At dawn on 25 April 1915, Allied troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. The campaign was the land-based part of a strategy intended to allow Allied ships to pass through the Dardanelles, capture Constantinople (now Istanbul) and thereby knock Ottoman Turkey out of the war.
Its aim was to weaken the Central Powers (Germany and Austria), allowing Britain and France to support Russia. The campaign was also intended to bolster British power in the Middle East. However success was dependent on Turkish opposition collapsing quickly.
General Sir Ian Hamilton (the British Commander in Chief) decided to make two landings, deploying the British 29th Division (including the 4th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment) at Cape Helles and the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) north of Gaba Tepe. Both landings were quickly contained by determined Ottoman troops, and neither the British nor the Anzacs were able to advance. French troops mounted a diversionary attack on the mainland but later joined the British on the Peninsula.
Attempts to move inland were thwarted by the Turks under their German commander with heavy causalities on both sides, and trench warfare ensued. Casualties mounted steadily, and in the summer heat conditions became intolerable. Sickness was rife, and food quickly became inedible.
In August, after reinforcements including the 9th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, Gurkha and Sikh troops had arrived, fresh attempts were made to advance, and a further landing took place at Suvla Bay. Again the Turks held their ground.
By this time lack of water and corpse flies which were feeding on dead bodies which could not be buried because the opposing trenches were so close together, had taken a heavy toll on the Allied troops.
In November rain which flooded the trenches, wind and the intense cold which caused frostbite, led to further casualties.
Finally the Allies decided to withdraw from the Peninsula. Troops were evacuated from Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove in December, and from Helles on 9 January.
The 4th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment at Gallipoli April 1915 – January 1916
In the early hours of 25th April 1915, the 88th Brigade, including the 4th Worcesters. approached the coast of Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula on the HMS Aragon and HMS Dongola. From here, ‘W’ Company, under the command of Major H.A. Carr, were transferred to a Minesweeper to get further inshore. They were then able to get into tow boats towards a floating-bridge from the ‘River Clyde’ to the shore of ‘V’ Beach, meanwhile bullets showered all round them.
As Major Carr and his Company-Sergeant Major hurried along the floating-bridge to gain the shore, the current swung and the bridge was gaining further distance from the beach. They saw in front of them a beach covered with wire entanglements, littered with the dead and wounded, realising that save for themselves, they were now alone. After reporting position, Carr collected his remaining men seeking cover and withdrew back to the ‘River Clyde’.
Meanwhile the remainder of the Battalion had been got into boats and towed towards the shore. As they approached ‘V’ Beach it became clear this was a death trap; so the tows were diverted to ‘W’ Beach. The first boat reached the shore about midday.
On landing, Colonel Cayley was informed that the task of the 4th Worc. was to capture the high ground on the right of ‘W’ Beach, with a view to working onwards towards ‘V’ Beach.
The 4th Worcesters, having taken part in the initial landings at Cape Helles advanced up the peninsula towards the village of Krithia. Three successive attempts to take the village were made in April, May and June, and in further fighting Lt. James won the Regiment’s first VC on 3 July. After this the front stabilised about 3/4 mile short of Krithia.
The Battalion went into reserve on 28 July and prepared for another attack by the 29th Division between the Krithia Nullah and the Gully Ravine. This action was to be known as the Battle of Krithia Vineyard. At 0400 on 6 August, the attacking troops left the beach and moved forward to the assembly trenches. The 4th Battalion had been made up to full strength and now numbered over 800. At 1420 the British heavy artillery opened fire. Instantly the Turkish guns replied and high explosive shells burst all along the British lines.
The attacking troops left their trenches at 1550 in four waves. At first losses were light until the crest of the low rise was reached. As the successive waves topped the rise they were struck from both flanks by enemy machine gun fire. The platoons pushed on as their ranks withered away. The remnants charged the trenches but were overwhelmed in hand to hand fighting. About 30 of the 4th Battalion formed a stronghold in the enemy trench and held out for three hours, only 12 survivors making their escape under cover of darkness. At dawn the Battalion was relieved, having lost 16 officers and 752 other ranks.
Overall during the Gallipoli campaign the Battalion lost 64 Officers and 1550 other ranks.
The 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Gallipoli July 1915 – January 1916
Following training in England, the 9th Battalion sailed with strength of 29 officers and 970 soldiers as part of 13 Division to reinforce Allied forces in Gallipoli who had failed to dislodge the Turkish defenders from the high ground which dominated the peninsula.
They disembarked on 13 July at Cape Helles and following a brief period of acclimatisation in the trenches they were re-embarked and landed at Sulva Bay. On the 6 August they took part in a major attack on the Sari Bair feature which rose up some 1000 feet from the sea, but the broken nature of the ground slowed down the initial night advance and gave the Turks time to bring up reinforcements and counter attack.
The attempt was abandoned after four exhausting and confused days of fighting during which the battalion was reduced in strength to one officer and 200 soldiers.
After being reinforced by several drafts the battalion alternated between front line and reserve trenches with occasional periods of rest until the peninsula was evacuated, by which time the intense heat of summer had given way to the bitterly cold weather and blizzards of winter. The battalion embarked on 9 January and moved to Egypt.