The First Phase
During the spring months of 1915, while the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions had been fighting in France, the 4th Battalion of the Regiment had won its first honours in a new theatre of war.
In October Turkey had come into the War on the side of our enemies. Besides menacing Egypt, the intervention of Turkey had the effect of shutting off Russia from the other Allies. Russia was short of munitions and supplies. To allow for the transit of those necessities of war it was desirable that a route to Russia should be pierced by the seizure of Constantinople.
Such was the principal consideration, which inspired the expedition to the Dardanelles. The strategic defence of Egypt and the political effect on the Balkan States were other considerations: considerations which induced the British Government to stake on that venture a very considerable part of our military resources, including the last Regular troops at their command, the 29th Division.
The 29th Division had been formed in January 1915. The pre-war organisation of the Army had allowed for six Divisions of Regular troops at home and had contemplated the formation of a seventh Division of battalions withdrawn from service overseas. Further expansion had not then been foreseen, but actually the formation of the Seventh Division had, as we have seen, been followed by the similar formation of an Eighth Division. Later still, more battalions were recalled to the war from stations overseas. Their places were taken by Territorial troops, until there remained only nine Regular battalions on the Indian Frontier. All the other Regular battalions of the Army had been called home.
By the time that the last returning battalions of the “Old Army” had come home, the formation of the “New Armies” had been begun. The new Divisions had already been numbered, from the 9th to the 26th; so, in order to avoid confusion, the three additional Divisions formed out of the Regular troops from overseas were numbered 27th, 28th, and lastly the 29th Division.
The 27th and 28th Divisions had already joined the Armies in France by the time that the battalions destined for the 29th Division reached England. Those battalions were indeed the last stragglers of the “Old Army.” They came from the ends of the earth; mostly they were from various stations in India, but to join them there arrived from China the 2nd South Wales Borderers, and from Burma the 4th Worcestershire.
The 4th Worcestershire landed in the Mother Country on February 1st, 1915. The Battalion disembarked at Avonmouth and after a tedious train journey reached Banbury on February 2nd. There the 4th Worcestershire went into billets, and found near by the other units of their new formation, the 88th Brigade.
The 88th Brigade moved to the Warwick area a month later, and the 4th Worcestershire marched to fresh billets at Leamington on the 5th March 1915. As yet the Brigade had only three battalions, the other two being the 2nd Hampshire and 1st Essex. A further battalion was required to complete the Brigade, and, since no more Regular battalions were available, a Territorial battalion was selected, the 5th Royal Scots. The Royal Scots joined at Leamington when the Brigade had been there a week. They were destined to prove stout fighters, worthy of their place alongside the Regular battalions of the 29th Division.
How that last reserve should be employed had been a matter for anxious discussion by the British Cabinet. In the pages of the official histories are to be found the detail of those discussions and of the changes of plan, which ensued. Here we must be content to record that, after a long period of uncertainty, it was finally decided on March 10th that the 29th Division was to be used to support the operations already in progress at the Dardanelles.
Once the decision had been made the ensuing movements were swift. On March 12th the 29th Division was reviewed near Dunchurch by H.M. the King. Next day came secret orders for embarkation, and after a busy week of preparation the troops entrained.
The entrainment was a cheerful business. Thousands of the civil population turned out to see the troops off and” a whole army of relations from Birmingham” came down to Leamington to bid the 4th Worcestershire farewell. In three trains (9.0 p.m., March 21st. 1.0 a.m. and 4.30 a.m., March 22nd) the Worcestershire companies left Leamington, and by breakfast time on March 22nd the whole Battalion was reassembled at Avonmouth. There foreign-service helmets were issued and fitted. “It was a lovely morning, bright warm sun, so everyone was as cheerful as could be.” At 11 a.m. the troopships came alongside and then for some hours all thoughts were taken up with the business of embarkation.
The officers who embarked with the Battalion were :
Lieut.-Colonel D. E. Cayley (commanding), Major C. H. Seton (2nd-in-command),
Majors H. A. Carr, H. A. Lang, E. W. Boyd-Moss, D.S.O., Captains A. D. H. Ray, J. 0. Nelson, W. Barker, D. W. Pollock, E. T. J. Kerans (Adjutant), E. P. C. Amphlett, G. C. Deans,
Lients. T. H. 0. Crawley, J. V. Bridges, W. D. Bush, C. A. Wythes, H. Gordon, D. Chesney, T. L. N. Mostyn, J. F. A. Mervyn, J. M. B. Entwhistle, J. D. Dickens, D. G. Jones,
2/Lieuts. H. James,A. W. Roberts, E. C .D. Malone, Lieut. and Q.M.R. H. C. Butler and Captain W. J. Maloney, R.A.M.C.
The strength of the Battalion at the Landing was 26 officers and 931 other ranks.
The embarkation was complicated. The staff who had arranged it had thought only of fitting men and horses to ships, and not of tactical needs. So the 4th Worcestershire found themselves strangely split up. Headquarters of the Battalion and two of the companies were placed in the S.S. “Southland”; one company was embarked, together with two other battalions and Brigade Headquarters, in the big S.S.” Caledonia”; another company was accommodated together with two companies of the 2nd Hampshire on the S.S. “Aragon”; while the transport of the 4th Worcestershire, together with that of two other battalions, was crowded into the S.S. “Melville.”
That dispersion of the Battalion was not calculated to assist training, but all did their best during the voyage to keep fit and to prepare for the trial before them.
Officially the destination of the force was a secret; and the orders issued at Avonmouth were only to proceed to Gibraltar; but actually the real objective was known and discussed (The A.S.C. had driven down to Avonmouth with their motor lorries labelled, “Cheap trip to the Dardanelles.”), and no one was surprised when, on March 27th 1915, the convoy steamed straight through the Straits of Gibraltar and on without a check into the Mediterranean.
Malta was reached on the last day of March. In the great harbour of Valetta were many French warships, for Malta had been placed at the disposal of the French fleet operating in the Adriatic. As the British transports came in the French sailors cheered them heartily, their bands playing alternately “God save the King” and “Tipperary”; which latter tune apparently had acquired in French eyes a status of national importance.
After coaling, the transports proceeded on their way in the afternoon on April 1st, followed once more by the strains of “ Tipperary” from the French flagship “ Paris.” Three days later the “Southland” slid into the harbour of Alexandria at daybreak on April 4th, Easter Sunday.
The great harbour of Alexandria was crowded with shipping. Besides many other vessels there were concentrated all the transports of the 29th Division and of the French Expeditionary Force. So crowded was the harbour that the landing facilities were unequal to the situation, and the transports carrying the 4th Worcestershire had to lie out in the harbour for three days before space could be found for them at the quay side. The companies disembarked on April 6th and proceeded through Alexandria to camp on the sea shore at Mustapha Pasha—just too late to take part in a big ceremonial review of the Allied Forces held that day on the sandy levels of Sidi Bish.
That disembarkation at Alexandria had been made necessary by the complication of the original loading of the ships. For fighting purposes it was essential that each unit should be concentrated under its own commander, and for that purpose the whole force had to be rearranged. Even after the companies of the 4th Worcestershire had reached camp, the transport of the Battalion on board the “Melville” had not arrived; and when, next day, orders were received to re-embark, the absence of the Battalion transport made the necessary arrangements very difficult.
Fortunately it was found possible to berth the “Melville” and land the transport just in time to be re-embarked, and by nightfall of April 8th the whole Battalion was once more on shipboard, accommodated, together with the 2nd Hampshire, in the big transport “Aragon.”
The “Aragon” sailed from Alexandria on April 11th and, after passing safely through the Aegean Islands, reached on April 13th the rendezvous at Lemnos. There was found a great concourse of warships and transports, and there was much of interest to divert the attention of the troops during the ensuing week.
By that time all ranks were aware that the enterprise before them was to effect a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On April 21st definite orders were issued for the forthcoming operations.
The orders for the 29th Division were to effect a landing on the end of the Peninsula, in the neighbourhood of Cape Helles. The objective of the Division was a line across the Peninsula, including the height of Achi Baba, some five miles from the Cape.
To gain that objective a concentric attack was planned. The troops were directed against five separate beaches. For purposes of reference these were designated from right to left by the letters “S,” “ V,” “ W,” “ X “ and “Y.”
Of these beaches the central three were to be attacked by the four Fusilier battalions of the 86th Brigade. The two outer beaches were each to be attacked by a detached battalion from the 87th Brigade. That left in reserve the other two battalions of the 87th Brigade, as well as the four battalions of the 88th Brigade; among which latter was included the 4th Worcestershire. Those reserve battalions would probably be landed at “V” Beach after the initial footing had been gained (For the sake of simplicity the technical division of the troops into “covering troops” and “main body” has been omitted. The full detail as to the organization of the force will be found in the Official History).
The Landing at Cape Helles
On the evening of April 24th there was a general movement among the ships in Lemnos Harbour. Presently the “Aragon” and “Dongola,” carrying between them the whole of the 88th Brigade, moved out of the bay and crept eastwards at five knots speed over a quiet sea leneath the moon. After a while (about 3.0 a.m.) the moon set, and in the ensuing darkness the transports closed towards the shore.
With the first light of dawn the battle began. From all sides came the flash and thunder of the great guns of the warships. The troops, crowded on the decks of their transports, saw dark against the rising light, the low irregular line of the land shrouded by the smoke of the bursting shells. As the “Aragon” moved onwards, the outline of the cliffs became clearer. It became possible to distinguish the beaches, where already the leading troops were fighting their way ashore.
The smooth sea was dotted in every direction with ships—battleships in action and transports crowded with troops. Destroyers were moving swiftly among them and, close inshore, steam launches were towing strings of lighters, taking fresh troops into the fight and bringing back wounded.
Boatloads of wounded men were already nearing the “ Aragon” when, at 8.30 a.m., a minesweeper came alongside to take off the troops she carried. Into the minesweeper were crowded “W” Company of the 4th Worcestershire, commanded by Major H. A. Carr, together with two companies of the 2nd Hampshire and the Brigadier (Brigadier-General H. E. Napier) with his staff. The laden minesweeper moved off and steamed slowly shorewards. Some two miles from the land the little vessel stopped and waited. The crowded troops watched for some time the spectacle of the flagship “ Queen Elizabeth” firing her great 15-inch guns at the Turkish defences of “V” Beach.
“V” Beach was an inferno of bursting shells. The sea before it was flecked and torn by falling shot. A large steamer, the “River Clyde,” had been run ashore and was lying in shallow water off the beach, while the troops with which she had been crammed made gallant efforts to gain the land; but the enemy’s fire was fierce and deadly and most of the attackers were shot down before they could reach the shore.
About 10.0 a.m. a steam launch from H.M.S. “Albion,” towing four boats, came alongside the minesweeper. The Brigadier and his staff officers got into the first boat together with Major Carr and 14 men of his Company. The remainder of that platoon and a second Worcestershire platoon under Lieutenant W. D. Bush filled the other boats.
The four boats had already been used that morning. From them some of the Dublin Fusiliers had landed. The boats were much damaged by fire, and blood mixed with sea water ran over the boots of the troops as they sat packed in the laden boats. Slowly they were towed towards the “River Clyde.”
Between the” River Clyde “and the shore was a sort of floating bridge formed by two lighters with boats attached. Bullets were showering in the water around and, as the towed boats drew near, it could be seen that the decks of the lighters were littered with fallen men. The launch and its tow approached the starboard side of the “River Clyde.” Thence they were hailed by an officer, Colonel Carington Smith of the 2nd Hampshire, and directed to go round to the port bow. Amid a heavy fire the steam launch and the boats drew up to the nearest lighter and made fast.
The Brigadier and his staff officers scrambled into the lighter, closely followed by Major Carr and his men. There was no time to be lost, for bullets were striking all around. Major Carr and his Company-Sergeant-Major hurried along the floating bridge to gain the shore; but on reaching the last boat of the chain the Major found that the current had swung the floating bridge from its position, and that a gap of deep water now lay between the boats and the beach.
The beach was covered with wire entanglements and was littered with dead and wounded. Scattered in the shingle under cover of a low bank, some few brave men were firing towards the enemy’s trenches, The gap of water, which widened every moment as the boats swung with the current, was an impossible obstacle for troops in heavy equipment. As he realised that fact Major Carr turned and found that save for his Company Sergeant-Major he was alone.
Going back along the floating bridge Major Carr found that most of his men had already been struck down. The survivors were taking such cover as they could find behind the bulwarks. The Brigadier was directing operations. Major Carr reported the position and then went on to collect his men. A few minutes later the Brigadier and his Brigade Major were both struck and killed.
For some time Major Carr remained on the lighters. Eventually he collected all that remained of his two platoons and got them back under cover in the” River Clyde.” There, besides wounded, were found a medley of other troops; Munsters, Hampshire, and Territorial Engineers. The Colonel of the Hampshire had by now been hit. Such officers as survived held a consultation while bullets struck against the steel sides of the ship. There was little to be done until dark, and during the rest of the day (Several shells struck the ship during the day, two of which crashed right down into the hold before bursting) Major Carr and his party remained in the “River Clyde.”
Meanwhile the remainder of the Battalion had been got into boats and towed towards the shore. Before they had gone far it was realised that “V” Beach was nothing but a death trap, so the tows were diverted to “ W” Beach, where the Lancashire Fusiliers had effected a lodgment. The boats were towed slowly over the calm sea, past H.M.S.” Swiftsure,” the flagship of the covering squadron, and past the flagship of Admiral Wemyss the four funnelled “Euryalus “(On which was the Divisional Commander, General Hunter-Weston). Both warships were firing at the cliffs, and the high ground was veiled in the fumes of their great shells. The first boat reached the beach about midday (The Battalion Diary says 10 a.m., but this seems to be a mistake); the remainder followed soon after.
The Lancashire Fusiliers had cleared the beach and were scattered precariously on the cliff tops above. The low heights above those cliffs were crowned by Turkish redoubts as yet untaken.
On landing, Colonel Cayley was told by Colonel Wolley-Dod, G.S.O.1. of the Division, that the task before the 4th Worcestershire was to capture the high ground on the right of the beach, with a view to working onwards towards “V” Beach.
The companies assembled as they disembarked and the Battalion formed up. “Z” and “Y” Companies were in front line, with “X” Company and the two spare platoons of “W” Company in support.
There was some delay while the position was reconnoitred and plans were made (The 1st Essex co-operated on the left flank of the Worcestershire). Colonel Cayley went forward and examined the way up the cliff. Presently the word was given and the Battalion advanced.
Scrambling up the cliffs, the platoons reached the slopes above. Those slopes rise to a height marked on the map as “Hill 138.” The height was crowned by a Turkish redoubt. Facing the redoubt were some platoons of the Essex and a few survivors of the Lancashire Fusiliers. “ Y” and “ Z” Companies of the Worcestershire came up on their right and opened fire.
The redoubt was protected by a thick belt of high barbed wire, a formidable obstacle, hardly damaged by the fire of the ships, and under close fire from the redoubt. No way round could be found and it became clear that paths must be cut through the entanglement. The only instruments available were the hand wire-cutters carried by the troops. Volunteers were called for and many came forward. Led by Captain A. D. H. Ray and Captain J. O. Nelson the volunteers crept forward through the grass and set to work.
As they clipped away at the wire, bullets from the redoubt struck all around them. Undeterred, the wire cutters crawled under the fence and continued their work. Many turned on their backs and thus cut away at the wire above them. The fire was hot and one after another those brave men were killed or wounded. But lanes were gradually cut through the wire, and at about 2 p.m. the whole line, Essex and Worcestershire, advanced. The redoubt was rushed (Apparently about 2 p.m., but messages give differing times. The credit of the capture was claimed by both the Essex and the Worcestershire) and the advance was continued over the top of the hillock to the slope on the further side. There however the advance was stopped by uncut barbed wire and by a sharp fire of rifles and machine-guns from a second redoubt on another hillock, three hundred yards beyond.
That second redoubt had not been indicated on the rough maps issued before the landing, and it caused some confusion in subsequent messages (Both redoubts were impartially described as” Hill 138” in messages sent that day). Captain Ray at once led his men forward to cut the wire which impeded the advance, and while engaged on that work he was mortally wounded (There is doubt as to the exact stage at which Captain Ray was hit. Contradictory statements are given by living participants in the fight. Captain Ray died of his wounds after nightfall. He was a most gallant officer and his death was much felt). Word was sent back that he had fallen. A direct attack was seen to be difficult, so “X” Company, hitherto held back in reserve, was now brought up on the right flank; the company was ordered to advance southward along the cliffs to the lighthouse and thence to attack the second redoubt.
Making good use of ground, “X” Company advanced and reached a position (Apparently about two hundred yards due west of the redoubt. (See Plan 20) in dead ground near the second redoubt. Further advance was prevented by a belt of high barbed wire on a low rise.
Private A. Mountain led forward the wire cutters. Crawling through long grass into the entanglement he crept beneath the wire. The watchers in rear saw his arm rise out of the grass and his wire cutters snap at the wire above him. Each time his hand went up, a shower of bullets struck round him and sprayed into the dead ground beyond. Presently he was hit; his hand fell. Other volunteers crawled forward to take his place.
At other points along the wire defences similar gallant efforts were made. At one point, out of a party of seven wire-cutters the last surviving soldier succeeded in severing the last row of wire before he also was hit. Officers and men alike hacked away, lying on their backs, sides or faces, while bullets struck around them.
From the ships at sea the work of the wire cutters was watched with tense interest. In close support of the attack, H.M.S. “ Swiftsure “ was firing rapidly at the Turkish positions. Further out, from the bridge of the” Queen Elizabeth “Sir Ian Hamilton himself was watching the volunteers. “Through glasses,” he records, “they could be seen quietly snipping away under a hellish fire as though they had been pruning in a vineyard “(It has since been claimed by the Lancashire Fusiliers that the wire cutters, watched and described by Sir Ian Hamilton, were a small detached party of their battalion, operating on the right flank of the 4th Worcestershire, and actually on the cliff’s edge).
Gradually the work was done. At the cost of many brave lives, lanes were cut in the wire, and it became possible for attacking troops to dash through the gaps. Lieut. H. Field led his platoon of” X” Company forward through one of the gaps and then fixed bayonets and charged the Turkish trenches. The enemy retired before the bayonets could reach them, and the second redoubt was secured (The exact times of all these events on the first day are very doubtful. The capture of the second redoubt seems to have been effected about 4 p.m.).
From the captured heights the victorious troops could look down on an expanse of open country, dotted with trees and rising in the north-east to the summit of Achi Baba. Below them, along the sea shore, sharp fighting was in progress at” V” Beach, and shells from the ships’ guns were bursting on the low Hill 141 behind the village of Sedd-el-Bahr. On the slopes of that hill were more Turkish trenches, and from those trenches a sharp fire was opened against the Worcestershire platoons around the captured redoubt. That fire and mere uncut wire entanglements beyond the redoubt made further progress difficult, but the right flank of “ X” Company pushed forward along the cliffs down the slope towards “V” Beach. An abandoned battery with two disabled 9.2” guns was seized and held, but further advance was not possible.
The sun set, and swiftly darkness came on. The companies sorted themselves out, and the Battalion took up a defensive line (“X,” “Z,” and “Y” Companies were in front line, in that order from the right. Two platoons of “W” Company were in reserve behind the southern redoubt) from the 9.2” Battery on the right, round the front of the second redoubt and then across the low ground to the first redoubt on Hill 138, where the line of the 4th Worcestershire joined that of the 1st Essex.
Night did not put an end to the battle. In every direction heavy firing continued, and for the Regimental officers the situation was one of acute anxiety. The position of the troops around the captured redoubt appeared perilous. Ammunition had run short. There was no protection against counter-attack from the front, while behind their backs ran the great belt of barbed wire through which they had passed. In the darkness this would effectually prevent any ordered retreat. The troops were worn out with the long day’s fighting and the general situation was unknown.
Fortunately, however, that foreseen peril did not arise. Firing continued all night, but the enemy did not attempt any strong counter-attack against the redoubt. The troops snatched what rest they could amid the firing, lying out in the open, their rifles ready at their sides.
Dawn of April 26th was greeted by heavy gun fire from the ships. During the night most of the troops on board the “River Clyde” had reached the shore (Major Carr’s detachment of the 4th Worcestershire was however ordered to remain on the ship) and the firing around “V” Beach soon rose to intensity.
Throughout the morning the 4th Worcestershire held their ground on the heights west of the beach, shelled intermittently but not suffering serious loss. About noon the troops on “V” Beach succeeded in winning their way forward into the Castle at Sedd-el-Bahr, and soon afterwards orders came for the troops on their left to advance.
The 4th Worcestershire, together with the 2nd Hampshire and 1st Essex pushed forward and cleared the Turkish trenches above “V” Beach. From that Beach a similar advance was in progress, and before the combined effort the enemy gave way and retired. About. 2.30 p.m. Hill 141 was rushed by the Dublins led by Colonel Doughty-Wylie. On the ground gained the troops dug in, while the enemy fell back out of range.
The rest of the day was devoted to reorganisation and preparations for a further advance. Major Carr’s detachment landed from the “River Clyde” and rejoined the Battalion, bringing with them a much needed store of ammunition to replenish the empty pouches.
The fighting of April 25th and 26th had secured the landing at Cape Helles; but the success had only been gained at the price of heavy loss (The casualties of the 4th Worcestershire in the first two days’ fighting totalled about 100, including Captain A. D.H. Ray killed, and 2/Lieuts H. James and E. C. D. Malone wounded), and the British forces were still far from their original objective, Achi Baba.
The enemy had fallen back out of touch and an advance was possible. Disorganisation caused by the fighting delayed matters, and it was not until the afternoon of April 27th that a general advance could be made. All that morning the troops lay on the heights above the beaches - a quiet time, punctuated by great shells which came rumbling over from the southern shore of the Straits. Those shells were fired from an unseen big gun which the troops soon christened “Asiatic Annie.”
The companies were reorganized. Captain Pollock took over command of “Z” Company and Lieutenant Bush took over “W” Company. Colonel Cayley was ordered away to take over temporary command of the 86th Brigade. Major Seton was ill, so the command of the Battalion devolved for the time on Major Carr.
The country in front was an expanse of low ground, which formed a saucer-shaped depression, some few miles in extent, between the heights already taken and that greater height of Achi Baba which was their objective. The low ground was mottled with greenish scrub and dotted with trees, which obscured the view. The enemy’s position was uncertain.
At 4.0 p.m. the advance began. The French Division had landed at Sedd-el-Bahr on the right and advanced in line with the British. The 4th Worcestershire were now the right flank battalion of the British line, with French troops (The French 175th Regiment) on their outer flank. The Battalion advanced in “ artillery formation “—lines of platoons at irregular intervals preceded by scouts. To the left the other battalions of the 88th and 87th Brigades were similarly advancing—an inspiring sight.
The advance proved difficult. The country was for the most part open scrub, with long grass under foot and occasional patches of cultivation. At intervals there were vivid splashes of wild flowers. The uncultivated ground made heavy going for the laden troops, and a dropping fire from snipers in front delayed the advance. At intervals dead bodies were passed—Turks killed by the guns of the ships. Of the enemy’s main force there was as yet no indication. Turkish artillery, however, was in position near Achi Baba, for at intervals shells burst over the heads of the advancing troops.
About sunset the right flank of the Battalion came to a little stream, the Kanli Dere (“The Bloody Stream”), at an angle to the line of march. The platoons on the right flank crossed the stream in succession till a change in its course aligned the stream with the advance. Thenceforward the Battalion advanced astride the stream in the failing light.
As darkness grew the 4th Worcestershire neared a small wood of fir trees with a fair-sized house near by. On the edge of the fir wood the advance was stayed for the night. The companies took up defensive positions and prepared against attack.
By 9 p.m. all were in position and were taking such rest as was possible; but the night was naturally an anxious one; there were many alarms and much promiscuous firing. The officers of the 4th Worcestershire noted with quiet satisfaction that their men expended less ammunition than did the troops on right and left. Three days of strain had not sufficed to shake the nerves of the Battalion.
Before dawn all were alert. Breakfasts were cooked and eaten. Orders came to continue the advance towards Krithia and Achi Baba.
First Battle of Krithia
The advance began at 8.0 a.m. The 4th Worcestershire went forward (The line of advance of the Battalion was between the main road and the telegraph line to Krithia) with” Z” and” Y” Companies in front line, “W” and” X” in support. For about 800 yards the advance went well, though under a sharp fire of shrapnel. It was noted that several trees had been cut into strange shapes, doubtless as aiming marks. Soon bursts of rapid fire in front brought the advance to a stop.
Major Carr went forward to see the position. He found the leading platoons held up by fire from enemy concealed and apparently well entrenched. In front the ground sloped gently upwards to the Turkish trenches. Facing the Battalion was some ground slightly higher than that to right or left, a low ridge on which the enemy held advanced posts.
The two leading companies had already suffered heavily from the Turkish fire. Reinforcements were sent for. Two platoons of” W” Company came up under 2/Lieutenant Mervyn. But that officer was at once hit, and further advance was plainly dangerous, unless the troops on the flanks could gain ground. The French on the right were considerably in rear, nor did either messages or personal appeals avail to bring them forward. The battalions on the left had also been checked.
Major Carr then decided that the 4th Worcestershire must advance alone. A series of short rushes carried the front line forward for about a hundred yards to the foot of the ridge. The remainder of “W” Company was brought up from support to press home the attack. Gallantly led by Lieutenant W. D. Bush, “ W” Company charged the ridge and cleared it with the bayonet (Lt. Bush was awarded the Military Cross. During this charge, Major Carr was hit in the hand, but remained in command). A definite position was established on the ridge and was held under a hot fire from enemy trenches 400 yards beyond. The Battalion machine-guns were brought up, and with their aid a Turkish forward movement (no definite Turkish counter-attack developed against the front held by the Worcestershire, though counterattacks were made against the French on the right) was beaten back. Presently ammunition began to run out. Volunteers were called for and, thanks to their efforts, the needed ammunition was brought up. Private H. Allen greatly distinguished himself, dashing forward through a rain of bullets with ammunition which enabled the machine-guns to continue firing at a critical moment.
Casualties occurred right and left. Most of the officers in the front line were struck down. Sergeant-Major C. Felix showed great gallantry in taking command of leaderless troops and organising the defence (Sergt.-Major Felix and Pte. Allen were awarded the D.C.M).
Heavy firing continued until the evening. A message was then received that the French on the right had retired before a counter-attack and that the 4th Worcestershire were to fall back into line with them. The position of the Battalion itself was quite secure, and it was with great annoyance that the troops abandoned the ground they had won. The wounded were brought in and the platoons retired successively in the gathering darkness. “The Turks made no attempt to press,” wrote an officer, “being evidently relieved to see us go.”
The loss of the Battalion had been heavy, some 300 in all, including nine officers (Major Carr (remaining at duty), Capt. and Adjt. T. C. Kerans, Capt. Amphlett, Lieuts. Bridges, Wythes, Gordon, Mostyn, Mervyn, and Entwhistle, all wounded. Other ranks (April 25th—29th). 35 killed, 199 wounded, 74 missing). The Battalion, now only some 400 strong, occupied once again the positions near the Fir Wood which they had held that morning. All ranks remained on the alert during a night of alarms and a succeeding day (29th) of comparative rest.
On April 30th Colonel Cayley rejoined and again took over command. Fresh French troops had landed. These took over the position held by the 4th Worcestershire. The Battalion moved back into a reserve, some 400 yards in rear of the front line. The platoons dug themselves into cover, and again rested, amid a constant sniping fire.
The 1st of May 1915 was a day of comparative quiet for the 4th Worcestershire in their reserve trenches; quiet broken at intervals by the shells of the enemy’s guns around Achi Baba.
Darkness came on and the troops slept. At 10.30 p.m. all were awakened by a sudden roar and blaze of gunfire. A rattle of musketry from the left joined in the riot, it was clear that the enemy were attacking.
Presently came alarming reports. An over-tired Irish battalion on the left had fallen back. Then on the right a French regiment of Senegalese gave way before the Turkish bayonets, and the enemy came on through the gap.
The retirement of the Senegalese uncovered a French battery close to the right flank of the Worcestershire. To rescue the French battery Captain Deans led forward “ Y” Company. In the darkness ‘ Y “ Company charged with the bayonet, drove back the Turks and secured the position around the battery. Meanwhile Colonel Cayley had directed Major Carr to take forward “W” Company to the same part of the front. “W” Company also had a sharp bayonet fight in the darkness before the enemy was driven back and the whole of the lost ground was regained.
To the assistance of the Irishmen on the left Colonel Cayley sent up “ X” Company. The company did good work in steadying the line and presently the attack was beaten back (The movements of the individual companies during that night of heavy fighting are difficult to narrate. The Battalion Diary, written up long afterwards, does not agree with the recollections of survivors. Night fighting is inevitably confusing, and there were no exact maps).
In the early hours of the morning fresh troops of the Royal Naval Division came up to reinforce the French. Thus strengthened, our Allies attempted a counter-attack; but their movement was slow and soon ceased. The separation of the Worcestershire companies prevented any organised movement by the Battalion: but away to the left the Hampshire made a successful advance; only to fall back again when they found themselves unsupported by the French. Then the fighting died down.
The ground was littered with dead and wounded, and 44 Turks with two officers were escorted to the rear as prisoners from the lines of the 4th Worcestershire (In all over 500 Turkish prisoners were captured, and a much greater number were killed). The Battalion was then again drawn back into Brigade reserve, and by 7.30 p.m. had settled into reserve trenches.
Their stay in reserve was brief. At 3.0 a.m. after another night of heavy firing the Battalion was ordered forward to relieve the Hampshire. The relief proved difficult and was not completed before noon. The new trenches were further to the left than those which the Battalion had previously held. They were on the gently rising ground which lies between the Krithia Nullah and another similar watercourse a mile to the west which later they were to call the Gully Ravine. The enemy’s shell fire was heavy all day of May 2nd, and the Battalion was fortunate in escaping with only one casualty. In the evening (That evening, Major Carr, who had been wounded on April 28th but had remained at duty, was ordered off to a hospital ship. Subsequently he was awarded the D.S.O.) the Battalion again changed position, and shifted ground still further to the left, relieving the Royal Fusiliers and the remnants of the two Irish battalions in a little gully on the western side of the Krithia Nullah, just below the junction of its two streams.
For two days the Worcestershire held that position, two days of incessant labour under shell fire. Mostly the work was that of improving the trenches and burying dead Turks; but there was much to be done in the way of collecting rifles and ammunition and in sorting out all the litter of the battlefield.
After nightfall on May 3rd came another Turkish attack. That attack was not so determined as before and was beaten off with comparative ease. The day following was again spent in salvage work. The enemy’s shell fire had lessened, but Turkish snipers were active, some brave men among them actually operating in rear of our front line and causing much trouble. In the afternoon stretcher parties of the enemy came out with “Red Crescent” flags. They were permitted to collect their dead unmolested. Before darkness fell the Dublins and Munsters, amalgamated into one provisional battalion, came up to take over the firing line, and the 4th Worcestershire went back into reserve.
The Battalion remained in reserve for the next twenty-four hours, while orders were issued for a fresh attack.
The new attack was to take the simple form of a general advance all along the line. The 88th Brigade were to attack with the 4th Worcestershire, 2nd Hampshire, and Royal Fusiliers (Attached. The 86th Bde. had temporarily been broken up) in the front line from right to left. The 1st Essex were to support the right flank and the 1/5th Royal Scots to follow in reserve.
At 11.0 a.m. on May 6th the attack commenced. Passing over the front line trenches held by the Dublins and Munsters, the attacking line advanced for some 500 yards under heavy shell fire and musketry. After a sharp struggle the Worcestershire gained a low ridge on their front. There the Battalion dug in, for the left flank of the Brigade had not as vet come up into line.
Heavy fighting lasted all day, and by nightfall the ranks of the Battalion had been thinned by further casualties. In all about 100 had been killed or wounded, including 4 officers (Captains D. W. Pollock, G. C. Deans and T. H. O. Crawley, killed, Lieut. W. D. Bush wounded. Other ranks, 10 killed, 71 wounded, 2 missing).
The night was fairly quiet. Next morning at 10.0 a.m. the advance was resumed. The Royal Scots advanced in fine style over the trenches held by the Battalion and gallantly attacked a wood of fir trees on the left flank. There they were held up “Z” Company of the 4th Worcestershire was led forward by Captain Nelson to their support. Eventually the Royal Scots, who were under a cross fire from three sides, fell back, and “Z” Company was left alone. The Worcestershire company held on unsupported for fifteen minutes under an intense fire. Nearly half of the company had fallen before it was decided to fall back. The remnant retired in good order and regained their trenches.
About nightfall a fresh attack was made. The Border Regiment, followed by the Dublins and Munsters, advanced over the front line and gained about 100 yards. There they dug in. The position remained unaltered throughout the ensuing night.
The third day of the battle (May 8th) was a day of fierce heat. At 10.0 a.m. the New Zealand Brigade, brought round from “Anzac” to assist the attack, passed over the trenches of the 88th Brigade and went forward. They gained a further 200 yards before they were brought to a standstill. On the right the French had attacked bravely, and heavy fighting was everywhere in progress. The battle swayed forwards and backwards until, at 5.0 p.m., orders came that to carry the issue to a decision a general advance was to be made by all troops all along the line.
That advance commenced at 5.30 p.m. From shore to shore the Allied troops rose to their feet and pushed forward with the bayonet. Some ground was gained; then once more machine guns and barbed wire held up the advance, and after heavy losses the attack simmered down to a standstill.
In that general attack the 4th Worcestershire suffered less heavily than before, for the Battalion was no longer in front line, and followed behind the advancing New Zealanders; who themselves were hard hit.
By nightfall the advance had come to an end, and all along the line the exhausted troops were digging in. Tired as they were, the troops were still full of fight and when, at 8.30 p.m. the enemy attempted a counter-attack they were easily driven back by musketry.
An uneasy night followed, with continual sniping but without any serious attack.
The struggle was now over for the time being. Fresh reinforcements were needed before more could be done. The enemy also had for the moment exhausted their strength, and the ensuing three weeks were fairly quiet.
For three days the Battalion remained in the line, enduring shell fire and bombs, but without heavy losses. Then, on the evening of 11th May, came relief by new arrivals, the East Lancashire Territorials of the 42nd Division. The 6th Manchester relieved the 4th Worcestershire. The relief took place with difficulty, in rain and under heavy fire. Not till nearly 4.0 a.m. did the last company get clear. “It was still raining hard and everyone was feeling a bit wet and uncomfortable, but still cheerful, which we have been at all times” (Battalion Diary :—The losses of the Battalion on May 7th - 12th were returned as 9 killed. 38 wounded, 3 missing).
The companies made their way back through the darkness and rain to the appointed rest camp behind the reserve line of trenches. By dawn the troops had been got into shelter; and it is recorded that at 8.0 a.m. on the morning of ay 12th all the surviving officers of the Battalion assembled as a Mess once more—eleven all told (Lt.-Col. Cayley, Major Seton, Major Lang, Capt. Nelson, Lieuts. Gordon, Chesney & Field, 2/Lieuts. Dickens (A/Adjt.), Roberts & Jones, and Captain Maloney, R.A.M.C. On that date the strength of the Battalion was given as 11 officers and 483 other ranks)—” and we spent a pleasant hour together free from shells, which was very nice although it was raining”.
Four days the Battalion remained in reserve. Then orders were received for the line, and after dark on May 16th 1915 the Worcestershire companies made their way forward and relieved the 8th Manchesters in reserve trenches. On the following day Colonel Cayley was wounded. Major H. A. Lang took over command. For three days the Battalion remained in reserve, sending down parties to bathe in the sea.
On the night of May 22nd, came the next engagement, a strong Turkish counter-attack against the Royal Fusiliers in the front line. A detachment of the 4th Worcestershire under 2/Lieut. R. B. Woosnam was sent forward to reinforce the Fusiliers, and the latter succeeded eventually in retaking some lost trenches.
Next day the two battalions changed over. During the relief Captain Nelson was severely wounded. That evening Colonel Cayley rejoined (Col. Cayley and Major Lang werenow the only two officers left with the Battalion above subaltern’s rank).
Plans were now being made for a new attack. Careful preparation was entailed, and the construction of assembly trenches. One of those new trenches was dug on the night of May 25/26th, close to the Turkish positions. The digging had to be done in bright moonlight and was most dangerous. However, “Z” Company, led by Lieutenant Chesney, worked with a will (In this work, Corpl. P. Allbut was much distinguished and was awarded the D.C.M.) and carried out the task successfully in spite of a sharp fire. Just as the task was completed Lieutenant Chesney, unfortunately, was severely wounded (Besides Lt. Chesney, eleven others of his company were hit, of whom four were killed).
The heavy losses had left the Battalion very weak, until a much needed reinforcement arrived on May 27th—13 officers (Capt. J. C. Pickersgill-Cunliffe, Capt. W. Ashton, Lieut. F. E. Myddleton Gavey, Lieut. H. Arnold, 2/Lieuts. A.W. Brocks, W. Kirkham, E. Gordon Parkes, C. D. Field, D. Grainger Jones. L. B. Charles, E. S. Pink, J.L. King, and C. J. B. Atkinson), and 159 other ranks.
Thenceforward for a week (On June 2nd,a reinforcement of 3 officers joined—Capt. H. A. Brett, 2fLts. D.C. B. Martin and W. G. J.Pearce) the Battalion remained in front line, working busily in preparation for the new attack, which had been fixed for June 4th. The work was carried out under fire and there were many casualties (But even more trying than the enemy’s tire was the heat, now increasing day by day. Up till that time the troops had worn caps; now foreign-service helmets were asked for and gradually were taken into wear). Those losses were partially replaced by the attachment of about five hundred East Lancashire Territorials to the Worcestershire platoons.
Third Battle of Krithia
At 9.30 a.m. on June 4th the British artillery opened fire and kept up a hot bombardment till 11.30 a.m. Then the firing died down and for ten minutes silence reigned, a silence intended to puzzle the enemy. At 11.40 the artillery opened again and continued rapid fire till 12 noon, when the guns lifted their fire and the attacking battalions scrambled out of their trenches and advanced (The previous failure had led, as in France, to the substitution of a limited objective for the previous optimistic attempts to break through, and only two lines of trenches were allotted as the task of the attacking troops).
In spite of all they had gone through the troops of the 29th Division went forward with splendid spirit. “It was just glorious and magnificent to see our gallant lads get out of the trenches, “not a slacker amongst them” (Battalion Diary). Under a storm of fire the Worcestershire platoons rushed forward across the open and into the enemy’s trenches. Three successive lines of trenches were cleared; 80 prisoners and four machine guns were taken.
Then stock was taken of the situation. On the right the advance had been equally successful. On the left, however, on the western slope of the Gully Ravine, the 14th Sikhs had advanced with equal gallantry but without the same success. The enemy’s machine guns there had not been subdued by the bombardment, and before their fire the tall Sikhs had fallen in swathes. The Sikh battalion had been almost annihilated (After the battle the 14th Sikhs numbered no more than 3 officers and 200 men) and the left flank of the Worcestershire was exposed.
To meet that danger the Battalion formed a defensive flank along the steep slope of the Gully Ravine, and the rest of the day was spent in consolidating that line under heavy fire; in that work C.Q.M.S. J. J. Leach was much distinguished, organising bombing parties and directing consolidation (C.Q.M.S. Leach was awarded the D.C.M., as also were C.S.M. J. P. Alexander and L/Sgt. S. Edge). At one point a body of the enemy attempted a counter-attack but 2/Lieut. J. D. Dickens swiftly organised and led a bayonet charge which drove the enemy back (2/Lieut. Dickens was awarded the M.C).
The losses had been very heavy, including 5 officers killed and 3 officers missing (Killed,Capt. J. C Pickersgill-Cunliffe, Lieut.W. D. Bush, 2/Lieuts. B. C. D. Martin, C. D. Field, and H. G. Parkes. Missing, 2/Lieuts. D. Grainger Jones (afterwards ascertained killed) R. B. Woosnam, J. L. King. There are no available figures of the total losses of the Battalion, but they were about 300 of all ranks). Among the former were Capt. Cunliffe and Lieut. Bush. Lieut. H. Gordon was wounded.
The 5th of June was fairly quiet. All ranks were still working busily at making the new position secure. On the following night the East Lancashire Territorials were detached from the Worcestershire platoons to return to their own unit.
Hardly had the Territorials left the trenches when the enemy commenced a counter-attack to regain their lost positions. Heavy fighting continued all the night and into the next day. By 9.30 a.m. (June 6th) the enemy’s efforts had definitely been stopped, but gun fire continued all the day and did not die away until nightfall.
That night (June 6/7th) another counter-attack was met and repulsed, then the enemy’s efforts died away and the captured trenches remained thenceforward in British possession. But the success had been dearly gained. Many of the surviving officers and men of the 4th Worcestershire had been killed, including the second-in-command, Major H. A. Lang.
Major Lang had been one of the mainstays of the Battalion. A good polo player, a sound cricketer, an all-round sportsman and a most able soldier, Major Lang was a fine type of Regimental officer. Since the landing he had proved himself invaluable,” always cool, clear-headed and of the most amazing bravery.” “ His help to me,” wrote Colonel Cayley, “has been more than I can acknowledge; what the Battalion will do without him I don’t know.”
Indeed the Battalion could ill afford the loss. Nearly all the original officers and N.C.O’s. had fallen and there were very few old soldiers left in the ranks. But the new drafts which replaced the losses showed fine courage, cheered on and held to their task by two indomitable spirits, Colonel Cayley himself and Sergt.-Major Felix. The Regimental Sergeant-Major was a tower of strength, inspiring all by his energy and his devotion. The Colonel’s quiet courage and constant thoughtfulness had made him dear to his men. The third night of the long battle found him still in command, alone save for two or three inexperienced young subalterns. Worn out, lie lay down in the trench and instantly fell asleep. “Next day,” he wrote, “I heard casually from a complete stranger that “as soon as I fell asleep one man of the Regiment posted himself about three yards up the trench “one way and another three yards the other side of me and refused to let anyone pass, saying, “‘The Colonel’s asleep, first time for four nights, you can’t go by.’ I haven’t an idea who they “were but it was splendid of them.”
The battle slowly died down. By dawn of June 7th both sides had ceased to attack, though intermittent firing continued which caused yet more loss. The Medical officer, Captain W. J. Maloney was severely wounded while tending a wounded man outside the front trenches. Apart from his skill as a surgeon, his bravery and kindliness had made him the most popular man of the Battalion and his loss was regretted by all.
Then came word that the Brigadier had broken down and that Colonel Cayley, the only surviving senior officer, was to take over command of the Brigade. After making arrangements for the relief of his men Colonel Cayley handed over command of the Battalion to Captain H. A. Brett (Formerly of the 9th Lincolnshire).
Orders came for a change of position. Efforts were being made to reorganise the Division and to get the battalions back into their original Brigades. The Border Regiment came up in the evening (5.0 p.m.) and took over the trenches along the Gully Ravine. The Worcestershire moved to the right and relieved the Essex. Then followed two days of hard and unpleasant work, remaking the shattered trenches arid burying the dead, until, at dawn on June 10th, the Battalion was relieved. The Lowland Territorials of the 52nd Division were taking over the line. The 4th Worcestershire were relieved by the 4th Royal Scots Fusiliers, and marched back to rest.
Filing along the half-made communication trenches which now ran down Gully Ravine, the weary platoons took some three hours to reach their destination, Gully Beach. There they were accommodated in huts and shelters “ on the hill side facing the sea which is very nice indeed” (Battalion Diary).
The rest lasted two days, two days of comparative peace and quiet, during which the troops bathed or worked on road construction, undisturbed save by stray shells and the intermittent gun fire beyond. On the evening of June 12th came orders again to move forward. After dark the 88th Brigade assembled and marched back to relieve the Lowlanders in their previous position. The Essex and the 5th Royal Scots took over the front line while the Hampshire and Worcestershire occupied the support trenches. The trenches were still in a bad state, with many unburied dead in all directions (During June 13th, the 4th Worcestershire buried over 80), but by dint of much hard work a gradual improvement was effected. A notable effort was the construction of a big communication trench (That trench was begun by the Battalion on June 14th) by which pack mules might be brought up to the reserve trenches. That work was destined to save much labour in man-handling the stores.
Gradually the strength of the Battalion was increased by fresh drafts and by wounded returning to the line, notably by a large draft (Lieuts. E. Wrightson, C. W. V. Peake and J. Mould, and 137 other ranks. 2/Lieut. H. James returned from hospital on the same day (16th)) which arrived on June 16th.
That day (June 16th) was disturbed by several alarms. The Turks made repeated local attacks against their lost trenches, and although the Worcestershire were not actively engaged, the firing kept everyone on the alert. The ensuing day (June 17th) was fairly quiet, and orders came that on the evening of June 18th the 88th Brigade would be relieved.
During the day of June J8th the 88th Brigade learnt that a local attack would be made that evening by the 42nd Division on their right. The relief of the Brigade was consequently postponed.
As darkness came on the gun fire of both sides increased in intensity. Soon it was gathered that while the 42nd Division were attacking on the right flank, the enemy at the same time were attacking the left flank of the 29th Division in the Gully Ravine. There the 87th Brigade were in position, and after a hard fight in the darkness eventually lost a small outlying trench. But that loss was slight compared with the danger, which swiftly developed on the right. On the far side of the Krithia Nullah the attack of the 42nd Division had been met by stronger forces and by 10.0 p.m. the Lancashire Territorials had been driven back first from the Turkish trenches and then from their own front line. Help was urgently needed. The 5th Royal Scots, on the right flank of the 88th Brigade, were instructed to deliver a counter-attack, and to their assistance “ W” Company of the 4th Worcestershire, now commanded by 2!Lieut. A. W. Roberts, was sent forward. Worcestershire lads and Scotsmen together struck the flank of the victorious enemy (The counter-attack commenced about 2.0 a.m.) and after hard fighting drove the Turks out and back to their own lines (2/Lieut. A. W. Roberts was awarded the M.C.). By dawn the action was over and the position re-established, not without heavy loss (Time Worcestershire company lost severely, including 2/Lt. G. J. B. Atkinson killed).
The relief, delayed by the fight, took place about midday, and by that evening the Battalion was back in reserve at Gully Beach. Great credit had been gained in that sharp fight, and on the following day the Battalion Diary recorded that” The Regiment has been complimented by General Hunter-Weston commanding the Army Corps. “W” Company is being paraded to be spoken to by the G.O.C. Division and everyone is very pleased.”
Once again the rest was brief, and after two days of sea bathing and fatigues (Including big working parties at “W” Beach, the original landing place) the 88th Brigade returned to the line and took over the same trench system. The 4th Worcestershire went into the front line trenches—trenches which they found broken down and dirty, demanding much hard labour before they were safe and fit to live in. The continual slaughter had not been without its effect on the enemy, and the Turkish fire was noticeably less constant than before.
Action of Gully Ravine
A new attack had now been planned. Immediately in front of the 88th Brigade the Turkish defences were formidable, but there seemed reason to hope that an advance up Gully Ravine might prove more successful. Careful preparations were made for the attack. By June 28th all was ready and at 9.0 a.m. that morning the British guns opened fire. At 10.0 a.m. the attacking troops advanced. The Worcestershire were not actually involved in that attack, their role being confined to holding the Brigade line further to the right, but the Battalion came in for heavy gun fire while the struggle on their left swayed to and fro. On the left flank the Turkish defences along the sea cliffs were taken with comparative ease but in the Gully Ravine itself the fire of two strong redoubts held up the attack and drove the attacking Lowland Battalions back into our lines.
That evening the Essex and 5th Royal Scots renewed the attack on those two redoubts, only to fail in their turn.
The 5th Royal Scots in particular were heavily punished, and most of their company officers were killed or wounded. Orders had been given that the 4th Worcestershire further to the right were to keep touch with the Scotsmen and to be ready to exploit any success. For that purpose Lieut. H. James of the Worcestershire had been sent into the trenches of the Royal Scots to act as liaison officer. When affairs became critical Lieut. James went up to the front line, at the request of the Royal Scots’ commanding officer, to assist the attack. All the Scots officers in his vicinity had fallen, so Lieut. James took command of the disorganised troops around him, restored order and established a satisfactory position. Then he went back and brought up reinforcements, only to find on his return that a renewed counter-attack by the enemy had shattered the defence. Once again Lieut. James re-established the line and maintained the defence until darkness fell.
During the next three days fighting surged forwards and backwards along the trenches in the Gully Ravine. Gradually the enemy were driven from their advanced lines, and by nightfall of July 1st the line on each side of the Ravine had been materially advanced; but in front of the 88th Brigade the enemy’s trenches were unchanged, and formed a salient which invited attack.
Attack on that salient was organised; an attack to be made by the Worcestershire and Hampshire. After due consideration it was decided that, in view of the increasing shortage of gun ammunition, a bombing attack up the existing saps would be preferable to a big attack over the open. Two saps in the centre of the hostile line were assigned to the Worcestershire; other saps further to the left were allotted to the Hampshire. The Essex and Royal Scots held the British front line in support of the attacking parties.
At 9.0 a.m. on July 2nd the attack began. The attacking parties climbed out of our own sapheads, dashed across the open, rushed the sapheads of the enemy and made their way forward up the trenches. The two Turkish sapheads assigned to the 4th Worcestershire were each attacked by a party of about 30 men, those on the right being led by Lieut. Mould and those on the left by Lieut. James.
At first all went well. The enemy, surprised by the unusual hour of attack, fell back along the trench and Lieut. James’ party were able to make their way up the saphead. Their advance was difficult, for the winding trench was full of dead bodies. Since June 4th fight after fight had raged along it and soldiers of all ranks (including even a dead General; a Brigadier of the Lowland Division) were now heaped in the trench, some half buried by fallen sand, others but newly killed.
The bombers advanced up the saphead to the trench junction at its further end. There the enemy were in waiting, and a furious bombing fight ensued. The enemy were well provided with bombs (In Gallipoli the British forces had at that date only “jam-tin “bombs. The Turks were supplied with spherical bombs of archaic appearance, but of much greater effect) and in rapid succession the men of Lieut. James’ party were struck down. Presently only four were left standing - the subaltern, one lance-corporal and two privates. These four maintained an obstinate fight, hoping for reinforcements (A message had been sent asking for help; but the messenger had been killed on the way back). Several Turkish bombs fell into the trench and were thrown out or thrown back before they could burst; but at last one bomb burst among them and killed the two privates.
Lieut. James sent Lance-Corporal R. Reece back to bring help and faced the enemy alone. The Turks were organizing a counter-attack. A cluster of bayonets could be seen over the top of the trench. Presently came a shower of bombs and the bayonets moved forward. Before that attack the subaltern fell back along the winding trench, holding back the pursuit by bombing from each successive bend, The enemy followed.
Halfway back along the saphead Lieut. James came to a point where a heap of dead bodies blocked the trench. There he found one of his bombers, Private Parry, lying wounded. To protect him Lieut. James turned to bay. Hastily forming a low barricade of sand bags (At that point was a small ‘ dump’ of bombs and sand bags) on top of dead bodies, the subaltern organised a temporary defence.
With two rifles and a sack of bombs, Lieut. James held the trench single handed, alternately lying behind his barricade to fire and then rising to bomb the Turks after his rifle fire had driven them back behind cover. Amid a shower of bombs he held his ground until the arrival of reinforcements headed by Sergt.-Major Felix. A barricade was built further down the trench, and the wounded Private Parry was got back to safety (The reinforcements had been fetched by Corpl. R. Reece (see above). While the barricade behind was being built Corpl. Reece joined Lieut. James and assisted in his defence. He was awarded the D.C.M. for his gallant work. The exact length of time during which Lieut. James held his barricade can never be known, but during that time he expended nearly the whole of his sack of bombs). Then at last Lieut. James fell back behind the new barricade. The Turkish attack was stopped and the fight died down.
For his gallantry in that fight and in the preceding action Lieut. James was awarded the Victoria Cross; being the first of the Regiment to gain that highest reward of valour.
While Lieut. James had been battling in the left hand sap, the other bombing party under Lieut. Mould in the right hand sap had been waging a similar fight, equally gallant but equally unsuccessful (Lieut. Mould subsequently received the M.C.). Nor had the Hampshire bombers further along the line made any greater impression. By midday it was realised that the attack was futile, and gradually the fighting came to an end.
With the action of Gully Ravine the first phase of the operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula may be said to have come to an end. In nine weeks of continuous fighting the 29th Division and the other troops at Helles had fought their way forward to the outskirts of Krithia, in the face of an enemy at least equal in numbers, amply supported by artillery and strongly entrenched. The British battalions had made attack after attack, each time with heavy loss, and each time, unfortunately, with incomplete success. But the keen Regimental spirit of officers and men had spurred them on and had held them to their task.
That Regimental spirit had been fostered in time of peace, almost insensibly, by endless competition against other regiments in games and sport as well as in military training. Now the labour of years bore fruit in a pride which developed, as time went on, into a firm belief of an efficiency superior in every way to that of other units. In the very sentences with which the diarist of the 4th Worcestershire recorded the shortcomings of other regiments in such details as the construction and maintenance of trenches, he recorded also, a; a matter of course, the steps immediately taken by the Battalion to put things right. Nor was that assumption of superiority altogether unwarranted. From the Landing onwards the 4th Worcestershire established a reputation second to none in the Division. The character of the Battalion was quickly realised, and within the first week of the campaign a special Brigade Order (issued on 1st May 1915) bore witness.
“The Brigade Commander,” the order ran, “wishes to place on record the great gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by Lieut. Colonel D. E. Cayley and the officers and men of the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment during the operations since landing was effected on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Battalion has always been well in hand and not a single straggler has been reported. They are a splendid example to the Brigade.”
From that time onwards the 4th Worcestershire maintained the same spirit, and it was that spirit which kept them in fighting trim despite the incessant losses, the no less incessant labour, the ever-increasing heat and the manifold discomforts of the campaign.
Constantly they were on trial, and on trial before the sternest of critics, the other proud battalions which built up the Division; and from trials passed in common and from victories dearly bought there arose gradually a mutual pride in their association which gave the 29th Division, perhaps beyond any other Division in the Army at that time, an individuality and a soul. A confidence was born that the Division could not be defeated; and that confidence kept all keyed to the utmost effort, despite the apparent hopelessness of their task.
That task had indeed been recognised by that time to be so formidable that new means were being sought to accomplish it, and a new venture had been planned.