Yorkshireman Francis Twisleton served in the South African War then settled on a farm in the Gisborne region. When he landed at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 20 May 1915, he was 42 years old and second-in-charge of the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment. His letters home gave clear descriptions of trench warfare.
It’s a very funny sort of life one leads, we burrow like rabbits and live more or less underground and do most of our work at night.
On 21 August 1915, Twisleton took part in the bloody assault on Hill 60. ANZAC units were severely depleted after Sari Bair, so ANZAC Commander Lieutenant-General Birdwood cobbled together a force of New Zealand, Australian, British and Gurkha troops for the Hill 60 attack. New Zealand was represented by about 400 men of the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles regiments many of them exhausted and unwell. In the initial charge, an enemy bullet smashed Twisleton’s revolver as it was hanging from a cord over his stomach.
My revolver, when in action, always swung in front of me as I could draw far more quickly when it was there than in any other position. It was struck by a bullet on the point of the hammer, butt was shattered, barrel was bent, bridge twisted half off. One barrel fired and of course the wind was knocked out of me.
The impact was so great it knocked him over.
I was sent rolling like a dead man. The only marks I had was gun-metal from the revolver in my left hand and thigh. I dug them out with a pocket knife – they did not amount to much.
Twisleton estimated that his Otago Mounted Rifles lost 90 of the 160 men fit enough to take part in the attack. After the first battle, Twisleton commanded a post in the trench that was half held by the Allies and half held by the Ottomans, with only sandbags between them. The parapets were partly made out of the bodies of dead Turkish soldiers, and the stench was unbearable.
I had been unable to eat since the first trench was taken and I felt as though I could scrape the smell of dead men out of my mouth and throat and stomach in chunks.
At the beginning of September 1915 Twisleton was evacuated from Gallipoli with severe dysentery.
I had seemed to live on the smell of dead men. I found for the first time that there was a limit to what I could stand.
He did not return to the peninsula, and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during the Gallipoli campaign. Francis Twisleton died on 15 November 1917 after being shot in the abdomen while serving with the Auckland Mounted Rifles in Palestine.