“The horrible smell of burnt flesh”
Wellington-born William Fell was a 19-year-old midshipman on board the Royal Navy battleship HMS Warspite in 1916. He took part in the Battle of Jutland, the largest naval battle of the First World War. The Warspite was hit several times and 14 of her crew were killed.
In a 1961 radio programme, ‘First War Sailor’, Captain Fell (as he later became) vividly recounts his experience. He was a 'snotty', as the teenaged junior midshipmen were called in Navy slang, and his position at the transmitting station meant he was locked in the bowels of the ship as the battle raged above.
In Neptune’s Daughter, an “eight-reel spectacular pictorial triumph” made by Hollywood's Universal Studio, Australian celebrity Annette Kellerman plays a mermaid who swears vengeance on the fisherman who trapped and killed her little sister in their nets. Transforming into a human, she seeks the King with the intention of killing him as his laws were responsible for the death. After being discovered, Annette makes her escape and is thrown back into the sea where she realises that she is in love with the King.
Kellerman was internationally famous for long-distance swimming and became a life-long advocate for women’s fitness. It was claimed she had the exact physical measurements of the Venus de Milo statue. Neptune’s Daughter showcases Kellerman’s aquatic skills as well as her “perfect” figure, which was shown, “in the nude—beautifully, chastely in the nude”, as Australian Theatre Magazine commented. She also pioneered changes to female swimwear, even though her close-fitting athletic bathing suit provoked a 1907 arrest for indecency in Boston, USA.
Maggots and brandy – evacuating wounded men
Facilities for evacuating and treating men wounded on Gallipoli were woefully inadequate. The British military command had not anticipated such large numbers of casualties, who often waited for days unattended on the narrow beach before they could be transported by ship to a hospital. Alexander McLachlan, a Scots officer on board the transport ship Saturnia, recalls in this 1969 interview how he and his colleagues were unable to cope with the vast numbers of sick and wounded.
Australia’s submarine at Gallipoli
In the early hours of 25 April 1915, Royal Australian Navy submarine the AE2 sailed up the narrow Dardanelles strait to disrupt Turkish supply ships. She faced strong currents, Turkish gun batteries on shore, and mines that had sunk two earlier submarines. Yet the AE2, commanded by Irish Lt. Commander Henry Stoker, successfully passed through the Narrows into the Sea of Marmara, making several attacks on Turkish shipping before she was hit by a torpedo boat. Stoker ordered his crew to evacuate and scuttled the vessel. He and his crew were taken prisoner for the rest of the war, and several died of illness in captivity. Forty years later, Henry Stoker recalled the nerve-wracking voyage.