Letters of 861 Lance-Corporal GB MUIR

Date of enlistment 8th February 1915
Age at enlistment 22
Profession Baker
Town Christmas Hills, Victoria
Status Single
Rank at enlistment Private
Company D Company
Significant events while with the AIF Embarked with the Battalion on 8th May 1915

Served in Gallipoli, Egypt, France and Belgium

Wounded in Action on four occasions, including at Bullecourt, Broodseinde, Ville-sur-Ancre

Hospitalised sick

Appointed Lance Corporal

Marriage to Irene Smith of Tibshelf, Derbyshire

Returned to Australia 21st August 1919

Lance Corporal Muir’s full WW1 service record can be located in the National Archives of Australia. Full details are available online, NAA Series B2455

The following extracts are taken from the letters of L-Cpl Muir while serving in Gallipoli and France. The originals are contained in the book ‘Too close to be pleasant’ stored in the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, and acknowledgement and thanks goes to Kathleen Hercus, L-Cpl Muir’s daughter, of Healesville, Victoria and her relatives Harold Muir and Stephen Watson for providing the inspiration to Kathleen to publish the book, plus to Helen Mann, a member of the Yarra Glen & district Historical Society for facilitating the publication.

Gallipoli

Extracts from letter of 2nd March 1916, retelling of time at Gallipoli

I had only been there about an hour when I got my first shot and so settled my first Turk. I got a great surprise to see 4 or five more rush out and pick him up and carry him off. I was nipping almost the whole time I was on Gallipoli and I can safely say that I accounted for a good many Turk.

The living in the trenches was anything but pleasant but of course one had to put up with it. The worst time I think was about a month before we left. We were on half rations for about three weeks and practically without water and then a week on quarter rations and less water. It was owing to the rough weather that we had to take half rations, the sea being too rough to land supplies. It was during our half ration month that we had snow which it made it all the worse for us.

I have seen some never to be forgotten sights and I don’t like writing of them. It was a daily occurrence to see men blown to pieces, but the most marvellous thing of all I think was how one sometimes got missed. The closet shave I had was from a bullet and it was a shave too. It passed between my right ear and my head and cut a passage through my hair and just broke the skin on top of my ear. It was too close to be pleasant I can assure you. This is only one incident. There are dozens more I could tell you of if I had more time.

There was no water fit for drinking on our little bit of the peninsula we held and so it all had to be shipped.

The withdrawal from Gallipoli was without doubt a great feat and carried out well. The whole scheme was well planned and was tried a week before we really left in this way. We were ordered not to fire a shot and not to show ourselves in any way. We did this. On the third night there were several parties of Turks ventured over to explore our trenches. Well we let them come to within 15 yards of us and then opened fire with machine guns and rifles. After fooling him is this way it is no doubt that when we were finally leaving he thought we were trying the same dodge on him again.

I went for about a month at one time without a wash. As for washing clothes, this was a thing unknown to us in the trenches. I wore a shirt for about three months before I got a change and I can tell you it is not a very pleasant way of living. We were lucky if we got 6 hours sleep in the 24 and often got none at all.

France

29th October 1916: I came pretty near reaching my end a few days before we left the trenches. I was on ration fatigue going up to the front line carrying a petrol tin of water in each hand when a shell lobbed at my feet and the explosion hurled me in the air. I can tell you it gave me a good shakeup and I was as deaf as a post for a couple of days but otherwise unharmed. One of the tins I was carrying was blown in half. The other could not be found.

2nd November 1916: It is almost impossible to move on the roads here without going over ones boots in mud and slush. I have seen troops moving out of the trenches one mass of mud from feet to head.

7th January 1917: We had to have a credit £5 on our book before we could get English leave. That is the reason I was so long getting my leave. [note: letters from other soldiers thank relatives for sending £5]

I think mother asked me something of Les Taylor [5th/22nd]. Well as far as I know he was killed at Pozieres on 5th Aug, being hit on the head by a piece of shell which penetrated his brain. He was one of the best mates I had since I came to France.

 

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