2/4TH Battalion in Malta, Gallipoli Peninsula and Southern Egypt

London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories

2/4TH Battalion in Malta, Gallipoli Peninsula and Southern Egypt


2/4TH Battalion in Malta, Gallipoli Peninsula and Southern Egypt

On the departure from Malta of the 1st London Infantry Brigade on the 2nd January 1915, the 2/lst Brigade became responsible in its place for the defence of the Fortress.

The 2 /4th Londons settled down at St George's Barracks to a vigorous course of training. A musketry course under Fortress arrangements was begun and also special classes for the Machine-Gun and Transport sections, those for the latter being conducted by the A.S.C. at Musta Fort. The Battalion also provided a detached company to continue the duties of prisoner of war guard at Verdala Barracks, which had formerly been carried out by a company of the l/4th Battalion.

Shortly after the relief of the garrison. Major J. F. F. Parr, R.A.M.C.T., who had been medical officer of the l/4tli Londons, was appointed to be M.O. in charge of Imtarfa Hospital.

During the 2/4th Londons' duty in Malta they were frequently called on to find the " public duties " consisting of an officer's guard at the Governor's Palace in Valetta, and guards over various government depots, the first Palace Guard being found on the 9th February.

The 10th February was celebrated as a festival on the island, being the anniversary of St Paul's shipwreck, and the usual religious procession took place.

On the 11th February the Battalion moved from St George's Barracks to Floriana Barracks, Valetta.

The following day H.E. the Governor- General, General Sir Leslie Bundle, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., and staff left Malta for England, and on the 12th the new Governor-General (Field-Marshal Lord Methuen, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., C.M.G.) arrived and took up his residence at the Palace.

At this period occurred two events of paramount importance which materially affected the part which the Malta Station was destined to play in the War. The first of these was the opening on the 25th April 1915 of combined military and naval operations against the Gallipoli Peninsula ; the second being the decision to throw in her lot with the Allies of Italy, who declared war on Austria on the 22nd May 1915.

The effect of the former of these events was to render British naval supremacy in the Mediterranean, and consequently the security of the Mediterranean Fleet Head-quarters at Malta, of vital importance ; and of the second to ensure both desiderata not only by the relief from the menace of a potential enemy at no great distance from the island, but also by the accession to the Allied strength of the powerful Italian Navy, which formed an additional protection to Malta against the possibility of a surprise raid by Austria.

From this date onwards, therefore, the function of Malta became one not so much of a fortress as of a base of operations, and a highly useful evacuating station for the casualties from Gallipoli who now began to be drafted to the island in great numbers. The accommodation on the island for hospitals being limited to the normal service requirements of peace time, the congestion rapidly became serious, and the troops of the garrison vacated their barracks, going under canvas in the barrack squares in order to provide accommodation for the sick and wounded ; the 2/4th Londons moving to the parade ground at Ghain Tufficha Camp.

On the 26th July a warning order was issued to the Battalion, which was still regarded as a draft-finding unit to the l/4th Battalion, to prepare a draft of 400 other ranks to reinforce the l/4th Battalion in France. The resulting deficiency in the 2/4th Battalion was to have been made up by a draft of equal size from the newly formed 4/4th Battalion in England, and although this latter draft actually embarked at Southampton, the order was cancelled ; and it appears that the decision was made at this time, doubtless owing to the wastage of personnel at Gallipoli, to treat the 2/4'th Londons as a service battalion and to leave the duty of provision of drafts for both the l/4th and 2/4th Battalions to the 3/4th and 4/4th Battalion!^ at home.

The following officers were invalided home from Malta: Major J. F. F. Parr, R.A.M.C.T., Capt. W. G. Hayward, 2/Lieuts. L. R. Chapman and N. L. Thomas. The Battalion was joined on the 13th August by : 2/Lieuts. B. F. L. Yeoman, H. G. Hicklenton, C. P. Darrington and N. W. Williams. Capt. Hayward's duties as Adjutant were taken over by Capt. L. C. Coates.

On the 12th July Lieut. Simpson was ordered to join the 2nd Royal Fusiliers, then attached to the 29th Division at the Dardanelles, and was posted to the Machine-Gun Section of that Battalion.

During this period training was proceeding to such extent as was possible in view of the congested state of the island, and detachments were supplied for fatigue duties at St Andrew's and St Patrick's Camps, Imtarfa Hospital, and for coast defence at 9th Mile Stone (between St Paul's and Salina Bays).

On the 12th August three signallers of the Battalion, the first other ranks to proceed on active service, left for the Dardanelles attached for duty to H.M.S. Euryalus. Two days later a warning order was issued for the Battalion to prepare for embarkation to Egypt.

Before departure from Malta the 2/4th Londons were inspected on the 14th August by H.E. the Governor, who subsequently issued a Fortress Order to the following effect :

It is a pleasure to His Excellency to say with truth that it has been a source of satisfaction to him to have had the four Territorial battalions of the City of London Regiment under his command. Their conduct has been excellent under trying conditions lately on account of the heavy and unceasing fatigue work they have had to perform. Their appearance in Valetta, the smart way in which the men salute, the alacrity of the Main Guards in turning out, all show the efficiency of the Battalions.

His Excellency wishes OIBcers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men " God Speed," and if from Egypt they go to the Front he looks to them with confidence to uphold the high reputation of the City of London Regiment.

On August 19th camp at Chain Tuffieha was struck and the Battalion marched to Valetta, embarking next day on H.T. Southlands — w^hich sailed for Egypt on the 21st, arriving at Alexandria on the 25th. The Battalion disembarked and marched to quarters under canvas at Sporting Club Camp on the seashore, where it remained until October 6th.

The strength on proceeding to Egypt was 30 officers and 765 other ranks, the officers, N.C.O.'s and men who were not passed fit for active service remaining under Lieut. V. W. Edwards in Malta for garrison duty, until September 1916, when they returned to the Reserve Battalion in England.

At Alexandria the Battalion provided duties, including the Main and Ras-el-tin Guards and town pickets ; and also a detachment of 3 officers and 100 other ranks at Keb-el-Dick Fort, from which further guards w^ere supplied for Chatty Cable Station, Supply Stores and other points of importance.

The Battalion was inspected by the Brigadier, the Earl of Lucan, on the 6th October, who in an address to the troops said :

I have come here to-day to do something which is quite sad for me, and that is to say good-bye to you. I wish you all every success, good luck, and a safe return to England. I trust we shall all meet again.

I am proud that I have been in command of the 1st London Infantry Brigade and am exceedingly sorry that I am not coming with you. I had hoped that the four battalions of the London Regiment would have gone to the Front as a Brigade.

I much appreciate the hard work you all did at Malta and I send you from here with every confidence that you will acquit yourselves in the future as I know you have done in the past, and you will uphold the great reputation you have gained. I feci sure you will do great credit to yourselves and to the City of London Regiment wherever you go.

The commanding officer also received a letter from Major-Gen. Sir A. Wallace, C.B., commanding the troops at Alexandria, expressing his appreciation of the discipline and bearing of the Regiment and affirming his conviction of the exemplary manner in which it would carry out its duties on active service.

The same day embarkation commenced on to H.T. Karroo at Alexandria, and on the 9th, under escort of two destroyers, the Karroo sailed for Mudros, arriving on the evening of 12th October. The following officers did not accompany the Battalion to Mudros :

Capts. G. H. Moore and H. Parkhouse (seconded for duty, in the Censor's Office, Cairo).
Lieut. H. W. Dennis (granted leave to England) and 2/Lieut.
F. R. C. Bradford (in hospital).

For two days the Battalion remained on board in IMudros Harbour, but on the 15th was transhipped to H.T. Sarnia, which put to sea about 3 p.m. At midnight the transport anchored off Cape Helles and the Battalion disembarked on to the Gallipoli Peninsula at W. Beach and bivouacked in dug-outs in the early hours of the 16th October 1916.

The Battalion was now attached to the Royal Naval Division, the infantry of which consisted of the following units :

ROYAL NAVAL DIVISION

Major-Gen. A. Paris, C.B.
1st Brigade— Brig.-Gen. David Mercer, C.B.
" HaAvke " Battalion.
"Drake"
"Hood"
"Nelson"

2/3rd London Regiment.
2/4th London Regiment.

2nd Brigade — Brig.-Gen. C. N. Trotman, C.B.
1st Royal Marines.
2nd Royal Marines.
" Anson " Battalion.
"Howe"

2/lst London Regiment.
2/2nd London Regiment.

The Division was attached with the 42nd (South Lancashire) and 52nd (Lowland) Territorial Divisions to the VIII Corps (Lieut. -Gen. Sir Francis Davies, K.C.B.).


The 2/4th Londons landed on the Peninsula at a critical period in the fortunes of the expedition, and in order to render clear the position of affairs in the middle of October, some reference is necessary to the course which events had taken since the inception of the campaign.

After witnessing the " amphibious battle " between British battleships and the land forts of the Dardanelles, which took place on the 18th March 1915, General Sir Ian Hamilton had formed the conclusion that the Navy would be unable to open the way to Constantinople without the fullest co-operation of all the military forces at his disposal.

The Gallipoli Peninsula runs in a south-westerly direction from its isthmus at Bulair, where it is spanned by fortified lines, for some fifty-two miles to its extreme point, Cape Helles, attaining in its centre a breadth of nearly twelve miles.

The northern coast of the northern portion slopes abruptly towards the Gulf of Zeros in a chain of hills extending as far as Cape Suvla, the declivitous nature of the coastline precluding serious military landings. In the southern half, which is more accessible from the sea, the main features consist of Achi Baba, dominating the extreme end of the Peninsula ; Sari Bair Mountain, a succession of almost perpendicular escarpments over-looking Suvla Bay ; and the Kilid Bahr plateau protecting the forts of the Narrows against attacks from the north coast.

As a result of a reconnaissance of this unpromising feature it became abundantly evident to Sir Ian Hamilton that he could achieve success and overcome the difficulties caused by the inadequacy of the landing places and the improvements made by the Turks in their defences since the 18th March, only by rapidly flinging ashore the largest possible force at several landing places simultaneously. The glorious achievement of the landings at Cape Helles and Anzac on the 25th April are now matters of history, and lack of space makes it impossible to repeat the epic here. We can only record the fact that in face of innumerable difficulties and a murderous fire from the Turkish lines and forts, landings were in fact effected. By the end of the month, by dint of furious and practically continuous fighting, the French and British were definitely though precariously established on the south-west extremity of the Peninsula on a line running from sea to sea about three miles north of Cape Helles.

It was obviously essential to exploit the initial success as quickly as possible in order to carry the Allied lines forward before the Turkish reinforcements should arrive, and in spite of the exhaustion of the troops, fighting of the most desperate character continued on both the Helles and the Anzac fronts throughout May. But so enormously strong were the Turkish entanglements and trenches, and so well placed their machine-guns, that the Allied progress was slow and achieved only at appalling cost.

On the 6th-8th June a last attempt was made on the Helles front to carry the village of Krithia and the slopes of Achi Baba, but this attack met with a similar fate to its predecessors, and the nett result after a severe struggle was an advance of some 200 yards ; the line thus gained representing the most advanced position ever occupied on this front.

As a result of strong representations by the Commander-in-Chief, fresh forces were concentrated by the end of June consisting of the 10th, 11th and 13th Divisions of the New Armies, and the 52nd (Lowland), 53rd (Wessex) and 54th (East Anglian) Territorial Divisions, the two last-named being represented by infantry only.

The impossibility of attaining further success by frontal attacks at Helles now being clear. Sir Ian Hamilton determined to employ his fresh forces in endeavouring to strangle the Turkish defence by an attack across the Peninsula from Anzac, in a south-easterly direction towards Maidos ; supported by a fresh landing farther up the coast at Suvla Bay.

The new operation was launched on the 6th August. The main attack from Anzac involved as a preliminary objective the occupation of the heights of Sari Bair, the possession of which would enable us to bring rifle fire to bear on the enemy communications with Helles and, moreover, bring the Narrows within field-gun range. So nearly to success did this attack attain that had it received the support which had been anticipated from the Suvla Bay landing, with its consequent diversion of Turkish reserves, there can be little doubt that the advance would have developed into one of first-rate importance. New Zealand troops did, in fact, scale the heights of the main ridge, but in subsequent counter-attacks were forced to yield to the enemy, and the few hundred yards of ground which stood between us and decisive victory were denied to us.

The actual landing at Suvla on the 8th was effected, as had been hoped, as a complete surprise to the enemy, and met with little resistance. But the exhaustion of the troops, caused by a failure in the water supply arrangements, led to the waste of many valuable hours of daylight in which no advance was possible and enabled the enemy to prepare a stubborn resistance to our further attacks, and the opportunity passed for ever.

During August and September the supply of reinforcements and munitions for the Dardanelles Army fell off seriously, and in the middle of October the position had become stabilised.

The general situation had indeed changed most unfavourably for our chances of ultimate success. The wholesale retirement of our Russian Allies during the summer had released large numbers of enemy reserves for the Gallipoli theatre, and the recrudescence of enemy submarine activity in the Mgean Sea increased the difficulties of supply and transport from the bases at Mudros and Imbros, so that whereas the Allied forces had indeed shot their bolt, the enemy's strength was still increasing.

Since the Suvla landing no further active operations had been attempted, but constant pressure was maintained on the Turkish lines by our trench garrisons in mining and bombing, while our artillery continually harassed him in his advanced and rearward positions.

• •••••

The 1st Brigade was out of the trenches on the arrival of the 2/4th Londons and the first few days were therefore spent by the Battalion in the rest camp at W. Beach (Cape Helles) in providing working parties and unloading stores, while the senior officers of the Battalion visited a sector of the trenches. The fact should not be overlooked in connection with the 2/4th Battalion's record that owing to the narrowness of our foothold on the Peninsula it was impossible to withdraw troops, even when " at rest," beyond the shelled zone, and the beaches were constantly under fire of heavy batteries on the Asiatic side.

On the 19th Oct. the Adjutant, Capt. L. C. Coates, was admitted to hospital suffering from pleurisy and his duties were taken over by Capt. J. R. Webster.

The Allied lines on the Helles front stretched from sea to sea in a direction from south-east to north-west about a thousand yards short of Krithia village. The trench system was divided into two approximately equal portions by the Krithia Road, which, connecting Krithia with the village of Sedd-el-Bahr, near Cape Helles, traversed a ridge which formed the backbone of this part of the Peninsula. On the right of the road the lines were held by the French, their right flank (nearest the Narrows) being drawn back slightly on the near side of a deep gorge called Kereves Dere, the waters of which discharged into the Dardanelles. On the left of the road the lines were in the occupation of the VIII Corps, and were divided into three sections, of which at this date the right was held by the 52nd, the centre by the Royal Naval and the left, next the ^Egean Sea, by the 42nd Division.

The VIII Corps front was intersected by two deep
ravines respectively called Gully Ravine, near the ^Egean coast, and Krithia Nullah on the immediate left of the Krithia Road, and both of these, originating in the slopes of Achi Baba, formed deep furrows through the British lines, running towards the sea in a direction roughly parallel to the Krithia Road. The high ground between the ravines formed a plateau covered with scrub and gorse, and intersected in all directions by water courses of less importance ; the whole area being uncomfortably exposed to direct observation from the Turkish defences on Achi Baba. All along this front the British and Turkish lines were close together — in some places only about 30 yards apart — and a continual and deadly warfare, in which bombs played a prominent part, was being waged from sapheads pushed out from the main defensive positions and held by barricades.

The Royal Naval Division's subsector included several of such centres of activity, notably at the Northern and Southern Barricades, on the left, and at Worcester Barricade, a sap pushed forward from the Rue de Paris, in the centre.

The exposure of the whole British area to observation rendered necessary the use of very long communication trenches, to afford cover to the mule transport whereby the trench garrisons were supplied with rations and trench stores. These wide mule tracks, doubled for upward and downward traffic, were carried forward from the crest of the plateau above the beaches at Cape Helles to within a few hundred yards of the front trenches.

On the 20th October the 1st R.N. Brigade relieved the 2nd Brigade in the centre subsection, the forward system of trenches being occupied by " Drake," " Nelson," " Hood " and " Hawke," the 2/4th Londons relieving the 2/2nd Londons in the Eski line, a reserve line some 1500 yards in rear of the most advanced trenches. The Battalion occupied this line with two companies each side of the Eastern Mule Trench. The relief was carried out without difficulty, but during the move forward from bivouacs the Battalion incurred its first battle casualties, Capt. H. Morris and Privates Housden and Maunder being wounded.

At this time the Turkish Feast of Barram was proceeding, and when it drew to a close on the evening of the 22nd it was anticipated with some confidence that the enemy would attempt a demonstration against the Allied positions. The only activity, however, was on our side and our batteries both on land and sea gave the Turks a particularly hot time during the evening. During this tour the weather began to break and heavy rains fell, but apart from the wet condition of the trenches and the consequent additional work in keeping them in repair the tour of duty passed without incident of an unusual nature. On the 22nd half the company officers and non-commissioned officers were attached for instruction in the front line to the R.N. Battalions, their places being taken after forty-eight hours by the other half.

On the 27th the 2nd Brigade returned to the line relieving the 1st Brigade, which withdrew on relief to the Rest Camp, the 2/4th Londons handing over their positions in the Eski line to the 2/2nd Londons.

This day General Sir Ian Hamilton handed over command-in-chief of the Dardanelles Army to General Sir C. C. Monro, K.C.B. Sir Charles Monro's duty on assuming command was in the first instance to report as to the desirability, on purely military grounds, of evacuating the Peninsula, and alternatively as to the force required to bring the campaign to a successful issue. A reconnaissance of the position led him to the conclusion that evacuation should be taken in hand, and the adoption of this course received official approval, with results which will be recorded in their place.

In the Rest Camp the Battalion spent six days, which were occupied in work on new winter quarters and dug-outs, and which passed quietly but for heavy shelling on the 29th October and the 1st November from enemy batteries on the Asiatic shore ; but fortunately no casualties were suffered.

The month of November was occupied in duty in and out of the line, tours in the trenches being for seven days, followed by seven days in the Rest Camp at Cape Helles. For both the tours in line the 2/4th Londons were in reserve in the Eski lines though on each occasion companies were sent in turn to the front trenches for instruction in trench warfare. For this purpose they were attached to " Hawke," " Hood " and " Drake " Battalions.

The Turks at this period were comparatively quiet beyond a certain amount of artillery fire, and for the companies in the Eski line the time passed by no means unpleasantly. Engaged in strengthening and improving the defences during working hours, they were allowed when off duty to go in small parties down to Gully Beach on the Mgean coast. These small excursions were the means of providing a change of diet, for the men seldom returned without a good haul of fish, caught by a stratagem in which, so rumour has it, the Mills Bomb figured prominently.

It was not long, hoAvever, before the Battalion discovered that their worst enemy on the Peninsula was the elements. The summer heat had now broken and the autumn rains were beginning with all their sub-tropical violence. The Battalion's first introduction to these deluges occurred on the 10th November, when, having just returned from the trenches to the Rest Camp, it was treated to a violent rainstorm which flooded all the dug-outs and shelters.

A week later when the 2/4th Londons had returned to the line a thunderstorm burst over the lines and heavy rain fell for about two hours, flooding many trenches and rendering them almost untenable. This storm was followed by several days of rain and high wind which inflicted considerable hardship on the troops, not only while they were actually in the trenches but also by reason of the serious damage caused to the Rest Camp, so that on coming out of the line when the tour of duty was over the conditions of discomfort were unabated.

This sort of incident, which recurred during the rainy season with monotonous frequency, was far more productive of discomfort and ill effects than it would have been on the Western front ; since owing to the restriction of space it was impossible to attain on the Peninsula to anything approaching the degree of " back-of-the-line " organisation which was reached in France. Wet clothes, therefore, remained wet until the sun dried them, and the inevitable result was a constantly high proportion of sickness, which during the last few months on the Peninsula accounted for vastly more casualties than the enemy's weapons. But under the most unpromising circumstances the British soldier invariably manages to make himself as comfortable as possible and to undergo severe privations with a sort of fatalistic and stoical cheerfulness, which he vainly endeavours to conceal by much " grousing." And so on the Peninsula, a locality scarcely associated as a rule with ideas of amusement, a certain amount of recreation was obtained by football matches, and by the efforts of the bands of the four London battalions who played in different battalion areas each evening when the Brigades were out of the trenches. The officers also were able to obtain some exercise through the kindness of the officers of the 2nd Royal Fusiliers (29th Division) who lent their horses, on which a few pleasant 'longshore excursions were made.

The few days out of the trenches were occupied in supplying working parties for the construction of the new winter quarters.

On the 20th November the Battalion was issued with gas masks, and received its first instruction in defensive measures against gas attacks. It was believed at this time that steps were being taken by the Turks to employ poison gas against the Allies, but none was actually used against the 2/4th Londons.

Hitherto the Battalion had fortunately suffered but few casualties at the hands of the enemy, the total in all ranks amounting to 4 killed and 5 wounded. Sickness, however, now began to take a heavy toll of all units, and this became especially serious after the 26th November, on which day a storm of unprecedented violence burst over the Peninsula, accompanied by torrential rain, which rapidly filled the trenches and forced the occupants on both sides on to the parapets, where they crouched unable to move for fear of falling into the trenches and being swept away by the torrents which poured down them and overflowed on to the land adjoining. In the Rest Camps the dugouts were rapidly flooded out and the troops spent a night of bitter exposure. In the afternoon of the following day the wind suddenly shifted to the north, and a biting frost ensued. The cold was agonising and the water froze around the men's feet as they slept from sheer exhaustion. Greatcoats which had been drenched by the rains were so stiffened by the frost that they stood up by themselves. So severe was the cold that it was only by keeping the men constantly at work with their shovels that many were kept alive at all. On the 28th snow began to fall, and the blizzard continued throughout the day and during the 29th. In the meantime the sea had become very rough and the temporary quays and breakwaters suffered great damage, both on the Peninsula and at Mudros and Imbros, and this added seriously to the difficulties of the already over-burdened transport services.

During the first few days of December over 200 deaths occurred from exposure and over 10,000 sick were evacuated from the Peninsula ; and from the statements of deserters it is probable that the Turks suffered even more severely. A famous war correspondent who was at Cape Helles at the time wrote : " Never probably since Crimean days have British forces in the field had to endure such cold as the last days of November brought to our men at the Dardanelles."

On the 29th 2/Lieut. P. C. Darrington was evacuated to hospital. Darrington on recovery transferred to the 5th London Regiment (L.R.B.) with whom he served till almost the end of the War, being unhappily killed a few days before the Armistice.

On the 1st December the 1st Brigade returned to the trenches and this time the 2/4th Londons took over a sector of the front line between " Drake " on the right, and " Hood " on the left. The sector included a part of the front line known as Rue de Paris, from Sap B to Sap N, which was occupied by A and C Companies, while D Company went into support in Worcester Flats with B in reserve in Munster Terrace, the machine-guns being in front line positions. This day the enemy's artillery was more active than it had been for months, and for three hours in the afternoon the British lines generally were subjected to a violent bombardment by field guns and howitzers ; but although an attack was believed to be imminent no infantry movements developed, and in the evening the situation became quieter.

Although this tour of duty was not unusually active, there were abundant signs of a considerable accession of strength behind the Turkish lines, and daily his artillery became a little more active, a good deal of shelling being caused by the registering of fresh batteries on our lines. The Turkish snipers also became particularly annoying, and their efficiency reflected itself in our casualty list which, though not large, was somewhat longer than usual. On the evenings of the 9th and the 11th the Turks employed a field searchlight from behind Achi Baba, but the experiment was not repeated and led to no incident of interest.

Col. Dunfee was granted a month's leave of absence on urgent private affairs, and left the Peninsula for England on the 5th, the command of the Battalion devolving upon Major V. H. Seyd who continued in command, with the acting rank of Lieut. -Col., until after the final evacuation of the Peninsula, the duties of second in command being assumed by Capt. R. N. Arthur.

During this tour a draft of 49 N.C.O.'s and men under 2/Lieuts. J. W. Price and S. Davis joined the 2/4th Londons from England, and was posted to companies. 2/Lieuts. N. L. Thomas and F. R. C. Bradford rejoined from hospital.

The following is an extract from Battalion orders for the 12th December :

The Commanding Officer would like to place on record that whilst with the Grenade Section in the trenches last week No. 2827 Pte. Hedger threw back a live grenade which had fallen into the trench, thereby saving his comrades and himself from injury.

On the 9th December a relief was effected, combined with a readjustment of the boundaries of the Divisional sector on the arrival of the 29th Division from the Suvla Bay front ; and practically half the centre subsection from Sap F (half-way along the 2/4th Londons' line) to the left, occupied by two companies of the 2/4th Londons, "Hood " and "Hawke," was handed over to the King's Own Scottish Borderers. On the following morning A, B and C Companies and Battalion Headquarters withdrew to the Rest Camp. D Company remained in line attached to " Drake " until the 11th, when it rejoined the Battalion.

This relief being, as already stated, carried out in the course of a readjustment of the hne, the Brigade spent only four days out of the trenches, and on the 15th it took over a fresh sector facing Kereves Dere on the right of Achi Baba Nullah. Of this new sector about 750 yards were taken over from the 2nd R.N. Brigade while the French troops were relieved in about 250 yards of trench adjoining on the right. The sector was occupied with " Nelson " on the left, and " Drake "and A and B Companies, 2/4th Londons, on the right. Battalion Head-quarters and C and D Companies occupied the Eski line in rear of the new sector, in this part called the Tranchee d'Amade, with one company each side of the junction with the main communication trench, the Avenue de Constantinople.

The days following the occupation of this sector were marked by considerable activity on the part of the enemy's bombers. The hostile trenches opposite the 2/4th Londons were on an overage about 70 yards from the British front line and numerous saps had been pushed out toward them, from the heads of which the struggle continued without cessation, the Grenadiers on each side plying their objectionable trade without abatement.

On the 17th B Company relieved A Company in the front trenches. Capt. F. C. J. Read this day was evacuated to hospital, being followed there next day by Lieut. R. C. Dickins.

On the 20th December the announcement was made in Corps orders of the successful evacuation of the Suvla and Anzac positions which had taken place during the night of the 19th.

The details of the scheme for this evacuation had been carefully worked out by Sir William Birdwood who had been appointed to command of the Dardanelles Army on the formation of the Salonika Army (Sir C. C. Monro assuming supreme command of the Mediterranean Forces). The scheme provided for the completion of this difficult operation in three stages, the first of which involved the embarkation of all troops, animals and supplies not required for a proloaf^ campaign ; this was to be followed by the evacuation of troops, guns, stores, etc., not immediately required for the defence of our positions, while the third and final stage consisted of the embarkation of the rearguard troops and the destruction of all guns, animals and stores which could not be removed.

The actual evacuation had been fixed for as early a date as possible owing to the improbability of the long continuance of favourable weather ; and at both Suvla and Anzac the process was completed without a hitch of any kind, only a small quantity of stores having to be destroyed, and without any interference on the part of the enemy.

Almost immediately after this operation a marked increase in the Turkish activity on the Helles front took place, probably on account of the release of large numbers of his batteries in the evacuated sectors.

In announcing the completion of this operation, the special order of the day affirmed that the Helles position was not to be abandoned, but that on the contrary the VIII Corps was entrusted with the task of holding to this theatre of operations as large as possible a force of Turkish troops in order to prevent their employment elsewhere. To this end the battalions holding the line were urged to maintain their pressure against the enemy at all points while schemes were evolved for the construction of deep dugouts, the improvement of reserve lines, and other works, which would only be necessary in the event of a long continued occupation of the Peninsula.

Information was even disseminated that large reinforcements totalling over 1600 all ranks were on the way, and were expebted shortly. But behind all these precautions against the leakage of information among the Turks as to our intentions, and under cover of the various fictions above described, preparations were being pressed forward for the evacuation of the Helles front also ; preparations which needed particular care not only by reason of the greater activity of the enemy than at Suvla and Anzac, but also because the enemy having been successfully hoodwinked on the former occasion it hardly appeared probable that we should be so successful a second time in masking our intentions.

Another very severe storm -broke over Cape Helles on the 21st December, accompanied by heavy rain, and one of the 2 /4th London machine-guns was struck by lightning in the trenches. It became evident that with the likelihood of an early complete break up in the weather the final evacuation must not be delayed ; and accordingly it was fixed for the 8th January 1916, or the first fine night after that date.

On the 21st Lieut. L. A. Dickins was seriously wounded and evacuated from the Peninsula. This tour of duty indeed proved the most costly in personnel which the Battalion had carried out, and among N.C.O.'s and men 4 were killed and 13 wounded.

On the 22nd the 1st R.N. Brigade made a further " side-step " to the right in the trenches, and in the course of the readjustment A and B Companies of the 2/4th Londons were relieved in the trenches and withdrew to a fresh Rest Camp, called Caesar's Camp. The rest of the Battalion, however, remained in the Tranchee d'Amade until after Christmas.

On the 23rd December 2/Lieut. C. S. G. Blows joined the Battalion from England.

Owing to the kindness of Mrs Dunfee and other ladies interested in the 2/4th Londons, Christmas gifts and cards had been received for every member of the Battalion, and these materially helped to infuse a little cheerfulness into a somewhat depressing and comfortless Christmastide. On Christmas Day the Battalion was practically complete in the Tranchee d'Amade, B Company and two platoons of A Company having moved forward once more from Caesar's Camp.

The general scheme for the evacuation of the Helles front was similar to that employed at Anzac and Suvla, and in the course of the second stage of the operation. detachments of the 2/4th Londons, consisting of 63 other ranks under Lieut. S. N. Da vies and 50 other ranks under 2 /Lieut. S. Davis were embarked for Mudros on the night of the 31st December. These were followed the next night by 5 officers and 147 other ranks under Capt. R. N. Keen.

On the 3rd January 1916, the machine-guns of the Battalion, now increased to six, were evacuated in charge of a N.C.O. and two men, and on the following day the last battle casualties occurred, three men being slightly wounded in the Rest Camp.

The preparations for final evacuation were now practically complete. A strong embarkation staff had been formed to deal with the rapid embarkation of the last troops as they should reach the beaches ; and new lines of defence guarding the beaches had been prepared for occupation in case the enemy should become aware of the operation and harass it.

On the night of the 6th/7th January, a fourth detachment of 4 officers and 118 other ranks of the Battalion under Capt. Arthur left the Peninsula, and the next night Major Seyd in command of the remainder of the Battalion (8 officers and 155 other ranks) embarked at V Beach. This completed the safe evacuation of the whole Battalion Avith the exception of four men who were left behind attached to the " Dumeszyl Battery " under Commander Alan Campbell, R.N.D. (since killed), for demolition work. After completion of their hazardous duties all the members of this brave unit were also safely embarked.

The total strength of the Battalion on evacuating the Peninsula (including the transport and other details who had remained at Mudros and Imbros) was 23 officers and about 560 other ranks. The total casualties sustained at the hands of the enemy had been 2 officers wounded, 16 N.C.O. 's and men killed and 38 wounded, the remaining reduction of strength having been due to sickness and exposure.

On the 7th January the enemy opened an intense bombardment, said to be the heaviest since the original landing in April 1915, on our trenches ; the shelling lasting from noon till 3.30 p.m., at which time two Turkish mines were sprung near Fusilier Bluff. No attack developed except at this point, where a half-hearted advance of the enemy was easily dispersed.

The 8th January was calm and still, but at night the weather became stormy, and a steady and increasing swell did not tend to facilitate the task of rapid embarkation, and indeed rendered it very doubtful whether it would be possible to get the last troops away at all. This caused considerable anxiety to the Embarkation Staff whose task was not lightened by the knowledge of the presence of an enemy submarine which (unsuccessfully) torpedoed H.M.S. Prince George. Add to this the possibility that the enemy might discover the retirement in time to give trouble on the beaches ; and it will be possible in at least a small measure to appreciate the great skill with which this apparently impracticable task was brought to a successful issue. By 3.30 a.m. the evacuation was completed and at 4 a.m. two of our magazines were blown up. The conflagration caused by these appears to have been the first intimation of our departure received by the Turks who promptly shelled our vacated lines heavily until 6.30 a.m.

All material was removed except a few unserviceable guns, some 500 animals and a large quantity of stores, all of which were destroyed.

It is impossible to refrain from remarking on the excellent organisation and discipline with which the evacuation was carried out, and also on the extraordinary luck which was vouchsafed both at Anzac and Suvla in the concealment of the moon.

The Gallipoli expedition must live for ever in the annals of the world's military history, as one of the most remarkable exploits ever carried out. Although failure ensued, it was indeed a glorious failure, and the wonder is rather that success was so nearly attained. The base of operations at Alexandria was 800 miles distant, and the lines of communication possessed only two inadequate and unprotected harbours at Mudros and Imbros respectively. The whole occupied zone, and also the sea in its vicinity, was all the time under hostile observation and fire ; there were no roads worthy of the name, no storehouses or railways, and the activity of enemy submarines made it impossible to send to the Peninsula any store-ship over 1500 tons.

Yet in the face of all these obstacles not only was the landing effected, but our position maintained for nearly nine months and the whole force safely re-embarked ; and the memory of it must live for ever as one of the greatest pages of the history of the war.

After the evacuation, an appreciative order was published in R.N. Divisional Orders complimenting the troops on the discipline and devotion which had sustained them during the hardships of the campaign, and which alone had rendered the task of evacuation possible of accomplishment. General Paris, commanding the Division, wrote personally to the Commanding Officer a letter in which he said : "I must thank you and your Battalion for the good work you did when with us on the Peninsula, we all admired the cheerful spirit your men showed under very trying circumstances."

At Mudros the connection of the 2/4th Londons with the Royal Naval Division was severed, and they became temporarily attached to the 29th Division. A few days were spent on the island in rest and reorganisation, and during its stay there the Battalion was rejoined by the Transport Section and other details who had been detached from it during its duty at the Dardanelles ; and a great deal of satisfaction was caused by the distribution of mails from home, the delivery of which had been delayed by the evacuation.

On the 11th January Capt. R. N. Keen was admitted to hospital, and on the 14th Sergt. F. W. Walker left the Battalion for England to take up a commission. The record of this N.C.O. will be referred to again later in connection with the 3/4th Battalion to which he was subsequently attached.

The Battalion embarked on H.T. Ionian for Alex- andria on the 18th, arriving there three days later. Disembarkation took place on the following day, and the Battalion entrained to Wardan, a camping ground near Cairo, where it took up quarters under canvas and became attached with the other three London Battalions to the 53rd Division, Major-Gen. A. G. Dallas, C.B., in command. At Wardan company training was carried out until the 16th February, when the 2/4th Londons, with two companies of the 2/2nd Londons attached, moved by rail to Beni Mazar, where it became part of the Minia Force.


At the period of the 2/4th Londons' return to Egypt the Eastern frontier, on which the Turks had attempted to force the Suez Canal defences about a year previously, had become quiet, and the principal cause of anxiety centred in the Western Desert where the attitude of the Senussi, a warlike tribe of Arabs, had created a situation of some difficulty, which was rendered more complex by the possibility of internal disorders and religious unrest in the Nile Valley and the Delta district.

On the outbreak of war between England and Turkey the Senussi had not at first shown any disposition towards hostile action, but under the influence of a Germanised Turk named Gaafer Pasha they had become more truculent as the summer of 1915 wore on. Several breaches of the peace which occurred in the autumn left no room for doubt that military operations would be necessary to bring the Senussi to a due sense of their proper behaviour.

In November 1915 Lieut. -Gen. Sir John Maxwell, commanding in chief the forces in Egypt, concentrated the Western Force at Mersa Matruh, a town on the Mediterranean coast some 180 miles west of Alexandria. Under Maj.-Gen. Wallace, C.B., to whom command of the Mersa Matruh troops was given, several vigorous little operations were successfully carried out against the tribesmen ; but the lack of camel transport and water supply arrangements restricted the scope of his activities. Preparations were therefore made to remedy these defects and thus render possible the despatch of a serious punitive expedition into the desert.

On the 11th February a newly concentrated force of the Senussi occupied the Baharia Oasis, and on the 27th of the same month they also seized the Farafra and Dakhla Oases. To combat the serious menace to the Nile Valley offered by these fresh signs of activity, Sir John Maxwell formed a new command, known as the Southern Force, under Maj.-Gen. J. Adye, C.B., with Headquarters at Beni Suef, a township on the Nile some 175 miles south of Cairo. This Southern Force was concentrated in four distinct areas for the protection of the Nile Valley and the cultivated areas, the three northern areas respectively concentrated at Wadi Natrun, Beni Salama and the Fayoum, being grouped under command of Maj.-Gen. Dallas ; the fourth and southernmost being located in the Minia and Assiut provinces under Brig.-Gen. A. Stirling.

General Stirling's Minia Force was being concentrated at the period when the 2/4th Londons joined it, and comprised the following formations :

Highland Mounted Brigade (dismounted).

l8t Australian Light Horse Brigade.

One squadron of Cavalry (Egyptian Army).

Detachment of R.F.C. with two Aeroplanes.

Nos. 1 and 2 Armoured Trains.

l/4th Glamorgan Battery R.F.A.

One section Hong-Kong Mountain Battery.

2/lst Cheshire Field Company R.E.

2/4th London Regiment.

Two Companies 2/2nd London Regiment,

and was subsequently increased by the arrival of further units as follows :

One squadron Armoured Cars R.N. Division.
Half section Camel Transport Corps.
One Company Australian Camel Corps.

In spite of the great strategic importance of the Oases it was found impossible at the moment to undertake active operations, and the activities of the Minia Force were therefore confined to defensive measures. The whole Nile Valley at this time was infected by powerful religious and political influences which were at work to endeavour to induce the native population to co-operate with the enemy against the British, and although these influences had not attained the success hoped for by their instigators, they had taken a certain hold on all classes of the civilian population. It was, therefore, extremely important to counterbalance this smouldering agitation by the presence of strong military forces in provincial stations, primarily to prevent the occurrence of disturbances which might be fomented in the absence of troops, and to safeguard points of military importance, such as railway stations, bridges and canals. The natives of Egypt, though not of warlike character, are capable of violent fanatical outbursts, and the continued presence of the military, combined with frequent displays of their force, was the best means of preventing altogether disturbances which might assume very serious proportions.

• •••••

Such was briefly the position of affairs at the period of the 2/4th Londons' attachment to the Minia Force, but shortly after their arrival a distinct improvement in the outlook was caused by the dispersal of the Senussi forces in the battle of Agagia on the 26th February 1916. This time it was possible to exploit the success, and the desert column pushed forward to Solium which was occupied on the 14th March. The effect of this signal success on British prestige throughout Egypt was marked, and this effect was enhanced by the continued failure of the Turks to make any impression in the East on the Suez Canal defences. The Senussi forces were now practically disposed of, only about 3000 remaining in the field, and this remnant appeared to be disheartened, while the reputation of their commander, Sayed Ahmed, both as a temporal leader and a spiritual guide, had waned.

The danger, however, was by no means past, and the occupation by the Senussi of the Baharia Oasis, which followed soon after the battle of Agagia, created a serious menace to the part of the Nile Valley for which the Minia Force was responsible.

The Minia District includes about 65 miles of a strip of cultivated land running north and south along the left bank of the Nile, varying in width from 7 to 14 miles.

This area is intersected for irrigation purposes by numerous canals of which the largest, Bahr Yusef, runs roughly parallel to the Nile near the western edge of the cultivated strip. Beyond it sand-dunes run for some two miles into the desert. Minia itself is a town of some importance, containing about 35,000 inhabitants. The loot to be obtained from its banks and merchants, as well as the possibility of obtaining recruits from the Bedouin population, and the certainty of creating a strong anti-British influence, seemed to offer considerable inducements to raiding parties from the Baharia Oasis, and it was against this danger that the protective measures of the Minia Force were directed.

The troops at Beni Mazar, which is on the main railway line 26 miles north of Minia, comprised the following :

2/4th London Regiment.

Two Companies 2/2nd London Regiment.

One Camel Machine-Gun Section, Lovat's Scouts.

One Troop Australian Light Horse.

Detachment of Cheshire Field Company R.E.

No. 2 Armoured Train.

A detached post of one company of infantry (supplied by 2/4th Londons) was furnished from Beni Mazar to guard a bridge at Saqula over the Bahr Yusef. The whole of the troops at Beni Mazar came under command of A/Lieut.-Col. V. H. Seyd.

At Beni Mazar the 2/4th Londons settled down quickly to their new surroundings and carried out company training to tke extent which the circumstances permitted. The situation, however, placed a considerable restriction on the activities of the Battalion in this direction, as it was held at all times under instant readiness to move. A good deal of attention was paid, nevertheless, to long distance route marching with the deliberate intention of hardening the troops in preparation for the possibility of an advance against the Baharia Oasis.

On the 26th February a detachment of the 2/2nd Londons proceeded to Nag Hamadi to guard the Nile bridgehead there. Col. Dunfee this day returned from leave and took over once more the command of the Battalion and of the forces at Beni Mazar, A/Lieut.-Col. Seyd reverting to his former duties as second in command with the rank of Major.

On the 28th and 29th trial runs were made on the armoured train from Beni Mazar to Maghaga with the double object of giving the troops practice in rapid entrainment and of reminding the inhabitants of the presence of British forces. A demonstration march was made through the streets of Maghaga, but the demeanour of the natives was found to be quite satisfactory. The behaviour of the inhabitants of Beni Mazar also was so peaceful at this time that it was found possible to relax somewhat the strict orders as to permitting troops to walk out in the town, and henceforth they were allowed to walk in pairs instead of parties of six as had formerly been the case, though side arms were still worn at all times.

On the 1st March Capt. H. G. Stanham was appointed to command the Saqula detachment.

The working hours of the Battalion at this period were early in the day, owing to the advance of the hot season, but in spite of the severe change from the trying conditions to which it had been subjected at Cape Helles two months earlier, the Battalion showed a remarkably good bill of health.

At the beginning of March the command in chief in Egypt was assumed by Sir Archibald Murray, and in the rearrangement of the defensive forces in the Nile Valley which ensued, the Beni Mazar troops ceased to form part of the Minia Force, which was extended farther to the south, and became attached to the Northern Force (Southern Area) under Maj.-Gen. Dallas.

On the 3rd and 5th of March practice alarms took place and the Beni Mazar Force moved tactically to Tambu, taking up a position there for the defence of the railway. The strength of the 2/4th Londons on parade at the second alarm was 16 officers and 450 other ranks.

Throughout the period of the 2/4th Londons' occupation of Beni Mazar they received the greatest possible attention and kindness from the local Egyptian residents, who overwhelmed them with presents of eggs, fowls, turkeys, sheep, cigarettes, fruit and other " consumable stores," which needless to say were gratefully received as a pleasant alternative to rations. The officers of the Battalion were constantly entertained by the local dignitaries, who extended to them all the hospitality in their power, and among whom must be mentioned Mahomed Marzouk, Mamur Markaz, Merza Mohed Ali F. Bey, Abdul Gawad, Mahomed Zubi Abd el Razech, Ahmed H. el Keesz and H. Abd el Rezik.

On the 6th April the Saqula detachment was withdrawn and on the 12th the Battalion left Beni Mazar, handing over duties to the 2/5th Devonshire Regiment. The Battalion strength, 23 officers and 586 other ranks, proceeded by train via Cairo and Alexandria, travelling all night, and detrained the following day at Sidi Gaber, marching to quarters under canvas at Sidi Bishr. Here the 2/lst London Infantry Brigade came together again as a Brigade for the first time since its occupation of Malta, under the command of Col. Dunfee.

On the 17th April the Brigade embarked at Alexandria on H.T. Transylvania which carried in addition to the Brigade, detachments of Colonial and Imperial troops, totalling together 130 officers and about 3000 other ranks. The following appointments were made on H.T, Transylvania :

O.C. Ship— Col. Vickers Dunfee, V.D. "» o/<i.u t j -o • i.
Ship's Adjutant-Capt. J. R. Webster } ^/^^h London Regiment.

On the 18th the Transylvania left Alexandria and during the passage all possible precautions were taken against submarine attack. No untoward incident however occurred, and on the 24th April the transport arrived at Marseilles and disembarkation at once took place.

The Battalion entrained immediately for Rouen, arriving on the 26th April, and was accommodated in the Bruyeres Camp.

On arrival at Rouen the 2/lst London Infantry Brigade was finally disbanded after having been in existence for about nineteen months. Col. Dunfee, on the break-up of the Brigade, once more assumed command of the Battalion, but its remaining life as a separate unit proved to be short.

The wastage which had inevitably taken place in the ranks of the l/4th Battalion (which had now been in France for over fifteen months) had been far beyond the capacity of the Reserve Battalion at home to replace ; and with the certain prospect of being called on to fill serious deficiences to be caused by the large numbers of additional casualties which were expected in the great battle destined to open on 1st July, it was decided by the War Office to disband finally all the units formerly comprising the 2/lst London Infantry Brigade, and to use these troops for the purpose of reinforcing their first line battalions.

The dispersal of the 2/4th Battalion at Rouen is therefore the last incident to be recorded in its separate history.

Owing to the exigencies of the campaign it was impossible to grant leave to more than a very small proportion of the Battalion in spite of its prolonged absence from the United Kingdom, and drafts were quickly sent up the line beginning on the 5th May. By the 20th June the whole strength of the Battalion in officers, N.C.O.'s and men, with a few exceptions, had been despatched to the l/4th Londons, in the history of which the arrival of these drafts will be noted in detail in their place.

The officers sent to other units were :

Capts. W. H. S. Stevens and W. N. Towse, Lieut. R. C. Dickins, and 2/Lieuts. G. F. Bishop and H. W. Dennis to l/21st London Regiment (47th Division).

Hon. Lieut, and Q.M. J. E. W. Lambley to XV Corps,

A draft of 133 other ranks was sent to the Kensingtons (13th London), but by the intervention of Lieut.-Col. Wheatley they were subsequently secured for the l/4th Londons. Col. Vickers Dunfee was attached to l/22nd London Regiment (The Queens) for some two months, after which he returned to England to command the 4th (Reserve) Battalion.

Thus ends the separate record of the first reserve Battalion raised by the 4th London Regiment during the war. Although the 2/4th Battalion ceased to exist as a unit, the services rendered by its personnel in the first line battalion were of a very high order, and the reinforcements composed by it were particularly welcome inasmuch as they afforded a large number of much needed non-commissioned officers, who were quickly given an opportunity to prove their value in the battles on the Somme later in the year.