Allied troops at Gallipoli

Gallipoli Centenary

On 25 April 1915, British and Allied troops landed at the Gallipoli peninsula, on beaches including Anzac Cove, intending to occupy Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire. A long and bloody stalemate with Turkish defenders ensued, until troops were successfully evacuated in late 1915/early 1916.

The Gallipoli Campaign

Turkey's support of the Central Powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary resulted in Russia declaring war on Turkey on 1 November 1914, followed by Britain and France.

Winston Churchill MP and First Lord of the Admiralty suggested attacking Turkey in the Dardanelles, opening up another front, putting the Central Powers under pressure and breaking the deadlock on the Western Front.

British troops in Egypt were put on stand-by for the attack, as was the newly arrived Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) which had been diverted there on the way to the Western Front.

Initial attacks made by The British Navy in 1915 went well, until a Turkish counter-attack left the British with two-thirds of their battleships out of action, prompting the decision to make land. On 25 April the First Battle of Krithia began.

The Anzacs, landing at daybreak north of the promontory of Gaba Tepe, found progress slowed by a tiny beach with steep cliffs to climb, which Turkish forces took advantage of, pushing the attack back as both sides sustained heavy casualties.

The British 29th Division attacked five beaches in broad daylight around the tip of the peninsula at Cape Helles, from rowing boats towed in strings of six to within a few hundred yards of the shore. They were assisted by covering fire from the Allied fleet, a French diversion attack at Besika Bay and a proper French landing at Kum Kale.

The British were successful on four of these beaches but Turkish machine gunners turned the landing at Sedd-el-Bahr into a bloody and brutal battle.

6-8 May saw the Second Battle of Krithia, followed on 4 June by the Third. The British command tried another major attack on 6 August 1915 at the only-modestly-defended Sulva Bay, hoping to take the area around the Bay, join up with the Anzacs and allow 63,000 Allied troops to land. The Anzacs couldn’t break the deadlock at their position in time and the British were pushed back. A similarly disastrous attack on 21 August occurred at Scimitar Hill, as allies were again repulsed by the well organised and determined Turkish Army.

“Six Before Breakfast” - Gallipoli VC Winners

The morning of 25 April 1915 saw one of the most courageous actions ever performed by the British Armed Forces take place, at a beach close to Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Half a dozen Victoria Crosses (VCs) - the famous “Six Before Breakfast” - were eventually handed out in recognition of the bravery shown by the 1st Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers.

While six were nominated, only three received citations in August 1915; citations for the remaining three gazetted in March 1917 following lobbying from their battalion.

This capture of “W Beach” came at a terrible price - The Lancashire Fusiliers had started the day with 27 officers and 1002 other men. Twenty-four hours later, a head-count revealed just 16 officers and 304 men.

The Six

Richard Willis

Capt Willis led C Company, and was one of several survivors to record events of the day:

"Not a sign of life was to be seen on the peninsula in front of us...Then crack!…Rapid fire, machine-guns and deadly-accurate sniping opened from the cliffs above and soon the casualties included the rest of the crew and many men."

Born in Woking, Surrey on 13 October 1876, he attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and was commissioned in 1897.

Although Willis landed unscathed, he was later wounded in action and evacuated to Egypt and then the UK, but following recovery was promoted to major serving on the Western Front at the Somme, Messines and Passchendaele.

Retiring from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 1920, he joined the RAF as an education officer in Palestine, later becoming a teacher. Falling on hard times, he died in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on 9 February 1966, aged 89.

John Grimshaw

John Elisha Grimshaw was born in Abram, Lancashire, and on 20 January 1893 joined the Lancashire Fusiliers at 19, two years before the outbreak of war.

Corporal Grimshaw's VC was one not gazetted until almost two years after the landing, after renewed pressure on the War Office by those who felt he and the others had been hard done by.

Grimshaw had first been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). Content and unaware that his fellow Fusiliers were campaigning for the decoration to be 'upgraded', when a journalist from the Daily Dispatch told him of his VC, he replied: "Whose leg are you pulling?"

The people of Abram, Lancashire additionally presented him with a gold watch and chain, by which time he was living and working in Hull as a musketry instructor, having been invalided out of the Fusiliers with severe frostbite. He died in Isleworth, London, on 20 July 1980, aged 87.

Alfred Richards

Alfred Joseph Richards was born in Plymouth on 21 June 1879. At aged 14, he enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers (his father's old regiment) as a bandboy, and over the next seven years served in Malta, Gibraltar and Egypt before returning to England, then reenlisting to his old battalion after just two months.

Shot during the beach landings, Sergeant Richards was evacuated to Egypt, where surgeons amputated his right leg above the knee. He returned to England and was discharged on 31 July 1915.

Known as the 'Lonely VC', having had no family and living alone at the Princess Christian Soldiers' and Sailors' Home in Woking when he received his honour, in September 1916 he married his nurse Dora Coombes.

His disability didn't prevent him joining the Home Guard during the Second World War, when he served as a provost sergeant in London. He died in Southfields, London, on 21 May 1953, aged 69.

Captain Cuthbert Bromley

Captain Cuthbert Bromley was born on 19 September 1878 in Seaford, Sussex and was commissioned in 1898, serving in Africa and India for 17 years.

While his back was injured during the landing, he only received medical attention when wounded by a bullet in the knee a few days later. After being further wounded during the Battle of Gully Ravine on 28 June, he was evacuated to Egypt, returning to Gallipoli on board the troopship Royal Edward.

Captain Bromley was killed when the ship was torpedoed by UB-14 on 13 August 1915. His body was never recovered.

Sergeant Frank Edward Stubbs

Sergeant Frank Edward Stubbs was born on 12 March 1888 in Walworth, Surrey, enlisting at a very young age and serving in India before the First World War.

He was killed in action later during the landing on 25 April 1915, but his citation for the Victoria Cross wasn’t gazetted until 15 March 1917.

"Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Capt. Willis, Serjt. Richards, and Pte. Kenealy/Captain Bromley, Serjeant Stubbs, and Corporal Grimshaw have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty."

He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial and his VC is displayed at the Fusilier Museum in Bury, Lancashire.

Private William Keneally

Pte William Keneally was born on 26 December 1886 in Wexford, Ireland. His family moved to Lancashire, and after 10 years in the 'pits' he enlisted in the army in 1909 for a seven-year term.

His VC was gazetted on 24 August 1915 for his role in the landing at “W” Beach:

"The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained."

Shortly after the landing, he was promoted to corporal and then to lance-sergeant. Seriously wounded in the Battle of Gully Ravine on 28 June 1915, he died the next day. He is buried at Lancashire Landing Cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Leave a Message of Commemoration

You can leave your own tribute message or add a story about a Gallipoli casualty on the Legion's Every Man Remembered website, on which all British and Allied Service men and women from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and memorials are listed.

Evacuation from Gallipoli

A change of command following the defeat at Scimitar Hill led to the evacuation of all Allied forces. Planned in absolute secrecy, it was the one successful operation of the campaign with no further casualties. Evacuation of Sulva Bay and the Anzac position (‘Anzac Cove’), took place from 19 December to 20 December 1915. Helles was evacuated 8-9 January 1916.

Around 200,000 Allied casualties occurred, including the deaths of over 56,000 sailors and soldiers of Britain, the Commonwealth and the Empire, many caused by disease. The number of Turkish deaths and casualties were very similar.

There are 31 Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries on the Dardanelles. Those men whose bodies were never found are commemorated on memorials at Helles, Lone Pine and elsewhere on the old battlefields. Numerous soldiers received awards for their acts of bravery, including a large number of VCs.

Although the Turkish Army was nearly destroyed by the events at Gallipoli, one of its young officers, Colonel Mustapha Kemel, emerged as a key leader, going on to become the leader of Turkey. In 1930 he made the following address to the families of Allied soldiers:

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies {Allied soldiers} and the Mehmets {Turkish soldiers} to us, where they lie, side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well."

Gallipoli was the Turks' greatest victory of the war. In London, the campaign's failure led to Winston Churchill’s demotion and contributed to the collapse of Prime Minister Asquith's government. The campaign proved a galvanizing national experience for Australia and New Zealand, which had not previously fought in a major conflict. As a result, the anniversary of the landings, April 25, is celebrated as ANZAC Day, both nations' most significant day of military remembrance.

The Spirit of Anzac

While many who planned the Gallipoli campaign would likely have wanted to forget it had ever happened, the 17,000 Australian and New Zealand troops who took part in the fighting there would remember it with pride. It was the first major military campaign for these new nations and their brave and dogged performance there secured their reputation as tough, versatile soldiers. Although there was no military victory, the Australians displayed great courage, endurance, initiative, discipline, and mateship. Such qualities came to be seen as the Anzac spirit, which many saw as having been born of egalitarianism and mutual support.

According to the stereotype, the Anzac rejected unnecessary restrictions, possessed a sardonic sense of humour, was contemptuous of danger, and proved himself the equal of anyone on the battlefield. A spirit still invoked by Australians and New Zealanders to this day.

Ways to Commemorate and Remember

National Memorial Arboretum

The Gallipoli Memorial can be visited for reflection and commemoration all year at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Remembrance Tours

Remembrance Travel, the travel arm of the Legion, have a centenary tour to Gallipoli in September 2015, and also schedule tours to the National Memorial Arboretum.

Anzac Day 25 April 2015

Cenotaph Ceremony & Service, London

HM The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh and The Duke of Cambridge attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph in London, followed by a Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.

Dawn Service, Hyde Park Corner, London

A 60-minute service starting at 5.00am took place at the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner - the location of the Australian and New Zealand War Memorials - on Saturday 25 April, with HRH The Princess Royal in attendance.

Commemorations in Turkey

HRH The Prince of Wales, accompanied by Prince Harry, attended a Commonwealth and Ireland Commemorative Service at the CWGC Cape Helles Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey on Friday 24 April, and also attended the Anzac Day service the next day.