The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Bully Beef and Biscuits
Bully Beef and Biscuits.
Food was always plentiful (except just after the Great Blizzard in November when stocks ran very low). Tinned meat, jam and hard biscuits and a mug of tea provided 99 per cent. of the meals. Thoreau once suggested that we could make ourselves rich by making our wants few. On Gallipoli this did not mean a very great effort on the part of the will, but sore gums and rebellious stomachs were the price of getting wealthy. The army biscuits can never be forgotten—their hardness was beyond belief. When made for long journeys on sailing ships, it probably was necessary page 162 to make them so that they would keep, but surely in war time the soldier could get a softer one? The white ones taken from New Zealand were quite easy and pleasant to eat, while the oatmeal ones, grated on a piece of kerosene tin, made a tolerable porridge for the mornings! But the ordinary white biscuit as supplied by the A.S.C., while it may have been full of nourishment, was so hard that it was nibbled round the edges and then tossed into No Man's Land. After a month or two, a little bread arrived periodically, and many a penitent soldier vowed he would never waste a crust again.
Vegetables were always scarce — here the tinned concoction known as “Julienne” filled a gap. The mixture seemed to be all manner of vegetables flaked and dried so that they resembled multi-coloured shavings. On the principle that what does not fatten will fill, large quantities of this dried vegetable were consumed in the early days when men were strong enough to stand it.
Newcomers from Egypt sometimes brought a little fruit, while scouts were always out among the sailors to induce them to bring back delicacies from the canteens of the warships off the coast. Any excuse was better than none to get alongside a hospital ship, not only for the meal that the insinuating soldier was bound to get, but for the chance of page 164 buying a loaf or a tin of milk from the canteen or the commercial-minded baker! People going to Mudros or Imbros were loaded with commissions and made the Greek traders rich by buying tinned figs, pineapples, and milk at fabulous prices, and paradoxically, fowls eggs' that were fresh and only one shilling a dozen. It was about this time that the soldier, living as frugally as any ascetic, was solemnly warned that “over-ripe fruit, such as bananas, tomatoes, oranges, and grapes should be avoided” as likely to encourage cholera! The army, weakened by dysentery, shrieked with delight!
[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
Mules dug in under the Cliffs in Mule Gully.
This is a long story about food; but it was necessary for a soldier to eat, and most of the sickness can be attributed to the monotony of the food, the flies and the heat. Little wonder that men sickened. Trenches themselves were kept scrupulously clean, but all refuse was thrown into No Man's page 165 Land in which were also innumerable dead bodies that it had been impossible to bury. So in the heat, the front line troops, after making the mess tin of tea, endeavoured to get a meal of meat or bread and jam. Countless hordes of flies settled on everything edible. The soldiers waved them off. The black cloud rose and descended among the filth on the other side of the parapet. Presently they were back again on the food,—and so on, from the jam to the corpse, and back again to the jam, flitted the insect swarm, ensuring that the germs of most things undesirable were conveyed to the soldier's system through his mouth.
Whatever may be the immunity of the transport and supply services in some campaigns, it is right that acknowledgment should be made of the risks run by the carriers of stores to and on the Peninsula. Whether by the trawlers or the picket boats at sea; in the ordnance and supply stores on the beaches; or on the mule tracks of the precipitous ridges and winding valleys—the men of the Navy, the Indian Supply and Transport, the Zion Mule Transport, and of our own Australian and New Zealand Army Service Corps carried their lives in their hands, for the enemy had the range to a yard of every landing stage, dump and roadway.