'Diary from time of departure from Egypt. 11th April 1915' [to Friday 4 June 1915]. An early (possibly contemporary) duplicate typescript of the diary of a doctor serving with the 4th Field Ambulance, AAMC, who landed at Gallipoli on the morning of 26 April 1915
Foolscap folio, 22 leaves (rectos only) with a few manuscript addenda and corrigenda; three horizontal creases where folded; small puncture from the original metal fastener to all top left-hand corners; last leaf heavily chipped around the edges, with an old (short) tape repair; occasional chips to the edges of the other leaves; in very good condition, and now housed in individual sheet protectors.
Although this significant account is transcribed, we can find no record that the original diary is held in any institutional collection, or indeed that it survives. The Australian War Memorial has a small collection of material relating to the Boer War service of 'Captain Surgeon Frederick David Jermyn', including 'photocopied extracts from the hand written memoirs ... describing his experiences as a medical officer ... in the South African War', but merely notes that he 'served as a major in the Australian Army Medical Corp during the First World War. Suffering illness, he was invalided to Australia in late 1916 [read 1915] and his appointment terminated in early 1916'. Frederick David Jermyn (1866-1948) was a Mt Gambier general practitioner aged 49 when he embarked on HMAT A35 'Berrima' in December 1914. The transcript commences when they 'Struck Camp at Heliopolis' and marched to Cairo. The first five pages describe the not uneventful journey to Lemnos Island, where, in Mudros Bay, they practised disembarking 'up and down rope pilot ladders in full landing kit. Great Coats - blankets 3 days iron rations - Haversack waterbottle - medical gear I tell you it is some job'. He notes that the 'attack on the Dardenelles [sic] is well plan[n]ed and we have received our orders'. He discusses the plans and the orders at length: 'The 3 divisions of Stretcher Bearers & 9 Officers are to go ashore in the first flight absolutely ... we'll go ashore and look after the wounded ... There's no doubt it is going to be one of the solidest things in history'. Bad weather delays the landing, but on the 24th he writes 'Tomorrow at Daybreak the British are to attack the point of the Peninsula around Cape Helles and we later in the day will land about 11 miles up or west of Gallipoli Peninsular [sic] - the British are to have the use of our pontoons for landing and we will be the only ship of the Australian and NZ Troops to see the Big Bombardment of the Main forts on the point'. Jermyn devotes two pages to his eye-witness account of the landing of the British 29th Division. The small advance party 'must have suffered fairly severely as testified by the heap of bodies which we saw lying on the Beach when the sun was up, poor beggars, and they lay there all day long - As the sun rose (it was a beautiful sunrise) a proper sunday morning - and then about 5.15 on this perfect morning all Hell broke loose - every battleship with guns trained on this point (Cape Helles) started fire'. It wasn't until 11.30 pm that his ship moved northwards. He was awakened a few hours later for his night shift as Orderly Officer: 'there was a fierce night attack by Turks on our men and rain was pelting down, poor beggars, the first night of their battle on the side of a cliff with rain and bullets pelting among them and been there ever since early morning, but Hurrah for Australia's low boys, I've studied them such in the last seven months they'll curse and booze and blaspheme to beat the Band they'll do any old thing but God they've got guts when the time arrives, they stuck it and they fought back all through the night'. He landed later that evening (the 27th), but not before spending two hours in a lighter waiting for a naval pinnace, a sitting duck for Turkish shrapnel shells. He then describes in horrific detail his work over the next few days in the Clearing Station on the beach. 'Friday 30th. Things just the same, shell, shrapnel and snipers summed up - it's "Hell" - every day there are casualties on the beach - men killed while working eating and sleeping - shells land right to the dugouts and men's heads are blown off - and abdomens disembowelled - Its awful and hideous life and if we didn't get enough work we'd go dippy I think.... Saturday 1st May. Everything shot, shell and Hell - I can't write about it its all beastly - I've had two friends brought down today who died at the Dressing Station - The Morphine Syringe is the most merciful thing here - and you bet the doses are large'. He writes a lot about sniping, 'which is the bane of our existence ... - the boys get an afternoon off and go off shooting snipers and by God when they get one, he gets nothing. A party of 15 went out the other day after a sniper who had been doing us a lot of harm shooting from the back - they ran the swine down in a well made dugout - and he turned out to be one of our men who had enlisted in Australia - a foreigner of some kind - they shot him in the leg and then the whole bunch got in and cut him up with bayonets - I never saw a man in such a mess before'. The month of May contains more of the same, broken by the Armistice on Monday 24th: 'We met the Turkish Doctors and Staff Officers and Medical fatigue parties. We made a line with flags midway between the trenches and they had to bury all on their side and we on ours ... we were all quite friendly and swap[p]ed cigarettes etc, some German Staff Officers were present they are the brutes I hate - the sights up there were appal[l]ing and revolting - I had never imagined anything like it' and he proceeds to give details. It 'was the most awful day I have ever put in - to search among a blackened decayed carcase [sic] for something to identify it by and then to find in some case it was a pal who had been full of life ten days or a fortnight before, but it had to be done for the sake of those at home, for to know a man is dead is far better for his relations than uncertainty'. The last entry is on Friday June 4th: 'They started off fresh today with shrapnel in the morning, they made such a terrible welter on the beach that it remind[ed] us of the first horrible week here.... of course, some of our birds had to be flash and go and have a wash during the slight lull in the shelling and in consequence three were wounded and one killed. That is the sort of thing that annoys me, it really is so damn silly. Its not like a man being killed doing his job'. Jermyn survived the war; in fact, shortly after he wrote this last entry, he was admitted to hospital himself, with glaucoma. He was invalided to Australia in September and his appointment terminated in early 1916. A small portrait photograph of Jermyn and two fellow-officers (a modern reproduction) is included.