32. Chapter 32
Chapter 32, ANZAC Day
Oh, well I remember that terrible day,
When our blood stained the sand and the water,
And how in that Hell that they call Suvla Bay,
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter,
Johnny Turkey was waiting; he’d primed himself well,
He showered us with bullets and rained us with shell,
And in ten minutes flat he’d blown us to Hell,
Nearly blew us right back to Australia.
And the band played Waltzing Matilda,
As we stopped to bury the slain,
We buried ours, and the Turk buried theirs,
Then we started all over again.
The above is the second verse and chorus from ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, written by Eric Bogle.
Author’s Notes: at dawn, on the 25th of April 1915 the ANZACS, the Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps landed in Anzac Cove, in Turkey. British and French troops followed them. They were supposed to land on an unoccupied gently sloping beach, instead they were accidentally landed on an occupied rugged beach under very heavy artillery fire. Many men died, either in the landing, or while trying to get up the beach under heavy Turkish fire; a lot drowned too. As a child I remember a local veteran telling how the sea ran ‘red as blood for three days.’ This landing, and what happened to the troops afterwards has become legendary in both Australia and New Zealand. It was such a disaster that a Royal Commission was held into the Dardanelles Campaign, for there were 100,000 allied troops killed or wounded. As a result, the Commander of the British forces, Sir Ian Hamilton was dismissed from office. It is also a national holiday in both Australia and New Zealand and is traditionally celebrated with the Dawn Service, when we remember all those who served their countries in armed conflict and join in a sincere wish that we shall never again see war on such a scale.
I was writing one large chapter, but decided to split it so as to post something after all these weeks!
Just before dawn I woke Bronwyn. Unlike she I hadn’t slept, I had spent the night remembering many things, and reading. Actually I had been trying to avoid thinking of her, and how very important she had become to me. Spending my time wondering if she could or would ever love me was rather pointless. She either would, or she would not. Therefore I tried to forget my worries, past and present, in a book. It was only partly successful.
‘Is it morning already?’ she mumbled.
‘Yes, now come on, get dressed.’
‘Yeah, yeah, Ok’, she grumbled, sitting up in bed.
‘Here are your jeans, and a sweater.’ She didn’t move. ‘We’ll be late, come on Bronwyn!’
‘Do you mind? I’d rather get dressed by myself.’
‘Oh, sorry! I suppose I should wait in another room’, I felt quite embarrassed that I’d forgotten Bronwyn and indeed all mortals have a lot more modesty about nudity than elves. So I waited in the kitchen for her, and made us both some tea while I waited.
Soon enough, Bronwyn joined me in the kitchen, dressed warmly for it was a chilly morning. I had gathered some flowers from the garden earlier in the night, and bound them all with sprigs of Rosemary, the traditional herb of remembrance associated with Anzac Day. Bronwyn smiled as she saw what I’d done, but didn’t speak as she was drinking the tea I’d made.
Hand in hand, we walked to the beach, the sun just poking her head up over the horizon. Bronwyn took her shoes off, and we stood, barefoot in the water, waiting for the moment when the sun was fully up. At that precise moment, I laid the flowers on the waves, and for a moment the as the sun touched the waves the water seemed red, as it had that fateful morning eighty-eight years ago. A blink in time for an elf, yet a mortal’s life span.
Beside me, Bronwyn spoke the words of the traditional prayer, and I joined her.
‘They shall not grow old,
As we who are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years forget.
At the going down of the sun,
And in the morning,
We will remember them.’
Bronwyn turned to me, ‘Elves don’t get old, or so you told me!’
‘We don’t,’ I replied, ‘at least not in body. The soul of an elf can age, Bron, or get weary of living.’ I sighed, ‘and I am very tired, for I believe I am starting to feel time as a mortal would’, I whispered.
She was staring out to sea now, watching the flowers I had laid in the water drift away with the ebb and sway of the waves, then she turned to me, ‘I have noticed that you look tired. Is it because of the Oath, or something else?’
‘Something else. Time has begun to affect me in the last few years, ever since the world became so mechanised and everyone seems to be in a rush. It is hard for me as an elf to cope with so much change in so little time. Much has changed; even the waters and winds are different. But I cannot expect you to fully understand this!’
‘I think I might do, a little. Nana O’Brien has often said how the world has changed in her lifetime. When she was a girl, a long journey was fifty miles. Now we can fly anywhere in the space of few hours, and talk to people on the other side of the world just by picking up a phone. It’s rather scary really, and I think I can see how that could be very difficult to adjust to after thousands of years of a much slower paced life.’
I slid my arm about her shoulders, ‘perhaps I don’t give your understanding enough credit!’
‘Maybe’, she said, her arm slipping about my waist, ‘but you are such a difficult person to understand!’
Bronwyn was starting to shiver a little now, and when I suggested we go home, she didn’t argue, as I pointed out she didn’t need to catch a chill so soon after recovering from a serious wound. So, home we went, and I warmed Bronwyn up with more of the herbal tea she seemed to like so much.
Bronwyn spoke once she’d warmed up a bit, ‘Maglor, you said you were in the First World War? Do you mind telling me, I mean, it is rather traditional for returned soldiers to speak of their experiences on Anzac Day, and I admit to being curious as to how you got involved.’
I thought for a moment, then decided that I would tell her, ‘I shall tell you, if you really want to know, for I was there, in Gallipoli, on that fateful morning. That was the third time I saw the sea run red with blood.’
Bronwyn was silent, staring at me, her green eyes soft, and I took her silence for encouragement to speak.
‘Don’t ask me how I ended up in the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade, to this day I’m still not sure’, I laughed a little and continued, ‘Oh, I was in Australia at the time, working on the railway, as cook for my gang. They realised that I was a good shot when it sometimes it was sometimes necessary to shoot rabbits to feed the men, so when some of the other members of the work gang volunteered, I got dragged into it too. I didn’t really mind, war and the possibility of death didn’t scare me that much; I’ve seen many wars, and fought in them, too.’
‘What other wars?’ she asked, surprise foremost in her thoughts
‘Many over the years. Often I didn’t want to become involved but matters proved otherwise.’ Bronwyn still had the questioning look in her eyes, ‘Many small wars and battles, prior to the First World War, the one you may have heard of would be the War of the Roses. Perhaps another day?’ I said, when she raised an enquiring eyebrow.
‘It really hit me that I had foolishly committed to yet another war when I was on board ‘The Wiltshire’ bound for Egypt. After we arrived, at first everything couldn’t have seemed further from training to be part of the greatest army the world had then seen. We had plenty of time to explore Cairo, and as I was the only one amongst my particular comrades who had been to Egypt before, I found myself appointed unofficial guide to the rest, and we did cause some trouble for ourselves by climbing the Great Pyramid and having a picnic lunch there!’
‘I hadn’t heard that one, but I’m told the Aussies got into lots of trouble in Cairo, mostly in bars and brothels,’ remarked Bronwyn.
‘True enough, I saw many of the bars, but not the brothels.’
‘Really, elves don’t do that sort of thing,’ I said quietly. ‘However, I was part of an infamous incident’; I found myself foolishly trying to impress her.
‘Oh, which?’ Bronwyn asked, her eyes sparkling.
‘The British officers were not popular with the Australians, and I must admit I didn’t like most of them, either; they were far too pompous and unapproachable. So, when some of men in my regiment thought up a plan to make fools of some of the worst of these officers, I went along with it. In fact, I ‘borrowed’ the donkey we used’.
‘Pinched it, don’t you mean?’ laughed Bronwyn.
‘No, because I returned it!’ but she sensed my amusement through our link and laughed at me again.
‘Are you going to tell me what you did with that poor donkey?’ she giggled.
‘Oh, Lance Corporal Slade had an old British Major’s uniform and he wore it while he rode the donkey through the streets of Cairo, swinging a swagger stick and imitating a real British Major whose name I shall not mention. We were caught, of course, and we all did a week in prison, but even I think that it was worth it, to see those officers brought down a peg or two!’ I laughed in remembrance at the horror struck faces of the three officers who had caught us in the act.
‘Then what? Surely even you didn’t just swan around Cairo for the whole war?’
‘No, of course not, soon we embarked on ships to Gallipoli in Turkey, with rumours abounding that we were to land in an unoccupied cove, and move north overland to attack Turkish troops entrenched there.’ I laughed rather bitterly. ‘I still don’t know why it was so important except that the Russians had asked Britain for aid, but apparently it was important, not like later, in Beersheba. We all knew why then.’
Bronwyn nodded, ‘the water in the Wells of the Promise.’
‘Yes, in a desert war, who controls the water, controls the war. But I am ahead of myself; I should be speaking of that later.’
I shook my head, and cleared my thoughts. Sometimes having a perfect memory is difficult, for example right now the memory of the sound of shells and bullets in the air, the memory of the screams of the wounded and dying and smell of blood all but overwhelmed me.
‘It’s been called a Hell, Anzac Cove as it was on that morning. I have to agree, and I’ve seen quite a few battlefields. The water was deep, and we had to swim to shore, many that were not strong swimmers drowned; dragged down by the weight of gear we carried. Then we had to crawl up the steep, rugged beach under heavy fire. I was wounded in the foot trying to find cover under some brush, the first of two wounds I suffered there.
The shelter on the beach was horrendously scant, and the only choice was to dig in to provide cover. We dug in relays, some of us trying to pick off what Turks we could while others dug. Fortunately, the digging was reasonably easy on the sandy shore, and soon we had good trenches established, even though the Turks continued to shell us heavily.
Moving from one trench to another was extremely difficult and dangerous. It was considered suicidal to enter shrapnel gully, for example. Things settled into a routine after the first few days, trying to stay alive, trying to find edible food, and digging more trenches. Often our trenches were only a matter of a few feet from the Turkish trenches, and some of us used to toss messages over to them. Later, we often exchanged food and news with the Turkish soldiers in this way.
On May 18th the Turks launched a massive attack designed to drive us off the beach and back into the sea. They failed badly. We settled back to same routine of sniping at each other until more British and New Zealand troops landed in July. Many died in the ‘diversion’ attack we launched to cover the landing of these troops to the north at Sari Bair.’
I stopped my narration and looked up at Bronwyn. She spoke, ‘what of Lone Pine? Was that the July diversion, or not? I always get confused by that.’
‘The 6th of August was Lone Pine,’ I pulled a face. ‘Undoubtedly a great bungle, that. Again, it was a diversion, and again huge numbers of men died, this time we covered the landing of the dismounted 4th Lighthorse Brigade. The survivors of that blood bath started a saying; ‘there are only two days in your life that matter..’
Bronwyn, to my surprise finished it. ‘The day you die, and the day you won’t.’
‘Yes, and that was the day I took my second wound, two pieces of shell in my shoulder. The smaller one is still there.’
When Bronwyn shook her head disbelievingly, I showed her, and she felt the small piece of metal sitting just under the skin below my left collarbone. It had moved over the years, and finally settled there. She pulled a face, a little sickened, I think, at the thought I still carry a piece of Turkish shell in me.
‘Not much happened for the rest of the Gallipoli campaign,’ I continued. ‘We often had temporary cease-fires to bury the dead when the officers could stand the smell no longer. During these times, we had much contact with the Turks, many of whom didn’t even know why we were there, why we had come from thousands of miles from a country they hadn’t heard of to attack them.’
‘What about the evacuation, is it true that some men played cricket on the beach to divert the Turks from the evacuation preparations?’ asked Bronwyn.
‘Absolutely true,’ I replied. ‘I was one of those who volunteered to play. All of the men I enlisted with were either dead, or thought up that crazy diversion, so I decided I would join in. It remains the one and only time I have played cricket. We must have been totally mad, and years later I heard the only reason the Turks didn’t shoot us all was because they had such respect for the courage of the players.’
‘Maybe they have some religious conviction that prevents the harming of mad people,’ said Bronwyn cheekily.
‘That could well be, for we were easy targets. Certainly the Turks had killed enough of our men on the beach, or while bathing in the sea. That was considered extremely dangerous, so many of us didn’t smell too good.
Thankfully, the last of us were successfully evacuated by the 20th of December. We were sent to Alexandria for rest, and that was quite pleasant. It was very hot, so we took the opportunity to swim in the sea often. Many of the Lighthorsemen especially cut the legs of their trousers short much to the disgust of the British officers who were terribly angered by this defacing of their uniforms, and ordered the Australians to refrain from wearing the mutilated trousers.’
Bronwyn laughed at that, ‘my grandfather told me what happened next, or what he said happened. Is it true, did the Lighthorsemen, in compliance with that order, and having chopped up all their trousers really walk about wearing no trousers at all!’
‘Indeed, they did, much to the shock of Mrs Bourchier, who was visiting her husband, Major Bourchier who had just been given command of the 4th Brigade. It is lucky the Australians were the only Allied forces who were not subject to the death penalty for serious infractions, or the culprits would likely have been shot!’
Bronwyn laughed heartily, and when she’d recovered she said, ‘Grand Dad always said he was one of them, the blokes who did that. I never really knew whether to believe him.’
‘Burne, you said your grandfather’s surname was?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, I’ve got a photo of him in uniform somewhere,’ she answered, getting up to find the photo, and when she did she handed it to me, it was as I suspected. This was becoming almost worrying; once again I found I knew one of Bronwyn’s ancestors. It was starting to dawn on me that she really was the woman in the prophecy.
‘You’re not going to believe this, Bronwyn, because I am not sure I do.’ I put the photo down, and found her staring at me; her green eyes exactly the same as her grandfather’s. ‘I knew your grandfather too, in fact if it weren’t for him, I would never have transferred to the 4th Brigade, and become a Lighthorseman. He found out I could ride, and recommended that I be transferred. Given the option of patrolling El Arish on horseback, or going to France for more trench warfare, I thought transferring the better of my options. I had signed up using the Quenya version of my name, Makalaure, and it was your grandfather who in typical Australian fashion shortened it to ‘Mak’.
‘You’re kidding, aren’t you? YOU are the Lighthorseman called Mak that Granddad always spoke of?’ she said with a stunned look on her face.
‘It appears so’, I said. ‘An amazing coincidence’.
‘Coincidence, my left leg!’ she exclaimed. ‘Someone’s behind this!’ she had a very suspicious look on her face.
‘It seems likely that Ulmo may be behind this.’
‘What has a sea god got to do with you and Granddad saving each other’s lives! Or the Charge of Beersheba?’
‘Bill recommended my transfer at Alexandria, by the sea. He shortened my name there, too, and at the time I had a feeling someone was there, and influencing events but I dismissed that thought as fantasy! I promise you that I did not plan any of this, Bronwyn!’
She seemed to believe me, and settled down again. ‘Your grandfather spoke of me?’ I asked finally to get her talking again
‘Yeah, he did. Lots. He said you visited him and Nan quite a few times.’
‘I did visit a number of times, but not after your grandmother died.’
‘Yeah, granddad changed after that didn’t he? He didn’t really want visitors after then, even family.’
I was about to answer Bronwyn when Anita walked in, followed by Nicky. ‘We saw your blinds up, and thought we’d come over’, said Anita.
Bronwyn glanced at the clock, ‘It’s later than I thought,’ she said surprised. ‘Breakfast time already!!’
She stood up, and went to the cupboard, starting to look through it clearly to see what there was we could have for breakfast.
‘Sit down, Bronwyn,’ I said, putting my hands on her shoulders and steering her away from the cupboard and back to her chair. ‘Let me prepare breakfast’.
‘Are you sure?’ she asked, not resisting my efforts to make her sit down.
‘Quite sure. I shall make breakfast for us all.
Breakfast was bacon and eggs, I’d woken Bronwyn early and she always did like her breakfast. Nicky surprised me with the amount of food she ate, Anita just picked at her food, apologising for her lack of appetite. Both she and Nicky left almost immediately as they had an appointment to keep. This left Bronwyn and I alone again, so we took our coffee and went to sit on the veranda, for me to continue my tale.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.