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


Sarpi “rest camp” – essentially a convalescent depot – for troops of the Dardanelles expedition 1915/1916.

Today it is the town of Nea Koutali (Greek: Νέα Κούταλη) – although the camps, especially after the evacuation of Gallipoli, would have spread far on either side of the present village.

Panorama (detail)

Panorama from Sarpi - 3 of 4

Photo (cropped, some digital retouching) of a black and white photographic print in an album titled Photographs of the Third Australian General Hospital at Lemnos, Egypt & Brighton (Eng.) / taken by A. W. Savage 1915-17 held at the State Library of NSW. View on Flickr.

Mapping Sarpi

View Lemnos 1915/1916 in a larger map

Accounts of Sarpi

Shattered remnants of that huge Mena Camp

21 September. I was told that the whole 1st division was resting in a camp on Lemnos, on the other side of a hill. I set out to find it, filled with hope. After wading through a lagoon a quarter of a mile wide, I came across the 1st Australian division camp! I could hardly believe it!

Here in this straggling little collection of tents and marquees were the shattered remnants of that huge Mena Camp! That proud martial, display that was the pride of Australia, whom thousands visited and admired a year ago at Broadmeadows. That struck the Egyptians dumb with awe and admiration as they marched through the streets of Cairo with crashing bands, and camped in the desert at the foot of the pyramids, which in their martial pride they belittled and flaunted. This little quiet camp was all that remained, after six months’ exposure to the fury of the Turks and the ravages of disease!

I found the remains of the 14th battalion – 170 of them – in three marquees. They were occupied silently going through the effects of their dead comrades. Jim [Elder] had left them, they said, sick with dysentery and septic hands, at the end of July. They had not seen or heard of him since. I wearily trudged back at dusk.

Geoffrey Morlet, in Eyes Right! p98

A lot better than the last one

Nov 1st. It is 12 months today since we left Albany. I am feeling pretty crook again today. Today I was shifted from the 2nd Field Ambulance to No 2 stationary hospital. We were taken over in a Field Ambulance drawn by mules, and had a very rough ride. In the new hospital I was placed in the fever and observation ward, but do not know what is wrong.

Nov 2nd. Today is my 2nd Birthday away from Australia. Had a very restless night.

Nov 4th. I am feeling somewhat better today. The Sister told me I had Enteric Fever.

Nov 8th. Today I was transferred to No. 3 Australian General Hospital, which is a lot better than the last one.

Diary of experiences in Great War, 1914-1919 by P.A. Collins · Full transcript

After the evacuation of Gallipoli

All strung up to a high tension

20/12/15. […] Went on deck on found we were lying in Mudros harbour. Transhipped to TS “Camponilla” and after lunch transhipped once more to the “Waterwitch” which landed us at a pier at Sarpi. We marched about 5 miles to camp and being fired and loaded up with packs we had to rest frequently. Reached camp after dark and after getting tents got to bed about 2100. Slept like a top, all the lads dead tired and not a sound heard except snores until 0800 next morning. This day the 20/12/15 is the longest in my life. I’ve fought Turks, gone thro’ an evacuation, sailed in various craft, and done God knows what including pitching a camp since last midnight.

21/12/15. […] The men smile at each other and seem all strung up to a high tension. They go about in a strained way frightened to shout or to go over a sky line and a wag has only to make a hissing noise like a shell to cause a scatter. When a man hears a shell his instinct makes him go for cover. Men have got behind a waterproof sheet. The Maltese & Egyptian labours used to cover their head.

22/12/15. Reveille 0700 struck camp during afternoon and I reerected on new site. Fine day. This place full of enormous camps the harbour very fine and full of ships, the beach only about 400 yards off. The scene at night is beautiful. The hospital ships lying rows full of lights and a blaze of illumination from stem to stern.

24/12/15. […] We are well away from the waterside, the harbour seems very shallow round here. The land seems to run in folds with little gullies at foot where wells are. Any amount of stones about. Our peasant was ploughing again with his oxen & wooden plough and sowing barley from a small bag. Being Xmas Eve the camp was a merry one. Viewed from above the place was a sea of lights and from the rear the hum of other camps came. All our men inside their tents playing mouth organs & singing. Many times sung with much gusto – well known hymn tunes but the words most profane. To the tune of “Holy Holy Holy Lord God Almighty” they were chanting “Rousing, rousing, rousing always – well rousing” […] The splendid harbour here takes my fancy, surely Britain will never give this island up again.

1/1/16. […] After lunch went with Dr. Craig to 3rd. General Hospital to look up Drummond. Found him in isolation ward looking very bad with para-thyphoid. Lister let us in though visitors barred. Very muddy and cheerless place, the nurses wearing gumboots and putties. Their quarters are wooden huts, but lack privacy and the life is very rough for any girl. Canadian sisters in similar quarters sporty looking pieces. Anyway it is good to put eyes on a woman and let’s hope next Saturday might well see us roaming out towards Mattarich or Le Caire with an armful of girl!

Our advance party left this morning. One is struck at a base like this at the hundreds of men building roadmaking &c. Consider the hospitals & the hundreds employed there. Money poured out on all sides. Elaborate cement platforms constructed all over these valleys for pail latrines. Discovery afterwards is made no pails available and then no timber.

Great football match A & B v C & D Coys resulted in win for the former…

2/1/16. […] At 1130 left with Davis & Roberts for Kastro and returned at 1930 a walk of 20 miles in all. Passed through Kondia and past a guard on stony mule tracks very similar to that in Imbros. Big row of windmills here grinding. Pushed on getting occasional glimpses of the sea and half way reached a very neat house with grounds enclosed by stone walls and kitchen garden & other cultivation alround. From one wall gushed a rippling spring and we passed several others of good water along the road. After long walking caught a sight of a high peak with sea beyond on upon it a tower, in point of fact a castle. Considerable mule and donkey traffic along road, from this on, the men frequently wore the red fez and appeared more than half Turk.

Coming into the town we chanced upon what was evidently the low quarter but an officer directed us to the best French cafe for a meal. Passed along cobblestoned and twisting streets and turned down a side street and entered a little low dining room full of English & other officers. Menu Omelette (very good) Fish Steak Rissoles Potatoes Cheese and Cafe Turque. Plenty of liquor on tap but we did not bother with any. Some French officers and soldiers about in the vari-coloured uniforms. Around the streets we found the shops well stocked and the place prosperous and much larger than other places I’ve seen probably about 16000 people. The sea comes right up to the street and some sort of a breakwater is there. The boats are wicked looking Greek craft of lateen rig. There appears to be a custom of placing wreaths over the doors of the houses.

The people are peculiar and seem distrustful, the men in their fezs look very Turkish and some had a turban arrangement like Bedouins. Some pretty girls. A baby put its fingers up in a cocksnook and some boys yelled out Australia no – good. One youth attached himself as guide and was joined by another both proclaimed Australia very good very nice and “Turkey — ! Also tried to indicate way to gay houses. Greek church a big place locked gates but went in and found priest intoning service with his clerk no one else present. Very prettily decorated usual glass chandeliers & incense. Lace hung round ikons. Date 1837. Turkish mosque closed, looked like a club from the street and their cemetery with tombstones crowned with tarbousches & turbans in stone was deserted. Number of buildings with Arabic inscriptions. Saw man with his face eaten up with syphilis and also a syphilitic boy.

Returning we saw three nurses on donkeys with their escorts. Spoke to them. One had a cannonball from fort. Tasted turkey lolly in a shop. Sardines in barrels packed in alternate layers of salt and salted olives also seen. Reached Kondia again in dark and home pretty tired.

Item 04: A.R.L. Wiltshire diary, 12 December 1915-16 March 1916 SLNSW MLMSS 3058 – the extracts above are only a brief portion of the full transcript which includes mention of route march through Kontias, villages with loop-holed houses built for defence, local people and agriculture, Therma baths, description of the Aquitania, Sarpi pier and roadmaking

The Anzacs at Lemnos

Our first contact with the shore after the evacuation is rather an unpleasant memory. After 48 hours without sleep, loaded up like pack animals, and a night march over rough ground, we arrived at a site allotted for our camp. It faced the harbour entrance, through which blew a cold gale with driving rain, and, to make matters worse, no tents or rations were available. Impelled by hunger, a few of us set off on a foraging expedition a small village called Portianos supplied our immediate wants. Every house seemed to be a shop. Oranges, tangerines and figs were plentiful and cheap but other commodities were dear. The quaint low houses were built of rough stones, the interstices being filled with mud.

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

Most unexpected peaceful Christmas

A correspondent writing from Mudros just after the Gallipoli evacuation said:- “The Australians had a most unexpected peaceful Christmas – one day amid the noise and fury of battle, the next in a good camp on a peaceful and beautiful island, to sleep without the noise of rattling bullets or the occasional outburst of howitzers. How good it was to exchange intervals of trench duty for football and boating; instead of serving guns in the firing-line to serve Christmas puddings and cakes, gifts from Australia! What a change! Instead of the constant fight with Master Turk we have fierce contests between battalions for football supremacy. To these matches spectators come from all neighbouring camps and hospitals; orderlies from the hospitals off duty. There is ‘barracking’ in real Sydney style.

The Sydney Mail 5 April 1916


Sarpi rest camp, Moudhros, Limnos, Greece, during World War I. Read, J C :Images of the Gallipoli campaign. Ref: 1/4-058162-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://beta.natlib.govt.nz/records/22302276

A. W. Savage (2006-03-26). Australians from Anzac. The University of Queensland, Fryer Library. espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:1088

“Lemnos Nov. 1915. In the foreground the tents are those of “Sarpi” the Australian Rest Camp. In the background can be seen No. 2 (?) A.G.H. at Turk’s Head.” Dr. Herschel Harris war photographs in France and Lemnos. State Library of NSW.

Our photos of Sarpi, 2011

See Flickr for captions & notes: flickr.com/photos/thrutheselines/sets/72157627983020419/

Published Sunday July 3, 2011 · Last modified Saturday April 7, 2012
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