Stories


I Stopped the War

When war was declared I went back to Boulder from Port Pirie to see my parents and two sisters. On return to S.A. I enlisted and was attached to a reinforcement of the 16th Battalion A.I.F, as an Instrumentalist.

I took my "little trumpet" [cornet] with me although not connected with any Military Band. On arrival in Gallipoli, we found the conditions rather tough, and lacking of any amenities for our troops. So it was left to ourselves to provide our own relaxation between spells on the front line.

I would sit in my dugout at night and play my cornet to the boys. I stuffed a hanky in the bell to drown out the noise, until the night of August 3rd, 1915, the night before the attack on Hill 971, and the landing of another British Division at Suvla Bay.

General Monash, then in command of the 4th Brigade AIF, sent for me on the afternoon of August 3rd and asked me to arrange a campfire concert in Reserve Gully, where all the troops–Indian, New Zealanders and Australians, were to be assembled and move out at midnight to start the offensive.

The Turks were only a few yards away from our trenches on the hills above the Gully, and every round of applause from each item brought a vicious burst of machine gun and rifle fire.

I chose a piece "The Rosary" by Ethelbert Nevin. It was a worldwide popular item at the time. As I started to play on this beautiful night when the sound of my cornet would carry for a considerable distance, a real barrage of small arms fire broke out. During the second verse, only spasmodic shots could be heard and as I started to play the final verse, all was still, not a sound to be heard.

The charm of music had caste a spell over all, and for a time the war was forgotten. February, 1918, I was honoured to be a member of the Anzac Cove Concert Party who gave a command performance at Buckingham Palace, congratulated by King George and Queen Mary, also the Royal Family, on this unique occasion. I later received the M.S. Medal for services rendered.

Told by Edward (Teddy) McMahon.

Below is the Cornet presented to Teddy by the Officers and Soldiers of his Battalion.