A1 and in the Pink – 100 years on

WWI as seen in the letters of Sgt GC Roberts MM of the 1/5th Welsh Regiment



Evacuation of Gallipoli, January 7/8 1916


From the Illustrated London News January 15th 1916

imageThe evacuation of the peninsula had first been mooted in mid October; General Hamilton was opposed suggesting a 50% casualty rate. This prompted his replacement by General Sir Charles Munro who promptly made plans for evacuation. ANZAC and Suvla Bays were evacuated between December 10 and 20th. The final evacuation was from Cape Hellas where GCR was serving with the Greek Labour Corps. This was conducted over the night of January 7/8. The preparations and the deception techniques were so effective that there were only 3 casualties. GCR used to tell of how rifles were placed along the trench line set to fire once enough sand or water had dripped into a can attached to the trigger. The effect was to convince the Turks that the trenches were still occupied well after they had been abandoned.

Photo from in the public domain






Landing Troops at Suvla Bay

Landing troops at Suvla Bay

Illustration from “The History of the Great European War” Volume IV. Caxton Publishing.

This ten-volume publication was written during the war and it is unashamedly a biased piece of history and propaganda. The caption to this illustration reads: ” The Germans and Turks received a staggering disillusionment when the British forces landed at point after point on the Gallipoli peninsula, regarded by both as impregnable, and established themselves firmly by never-to-be-forgotten feats of arms and deeds of heroism”

First taste of battle, Suvla Bay

The Suvla Bay landings were commanded by Lt Gen Sir Frederick Stopford, a 61 year old who had never commanded troops in war. Many of the other senior officers in command positions for the attack were also getting long in the tooth, in retirement before the war.

“While the generals were old Regular Army officers, their troops were civilians and young; and all of them, generals ands soldiers alike, were wholly unused to the rough and individual kind of campaigning upon which they were now to be engaged.” Alan Moorehead, Gallipoli

The landings started the night of the 6th of August, the 11th and 10th Divisions ashore by the 7th and the 53rd Welsh Division on the night of the 8th.

Inexperienced troops, landing at night with poor maps and difficult terrain, they became quickly disorientated and there was a breakdown in communications and control. Worst of all, Stopford failed to instill the sense of urgency into his subordinate generals that Hamilton expected. Instead of pushing hard to command the high ground before the anticipated Turkish reinforcements arrived 36 hours later a “ghastly inertia” set in that was only broken by Hamilton’s direct intervention that was in any case too late. By the 10th Turks had beaten the British to the heights and the troops were ordered to entrench. The chance to break the stalemate had been lost.

It was at sometime between the 10th August, when the 53rd Welsh Division landed at Sulva Bay, and the 16th when the next letter was written that GCR was wounded. The story that he told was that he and a buddy were out on a patrol when they came under fire; both were hit. His buddy was hit in the thigh and incapacitated whereas GCR was wounded in the foot. GCR managed to make his back to their unit to fetch stretcher-bearers but by the time they were able to get back to the point where he had left his buddy, the hillside had caught fire and he was dead. This haunted GCR for the rest of his life.

Sulva bay photo

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