A few hundred metres north of Artillery Row, the land on the left of the Gully opens into an area now overgrown with bushes and small trees and carpeted with pine needles. This is Aberdeen Gully, named after the 89th/Field Dressing Station which was based there. Such is the returned growth here that it is easy at a first glance to assume that this is small glade with little to see. In fact, the offshoot area runs back a long way. Penetrate further beyond the obscuring trees and you will be rewarded by a well-defined path running up between scrub-covered limestone hillocks towards the rock face beyond. Caution: this path is filled with brushwood and leaves, and it is easy to sink into this, assuming it to be solid. You will emerge into a bowl-shaped area, albeit now beginning to collapse. In June and July 1915, the Revd Oswin Creighton, a Church of England chaplain attached to the Aberdeens, shared fully in the experiences of the troops in the sector, and worked extensively with the wounded who were brought in from the front line. He wrote the following about the field dressing station:
'It is about 500 yards from the firing line in a little gully called Aberdeen Gully (as the 89th come from there), which runs off from the big gully. A narrow path about 50 yards long has been formed by a stream, now dry. The path runs up into a little natural amphitheatre in the cliff, about 15 yards in diameter. The sides of the gully are almost precipitous, but it has been widened enough in places to make a dressing-station, cook-house, and officers mess ... My dug-out is reached by a little flight of steps partly cut out of the soft rock and and partly made of sand bags. It is only just large enough for me, and is cut into the rock with a piece of corrugated iron as cover. It is very snug and away from people, and I sleep on pine branches.'
With the Twenty Ninth division in Gallipoli. Revd. O Creighton. C F. Longman, Green and Co. London. 1916. ISBN: 184734495
The photo left, taken in September 2008, shows Creighton's amphitheatre at the rear of Aberdeen Gully. Whilst it is now impossible to know, it is intriguing to speculate that the distinctive cut into the rocks on the centre-right side of the photo might have been the dugout Creighton writes about. Whether it was or not, it is certainly man-made.
Aberdeen Gully was quite typical of the many offshoots from Gully Ravine. As well as field-dressing stations, the smaller tributary gullies were used as communications lines to the trenches on the front line as well as stables, food and munitions dumps, bivouac areas and as field HQs. Mining companies used the areas close to the front line, and there was even a practice gunnery range in one of the larger offshoots. For a few months, Gully Ravine became like a small town, offering every amenity and provision to support the deadly work on the lines up ahead.
Five years on, I visited Aberdeen Gully again and was astonished to see the changes that have taken place. Huge storms in 2012 and 2013 have sent torrents of water pouring down from the higher land, and the little amphitheatre used by Creighton looks quite different now. The bowl shape is beginning to erode and I suspect it will collapse completely in the near future.