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Tracing Your Roots To Gallipoli

Remembering some of the Bolton men who lost their lives in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915

Gallipoli 1915

This project - supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund - began when one of our staff found an old Bolton Journal and Guardian dated 29 December 1916, which showed photographs of 800 Bolton soldiers who had been killed in the first 2 years of the Great War (1914-1918).

Click here for more information about the project

By early 1915, following heavy defeats over the British Expeditionary Forces by the German Army, the British military strength was much reduced. A new army was needed and the task of raising it was given to Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener who, as Secretary of State for War, under his famous banner headline "Your Country Needs You", rapidly increased the size of the army from a depleted twenty divisions to seventy.

Loyal North Lancashire Regiment badgeA total of 100,000 new recruits made up the first six of these divisions (K1), and among them was the 13th (Western) Division of which the 6th Battalion, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (LNL), was a component.

It is this unit whose ranks were enlisted directly from mills and factories in and around Bolton that we will mainly deal with. In the British Army an infantry division is usually made up of 3 battalions of between 300 and a thousand soldiers, and a battalion can be further divided up into platoons, companies etc.

The Gallipoli campaign lasted less than 9 months. The final withdrawal from Gallipoli over a period of two weeks was a model for such future events as Dunkirk, and is often remembered as its only saving grace.

The residents of Australia and New Zealand remember their brave soldiers with immense pride and return on 25 April each year to celebrate Anzac Day.

Gallipoli was a defeat for Britain, and so it has become lost in our celebrations for other victories; it is only the families of loved ones who were killed that remember so vividly.

 

Dardanelles map 1915

Harold Greenhalgh: One soldier's story

Harold Joseph GreenhalghHarold Greenhalgh was born to Lawrence and Sarah Frances Greenhalgh, née Ashton, on 28 March 1895 at 199 Darwen Road. They later moved to 26 Egerton Vale, and then again to 26 Edward Street where they are enumerated on the 1911 census. They moved again to number 2 Dimple, Egerton.

This kind of constant removal, or "flitting" as it was known, was not uncommon in those days following the introduction of mass production when families literally 'chased the cotton' as new mills opened up.

Harold attended school in Walmsley before going to work as a dyer at Bridson's bleachworks on Chorley Street, Bolton.

The 6th Battalion, LNL, was commissioned on 8 August 1914 and Harold signed on sometime between then and October 1914 when he is shown as a batman to Lieutenant Grimshaw at Tidworth Barracks, Salisbury plain, where initial training began.

From Tidworth the battalion moved to Blackdown near Aldershot, and on 14 June 1915 the whole of the 13th division (as well as the 10th and 11th) got the train at Farnborough station to go to Avonmouth where they were supposed to board the SS Japanese Prince. They were re-routed to SS Braemar Castle instead and eventually sailed on 17 June bound for Malta.

Their next port of call was Alexandria in Egypt for more training and acclimatisation - this is where Harold was instructed in how to use a machine gun.

Mudros is the major port on the island of Lemnos and lies some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the landing beaches of Gallipoli. It is here that the divisions rested and trained whilst waiting for the call for invasion.

The invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was an entirely sea-borne operation. It has to be remembered that during that time no purpose-built landing ships existed. The main transport for men, mules, horses, artillery and all supplies was by barges towed by launches steered by 16-year old Royal Navy midshipmen, and by a variety of whatever craft was available. The hastily converted collier, SS River Clyde, having famously run herself ashore on V Beach in a one-off landing feat, remained stuck for the rest of the campaign.

Landing on V beach - Click on image below for larger version

V Beach

During the night of 6 July 1915 the 6th LNLs were put ashore by lighter at Seghir Dere in Gully Ravine, where they went into bivouac.

Encampment on W beach - Click on image below for larger version

W Beach

General Hamilton's immediate battle plans were severely handicapped by the fact that he was greatly under strength. His original force, landed on 25 April, had suffered heavy casualties and, with some divisions not yet arrived, it is doubtful that he had more than a mere 110,000 men for the operation. This was to reinforce the Australians and New Zealanders at Anzac, to effect a landing at Suvla Bay and from there to attempt the capture of the main peak of Sari Bair, thus overlooking and commanding the narrows of the Dardanelles. The 6th Battalion LNL was sent forward immediately into the front line, relieving troops of the 29th Division.

The 6th Battalion LNL returned to Anzac Cove on 4 August and occupied bivouac billets in Victoria Gully where, as a result of enemy shelling, two men were killed and a further 32 were injured.

On the night of 6 August two battalions of the 13th Division, of which the LNL was one, commenced their advance from Anzac. On the following morning the 6th LNL was marched to the foot of the Chailuk Dere, and on the night of the next day it was sent to the Apex as reinforcement to the New Zealand Brigade.

On 9 August three columns were sent forward to complete the conquest of Chunuk Bair. During that night the worn out New Zealanders were relieved and the 6th Battalion LNL and the 5th Wiltshires took their places in inadequately shallow trenches.

The 6th Battalion LNL arrived first and set about trying to improve the poor shelter. The Turks realised that if the summit of Chunuk Bair was held, the outcome would be a massive Allied advantage. They therefore shelled the ridge at dawn on 9 and 10 August and then let loose a horde of infantry soldiers with fixed bayonets. Both the Wiltshires and the Lancashire boys had no chance - caught in the open they were swiftly and mercilessly overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. The battalions did all they could, Captain Mather's company (6th Battalion LNL) doing especially well charging 3 times with the bayonet.

The official despatch states: "The two battalions of the New Army chosen to hold Chunuk Bair were the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and the 5th Wiltshire Regiment. They were simply overwhelmed by a superior and determined foe."

General Sir Ian Hamilton later wrote: "Generals fought in the ranks, and men dropped their scientific weapons and caught one another by the throat. So desperate a fight cannot be described. The Turks came on again and again, fighting magnificently and calling on the name of Allah. Our men stood to it and maintained, by many a deed of daring, the old traditions of their race. There was no flinching. They died in the ranks where they stood."

It is interesting to note that the commander of the Turkish divisions in this battle was none other than Mustafa Kemal, later Kemal Atatürk, father of a new Turkish nation. At a later stage in the battle of Chunuk Bair he is reputed to have halted the shooting saying, "We have killed enough. Shoot over their heads to keep them occupied." Unfortunately the continued firing set the gorse and bracken alight, resulting in many of the Lancashire and Wiltshire men being burned to death.

Some 450 men were lost at Chunuk Bair, most of whom have no known grave, but are remembered on the Helles Memorial. Private Harold Greenhalgh from Bolton Lancashire is one of them.

View the Roll of Honour here

Collecting the kits of the dead and wounded on W Beach - Click on image below for larger version

W Beach

"Big British guns leaving Suvla Bay, in broad daylight on a raft. They are being towed full speed out to sea by a naval pinnace, to be picked up by a transport."

Big guns leaving Suvla Bay