At 4 o’clock this afternoon the ship’s company and the troops were assembled on the quarterdeck to hear the Captain read out Admiral de Robeck’s proclamation to the combined forces. This was followed by a last service before battle, in which the chaplain uttered a prayer for victory and called for the Divine blessing on the expedition, while the whole of the ship’s company and troops on board stood with uncovered and bowed heads. We are steaming slowly through this momentous night toward the coast and are due at our rendezvous at 3 A.M. tomorrow, (Sunday,) a day which has so often brought victory to the British flag.
Dardanelles, April 25.
Slowly through the night of April 24 our squadron, which was to land the covering force of the Australian contingent just north of Gaba Tepe, steamed toward its destination. The troops on board were the guests of the crews, and our generous sailors entertained them royally. At dusk all lights were extinguished, and very shortly afterward the troops retired for a last rest before their ordeal at dawn.
At 1 A.M. the ships arrived off their appointed rendezvous, five miles from the landing place, and stopped. The soldiers were aroused from their slumbers and were served with a last hot meal. A visit to the mess decks showed these Australians, the majority of whom were about to go into action for the first time under the most trying circumstances, possessed at 1 o’clock in the morning courage to be cheerful, quiet, and confident. There was no sign of nerves or undue excitement such as one might very reasonably have expected.
At 1:20 A.M. the signal was given from the flagship to lower the boats, which had been left swinging from the davits throughout the night. Our steam pinnaces were also lowered to take them in tow. The troops fell in in their assigned places on the quarterdeck, and the last rays of the waning moon lit up a scene which will ever be memorable in our history.
On the quarterdeck, backed by the great 12-inch guns, this splendid body of colonial troops were drawn up in serried ranks, fully equipped, and receiving their last instructions from their officers who, six months ago, like their men, were leading a peaceful civilian life in Australia and New Zealand 5,000 miles away. Now at the call of the empire they were about to disembark on a strange unknown shore, in a strange land, and attack an enemy of a different race. By the side of the soldiers the beach parties of our splendid bluejackets and marines were marshaled, arrayed in old white uniforms dyed khaki color and carrying the old rifle and old equipment.
These men were to take charge of the boats, steer them ashore, and row them to the beach when they were finally cast off by the towing pinnaces. Each boat was in charge of a young midshipman, many of whom have come straight from Dartmouth after a couple of terms and now found themselves called upon to play a most difficult and dangerous role like men. Commanders, Lieutenants, and special beach officers had charge of the whole of the towing parties and went ashore with the troops.