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Lancashire Fusiliers, The - Actions in First Great European War (WWI, World War 1) to 1915

Updated on February 5, 2015

Badge of Lancashire Fusiliers

Badge of Lancashire Fusiliers
Badge of Lancashire Fusiliers | Source

On April 25th, 1915, the 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers did deeds on the Turkish frontiers of great endeavour and courage, the like of which had not been done since the Christian Crusades of the fourteenth century.

"It is my conviction that no finer feat of arms has ever been achieved by the British soldier - or any other soldier." - Sir Ian Hamilton (referring to the Lancashire Fusiliers).

The beach in Gallipoli marked W on a contemporary British military map was, of the five at which British forces landed, probably the most difficult to take.

It was just a stretch of sand about three hundred and fifty yards long, and from fifteen to thirty yards wide, and behind it were precipitous rocks, except in the middle, where there were some sand-dunes. Anyone who has been on the coasts of Devon or Kent, in England, could picture the place quite easily.

In normal circumstances one could scramble up to the top of the cliffs without too much difficulty, but the Germans and Turks had turned the beach and cliffs into a death-trap for anyone undertaking the task in April, 1915.

Quote from Froissart

"When the Christian men were all over and nothing tarried behind, and men in the frontiers of Turkey, they greatly rejoiced and desired greatly to do deeds of arms." - Froissart

Officers of 12th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers

Officers of 12th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
Officers of 12th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers | Source

BACK ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT):

Sec.-Lieut. E.B. Lord, Sec.-Lieut. W.N. Settle, Sec.-Lieut. W.J.C. Kendall, V.E.A. Lunt, Sec.-Lieut. S. Warburton, Sec.-Lieut. S.V. Sutton, Lieut. J.G.K. Farrar.

CENTRE ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT):

Sec.-Lieut. E.E.Watson, Sec.-Lieut. T. Newton, Lieut. R.W. Morris, Sec.-Lieut. H.L.Billinton, Lieut. R.A.V. White, Lieut. S.M.W. Sheppard, Sec.-Lieut. D.H.W. Rodda.

FRONT ROW (LEFT TO RIGHT):

Capt. C.K. Milbourne, Capt. D.E. Wilson, Major R.P.M. Nickols, Col. Edward Patrick John Fitzgerald Macartney-Filgate, Capt. and Adjutant J.F.E. Bowring, Capt. B.L. Farmer, Lieut. H. Caplan, R.A.M.C.

SEATED ON GROUND:

Sec.-Lieut. Henry Carleton Bulman Brundle, Sec.-Lieut. R. Ramsbottom.

The 'Lancashire Landing'

Source

One of the main difficulties of the Dardanelles Expedition, Gallipoli, was the absence of suitable landing places. Lighters were predominantly used for disembarkation. Here is one created harbour, known as the 'Lancashire Landing'. A jetty was constructed of sunken ships, jutting out into the Straits. British destroyers are in the calm waters created by the jetty.

Gallipoli Campaign

Captain Arthur James Goodfellow

Capt. A.J. Goodfellow. K.I.A. in Dardanelles, gazetted captain in 1911.
Capt. A.J. Goodfellow. K.I.A. in Dardanelles, gazetted captain in 1911. | Source

Lancashire Fusiliers' Gallipoli Landing

First of all a lot of barbed-wire was cunningly arranged along the water's edge, and hidden by the shallow water there was some more, for the Turks had been hard at work when the tide was low.

Both on the beach itself and under the water his German teacher had shown him how to lay mines, and in holes in the cliffs machine-guns had been cleverly hidden away, all arranged so they could concentrate their fire on the wire entanglements down below.

On the tops of the cliffs trenches had been dug, and in these were men with machine-guns and rifles, where still higher up the whole position was commanded by some more guns.

In front of these was plenty of barbed-wire, and to complete the situation the slope leading up to them was quite free from cover.

A position of this kind was surely impregnable, if this word has any meaning, and most people would have left it at that. Not so Sir Ian Hamilton.

To carry out the 'impossible task', for it really was seemingly nothing else, of landing on the beach and seizing the cliffs above, he chose the Lancashire Fusiliers. This is how they went to work.

Overnight the battalion had been transported to within five miles of the beach. They had disembarked from their transport ships into thirty-two little boats tied together, line astern, in a formation of eight fours, each four fastened to a picket-boat. They were led by Major H.O. Bishop.

Early in the morning the eight picket-boats steamed hard towards the shore and as soon as they reached shallow water they released the chains and returned to their transports.

The sailors then rowed frantically for the beach. Once there, three companies of the Fusiliers waded ashore as quickly as they could, while another scrambled to a ledge of rock on the left.

As soon as the men were on shore and endeavouring to cut through the wire entanglements, they were fired upon by the Turks from all sides. A long line of them was mown down on the wire, as if a scythe had cut a skein of wheat.

All was not lost as another wave of Fusiliers came up, and at that point the warships turned their guns on the Turks. The company on the ledge of rock opened fire with their rifles, and the Fusiliers, now through the wire, formed up on the beach - at least those who were left did. They now moved to attack the trenches above.

The Turks exploded several mines beneath the attackers' feet, but this only made the Lancashire men more intent to get at the Turks with their bayonets.

To cut a long story short, the Fusiliers achieved the seemingly impossible. By ten o'clock they had captured three lines of Turkish trenches, and a little later they joined hands with the men who had landed on V Beach away to the right.

More infantry came ashore to back them up, and the beach and the cliffs were British soil. No wonder that Sir Ian Hamilton said:

"It was to the complete lack of the senses of danger or of fear of this daring battalion that we owed our astonishing success."

Of the officers, Captain Thomas Boyer Lane Maunsell and Captain Thomas, and several subalterns were killed.

5th Lancs Fusiliers' Machine-gun Section

Machine-gun Section of 5th Lancashire Fusiliers at Cairo, before departure for Dardanelles, where regiment co-operated with  the Australasians.
Machine-gun Section of 5th Lancashire Fusiliers at Cairo, before departure for Dardanelles, where regiment co-operated with the Australasians. | Source

Captain Richard Raymond Willis, V.C.

Capt. R. R. Willis, one of the three heroes awarded V.C. by vote, for his bravery during landing on Gallipoli, to the west of Cape Helles.
Capt. R. R. Willis, one of the three heroes awarded V.C. by vote, for his bravery during landing on Gallipoli, to the west of Cape Helles. | Source

Sergeant Alfred Richards, V.C.

Sergt. Alfred Richards, gained the V.C. during the landing in Gallipoli.
Sergt. Alfred Richards, gained the V.C. during the landing in Gallipoli. | Source

Three Victoria Crosses Voted For

It possibly crossed the mind of Sir Ian Hamilton that it might be appropriate to recommend the whole battalion for the Victoria Cross. Every officer and man alike in the three companies certainly deserved it. But this was not possible for him to undertake.

It was therefore decided that three crosses should be awarded for their endeavours, and that the men themselves should vote for those they believed most meritorious and should have them. They selected:

and these three men had the proud distinction of having signally distinguished themselves among heroes. Their honour was singularly out of the ordinary.

In addition to these honours, one or two others were given for gallantry on this day:

  • Captain Richard Howarth was wounded whilst leading fifty men against some wire entanglements. Despite his injuries he continued to encourage his men until others arrived to complete the task. For this he received the Distinguished Service Order.
  • Lieutenant L.B.L. Seekham undertook a similar endeavour. For this he received the Military Cross.

The regiment to which these heroes belonged was raised in 1688. It first saw service in Ireland and Portugal. In 1726 it helped to defend Gibraltar, and it fought at Dettingen and at Fontenoy. It assisted to defeat the Highlanders at Culloden.

For eight years the Wolfe was one of its officers. At Minden the Fusiliers were one of the six immortal regiments which advanced to meet the French cavalry, and so saved the day, but at the cost of over three hundred killed and wounded.

Two days later, "at their own request," the survivors returned to duty, and the fought through the rest of the Seven Years' War, and in America.

Documentaire sur la 1er Guerre Mondial

Lancashires' Glory at Minden

With "Remember Minden," the Lancashire men routed the French in Holland. In 1800 they served under Abercromby in Egypt. They fought in the Peninsula War for nine years, winning glory at Maida and Corunna.

Twelve grenadiers from the Lancashire Fusiliers regiment carried Napoleon's coffin to its tomb at St. Helena. In 1838 the Duke of Wellington declared it to be "... the best and most distinguished ... which I have had the honour to command."

The Fusiliers fought in the Crimean War, at Inkerman. They were at Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny.

In 1864 they were sent to protect British foreign interests in Japan. In 1899 they went to South Africa as part of the famous Lancashire Brigade. They were at the Tugela, and took a leading part in storming Spion Kop.

At the beginning of the Great War the 2nd Battalion left for the front as part of the 12th Brigade and the 4th Division. This Division, then commanded by General Snow, was not at Mons, but on the morning of Tuesday, August 25th, 1914, it reached Le Cateau by train, and at once marched out to protect the British retreat.

This it did with conspicuous success, but for some reason or another its work did not receive the attention it deserved. The Lancashire Fusiliers and their comrades then fell back with the rest of the army on the Meuse, and turned and fought their way on the left of the line across the Aisne.

When, in October, the British troops were transferred, the 4th Division advanced from St. Omer towards the River Lys, which the men reached about the 16th, but they were still ten or more miles from Lille when the first Battle of Ypres began.

Second Battle of Ypres

Captain R.Y. Sidebottom

Capt. R.Y. Sidebottom
Capt. R.Y. Sidebottom | Source

Captain H.R. Clayton

Capt. H.R. Clayton. 2nd son of Col. A.G. Clayton.
Capt. H.R. Clayton. 2nd son of Col. A.G. Clayton. | Source

2nd Lieut. James Joyce

Second Lieut. James Joyce
Second Lieut. James Joyce | Source

Heroism of Private Lynn

In the battle the 12th Brigade was not far from Armentières, and there it was heavily attacked on the 20th. Its advanced posts were driven in, Le Gheir was occupied by the Germans, and the cavalry were in danger of being surrounded.

A counter-attack was planned, and this was led by the Fusiliers, whose "staunchness" was commanded by Sir John French.

The lost trenches were regained, and many prisoners taken.

The Fusiliers and the rest of the corps presented a bold front to the enemy, even though they did not have adequate reserves.

They repelled and drove back constant attacks, thus giving invaluable assistance to the cavalry who were holding the line on their left during the remaining days of this most critical battle.

Throughout January and February, 1915, the Fusiliers stayed in their trenches in Flanders, and on February 15th some of their billets at Le Bizet were set on fire by enemy shellfire.

However, the fire was put out by a party of Fusiliers led by Sergeant-Major Ashworth. This was in spite that the glare of the conflagration enabled the Germans to pinpoint and shell them all the time.

In the Battle of Neuve Chapelle the Fusiliers, being in the Second Army, only took a subsidiary part. In the second Battle of Ypres the Fusiliers were heavily engaged, although not at first.

On April 30th their brigade was brought up to relieve another on the left of the Allied line, and two days later they had their first taste of gas, being driven back by its fumes a little way.

Then it was that Private John Lynn of this battalion won the Victoria Cross (V.C.) for one of the great deeds of the Great War. Lynn, who had already won the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.), was in charge of a machine-gun when the Germans were advancing behind their poison cloud.

Although partly overcome he worked the gun for all he was worth, and when he was unable to see the enemy he lifted it to a higher position on the parapet, where it continued to spit fire.

Eventually the attack was checked, but Lynn died the next day from the effects of the poison gas.

1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers - Gallipoli, April 25th, 1915

1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers - storming of Beach W near Cape Helles, Gallipoli, April 25th, 1915
1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers - storming of Beach W near Cape Helles, Gallipoli, April 25th, 1915 | Source

Lieutenant C. Patterson

Lieut. C. Patterson
Lieut. C. Patterson | Source

Fierce Attacks at Krithia

And so back to the 1st Battalion in Gallipoli. As soon as a landing had been secured, the 29th Division attacked the village of Krithia, and did their part gallantly, and at great cost won here and there a few yards of ground.

This does not end the story of the doings of the Fusiliers; far from it.

At this point in the story the ultimate destiny of the Dardanelles was not known, whether the Peninsula would remain in British or Turkish hands, but it was known that the name "Lancashire Landing" given to the blood-stained beach by Cape Helles, would perpetuate for ever one of the most glorious deeds, not merely in the history of the British Army, but in the longer history of war.

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