|3rd Australian General Hospital nurses arrive on Lemnos, 9th August 1915. AWM|
This is a true story, as the above photograph shows.
The first forty nurses of the hospital went ashore on the 8th August, having sailed from Alexandria. The remainder, pictured above arrived the following day, 9th August. Both groups of nurses landed at the North Pier, on the Turks Head peninsula. While the first group of nurses were met by the commanding officer of the hospital, Colonel Fiaschi, the second group were met by the second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel William Dick
Lieutenant Colonel Dick reported that both groups were piped onto Lemnos by the regimental piper of the 3rd Australian General Hospital. While we don't what the piper was playing, one historian reports that he was playing highland laments.
According to one of the nurses:
"We were met at the pier of West Mudros by a staff sergeant with bagpipes!! To play
us into camp."
As historian Jan Bassett has written, clad in their ankle length uniforms, they were lined up in rows of four, beside the pier where a lone soldier stood guarding some onions. The nurse continued her story of their marching.
"I must say we made a hash of the job. We had forgotten whether the odd or even numbers moved so to be on the safe side we all moved!!"
Dogs barked and men cheered as the nurses marched across several kilometers of rocky ground to their hospital site.
This attempt at imposing a military formation on the arriving nurses was the idea of the 3rd Australian General Hospitals' commanding officer, Colonel Fiaschi, another Boer War veteran, and not well received according to Jan Bassett. Colonel Fiaschi's period on Lemnos would prove to be controversial.
|Enlistment papers of Archibald Monk. NAA |
The piper who piped the Australian nurses as they arrived at West Mudros on Lemnos was Warrant Officer 4430 Archibald Monk.
Archibald was an Islander himself, hailing from the Scottish Island of Benbecula, the Island connecting North and South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Inhabited by Gaelic-speaking people, the Island is called Beinn na Faoghla in Sctos Gaelic, which means Mountain of the Ford.
Archibald had served as a Sergeant in the Cameron Highlanders before emigrating to far-off Australia. He worked as a hospital attendant in Australia and that is probably the reason he was enlisted into the 3rd Australian General Hospital. He enlisted in March 1915 at Liverpool, NSW. He was 29 years old.
The hospitals on Lemnos became so riven with the diseases of the peninsula that even poor Archibald was hospitalized with dysentery twice -in September and in December.
But thankfully, he survived the First world War.
Archibald must have enjoyed playing his bagpipes on Lemnos - the lilt of the pipes, carried across Mudros Bay and the surrounding hills would have been a familiar sound on his far off homeland of Benbecula.
Maybe his thoughts drifted to his native Island, as he played to the nurses from Australia.
|Map of Island of Benbecula, the home of "the Lemnos Piper", Archibald Monk|
|The beautiful Island of Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, Inverness-shire, Scotland|
|Cap badge of Archibald's old regiment, the Cameron Highlanders.|
|Full dress of the Cameron Highlanders|
The Nurses arrive - and so do the patients
The arrival of the nurses had been preceded by the rest of the hospitals staff - but sadly for them and their patients - their much needed medical equipment and supplies did not arrive until 22nd August.
This was well after the first hundreds of patients arrived for treatment following the August Offensive on the peninsula.
As historian Susanna de Vries has written, when the nurses arrived at the hospital site on the Turks Head peninsula they were shocked at the lines of wounded men in blood-stained uniforms lying on the bar ground.
Some 150 casualties greeted the nurses on their first day. As the diary of Matron Grace Wilson records:
"(9th August) Found 150 patients lying on the ground - no equipment whatsoever - did best we could - have tents ourselves but no beds or mattresses. had no water to drink or wash.
(10th August) Still no water, had some tea, could not wash or brush our teeth - had a bathe but water is very dirty. Convoy arrived at night andusedc up all our private things soap etc, toere up clothes etc.... (11th August) Convoy arrived, about 400 ... It's just too awful..."
By the 13th August, the nurses were having to treat some 800 patients.
And so began the nurses - and patients - ordeal on Lemnos.
Anzac and Bagpipes
Bagpipes were a feature within a number of the Australian Imperial Force formations during the First World War.
Above is the souvenir program for a concert held to entertain troops on their way to Egypt, Lemnos and Gallipoli. This program is for a concert held aboard SS Ulysses at 8.30pm on Saturday 23 January 1915. The concert featured the 13th and 14th Battalions. The cover of this program features an invitation to attend the concert and has been addressed to Lieutenant Crow. The back cover of the program features a Tudor rose, a Scottish Thistle, a shamrock and a man playing the bagpipes above a kangaroo and the words 'Australia will be there!'
It is also recorded that the arrival of one of the last Australian Units to be evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915 - the 13th Battalion - was welcomed to Lemnos by the pipe band of a Scottish regiment stationed on the Island. This is quoted in the historian Robert Holden's new book, And the Band Played On - How Music Lifted the Anzac Spirit in the Battlefields of the First World War.
Informal portrait of 4235 Private (Pte) Robert Dodds Stewart, 28th Battalion, holding a set of bagpipes. This is probably aboard HMAT Ulysses (A38) on the voyage from Australia. Pte Stewart was later killed in action at Pozieres on 20 July 1916.
Here are the 4th Machine Gunners' Bagpipe Band practising in Aisne, Western France, September 1918. With slouch hats.
Tartan and the Australian Army
In terms of Scottish regiments in the Australian Army, Major R Money Barnes' The Uniforms & History of the Scottish Regiments 1625 to the Present Day (published 1956) cites the following kilted regiments:
5th Battalion (The Victorian Scottish Regiment)
Raised: 1898; Tartan: Gordon
16th Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Western Australia)
Raised: 1898; Tartan: Cameron of Erracht
27th Battalion (South Australian Scottish Regiment)
Raised: 1912; Tartan: Mackenzie
30th Battalion (New South Wales Scottish Regiment)
Raised: 1885; Tartan: 42nd
41st Battalion (Byron Regiment)
Raised: 1914; Tartan: Sutherland
Many, if not all of these were affiliated with Scottish Regiments in the British Army.
As we say in Scotland - Scots Wha Hae!
Lemnos Gallipoli Commenorative Committee