Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

The Story of the Royal Scots
Chapter XX - First Year of the Great War, 1915:
The Dardanelles


An Epic of Territorials—The Fifth (Queen's) in the 29th Division—The Fight for the Landing — Captain Maclagan’s Narrative—Saving the Situation on June i9-—The Storming of the Gully Ravine on June 28—The Fighting during July—"Achieving the Impossible.”

On the eve of the departure of the incomparable 29th Division for the Gallipoli Peninsula, General Sir Ian Hamilton issued the following message—

"Soldiers of France and the King,—

”We are now about to embark on an enterprise which will have an important effect on the great war, and which will bring it one step further to a glorious end. We are about to land on the shores of an enemy's country, which has been vaunted by them as impregnable. Forts will be stormed. The whole eyes of the world will be upon us, and it lies upon us to carry out the feat of arms which has been entrusted to us.

”‘Remember,’ said Lord Kitchener before bidding adieu to the Commander, *remember, once you set foot on the Gallipoli Peninsula you must fight it through to a finish.'”

At the same time each man of the Division received a personal note from Major-General Hunter-Weston, in command of the Division, in which the following striking sentences occur—

“The eyes of the world are upon us, and your deeds will live in history.

“To us now is given an opportunity of avenging our friends and relatives who have fallen in France and Flanders.

“ . . .if each man feels, as is true, that on him individually, however small or however great his task, rests the success or failure of the expedition, and, therefore, the honour of the Empire and the welfare of his own folk at home, we are certain to win through to a glorious victory.

"In Nelson’s time it was England, now it is the whole Empire, which expects that each man of us will do his duty.”

Truly the deeds of the Division will live in history, and part of this history was made by the Fifth Royal Scots. These Edinburgh Territorials, locally known as the “Queen’s,” were brought in by the fortune of war to make the Twelfth Battalion of the immortal —th Division.1 Their deeds, within sight of the windy plains of Troy, since April 25, 1915, “may have stirred the ghost of Homer to sing their valour.”

The Fourth and Seventh Battalions have also done notable service, but as they arrived on the field somewhat later, the deeds of the Fifth may be described first. It left England on March 21, 1915. Alexandria was reached on Good Friday, and on Easter Sunday the battalion disembarked, but remained in Egypt only ten days. At 6 a.m. on Sunday, April 25, the Lancashire Fusiliers landed on W Beach, since known as Lancashire Landing, and The Royals were not long in following them.

By the evening of Tuesday, April 27, the Allies had established themselves on a line some three miles long, and from left to right (facing the Turks). The positions were 87th, 86th and 88th Brigades (with The Royals), and four French battalions. At eight o’clock on the morning of Wednesday a vigorous forward movement was made against Krithia, despite the fact that the troops had enjoyed no proper rest since the landing. The progress amounted to nearly three miles, but about 11.30 a.m. the 88th Brigade was held up by the stubbornness of the opposition, and a dearth of ammunition. The hope of winning Achi Baba had to be abandoned for the time, Krithia was not taken, and counter-attacks by the Turks robbed the Allies of some of their gains. The Fifth suffered heavily throughout the day, the losses including Captain Hepburn, the Adjutant, who fell while he was telling his men to keep their heads down. “We all,” says a N.C.O., “regarded Captain Hepburn as the perfect soldier.” It was during this retirement that Colonel Wilson was wounded. He fell, and the fight passed over him. I am able to give the detailed story in his own words—

”Rushing forward with a line of men, we lay down and were immediately fired on by a sniper from behind, at a distance of not more than twenty yards. I was wounded in the wrist by his first shot, which splintered on the rock. The second went through my arm. This must have been about 11 a.m. A fellow victim was our excellent Mess Sergeant—Sgt. Allsopp—who lay mortally hit a few paces away. Knowing that movement would produce further shooting, I lay on my back till dusk fell, hearing the sounds of battle wavering to and fro, but all the while believing that the British had reached Krithia. All was quiet, and after a struggle of almost two hours, I got rid of equipment, and leaving a few water-bottles with my fellow sufferers, I went to seek the ambulance wc had hoped for so long. Reaching the road, I turned towards Kritnia, and passed numerous badly wounded Turks who had crawled there. At last a more able-bodied Turk was reached. Carefully inspecting him while covering him with my revolver, I, by signs, offered him money to lead me to the British camp. Indignantly he refused, pointing to himself, and making some sign, and then to me, making sign of the Cross, indicating our difference in faith. This made me think that the troops were the fanatic Asiatic Turks, and so, when two minutes later a sentry challenged, I turned and ran along with what speed my condition allowed. A cry from the sentry brought at least thirty men out, who ran parallel with the road, and cut off my way to the right, which I judged to be the direction of our camp. Desperately I dived into the low scrub on left of road, though the bright moonlight gave little hope of cover, but hardly had I gone a hundred yards when I saw a small hole and dropped in exhausted, pulling the earth and vegetation round me. Almost miraculously, it seemed, their search failed, and after much discharging of rifles, silence reigned. The long night wore on, an icy rain fell for two hours, my wounds stiffened, and my hunger was appeased by lozenges. At last the dawn, an hour after which I judged would be the safest hour to escape. I found myself unable to move, owing to the earth having caked with rain. Digging with my clasp-knife at length released me, and I crawled, now unable to walk, to the bed of a little stream, and with many pauses and much care, wriggled thence to near the road, where I could look round the country. I was spotted several times, but the Turks were too busy looting bodies to come after me. The sun by this time had revived my strength, and when at least one and a half miles away, I saw British troops moving in regular lines (it turned out they were systematically hunting snipers), I determined to risk all, and got to my feet. All went well until I was within half a mile of our troops, when two bullets in succession whizzed by. Experience had taught me that a sniper will not fire on a dead or badly wounded man, and when the third bullet came, I fell, simulating disablement, in such a way. as to be able to watch our men. Four hours later two approached within a hundred yards, and I shouted and waved. They were about to shoot me, as my very dishevelled condition suggested a Turk, but curiosity prevailed. They were men of the 1st Essex—I was saved. With all tenderness they brought me in first to their headquarters, and then to mine, and by midnight I was on an hospital ship.”

At six in the evening the order was given to entrench and consolidate what had been won, and this work was continued on April 29 and 30.

Meanwhile reinforcements had been landed, none too soon, for at 10 p.m. on May 1 the Turks delivered a series of desperate attacks. The enemy were exhorted by their German masters to fling the British into the sea, and advanced with the utmost violence.

Let Sir Ian Hamilton 1 continue the story—

“This first momentum of this ponderous onslaught fell upon the right of the 86th Brigade, an unlucky spot, seeing all the officers thereabouts had already been killed or wounded. So when the Turks came right on without firing and charged into the trenches with the bayonet they made an ugly gap in the line.

“This gap was instantly filled by The Fifth Royal Scots (Territorials), who faced to their flank and executed a brilliant bayonet charge against the enemy, and by the Essex Regiment detached for the purpose by the Officer Commanding 88th Brigade. The rest of the British line held its own with comparative ease, and it was not found necessary to employ any portion of the reserve.”

The French were the next to feel the brunt, but by five o'clock in the morning of May 2 a British counter-offensive was ordered, which drove the Turks back, but did not succeed in retaining the ground won.

The loss in numbers was not serious during the night attack, but included three valuable and experienced officers killed, Captains Lindsay and Russell and Acting Adjutant Lieutenant Smith.

In a diary kept by a captain in the Army Service Corps, upon which I have been allowed to draw (referred to later as Captain X ’s diary), I find the following story of the help given by the Fifth to another regiment—

”A party of , having lost all their officers and N.C.O.'s, and running short of ammunition, broke before the Turkish advance and ran. I cannot blame them, odds were against them, they were tired, unnerved, and had no leader. I mention this to record a fine piece of work done by The Royal Scots Territorial Battalion, two platoons of which, led by their officers, immediately charged the captured trenches, and retook them at the point of the bayonet, thus straightening the line.”

Another account of the work of the “Queen’s” in these momentous days of the opening of the Gallipoli campaign is given in a letter from Captain D. C. Maclagan. The command of the battalion fell to him on two occasions, owing to casualties amongst the senior officers; and his narrative carries the doings of the Fifth up to May 18, when he was wounded.

“From the transport at 10 a.m. on April 25 we went by a mine-sweeper close inshore. From there we got into boats and landed in shallow water. Immediately we got on shore we got into a loose formation, as much under cover as possible. Only two companies—W and Y—came on shore, the others being in other boats. W Company (under me) was in the trenches from Sunday evening till Tuesday morning under heavy fire and constant attacks by the Turks. We advanced (still two companies) on Tuesday, 27th, as reserve to our brigade, and at dark had gone about three miles inland. We entrenched for the night. On Wednesday the advance was resumed (we still being in reserve), and then we were properly in the thick of it. The reserves were getting the worst of the high-aimed fire from the Turks all day. We pressed forward about two miles, and all got into the firing line. During the day Colonel Wilson and Major M'Donald were wounded, and Captain Hepburn, the Adjutant, was killed. We had other heavy casualties, several junior officers being killed and wounded, and practically the whole of the headquarters of the battalion being wiped out. . . .

“Eventually we had to retire again in the evening practically to our own position of the night before or perhaps about 200 yards ahead of it. Next day we were in reserve to the French and some of our own brigade, and came in for trouble at night as usual, but there were no casualties. On April 30 we were transferred to general reserve behind the front line trenches, and though we had a lot of work and one or two scares, nothing happened. On May 1 there was a heavy attack by Turks (about 37,000 I believe) and we had to make a night charge on our own initiative. We unfortunately didn’t get all the Turks, and they got behind us and fired into us, causing a lot of casualties before we got them cleared out. We got a good deal of praise for that night’s work, and as a special honour got the most difficult point in the line to hold for the next two nights. We were heavily attacked, but we repulsed everything with practically no casualties. Captain Muir had joined us with Z Company on May 2, but I kept him two nights in

reserve to get his men accustomed to fire. I rejoined him on May 4, and at night Captain Macintosh, with X Company, joined us, and took over command of the battalion. In reserve all May 5, we moved to the attack on the 6th, and poor MacIntosh was killed before we got up to our position. We were still in reserve when he was hit.

"Again I took command, and brought the battalion forward at night to the firing line. Next day we were ordered to take possession of a wood in front of us ' at all costs.’ We did it, and held it for six hours, but had to leave go. After half-an-hour’s bombardment by the Fleet, three regiments tried it, and after going through, came back and entrenched on one side of it. We haven’t got it yet. I lost Aitchison killed and a lot wounded. Next day the wood was tried again by New Zealanders with no better luck, and very heavy casualties, and we were ordered to support. Here again we met trouble, and could not get forward. Paterson and Robertson were both wounded, and several men killed and wounded. The following day we hung on the front line till night, when we were relieved by the New Zealanders, and the following morning we went back two miles to get our first rest. Here I wanted a Padre, as the first thought most of us had was a service of thanksgiving for our lives. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one till Wednesday, when the Rev. John Wallace Ross, from Dunedin, came to the rescue, and held a service for us.

“We spent the rest of the week refitting and road-making, and on Sunday, May 16, took over the front line again, with orders to push forward by every possible means. We made considerable progress next day, and on Tuesday, 18th, while I was about 150 yards in front with Captain Macrae, I received my bullet. Here my narrative of necessity stops.

“Our men were simply splendid. They would do anything for us, and I can only call it whole-hearted devotion to duty. There was no thought of glory or honour in their work, but constant endeavour to do the right thing at the right time. They have made a great name for themselves in the 29th Division, to which we had the honour to belong. Edinburgh may well be proud of them.”

This narrative has only to be read to make Edinburgh, and all who love Edinburgh, full of a just pride in the deathless exploits of the City’s Territorials.

Be it ever remembered that they are not professional soldiers, but men drawn from civilian pursuits, who have devoted their small leisure to make themselves so efficient that they have done no less than the Regulars to make immortal the name of the 29th Division in Gallipoli. The official account of the doings described by Captain Maclagan is given by Sir Ian Hamilton in his dispatch of August 26, and he refers to the way the Fifth “carried the fir trees with a rush.” Before the later work of the “Queen’s  is described, an extract must be given from the letter of Private Walter Meal, of Y Company. This company was separated from the battalion at the beginning, because it was detailed for loading and unloading the transport waggons, but soon joined the rest of the battalion. Private Meal’s account of one of the great attacks has the true ring of an eyewitness’s story, and is given to establish the conditions of this heroic campaign.

“As we made our way by short rushes up a kind of gully, with the continual whiz I whiz I of the bullets over our heads and the shriek of the shrapnel as the shells tore through the air, we had our first baptism of fire.

“For a little we made ourselves scarce behind the cover thrown up for two of our machine guns, waiting the word for a further advance. While there wc witnessed the constant stream of wounded, who came straggling down the gully with bloodstained clothing and bandages round heads, arms, and legs.

“Then came the word for the “Fifth ” to advance by companies. The little gorge to which wc were to advance and entrench ourselves lay across a stretch of open ground about 500 or 600 yards to our left front, so on the word of command we extended to eight paces, and made the first rush of about fifty yards and lay flat. In this manner we gradually covered the ground between us and the gorge.

“At every rush the enemy’s machine guns would open on us, accompanied by a perfect hail of bullets from the riflemen, and some of our comrades would topple over and lie still never to move again, or would sit up and try to stop the flow of blood from a wound in the leg or the hand.

“The straggling lines which kept arriving in the gorge were met by a cheer from their comrades already established there, and digging as hard as they could. ”

I also take from Captain X ’s diary an extract which adds reality to the glories and horrors of the doings of the Fighting Fifth—

“Royal Scots Territorials did exceptionally well in recent fighting. One of their sergeants was found dead, still holding his rifle by the barrel, and his bayonet lying alongside of him broken. Five Turks lay dead in a semicircle with their heads smashed in by the butt end of his rifle. This man held a good position in Edinburgh in civil life.”

But we must not imagine that there is nothing but grim incident in the doings of these gallant gentlemen. From the same source I extract the following, under date May 29—

"Paid a visit to The Royal Scots Mess in a topping dug-out . Most hospitable crowd, and the Colonel a delightful chap.’'

True Edinburgh hospitality is as much at home in Gallipoli as within a mile of Princes Street.

But I am anticipating.

Captain Maclagan’s narrative shows the very severe fighting in which the Fifth took part between May 4 and May 11, when the Brigade moved back to reserve trenches for a rest. By May 16 the Headquarters of the Brigade were moved further to left of firing line about half a mile beyond a point known as Pink Farm; and on the 19th the Brigade was a mile in front of the Farm. On June 4 an advance was made towards Krithia, of between 200 and 400 yards on a front of three miles.

The 29th Division with the Royal Naval and the 42nd Divisions and the French Corps made an assault after a heavy bombardment and the French captured the Haricot Redoubt on the right. The Fifth Royal Scots were in the 88th Brigade.

"On the left the 29th Division met with more difficulty. All along the section of the 88th Brigade the troops jumped out of their trenches at noon and charged across the open at the nearest Turkish trench. In most places the enemy crossed bayonets with our men, and inflicted severe loss upon us. But the 88th Brigade was not to be denied. The Worcester Regiment was the first to capture trenches, and the remainder of the 88th Brigade, though at first held up by flanking as well as fronting fire, also pushed on doggedly until they had fairly made good the whole of the Turkish first line. ’

From June 10 to 12 the Brigade was resting at Gully Beach, but the lines were much troubled by big shells coming over from the Turkish guns on the Asiatic shore. On the 13th they were back in the trenches.

On June 16 the Turks made an assault on the trenches of the 88th Brigade, but were repulsed after bitter fighting. On the evening of the 18th the enemy began a violent bombardment, but the attack by their infantry failed except that they managed to get into an awkward salient which had remained in our hands after the action of June 4. To the Fifth and a company of the Worcesters fell the task of coming to the aid of the 9th Manchesters and clearing out the Turks. And most gloriously they did it, with Lieut.-Colonel Wilson at their head. Captain Alex Macrae specially distinguished himself on this occasion and was wounded. It was to this brilliant achievement that Lord Kitchener referred in his telegram, dated June 21, to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh—

"Sir Ian Hamilton has specially reported to me in terms of high praise the gallantry and determination displayed by The Fifth Battalion Royal Scots under the capable leadership of their Colonel in a recent counter attack on a Turkish trench on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Sir Ian states that the attack was ably organized and brilliantly carried to a successful issue in conjunction with a company of the Worcester Regiment. The people of Edinburgh will be proud, I am sure, to learn of the prowess displayed by one of their own battalions."

This was praise indeed, for the Secretary for War does not send his congratulations without very special cause. Hardly less significant are the thanks from the units to whose aid the Fifth came so opportunely—

"88th Brigade Orders, 196/15: ‘The 42nd Division express their gratitude for their services in re-taking trenches captured by the Turks.'"

For his part in this fine piece of work the Colonel of the Fifth was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and the following is the official record—

“Lieut.-Colonel James Thomas Rankine Wilson, ist-5th Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles), Territorial Force, for conspicuous ability and resource on Tune 19, 1915. during operations in the neighbourhood of Knthia (Dardanelles), where he reorganized and carried out the recapture of a Turkish trench from which the troops of another division had been forced back. The success gained was due to Lieut.-Colonel Wilson’s skilful and bold leading and his prompt assumption of responsibility.”

From Captain X ’s diary I take the following note, which gives an idea of the fury of the conflict—

“Bombs were used freely, and when The Royal Scots had got to the foremost trench, at one time Turks and British both occupied the same trench, the Turks hastily erected a barricade in the trench itself to protect them from The Royal Scots, who, however, quickly drove them out by bombs.”

From the same source I add this extract, which shows the rapid alternation between struggle and comparative quiet. The diarist dates his entry June 20, immediately after the savage fighting just described.

“This afternoon I walked along under the cliff to Gully Beach to see the Brigade which has now gone into reserve for a rest. The Padre of The Royal Scots was holding evening prayers and preaching a sermon as I passed along. As I was at X Beach severe shrapnel burst over the cliff, two officers, one man, and a horse being wounded. A piece hit the heel of the boot of The Royal Scots Padre as he was conducting his service.”

So far the story of The Royal Scots in Gallipoli is the story of the Fifth, but two more battalions were now to fight shoulder to shoulder with them. The Fourth started out for its first spell of the trenches on the evening of June 18, being detailed to relieve the Fifth, but only got half way and sheltered for the night in some disused trenches. The reason for the delay was the sharp action just described. From the 19th until the 24th the Fourth did trench duty, and the following extract from a private's letter shows how valuable the fine marksmanship of the Edinburgh Territorials has proved—

"Now about our duties in the trenches. Our part of the trenches is 500 or 600 yards from that of the Turks. . . . Ordinarily, things are quiet during the day except for sniping, and firing is started at dark, continuing till daybreak. We have had very few casualties in the trenches. Some of our crack shots have accounted for a number of Turkish snipers. There are a number of enemy snipers in a redoubt near our trench. I watched them building up their parapet through the periscope, and then had a pot at them.”

It seems invidious to particularize where skill and courage were so common, but as an incident of June 21 was marked in Divisional Orders, it may be quoted as one example out of many—

”Major-General G. G. A. Egerton, C.B., commanding the Division,I  congratulates and thanks Company Quartermaster-Sergcant Dewar, Fourth Battalion Royal Scots, on the good work performed by Sergeant Dewar in discovering and killing with the first shot a Turkish sniper in rear of firing line on June 21, 1915, thereby proving that Sergeant Dewar's skill and proficiency as King's Prizeman was of eminent value to his country in the field.

*Major-General Egerton has been further desired by Licut.-Gcneral Hunter-Weston, C.B., to add his congratulations, and to say that Sergeant Dewar never made as good a bull's-eye at Bisley as he did on this occasion.”

One of his comrades put it more shortly, with “When Dewar fires, it is sudden death,” and the Turks paid him the compliment of detailing a machine gun for his destruction, happily without the desired effect.

It is well to emphasize the fact that all the weary hours spent on ranges acquiring proficiency in shooting have brought a fine harvest of military success to those who showed such fine perseverance.

We now come to a date which deserves as brilliant a red letter in The Royal Scots Calendar as any— June 28.

On that day Sir Ian Hamilton launched an attack against the northern part of the Turkish defences on the strongly fortified ridge of Achi Baba. His plan was to capture two lines of trenches east of the Saghir Dere, and five lines west of it. The Saghir Dere, more simply known as the Gully Ravine, is a deep ravine which runs inland from Gully Beach, and almost parallel with the seashore. The action began at 9 a.m. with a heavy bombardment of the enemy’s trenches from land and sea. At 10.45 the infantry advanced, the Border Regiment leaping from their trenches as one man, like a pack of hounds, and, racing across, took the Boomerang Redoubt, a small advanced Turkish fort. Fifteen minutes later the 87th Brigade rushed two lines of trenches between the ravine and the sea, and the Fourth and Seventh Royal Scots did the same on the right (i. e. east) of the ravine. Still further to the right, the 7th and 8th Scottish Rifles were so very heavily opposed that they failed to make good their holding.

The Fourth Royals were only just out of their trenches when Lieut.-Colonel Dunn fell, wounded by a bullet, but his voice was still clearly heard: “Go on, Queen’s!” The first trench was stormed, and the few Turks remaining in it alive were quickly accounted for. Lieutenant Grant was hit as he was heading for the second trench. He got back into the first Turkish trench, and while he was lying there he heard a voice calling him by name. Looking around he saw his Colonel some distance away, and crawled towards him. The Colonel had been wounded on the leg, and had bandaged the wound himself. Lieutenant Grant helped Colonel Dunn as far as he could, and then crawled back for stretcher-bearers. Unhappily the Colonel was afterwards struck again and killed before he could be taken to the rear.

Many had fallen before the first trench was taken, but the wounded cheered their comrades on. Major Henderson and Captain Pollock had been killed by shell which burst in their trench before the advance had begun. To those who went to Major Henderson’s assistance, he said, “I am finished: never mind me; attend to the men.” The private who reported these words, added, ”He was a splendid soldier,” and—the words may be colloquial, but they ring with sincerity— ”a proper toff.”

Captain McCrae was in command of the reserve company which had the duty of consolidating the trenches as they were taken.

A heavy enfilade fire was playing havoc with The Royals in a captured trench, and he said to his men: “ Do you see that trench there? Well, they've got to be put out of that. Come on, boys ! ” Over they went, and as they neared the parapet Captain McCrae received a bullet through the head. This trench was full of Turks, who did not wait till The Royals got in, but very few escaped.

Captain George Ross died at the head of his men at the most advanced point reached by the battalion. Indeed The Royals in their fervour did more than was required of them. Two trenches, according to the order, were to be taken, but, in the words of one of the wounded, the men seemed to go mad, and they took four trenches from the Turks before halting. The fourth trench was enfiladed, and had to be given up, but over iooo yards were taken that day. General Ian Hamilton sent a message, "Well done, Royal Scots.”

Bomb-throwing played an important part in the action, and is shown by the account of Private Herbert T. Grant, of B Company—

"I noticed a communication trench at right angles to the one we held, and a little further down choked with Turks, so I grabbed the bag of bombs again, and went down to the place. Fortunately Corporal Ranken (grenade corporal) was there, and we threw them at the Turks as fast as I could light them. Poor Lieutenant Considine was lying close by badly hurt, but still shouting at us to keep it up.

"Then there was an explosion which sent me flying. I managed to crawl up the trench a bit, and a fellow bandaged me up.”

Other officers of the Fourth who fell in this splendid fight were Major Gray, Captains J. Robertson and R. Rutherford, and Lieutenants W. J. Johnstone and R. E. Mackie.

The battalion did its duty and paid the price. It has heaped war honours upon peace reputation. Always foremost in shooting, big in strength and sound in efficiency, the First Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles crowned all with its losses of valuable and noble lives at the Gully Ravine. It is also to be remembered that the Sixth Battalion played a great part in this fight, for two of its companies were attached to the Fourth and led the charge. Let Lieut. F. B. Mackenzie tell how they acquitted themselves.

“They were the first to go over the parapet into the blizzard of steel and nickel and lead. They never hesitated or faltered for a second. On they swept, carrying everything before them. The Turks lucky enough to survive the charge should always remember the name of Royal Scot. Captain Ross fell at the head of his gallant men facing great odds, but not until his company had done their job. I did not sec him fall, nor did I sec poor Donald Aitchison. I was in charge of the machine guns, and perhaps you would notice in the late Lieutenant Lyell’s (7th R.S.) letter that he gave great praise to the 6th's machine guns. He apparently knew me as the 6th M.G. officer, and as I was alongside him in the captured trenches with the guns he naturally gave the 6th credit, saying, ‘ The 6th machine gun was with us, and did splendid work.’ I only wish that the whole of the 6th had been with us to share the great glory of The Royal Scots. Nor did I see poor George McCrae fall, but from all reports of his men he was giving them a glorious lead. So nave perished two most gallant officers. Of no two officers did the men think more.

Of the Seventh Battalion1 (formerly the First Midlothian Royal Volunteers), commanded by Lieut.-Colonel Carmichael Peebles, which fought side by side with the Fourth and Sixth, no less can be said. C Company was to lead the assault. How it did its work can best be told in the words of an eyewitness—

“At 10.30 all the guns in the place were pouring forth, assisted by battleships, and the Turks were replying with all they had. The din was terrific, and words cannot possibly describe it. Promptly at 11 a.m. the bayonet charge started. The 7th Royal Scots, under Captain Dawson, Captain Peebles, and five subs, climbed over the firing line parapet, and advanced in great style, cheering and yelling. A moment later the second line, under Captain Torrance, and Lieutenant Ballan-tync, followed, and a moment after that the third line, under Captain Clark, tore after them. The first and second lines captured the first Turkish trench, lay down, and opened rapid fire. When the third line got forward they rose and advanced with us, and we took the second trench with another wild rush.

. . . We at once threw up barricades, and put on two good shots in case Mr. Turk tried to visit us, but he did not do so. Reinforcements arrived, and we were all right then, and started to consolidate our position by turning the Turkish trench about turn, and making it a fire trench against them. At midnight Regulars came in and relieved us for a sleep. . . . During the afternoon the Turks endeavoured to mass and get forward with a counter attack, but what with rapid fire and machine guns we simply mowed them down in hundreds. Their losses must have been enormous. Through the ravine on our immediate left their dead bodies were lying piled in thick and confused heaps. Our advance had driven them out of two elaborate trenches and out of this ravine, which looks as if it had been a kind of headquarters for them.”

We may also view the fight through the eyes of another who took part in it and was wounded,1 Second Lieutenant David Lyell—

“I was standing with my eye on my watch, and just on eleven was going to give the word to advance, when from the right I saw a movement, so shouted, ‘ Come on,’ and over the parapet the whole Company went like one man. We had about 150 yards to go to the first trench, to take that, and then about 250 yards to the next one. As soon as we started the Turkish artillery opened out on us a perfect rain of shrapnel, and some machine guns turned on us from somewhere. The first trench took some taking. I know I loosed off all six chambers of my revolver, then the Turks bolted, then we went to the second trench still under this awful fire. The Turks didn’t wait for us there at all, but all fled. The chief thing I remember about the charge is the awful noise.

“After we got to the second trench we had rather an anxious time, as only three subalterns of the 7th got there, and we had all the responsibility of putting the trench into a state of defence. Fortunately the Turks had got such a fright they did not attack again till after dark. Poor Dawson and Jim Thomson were both killed just at the parapet of the second trench. Frank Thomson was very badly hit between the first and second Turkish trenches, and cannot have lived long. We were attacked at night in our trench, but opened fire rapid, and the Turks bolted.

“We got relieved at midnight.”

So much for the Fourth and Seventh and their work east of the ravine, but the Fifth was adding new glories to its record with the 29th Division. The 88th Brigade on the left centre to the west of the ravine captured two lines of trenches with hideous losses.

On the evening of the 28th, the Fifth were ordered to capture part of the trenches where another battalion had failed in the morning. That they also failed is no discredit. Facing a concentrated hurricane of artillery and machine-gun fire, they gallantly made charge alter charge, until Colonel Wilson found himself without a single unwounded officer, and the battalion had less than half its morning strength of 600 men.

(It is worthy of note that more than a month later the 88th Brigade again attacked the same line of trenches of which above were a part, and were repulsed with heavy loss. This second failure illustrated the enormous strength of the Turkish defensive works.)

The 29th Division gained about three quarters of a mile, and Sir Ian Hamilton's Special Force Order, issued on June 29, applies alike to the Fifth Royals and the eleven Regular battalions which have given this division a name not surpassed by that of Wellington’s Peninsular veterans.

“The General Officer Commanding feels sure that he voices the sentiments of every soldier serving with this Army when he congratulates the incomparable 29th Division upon yesterday's splendid attack, carried out, as it was, in a manner more than upholding the best traditions of the distinguished regiments of which it is composed.

"The 29th suffered cruel losses at the first landing. Since then they have never been made up to strength, and they have remained under fire every hour of the night and day for two months on end. Opposed to them were fresh troops, holding line upon line of entrenchments, flanked by redoubts and machine puns.

But when, yesterday, the 29th Division were called upon to advance they dashed forward as eagerly as if this were only their baptismal fire. . Through the entanglements they swept northwards, clearing our left of the enemy for a full thousand yards. Heavily counter-attacked at night, they killed or captured every Turk who had penetrated their incomplete defences, and to-day stand possessed of every yard they had so hardly gained.”

The record may be closed on a gentler note. I quote from a letter of the Rev. Dr. Ewing, Chaplain of the Fourth Royals, written from the trenches soon after the great fight of June 28.

“On Sunday, July 11, after sunset, I walked up to the reserve trenches which the battalion had reached that morning. The men were all gathered together in a little open space, and sat round in the form of a half moon. The stars were very bright, but the night was very dark, and we could see each other only as shadows. The enemy seemed to enter into the spirit of the thing, and left us absolutely in peace. So there in the trenched valley alive with armed men in perfect stillness in the quiet night we held our service.

”We had to sing praise in words familiar to everybody, and, of course, we could not see to read. A few of the lads with good voices stood by me and acted as a choir. I have never heard "All people that on earth do dwell,” ”The Lord’s my Shepherd,” and “O God of Bethel!” sung with deeper feeling. As the music floated away on the light breeze it seemed to rouse the interest of others, and, attracted by the strains, many dim figures moved silently towards us from the surrounding battalions. You can imagine our hearts were stirred as we thought of the brave men gone who had so often worshipped with us in the Grange and in the old Cathedral. We felt in a peculiar way the sense of their presence as we prayed that we might be worthy to cherish the memory of these heroic friends and comrades.”

Heroic friends and comrades truly: Requiescant.

Of the service of The Royals in Gallipoli during July 1915 it is only possible to tell very vaguely, for no official dispatch covering that month is available as I write. A diary of the doings of the Fifth from June 28 to August 4 shows that there was little done except a bout of bombing and counter-bombing at the beginning of July. Most of July the Fifth spent resting at Mudros, and well they had earned it. The casualty lists, however, show that the other battalions were not idle, and as a private in the 8th Highland Light Infantry, attached to the 7th Royal Scots, received the D.C.M. for conspicuous gallantry on July 28, it is clear the fighting was fierce.

A letter of a staff officer, dated July 18, and referring to engagements which took place earlier in the month, shows that the Royals, “ jumping like mountain goats,” have adapted themselves to local conditions not unlike those which confront our brave Italian allies and their Alpini troops.

The letter is so rich in description that I now give it in full—

“I have seen many fine sights in this war, both in France and at the Dardanelles, but nothing so fine as the way in which The Royal Scots advanced to the attack on the Turkish position in the last fighting. At one stage the Scots were nearly outpaced in the rush for the enemy position by one of the Lancashire Fusilier battalions, but somebody called out, "Royal Scots, remember you are second to none." The Scotsmen answered with a ringing cheer, and they swept forward with a rush.

“The enemy concentrated a withering fire from a score of different points, and the hillside seemed to be one mass of little fortresses, each vying with the others for the honour of raining the greatest amount of fire on the attacking force. The losses of the Scots were heavy. Every few minutes they stopped to dress their ranks as best they could, but they were always on again, and each rush carried them nearer to the hidden foe. From ledge to ledge they jumped like so many mountain goats, and the more they were tired at the more they seemed determined to win through.

“For a few seconds they disappeared from view, lost in a hollow of the hillside, and then they appeared in front of a bluff rising up like a wall. If they could scale it the next stage of the journey would be comparatively simple, and we waited in suspense to see what would happen. On the shoulders of comrades, a party of the Scots were hoisted up, and then these assisted their comrades to the same level.

"High up in the sky-line the magnificent line of heroes reformed, and, with levelled bayonets, swept forward to the first-line trenches of the enemy. Shell and machine-gun fire quickened at every point, and the whole hillside seemed wreathed in the flame and smoke of bursting shells, while hundreds of machine guns kept barking away at a terrific rate. It seemed to us that our brave lads up there had taken on an impossible task, but they did not think that. On they swept, and as they came up against the Turkish first line, we could see the enemy stand up to receive the onslaught.

“Rifle fire crackled and sparkled all along the crest, where the enemy were, and the Scots were roughly handled. But their task was now nearly done. For the last time they halted, just a few yards from the enemy’s trenches. They made no attempt to answer the rifle fire, but with bayonets still at the charge, they went forward with one mad rush, and then we saw the enemy stretching away over the crest in full flight. The Scots had achieved the impossible, and from the thrilled onlookers down below a cheer of relief and exultation went up.”

That cheer of exultation will find an echo in the heart of every one who realises the services done to Liberty and the Empire, by the regiment which “ achieves the impossible.”


Return to Book Index Page