100 years ago

August 1915

by Lyn Dyson

During August we lost three men at Gallipoli, so it seems appropriate to give a brief account of the campaign there. The following paragraphs have been taken from http://www.1914-1918.net/Gallipoli.htm

It is easy to forget, given the quite proper place that Gallipoli has in Australian and New Zealand legend, that Gallipoli was by no means purely an ANZAC affair; in fact, both the rest of the British, and the French army contingents on Gallipoli outnumbered the ANZACs in terms of men deployed and casualties lost.

By 1915 the Western Front was clearly deadlocked. Allied strategy was under scrutiny, with strong arguments mounted for an offensive through the Balkans or even a landing on Germany’s Baltic coast, instead of more costly attacks in France and Belgium.

These ideas were initially side-lined, but in early 1915 the Russians found themselves threatened by the Turks in the Caucasus and appealed for some relief. The British decided to mount a naval expedition to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula on the western shore of the Dardanelles, with Constantinople as its objective. By capturing Constantinople, the British hoped to link up with the Russians, knock Turkey out of the war and possibly persuade the Balkan states to join the Allies.

The Gallipoli peninsula lies in Turkey, forming one land side of the Dardanelles Straits, an historic waterway that links the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. The peninsula is only 10 miles at the widest point and is about 45 miles long. Cape Helles lies at the southernmost tip. The terrain is inhospitable: it is a rocky, scrub-covered area with little water. The hills are steep-sided and are cut into deep gulleys and ravines. Among the hills which lie along the spine of the Peninsula, there are many peaks and valleys. The most important heights are the summits of Achi Baba (709 feet), which overlooks all of Cape Helles; and Sari Bair (971 feet) from which can be seen ANZAC beach and the Asian side of the Straits. At the southernmost (Aegean) tip are a number of small sandy beaches, and there are some small stretches of beach on the Western side too. There are no such beaches on the eastern (Straits) side. To the North-West is a flat area surrounding a salt lake. There were no towns on the peninsula, but there are a number of small settlements, of which Krithia in the south and Bulair in the north are the most important.

The naval attack began on 19 February. Bad weather caused delays and the attack was abandoned after three battleships had been sunk and three others damaged. Military assistance was required, but by the time troops began to land on 25 April, the Turks had had ample time to prepare adequate fortifications and the defending armies were now six times larger than when the campaign began.

Against determined opposition, Australian and New Zealand troops won a bridgehead at ‘Anzac Cove’ on the Aegean side of the peninsula. The British, meanwhile, tried to land at five points around Cape Helles.

The landings at Gallipoli resulted in very heavy losses and the troops were unable to move forward.

This standstill led to a political crisis in London between Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty and the operation’s chief advocate, and Lord Fisher, the First Sea Lord, who had always expressed doubts about it. Fisher demanded that the operation be discontinued and resigned when overruled. The Liberal government was replaced by a coalition and Churchill, though relieved of his former post, remained in the War Council.

Amid sweltering and disease-ridden conditions, the deadlock dragged on into the summer. In July the British reinforced the bridgehead at Anzac Cove and in early August landed more troops at Suvla Bay further to the north, to seize the Sari Bair heights and cut Turkish communications. The offensive and the landings both proved ineffectual within days, faced with waves of costly counter-attacks. The terrain and close fighting did not allow for the dead to be buried. Flies and other vermin flourished in the heat, which caused epidemic sickness.

In October 1915, winter storms caused much damage and human hardship, and in December, a great blizzard – followed by cataclysmic thaw – caused casualties of 10% (15,000 men) throughout the British contingent, and no doubt something similar on the Turkish side.

The War Council remained divided until late 1915 when it was decided to end the campaign. Troops were evacuated in December 1915 and January 1916. Had Gallipoli succeeded, it could have ended Turkey’s participation in the war. As it was, the Turks lost some 300,000 men and the Allies around 214,000, achieving only the diversion of Turkish forces from the Russians. 145,000 of the British casualties at Gallipoli were due to sickness; chief causes being dysentery, diarrhoea, and enteric fever.

Bad leadership, planning and luck, combined with a shortage of shells and inadequate equipment, condemned the Allies to seek a conclusion in the bloody battles of the Western Front. Furthermore, Gallipoli’s very public failure contributed to Asquith’s replacement as Prime Minister by David Lloyd George in December 1916. The consequent effect of diverting troops and supplies sorely needed on the Western Front, particularly for the assault at Loos, is impossible to quantify.

Lt Col John Carden Killed in Action 10th August 1915

John Carden was born in Southam in Warwickshire in 1870, the son of Captain Charles Wilson Carden, and his wife Jane King. Captain Charles Carden was born in Tipperary, and he married Jane in 1855 in St James, Westminster.

By 1861 Charles was retired from the army and living in Leamington Priors, Warwickshire. He and Jane had two sons and a daughter by this time, and employed a cook, a nurse, a nursemaid, a housemaid and a groom.

John was born in 1870, at which time the family was living at Wood Street, Southam, Warwickshire. He was the youngest of nine children and grew up in very comfortable circumstances with a nurse, an under nurse, a cook and a housemaid. By the time he was ten years old the family had moved to the Manor House at Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire, and the household staff included a governess and a ladies maid as well as a cook, a housemaid and a groom.

John continued his education at the Royal Naval School at New Cross in south-east London. From there he went to South Africa and served in the Bulawayo Field Force as a Captain and Adjutant, seeing action in the Matabele Wars, and when the Bulawayo Field Force was disbanded in 1896 he served in the Boer War, before entering the Northern Rhodesia Police Force, becoming the Commandant there around 1906.

In 1909, John was appointed to the Order of St Michael and St George, as a companion.The Order of St Michael and St George is awarded to men and women who render extraordinary or important non-military service in a foreign country. It can also be conferred for important or loyal service in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs.

John married Susan Wake in London in 1909, and their son Andrew was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia in 1910.

He retired from the Rhodesia Police Force in 1912 and returned to England, where he settled with his wife and son in West Lavington. He took up the tenancy of Russell Cottage in Stibb Hill from December 1912. They also had a residence in south -west London at 67 Egerton Gardens.

John volunteered his services when the Great War started and was given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 5th battalion Wiltshire Regiment.

At 1am on 10th August the battalion marched on a steep and winding course towards a gulley at Salzli Biet in Gallipoli. The Battalion was guided by a New Zealand Officer and they arrived two hours before sunrise about 3am. The men were told to dig into dugouts and make themselves comfortable as the position was quite safe. Men therefore removed their equipment and rifles. As soon as it was light machine guns opened fire on the men lying in their dug outs. About 1/4 of an hour later there was a rush of Turks from both sides of the depression which drove the men, unarmed and unequipped down the gulley.. The bottom of the gulley was commanded by machine guns and so escape was cut off. Three courses were possible:- 1. To rush past the machine guns down the Sazli Beit, this was tried but in nearly all cases proved fatal. 2. To climb the northern slope of the ravine under fire and try to escape over the top. This was done in a few cases with success. 3. Hide in Gulley till night, this also was done with more success. (A party of 5 men was rescued from the Gulley having been there 16 days – ie:- from Aug 10 – Aug 26th. They reported numbers of men who were wounded were unable to get away and died of exhaustion and starvation. Parties arrived on the beach in fours, fives, and some carried bodies during the 11th, 12th and 13th unarmed, unequipped and demoralised.

At the end of the day at least twelve officers and many men had been killed. Lt Col John Carden was listed as missing. He was later recorded as killed in action. He was mentioned in despatches for gallant and distinguished service in the field.

Susan never remarried. She died in 1961 in Haywards Heath in Sussex. Her son Andrew, who was an architect, died in 1996 in Colchester, Essex. He had two children, Vanessa who died in 2003 and Murray.

Corporal Oliver James Draper 3/248 Killed in Action 10th August 1915

Oliver was born in 1874 in Market Lavington, the third of four sons born to Joseph and Eliza Draper from Easterton. Joseph was an agricultural labourer.

At the age of eighteen in 1891, Oliver enlisted in the Wiltshire Regiment, and he served there until June 1903. He saw service in the East Indies for a short time in 1895 and was active in the Boer War from 16th December 1899 to August 1902.

Immediately on his return to England, he married Harriet Critcher on 25th August in Easthampstead. They had three children: Joseph born in 1907; Kathleen in 1911; and William in 1914.

As soon as war was declared, Oliver re-enlisted on 27th August. He was discharged in November 1914 as medically unfit. This was obviously a temporary problem, because his health was reviewed and he was finally accepted.

Oliver was involved in the same action as Lt Col John Carden, and lost his life on the same day.

Oliver has no known grave, and is remembered on the Helles memorial at Gallipoli.

Lance Corporal Henry Blagdon PO/6388 Killed in Action 27th August 1915

Henry was one of twelve children born in West Lavington to agricultural labourer James Blagden and his wife Sarah Anne Early. Henry was born in 1871, and he grew up in Duck Street, West Lavington. His father died in 1884, and his mother remarried in 1889. Her new husband was Job Bailey, and the family lived in Church Street, West Lavington.

In 1891 Henry was working as an agricultural labourer. He enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry in Aberdare, Glamorgan on 15th June 1892, and completed his service on 14th June 1913. He was called up on 2nd August 1914 and was a part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force from 28th February 1915, serving with the 2nd Royal Marine Battalion. He became part of the Royal Naval Division which landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915.

Henry received four good conduct medals and achieved promotion to Lance Corporal.

On 27th August at 5pm the British contingent at Gallipoli, along with detachments from the Australian and New Zealand forces advanced on the Turkish troops with a heavy artillery bombardment. This bombardment seemed effective; but the moment the assailants broke cover they were greeted by an exceeding hot fire from the enemy field guns, rifles, and machine-guns, followed after a brief interval by a shower of heavy shell, some of which, most happily, pitched into the trenches of the Turks.

The battle continued for two days, but there was eventual success with very heavy loss of life on both sides. The result was complete command of the hill overlooking the Anafarta Sagir valley, and safer lateral communications between Anzac and Suvla Bay. Allied casualties in this hotly contested affair amounted to 1,000. It is estimated the Turkish casualties were no less than 5,000. Three Turkish machine-guns and forty six prisoners were taken, as well as three trench mortars, 300 Turkish rifles, 60,000 rounds of ammunition, and 500 bombs. Four hundred acres were added to the territories of Anzac.

Henry was killed in action on 27th August 1915 at Gallipoli, in this battle.

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