On the way to Gallipoli

Hubert Evelyn Ulick Burke – my twice-removed cousin – writes on his way to Gallipoli.

heuburke-letterMy 2 x great aunt, a widow who lived with her sister my great grandmother in a village in Lincolnshire, received this from her son around 101 years ago.  He was a bit of an adventurer, having left home young, joined the British army (despite having an Irish-born father),and gone to fight in the Boer War. From there to Australia, where he became a teacher at Sydney Grammar School, married and lived in Gladesville and later Paddington. When the war broke out he enlisted in the Australian army, and was shipped out to the middle east.

From Cairo he wrote – on 16th March 1915 – to his mother. Extracts here:

My dear Mother,

I have written to you but as yet have had no reply. I hear that letters are going astray very badly so I am hoping to receive a line from you sometime. We expect to leave here in a day or two – destination secret – but if you write to Egypt letters will be forwarded.

. . .

If I get through this business safely, I am going to settle down in England. I shall buy a farm or something in the south of England and hope you will come and live with us. In case of my departure from this scene of strife, my will makes provision for you out of my insurance.

. . .

This place is a beastly hole, and the number of men dying daily from pneumonia is giving the “heads” much cause for reflection. We all thought we were going to England till we got to Suez, and there of course we were told that Cairo was our place of training. We have a most magnificent lot of men. The Territorials here look like pygmies against them. We have men worth thousands in the ranks – squatters, doctors, lawyers, miners – in fact every known occupation. My groom owns a farm of 400 square miles in area in NSW and looks after me and my horse as if his future depends on it.!!  Two of my sergeants are Members of Parliament – one Labour and the other Liberal and both great friends!! One corporal is a DD (Doctor of Divinity) and a parson, and comes of a good old Irish family – Digges-Latouche.

. . .

We had some excitement when the “Emden” was dished up. We were quite close – 40 helpless transports all breathlessly wondering whether she would win and come and sink the lot of us. I suppose you read of that and also of the fight we had up on the canal against the terrible Turk.

. . .

I am not collecting curios here. I am sick to death of them, and I hate the sight of pyramids and mosques.

God bless you – your boy Ulick.

P.S. If the Germans are afraid of the English Tommies they’ll drop dead with fright when they meet our wild giants from the bush. They’re the boys to make an officer’s heart “rattle” with pride.

HEUBurke_ClementsTonicUlick went to Gallipoli where he was wounded on 27th April, shipped to England for some months where he only partly recovered, and was then shipped back to Australia and discharged. In 1917 he re-enlisted, and was shipped once again to the middle east, but apparently returned two months later and was discharged. The records don’t seem to say why, and though he seems to have moved – not to a farm in the south of England, but to Palmerston New Zealand, he seems to have disappeared off the radar from then on.

Through the wonderful resources of Trove, I dug out an earlier reference that adds a bit more colour to Ulick and his life before Gallipoli. It also shows the only picture I have of him, though it would probably serve for almost any army officer of the time!




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