At Suvla Bay

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Author: John Hargrave

Chapter XXV a Scout at Suvla Bay

Many times have I seen the value of the Scout training, but never was it demonstrated so clearly as at Suvla Bay. Here, owing to the rugged nature of the country—devoid of all signs of civilisation—a barren, sandy waste—it was necessary to practise all the cunning and craft of the savage scout. Therefore those who had from boyhood been trained in scouting and scoutcraft came out top-dog.

And why?—because here we were working against men who were born scouts.

It became necessary to be able to find your way at night by the stars. You were not allowed to strike a light to look at a map, and anyhow the maps we had were on too small a scale to be of any real use locally.

Now, a great many officers were unable to find even the North Star! Perhaps in civil life they had been men who laughed at the boy scout in his shirt and shorts because they couldn’t see the good of it! But when we came face to face with bare Nature we had to return to the methods of primitive man.

More than once I found it very useful to be able to judge the time by the swing of the star-sky.

Then again, many and many a young officer or army-scout on outpost duty was shot and killed because, instead of keeping still, he jerked his head up above the rocks and finding himself spotted jerked down again. The consequence was, that when he raised himself the next time the Turks had the spot "taped" and "his number was up."

This means unnecessary loss of men, owing entirely to lack of training in scoutcraft and stalking.

Finding your way was another point. How many companies got "cut up" simply because the officer or sergeant in charge had no bump of location. As most men came from our big cities and towns, they knew nothing of spotting the trail or of guessing the right direction. Indeed, I see Sir Ian Hamilton states that owing to one battalion "losing its way" a most important position was lost—and this happened again and again—simply because the leaders were not scouts.

Then there were many young officers who when it came to the test could not read a map quickly as they went. (Boy scouts, please note.) This became a very serious thing when taking up fresh men into the firingline.

Those men who went out with a lot of "la-di-da swank" soon found that they were nowhere in the game with the man who cut his drill trousers into shorts—went about with his shirt sleeves rolled up and didn’t mind getting himself dirty.

There were very few "knuts" and they soon got cracked!

Shouting and talking was another point in scouting at Suvla Bay. Brought up in towns and streets, many men found it extremely difficult to keep quiet. Slowly they learnt that silence was the only protection against the hidden sniper.

I remember a lot of fresh men landing in high spirits and keen to get up to the fighting zone. They marched along in fours and whistled and sang; but the Turks in the hills soon spotted them and landed a shell in the middle of them. Silence is the scout’s shield in war-time.

It fell to my lot to make crosses to mark the graves of the dead. These crosses were made out of bully-beef packing-cases, and on most of them I was asked to inscribe the name, number and regiment of the slain. I did this in purple copying pencil, as I had nothing more lasting: and generally it read :—

"In Memory of 19673,
Pte.------
Royal Irish Fus.
R.I.P."

I had to be tombstone maker and engraver— and sometimes even sexton— a scout turns his hand to anything.

We had our advanced dressing station on the left of Chocolate Hill— the proper name of which is Bakka Baba.

Our ambulance wagons had to cross the Salt Lake, and often the wheels sank and we had to take another team of mules to pull them out.

The Turks had a tower—a gleaming white minaret—just beyond Chocolate Hill, near the Moslem cemetery in the village of Anafarta. It was supposed to be a sacred tower, but as they used it as an observation post, our battle-ships in the bay blew it down.

Flies swarmed everywhere, and were a great cause of disease, as, after visiting the dead and the latrines they used to come and have a meal on our jam and biscuits!

During the whole of August and September we were under heavy shellfire; but we got quite used to it and hardly turned to look at a bursting shell.

I must say khaki drill uniform is not a good hiding colour. In the sunlight it showed up too light. I believe a parti-coloured uniform, say of green, khaki and gray would be much better. Therefore the Scout who wears a khaki hat, green shirt, khaki shorts and gray stockings is really wearing the best uniform for colour-protection in stalking.

The more scouting we can introduce the better.

Carry on, Boy Scouts! Bad scoutcraft was one of the chief drawbacks in what has been dubbed "The Glorious Failure."

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Chicago: John Hargrave, "Chapter XXV a Scout at Suvla Bay," At Suvla Bay, ed. F. N. Maude and trans. Oliver Elton in At Suvla Bay (New York: Norroena Society, 1857), Original Sources, accessed August 19, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=16JHN6KACIXV5R6.

MLA: Hargrave, John. "Chapter XXV a Scout at Suvla Bay." At Suvla Bay, edited by F. N. Maude, and translated by Oliver Elton, in At Suvla Bay, New York, Norroena Society, 1857, Original Sources. 19 Aug. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=16JHN6KACIXV5R6.

Harvard: Hargrave, J, 'Chapter XXV a Scout at Suvla Bay' in At Suvla Bay, ed. and trans. . cited in 1857, At Suvla Bay, Norroena Society, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 19 August 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=16JHN6KACIXV5R6.