Secondary School Writing Competition

Creating Gallipoli

Connecting Scotland’s diverse communities through creative writing


Creating Gallipoli 

The Creating Gallipoli Writing Competition was open to all S1-S3 pupils attending Scottish schools. More than three hundred entries were received from pupils across Scotland – from Dumfries to Dingwall, from Edinburgh to Stornoway. All the entries showed breadth of imagination and a palpable emotional and imaginative engagement with the Gallipoli campaign. History came to life in these ‘re-created’ voices from a hundred years ago. All the participants, and their teachers, can feel proud of the writing that was submitted for the competition.

The winning and highly commended entries were selected by a distinguished panel of judges comprising
Professor Kathleen Jamie and Professor Holger Nehring from the University of Stirling and the military historian Trevor Royle who serves on the Scottish Commemorations panel.

Chris Powici
Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing
University of Stirling

Short Story
First Prize: Iseabail Duncan or Banchory Academy for ‘Dear Father’
Highly Commended: Owain Woodman Carr of Tynecastle High for ‘Dear Mustafa’

First Prize: Adam Duncan of Shawlands Academy for ‘Slaughter at Gallipoli’
Highly Commended: Kate Downie of Dingwall Academy for ‘War’

The judges also commended the following entries:

Rose Inglis (St Thomas of Aquins High School), Adili Ranganathan, Sioned Ellis, Cathal Lindsay and Alistair Chapman (Banchory High), Matthew Godridge, Aidan Dobie, Emily Moodycliffe and Eryn Roberston (Wallace Hall Academy), Drew Stevenston, Saffron Jackson and Alice Kerr (Dingwall Academy), Anne-Marie Jess (Hazlehead Academy), Abigail Clifford (Rothesay Academy), Dena Sharif (Hyndland Secondary), Hayley Exton and Emma Neild (Dunblane High).

Poetry Prize

Poetry First Prize: Adam Duncan (Shawlands Academy)

Slaughter At Gallipoli

A sea of blood and a land of the dead
Soldiers fuelled by bravery and by fear
Water too deep, hills too high, kit too heavy
And night too dark.
Guns crackling, bullets bouncing, water splashing
For there was slaughter at Gallipoli

Progressing with only a trail of corpses behind
1915 to 16, with only dead between.
These were lions led by donkeys.
Metal clanging, shrapnel flying, blood flowing
For there was slaughter at Gallipoli

One man’s hero is another’s villain
One man’s killer is another’s saviour.
Six VCs before breakfast, death after lunch, confusion after tea -
And sorrow after all.
Pulling the weight of their woe like rowing boats tugged by steam boats.
Gallipoli, a melancholy patch of land.

Many countries, and very many dead -
The dead falling faster than tears falling to the ground.
So many lives wasted in such a terrible campaign - and a worse war.
Lovers. Fathers. Brothers. Sons. All are dead,
For there was slaughter at Gallipoli.

Flies swarming around rotting corpses, the food, the living
The old and the young. All were victims at Gallipoli.
Relationships, friendships and families destroyed by the bloodshed.
Brave men dead on the wire like flies on a web.
To drown, to be shot, to die of disease - not a choice someone should have to make.
Never has it occurred before, but in the storm of battle
What other choices were there?

It was fear and hope that got them to carry on,
Hope of seeing their loved ones again,
Fear that they would not.
Hope that they would survive,
Fear that it might not be the case.

Beaches stained with the gore of battle,
Barbed wire hidden like the fear the soldier had to hide.
A failed plan and a doomed river.
Walls of flies and streams of blood.
Oh yes! There was slaughter at Gallipoli.

Highly Commended Poem: Kate Downie (Dingwall Academy)


I was always told that war was a great thing, that I would be a hero and then I signed up the
Ladies would come running, as they loved a man in uniform.
Would they love me if they saw me like this? Blood covering me from head to toe, mud in every
Crack and crevice, my uniform torn to shreds and a gun in my hand.

They never told me I would be lying in the dirt waiting for my heart to give up, shaking with
agony Because of the bullet would in my ribs,
Or that Iwould be lying on top of my friend's corpse.
I'm no hero; I'm just another dead body that died because of a piece of land.

Short Story Prize

Short Story First Prize: Iseabail Duncan (Banchory Academy)

11th November

Dear Father.

It's raining. We go all the way to bloody Turkey and it rains. Typical.

Sorry. That was probably blasphemous. The ink is smudging anyway; in the unlikely event of somebody attempting to read this, they won't be able to. The onslaught stopped a few hours ago and we were told to catch forty-winks, write a letter before the gunfire opens up again. Well. Too freezing to sleep, raining like Noah's bloody Ark, and I've nobody to write to, do I? I want my real father, but we've been torn apart. So you'll have to do.

The gunfire's peppered my ability to contemplate internally, and I've paper in my hands. So this is my sort of letter. And it's to you, God, because it's all your bloody fault.

Look, I was a good kid. Went to kirk every Sunday, said grace before meals, the lot – I believed in you, right? Even in this bloody hellhole, when I'm heaving mess tins and rusty water buckets, dodging fire, I pray. Beg. Implore. Let this stop. Deliver us: let Death cease to whirl bullet scythes in beauteous wastelands. Let feet no longer chew the famished soil. Let us detach our fragmented selves from incarceration, from inevitable ellipsism; narrow existence, living hell. I could've been a poet. The high achiever of the school-down-the-road; before the bloody war started, Ma said I could go to the Grammar.

Poetry. Battle's not poetic, I told myself as I signed my name. Marched off, became another cog in this suicidal time bomb. I remember pushing individuality from my head, breaking away from clinging ambition. For the kingdom. The power; the glory.

Poetry's not going to win this war.

Still – simple soldier minds, eh? Thick as bricks, conforming puppets, that's all us rookies are. I've gone straight from the one who knew everything to one of many with nothing – I don't even know which day it is any more. Each dawn registers, clockwork, in my head, horrors entrenched in regime. Humanity sputtered out at Eceabat, the town before these trenches. Months ago, when heat still seared the parched land. Suffocating; locals gawping, faces twisted with resent. It’s not just soldier lives destroyed. Someone else's bloody battle on your doorstep can't be fun.

Funnily enough, however, I’m more than a senseless doll. Thoughts hide somewhere in my brain, regretting a childhood of obedience, divine fealty; this war, this so-called 'honour', is stealing my soul. My fidelity. How is that fair? Let my past, my parents, faith and ambition, live on. God. Why won't you? Why can't you?

Father. The one I used to know. Since you’ve started playing your game of lives by callous rules, faith deserts me. I still want to be rescued, but in which way, I cannot even pretend to know.

Terror doesn't stop, nor the game. Others lose. Choke on their own blood, watch hope and memories soak into dust at shattered feet. Impersonal for you, perhaps, with 'all-seeing' eyes and the ability to remain indifferent as bullets bite skin; impersonal for most of us, actually. Bloody selfish, humans are.

But let me tell you something, Father Almighty. When hands shake from recoil, when you're burying best friends. As you scrape blood off dead mens' boots, clean festering wounds, scratch lice, crave comfort, cry. You know the other side is doing the same. And suddenly Turkish snipers aren't the evil ones.

This letter. Rambling. The true effect of war? No food, disease. Flies. So many flies, even in the rain, always there. Like the drilling of disengaging minds. The guns are starting again. I can hear the shrieks of bullet and bomb.

Faith breaks like brittle bones – but there's no time left to question it.

So let's start this last battle like I've ended all my others.

Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

I wonder how one delivers oneself.

For thine is the kingdom
And the power
And the glory,

Father. With your untouchable, unscarred, infinity.
There’s a lot of time to think while you're waiting to die.
Infinities, eternities. Forever.
I think I've given you enough.

                      Your Unknown Soldier.

Highly Commended Short Story: Owain Woodman Carr (Tynecastle High)

Cape Helles
Trench B022
Tuesday, 23 April1915

Dear Mustafa

Our sergeant has told us there will be a big fight in the next few days. I do not know if I will live through it. If I don’t, please make a better job of herding the sheep back home than I ever did. We have been told we'll be fighting against the
Scots. Sergeant Soysal is always telling us about how fierce and barbaric they are, but they are men who wear skirts and go into battle playing bagpipes! Back home, I never would of thought I would end up on a beach called Cape Helles, sitting in a muddy, smelly trench waiting to fight some men from half way across the world.
Well, our officers are always saying "It’s a soldier’s life!" Huh. They are the ones who eat roast chicken, and fresh food every night, while we get stale bread and murky water. But I suppose it can't be helped.


I went to bed at 2 a.m. last night, and was woken up at dawn by someone shouting at me to get up. We had to march down to the beaches in the dark, and I had to lug a massive machine gun along with me. When we got there, most of our men sat around playing cards to pass the time, but not me, no. You'll never see me gamble a single lira. I usually spend my time exploring my surroundings; I like being near the sea, it's like a baby, so unpredictable. One minute it's quiet and peaceful, the next it's raging and screaming.

My stomach feels like there's hundreds of butterflies flying around in it. Everyone is saying it will be a hell of a fight. This will be the first time I have ever fought in a battle. Me and my friend Kadir have been talking about what's going to happen: he says we will beat the Scots, but I'm not so sure.


Thank God I am still alive to finish this letter. Yesterday morning, when it was still dark, I was woken up by shouting again. Battleships had been sighted. I rushed to my gun, and quickly checked that everything was ok. I was so nervous I almost vomited over my gun cartridges. I was biting my nails too, which is something I never do.

Hundreds of men in skirts poured on to the beach. In the heat of the moment, I forgot to shoot my gun, and Kadir screamed at me "Why aren't you shooting!!!" I came to my senses, aimed my gun and pulled the trigger. My bullet hit a man who was around the same age as me, or maybe even younger; he was playing a set of bagpipes, and as the bullet hit him they fell into a muddy pool and were silenced. I was in shock -I had just killed a man.

After the fight, my tunic was covered in gunpowder stains. Me and Kadirtrudged back to the camp, cold and hungry. The enemy eventually retreated, but I couldn't get that young soldier off my mind. Last night it was hard to sleep, and when sleep finally came I had a strange dream. I was standing on the beach we were defending, and there wasn't a soul in sight. I saw a corpse lying on the ground. I walked over to it and looked down at the body: it was the young Scotsman. I lifted the bagpipes out of the mud and placed them in his arms. Then I woke up; my face was wet with tears. I cried till I had no more tears left.

This is the end of my letter to you. Hopefully they give us leave soon so I can come see you.Kiss Mother and Father for me and send them my love. Please pray for me.


On 25 April, 1915, the first Allied troops landed at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula, but the assaults against the Turkish defenses made little ground. Among the battalions of the British 29th Division that took heavy casualties were the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers, a regular battalion, and the 115th Royal Scots, a Territorial Unit. A week after the landing, the British force had suffered a staggering 8,500 casualties among other ranks, and about 400 officers.

Briefing Notes

Briefing Notes for Teachers

The aim of the project is for school students to engage imaginatively with the experience of Gallipoli from a variety of perspectives by writing a poem of up to 40 lines or a short story, in the form of a letter, of up to 750 words. The letter may be addressed to a family member, a friend, a lover, a newspaper etc.

 We are looking for poems and stories that evoke the human side of the conflict, that give a sense of what it felt like to be at Gallipoli from April 1915 to January 1916.

With this aim in mind, students are encouraged to make use of the online resources available and become familiar with personal accounts of the campaign in the form of photographs, letters, diaries and podcasts. A historical overview is important, but the poems and stories that emerge from research and writing exercises should feel grounded in the everyday realities of warfare. For this reason poems and stories should be based on one of the following themes:

  • Treating the wounded
  • The Landings
  • Life in the trenches
  • Being taken prisoner
  • The evacuation of Gallipoli

In practical terms this means

  • Getting to know the language of soldiers and other participants, the kinds of words and phrases they used from technical jargon to nicknames and slang.
  • Understanding the tasks that people had to undertake. For example, how do you load and fire a rifle? How do you dig a trench? How do you bandage a wound?
  • Appreciating the physical and emotional hardships of daily life – weather, food (or the lack of it), disease, boredom, drills, discipline etc. What did people miss about home and how did they express this?
  • Understanding the geography of Gallipoli. What kind of terrain formed the battle ground? What kinds of plants and animals inhabited the area? What were the names of villages, towns and local landmarks such as hills and rivers?

The poems and stories should reflect these concrete realities of life during the Gallipoli campaign. In this respect, a sense of focus is vital. In other words, a poem or story that describes a man being woken by the sound of gunfire is more likely to engage and move the reader than one which tries to summarise the campaign as a whole. In order to achieve this kind of focus students are encouraged to respond imaginatively to first-hand accounts, including incorporating some of the details into their own writing. However we want the stories and poems to be the student’s own work so verbatim quotations should be used sparingly.



A series of creative writing workshops for students selected by all Scottish secondary schools will be held across the country, from Stirling in the centre to Inverness and Aberdeen further north, to Glasgow and Edinburgh in west and east and to Dumfries in the south-west. The workshops will focus on English and Scots texts. These will take place in September and October 2015. There will be morning and afternoon workshops (up to 15 students per workshop). Chris Powici will lead the students in writing exercises that help them to engage with the Gallipoli campaign and hone their writing skills.

Here are details of the competition’s writing workshops. Places are limited (2 pupils per school) and will be allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis so please book early. Email Chris Powici ( and say whether you wish to book places on the morning or afternoon workshop of your nearest venue.

Inverness - Tuesday 1st September

The Spectrum Centre

1 Margaret Street


Tel: 01463 221842

Morning Workshop: 10.00- 12.00

Afternoon Workshop: 1.00-3.00


Stirling - Wednesday 9th September

University of Stirling, Pathfoot Building, Room D2

Tel: 01786 473171

Morning Workshop: 10.00- 12.00

Afternoon Workshop: 1.00-3.00


Dumfries – Wednesday 16th September

Dumfries and Galloway Multicultural Association

Holywood Building

Old Assembly Close


Tel: 01387 254 624

Morning Workshop: 10.00- 12.00

Afternoon Workshop: 1.00-3.00


Edinburgh – Wednesday 23rd September

Quaker meeting House

7 Victoria Terrace


Tel: 0131 225 4825

Morning Workshop: 10.00- 12.00

Afternoon Workshop: 1.00-3.00


Glasgow – Wednesday 30th September

Mitchell Library

The Mitchell Library

North Street


Tel: 0141 287 2818

Morning Workshop: 10.00- 12.00

Afternoon Workshop: 1.00-3.00


Aberdeen – Wednesday 7th October - CANCELLED

Please contact Chris Powici for alternative arrangements

North East Scotland College

Aberdeen City Campus



Tel: 01224 612160

Morning Workshop: 10.00- 12.00

Afternoon Workshop: 1.00-3.00



Official War Diary of the 5th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (courtesy of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum)

Gallipoli Battalion Diary

Gallipoli Battalion Diary Thumbnail


The Letters of Captain Main (courtesy of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum)

Captain Main Letters

Thumbnail image for Captain Main Letters PDF document

Newspaper Cuttings from Scottish Newspapers (courtesy of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum)

Newspaper Clippings

Gallipoli Newspaper Clippings Thumbnail

Photographs from the Gallipoli Campaign compiled by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Exhibition Images

Gallipoli Exhibition Images Thumbnail


The following books provide a very good background:

Richard van Emden and Stephen Chambers, Gallipoli: The Dardanelles Disaster in Soldiers' Words and Photographs (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

Jenny Macleod, Gallipoli (Oxford: OUP, 2015).

Alan Moorehead, Gallipoli, new ed. (London: Aurum Press, 2015).

Eugene Rogan, The Fall of the Ottomans. The Great War and the Middle East (London: Penguin, 2015).


Useful Websites

Imperial War Museum
Gallipoli and The Anzacs
Gallipoli 100
Gallipoli nurses
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum



WW100 SCOTLAND - What do we learn from all this?

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