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Surviving Chunuk Bair: H D Skinner at Gallipoli

gallipoli soldiers

H D Skinner was one of over 24 000 ANZAC soldiers injured during the 1915 Gallipoli campaign. He went on to become the director of Otago Museum.

The letters Skinner sent home to family and friends in New Zealand detail the three days and nights of fighting during the Battle of Chunuk Bair. The extract below is taken from a letter he wrote in October 1915, while recovering in the Bethnal Green Infirmary in London.

Night came beautifully clear: rifle fire grew brisker and we marched off. I carried two hundred and twenty rounds, my iron ration, also a shirt, a pair of socks, shaving gear and such extra food as I could cram into pockets and haversack. We marched down the winding sap past the shadowy water tank to the beach: then North among the stacks of stores and ammunition into the sap again. On our left was the sea, on our right the group of hills one slope of which we have held since the beginning and the peak of which -- Hill 971 – we were to capture. Towards dawn we camped in a little valley full of scrub. We spent Friday hiding in the valley. Twice a German Taube flew over us but we lay still under the scrub and they did not see us.

In the morning I went up with the water bottles of our section to the tanks on Walker’s Ridge, a terrible climb in the heat. As we stood in a long queue the bullets began to drop about us, aimed at officers on the bank above us, and Kelly, a corporal in D company who was stood beside me was struck and fell dead. I filled our bottles and went back, passing a big new 5in. howitzer hidden in branches beside the track. How they had dragged it up that razor back I do not know. I looked out of a loop hole at the glorious landscape below. The slopes held partly by our dismounted and partly by Turks, the green flats, the Salt Lake, the low range of hills forming the Northern edge of the peninsular and the Gulf of Saros. I went down and tried to get some sleep in the scanty shade.

You can find the rest of this letter, plus many more, below. 


Download each letter's scan and transcript:

 October 1915 Bethnal Green Infirmary transcript

 October 1915 Bethnal Green Infirmary letter

 5 October 1915 transcript

 5 October 1915 letter

 6 October 1915 transcript

 6 October 1915 letter

 13 October 1915 transcript

 13 October 1915 letter

 22 October 1917 Father transcript

 22 October 1917 Father letter

 22 October 1917 Mother transcript

 22 October 1917 Mother letter

 26 October 1917 transcript

 26 October 1917 letter

 5 November 1917 transcript

 5 November 1917 letter


Top image: Soldiers occupying a trench during the Gallipoli campaign. Ref: 1/4-058131-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.