“They raided and stole puddings and turkeys”

Archival Moment

December 24, 1915

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives A 58-153; Newfoundland troops resting in the snow

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives A 58-153; Newfoundland troops resting in the snow. Click on photo to enlarge.

Christmas 1915, the men of the Newfoundland Regiment found themselves in Turkey. They had to be creative with regard to making a good Christmas dinner. In 1928 Major J. W. March with a friend W.J. Eaton recalled the Christmas of 1915 in the trenches.

“On Christmas Eve we landed at Helles, (Turkey) and proceeded inland under a downpour of rain, eventually halting, not in trenches, but in square holes in the ground. Here then we spent Christmas, 1915.

The night of December 24th is rather historic; it was known that our Christmas dinners were to consist of one good tin of Bully Beef and four square biscuits, which looked like and were commonly known to the Troops, as dog biscuits. On top of this a party was detailed to proceed to Headquarters to draw picks and shovels, presumably for work the following day.

Our Battalion Poet describes the scene as follows:

In the night there came an order

Immediately to send some boys

For picks and shovels from Headquarters.

Food they pinched and made a noise,

They brought back no rusty shovels,

And I fear the story’s true,

That they raided and stole puddings,

Pinched the General’s turkey too.

The following is the unofficial version in prose:

Whilst the officer in charge of the carrying party of 50 men, was arranging for the working tools, the men were investigating and discovered a pretentious “cook-house,” the sentry on duty there being rather a nuisance, was quickly and silently gagged with a large woolen scarf, and many 7-lb. tins of pudding, dates and even a Turkey quickly disappeared from this splendid establishment.

The Brigade Major, however, appeared on the scene like the raging lion of ancient days and many of the puddings had to fly over the cliff so that no evidence would be found.

Comrade W. J. Eaton was guide for this party and we fully believe that in his capacity as guide he unconsciously led back that night, many puddings and a turkey or two.

Of Christmas Day there is not much to be said. The best possible was done with the materials at hand, and after all, the unquenchable spirit of the men and the good comradeship made the Christmas Day at Helles happy for all concerned.”

Recommended Exhibit: Archives Reference Entrance: The Newfoundland Regiment and the Gallipoli Campaign. This small exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915, where members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment experienced their baptism by fire and saw their first combat casualties. Lantern slides, photographs, maps and documents provide insights into this ill-fated campaign. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/now/the-newfoundland-regiment-and-the-gallipoli-campaign#sthash.GzGNwAKA.dpuf

Recommended Reading: The Veteran, 1928, vol. 7, no. 4 (December) has a number of stories written by the men and women who served in the First World War.