Help us promote Lemnos' link to Anzac - Make a donation now

Our Committee is raising funds to create a lasting legacy telling the story of Lemnos' link to Gallipoli and Australia's Anzac story. Our projects include the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park, the publication of a major new historical and pictorial publication and more. To make a donation you can also deposit directly by direct debit into the Committee's bank account: Account Name: Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc; Bank: Delphi Bank; Account No: 204299-020 BSB No: 941300; Include your surname in the reference section. For further information on our legacy projects or to make a donation please contact either Lee Tarlamis 0411553009 or Jim Claven 0409402388M

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Robert Burns, Scotch Whisky and Gallipoli - Hugo Throssell and his dram at the Nek

View from Walkers Ridge Cemetery. In 1915 Anzac Hugo Throssell shared a whisky near here. Photo Jim Claven 2015
Today is the 25th January - the anniversary of Scotland's famous bard, Robert Burns. Many Scots and Burns fans will celebrate his birth at Burns Nights across the world - often enjoying a glass of Scotland's just as famous Whisky.
Burns is celebrated as Scotland's national poet, a writer of great love poetry but also of the common man, many of his poems written in the vernacular. One of his most famous is "Is there for honest poverty" commonly referred to as "A Man's A Man for A' That", a celebration of the equality of man, its final lines ending:
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Scotland and the Anzacs Scotland and its culture were well represented amongst the Anzac's. The connection between the Anzacs and Scotland and its culture. Tens of thousands of Anzacs were of Scottish birth or heritage. As an example, Colonel Richard Linton who died as a result of the torpedoing of the troopship Southland off Lemnos and is buried at East Mudros, was born in Dalton, Scotland. And Ned Herring who would serve in both World 
A Dram Before the Charge at the Nek
Here an Australian officer, who would be awarded the VC at Gallipoli, drank Scotch Whisky with his comrades to steady their nerves the evening before the terrible assault at the Nek at Gallipoli in August 1915. Another connection is that this particular officer would no doubt have appreciated the words of Burns famous poem cited above.

Lieutenant Hugo Throssell VC. AWM
On the evening prior to the well-known charge of the Australian Light Horse at the Nek (the evening of the 6th August 1915), Lieutenant Hugo Throssel "borrowed" a bottle of Scotch Whisky from Major Tom Todd's dugout. He arranged to meet a few of his fellow 10th Australian Light Horse comrades on the cliff overlooking Anzac Cove.
As the author John Hamilton quotes from a newspaper report of the event:
"It was ... the first occasion during his lifetime on which he had taken strong drink. they knew that in the morning they had to make a bayonet charge and he thought that something was needed to steady the their nerves."
Hamilton records that Hugo and his mates moved to a spot on the cliff at Walker's Ridge and opened the whisky:
"They yarned together about their school days together until midnight, as they passed the bottle around ... At midnight they shook hands all round and wished one another luck."
Hugo was not a whisky drinker and did not like strong drink. Yet when he wanted to share a few moments of camaraderie with his men before the terrible attack that would come only hours ahead - a chose a Scotch Whisky.
The next morning the Western Australian men of the 10th Battalion would take part in the charge at the Nek. Hugo and many of his company managed to survive the murderous assault on the Turkish lines.
During the later action as Hill 60 on 29-30 August, Hugo performed the valorous deeds for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the only Australian light horseman to be so decorated during the Great War.

Men of the 10th Australian Light Horse, the day after the charge at the Nek. Walkers Ridge, Gallipoli, 1915. AWM
The Cemetery at the Nek today. Photo Jim Claven 2015.
Hugo Throssell After Gallipoli
Hugo served in France and survived the First World War, although his brother who also served would not. He was promoted to Captain. He married the Australian author Katherine Susannah Pritchard, having met her while convalescing in England during the war. He would be a passionate anti-war advocate after the war. Invited to address his local Peace Day Parade at Northam in July 1919 - commemorating the signing of the peace treaty with Germany - Hugo publicly declared his opposition to war and that "war had made him a socialist." Harassed by Australian authorities after the war due to his views, Hugo tragically shot himself with his service revolver in 1933.
Hugo's family sold his VC in 1984, the medal going to the Australian War Memorial and the funds raised being awarded to the People for Nuclear Disarmament, in respect to Hugo's commitment to peace.

For more on the great Hugo Throssell VC, see John Hamilton's excellent book - The Price of Valour: The triumph and tragedy of a Gallipoli Hero, Hugo Throssell, VC - published by Macmillan, 2012.
For two reviews of this book, click here and here.
for the full poem "Is there for honest poverty" by Robert Burns, click here.
Below are images of bottles of Scotch Whisky from the era of WW1:

So if you are commemorating Burns today, spare a thought for Hugo Throssell and his comrades enjoying a Whisky on the eve of the dreadful charge at the Nek.
Rum, Gallipoli and Egypt
Anzac and other Allied soldiers were served a rum ration at Gallipoli. Rum flagons have been found during recent archaeological surveys. These are marked SRD - Service Ration Department.
Rum Ration bottle.
As the Allies evacuated Gallipoli destroyed those stores that they were not taking - including some Rum rations seen in the photograph taken on 17th December 1915.
Anzacs destroying rum cases, Anzac Cove, December 1915. AWM
Alcohol of course was available to diggers in Egypt. The photo below shows an old White Horse Scotch Whisky ad on a wall in Cairo, photographed in 1918 and held in the Australian War Memorial.
Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

No comments:

Post a Comment