Private Arthur Geissmann was among the many reinforcements sent to Gallipoli during the disastrous eight-month campaign which began on April 25, 1915.
Born in Brisbane on 23 July 1884, Arthur moved to Tamborine Mountain with his family as a young boy but was working as a stockman in Calliope when he enlisted in the Light Horse on December 24, 1915 at Gladstone.
Posted to the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, Arthur embarked for Egypt on April 8, 1915 aboard the HMAT Star of England.
He landed at Gallipoli on August 1, 1915, just in time for the August offensive – the last major push by the allies to break the stalemate which had begun in April – and served with the 2nd Light Horse at Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill.
In a handwritten letter to the Central Army Records Office in Melbourne in 1967, Arthur Geissmann recounted that, from his vantage point at Quinn’s Post, Pope’s Hill:
“I had a grandstand view of the wonderful feat of the boys of Lone Pine.”
“My officer at Quinn’s Post was Major Logan who was killed there in front of me.
“After Pope’s Hill sometime we were taken to Queensland Number 3 outpost at Chanah Bahr, overlooking Hill 60 and Suvla Bay, to dig getaway trenches, though we didn’t know it at that time.”
Arthur and his unit spent what he described as ‘many, many hours and days with pick and shovel’ digging trenches for the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula.
On December 18, without alerting the Turks, some 35,000 troops were able to slip away without losing a single man.
Arthur Geissmann was in isolation with the mumps with some 150 other men on Mudros Island when his regiment returned to Egypt.
“A detail of us, about fifty, were put on a very lousy fishing boat to Alexandria where we jumped transport to Heliopolis, arriving the night before the regiment moved out to Wardan,” he wrote.
“They were under strength and weren’t they glad to get us.”
Back in Egypt, the 2nd Light Horse joined the ANZAC Mounted Division which, between January and May 1916, protected the Nile valley and the Suez Canal from bands of pro-Turkish Arabs.
Arthur suffered a spinal injury in an accident in early October 1916 and spent some time in hospital before being declared medically unfit for duty.
He embarked for Australia on January 22, 1917 and was discharged on April 18 after 847 days of service, 686 overseas.
Fifty years later, Arthur Geissmann found himself battling the bureaucracy, most likely when he attempted to claim the ANZAC Commemorative Medallion, issued in 1967 to every soldier who had served on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In response, Central Army Records Office in Melbourne had written to Arthur claiming to have no record of his service at Gallipoli.
Arthur’s frustration is evident as he replies:
“You attach a Declaration form to fill in which after all these years expect a person to remember items such as name of ship landed from, ship I left Gallipoli on and date of leaving there.
“I cannot fill in the Declaration as I have no record of most of the items you want.
“I belong to the Gallipoli Legion of Anzacs Qld who enrolled me without question at the time of joining as most of the members knew me, but have now passed on.
“As my time is coming along to follow them, I hope you will not be holding my application any longer.”
Arthur lived another ten years, passing away aged 92 on February 21, 1977 – 60 years after returning from the Great War.