Lemnos 1915: Then & Now — large format photo book now available for sale

Lemnos Island

Lemnos (Greek: Λήμνος, Limnos) is an island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea. In 1915 the deep-water harbour at Moudros was used as a marshalling point for the attack on the Dardanelles, some 50 km away.

As a medical facility, the island was intended initially to deal with “light cases” only, those classified as likely to be well within twenty-eight days. But the ‘rush of wounded’ from the early August offensive and the ‘flood of sick’ that followed in late August, September and October necessitated its development as an intermediate military medical base.

No. 3 Australian General Hospital and No. 2 Australian Stationary Hospital were based at West Mudros alongside Canadian and British units.

The “rest camp” at Sarpi – across a shallow inlet from the hospitals – became a convalescent depot. In the first relief of the Australian formations between September 11th and 17th some 5,500 men in all — remains of three brigades — had gone to Sarpi relief camp. Instead of two weeks, it was two months before these “resting” troops were fit to return.

About 130 nurses served at the hospitals on the island. Many nurses also served on the hospital ships that passed through Lemnos to evacuate wounded from the Gallipoli peninsula.

Related pages

Mapping Lemnos, 1915/1916


View Lemnos 1915/1916 in a larger map

Source maps

The following maps have been used to help identify the location of the hospitals on Mudros West and other features on Lemnos.

Mudros West – Plan shewing Hospital Sites, etc (Sept? 1915)
Hospital Works Department?
MudrosWest.jpg
Source: photographs of map at British archives

Hospital Works Dept. Hospital Sites Erected and Proposed (31 Dec 1915)
All building in hand on 31.12.15 cross hatched.
Signed R.H(?). Moriom, Capt R.N.D.E., O in C HP.W.
P1010039 – photo of complete map
P1010044 – key
HospitalSites-W-Mudros-P1010045 – ‘A’ No. 27 General Hospital
HospitalSites-W-Mudros-P1010048 – ‘4’ and ‘6’ Australian hospitals
HospitalSites-W-Mudros-P1010050 – ‘b’ and ‘d’ Canadian hospitals
Source: photographs of map at British archives

Mudros Piers
“Reproduced by permission of the Admirality” in History of the Corps of Royal Engineers Vol VI (1952), The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham

Mudros West : plane table sketch (1915)
Sketch map [very basic] of Mudros West area, Gallipoli Peninsula, showing churches, cemeteries, wells, huts, farms and coastal piers. Scale 1:10 560. 42 × 51 cm.
West-Mudros-Plane-Table-Sketch.png
Source: Australian War Memorial, G7432.G1 S65 XXII.6

Lemnos – Accommodation and treatment (1930)
This map shows the location of 3 Australian General Hospital (and 27 General Hospital), but does not specify which stationary hospital is which.
Lemnos-A.G.Butler-p334.png
Source: A.G. Butler, Official history of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, Volume 1: Gallipoli, Palestine and New Guinea, p334.

Sketch maps of Canadian hospital layouts
No 1 Canadian West Mudros.gif – No. 1 Canadian Stationary Hospital sketch map from War Story of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, Chapter XIII by J. George Adami
e001511976.jpg – No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hosp., Mudros West – Lemnos, 14 Dec 1915

Port Mudros, surveyed 1916
Hydrographic Office, British Admiralty, 1 : 17,000
port-mudros-surveyed-1916.pdf
Source: British Library

Limnos (1944)
This map from WWII helps locate the thermal springs often visited by the ANZACs. It is also useful for locating roads, routes, cemeteries, villages, wells, etc that existed in the 2 to 3 decades following Gallipoli.
Geographical Section, General Staff, No. 4468
Published by War Office, 1944
Limnos1944-Portianou-TurksHeadPeninsula.pngfeatures around Turks Head, 1944
Limnos1944-Portianou-to-Kastron.pngphotomerge: southern route from Portianou to Kastro
Limnos1944-MedicinalBath.pnglocation of Therma hot springs (“Medicinal Bath”)
Limnos1944-Moudhros.pngtown of Moudhros and surrounds, West Mudros
Source: National Library of Australia, Greece : Aegean Islands 1:50,000, GSGS 4468.

Contemporary visitors to Lemnos

Descriptions

Nothing compared to those at Lemnos

Beautiful as the sun-sets were in Egypt, they were nothing compared to those at Lemnos. As you watched, the whole sky and surrounding country was veiled in a deep rose color, and the rugged mountains became quite soft, looking as they were veiled in tulle. As you gazed. the color charged, tinting all objects to a pale mauve, shading to a deep violet. The afterglow was equally as beautiful, which had again changed to a bright sapphire blue.

Our orders arrived to proceed to Anzac Cave, which we reached the same evening, about six hours trip from Mudros harbour. Was quite excited at seeing the spot where our boys had made such a name for themselves, and after viewing the place, one wonders hovwever any were able to effect a landing.

The sun-sets were most glorious also, I think even more beautiful than at Lemnos, in as much, as the last ray of the after glow disappeared, the whole side of the mountain facing us, began to shimmer with myriads of lights, from the dug-outs. Viewed from the deck of the “Gascon,” by night, Anzac Cove was indeed a most picturesque sight, and one could hardly realize what a deadly inferno it was, until the guns began to talk.

Sister A.M. Kellett, AWM nurses’ narratives

Everything that could float seemed to be there

Those members of the A.I.F. who saw Lemnos can never forget the wonderful concentration of shipping which sprawled over the spacious harbour of Mudros. Everything that could float seemed to be there, from the world’s largest battleships and liners down to the tiny torpedo boats and trawlers. Flags of all the Allied nations fluttered in the breeze. Freakish-looking craft not seen before by Australian eyes helped to swell this floating world. Many will remember the Russian five-funnelled cruiser Askold. I think it was facetiously nicknamed the “Packet of Woodbines” (a brand of cigarettes done up in packets of five).

Hospital ships in their white showed up well against a drab background, and gave a carnival touch at night with their bands of green light and bright red crosses. The giant Aquatania and other large liners too valuable to lose were converted to hospital ships to preserve them from submarines.

Prior to proceeding to Anzac most of the troops had to content themselves with a distant view of the island from the ships. Its barren-looking hills hardly invited a trip ashore. Many soon saw it again, however, from the deck of a hospital ship, others later on during the campaign, who had earned a respite from strenuous service, sojourned there for a brief space, and finally, those who came through the evacuation. Very many, alas never saw its rocky hills again…

Lemnos after the evacuation was indeed a mighty camp. Long lines of bell-tents sheltered thousands of Allied soldiers; big Red Cross marquees, where the needs of the sick and wounded were tended; cages of prisoners, where fortunate Turks prayed to Allah, and many other signs of military occupation hid the barren landscape.

Edmonds A.H., “The Anzacs at Lemnos”, Reveille 1 April 1935

The Thames could not be more crammed with shipping of all sorts

18 September This has been the most impressive day I have experienced since leaving Australia. Coming on deck about 7 a.m., I found land quite dose on one side, while on the other, a huge battleship grimly watched us pass. It was a most beautiful still sunny morning, with a hazy mist hanging over the horizon. The sea was dead calm and deep blue. The land alongside which we were gliding was the now world famous island of Lemnos. Coming on deck again at 8 a.m. after breakfast, we found ourselves creeping slowly up to the entrance of Mudros Harbour, and among quite a number of small steamers of various sorts, coming or going.

The harbour at first glance seemed to be wide-mouthed and crescent-shaped, containing a score or more ships of various kinds – three or four hospital ships – a few transports (empty) and number of small craft. Three destroyers and two torpedo boats were in view. One of the latter dashed up to us and gave some orders through a megaphone, after which, we proceeded slowly into the harbour.

It soon became evident that there was more to this harbour than met the eye. As we crept on, approaching the centre of the crescent, a point of land jutting out formed a corner, from behind which, ominous heavy clouds of smoke arose. Reaching the corner, we found a boom right across the harbour with just a narrow gap sufficient for one boat to pass through. Traversing this, we rounded the corner. A wonderful sight lay before us! Stretching away inland, we now found a vast expanse of still blue water, which seemed to be just one mass of warships! Huge, silent, grey, and bristling with guns. Their decks all cleared for action; some of them belching black smoke as they lay in every direction still, silent, and ready!

Slowly, into the crisp bright morning we glided on, threading our way in and out between these monsters. It was very impressive – the silence of this great fleet, crowded together in this little harbour, their immense hulls not a stone’s throw apart; quiet and motionless. Scarcely a word was spoken on our ship. The 2000 men crowding the decks were gazing silently at this tremendous concentration of strength.

Soon we found ourselves around another bend, and at the end of the harbour, now surrounded by transports and a hospital ship. The shore around us consisted of barren looking hills dotted with dumps of houses and white patches of tents. We were told there Was no prospect of our going ashore, so we settled down for another day on board. After lunch, many of the men dived overboard to swim in the clear blue water.

The night was absolutely still, with a brilliant half-moon spreading a broad silver path on the still water, mingling with soft green and red reflections of the hospital ship lights. The Newfoundlander’s band took turns with the Fusiliers, and the merry tunes crashed out over the still water, covered with brilliant lights reminding one of some water carnival, or perhaps Sydney Harbour. It is hard to believe that only 40 miles away are the trenches, and that this is the eve of a battle! The men cheered and clapped and whistled after each rousing tune, drowning the faint distant roar of the guns with laughter and noise. Echoing over the water came the lilting air of ‘Cock of the North’…

20 September

After afternoon tea, Verco took me for a ride. This Island it is a most wonderful place! I never dreamt that it was such a centre of enormous activity. Looking out over the harbour, it reminds one exactly of one of the busy shipping centres of the world. The Thames could not be more crammed with shipping of all sorts.

Battleships and cruisers are everywhere, torpedo boats, submarines, destroyers and monitors all over the place. The harbour branches in arms and bays in all directions, just like Sydney Harbour, and the Island consists of rugged hills and valleys interspersed with many smooth, rounded elevations – now barren and bare, but they say, green and fertile in the winter.

The inhabitants are Greeks – dirty looking devils with dusky faces (possibly due to dirt). Queer square-looking fur headdresses and black stockings. Nearly all the young women were shipped away from the island on arrival of the troops (which is a mercy). There are now all men, or old hags and children. They are living in villages made of stone and plaster – filthy, untidy and ramshackle. They have some beautiful orchards and plantations, and ride about on donkeys and mules, and herd sheep and goats about the barren hills. As in Egypt, there are no fences.

It is however the military aspect of the place that is so interesting. Thousands of troops are camped around the harbour – British, French, Indians, Australians and New Zealanders. Everywhere there is a scene of most frenzied activity – an enormous sense of urgency. Piers and wharves are being made. Roads, bridges, and railways being built. Several thousands of labourers have been brought from Egypt and Malta, and the air is filled with the sounds of hammering, clanking of chains, blasting of rock; shouts and noise of the busy thousands, mixed with bugle calls – and the ever-present distant rumble of the guns!

Geoffrey Morlet, in Eyes Right! pp95-97

Quiet demeanour

The island has many rugged barren hills—the highest near to where the Australians were camped being Mt. Therma, which attained to 1,130 feet. In wandering about the valleys and villages, the West Australians noted the quiet demeanour of the inhabitants. The males had a somewhat brigandish appearance in their dress of top boots, divided skirts, sheepskin coats, and astrakan caps. With so many strangers about, it would seem that great care was taken of the younger women. Very few of those between the ages of 16 and 30 were seen. The few that were visible had rather fine eyes, but otherwise were quite unattractive. Their usual dress was European, but made up of cheap prints with a shawl or coloured material tied round their heads as a covering.

Collett, H. B. (Herbert Brayley) 1922, The 28th : a record of war service with the Australian Imperial Force, 1915-1919, Trustees of the Public Library, Museum, and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

Kontias?

At one village, Kontos by name, there was an old cemetery. It has its mass house and bone house dating from 1762. The mass house is very quaint and as rustic as can be. The alter is hung with beautiful lace worked by the women.

The bone house contains the bones of some hundreds or so human beings. They are buried in a grave the same as us and in time dug up and their bones (Wrapped in some article of their apparel ) are put into this house. On each grave is placed a lantern. On the other side is the village garden. There they grow all their vegetables.

On the other side of town is a row of their windmills. These are round stone structures of two storeys. The windmill is a series of sticks (6) all strapped together like a wheel and each is attached to a sail. This connects with a pinion wheel which turns an immense stone on top of another thus crushing the grain. Beside this the village drinking well. The water of which is periodically blessed. All this is surrounded by very fertile fields.

Diary of My Trip Abroad 1915-19 – January 2nd 1916, 538 Cpl. Ivor Alexander Williams, 21st Battalion, Australia Imperial Forces

Nurses!

The camp was thrilled when Canadian nurses were discovered on the island. With their wonderful ways, their delightful accents, and their cute little naval capes, the memory of those nurses working away in that hell-hole of Mudros should never be forgotten. On the road from Anzac, Suvla and Helles; on this dusty, rocky island; surrounded by that atmosphere of desolation and suffering caused by an aggregation of wounded and broken men—these girls, with no halfpenny illustrated paper to print their pictures and sing their praises, slaved away in the Mudros hospitals and saved the lives of many New Zealanders who must have perished had it not been for the devotion of the nurses. The soldiers of New Zealand can never adequately express their thanks for the magnificent work of those Canadian and Australian women at Lemnos, and the British, Australian and New Zealand nurses who toiled so heroically on those awful journeys in the hospital ships from Anzac to Mudros, Alexandria and Malta.

The New Zealanders at Gallipoli – Fred Waite (Whitcombe and Tombs Limited, 1919, Christchurch)

Lemnos poem

Rugged little isle of Lemnos
In the blue Aegean Sea
We have cursed you but we like you
just the same.

And when mists of time obscure you,
And we’re scattered far and wide
I am sure that we shall long
To hear your name…

Lemnos Poem by Canadian Sister Constance E. Bruce.

“Listen!” said Monty

Out to the tent door I went, and looked over the harbour to the western shores. And there, very rapidly, the ball of the sun was going down behind the hills with an affair of gold and crimson lights, while all the hills were violet. The colour was so strong that it came out and flushed with violet the black hulls of the ships. And they, strangely motionless, lay mirrored in a water of white and gold.

“Listen!” said Monty.

For from all the camps the British bugles were singing the sad call of “Retreat”; the French trumpets wailing “Sun-down,” and their rifles firing a rapid fusillade to speed the departing day. Meanwhile the heat had died into a refreshing coolness; the wind had dropped, leaving the dust undisturbed on the ground; and the flies were roosting in the tops of the tents.

Very soon it was quite dark. Then everything lit up: first, the camps on the hills, their innumerable hurricane-lamps resembling the lights of great cities; then, the vessels in the bay—and, in the quiet of the windless evening, their bells, telling the hour, came clearly over the water. The long hulls of the hospital ships marked themselves off by rows of green lights and large, luminous red crosses. Reflected in the still water, they gave to the basin the appearance of a pleasure lake, gay with red and green fairy lamps. The battleships hid their bellicose features in the darkness, and, since one or two of them had their bands playing, might have been pleasure steamers. And from an Indian encampment behind us came a weird incantation and the steady beat of the tom-tom.

Tell England, A Study in a Generation – Ernest Raymond

Images & photographs online

Our photos of Lemnos, 2011

Link to Flickr for captions & notes: flickr.com/photos/thrutheselines/sets/72157628087659120/

Lemnos biscuit

Lantern slide depicting an inscribed amy issue biscuit. Its inscription indicates that it is a relic of Lemnos and another location. The lantern slide indicates that the ‘main food’ was this type of biscuit, with plum and apple jam, rice and bully beef. Museum Victoria MM 036814

Histories & diaries online

Gallipoli campaign hospitals on Lemnos

No.1 Australian Stationary Hospital: Originally located with the A.I.F. camp at Maadi, Egypt, then moved to East Mudros on the island of Lemnos. Moved to the Anzac sector at Gallipoli in November 1915.

No.1 Canadian Stationary Hospital: Sailed from Southampton, Hampshire, on H.M. Hospital Ship Asturias on 1 August 1915. Transshipped to H.M. Hospital Ship Delta at Malta and sailed for Lemnos on 14 August. The tented hospital opened at West Mudros on 23 August with 400 beds, but later expanded to 1,000 beds. Within one week of opening the hospital was treating 500 amoebic dysentery patients. On 31 January 1916, the hospital sailed for Alexandria, Egypt, on H.M. Hospital Ship Delta, landing on February 2.

No.2 Australian Stationary Hospital: Originally located at Mena Camp in Egypt, where it was concerned with the treatment of venereal diseases. Later it moved to East Mudros on the island of Lemnos, then to West Mudros in August 1915. The hospital originally had 624 beds, but later expanded to 1,200 beds.

No.3 Australian General Hospital: Opened at West Mudros on the Greek island of Lemnos in August 1915 with 1,040 beds, but expanded to 1,700 beds.

No 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital: Sailed from Southampton on H.M. Hospital Ship Asturias on 1 August 1915. Transshipped to H.M. Hospital Ship Afric at Malta and sailed for Lemnos on 14 August (the hospital’s nurses departed from Malta on the same date on H.M. Hospital Ship Delta). The hospital landed at Mudros on 16 August and opened with 400 beds at West Mudros. It later expanded to 720 beds and departed for Alexandria on the Delta on 6 February 1916.

No 15 Stationary Hospital: Located at East Mudros on the island of Lemnos. The hospital provided staff for the transports Aragon, Franconia and Dongola, which operated as ambulance carriers.

No 16 Stationary Hospital: Located at East Mudros until it was transferred to Egypt in January 1916. Members of the hospital staffed the transport Franconia, which operated as an ambulance carrier.

No 18 Stationary Hospital: Opened at West Mudros in August 1915 with 624 beds. Later expanded to 1,340 beds. The hospital moved to Egypt in January 1916.

No.19 Stationary Hospital: Arrived at Kephalos on Imbros from England on 13 November 1915, and nominally took over operations from Kephalos Hospital. The hospital moved to Mudros on 25 November and did not actually land until 13 Decembe r (from H.M. Hospital Ship Dunluce Castle) opening at Kephalos with 600 beds a few days later.

“C” Section, 24th Field Ambulance, Indian Army: Operated dressing station at East Mudros for the reception of casualties from the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade and the Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade.

No 24 Casualty Clearing Station: Arrived at Mudros from England in late May 1915. Initially men from this unit staffed minesweepers carrying casualties, or served ashore temporarily at Helles. At the end of June the men were all recalled to Mudros, where the unit formed – at East Mudros – a large convalescent depot, which operated until the end of the campaign.

No 25 Casualty Clearing Station: Arrived from England in late May 1915. Initially men from this unit staffed minesweepers ferrying casualties to Lemnos, or served temporarily ashore at Helles. At the end of June the men were all recalled to the unit, which moved to Kephalos on the Greek island of Imbros. It remained there until 5 Octobe r 1915, when it moved to Salonica. The unit primarily treated casualties requiring less than 28 days of treatment.

No 26 Casualty Clearing Station: Arrived at Mudros from England in late May 1915. Initially men from this unit staffed minesweepers ferrying cas ualties to Mudros, or served ashore temporarily at Helles. At the end of June the men were all recalled and the unit formed a convalescent depot. In August it moved to the Suvla sector, where it joined the 10th (Irish) Division as a convalescent depot.

No 27 General Hospital: A hutted facility that opened at [West Mudros] in November 1915 with 1,070 beds, but later expanded to 2,770

No 52 (1/1st Lowland) Casualty Clearing Station (T.F.): Formed in Glasgow as the Lowland Clearing Hospital, but later redesignated No.52 C.C.S. The unit departed England 9 June and landed at Alexandria, Egypt 20 June. Opened at West Mudros on the island of Lemnos on 5 July and served as a convalescent depot. It began operation with 1,760 beds, but later expanded to 2,000.

1l0th Field Ambulance, Indian Army: Operated hospital at East Mudros for the reception of casualties from the 29th Indian lnfantry Brigade and the Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade.

Emergency Convalescent Depot: Opened at West Mudros in December 1915 with 2,000 beds.

List compiled by Patrick Gariepy, The Gallipolian, Spring 2006 (PDF)

Simpson’s donkey

Mules from Lemnos were taken to Gallipoli. Simpson’s donkey ‘Murphy’ from Lemnos (AWM).

Published Sunday May 29, 2011 · Last modified Monday December 28, 2015
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence

We're pleased that people are using this website as a source for locations, quotes and other primary source material. It's why we published our notes on the web. But we'd very much appreciate a footnote or credit. Much of the hospital (and other) location information for Lemnos and the Western Front is original research -- thank you, from Bernard & Cheryl