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John Robert (Jack) Dunn 16 April 1915 - 7 July 1915


Diary of John Robert (Jack) Dunn 16 April 1915 - 7 July 1915

Jack Dunn was born and educated in the Wairarapa and later worked as a journalist in Levin, Masterton and Wellington. With the outbreak of WW1 Jack enlisted in the army and became a machine gunner.

Whilst serving in Gallipoli Jack was discovered asleep at his post, court-martialled and sentenced to death by firing squad. However, at the time of the offence, Jack was suffering badly from enteric fever. This illness was later recognised as a mitigating circumstance and resulted in the court-martial judgment being remitted.

Jack re-joined his unit just in time for the last major offensive on Gallipoli. On 8 August 1915, three days after his reprieve, Jack Dunn was killed in action during his unit's attack on Chunuk Bair.

Diary Entries:

Went on the gun as number two to Chaytor. Mr “75” was busy, but troubled us little.

Nothing doing.

Fragments of shell flying about made things quite interesting in the morning. The remainder of the day passed with the usual monotony. The Maoris arrived, and have been in the trenches sapping.

As I did not feel too fit, I spent a quiet day “at home”

We gave up our old gun-pit and have brought one gun out. To-day I went on in the other pit with Dickson and McDonald. We made a bomb-proof shelter and are very comfortable, even when rain arrives.

Our destroyers and howitzers shelled the enemy’s trenches consistently. The Turks replied by sending shells dangerously near our “bivvies.’ And a man was injured on the road near us this morning.

Spent a comparatively quiet time in the trenches.

Saw several dead Turks this morning, and watched the capture of one who had penetrated our lines. It reminded me forcibly of a game hunt. During the day quietness has reigned – quite a different matter. My sleeping quarters are fairly open to the weather, the result being that I got somewhat damp.

After heavy rifle and shell fire the Turks attacked on the left of our position about midnight. The A.L.H. withstood the attack and although some of the enemy reached the trenches, they were repulsed with heavy loss. The attackers were stacked up outside the parapets, but our losses were slight.

There was a slight bombardment by the Turks in the afternoon, and the sounds on our right, in the direction of Cape Helles, told us that there was something doing in that direction and we received information to the effect that our men had taken two more trenches on the hill.

Was awakened by a volume of rifle and shell fire. Nikel and I made our way to the trenches over debris and past wounded men. While in our gun-pit a shell carried away a portion of our parapet and covered us all with earth. For a time we could see nothing for smoke and dust, but no one was hit. The trench we had passed through to reach our gun was practically blown to pieces before we returned, and several men were killed and a number wounded. The experience was not at all a pleasant one, and as soon as the fire slackened we returned to our base. At the close of the bombardment matters resumed their usual quiet.

Lived on the beach during the day and got somewhat sunburned.

We deepened our shelter in the gun-pit and made the roof as near bomb-proof as possible. Our artillery bombarded the Turkish trenches. Our friend the “75” (old “whizz-bang”) sent over a couple of shells and then desisted. A town or village on fire could be discerned on our right, some miles away.

Spent the afternoon on the beach and in the water. One man was shot through the leg while swimming.

About 6.30p.m. John Turk was annoyed considerably, and got very busy with his “75” gun. For an hour or so matters were very lively, and quite a number of Australians were hit, several being killed. I missed an introduction to a shell by a few yards. The night was quiet.

My day on ration fatigue. Indulged in a top-hole swim.

Joined my own gun team, Nikel and Parli.

Visited Wellington Infantry and saw Charlie Hennessey and Arthur Williams. Business quiet as usual.

A man was killed on the Canterbury gun this morning. I had the pleasure of a swim off headquarters. Shrapnel caught four men while I was there. Captain Wallingford has gone for a month’s rest, and Sergeant Preston-Thomas for a week. We are now under Captain Henderson (Mounted).

Went on duty in ammunition pit and slept in a dug-out with a number of bombs for company. Shrapnel caught several men near our quarters.

Had rest after being on gun.

Landed at daybreak, and after being sent on a wild-goose chase to Quinn’s post, found my section at the old spot.

Left hospital and boarded headquarters ship. Transhipped to fleetsweeper and arrived off Gaba Tepe at night.

Informed that I will be discharged to-morrow. Hooray!

A hostile aeroplane dropped a bomb in the sea a few yards from the shore and close enough to our camp to be unpleasant. Shrapnel fire from the boars caused her to retire.

Matt returned to firing line.

All quiet.

Shaved to-day – first time for three weeks. What a change!

Achi Baba report denied. Went for first swim for three weeks.

Reported (unofficially) that Achi Baba has been captured by our troops.

Spent part of day slaughtering flies, which are a huge pest.

Allee same yesterday.

Still in hospital with influenza.

Still in hospital.

When I woke up on Fleetsweeper Newmarket the first one I set eyes on was Matt, who also had a touch of pneumonia, and we are now in the same tent at the hospital.

Learned that the Wellington M.R.’s had been cut off and suffered some what severely. They occupied and advanced post and were surrounded. The casualties included Lieut. “Norm” Cameron and Sergeant “Tas” Smith. I was drafted to Lemnos Hospital to get fit.

Yesterday’s news confirmed. We captured two trenches, one on the right and one on the left. We returned to the firing line to relieve our other section. At least, all the section except myself did. I made the attempt, but had to give it best.

Fighting took place on our front last night, and it is reported that we captured a Turkish trench on the left. The enemy drove the Australians out of one of their advanced trenches, which, however, was retaken. This news is quite unofficial.

Quiet. Remainder of Otago M.R. arrived; also more mail.

Learned of the sinking of another man-o’-war H.M.S Majestic, by a submarine. Two Greeks gave themselves up to an outpost on the left bank.

Feel somewhat improved in health. Still no details regarding Triumph.

H.M.S. Triumph was sunk by a submarine just off our position. At present we have learned no details.

Still unfit for duty. An armistice was granted during the day, and both sides were busy burying their dead. David McKenzie of our section, missing since we first went into action, was found dead.

Our gun section was relieved by No.1, and is now resting on the beach. More mail arrived.

Had the unpleasant experience of rain, which soon searched out the weak spots in our shelters. A N.Z. mail arrived, to the joy of the boys.

Still on beach, under doctor. Reported (unofficial) that a German general, Lieutenant and bugler arrived at headquarter under a white flag.

Our infantry returned after a warm time at the main point of attack, some ten miles away. Ruahine Company suffered heavily, having only eighty men left of the original Company. George Littlejohn had his skull fractured with shrapnel. His case being serious he was taken on board the boat. I left the hospital, but have still to report to the doctor.

About 2 a.m. was awakened by heavy firing and sounds of hospital staff at work on the wounded. The fighting continued throughout the morning, and a large number of cases passed through the hospital. I learned that the enemy has attacked all along the line and had been repulsed with heavy loss. Our mounted boys lost a good many. “Bricky” marsh was wounded in the hand.

Ditto yesterday.

Still in hospital, but condition improved. Australian Red Cross men fine chaps.

Went into A.M.C. Hospital in afternoon on suspicion of having pneumonia.

Quiet in firing line. Headquarters treated to frequent doses of shrapnel. Matt stopped a spent shrapnel bullet with his arm.

Matt found me out to-day. He is now also a permanent machine gunner. Mr John Turk threw rockets at us last night as a new diversion. To-day he treated our right trenches to a little shrapnel.

The marines and Navals gave place in the trenches to our won Mounted, whom we were all mighty pleased to meet.

Quite a day in the trenches. Reported that one of our boats disabled a Turkish gun. Some of the boys received mail.

Learned that the young officer who was hit yesterday was wounded again, severely this time

In gunpit sniping at stray Turks. An officer got hit near us, and an observer had his glasses smashed and was himself damaged. The enemy wasted quite a lot of ammunition at night.

“Resting” on the beach. Met Reg Miller at headquarters, where a man was killed by a shell during our visit. To-night I am again on the gun with Parli and Squire.

Spent the day between attempts to sleep and sniping at the wily Turk. A member of the R.M.L.I. was killed behind our pit by a stray bullet. A small artillery duel enlivened the proceedings. The evening is peaceful.

Visited beach and posted cards. Alan Squire arrived to join the team. When on our gun was designated a “blighter” and a “silly young ass” by ossifer because of some boxes of ammunition left in the trench by our predecessors. Spent an uneasy night, owing to “stand to” and “stand by” orders and other disturbing elements.

Quieter day followed quiet night. Our batteries and naval guns shelled enemy’s trenches. Mock attack at night, with humorous results.

N.Z. Forces, including No. 1 Section of our Machine Gun, went aboard transports and left for unknown destination. Their place in the trenches was filled by R.M.L.I and Nelson Naval Division. Parli, Charlston and myself manned our gun, but had a quiet night, except for the evening serenade by the enemy.

On gun all day, but did little firing from the maxim. Took a hand at sniping at a Turk or two, who could be seen busily digging on the next ridge.

Quieter to-day, and most of our men are resting. Desultory firing still goes on. I was on the gun at night.

Desultory firing all day. At night, after a lively bombardment by heavy guns, machine guns, and rifles, Otago and Canterbury attempted an advance, which, as far as I could hear, was not an unqualified success. During the firing our one remaining no-com. – Corporal Copeland – was shot in the chest and killed. Sid Dixon was wounded. Firing was kept up all night. I was back from the firing line filling belts.

Had the luxury of a shave this morning. Little but sniping done on both sides.

The usual bang, bang of the “lady birds” and “wasps” continued. We have learned the creep about in approved burglar style. I visited the beach and had a dip, the first wash since Sunday. Snipers are our chief source of danger, and the Turks apparently know how to shoot. Once bullet came right into our dugout.

Still holding our positions and “popping away” steadily. Casualties now few; none in our section. I had a near shave when visiting our left gun. A bullet struck a branch near me, and a twig struck me a rap on the jaw.

Went back about fifty yards from the ridge and dug a base for ammunition, equipment, sleeping quarters, etc. Patched up two guns which had been damaged, and mounted them in securer positions in the trenches. All hands were busy “digging in.”

Went into action “at the double” shortly after 11a.m. had to rush up the steepest hill on the cast, and the task was by no means an easy one. With the assistance of infantry we did get there. Having mounted the guns in more or less exposed position we got to business. The gun I found myself attached to was manned by Andy Priest, George Fraser, “Colonel” Glover and myself, and was controlled by Lieut. Wilson. The gun mounted on our right (Power, Dixon and Palmer) jammed shortly after the commencement of hostilities. Priest was shot dead on our gun, and then the gun was moved forward. The fire was particularly warm. Bugler Bissett, of A Company, another private, Lieut. Wilson and Fraser were soon added to the list of dead around the gun. Our gun jambed in the thick of the fight, and was dragged out of action by Glover. We retired about a dozen yards to await orders, and shortly afterwards A gun was put to rights, and with Captain Wallingford behind it was soon giving our friends the enemy a warm reception. Alan Preston rendered valuable assistance to the captain. After beating off the attack affairs quietened down, and McDonald and myself spent an interesting time sniping at Turks on the ridge. Later I learned that Sergeant Kenole and Corporal Arnold had been killed, McKenzie was missing and Sergeant Miller, Brian Palmer, Bill Barber, and Preston Thomas had been wounded. The remainder of W.I.R had also suffered severely.

Operations recommenced early in the morning. The Queen Elizabeth is taking a hand and our Field Artillery are now in the joke. Two shrapnel shells landed on our position this morning and burst without doing any damage. As I write the big guns and rifles are making merry, and the enemy’s bullets are buzzing overhead like angry bees. Some fragments of shrapnel arrived unpleasantly near me to-day. Our section is in reserve, and do far the only Turk I have seen was a dead one.

Left for Gallipoli Peninsula at 6a.m., and it was not long before the booming of the big guns on the battleships could be heard. As we got nearer we got a splendid view of the bombardment by the Queen Elizabeth, Swiftsure, London, Ascold, and others. The lyddite and shrapnel bursting was a great sight. An aeroplane and a captive balloon assisted in the attack. We landed at about 5.30 p.m. in the destroyer Bulldog, under the fire of the naval guns. The Turks treated us to a sprinkling of shrapnel, and Captain McDonnell was hit in the neck – not a serious would – and three others were treated to small fragment. We got a glimpse of the realities of war when we sighted the wounded and dead. We learned that the Australians and later on the New Zealanders (Auckland Battalion) had forced a landing, but the losses had been heavy, including a large number of officers. The naval guns continued to shell the Peninsula, the enemy replying with shrapnel. We had little sleep that night, but did not go into action.

Nothing of note.

Several transports left the harbour.

Received N.Z. mail, my share being six letters and thirteen newspapers.

Raining. Still idle on ship.

Loafing on board.

Went ashore in the morning. Sampled the wine of Lemnos and also obtained the foundation of a coinage collection.

Visited the super-Dreadnought Queen Elizabeth and saw the monster 15in guns and other armament of the great man-o’-war. Had roast beef and plum “duff” for dinner.

A very quiet day “at home.”

Were taken ashore in boats to have a look round Lemnos Island. Quaint old world villages are dotted all over the island, the flats and hillsides of which are carpeted with a profusion of wild flowers, more beautiful and varied than any I have ever seen in New Zealand. The experience of green grass and flowers was most pleasing to eyes accustomed to sand and yet more sand. We met British soldiers, French soldiers, Sikhs, Australians, and even Greek soldiers. Altogether we spent a most interesting day, and the sight from the summit of a hill was grand, including, as it did, snow-clad Mt Athos. To-night a message from General Birdwood was posted up, stating that the task we were undertaking was one of the most difficult a soldier could be asked to perform. Of our success, he stated, he had no doubt.