EXCITING LANDING AT THE DARDANELLES
A Badsey man, Private C.H.Crane, of the 4th Worcesters, writing an account of his experiences to his wife, says:
“We first came into action on the Sunday morning of April 25. We disembarked off the Aragon on to a mine-sweeper but after going some distance we lay to for about an hour, while the fleet, notably HMS Elizabeth, opened a terrific bombardment on the Turkish trenches and forts. At last two of our platoons put off in a small boat to try and make a landing. Rowing in the direction of where a transport had been run ashore for the purpose of assisting the boarding party, they at once came under heavy fire, and from where we were we could plainly see that they had walked into a death trap. The Brigade General and Major, who were the first to attempt a landing, were shot dead, with others; the rest threw themselves flat on the boats and thus remained for many hours. While this was going on the Turks big guns had been getting a range on the mine-sweeper on which we were, so it was decided to alter our position. After this had been done order came for the rest to attempt a landing higher up. This we started to do, and we succeeded in landing, though the bullets were dropping all around. Here a terrible sight we beheld, for the Lancashire Fusiliers and Essex had made a landing earlier in the day, and their dead strewed the shore. We found what remained of them holding the position above which they had taken with the bayonet, though at what cost and against what odds God alone knows. Here we started on our first serious work, and commenced to drive the enemy back with rifle fire and bayonet. We soon found that they had a great dislike for cold steel, and so continued to use it as much as possible. Thus night came on, and some attempt was made to get a bit of rest: but it was not to be, the enemy took up the attack in the night and attempted to regain their lost ground. At last, however, they were repulsed. The following morning found us lined out under what cover it was possible to get, shivering with cold, as it had been raining. It was a relief to get the order to advance. This we did for some distance, and soon found ourselves in close touch with the enemy. Here we had to take to the trenches the enemy had evacuated, and we found ourselves creeping knee deep in mud and slime. We continued this movement for some distance till we found it possible to get cover behind some rising ground. From here we continued the assault for some time, till with fixed bayonets we managed to drive the enemy out.
MORE THRILLING EXPERIENCES
“Here,” continues Private Crane, “we took up our position for the rest of the day, entrenching ourselves and burying the dead, while others were told off to get water. This we found was to be got at the place where the first attempt at landing had been made, water having been landed there in tanks from the boats. Here the Munster and Dublin Fusiliers had paid a heavy debt, as could be seen by the dead bodies which strew the shore. Here the rest of our company joined us, having been through a terrible time, but, as we were glad to see, with few casualties. No more fighting occurred this day, only a few snipers paying us a few compliments at times, so we were able to get our own mess tins on and brew some tea and take a “snack” (the first since we landed). Night coming on we attempted to take a rest, after some had been told off to watch. But we were hardly dozing off when bullets started whistling over our heads and we had to stand to. Thus the night passed with occasional attacks – just enough to keep us awake till morning broke, and the enemy withdrew. The morning pased uneventfully, with the exception of shells and schrapnel, which the enemy would persist with droppimg around us, but without many casualties. About noon we started to advance in artillery formation, with the French (who landed that morning) on our right flank and the Essex, Hants and Scots on our left. Tho our surprise we found no opposition, with the eexception of schrapnel and shell, so that we advanced two miles two miles before entrenching ourselves on a low ridge overlooking the valley to the fort, which was our objective. Here we found a beautiful spring of clear water, and we succeeded in getting a good brew of tea, before settling down for the night, which passed uneventfully except for a few prowling snipers, who continued to annoy our peaceful dreams. We were early afoot and soon learnt that an attempt was to be made to take the fort. Extending out we started to advance, and soon found that the hill was simply alive with the enemy, who were strongly entrenched and had a great number of machine guns, which I might say were used to great advantage by the German gunners. These were our stumbling block and every advance we made was simply slaughter, as they poured lead into our midst, so we had to be content with holding the ground we had so dearly won. This we did for several hours, till the French on our right started to retire, thus leaving us in danger of being enfiladed on our right, so we were compelled to retreat after them. Night found us in the same position we had left that morning to answer a very poor roll call. It could now be seen that advance was impossible with the small force we had, which was scarecely 5000, against ten times that number of the enemy, who had the position. It was finally decided to hang on to what we had got, until we could get our artillery and reinforcements to help us.”
LIKE RABBITS TO THEIR HOLES
The fifth and sixth days proved quiet, with the exception of shrapnel, the enemy being content to stop in their trenches, for which we were grateful., inasmuch as it gave us a chance of getting a much needed rest,. Meantime reinforcements had been steadily coming up, so that on the seventh day we retired to the supports, while other units took our places in the firing line. Under cover of night the enemy made a tremendous assault on our lines, and more by trickery than fair play succeeded in breaking through, but after some sharp hand to hand fighting, we at last inflicted a severe defeat, and sent them scurrying like rabbits to their holes, leaving the dead and dying in heaps. Here was seen the terrible work the Ghurkha can do, as some of the bodies of the dead showed. In the afternoon a party of the enemy were seen advancing with a flag of truce, begging leave for twenty-four hours to bury their dead. This was granted, so we had nothing to do but watch them busy digging graves, as we thought, but alas! It was another German trick. When morning broke we found them occupying these same graves, which were in reality trenches. But fair play comes out on top in the finish, as was seen during the next two hours. Our artillery, after a few sighting shots to get the distance, simply buried them where they were, and those who did manage to scramble out were mowed down by our machine and rifle fire. After this we took up the offence again and once more started to advance, which we continued to do during the next few days. The fourteenth day found me close to the village where I was taken ill, and had to go back to the base hospital.”