WEEK 53: THE MEN WORE A TRIANGULAR PIECE OF TIN ON THEIR BACKS
Monday 28 June to Sunday 4 July 1915
During the months of June and July 1915, a series of attacks were launched by the Allies from Helles on the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula in order to gain a stronger foothold along Gully Spur. Prominent among these was the Battle of Gully Ravine fought between 28 June and 5 July. The battle began well for the Allies. After two days of heavy preliminary bombardment, the 87th Brigade of the 29th Division seized the first two lines of Turkish trenches with minimal losses. The 86th Brigade likewise advanced successfully to the next two trench lines. Unfortunately, the following waves of the 156th Brigade were decimated by violent Turkish resistance and no further progress was made. Although the Battle of Gully Ravine marked the furthest advance made by the Allies at Helles, it was at a terrible cost. On the British side, 3,800 men lost their lives, half of whom were from the 156th Brigade. On the Turkish side, some 14,000 men died, of which number 10,000 on 28 June alone.
Monday 28 June
Muz did Gordon’s hand,1 then we went out. After lunch we went round to the house, & we settled the pictures for the drawing room. Mrs Edwards came past, & Muz brought her in to show her the house. After tea we talked, & then Muz did Gordon’s hand. We had dinner early, & then they took us to the theatre “Lovely Woman” a revue. It was quite good.
Gully Beach. Breakfast 7 o’c. Went up to 88 & 156 Bde2 Hd Qrs at 7.30 with official time. Met Gen about 8.45 at Bird’s nest. Bombardment started at 9 am at 10.20 the shrapnel opened to cut the wire. At 10.45 K.O.S.B.3 went forward & captured boomerang trench.4 At 11 am 87 Bde5 rushed two lines of Turkish trench between Gully Ravine & sea J 10-11.6 156 Bde took part of H12a-H12 at 11.30 86 Bde took J11 & 12. Went up to head of Gully about 3.30. Whole place strewn with wounded & dead.
Tuesday 29 June
Algie & I went down the town. Muz did Gordon’s hand, & then they went down the town, & Algie & I went round to the house to settle about carpets. We met there & waited for the others to come back, but they didn’t. Gordon went by the three train. We went down to the Harbour with Algie. General Snow was going back too. Algie has been given orders to go to the 1st Batt,7 but he wants the 2nd8 so as he will be with General Snow. General S. couldn’t do anything then, so we wouldn’t let Algie go. Went & had tea with the Stubbses on the way back. Went to bed at about twelve. After tea Muz, Algie & I went round to the house, & settled some of the pictures. We didn’t have dinner till after nine.
Gully Beach. Breakfast 6 am left with the Gen about 7 o’c & went up to 86 & 87 Bdes at P point.9 Saw Gens Marshall & Wolley-Dod. Then went in & saw Gen Cox. Came back through J 11 a & J 11 & down the rock. Things were alright but masses of dead & wounded & equipment lying everywhere. Got back about 11 o’c being hot. Censored letters all afternoon then went down to beach to try & find horses. Went on board Whitby Abbey.10
Letter from Sylvia Brooke, Glen Clunie, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, to Pat Armstrong
My dear Pat
I was so surprised to hear you had gone to the Dardanelles; I am sure your people hate you going – somehow the Dardanelles seems so far away. I wrote to you to France – but I think it must have been about the time you left so you probably never received it. It will certainly be very [word missing] there – but not at all pleasant, I should think. If you have time, do write me a line & tell me how it all strikes you – &, if allowed! how you think things are going, it would interest me so much. It must be pretty awful having to stick in dug-outs all the time. I am up here with Sheelah & Harry – they have got his people’s shooting-lodge to themselves, which is very nice! It is lovely up here – & it seems impossible to believe so much awfulness is going on in the world – except that one’s own heart never lets one forget for long. What luck meeting your Mother & sister at Marseilles – & how enterprising of them to dart out there on the chance of catching you. I go down to London before long, I hope, to learn how to massage – as I believe it is dreadfully badly needed now – it is somewhat of a grind learning – but one feels one must do something to be of use – & the world is too grim a place to sit down & think about. Basil was looking awfully well, when he got home for a few days – it was heavenly having him. Well the best of good luck to you.
Yrs ever Sylvia.
Wednesday 30 June
Algie went by the 8-30 train up to London to go to the War office. We went round to the house, & I painted the things in the servants’ room. We brought a load over in the car, & carried boxes up. It rained very hard. After lunch we went down to the Harbour to see Algie off. Mr Drake & Mr Arkwright in the 11th were going back too. Algie goes to the 1st Batt, who are up at Ypres. Did some more packing when we got back. After dinner Heppie & I took some loads over to the house. Went to bed at about 11-30.
Gully Beach. Rode down to Lancashire Landing11 about 10 am to try & find out about our horses. No news. Rode on & saw the French Hd Qrs & Sedd el Bahr.12 Went up with Col Percival in the afternoon, left him & went on to H12. Wandered about & took a good many photos.
June 30. Hd Qrs 29th Div.
My dear wee Mus.
I haven’t been able to write for some days but I have been absolutely up to my eyes in work. I never seem to have a moment to myself, & then what with the heat & the flies one doesn’t feel a bit like writing letters. The flies are simply dreadful they nearly drive me mad. I told you that I arrived here on the 24. Well every day after that I spent all my time going round the trenches & getting to know as much about everything as I could. It was a pretty big job. It is awfully hot & one comes back soaked through. I have never seen such a labyrinth of trenches.
Well now I’ll tell you about the battle on the 28th.13 The General & his staff made the most elaborate & carefully laid plans & at 9 am on the morning of the 28th they started to carry them out with a very heavy bombardment of high explosive shells from the 4.7 inch 5 inch & 6 inch howitzers. At 10.20 the field guns joined in firing shrapnel which cut the wire in front of the Turkish trenches. At 10.45 the K.O.S.B. rushed forward with the bayonet into a trench known as the “boomerang” & took it without much opposition but suffered a bit after they had got in from enfilade fire.14 However they hadn’t to wait long as at 11 o’c the whole line rose out of the trenches like one man & dashed forward. The guns at the same time lengthening their range. Before I go on to tell you what happened I will tell you roughly the positions of the troops engaged. The India Bde15 were on the left. Then the 87th Bde whose role it was to take the first two lines of trenches & hold them. Behind them came the 86th Bde.16 On the right of the 87th was the 156 Territorial Bde supported by the 88th Bde. At 11 o’c to the minute the 87th Bde on the left & the 156 Bde on the right rushed forward. (We had an awfully good observation post & could see everything perfectly). It was just the most marvellous thing I have ever seen. The 87th Bde got the first line of trenches, you could see them jumping down into the trenches then after about 10 minutes when they had rallied out they went again & swept along just like a pack of hounds & into the next trench. The Turkish fire was murderous but our men never wavered for a moment on they went.
By 11.30 they had got J9 J10 J10a & J11 they are on the west of the Gully. On the night the 156 T A17 had got H11 & part of H12.a. We couldn’t see very well what was happening on the night. But the Turks had a regular redoubt there which held up the advance. At 11.30 the 86th Bde went over the 87th Bde & rushed forward capturing J12 & then rallying them. A few moments after that they again went forward & took J. 13. At the same time the Gurkhas on the left worked along the cliff taking J 11 a. & so guarding the left of the 86th Bde. By 12 o’c we had got practically all the ground that had been arranged to be taken was taken except a small portion of H12-H12a. They were then given orders to dig themselves in at once & consolidate the line & prepare for the Turkish counter attack. At 7 pm part of the 88th Bde attacked H12 & H12a but the attack failed. It was a most wonderfully successful day. We made ground like this [sketch of a triangle with each side marked “1 mile”]. We advanced about a mile on the left along the shore the frontage is just over a mile. You see it was a regular [—]. I will try & get you a map & send it to you & then it will be all clear to you. At present I expect it is all a bit involved to you. As soon as you see the map it will all be quite clear. It was a wonderful show & a tremendous success. The General, in fact everybody was awfully pleased about it. His organisation really is wonderful. He practically organised the whole thing himself. Of course he was very ably assisted by Col Perceval & Capt Keeling. Well that is a sort of brief outline of what happened. Now I’ll tell you a bit of my own doings on that day which are very minute when compared with the wonderful deeds of the men. Oh! I forgot to tell you that all the men wore a triangular piece of tin on their backs so as the guns could see where they were. Then as soon as they had taken a trench they put the tins along the back of it. It was entirely the General’s own idea & worked splendidly. One could see the men advancing splendidly & always knew how far they had got by the tins along the tops of the trenches.
Well! I left here that morning at 7.30 & went up to the 88 Bde & 156 Bde Hd Qrs & gave everybody the official time. I met the General at our observation post about 8.30. It was awfully hot & made one pretty warm. From there we watched the attack as I told you. Then at 3 o’c he sent me forward of the Gulley to see how things were going & to find out the situation of certain Regts. I went right up to the top of the gulley & went along H 12 & part of H 12.a. I have never seen anything like it in all my life. I rode down the gulley as far as the barricade we had been holding in the morning, from there & went on on foot. There were dead Turks, dead & wounded men everywhere. I had to cross over a bit of ground which for some time had been a no man’s land. There were several skeletons of our men & Turks lying about. Then I went on & was able to see a little of what our shells can do. Their skeletons were broken down & many of the trenches were knocked to bits. I went on up there & got in touch with our men in the front trenches. It was awfully interesting to see it all but it was dreadful going along the trenches as they were packed with dead & wounded both English & Turk. It was horrid having to step over them & in one place the Turkish dead were so thick that I had to walk on them. I stayed up there till about 5.30 getting things straightened out. There was a good deal to be done, as Regts & things had all got a bit split up. The men were all frightfully cheery & were really perfectly marvellous. I got back about 6 o’c. Then the other attack on part of H 12 & H 12a took place at 7 o’c. This however was not entirely successful. That night the Turks attacked J13 & J12 pretty strongly & gained a footing but were turned out again with heavy loss before morning.
Yesterday morning the General & I went round the left of the line. We went to the 86 & 87 Bde Hd Qs then on to the India Bde. We came back through J11 & home down the gully. We left here about 7 am & got back about 10.30. It was a pretty stiff walk & we got very hot. I have got to go off now & see if our horses have rolled up from Mudros .18 They were due yesterday but didn’t turn up. I got a letter from you of the 10th in the General’s. But have had no others yet. I will try & write to you twice a week but really can’t do any more. What with the heat & the flies & the difficulty of finding a plan it is awfully difficult. Col Percival is at present dictating a lot of stuff to one of the clerks which makes it rather difficult to write. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
Letter from Blanchie Somerset, Badminton, Gloucestershire, to Pat Armstrong
Pat my darling
I’ve just got you letter from the ship, which I loved. What a lucky mother to have seen you. I’d have given anything on earth for it to have been me – I don’t know why but I’ve got a dreadful longing to see you again – I expect you’ve arrived by now. I hear it’s a horrid country & just as dangerous as where you’ve come from if not more so. I was offered a ward-maid’s place on a hospital-yacht the other day which is going to the Mediterranean & I wanted so much to go, because anyway I should be nearer you & there might just have been a chance of seeing you, but Mother says I’m much too young, & won’t let me do anything. So here I sit. Frankie had a nasty fall the other day & got knocked out for 8 hours & is now in a hospital at St Omer. He thinks they’ll keep him in bed for a couple of weeks & then, he says, send him back to the regiment, but I do so hope he’ll get back even for a little bit, as there’s such a lot he must settle about Maurice’s things. The two ponies are awfully well. The grey one particularly. Tempe got a bit of a stake in his fetlock but is quite alright again now. Good-bye my darling & do take care of yourself & come back to me soon.
Yr ever loving Blanchie
Thursday 1 July
We go into the house. Packed all morning, & then brought loads of things over in the car. We got our rooms almost clear. The two new servants came at six, & then helped us to carry up the boxes. We went over to 14 [Trinity Crescent] for dinner, & I did some washing afterwards. Ione went back early, & Muz & I waited for Heppie, & then took over a load. Duskey sleeps at 14 tonight, as her house isn’t finished yet. Our first night at Clodiagh! We went to bed at about twelve.
Gully Beach. Hunter Weston arrived here at 7 am & the Gen took him round the Eski line.19 Got back here at 9 am left again at 9.30. Went up the Gully then into J10- along J11 to 12 & 13. Met Gen Cox. The Turks had attacked the night before but had been mown down. Gurkhas were rather depressed because they couldn’t get enough bombs & had been bombed out of J 13. Went down with Errill to Lancashire Landing about 4 o’c no news of the horses. Felt awfully seedy.
Friday 2 July
We were up early, & then went round to 14, & brought over a load. Then we unpacked. The others went down the town in the car, & I did some tidying. After lunch they brought another load. I helped Muz to undo a box in the hall, & the girls cleaned them. Wrote to Algie. Ione went to the dance at the Metropole. Heppie & I went over for a load after dinner. We got two loads over, & then went to bed at about twelve.
Gully Beach. Felt awfully rotten. Lay down nearly all day & took Epsom salts. Got a mail. Wrote some letters I the evening. Turks bombarded about 6 o’c & then made a half hearted attack on the Gurkhas.
Saturday 3 July
Heard from Pat, dated 20th, he arrives [?] down in the fighting next day, & they had heavy fighting that day. I went round to 14, to get Duskey. The men were staining our rooms, so we couldn’t do much in them. I did a little tidying. I went to the club at six, to help Mrs Boddam-Whetham. It is all quite changed now, they have strawberries & ices etc. They are nearly all Canadians. One gave me a “nickel!” I came back home at about 7-30 for dinner, & then went back there till about 9-30. Ione went to the dance.
Gully Beach. Some rain in the night. Cooler than usual. Gen & Hardress went round Eski line. Still feeling a bit cheap. Wrote letters.
July 3 Hd Qrs 29 Div.
My dear wee Mus.
Two long letters from you to-day, one of the 10th & sent to Mrs de Lisle got to me about 5 days ago. Awfully slow the posts are. I got a parcel of films from Jess this morning but haven’t yet got any parcels etc which left London about June 3d. I am so glad you found Charles Hunter. He’s a grand fellow isn’t he. That was a great budget you sent me in your letters. It is rather fun having so many letters to read. It is splendid of you getting that cigarette case for Percy. Thank you so much wee Mus. You must let me know how much it cost & I’ll send you a cheque. I wonder why [—] has gone down. There is at present absolutely no chance of getting it through the Dardanelles. Colonel Perceval was talking about the battle ships out here the other day, and said “they are like bad sitting hens, always want to be off.” Splendid idea isn’t it. He often says queer little things like that. Will you thank Jess for some rolls of films which arrived to-day. I got a lot in Port Said already done up in little round tin boxes. I expect the shop would get them if they wrote to London for them. The old suitcase is simply splendid, a good one would only get spoilt out here. The dust is simply awful & I’ve never really seen anything like the flies. I wish you could find some stuff that one could sprinkle about the tent that would kill them. Dirty brutes drive us nearly mad.
Erik O’Hara is on this staff. He has got his tent about 50 yards from mine but messes in another dug out quite close to this. This is “A” Mess & theirs is “B” Mess. I see quite a lot of him. In fact I rode down to the “Lancashire Landing” with him last night. We are all rather troubled with our innards these times. I think it is chiefly from all this dust & all the smells of dead Turks. You can’t imagine what this place is like. I was going round the trenches yesterday with the General & in front of J 13 there were about 50 dead Turks who had been shot the night before, then we went home along the cliff & came on two of our men who must have been dead for some weeks, several dead Gurkhas. Ugh! it was horrible. I have never seen such dreadful sights as I have since I came down here. The afternoon before I was going round the trenches & in a disused trench I came on three dead Turks, I won’t describe them, they were too dreadful. Well! it’s really to be wondered at that one feels sick after that. I suppose in the last week I have seen about 100 dead, English Greek & Turk. One runs bang onto them. One the 28th I had to walk on a lot of Turks in one trench, they were so thick that one couldn’t get along without treading on them.
Well enough of horrors. But I think it may interest you to know the sort of thing one sees. I hope Gen Snow’s prophesy is right. Personally I don’t think that they will go back till they are pushed [?] but now we ought to be getting lots of ammunition out & with K’s army20 ought to do great things. What a nice letter that was from the Duchess. She wrote me one of the nicest letters I have ever had. I do hope that nothing will happen to Frankie. There hasn’t been much doing here since the 28th. That night & the following night the Turks tried to get J13. They bombed us out of a bit of it but we retook it again. Then the following morning about 4 o’c they put in a pretty strong attack which however did no good. Some of them got within 40 yards of the trenches & were then shot down. Last night they bombed the Gurkhas out of J.13 & the Inniskilling Fusiliers21 went in & retook it with the bayonet. Awfully good they are. We have got some awfully fine Regts in this Division. I look on them all with the greatest admiration since that show on the 28th. Their bravery was perfectly magnificent. Will you send me 6 small bottles of smelling salts. Something quite small that one can easily carry. I always go about in shirt sleeves & so haven’t much room to carry things. I think that smelling salts would come in very useful.
I have managed to get away from the flies for a few minutes by sitting outside but there is a horrible wind & the dust is awful. I don’t think much of this climate really. If we had houses it would be quite alright but living in tents & dugouts one has little or no peace from the dust & flies. However, I can’t grouse as we are really extremely comfortable under the circumstances. Letter writing is rather difficult as there is no place where I can get away & write comfortably at a table. If I write in the dugout there is always a crowd of people talking & my tent is awfully hot & full of flies in the day time. That was an awfully nice letter from Mrs de Lisle. Yes! I’ll let her know if the General wants anything. At present I don’t think there is. I am sending you an account of the battle on Monday last. Also a map. No sign of our horses yet. They were supposed to have left Lemnos22 on Monday this is Friday & they haven’t turned up. I am awfully afraid they have gone to “Anzac”, that is what they call the place where the (“A”)ustralians, (“N”)ew (“Z”)ealanders (a)nd (“C”)anadians are .23 I hope they will roll up soon. Best love dear wee Mus.
Your loving Pat.
P.S. What a rotten letter that was from Emmy. She’s a dreadful pessimist & writes most awful rot. I don’t like the tone of Markey’s letters, not the sort of thing you would think he would write to his mother. When you write to Disi again tell her that a cake would be really appreciated. If it was well packed in a strong box, I think it would arrive alright.
Sunday 4 July
Tom & I went to church, & then went out on the Front afterwards, & met Ione. Muz didn’t come out, as she was very stiff. After lunch Madame de Marotte came round, & Ione went to the Grand for tea. I mended my shirt, & took paint out, & then took Duskey round, & gave her her dinner at 14 [Trinity Crescent], & then brought her back here to bed. Muz did some tidying. I unpacked a box, & brought the things up. After dinner Muz & I talked in the smoking room […]
Gully Beach. Gen told me the night before to go to Lemnos but in the morning told me I had better stay here. Sat about all morning. Felt a bit better but still wobbly. Went down to “W” beach about 2.30 as Achaia24 had arrived with the horses. French transport was sunk by a submarine about 2 o’c.25 Got back with horses about 4.30. Rode to Corps with the General at 5.15 afterwards went on to the 86 Bde. Turkish prisoner swam round & gave himself up to the Gurkhas.26
- Gordon Elton had been wounded in St Eloi in March 1915; the injuries he sustained had disfigured his left hand.⇑
- 88th Brigade of the 29th Division and 156th Brigade of the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division ⇑
- King’s Own Scottish Borderers ⇑
- A position held by the Turks so named from its shape ⇑
- 87th Brigade of the 29th Division ⇑
- The letters J and H followed by a number indicate trench positions ⇑
- 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, which formed a unit in the 10th Brigade of the 4th Division until August 1917. General Snow had commanded the Division until September 1914⇑
- 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, which formed a unit in the 82nd Brigade of the 27th Division under the command of General Thomas D’Oyly Snow until 15 July 1915 when Snow was put in command of VII Corps ⇑
- A position in a frontline trench ⇑
- Merchant ship Whitby Abbey was requisitioned by the admiralty from February 1915 to December 1919 and served in the Gallipoli campaign ⇑
- Also known as W Beach ⇑
- A village at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula ⇑
- Battle of the Gully Ravine, 28 June-5 July 1915. ⇑
- Gunfire directed from a flanking position along the length of an enemy battle line ⇑
- The 29th (Indian) Brigade under the command of Major General Herbert Vaughan Cox ⇑
- 86th Brigade of the 29th Division ⇑
- TA = Territorial Army ⇑
- A town on the island of Lemnos, Greece ⇑
- A continuous trench running across the Peninsula which had been dug out in the early stages of the Gallipoli campaign ⇑
- Kitchener’s Army ⇑
- 1st Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers of the 87th Brigade of the 29th Division ⇑
- An island of Greece in the northern part of the Aegean Sea ⇑
- Anzac = the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps; also the name given to the northernmost sector of the Gallipoli peninsula where the Anzacs first landed ⇑
- Transport vessel which had carried the Australian and New Zealand division to Gallipoli in April 1915 ⇑
- The French liner Carthage was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine off Cape Helles at the entrance to the Dardanelles on 4 July 1915⇑
- In a letter to his mother written on 12 July 1915, Pat elaborated: ‘… a Turk swam round Gurkha Bluff & gave himself up. He said he was tired of the war & had come in because he hadn’t had any water for 5 days. Quite a good fellow he was. I asked him if he would like to go back & he said he’d rather I killed him than sent him back.’⇑