The Bridge – Extract from Midsummer, 1915 – Part 2
Extract from the letter of an Old Boy now a naval officer in the Fleet operating in the Dardanelles.
I expect you will have read the account in the papers of the landing of our troops on April 25th. It was a very good account, and not a bit exaggerated, but I do not expect a pen could ever describe that day properly. I do think it is a shame that the names of the regiments that did the work are not given. I wonder if they will ever tell the truth of what the Dublins, Munsters, Lancashires, Hampshires, and Worcesters did (not forgetting the Australians and New Zealanders) on that Sunday, April 25th, when we landed the troops. The sailors also who pulled them ashore in the boats that came back to the ships and took another load, and then another, under a hail of bullets that came from skilfully-hideen maxims ashore. Shell and shrapnel fell till the boats were awash with blood, and yet the soldiers got ashore and drove the Turks from the trenches at the bayonet point. Those that were left held on until more troops could be landed to help them. What a day it was, the deafening noise of the guns of the Fleet, the rifles, maxims and guns ashore, and yet it was Sunday – God’s own day!
Our part was to land a covering force at V Beach. First of all on the Saturday night we took on board about 600 of the Dublin Fusiliers from a transport in Tenedos. Then we sailed with the rest of the Fleet towards the Dardanelles so as to arrive at dawn. We towed a steam pinnace and a string of boats in which the troops were to be landed. As daylight broke we saw the land close to us. H.M.S Albion anchored off V Beech, and we with the “Clacton” and the “River Clyde” lay close to her. The ships then started to shell the land, causing a most terrific din. You would have thought that after half-an-hour of this not a soul could have been left alive on shore. While this was going on we were busy getting the soldiers into the boats ready to land. At 5-30 a.m. the order was given for the troops to start, the boats shoved off, and we turned round and made for a transport, anchored a few miles off, to fill up with more troops. As soon as we had these on board we returned and commenced to land them, but the first lot were having such a hot time of it, that after we had sent one or two boats off, we were ordered to stop for a while.
The first thing done at V Beach was to run high and dry on the beach, the “River Clyde” with 2,00 men on board and armed with maxims. These men were supposed to rush ashore, and, aided by the men landed from us, to form a covering force. As it happened this did not prove so great success as expected, since out of the first 200 men to leave the ship only about 20 ever reached the shore. The boats that landed the troops from us were manned by sailors from the battleships, as we had none to spare for that.
When the enemy stopped us landed the troops, the “Queen Elizabeth” came close in and opened fire on the beach and the ruins of Seddel Bahr (which was full of concealed guns and snipers), firing with her 15 inch guns shrapnel and lyddite. To see one of these 15 inch shells burst, one would think that the end of the world had come, but although they must have done terrific slaughter, it did not seem to relieve our men on the beach one little bit from the awful cross-fire. Had all the beaches been like V Beach we should never have got ashore at all, but luckily they did not have quie the difficulties at W, X and Y Beaches, so that the troops from these were able to relieve V beach, and the men from the “River Clyde” were landed. The rest of the troops which we had on board were taken to W Beach. By this time it was noon and we were given the job of rounding up transports, and taking in lighters loaded with stores, and finally taking off wounded in the hospital ships. The R.A.M.C. has done splendid work, – wonderful work considering most of it is done under heavy fire.
I got ashore on V Beach a few days ago. It was only for a quarter of an hour while we were landing some troops. We go right alongside the “River Clyde” and transfer them to her and they walk ashore along a pontoon. When I got ashore I could realise even more fully how wonderful a thing it was that troops were ever landed. The place was one mass of trenches and barbed wire. Our soldiers have been splendid right through, and so have our sailers; no one out here has had a rest since we started.
Before I close I must say one or two words for the Turks. You will be sure to hear tales of how they ill treat our prisoners, mutilate our wounded and use dum-dum bullets. I have been talking to many doctors and officers, and the universal opinion is, that though there may be one or two isolated cases of this, they are so few that they cannot be taken into account. Those cases that I know of have proved to have been the work of Germans. The Turk is putting up a hard fight and a fair fight, and so far has proved a worthy foe. Several of the wounded have been left behind once or twice, but when our men have re-captured the trench they have found them there still and the Turks had given them water to drink. There had been no time for them to do more. I have never heard of a dum-dum bullet being used.
Our soldiers on shore are going on slowly but are waiting for reinforcements before they can do anything big. Though things have looked very black sometimes I feel sure that we shall win in the end, but it is going to be an awful struggle both our here and in France. You do not get the truth home, they hide so much in the papers. We have not yet suffered defeat, but the cost of getting our troops ashore has been frightful. Many people are very worried about the state of affairs and not at all hopeful. The British Empire is fighting the hardest struggle for existence she has ever fought. You will wonder why I talk like this, but I have seen, and I believe we have some very anxious times before us. Still we shall win.