Monday, May 3, 2010

A letter from Gallipoli

Too late for this year’s Anzac Day, I know, but I felt this was more than worth the post. 

Today a friend gave me a photographed copy of an issue of the very rare The News, Arthur Morrish’s Avondale local paper, and effectively the first West Auckland paper produced. It dates from 28 August 1915, and on one of the pages was printed a column “Our Boys at the Front.” The following was from a letter written by Sgt. Leslie Rotorua Darrow.

Another interesting letter has come to hand from Roto Darrow dated June 24th. He says:

“Things are very quiet here at present, and here we are not adopting a progressive policy at all for the time being, but merely keeping the Turks up this end busy while the offensive goes on down below. Whe(n) they get them on the run down there, we will have our share again.

“I had a very interesting trip round one of our posts, which is nearest the enemy’s lines. At one place we are within five feet of Turkish trenches and consequently had to keep our mouths shut. If they hear any talking at all, a bomb is the result. At this particular post all the trenches are very close, the distances ranging from five feet to forty yards. When we first took over these trenches you could not put a periscope or rifle up for a second without it being shot at, but now you can keep them up for hours. I think at first they had superiority over us in bomb throwing, but now I think we have them beaten. One kind of our trench mortars in particular is very deadly, and the Turks used to bolt when they heard the bomb coming down, yelling “Allah!”

“We had rather a lively time the other day. The Turks landed a number of 80-inch cannon shells round the Brigade headquarters. While about half a dozen of us were examining a piece of one, another came along and landed about six feet away from us. We couldn’t flop down on the ground quickly enough. Luckily they were very old shells (I heard they were English shells bearing the date 1897) and consequently do not have a high explosive.

“It is getting very hot here now and the flies have become unbearable. I thought they got pretty bad in Avondale at times, but here they almost stop you eating your meals. You can’t lie down during the day time for they pester the life out of you.”

Leslie Rotorua “Roto” Darrow was born in 1893. His next of kin, according to the Cenotaph database at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, was his brother Harry Alexander Darrow,headmaster at the time of Avondale School; Roto Darrow enlisted in 1914 at the school. He embarked 16 October 1914, headed for Suez and Egypt, and then on to Gallipoli. His last unit was the Headquarters of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade.

He was killed in action 10 August 1915, aged 22. The folks back home at Avondale, reading his letter in The News, would have had no idea that he had died two and a half weeks earlier.

 Memorial plaque at St Judes Church, Avondale


  1. That's one heck of an insight into how it really was there. Hell.

    Great post.

  2. aww :-( always sad, no matter how many years have passed.

    I went to Avondale Primary :-) but that was the one in Christchurch and in the 1960's LOL :-)

  3. Crikey and i've just weird is of those names on that board picture is the same as my maiden name!

  4. yes that is a fasincating insight for sure, gosh.

  5. What a sad memento from a sad time.