- Serbian forces begin their retreat through Albania
- Great Britain, France, Russia, Japan and Italy formally sign the Pact of London; each nation declaring that it will not make a separate peace deal
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It was a dark night in the trenches at Suvla Bay and the 26th Nov will long be remembered and perhaps spoken of in years to come. The men had just “stood to” and the Sgt Major reported “Garrison correct, Sir” when a terrible clap of thunder, worse than a bombardment of HE broke the stillness of the night. This was followed by zig-zags of lightening which appeared to split the heavens in two and then the rain fell as only it can fall in the tropics. Within half an hour the trenches held a foot of water rushing so quickly that it was difficult to stand. At 7 pm the Barricade gave way and a solid wall of water 7ft high swept the trench carrying everything and everybody before it.
By 8 pm the flood had reached its height and the force of the water had somewhat abated so that I was able to swim from a tree to No.1 Platoon. The men were on the parados of the trench up to their breasts in water, it was the same with No.2 Platoon, only about 9 rifles had been saved. No.3 Platoon had gathered on a high bit of land and having no trees to hang on to had formed groups and were clinging to each other. No.4 Platoon were fighting for their lives, their part of the line being a maze of trenches many of which had been washed away burying the men in the mud and making it very difficult for the man to retain a footing anywhere.
At 2 a.m. the water began to subside and the men were set to work to construct a breastwork behind the trenches. No tools being available we had to do this by scooping up handfuls of earth and by dawn a resemblance of cover had been formed and we found it useful for the enemy gave us about a dozen shrapnel. To add to our comforts it began to freeze hard and a snow blizzard came down and the whole of the place was soon covered by snow; many of the survivors of the flood died from exposure. With the help of the Sgt Major I counted the Company and of the 139, only 69 remained.
It was now discovered that the ration party had been drowned and all the food and drink we had was one gallon jar of rum, this we issued out and Pte Oldfield who had swum to HQ brought up orders that the line was to be held at all costs. This order was also afterwards brought to me by the Adjt. During this time – the first night – the cheerfulness of the men was marvellous, the slightest joke or mishap produced roars of laughter. By 8 o’clock I had a few rifles in working order and we were able to return the fire of the Turks, but I gave the order to cease firing as soon as the enemy ceased and during the whole of the 27th very little fire took place. All day the weather was freezing and more men died; towards night it turned to rain and it was impossible to move.
At 2 a.m. 28th the CO brought me half a bottle of whiskey and told me that the Adjt and himself were the only live persons at the Battalion HQ. At 3:30 a.m. the Adjt brought me two Officers to help me. All my own Officers and most of the NCOs had gone under, and told me to let the men who could not fight make their own way to the Red Cross station. I passed the order on to each Platoon and about 30 men left, hardly one of whom could walk upright, most of them having to crawl through the mud and water on all fours. I then counted up and found that I had only 27 living souls in the firing line and only 10 rifles in working order. About 5:30 the order to “Retire to Battalion HQ” came along and after waiting for X Company to get clear, the Company started in the following order: No.1 Platoon, No.4 Platoon, No.2 Platoon, No.3 Platoon. I stayed with the last 4 men. We had barely gone 30 yards before the 1st, 3rd and 4th man were killed, the two first through the head, and the latter through the heart; 10 yards further on the other man got it and as I lifted him to dress his wound the breath rushed out of his body with an awful sound. I remember falling in the mud and sticking a bayonet in the ground to help me out and the next clear thing I remember was Lt Wilkinson rubbing my feet and bending my toes and they did hurt.
William George Chrystall was born in Edinburgh in Scotland, the son of William and Laura Susan Chrystall. The family emigrated to Australia when William was four years old. He was educated at Orange Public School.
After enlistment, he embarked for overseas duties on 21 October 1915 on A48 Seang Bee from Brisbane with the 9th Battalion. William was transferred from the 9th Battalion to the 49th Battalion on 29 February 1916. He was appointed to the 13th Brigade.
On 5 June 1916 William boarded the transport ship Arcadian in Alexandria and arrived in Marseilles on 12 June. On 3 September 1916 while serving with the 49th Battalion he was wounded in the field near Pozieres, sustaining a compound fracture of the left femur.
He died of his wounds the next day while being treated at the 49th Casualty Clearing Station. His mother, Laura, in a letter written 6 June 1922, describes him as being in the Mortar Battery.
There is a commemorative plaque honouring William at Orange Cemetery, Presbyterian Block 2, Grave 65. William is also commemorated on the St. John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll and the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph.
On 25 April 1917 the second ever Anzac Day service in Orange was held at the Orange Public School. Mayoress McNeilly placed a laurel wreath on the Union Jack for each fallen soldier who had attended the school, including William Chrystall.
In July 1917 a tree was planted at Orange Public School in William’s memory. It was one of 26 trees planted in honour of fallen soldiers who had attended the school.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte WG Chrystall”; the tree was donated by ET McNeilly. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Leader, 6 February 1918, p. 1.
Late Private Chrystall
* Margot Sharpe, 2015
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To-morrow! Ah! To-morrow he must go
Far from his home and kinsfolk far away,
And we who love him dare not bid him stay.
Across the sea his comrades need him so,
Dear God, dear God, help me to let him go.
He could not stay behind, I know, I know.
When England calls for men! More men! each day.
I would be base were I to bid him stay;
But I am just a mother!-Lord, and oh!
It simply breaks my heart to let him go
Because I’m human, Lord, my tears must flow.
But joy and pride reign o’er my grief today.
With words of cheer I’ll speed him on his way,
For they across the sea, they need him so,
Oh, son! To save my honour, you must go!