Blinded at Gallipoli

Twenty-one year-old Lt Maurice Little lost all but his life fighting at Quinn’s Post, the most advanced post of the ANZAC line at Gallipoli. But it did not destroy his spirit or his trust in God.

He was known as a man of fine Christian character, a born leader with the ability to cheer and inspire his men.

Five weeks after the landing on 25 April 2015, the Turks launched their fiercest attack yet on Quinn’s Post. In places, opposing trenches were as little as 7m apart.

The Turks tunneled beneath the Australian trenches to plant a mine.

Official War historian C W Bean wrote, “At 3.20am … a series of loud and heavy explosions shook the valley… Earth and debris began to fall from the sky, half-burying men… In the ensuing confusion the Turks stormed the Australian lines and occupied a section of the trench system including two bomb-proof shelters.”

Hastily regrouped, the Australians recaptured one of the shelters. Little and two of his men crept close enough to the second shelter to throw a bomb directly into it. Maurice cut the fuse short for a quick explosion against the running Turks. The first bomb was precise, exploding as it hit the ground. The next burst in his hand. His face cut to ribbons, both eyes blinded, his chest and knee torn, his arm a bleeding stump, he was carried out of the firing line.

Maurice was transferred to the hospital ship Gascon, then evacuated to Egypt. Both his eyes were excised and his right forearm was amputated. His left knee needed surgery, his face was pitted with shrapnel and he had lost teeth from his upper jaw.

Not yet 22, he was totally blinded and permanently incapacitated.

Army chaplain, Rev George Rowe, visited Maurice in hospital and wrote to Maurice’s father: “No complaint passes his lips… he has put a cheerful courage on, and he especially requested me to tell his mother that his heart is strong and he is happy in his Saviour’s love and presence.”

Bessie Crowther, 22 years his senior, was a Church Missionary Society medical missionary volunteering in the hospital. Her constant dedicated attention nursed Maurice back to health.

They fell in love and married in the military barracks just outside Alexandria. His friends carried him down the aisle on a chair.

He returned to Australia in 1915 and was feted as a hero. The Queensland Times reported that the sight of the recumbent figure on the wicker couch on the platform ‘seemed to go straight to the hearts of the onlookers, and it was natural that the emotions thereby stirred should find vent in the tumultuous cheering that rang through the evening air.’

The Bible Society presented Maurice with all 29 volumes of the Braille Bible. Maurice then stood to speak, supporting himself on his good arm with a cane and his other arm on his father’s shoulder. A spontaneous and deafening standing ovation erupted in and outside the town hall such that Maurice was unable to be heard for a long time.

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