This image is from the autumn of 1915 and shows men of the 2/4th Battalion London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), then part of the Royal Naval Division, in the front line trenches at Gallipoli. This weapon these Territorial soldiers are employing is typical of the makeshift weapons being used not only in the trenches of Gallipoli but the whole Western Front in France and Flanders.
Catapult guns were employed from 1915 to allow soldiers to fire hand grenades or small explosive charges (often contained in jam tins) over much greater distances than they could throw them, or more often fire them from positions of safety as seen here. The weapon could be set up and loaded, then fired at the enemy positions. In most cases the sort of distance they were firing projectiles was only measured in tens of yards, which was also typical of conditions on the battlefield in 1915 when both sides often lived almost on top of each other. In this photo the officer on the left has a grenade in his right hand about to load it while the Private on the right has the contraption used to tighten the catapult. In his other hand is a box periscope, no doubt used to observe the enemy targets safely before firing.
The 2/4th Londons stayed at Gallipoli until evacuated in late 1915 and then went to Egypt where they were disbanded, most personnel going to France to join a re-formed 1/4th Battalion which would go on to fight on the Somme.
More than 220,000 British, Commonwealth and French troops were casualties at Gallipoli; Turkish casualties were at least a quarter of a million, although some estimates put the true figure at many more than that. The British buried their dead but many bodies remained unburied at the time of the evacuation in 1916. When British parties returned in 1919 they found several cemeteries desecrated, and in the majority of cases the final resting place of British and Commonwealth dead could not be ascertained.
This image dates from 1919/20 and shows a ‘collection of bones & skulls’ – whether these are British and Commonwealth, French or Turkish, is impossible to say but they show the huge problem facing the burial parties that returned after the war and in this ANZAC week the image offers us a sobering insight into the sacrifice made in Turkey – by all sides – in 1915.
Today is Anzac Day – the day in 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops landed alongside British and French troops at Cape Helles in the Gallipoli Campaign. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) had been formed in Egypt and Gallipoli was their baptism of fire. Despite the fact that more French troops died at Gallipoli than Australian, it has become something of a national obsession for Australia – and to a lesser sense New Zealand – with many thousands observing today as a day of remembrance at home in Australia and New Zealand, on the battlefields in France and Flanders, in Great Britain and also with a Dawn Service in Gallipoli itself; attended by an increasing number of people.
The very first Dawn Service at Gallipoli was on 25th April 1923, pictured here on this image that comes from a small collection of Australian images I have. A crowd of Anazc Gallipoli veterans along with some families of those who had died in the campaign assembled on the beach where the Australian landings had taken place. This was the birth of the service performed earlier this morning but this image captures in time men for whom the experience was not even a decade old. Out of shot in the background was even a Gallipoli war horse; a horse from the Light Horse that had been brought from Australia and was still owned by the officer who had ridden it during the war.
Australia and New Zealand paid a mighty price for their service in the Great War; Gallipoli was only the start, with more men from both countries dying on the Western Front in the remaining years of the war. While Anzac Day connections us to Gallipoli, it is right and proper we remember them all, as many thousands of Anzac descendants will be doing across the globe today.
At times someone with a casual interest in the Great War could be forgiven for thinking Gallipoli was an ‘Australian Battlefield’ but the reality is that the majority of troops who assaulted Turkey on 25th April 1915 were British. This image depicts the men of the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers landing at W Beach that day. Coming under fire from the bluffs above they took heavy losses and my own grandfather, a member of a Naval party from HMS Implacable, rowed them in and remembered the sea running red with their blood. The bravery of the men that day resulted in the award of sixVictoria Crosses leading to the legend of ‘six VCs before breakfast’. W Beach itself would be officially renamed ‘Lancashire Landing’ in honour of the action here on the first day of the landings.
These images come from an album compiled by an officer of the 1/5th Battalion Royal Scots who survived the war. He fought with this unit as part of the 29th Division in Gallipoli, the 1/5th being one of a number of Territorial units attached to what was a regular division. Against orders the officer had packed a camera into his kit and took a number of shots of life at both Cape Helles and ANZAC where the battalion fought, as well as during training in Egypt.
It is hard to believe when looking at the photo above that this is an officer of the battalion; to say he is dressed casually is an understatement but it gives a good insight into how the heat and conditions at Gallipoli forced the British soldiers who fought there to have a complete rethink. Behind him is the dugout occupied by the officers of his company.
Below another officer of the battalion talks to Indian labourers attached to the unit to carry out labouring tasks close to the battlefield; this may have been anything from carrying up ammunition, food or water, to assisting in trench and dugout construction or repair.
There were no official photographers at Gallipoli so we rely on illicit collections like these for our visual insights into the campaign; given the number of such albums known to exist, this officer of the Royal Scots was far from unique but his photos are perhaps the only pictorial record of the Royal Scots in the Gallipoli campaign.
There are thirty-one cemeteries on the Gallipoli peninsula. Images of them during the post-war reconstruction are rare and printed on postcard like this one unusual; it appears to be part of a set as I have two other similar ones. It shows the transition of the cemeteries from wooden crosses to the permanent burial places they became.
The details of the cemetery from the Commonweralth War Graves Commission site reads:
The upper part of Shrapnel Valley was called Monash Gully (after Sir John Monash, then commanding the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade). The main valley obtained its name from the heavy shelling of it by the Turks on the 26th April, 1915. It was an essential road from the beach upwards. Wells were sunk and water obtained from it in small quantities; on the South side of its lower reaches were camps and depots; and gun positions were made near the mouth of it. The cemetery was made mainly during the occupation, but partly after the Armistice by the concentration of isolated graves in the Valley. There are now nearly 700, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, over 80 are unidentified and special tablets are erected to commemorate 21 soldiers from Australia and two from the United Kingdom for whom there is evidence of burial in the cemetery. The cemetery covers an area of 2,824 square metres and the South-East side which borders the gully is enclosed by a concrete retaining wall.