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