We had roast turkey and roasted chestnuts and the Bishop had the boards and blinds taken down from the windows so we had more light in the place. I underwent two further operations here, small frags of bone being removed from my leg.

A SUCCESSION OF CHANGES

From Tash Kisschler I went back to Harbia Hospital. There I found the friendly German Sister from the operating room and was in charge of us. A young German doctor, whom I had met when I was here before, remembered me. He was quite surprised that my leg had been removed and stated that if I had remained at Harbia I should not have lost it. The German Sister also said the same.

During my second stay at Harbia I was operated upon twice. At the second operation they removed a piece of bone from the stump of my amputated leg. The operation revealed that on the occasion of the operation at Tash Kisschler the bone of my leg had only been partially sawn through and then snapped off! I was unconscious, of course, but my friend Daren, who was there and who came across from Turkey with me, can tell you all about it.

AfyonkarahisarAfyonkarahisarI remained at Harbia till the end of September. Leaving there I first spent three days in a military prison in Constantinople and then three days at a place by the sea, called Sifearth. The days at the latter place were pleasant enough. Then I went to Afion Kara Hissar in Asia Minor. I had been there about a month when my leg broke out again.

At this place we managed to live fairly well. We received money through the American Ambassador - from 40 to 100 piastres a month. The monthly allowance was supposed to be 100 piastres but it was very often less - when new batches of prisoners came in to share in the distribution. Still stuff was cheap enough and the money enabled us to live without bucking the issue of Turkish "just".

At this place some of our chaps were cruelly flogged - a bulls' pizzle being the instrument of torture. I remember a Queensland chap named Mackey. A Turkish guard had prodded him with a rifle and the Queenslander promptly knocked the guard down. A Turkish Officer who went to expostulate was also laid out by the Queenslander. For this little lot, Mackay was held down and flogged and also awarded a term of imprisonment.

My wound having become worse I was put into the hospital at Afion Kara Hissar on 2nd November. I was also bad with fever and my throat was choking. There were Turkish and Greek orderlies in the ward. The Greek orderlies were fair enough but the Turks were awful. For fevers the patient was placed between wet sheets. One of the Turkish orderlies was tormenting me and I managed to lay him out. He whacked me but I managed to defend myself. The Turkish "imbashi" or corporal came along with two orderlies. They evidently intended to "deal" with me but I managed to keep them off till the Turkish doctor came. He seemed to understand English and I endeavoured to explain to him. But he handed out a dose of punishment; they had me tied down in bed for three days. The food was better than in some of the other hospitals I had been.


AT HAIDA PASCHA HOSPITAL

I remained in hospital till Dec. 13, 1916. It was announced that we were to be sent to Constantinople for exchange. But nothing came of it; in any case I, myself, was too bad to be shifted.

Eventually I was taken to Haida Pascha Hospital, near Constantinople. At first the food here was by no means good. We complained and a great improvement was soon noted in that we were being given better food than were the Turkish patients themselves. This was maintained till June. Then a Turkish "General Pascha" visited the place and, as a result, our rations were cut down to the old level.

There were a lot of us there awaiting exchange or repatriation. All of them - Russians, Rumanians, Indians, Australians, French, English  - seemed to come to Haida Pascha to wait exchange. In an illustrated Turkish newspaper we saw a photograph of the train that had been built for carrying home repatriated prisoners of war. But nothing came of it all and in the middle of June they were all shuffled to Psamatia Camp. I did not go and remained there till June 23rd.

RUFFKI BEY - A TURKISH GENTLEMAN

On June 21st I was sent for and my head was subjected to examination under the "X-rays". As a result of that examination, the Turkish doctor had me sent to his own hospital - the Zeynep Kiamil hospital. It was situated at Scutari, about four miles from Haida Pascha Hospital. This Turkish doctor was Dr Ruffki Bey, a Turk but a thorough gentleman. My head was operated upon on June 23rd, portions of bone being cut away and removed. Austrian Sister from a convent did most of the work here and they were very good and attentive. I had a rough bout with fever and at one time I was threatened with the loss of an eye. But Ruffke Bey saved that for me. By the end of August I had quite recovered from the effects of my operation.

At Zeynet Kiamil hospital I was treated quite reasonably by Dr Ruffke Bey. He gave me eight hours' leave to visit Constantinople while I went accompanied by a Turkish guard. At Zeynet Kiamil I received parcels from the Australian Red Cross Society but never any money. In many instances I received cards adorning the despatch of parcels for me but the parcels never reached me. As a rule the hospital director need to open these parcels before he handed them over; but the director at Zeynet Kiamil did not do so. Altogether I had a really good time at Dr Russki Bey's Scutari Hospital of Zeynep Kiamil.

I left Zeynep Kiamil on Nov. 23 or 24 for Zapion Hospital in Constantinople. We were told that we were to be kept at Zapion for three days and that then we were to be sent home. It proved to be correct enough for I left Zapion, to proceed to England on repatriation on Nov. 27th 1917.


THE JOURNEY ACROSS EUROPE

By hospital tram we crossed Turkey to Manthausen in Austria, arriving there on Dec 3rd at about 9pm. An endeavour had been made to render the tram warn and comfortable. The compartments were heated by hot water pipes. We removed our coats but still sweated. Out of this steam bath at Manthausen we were bundled out into a snowstorm! Manthausen is only a small town but there is a tremendous camp there – perhaps 60,000 all told. Mostly they are Italians but there are some Serbians, as I found they are staying here for 10 weeks and during most of the time there was two feet of snow on the ground.

It was a Red Cross Tram that brought us across and the food was decent. We were reasonably comfortable and were treated very fairly by the Austrians. In the camp at Manthausen diarrhoea was very prevalent. Food was not nearly so good. In the beginning bread ran eight to the 2Lb loaf per day; sometimes I have seen the 2 lb loaf divided among four. It was brown bread and pretty decent at first; but towards the end it was made of chestnuts and was very poor stuff indeed. We were also served up manifolds and turnips, with 3ozs meat at dinner time. The meal appeared to be pretty decent, but think the "tucker" was not the best, the Austrian's were good to us in other directions. For instance - Manthausen is a general sorting station and to Austrians permitted us to go to the station and overhaul parcels that were going on into Turkey, sorting out our own. When we left Turkey we were deprived of everything except the Turkish hospital uniform we wore and a change of under clothing. But I was luckier than most. I bought across a civilian suit I had obtained from the American Ambassador and an Australian top-coat I had received from the Red Cross Society. The other chaps had no "kit" at all. At Manthausen I swapped my "civvy suit" with an Italian baker for some extra loaves of bread.

On January 10, 1918 we left Manthausen for Switzerland, the Swiss people made a tremendous fuss of us. Swiss Sisters greeted us with shouts of "freedom!" "freedom!" As soon as we arrived in Switzerland they gave us cigarettes and cards and chocolates. They had had the cigarettes with them all along but are not allowed to distribute them while in Austrian territory. Our journey across Switzerland was "one long birthday". Even the children climbed up to the windows or were lifted up by their elders that they might bombard us with flowers. They fairly flooded us with coffee. At one station, where we declined more coffee, saying that we couldn't drink more, as we had had enough already they called out "then, wash yourselves in it!"

In our little lot there were only two Australians, myself and Daran of the 16th Battalion. There was a New Zealander named Shrewsbury. He too had been captured at Anafarea and had been with us in Turkey. His wounds are not yet healed. There were 49 Englishmen including one officer, 28 Indians 1 Phurta & some 200 Serbians.

We crossed straight through Switzerland to France, crossing the French frontier at Bellejarde. There we were met by a brass band and a guard of honour. There was a real crowd and we were given a tremendous reception. The band played the British National Anthem and the Marseillaise. Tables were spread with champagne. At Lyons, where we spent the night in hospital, we were given another immense demonstration. We were treated to a splendid dinner and to a concert in the officers' rooms. We travelled from Lyons to Rouen in an English R.A.M.C. train. We left the train at Rouen though. I believe it had been intended that we should travel onto Le Havre but there had been a mishap & part of the train had been buried. That I understand is why we were detained at Rouen. That evening the R.A.M.C. lads gave us a splendid concert and we were issued with clean underclothes and treated to a warm bath. We went down the river to Le Havre on the "St Patrick", the hospital ship that eventually bought us to the English part of Southampton. We reached Southampton Docks at about 10 O'clock on the morning of January 18th, 1918. We had a big welcome at Southampton and another when the train reached London. Miss Churnside and other ladies met us and we were handed wattle blossom and blue gum leaves. After a handsome reception at the station motor cars carried us to King George Hospital.

While in Turkey we received fine treatment from the American Ambassador. But when America came into the war the work was taken over by the Dutch Ambassador and the treatment was not nearly as good. I had shirts and socks passed out to me that had come from Red Cross Societies. I also received a pair of socks that contained a note of greeting from an Adelaide girl. I presume that these gift goods are charged up to the British Government. A man named Coster who works at the Dutch Embassy at Constantinople told me there were piles of dead men's parcels stored there. Coster's uncle is English, a Mr Knock.

AUSTRALIAN'S SEEN IN TURKEY

Among Australians soldiers met at one time or another, I saw in Turkey, or knew to be there, were the following:

Tommy Dowell, of the 14th Battalion. His left leg is 5 inches shorter than the other leg. He was at Afion Kara Hissar when I left there.

Barney Dunn, of 18th Battalion, was also there. He also has a short leg.

A Queenslander named Mackey had one useless arm and was fairly cut about the shoulders and back.
Charles Matthews, of the 9th Battalion, had a very bad arm.

Carter and Callaphen, when last I heard of them, were working for a German firm at Bella Madera. They had both been slightly wounded but were now "well away".

Lance Corporal Cohir was unwounded. I last heard of him at camp at Ismedt.

The only officer I heard of was Lt. L. H. Lusernte of the 14th. He was at Afion Kara Hissar but I didn't see him, the officers' quarters being some distance away from ours.

I might say that I managed to hang on to my old pay book throughout the whole of my captivity and I bought it back with me to England.

 OConnors Rd The Patch

220px The Water Diviner posterRead the story about how Patrick O'Connor became a part of the Russell Crowe movie The Water Diviner in the article Meet the Real ‘Water Diviner’.

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