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Sapper James Starkie R.M D.O.W. 4/12/15

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Mal Murray View Drop Down
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    Posted: 09 Sep 2010 at 17:59

Sapper James Starkie Royal Marine Div Engineers. died of wounds, 4/1/15.

CWGC page:

The following diary extracts were taken from the East Lancashire Memorial page

June 1st 1915

Joined up.


August 1st

Set sail.

We are on board the Asconious which belongs to the Blue Funnel Line. We parade every morning at 10am for general parade when we stand at ease for three quarters of an hour and are dismissed. If Major Avelin has any thing to tell us he does so then. We parade at 2pm for physical drill and turn onto the boat deck in bare feet, sometimes the boards are so hot by the sun that they almost scorch the feet but we only have half an hour.


August 7th

Saturday morning. We have been in sight of the African coast for over 24 hours. On Thursday we passed Gibraltar at noon, though about 6 miles away it looked a fine sight, rocks that seemed like mountains.

We sleep out on the deck or in hammocks down in the mess room but it is very hot there. Whales were seen off the Moroccan coast and porpoises are quite common when near land.


August 16th

Arrived at Lemnos or Mudros we do not know which it is but it is a desolate island belonging to the Grecian Archipelagos about 5 hours run from the place we are going to, the Dardanelles. We have heard with great regret the fate of the Royal Edward, a boat is along side us at this moment which has picked up 49 soldiers. We passed over the place she was torpedoed and sighted an overturned lifeboat belonging to her, also an oar and some wreckage. Had we not been delayed in Malta and Alexandria we should have been caught along with her as we should have been at the same spot practically at the same time so we are very lucky.


August 19th

Left the Asconious, on to the Osmanich, she is a much smaller boat. She comes from London and is manned by a crew of Greeks. Am just starting for the Dardanelles, 4.30pm. We had about 5 hours sail and after a lot of manoeuvring and changing boats we arrived at Archi Baba, or about 3miles from it and had about 4 or 5 miles inland to go. The land smells musty and of burning. Arrived at our home in the dug out at 1.00am.


August 24th                                                                   

Went into the firing line for the first time sapping. Worked in sap 3 with two "old hands". We are sapping through the field of battle with a vengeance, in it lies over 400 dead Worcesters, been stiff for a month and the stink is putrid.


August 28th

Received first letter from home. Came across a chap from Foulridge belonging to the R.N.D. Medical Corps, a lucky find, he supplied me with smoking material.


August 30th

I started with the Turkey Trot, it is awful. Saw shrapnel drop amongst a lot of fellows on the hill opposite, they scattered in all directions. I do not know how many were killed.


September 1st

Am troubled with dysentery terrible, have not to eat anything. Wrote a letter to Mother. We have been preparing for the Wet season and digging trenches to run the water into the plain at the foot of the hill.


September 2nd

Cannot get out of my dug out, so weak and have a bit of homesickness. Gilbert the Filbert, our Doctor gave me three pills which will doubtless cure one.


September 6th                                                                                    

Am on light duties now. Got a huge mail, four letters and a Leader newspaper, parcel and fags.


September 11th

Working on a well we are sinking on X beach, 2 miles from the camp. Worked a full 8 hours, the well is about 12 feet deep. It gets fearful cold at nights now, you need a blanket and coat to keep warm.


September 20th

Sammy comes across for his grub with us. It is cold in the night time, anyway it is killing the flies off. Graveyards are dotted all over the peninsula counting men by the thousands. Up in the line they are everywhere. On W beach where the landings took place the graves hold 50, 60 or 100 men, almost each camp has its own and make crude crosses or sometimes stones are erected, the French have one as big as ours at home.


September 22nd                                                       

A bombardment is going on as I write, what seems to be an attack in the line as big a one as we have had, machine and rifle fire, strays are dropping all around me. A party of three expert bomb throwers were in my dug out last night, it is a risky job and they volunteer for it, the chief thing is throwing the bombs back before they burst.


September 29th

Been working on the stone for the road, in charge of about nine Sepoys (they are not a fighting regiment but look after the mule transportation, most of them come from Bombay). They gave us some bread made from oil and a kind of meal, it is very good and wholesome.


October 15th

Working quarrying stone again with Hindu transport. They are suffering a lot from toothache and rheumatics. The stone here is very soft and full of fossils.


October 17th

Had two very near shaves, we were coming on the hillside and a shell dropped straight in front of us by about 10 yards. Then another one about the same distance behind us. The bullets seemed to strike everything but us.


October 22nd

Here is a dose of Gallipoli winter, wet, windy and cold. Mist and sleet. Not been fit to work, a pity for the poor devils in the line, they must be soaked. No hot grub as the fires will not go because of the wet wood. A small bombardment.


October 24th

Inoculated for cholera.


October 31st

Three months end. End of first diary.

All this has been written as near as possible to the time when the things were actually happening. Most as they were happening as I always carried it in my pocket and jotted things down as I saw them. 



November 2nd

Sent diary home.


November 5th

Plot night, no fireworks. The Engineers played the City of London Fusiliers in the first round for the Gallipoli Cup. A very impressive match, 1-1 finish. One fellow is an amateur International who played for Crystal Palace previously.


November 6th

Done the hardest work in the morning on the roads, afternoon finishing new Officers Mess room.


November 10th

The grub is steadily improving, last night we had peas and the night before cabbage. Olives when pickled in vinegar are good, I have done some.


November 13th

Shrapnel came on our hillside from Asia, I saw a horse wounded in three places while the Officer was not touched. We had to shoot the poor brute. We had a concert in the dressing station.


November 14th

I was knocked down by a shell with my tea and was missed by a miracle. Shrapnel seemed to strike every inch around. It is not so frightening as I had imagined it you just get up and smile.


November 15th

Rest day. A bombardment is going on now, half past three. Both artillery and warships, there is a hell of a row.


November 16th

Working on the R.N.D. well in the open country, we were shelled incessantly and had to take cover in the trench several times..


November 18th

Had a storm last night, was wet through and slept three of us in a heap to keep warm.


November 19th                                                              

Three months to the date since we arrived here. Very cold, was in the saps from 8pm till 4 Sunday morning, it was bitter cold and the guards could hardly stand. To make matters worse we have to go on half rations on account of our landing stage getting swept away in a gale. The cold is going to be a worse enemy than the Turks.


November 22nd

Went into the line and witnessed the most impressive scene I have ever seen. Last night the Turks attacked us, the biggest bombardment they have ever given us. We repulsed them easily and when I arrived the line was one mass of empty bomb boxes. The lads were in fine spirit, luckily we, the R.N.D. lost only one killed and two wounded but the Scots lost 50 killed. The Turks advanced past my sap and the bombers were throwing both ways and used over 300 each. You could hear the wounded moaning and see the dead all the way. They attacked in groups of 20 to 50 but most fell. It was bitter cold but that did not make much difference they made a big effort and it cost them a lot. We are with lads like ours impregnable.


November 23rd

Today in one of my saps we had to cut by three new dead Turks, evidently those whom we could hear groaning. Their barbed wire is almost touching ours we are so close and still we are sapping nearer.


November 29th

First snow with blizzards, the cold is terrible. All the rifles in the line were frozen so bombs were dished out.



Extracts from letters sent by Sapper Sam Smith of Burnley to his Mother:-


December 1st

I am very sorry to say that Jimmy Starkie has been wounded in the leg by a shell. It occurred this morning. From what I hear he was in his dug out up at the trenches laying down and the shell came and took away some of his flesh. I am writing to his Mother today. Jimmy was my best pal and I do hope he will pull through satisfactorily.


December 4th

This morning I learned the sad news that Jimmy Starkie has succumbed to his wounds. I little thought when I saw him a fortnight ago it would be for the last time. Poor Jimmy! The whole of his Company will miss his smiling face and his genial personality.



The following is from a letter sent by the Chaplain of the Royal Naval Division to the Mother of James Starkie:


December 5th 1915

Dear Mrs Starkie, 

Yesterday I buried J. Starkie, who had been hit while he was in the trenches. We have a little cemetery here, which is quite like an English one. His comrades are putting up a cross over the grave. We all prayed for you at the service that you might be comforted.



James Starkie is commemorated on the memorial of the Carr Road Wesleyan Peace Institute in his home town of Nelson. He is also remembered on his parents gravestone in Nelson Cemetery and has a stone in the Redoubt Cemetery at Helles, Turkey where he is buried.

Edited by Mal Murray - 10 Sep 2010 at 19:05
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