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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

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Suvla Bay

August 16th 1915

August 16th # 1 & 4 August 16th # 2 & 3 August 16th # 2 & 3 - Version 2 August 16th # 1 & 4 - Version 2

Pte GC Roberts 3144

C Company

1/5 Welsh Regt

159 Brigade

53rd Division

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

August 16 1916

Dear Dad and Mam

Just alive to let you know that I am getting in the pink. My foot is much better by now and I will be able to jump quite as good as before because there are no bones broken. I am having a decent time and the sisters here are very good to us. They are much more homely than our English. I forgot to tell you I am in an Australian hospital. I may tell you I have great reason to be the thankful to God that I only had it in the foot, because I was in a warm corner when it happened. I hope this war will soon be over. There is a great difference in soldiering out here and soldiering in England you are apt to get hurt here, but still I am not at all down hearted. I shall be very pleased when I receive a letter from you have not had one yet. Give my love to Dyfan and Mailys hope they are getting an alright. Hope Mailys will pass her Juniors and that Dyfan enjoyed being in camp. Give my love to Jon, Mag, and Nain Jones. I was speaking to a chap from Jack Jones Regiment, he is alright. I have written to you several times hope you have received them. Please let me have a word as soon as you can. I have no more to say at present. Close with best love to all.

I am

Your loving Son

Goronway

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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