Thursday, 27 August 2015


Private Horace Hamilton Dyason

'B' Section, Field Ambulance, NZ Medical Corp

Evacuated from Gallipoli due to illness 27/08/15

My Great-Grandfather

Horace is the gentleman standing. Unfortunately we do not know who his friend is

Perhaps he is one of the lucky ones. Able to escape the horrors of the peninsular, but having read about the evacuations and conditions on the hospital ships... I'm not sure it was much respite (he was evacuated to HMHS Assaye). There was probably little respite until he arrived in port to be taken to hospital. At least he was only ill and not seriously wounded.

I wonder what he was thinking and feeling at the time. Relief? Worry? Fear? He's only 21 and has been on active service for 4 months prior to illness forcing his evacuation. He would have seen and heard some of the worst of it with helping clear the wounded.....

Although active service ends here, his army service certainly doesn't.

From here it is hospital and recovery. One part of which is becoming a cook at Lady Godley's house (extra pay even!). After a period of recovery my Great-Grandfather rejoins the NZMC at Tel-el Kebir in 1916 where they are shipped to England in preparation for arrival on the Western front. 

It's here that he contracts tonsillitis, so he gets to remain in England recovering. Once well, it's service as a batman to one of the Officers and, later on as the war ends, a cook. He ends the war as a Corporal and returns home mid-1919 for a quiet life with the railways. He passed away aged 85. His passing was about 9 months before I was born.

Not a bad innings.

I realise this post is pretty personal. In some ways, I've just written it to capture what I've learned about Horace. But, also to share and remember with the centenary of the Great War. Perhaps it's even to just inspire a little for you to research your family history?

Earlier in August, I posted briefly about the Chunuk Bair assault.

Whilst looking back over my photos from my trip to Gallipoli, I wondered where my Great-Grandfather may have been at that time.

Since then, I found this book online: The NZ Medical Service in the Great War

When I read through the short section on the the August offensive, I found a few reference's to 'B' section....

6/8/15 4:30pm
The other subsidiary attacks from Quinn's. Pope's, and the Nek were unsuccessful and very costly. The dressing stations and Ambulance bearers in Monash's Gully were fully occupied during that night in clearing to the Australian C.C.S. on the beach.

7/8/15. 3.50 a.m
About this time wounded were coming down to the M.D.S. from Walker's Ridge as a result of an attack on the Nek by the 8th Australian Light Horse who had extraordinarily heavy casualties, the greater number being killed. "B" Section of the New Zealand Field Ambulance in Monash Gully was still fully occupied by casualties from Quinn's and Pope's.

8/8/15 'B' section is stationed in Monash Gully

From here, there is so much happening as the assaults and counter assaults happen, events are hard to follow, but from what I can gather...

9/8/15 3pm
'B' section remains at Walkers Ridge

That night the New Zealanders were relieved on Chunuk Bair, coming back to the main position on Rhododendron Spur, now somewhat more organised as a defensive line. At 1 a.m. on the 10th a further 80 men of the 5th reinforcements were detailed as stretcher bearers and at 3 a.m. Captain A. V. Short with "B" section bearers of the New Zealand Field Ambulance moved out under orders to join O'Neil's party; all wounded in the Chailak Dere were away before daylight.

I've walked through those battlefields. But during the day and without having to carry wounded mates out under fire. I can only imagine.

I just wish I knew a little more about where Horace may have been prior to visiting the Gallipoli peninsular. Even just a chance to ask a few questions....

Going back further in the book, I found a few interesting insights on the actual landings...

The Landing at Anzac, April 25th.
The Gosler with the New Zealand Field Ambulance aboard sailed for Kaba Tepe at 9 a.m., preceded by the majority of the transports, passed the mouth of the Dardanelles where the 29th Division was landing under the cover of the guns of the Fleet, and anchored off Kaba Tepe at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Both A.D.'sM.S. had landed early on Anzac beach, both still in ignorance of the final medical arrangements, both most grievously employed. On the deck of the Gosler the bearers were standing to, medical equipment in readiness. The beach landing places were being shelled; the great war ships in rear of the Gosler were pounding the distant hills; a few shells were falling into the sea amongst the transports. Presently the destroyer Foxhound came alongside—she could take 500 men on her decks easily—Major O'Neil and his bearers scrambled down on board her. Each man had three days rations and a ground sheet to carry besides his usual equipment; number fours of squads carried extra water bottles; each bearer carried firewood and some extra dressings. The bearers and the tent subdivision men parted with careless greetings; things did not appear to be going well on the beach—the situation was obscure—the landing places and the slopes above under heavy shell fire.

Later on in the notes

At Capt. Craig's post there were many wounded lying on stretchers. They had received attention, were dressed and ready for evacuation. One of them, an officer of the Auckland battalion, greeted the bearers:—"My God we are glad to see you fellows—there are hundreds of wounded chaps up on the hills." 

It's hard to fathom what would have been going through the minds of any of the men landing that morning, let alone what thoughts my Grand-Grandfather would have had stepping onto those beaches.

One line that stood out from what he told my mother....
"You're scared, but you don't have time to be scared. You just have to get in and out!"

Thanks for reading.

EDIT: Adding a link to an earlier post relating to this - "Off on an adventure?"