<p>
	THE LIGHT SHINES<br />
	IN THE DARKNESS</p>
The Blinding of Lieutenant Little

THE LIGHT SHINES
IN THE DARKNESS

JOHN 1:5


Chaplain Andrew Gillison was praised in one soldier's war diary as 'the bravest man he ever knew.' Dearly loved by the Gallipoli soldiers for whom he gave his life, Gillison's memorial still sits at Embarkation Pier, just north of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

Quick to enlist in September 1914, young Queensland school teacher (Edwin) Maurice Little was only 21 when he joined the AIF. On the 25th of April, the 15th Battalion was assigned to the second assault wave at Gallipoli. They landed that afternoon, and were caught up immediately in the fierce action which had commenced before daybreak.

Scrambling up the steep gully from the shore to dig in close to the Turkish lines, Maurice’s 15th Battalion took a major role in establishing a forward outpost at Quinn's Post on the ridges above the north end of the beach. He was known to be capable and courageous, a man of fine Christian character, a born leader with the ability to cheer and inspire his men.


Five weeks after the landing, the Turks launched their fiercest attack yet on Quinn’s Post. In places, opposing trenches were as little as seven metres apart. The Turks tunnelled 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.


"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... "

C.W. BEAN, OFFICIAL WAR HISTORIAN

 

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. Maurice was optimistic, writing poetry and learning to read Braille. He developed a deep bond with Bessie. Discharged from hospital in September 1915, Maurice married Bessie in the military barracks just outside Alexandria. His friends carried him down the aisle on a chair.


Lieutenant Little returned to Australia in 1915 as a hero. A huge crowd gathered in the Ipswich Town Hall to welcome him home. 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.

When he eventually spoke it was to acknowledge those who had inspired him to serve his country and to encourage more men to enlist in the armed forces in the defence of all that was right and good.


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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