London 1918, the Armistice and Regimental histories
Royal fusiliers in the Great War - THE GREAT ADVENTURE — GALLIPOLI
The Royal fusiliers in the Great War
1914 - 1919
THE GREAT ADVENTURE — GALLIPOLI
" It was an impossible task for any but highly-disciplined, well-trained,
skilfully-led, heroically brave, grimly-determined Britishers, animated by high
ideals, and upheld by the traditions of their battalions and of their race. It
may truly be called the achievement of the impossible." — Lieut. -General Sir
Aylmer Hunter -Weston, M.P., " The Times," June yth, 1921.
Meanwhile the 2nd * Battalion had written a memorable page in one of the most
tragic episodes of the war. Landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula with the 29th
Division on April 25th, they saw the campaign through to its close in brilliant
* General Hamilton's despatch speaks of the battalion as the " 1st."
At the outbreak of the war the battalion was in India, and it did not embark for
England until December. January 18th, 1915, a week after they had settled down
at Stockingford, was the first day of mobilisation ; and a few days later
Lieutenant J. V. Scudmore and Second Lieutenant H. Cooper handed over the
colours to the Lord Mayor of London. But the 29th Division, of which the
battalion formed part, was not destined to leave England yet. It was not until
March that orders arrived which suggested an Eastern destination. On March 12th
the division, now commanded by General Hunter- Weston, was inspected by the King
near Dunchurch, and four days later the battalion embarked on S.S. Alaunia at
SECOND BATTALION IN EGYPT
Alaunia steamed her stately way through beautiful weather to the Eastern
Mediterranean. When she was still some distance from Gibraltar the navy began
its attack on the Narrows. But apparently there was no advantage in speed, and
the division waited a few days at Malta. Alaunia then steamed towards Lemnos
until the night of the 26th, when, in conformity with orders received by
wireless, she changed her course and at length arrived at Alexandria on Palm
Sunday, March 28th, about noon. The troops did not disembark until the following
day, when they proceeded to Mex Camp. The routine of the next few days outlined
with sufficient accuracy the task which the battalion was to undertake. There
were practice disembarkations with subsequent attacks on enemy positions. One of
the Lancashire Fusiliers attempted to relieve the tedium by almost drowning
himself while bathing in a rough sea, but Lieutenant Anstice, who added a happy
zest for life to a facility for finding adventures, very bravely rescued him.
The routine became a little more strenuous and life-like after the battalion
reached Lemnos on April nth. The mere operation of disembarkation as carried on
in some of these rehearsals was the reverse of inspiriting. The vessel stood
high out of the water, and to enter a boat, bobbing up and down in the water, by
means of a rope ladder was like leaving the roof of a sky-scraper by means of a
spider's web leading to a cockle-shell. Fortunately the operation was simplified
for the landing on the peninsula. Implacable did not stand nearly so high out of
the water, and wooden ladders were let down to the boats.
On the evening of the 23rd the 2nd Royal Fusiliers left Lemnos with the covering
force for Tenedos, where the last preparations were carried out. There the
battalion was split : W and X Companies, with headquarters, went on board H.M.S.
Implacable about 7 p.m. on the 24th, while Y and Z, with Major L. Brandreth,
went on board a mine-sweeper. About 10.30 p.m. the approach to Gallipoli began.
The night was calm and clear, and the short journey was made under a brilliant
moon. The two companies on Implacable had a hot breakfast about 3.30 a.m. (April
25th), and the men were then put into boats. The moon had already set, and the
night had become dark and still. At 4.45 the fleet bombardment began, and about
half an hour later Implacable steamed in until her anchor, hanging over the bows
to six fathoms, dragged. On each side of her were two tows of six boats. The
difficulty of the task which these heroic troops were about to undertake is now
commonly realised ; but although Sir Ian Hamilton pays it lip-service in his
admirable despatch, the objective visualised for the covering force shows no
appreciation of it. In point of fact, this objective, "the ridge across the
peninsula, point 344 — Achi Baba peak — 472 — coast line," remained to the end
an unrealised dream. The Turks had had full warning, and had prepared for the
reception of their uninvited guests with a defence built upon their own
unquestioned courage and the conscientious organisation of their German allies.
Before the attack was launched Brig. -General S. W. Hare, the officer commanding
the covering force, issued the following order to the 86th Brigade : "
Fusiliers, our brigade is to have the honour to be the first to land to cover
the disembarkation of the rest of the division. Our task will be no easy one.
Let us carry it through in a way worthy of the traditions of the distinguished
regiments of which the Fusilier Brigade is composed, in such a way that the men
of Albuhera and Minden, of Delhi and Lucknow, may hail us as their equals in
valour and military achievement, and that future historians may say of us, as
Napier said of the Fusilier Brigade at Albuhera, ' Nothing could stop this
astonishing infantry.' The Fusilier Brigade certainly deserved this tribute for
the landing at Gallipoli, and no unit more than the Royal Fusiliers.
THE LANDING, APRIL 25TH, 1915
The landing place of the 2nd Battalion was a small natural amphitheatre with a
narrow floor of sand about 200 yards long, lying on the north-west face of the
peninsula. The cliff was some 100 feet high, rising somewhat steeply from the
beach, and there was no natural way up. The boats were towed in by the pinnaces
to about 100 yards from the beach, when, cast off, they had to look to
themselves. Each boat had a midshipman and two blue-jackets, who were to take
them to the mine-sweeper when the first half of the battalion had landed.
The men rowed in as rapidly as possible until the boats grounded, when they
jumped into the water, and waded ashore. In places the men were chest-deep in
the sea ; and, in any case, the thorough wetting would have been a very
dangerous handicap where success and the cost of it depended on speed. But
apparently no one thought of this handicap, and the men forced their way ashore
and scrambled up the crumbling cliff. Up to this point the battalion had
suffered hardly any casualties. The beach " X " was naturally less likely to
encourage a landing, and Implacable s most skilful covering fire kept down the
Turkish reply until the cliff was topped. Colonel Newenham signalled the
position of a half-battery of Turkish guns in the scrub in front of the centre
of the battalion, and they were promptly knocked out by the battleship's fire.
After that its immediate usefulness was small, and the Royal Fusiliers ran into
a heavy converging fire. But there was no hesitation, no wavering, and the men
kept on and rapidly seized one of the Turkish trenches.
By this time Y and Z Companies, with Brandreth, were disembarking from the boats
which had landed the first half of the battalion ; and Lieut. -Colonel Newenham,
with an instant appreciation of the situation, sent X (Captain F. K. Leslie) to
the left front, W (Major G. S. Guy on) to the centre and right front, and then,
taking all the troops he could gather, marched towards the right * to effect a
junction with the Lancashires at " W " beach. The smallest pardonable indecision
at this point, and the whole landing would have failed. Colonel Newenham had
learned by signal that the troops on " Y " beach were hard beset, and could not
join with his force on " X," and that the landing on " V " was hung up. He had
seen that the Lancashires were suffering terribly in even approaching their
* The objective, as stated in Colonel Newenham's Operation Order No. 1, was "
Hill 114, and secure flank towards N.E." One company of the Lancashires was to
assist in taking Hill 114.
The disposition (same order) was as follows : " On landing, W Company will be on
the right and X on the left. The cliff will at once be scaled in platoons or
half-platoons. The trench at top of cliff will be immediately rushed with
bayonets. X Company will then be prepared to attack on the left (N.), and W
Company will be prepared to the right (S.). As soon as Y and Z Companies land, Z
Company will at once ascend the cliff in platoons or half-platoons. Y Company
will first unload the boats, and then be prepared to support Z Company or to
carry up stores, as is necessary."
The little force which marched towards the Lancashire landing was made up of W
and part of Z Company (Major F. Moore). Y (Major W. A. B. Daniell) was left as a
reserve and to carry ammunition and water, and the orders were to hold on left
and front. Between " X" and " W " beaches lay Cape Tekke, crowned by Tekke Hill
(Hill 114) , * and, in order to join hands with the Lancashires, the Royal
Fusiliers had to carry it. The hill had been elaborately entrenched and was also
defended by land mines, but about 11 a.m. the Fusiliers, cheered on by
Impiacable's crew, carried it at the point of the bayonet. The battalion sent
back about sixty prisoners. They then re-formed and advanced north-east and
east, and met with heavy opposition on the reverse side of the hill. The Turks
were dislodged from their entrenchments, and the Royal Fusiliers then dug in for
the night. They had achieved contact with the Lancashires, and their role had
been amply filled.
Meanwhile, X Company had fought through as terrible an experience as any troops
on the peninsula. Between " Y " beach and " X " beach was a considerable Turkish
force at " Y2 " or " Gully " beach. The first 300 yards of the advance to the
left from " X " beach was made against little opposition ; and the Turks,
retiring at 9 a.m., left the first line of trenches in Captain Leslie's hands.
But the Turks fell back upon heavy reinforcements at " Y2," and when X Company
approached the second line they became involved in heavy fighting. Part of Y
Company went up in support, but the struggle gathered in intensity, and the
centre began to give way. The main mass of the battalion had been concentrated
on the flanks and had marched outwards, and the centre was inevitably thinned.
Part of Z had been extended to the left, and the
* This hill cannot be accurately described as between " V " and " W " beaches,
as in General Hamilton's despatch.
THE CRISIS ON APRIL 25TH
The various lines show the stages in the advance. The disposition of the 2nd
Royal Fusiliers on the night of April 25th gives some suggestion of the strain
through which they had passed during the day. whole of Y had become involved. A
remnant of Leslie's company began to fall back under cover of a platoon of Z,
commanded by Lieutenant Jebens.
But at 3 p.m. Shafto informed Colonel Newenham that the centre was falling back
; and for a moment it seemed as if the whole position was crumbling, just when
it had been so dearly won. At this critical juncture Colonel Newenham telephoned
to the 87th Brigade, who were now landing at " X " beach, and a little later the
1st Border Regiment reinforced the left of the line. For the rest of the day X
was attached to them, and at night lay on their left. In the attack on Hill 114,
Colonel Newenham had been wounded. He was assisted into a little gully with some
other wounded, but between 3 and 4 p.m., when the line appeared to be giving at
a number of points, the little party was almost cut off and captured. With the
assistance of the Border Regiment and the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the
line was consolidated ; and though it was heavily attacked and under a sustained
fire during the night, the dawn saw the Turks fall back to a rear position.
From the force eventually required to hold the line some idea of the magnitude
of the 2nd Battalion's achievement may be gathered. At night they lay somewhat
scattered along the rim of the cliff. Between the small party on the extreme
left and the section on the left of the Lancashires lay the Border Regiment and
the Inniskillings. The battalion's losses had been very heavy. Lieut. -Colonel
Newenham * and Major Brandreth, second in command, were both wounded. Of X
Company only O'Connell remained, with about a platoon. Captain Leslie and
Lieutenant R. E. G. A. de Trafford were killed. Captain Tottenham and Lieutenant
S. Winslade were wounded. Lieutenants J. V. Scudamore (W) and M. Brickland (Y)
were killed. Second Lieutenants Hanham and Collings were wounded. No company
commander escaped, and the battalion was reduced to about half strength. But a
careful study of the situation during this day makes it evident that their
contribution had been decisive. The troops at " Y " beach were held, and
actually withdrew the following day. The landing at " V " beach was in the air.
The first hours of the Lancashires' landing found them hardly able to do more
than hang on. The swift march upon and capture of Hill 114 turned the scale on "
W" beach ; and with the linking of the two beaches a feasible, if precarious,
foothold was established on the peninsula.*
* Colonel Newenham had the hard fate of only seeing the battalion he had so
carefully trained in action on this one occasion. But the praise which it won
from the closest observer, quoted several times in these pages, for its
efficiency, discipline, and courage, is sufficient tribute to his command. He
was granted a well-deserved C.B. for his services on this occasion.
THE NIGHT AFTER THE LANDING
Captain Moore's wound proved slight, and on the night of the landing he took
over the command of the battalion. On the afternoon of the 26th they had to beat
off two determined Turkish attacks. The first assault was made with a force
estimated at 1,500, and the second, half an hour later, with an additional
thousand. The Turks achieved no success, and Hill 141, to the right of "V beach,
having been taken, the Turks could be seen withdrawing towards Achi Baba. On the
following day a general advance was made without opposition, the 86th Brigade
being in divisional reserve.
* A few sentences in General Hamilton's despatch tend to give a wrong impression
of the battalion's achievement : " The battalion then advanced to attack the
Turkish trenches on Hill 114 .. . but were heavily counter-attacked and forced
to give ground. Two more battalions of the 87th Brigade soon followed them, and
by evening the troops had established themselves . . . as far south as Hill
114." The Royal Fusiliers not only carried the hill positions, but by 2 p.m. had
also taken the entrenchments on the further side. Help from the 87th Brigade
came at least two hours later, and to the weakened centre, not to the victorious
right. The despatch, speaking of the Lancashires, also says that " a junction
was effected on Hill 114 with the Royal Fusiliers," without any suggestion that,
unless the 2nd Battalion had promptly marched upon and seized it, there would
have been no possibility of effecting a junction. Mr. Nevinson shows a better
appreciation of the position when he says (speaking of the Lancashires on "W"
beach), " No further advance could be made until 2 p.m., when, owing to the
positions held by the two companies on the left, the landing had become fairly
secure " (" The Dardanelles Campaign," p. 103). The position held by these two
companies was made possible by the decisive march of the Royal Fusiliers.
General Callwell summed up this episode in the words : " The success of the
Royal Fusiliers at beach ' X ' must be set down as a particularly memorable
(" The Dardanelles," p. 67).
On the 28th there occurred one of those unfortunate incidents which seemed to
appear with undue frequency on the peninsula. The battalion advancing on the
extreme left, by the coast, were ordered to move to the support of the 88th
Brigade, who were meeting with strong opposition. The 86th were to take
ammunition to the 88th, and to carry the line forward to the spur north-east of
Krithia. The Royal Fusiliers and the Lancashires were to'attack, the former
being on the left of the directing platoon of the Lancashires. When the latter
at length began to advance, the 2nd Battalion, under Cripps and O'Connell,
conformed, and carried the line forward with a series of short, swift rushes.
Heavy fighting continued all day, but the battalion dug in on a line about a
mile south of Krithia. Cripps was wounded, and the strength of the Fusiliers
ebbed still further. What appeared more lamentable was that the farthest point
reached could not be maintained for lack of support, and a month's hard righting
and heavy losses were required to regain the ground won in this determined
advance. The battalion was in brigade reserve on the two following days, resting
and reorganising. Indeed, some respite was called for. On leaving Mex Camp they
had mustered 26 officers and 948 other ranks. On April 30th the strength was 12
officers and 481 other ranks.
On May 1st, after a quiet day, the battalion was called upon for another tour de
force. At 7.30 p.m. orders had been issued for the relief of the 86th Brigade,
but it was still in the line when a very heavy attack developed at 10.30 p.m. "
The first momentum of this ponderous onslaught fell upon the right of the 86th
Brigade, an unlucky spot, seeing all the officers thereabouts had already been
killed or wounded." * It was a weak spot for another reason. At this point of
the brigade front the line was cut by a bifurcating nullah. The Turks organised
this first massed counter-attack with great skill. The trenches were first
heavily shelled, and then, just before moonrise, the first line of the Turks
hurled themselves against the Allied positions with fixed bayonets. From
prisoners captured by the Royal Fusiliers it was later discovered that this
attack was delivered by 16,000 Turks, with 2,000 in reserve.
COUNTERATTACK ON MAY 1st— 2nd
The effect of this onslaught on the already weak Munsters might have been
foreseen. The heavy weight of living bayonets, bursting out of the darkness into
their trenches and up the nullah, overwhelmed the defence. Some of the Turks
penetrated to the reserve trench held by the 1/5 Scots.* But the position was
critical, and the Royal Fusiliers, who were in brigade reserve, were again
called upon. Captain North-Bomford and Lieutenant Jebens took up Z Company. The
line at this moment was pierced. The Turks were massed in the nullah. The
Fusiliers at once charged into it, and though North-Bomford was wounded, the
breach in the line was healed. The nullah was soon choked with dead and dying.
Forty prisoners were sent back, and when Y Company came up the line was restored
on both sides of the nullah. The trenches were held all night (May 2nd), despite
incessant attacks, in which the Turks on more than one occasion fought their way
up to the trench parapets. Lieutenant Anstice.f who had distinguished himself
for his coolness and gallantry in carrying ammunition to the front line, was
killed. Jebens was wounded, and Captain Moore was again hit, and had to hand
over the command to Captain H. M. Hope-Johnstone. It was immediately after
discussing the position with his new CO. that Shafto, one of the most popular of
officers, was shot dead while examining the front line in the early morning. The
battalion had again lost very heavily, but their intervention at a critical
juncture had " saved the situation. "J
" All through the operations the Royal Fusiliers worked with the smoothest
precision ; never for a moment did they lose their high standard of efficiency.
No task was relinquished while it was humanly possible to complete it. With such
men as Moore, Shafto, and Hope-Johnstone in control, all officers inspiring
confidence, and the disciplined conduct of the men showing their friendly trust
in them, there was never a fear that the reserve might fail in stemming the
assault. Captain Moore, in telephonic communication throughout the night with
the firing line and brigade headquarters, gave accurate and constant information
of the progress of the fight, and acted on his own initiative or carried out
orders rapidly to deal with every situation." *
* General Hamilton's despatch attributes to this regiment the saving of the
situation, and does not mention the Royal Fusiliers.
t He was recommended for the Victoria Cross.
I From a letter of the Brigade Major, May 22nd, 1915.
There were now only six officers left. Mundey became Adjutant. Huggett,
O'Connell, Hewitt and Cooper were the other officers ; and there were still 425
other ranks. On the night of the 2nd the bulk of the battalion was again sent up
in support. The two following days were quiet. On the 4th the 86th Brigade was
broken up, the Royal Fusiliers, linked with the Hants, though as a separate
battalion, going to the 88th Brigade. The landing phase was over. In a letter
dated May 22nd, 1915, the Brigade Major of the 86th Infantry Brigade said, "
Where all have done well, the Royal Fusiliers have been beyond praise. With five
junior officers and under 400 men, they have never lost their form for a moment.
Not only have they always done what might have been expected of them, but they
have risen to a standard of soldiering which could not be higher, and never
departed from it. I am filled with admiration for them." Praise could hardly be
higher than this.
SECOND BATTLE OF KRITHIA, MAY 6th— 7th
On May 6th began the second battle of Krithia. At about 11 a.m. the battalion
moved to the extreme left of the brigade front in support of the Hampshire
Regiment, and at 12.30 p.m. Huggett's company reinforced the Hants' left in the
advance. The Fusiliers' left rested on the Saghir Dere (Gully Ravine), and in
about four hours' hard fighting they had carried the line forward several
hundred yards ; and, no further advance being possible, dug in as fast as
possible under fire. So the position stood that night, and on the following
morning it was found impossible to make headway against the Turkish opposition,
while the flanking brigade was held up. The Essex who advanced through the
battalion at 5 p.m. were in trouble for the same reason, and during the night
the Fusiliers had to send up a party to fill the gap on their left to the nullah.
All that day the battalion had been under very accurately aimed shell fire, and
on the 8th they still suffered from this unwelcome attention. But the second
battle of Krithia died down under heavy counter-attacks and the battalion went
into reserve 5 officers and 384 other ranks strong, after sixteen days in the
* The Brigade Major, 86th Brigade, quoted from " With the 29th Division," p.
When the Fusiliers went back into the line again on the 17th they had the novel
excitement of enfilading a Turkish trench. Though at some 1,200 yards distance,
the fire very efficiently checked the activity of enemy snipers. But this was
merely an interlude. Saps were driven forward and several attempts were made to
lift the battalion front with them. The second was on the 22nd, when gallantly
led by Moore, Hope- Johnstone and Webb-Bowen, the Fusiliers captured a Turkish
trench ; but a heavy counter-attack forced them to withdraw with 40 casualties,
including Moore and Webb-Bowen. Both were wounded, Moore for the third time. Maj
or Brandreth had by this time returned to the battalion, and there had been no
pause in the fighting when they were called upon to take part in the third
battle of Krithia, on June 4th.
The Turks had now organised a systematic defence across the peninsula and the
battalion had to advance against a determined resistance. A small machine gun
redoubt, lying about 150 yards in front, was among their objectives. Admirably
sited on rising ground the position was strong out of all proportion to its
size. When the advance began at noon W Company (Captain Amphlett), on the right,
rushed this redoubt, and there, for the first time, the battalion came face to
face with Germans. The garrision was composed of a machine gun crew from the
cruiser Breslau. " One ugly looking customer was captured, evidently the naval
equivalent of a military pioneer sergeant. He was armed with a rifle, revolver
and a serrated sword. The others retired on the arrival of our men, leaving four
heavy naval machine guns, and belt boxes of S.A.A. ... I collected these guns
and sent them to brigade headquarters with labels, stating time of capture, etc.
The guns had evidently been taken from the Breslau, the belt boxes were all
marked S.M.S. Breslau."*
Captain Amphlett was killed on this occasion. A police magistrate in Grenada at
the outbreak of the war, he was one of the new officers and appears to have
shown his quality at once and to have died beloved by his company.
The battalion swept past the redoubt and established themselves in the first
objective. No further advance could be made as the Indians on the left were held
up by uncut wire. The brilliant French advance was followed by a retirement
which compelled the R.N.D. to fall back. The Manchester Brigade of the 42nd
Division had reached the second objective ; and to strengthen their position the
Royal Fusiliers on the left advanced once more under artillery support, and
carried the line well beyond the first objective. This was not an unmixed
advantage, as the sequel showed. The new front line was not continuous, and,
with the coastal sector at the original position, the ground gained formed an
irregular salient in the Turkish lines. Some 80 yards of the Fusiliers' line on
the left was a Turkish communication trench which lay practically at right
angles to the main line, and the battalion on the left, lying some distance
ahead, shared this trench.
* Statement by R.S.M. Huband (June, 192 1). General Hamilton's despatch says "
Goeben." I cannot determine whether there were two similar incidents, and the
brigade diary is missing for this date. It seems more probable that " Breslau "
should be substituted for " Goeben."
THIRD BATTLE OF KRITHIA, JUNE 4th— 6th
After the main attack on June 4th followed a quiet day ; but at dawn on the 6th
a loud noise of bombing was heard on the Fusiliers' left. Almost immediately
afterwards a large body of men were seen retiring ; but instead of going
straight back they ran along the parados and rushed into the left of the
Fusiliers' sector. The trenches were narrow and soon became choked. Brandreth
seeing the possibility of panic spreading, ran across with Mundey and Sergeant
Marston. Every effort was made to restore order, but the vacated trenches were
now occupied by the Turks. Very soon the battalion were taken from the left
rear. Many men were shot in the back. Only one officer, Second Lieutenant
Cooper, remained. Word was sent back to the brigade, but the company which was
sent up refused to counter-attack without information from the CO., who was
missing. So the battalion had to retire. In the three days' righting it had
suffered very terribly. The ten new officers were all lost, and they included
such men as the famous embryologist Captain Jenkinson. The loss of Brandreth was
of greater importance to the battalion ; and Mundey, who had also fallen, had
revealed unexpected strength. When it was relieved, the following day, it
marched, 2 officers and 278 other ranks strong, to Gully Beach.
Four company organisation was dropped and the two companies fell under the
command of Captain A. A. C. Taylor, of the Dublins. While in reserve they were
joined by Major Julian Fisher, D.S.O., who brought with him a draft of 10
officers and 400 other ranks from England. Captain P. N. Wilson, who was
commanding the divisional cyclists, was allowed to rejoin the battalion, and the
unit was given ten days to reorganise. The new draft consisted of very young men
who had not received much training. None of the officers were Regulars, but men
who had gathered from the ends of the earth to take their part in the war. When
the battalion went back to the line once more, on June 23rd, they mustered 13
officers and 667 other ranks. Lieutenant Eustace commanded Y company, Captain
Ayrton X and Captain Gudgeon Z. About three days later Captain FitzClarence *
arrived from England and took over the duties of the second in command.
On the 28th the battalion again attacked, leading the brigade with three
companies ; and their advance, though successful, was dearly bought. They
advanced about 1,000 yards, " a magnificent sight, the men never losing their
formation under a heavy artillery and rifle fire." f
The ground had been carefully ranged and the bulk of the casualties were due to
well-placed shrapnel. There were few from rifle fire ; but in attempting to
round off their achievement in the night the battalion became involved in
hand-to-hand fighting. Few details of these encounters have been preserved ; but
when the Fusiliers were relieved they were in the last stage of exhaustion. A
twenty-four hours' struggle in oppressive heat with hardly any water has its
unforgettable terrors. The actual losses included nine officers : FitzClarence,
Ayrton, Andrews killed ; Bulbeck, Freer and Harford wounded ; Gudgeon, Eustace
and Willett missing. Of other ranks, 27 were killed, 175 wounded, and 57
missing. Not one of these officers had been with the battalion when it landed in
Gallipoli, and the continuity was preserved by an ever-thinning thread.
When the battalion returned to the trenches on July 3rd, Major Cripps had
rejoined and taken over the duties of adjutant ; and in this tour the 9 officers
and 409 other ranks had companies of newly arrived troops attached for
instructional purposes. On the 15th the Fusiliers proceeded to " V " beach and
embarked for Lemnos. The next day was spent in bivouacs about a mile from Mudros,
the first day since April 25th that the 2nd Battalion had not been under rifle
or shell fire. There they were rejoined by Major Guy on who took over the
command from Major Fisher. Drafts were received from the 3rd,* 5th and 7th
Battalions and the unit was able to return to three company strength once more.
* Captain A. A. C. FitzClarence was the sixth of his family to serve in the
regiment. He was a cousin of Brig. -General FitzClarence, V.C., also a Royal
Fusilier, who initiated the counter-attack which restored the line at Ypres on
October 31st, 1914.
f Mr. Ashmead Bartlett in The Times, July 9th, 1915.
KRITHIA VINEYARD, AUGUST 6th
The battles of Suvla saw them in Gallipoli again. The trenches were practically
the same as those occupied before the rest in Lemnos. Indeed, one of the
terrible characteristics of the whole of this campaign was the impression of
always advancing at great cost and never changing the position. The actions of
Krithia Vineyard, which were subsidiary to the battles of Suvla, saw the
battalion bringing in the wounded of the 88th Brigade. They had moved to the
reserve trench before the opening of the battle, and as the 88th Brigade left
the trenches early in the morning of August 6th, they took them over.
Well-directed and sustained, the Turkish counter-bombardment exacted a heavy
toll. The firing line was found to be full of dead and wounded, belonging to
different units. Z Company, on the left, also suffered severely. Some relief was
afforded by the luck of a machine gun. Mounted in a communication trench, this
gun, at a range of 850 yards, enfiladed a trench near the vineyard and wiped off
some of the score.
Suvla. — On the 16th the battalion relieved the Border Regiment who were holding
the extreme left of the line to the sea. W Company lay on the cliff side as it
rose from the sea. The line occupied by Z ran almost at right angles to this
position, turning back roughly parallel to the sea. It was not a sector that one
would naturally choose. The Turkish snipers were in the ascendant. The steel
loop-holes were being shot away and periscopes could not be raised for more than
a second or two. From the Turkish trenches which, in places, were only 15 yards
distant, bombs were being continually thrown into the British lines. The
conditions, in fine, were intolerable, and arrangements were made to relieve
them. An intensive treatment with jam-tin bombs and trench mortars some-what
chastened the Turkish bomb throwers, and a minor attack was planned for the
20th. But it was never to take place. On the 19th the battalion were relieved.
They embarked from " W " beach at 7 p.m. on the following day, and at midnight
they disembarked at " C " beach, Suvla. Packs were dumped and the battalion
marched to Chocolate Hill, arriving there at dawn on August 21st.
* Men who had suffered from trench feet in France.
Their role was to assist in redeeming the past. On how many occasions during the
war were the Royal Fusiliers faced with a similar task ? A single battalion, 6th
E. Yorks. Pioneers had occupied Scimitar Hill on Sunday, August 8th, and had
been withdrawn, apparently by an oversight. Its value, recognised later, led to
the plan in which the 2nd Battalion were to play their part. The key to " W "
hill and Anafarta Sagir, its possession was necessary if a further advance were
to be made ; and, untaken, even the security of the main Suvla landing was
prejudiced. Scimitar Hill was to be taken by the converging attack of the 87th
and S6th Brigades, the 86th advancing from the right. The Royal Fusiliers in
brigade reserve, were behind Chocolate Hill, their position being connected with
that of the Munsters and Lancashires by a narrow communication trench. At 2.30
p.m. (August 2 1st) the bombardment began. A quarter of an hour later, the men
began to file down the communication trench in order to be ready to take up the
position ahead as soon as it was vacated by the Munsters and Lancashires. At
3.30 these troops went forward ; but the brigades on the right had lost
direction in front and little headway could be made. While filing down the
trench the Royal Fusiliers came under a heavy enfilade fire from shrapnel. It
became blocked with dead and wounded, and to add to the horror of the moment,
the thick bush on both sides was kindled by the shell fire. Such facts beggar
SUVLA, AUGUST— SEPTEMBER
At 6 p.m., a patrol under Captain Bruce found that the battalion was not linked
up with the yeomanry on the right. And during the night 150 men, under Captain
Stevenson, began to dig a connecting trench in the open. But slow progress was
made, and the men were picked off all too easily. During the day it was realised
that the advance had fizzled out, and at 6 p.m. the battalion moved back behind
Chocolate Hill, in order to take over trenches on the left of the 87th Brigade.
During the night of the 22nd the battalion took over the fire trench from the
6th Royal Welch Fusiliers. The position was beginning to harden in this part of
the peninsula. The fine hope that sped the Suvla battles had faded away, and it
became necessary to secure a real grip on the ground already won. Consolidation
was pressed on, and trenches were dug to connect up with the 88th Brigade on the
left. The position was exposed, life unusually precarious even for the
peninsula. All rations had to be brought up by night. But the Fusiliers
concentrated on their work, and the trenches and the whole position were
improved and strengthened. A large draft brought the strength of the battalion
to 16 officers and 1,015 other ranks, higher than it had ever been in Gallipoli,
and 150 yards of the Dublins' line was taken over.
On relief, the battalion, after a week spent in dug-outs, embarked for Imbros on
September 8th. It was their first rest for six weeks, almost all of which had
been spent in the front trench under constant rifle and shell fire. That week
over 200 men were down with diarrhoea, and another of the perils of the
peninsula began to be experienced. The casualties up to this time (September
14th) were as follows : —
Add detail ##
With so terrible a disproportion in officer casualties it was obvious that there
would be a shortage ; and this was a characteristic of all the British units in
Gallipoli. Of all the original officers of the battalion not one had been able
to see the campaign through, and only 166 other ranks had escaped wounds. Two
officers, Guyon and Cripps, and about 100 other ranks had returned from
On September 21st the battalion embarked in such rough weather that it was with
the greatest difficulty the men could be transferred from lighters to the ship.
But at length this was achieved without mishap, and the troops returned to Suvla,
where they relieved the S.W. Borderers in the firing line. During this tour of
the front trenches parties of the 2/3 London Regiment, who had only recently
landed in Gallipoli, were attached for instructional purposes. It was a strange
chance that cast these two battalions of the regiment together. The 2/3 Londons
had replaced the 1/3 in the Malta garrison, and then, in April, 1915, had left
for Khartum. Detachments were also stationed at Atbara and Suikat. In Gallipoli
they reinforced the 86th Brigade, and took part in various minor engagements.
The last days of September saw almost perfect weather. The days were warm and
sunny, the nights cool. It seemed as if the terrible peninsula, which was yet to
show its worst, was, for the moment, determined to exhibit its best. Under such
conditions labour seemed no great hardship, and the men settled down to the
never-ceasing task of improving the trenches. In early October they took over a
new stretch of fire line from the Munsters and a company of the Dublins, and at
once set to work like ants on improving these positions. A new fire trench was
constructed, and a communication trench to it. In the latter task Second
Lieutenant Jepson was killed (October 16th) and Lieutenant Fletcher was wounded.
But the battalion here, as everywhere, seemed imbued with a divine discontent.
The perfect alignment required the assimilation of some elements of the Turkish
system, and so three night attacks were made, the last on October 22nd. These
operations won the congratulations of the corps commander.
SUVLA, OCTOBER— NOVEMBER
On October 18th the 2/4 Battalion London Regiment landed at Cape Helles. They
had left Malta in August for Egypt, and had been two months in camp at
Alexandria. During their service in Gallipoli they were attached to the Royal
Naval Division, and took part in the trench warfare until the evacuation.
It was in the latter part of October that Guyon, commanding the 2nd Battalion,
fell ill with appendicitis, and for a week he lay in his dug-out before it was
possible to remove him to hospital. It was at this time, too, that the pace of
the operations on the peninsula settled down as though for an indefinitely long
tenure. From the view-point of the 2nd Battalion this period was marked by
ingenuity and daring initiative. On November 2nd a small body attempted to pull
away the Turkish wire en bloc with ropes. Unfortunately, the atmosphere had
sapped the fibre of the ropes, and the exploit proved more ingenious than
serviceable. Turkish sniping posts received one or two unwelcome visits from
bombing parties. There were several good reconnaissance patrols. But, despite
all attentions, the Turkish snipers proved a pest to the end, and on November
12th Second Lieutenant E. J. Haywood, the acting brigade machine gun officer,
was killed while visiting a machine gun post.
Lord Kitchener had visited Gallipoli and passed through Greece on his way home
again when the worst calamity befell the batallion. November 26th dawned fine,
and so continued until about 5 p.m., when it began to rain. Almost at once it
became a characteristic tropical downpour. In an hour there was a foot of water
in the trenches. From the hills where the Turks lay a tremendous flood of water
swept towards the Fusiliers' position.* The barriers reared so painfully against
the Turks were swept away in a flash. In a few minutes the face of the country
had changed. Into the trenches swept a pony, a mule, and three dead Turks.
Several men were drowned. The whole area became a lake. The communication
trenches were a swirl of muddy water. All that could be seen was an occasional
tree and a muddy bank where the parados had been particularly high. The bulk of
the battalion had scrambled out of the trenches, and stood about on the spots
which remained above water, soaked to the skin, and at least half of them
without overcoats or even rifles. The moon lit up these small knots of shivering
men on little banks of mud in a waste of water. Not a shot was fired on either
side. The common calamity had enforced an efficient truce.
* " The Royal Fusiliers suffered much more than any other regiment " (" The
Dardanelles Campaign," Nevinson, p. 384).
Orders came by telephone that the battalion was to hold on to the line at all
costs. Meanwhile two orderlies, Frost and James, had been sent to brigade
headquarters, and had been compelled to swim most of the way. About 10 p.m. the
water subsided slightly, and the men threw up rough breastworks of mud. There
they lay huddled together in extreme discomfort, cut through by a piercing wind.
The next day the trenches were still from 4 to 5 feet deep, and the men were
forced to keep to them. The truce had ended as strangely as it had begun, and
any one showing above the trenches was liable to meet the familiar fate .
Captain Shaw was shot dead, Lieutenant Ormesher was mortally wounded ; and with
such object lessons the bitter discomforts of the trenches were made to seem
preferable. In the afternoon the wind rose again. It became intensely cold. A
blizzard swept the country. Men were sent back to hospital ; but some of them
died on the way, from exposure and exhaustion. Two of them, belonging to W
Company, who shared this fate, had struggled on until they found some sort of
shelter near the Salt Lake. There they had paused to rest. The younger of the
two could probably have got back to camp alone, but he would not leave his
comrade in the storm and darkness and snow. The next morning they were found
together — frozen stiff.
The younger, his arms round his companion, held a piece of broken biscuit in
each frozen hand, and there were biscuit crumbs frozen into the moustache of the
Under such conditions the tacit truce was renewed. Rum and whisky were brought
up to the trenches ; but with the utmost difficulty.
SUVLA, THE GREAT FLOOD
At midnight on the 27th, the wind was colder, the snow thicker. About 4 a.m.
(November 28th) the commanding officer and the adjutant were the only survivors
in the reserve line ; and it was clear that even superhuman endurance had
limits. Permission was obtained to bring the battalion back to the brigade
nullah, where the ground was higher and more sheltered. There were only about
300 left in the firing line, and they were got back with great difficulty.
Hardly a man could walk normally. The trench was crossed by a single plank. A
few of the men were shot as they staggered across. Some failed to get back at
all. Others were kicked along with merciful brutality, or they would have given
up the struggle. There are few pictures in military history which equal in
poignancy that of this little band who, having faced what was almost beyond the
power of men, struggled back to life from the very gates of death.
By 7 a.m. the battalion had arrived at the nullah, where they were given warm
food and put into blankets. The majority were taken to hospital during the day
suffering either from exposure or frost-bite. The strength of the battalion was
now 11 officers and 105 other ranks. A party of men, under Second Lieutenant
Camies, were sent back to the Dublin Castle post to hold on to next evening. On
the 29th it froze hard, and after midnight it was found that the party from
another regiment who were to have relieved Second Lieutenant Camies, had lost
their way. At 4 a.m. (November 30th) Camies and his men were found still at
their posts, but in an almost helpless condition. Sergt. -Major Paschall was
sent to take out the relieving party and bring back Camies. The outpost on
return all went to hospital, and at 4 p.m. roll call showed only 10 officers and
84 other ranks (70 effective) remaining. The storm had wrought a greater havoc
than any battle.*
On December 2nd the draining of the reserve trench was begun, and on December
3rd the weather became a little warmer. Some drafts arrived., and the battalion,
organised in two companies, began to hold the Dublin Castle position by
companies, forty-eight hours at a time. On the 13th the line was handed over to
the 88th Brigade, and on the following day the battalion embarked for Mudros,
and after a day's rest proceeded once more to Helles. Here the time was spent in
training and fatigues until December 31st, when the news of the approaching
evacuation was received. A line of defences was at once mapped out, and work
begun on them. At 10 p.m. on January 2nd the two companies embarked on a trawler
from " W " beach. A few hours earlier the beach was being shelled, but the
actual embarkation was uneventful. The next day the battalion was transhipped to
S.S. Caledonia on arrival at Mudros, and the course was set for Alexandria. On
January 8th they arrived at Alexandria and entrained for Suez.
It was little more than a year since the battalion, a splendid fighting unit,
had reached this very place, travelling in the opposite direction. The
intervening period enshrined one of the most terrible experiences any soldiers
were called upon to suffer. But the 2nd Battalion can look back with pride on
this campaign in Gallipoli. In attack, in defence, in endurance they were, as a
close observer said more than once, " beyond praise." j
* The 2/3 Londons also suffered very terribly in this storm, being reduced to 4
officers and 60 men.
f Brigade Major, 86th Brigade. See p. 96.