|A group of 3rd AGH orderlies aboard the RMS Mooltan on their way overseas. Photo Albert Savage. AWM|
One of those orderlies was Charles John Reeves and he was one of the first members of an Australian medical unit to land on Lemnos during the Gallipoli campaign.
A St Kilda Boy Enlists
Charles was St Kilda born and bred, living with his mother Theresa Reeves at 105 Acland Street in 1914. He was a 21 year old chauffeur when he enlisted at Melbourne in the Australian Army Medical Corps as a driver on 2nd December 1914. He was attached to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital. The unit was commanded by Melbourne-born Lieutenant -Colonel Henry Bryant - who operated his medical practice in Melbourne's Collins Street before the war - but nearly all of its medical officers and orderlies where from South Australia.
|Troopship Kyarra at Port Meblbourne, 2 December 1914. Photo by William Henry Reed. AWM|
He sailed from Melbourne's Princes Pier aboard the transport ship Kyarra on 5th December 1914, along with the rest of the men of the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital.
Arriving at Alexandria on 17th January, the hospital established operations at Ma'adi and Ismailia. It was during the hospitals stay in Egypt that Charles was first admitted as a patient in the hospital on 25th February 1915. By March Charles had recovered and sailed with his comrades in the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital aboard the troopship Malda, departing Alexandria at 2pm on 3rd March, headed for Lemnos.
|The 1st ASH established ashore at Mudros, 1915. AWM|
When Charles and the hospital staff arrived in Mudros Harbour at 7.35am on the 6th March they were one of the first Australian medical units to arrive at Lemnos.
Charles was one of around 90 other orderlies at the hospital, working with eight medical officers - and no nurses.
They landed using the newly built Australian Pier north of Mudros town and established their base there to the north of Mudros.
Nearly 200 tons of equipment was landed in row-boats at the “flimsy local jetty” and man-handled to the site of the hospital.Sappers from the 1st Field Company Australia Engineers operated a steam powered hopper to assist with the unloading. As they arrived without transport, the 1st ASH borrowed mule carts from the French to unload their equipment.
There is little record of the work of the orderlies at the 1st ASH. Similar to other field hospitals on Lemnos they would have been engaged in ward duties, trained and directed by the doctors. In this way they would tend to patients, turning and cleaning them, and feeding them when needed. As general orderlies they would have erected and maintained the hospital wards themselves, the delivery of supplies and transport of patients. As a driver, Charles most likely was engaged with the hospitals ambulances transporting patients to and from the hospital north of Mudros.
|Tent lines of the 1st ASH at Mudros, 1915. AWM|
One of Many - Charles struck by Illness
One of the scourges of the troops who served at Gallipoli were the diseases that swept the troops, both influenza and intestinal diseases largely due to poor sanitation. The staff working in the hospitals on Lemnos were subject to these ailments too. Many medical staff became ill.
One of those was Charles, He seems to have survived eight months on Lemnos without illness. But then on 4th November 1915 he became ill and was admitted to the 3rd Australian General Hospital located across Mudros Bay on the Turks Head Peninsula.
By the 25th November his condition had not improved such that he had to be invalided aboard the Hospital Ship Aquitania to a military hospital at Epsom in England.
Meanwhile the 1st ASH had been transferred directly to Anzac Cove. It was finally removed from Anzac on 11th December as the impending evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula loomed. After service on the temporary hospital ship Saturnia, they returned to Egypt on 20th January 1916.Return to Australia
Charles' condition was such that he was invalided back to Australia, departing England on 11th March 1916. After his return to Australia, Charles was discharged on 1st June 1916.
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee