Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 1 October to 4 October

Location: AGHYL DERE (Anzac)

Date: 01.10.15
Trenches shelled about midday and also between 16.00 and 19.00; less than a dozen shells in all no damage done. From 16.30 onwards heavy bombardment of Hill 100 to Sandbag Ridge; observation made by ? and reported to Brigade. At dark two officer patrols sent out on a special mission to fix flags with proclamations in Turkish attached, as near enemy line as possible. Both successful; one reported coming into contact with an enemy patrol and both heard sounds of digging. Night quiet. Digging parties of 1/5 Bedfordshire employed throughout 5 hours on trenches and new ? 2 men to hospital.

Date: 02.10.15
Day quiet until about 17.00 when our trenches vigorously shelled during the daily bombardment of Sandbag Ridge. Some damage done to parapet and one man wounded. Patrol and output reported all quiet to our front at night. Work on trenches as previously and R.E. continuing barbed wire entanglements. Sickness again on increase and eleven men to hospital. Lines linked during day by Lieutenant Birdwood, commanding ANZAC.

Date: 03.10.15
Two shells burst over trenches during day, otherwise quiet. Enemy did not reply to bombardment of Sandbag Ridge started at 17.00 but enemy aeroplane appeared over dunes at 17.30. Officer patrol sent out to move forward one of the flags flanked by ? succeeded in task but saw into enemy outpost and was forced to open fire; it ? without incident. Work on trenches ? through workers of 1/5th Bedfordshire Reserve Coy. Barbed wiring continued by R.E. General routine work as usual. 11 men to hospital. ? of expected arrival of small reinforcements received.

Date: 04.10.15
At 09.00 trenches somewhat heavily shelled for 15 minutes, then whole line swept by rifle fire for ½ an hour. No signs of enemy attacking. A fair amount of damage done to trenches but no one injured. Officer patrol went out at dusk from Barricade and proceeded towards spot where outpost had been located previous night, they failed however to locate enemy. Work on trenches as usual. One man killed and 16 to hospital. Night quiet.

311 London Regiment, Finsbury Rifles, on parade. October 1915

3/11 London Regiment, Finsbury Rifles, on parade. October 1915 © IWM (Q 53821)


More Information

On October 1st, the Finsbury Rifles remained in post at Aghyl Dere (‘Sheep pen river).  Aghyl Dere is for much of the year a dry riverbed rising up from the beach between layer upon layer of steep and jagged hills. It had been the scene of heavy Allied and Turkish casualties in early August when it was the route chosen by the British for part of a surprise night attack to capture high ground held by the Turks. The attack failed and the two sides, by October, were still steadily strengthening defensive positions facing each other.

The Finsbury Rifles battalion took turn and turn about in the front trench line with the 1/5 Bedfordshire Regiment, another battalion in their Brigade. While the Rifles were at the front, their task was to ensure the security of the line, both by vigilant observation and improvement of the trenches (digging was a constant activity for both sides at Gallipoli- see the powerpoint with A.P. Herbert’s poem Digging- A Song of the Spade), respond to any enemy attacks when necessary and send out patrols to detect any enemy activity. When the Bedfordshires relieved them, the Rifles went back down the hills to their base camp which was never entirely safe from the Turkish big guns, but at least less cramped than the trenches.

The soldiers passed fit for duty at Aghyl Dere now numbered under 400 men in the Finsbury Rifles, under 250 men in the Bedfordshires, barely a third of those who had landed just two months ago.  The vicious fighting at Suvla, and then the sickness, mostly dysentery and diarrhoea, had killed many and taken many others to hospital. Those remaining often faced a sort of half life as they tried to recover while still remaining on duty.

They all looked so ill, poor devils, that it required a heart of stone to send the lighter cases, say of simple diarrhoea, back to duty. ….my heart used to bleed as I watched some poor, diarrhoea stricken, emaciated skeleton, with sunken lack-lustre eyes and unsteady gait, accept without murmur my decision that he must return to duty, pick up his kit and slowly return to the stinking pestilence-stricken, ill-constructed trenches.

Norman King-Wilson 88th Field Ambulance RAMC

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