William Dawbin was the son of William and Julia Dawbin of Awahuri. He was posted to the Wellington Mounted Rifles and shipped out 15 October 1914, first traveling to Egypt and later to the Dardanelles. According to the chronology of his account, he was wounded on May 27th at Gaba Tepe (modern Kapatepe, where the Anzac troops landed at Gallipoli) and put on the hospital ship Gascon the next morning. His military record states that he suffered paralysis of the spine. He was transferred to England for treatment. To read the account of his hospital stay, see the diary of his cousin Polly Burrough and the subsequent 'In Memoriam'. Polly's diary will be posted daily as a part of our Journal series, so keep checking back see the entries. All three of these works were sourced from Te Manawa Museum and have been published on this website.
COPY OF WILLIE'S DIARY IN THE FIRING LINE. 1915.
May 8; The N.Z. Mounted Brigade left zeitoun camp & the Wellington Regiment entrained at Palais de Koubbeh station at 11.30 & left at 2 a.m. Reached Alexandra at 8 next morning.
May 9; Marched straight from the train to the wharf and got on the Grantilly Castle (transport.) She is a well fitted up boat of 9000 tons & can do 14 knots. The N.Z. Brigade & 1 regiment of
the A.L.H. is on board, altogether about 2000 men. We are with out horses & each carry 200 rounds of ammunition & full pack. It fells about a ton. Left Alexandra same day with 2 other transports. Sea like a mill pond.
May 10; Monday. Sea smooth all day came in sight of Crete this morning & sailing through islands all night.
May 11; Tuesday. Sailing through the Grecian Archipelago all day. Small islands on all sides. 3 warships in sight, the first 2 said to be merchant ships rigged up as warships to draw the first
of the forts.
May 12; Wednesday. Arrived at entrance to Dardanelles early this morning. Fog & rain all day. Scores of transports & warships, including the "Queen Elizabeth", all round. The country is fairly hilly. We can hear the guns firing from the warships & the shells bursting on the land forts. Saw an aeroplane & a balloon up this afternoon. Left the boat about 7 this evening, on a destroyer went to within about 200 yards off shore & got on a launch & landed. Stray bullets going into the water around us. After a few yards of beach the land rises in a steep hill and the British are holding the ridge. It is rocky country & is covered with stones, mules etc., The forces are N.Z., sikhs & Maoris, about 50,000 all told. Slept in the hillside. Shells and bullets passing over us all day today.
May 13th; Lovely day and splendid scenery. Small green cultivated patches (said to be mined) scattered among the scrub. Constant rifle and shell fire all day and night. Newly made graves
everywhere. Went into trenches today & relieved Naval Brigade. Turkish trenches about 400 yards off across a gully, on another ridge. Australian & N. z. in gully up another ridge of opposite slope. They keep up a constant rifle fire and occasionally send across a shrapnel, but they all go right over us. The warships sent I a great number of shells this afternoon right over our heads.
May 14; Went into firing trenches 8 a.m. today. Several dead Australians & New Zealanders just in front of our trenches only a few yards from us but we can't bring them in & the smell is
awful. A shrapnel or 2 burst a few yards behind us this evening & covered us with dirt. Can see dead lying everywhere on opposite slope.
May 21; Quiet day on land. Airships and warships very busy.
May 22; Quiet day. Guarding sap by night and resting by day. N.Z. mail arrived.
May 23; Armistice from 7.30 to 4.30 to bury dead. 2,500 Turks were buried & a lot of New Zealanders & Australians. The ground in front of our trench was covered with dead who have been there nearly a month & they were in a frightful state. All guns & equipment were brought in & all bodies searched. Major Grant read a service over most of them. Corporal Dustin (Wanganui) has been found today. The truce on the 20th came to a sudden end as the Turks brought up a machine-gun on a stretcher and started getting into position but our side saw the dodge and wiped them out.
May 24; Wet day. Relieved from the trenches by A.L.H. & went into rest camp near beach. Had to start a new dug-out as shrapnel is coming all the time.At noon today we heard a big
explosion out at sea, and looking out, saw that the battleship "Triumph" had been torpedoed by a submarine & was sinking fast. She was hit amidships & had a big list. Destroyers were coming up from all directions & were taking the crew off. About 1/4 hr after she was hit she turned clean over and in another 10 mins she was underneath. We thought all the men were off but heard after, that about 100 were drowned. Saw a rescued stoker & he said all the lights were put out by the explosion & the men in the stokehold were climbing over each other 10 deep to get on deck. The submarine got away, I don't think she was seen.
May 25; In rest camp. Working all morning at dug-out & in afternoon 6 hrs at road-making. Just cooking tea when a shell came over & killed Ned Campion, dangerously wounded Ted Somerset & Wally Gange, & put 3 bullets through George Magby, 2 through Bob Cooper & 1 in Eric Lynch. Ted Somerset died soon after.
May 26; Rolieson & Short hit by shrapnel today.
May 27; Harry Bryant killed this morning by a sniper. Attacked Turkish trench this evening. Was wounded in back, had to be carried in stretcher about 2 miles.
May 28; Put on hospital ship "Gascon" this morning.
June 7; Landed at Alexandra & taken to Government hospital.
June 17; Put on Hospital Ship "Navasa" & left 2 days after.
July 1; Reached Southhampton & was taken to Netley Hospital.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Gaba Tepe was the place where he was wounded. He & his mate were digging themselves in a trench. They had just driven the Turks out when he was shot. He felt for days as if he was sinking in the earth. The Dr. came and put a ticket on him & he was taken away in about 1/2 hr. The pain was very very severe. They injected chloroform & he was about the 9th put on the "Gascon". He died at Netley on Aug 22nd 1915.
Thank you to Te Manawa for kindly allowing us access to these important works. Visit either the Ian Matheson City Archives or Te Manawa to see the facsimiles of the diaries. Contact with the Dawbin family has been made and we understand that more of William's WW1 artefacts will be made available for digitisation by the Ian Matheson City Archives.