November: we remember

Using data from census records, war graves and war memorials we can begin to discover the names of those from the historic boroughs of Finsbury and Islington who died at Gallipoli.

In November we remember the death of:

11/11/1915

Private Charles William Hathaway
London Regiment – 1st (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
81 Henshaw Street, Munton Road, New Kent Road, London

12/11/1915

Private Harry John Trew
London Regiment – 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)

14/11/1915

Private William John Thomas
Hampshire Regiment – 2nd Battalion

16/11/1915

Private Bertie Marsh
London Regiment – 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)

19/11/1915

Private Harry Andrews
Royal Army Service Corps – 27th Labour Company
7 Corporation Street, Islington, London

28/11/1915

Lance Corporal William Alfred Wright
London Regiment – 3rd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
39 Huddleston Road, Tufnell Park, London

29/11/1915

Private George Mitchell
Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment) – 5th Battalion
59 Halton Road, Canonbury, London

30/11/1915

Private Walter Frederick Hart
London Regiment – 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)

Private Alfred John Williamson
London Regiment – 3rd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers)
14, Platt Street, Pancras Road

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 29 November to 5 December

Location ANZAC BEACH

Date: 29.11.1915
Hospital heavily shelled during morning. Sea still very rough but weather improving although bitterly cold. Owing to heavy Australian casualties, obliged to leave hospital and accommodated in tents in immediate neighbourhood. 1 man wounded and 3 men to hospital. Night quiet.

Date: 30.11.1915
Fine day, no wind, sea calm. Notice received that immediate embarkation unlikely owing to lack of transports. Tents inspected by CO. Rifle inspections held. One man to hospital. Night quiet.

Date: 1.12.1915
Fine day and sea calm. Uneventful day and night. Physical drill and normal routine. No men to hospital.

Date: 2.12.1915
Dull day but sea is still calm. Hospital shelled with fatal results to staff. Quiet night. Routine as before. No men to hospital.

Date: 3.12.1915
Orders received that battalion would embark at 0750, order cancelled at noon owing to change in weather. Further orders to be ready at 1900, received at 1800 and at 1930 battalion embarked in SS EL KAHIRA without incident. 5 men to hospital.

Location: MUDROS

Date: 4.12.1915
Arrived MUDROS about 1000 and marched to PORTIANOS CAMP where remainder of day spent settling down. Various brigade and divisional fatigues furnished. No men to hospital.

Date: 5.12.1915
Quiet day, battalion resting except for sundry fatigues. Inspection by CO during afternoon. 3 men to hospital.


More Information

The Rifles’ wait at the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital must have been unpleasant. The hospital was an easy target for the Turkish guns , who probably realised that it was being used as a temporary barracks. Moreover, many of the transports had been damaged in the storms and the weather was still unsettled. Finally, on the 3rd December, the battalion was able to embark on their transport, a steamer called the SS El Kahira. They arrived at Mudros Harbour on the following day.

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 22 November to 28 November

Date: 22.11.1915
Very quiet day and night. Work day and night on trenches improvements. Patrol ran into digging party near 92Z5 and was heavily fired on by covering party and enemy on BULGAR BLUFF. It retired without incident. 10 men to hospital.

Date: 23.11.1915
Uneventful day and night. Progress made on new fire bays and on trenches generally. Some additional wiring done in front of right-half sector. Patrol found all quiet in front. 4 men to hospital. Enemy snipers busy.

Date: 24.11.1915
Quiet day and night except for exceptional activity of enemy snipers. No information from patrol. 5 men to hospital. Work on trenches as usual.

Date: 25.11.1915
Battalion relieved at dawn by Suffolk Yeomanry and remainder of day spent quietly at rest camp. Whole Battalion placed at disposal of Suffolk Yeomanry for emergency tactical purposes. 1 man wounded and 3 to hospital.

Date: 26.11.1915
Quiet morning. In afternoon orders received to send down all heavy baggage to beach at ANZAC and that battalion would proceed to MUDROS during the night 27/28. Very heavy thunderstorm during early evening followed by torrential rains and heavy wind Capt JE Heinz? And Lt J S Day RAMC to hospital.

Date: 27.11.1915
Battalion about to fall in to proceed to ANZAC when orders received to stand fast for the time being. About 2100 further orders received that move postponed. Weather still bad, blizzard during night and heavy fall of snow. 2 men wounded.

Date: 28.11.1915
Weather very bad. Snowy hurricane. Battalion paraded at 1800 and proceeded to 1st Australian Stationary Hospital pending embarkation. Arrived about 2100, very bad journey owing to mud and water everywhere. 2 men to hospital.


More Information

On the 26th November the battalion received orders that they would soon withdraw to the British base at Mudros on the island of Lemnos. That day the weather went berserk. Thunderstorms, torrential rain, strong winds and blizzards struck right across Gallipoli. On the 28th November there was a hurricane.

Lieutenant Clement Attlee of the South Lancashire Regiment, who became the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister after the Second World War, was in some of the worst weather. After finishing his dinner, he asked the kitchen staff how they were. “They said ‘It’s just up to our knees but we’ll manage the coffee!’ Looking down we saw the water spreading across the floor up to our boots. I went out to see how the men were and found the main communication trench a torrent in which I could hardly stand. It was rushing down from the higher ground. I’ve found our trench and most of the dugouts flooded collapsing.”  All the streams that had dried up during the Turkish summer became fearsome rivers.

Captain Peter Ashton of the Herefordshire Regiment, stationed, like Clement Attlee, several miles south of the Finsbury Rifles, made an unexpected rescue. ‘The water [in the river] was about waist high and running very strong. The two wooden bridges had absolutely disappeared. On my way downstream I heard something snorting and blowing in the water, and I found it came from a little Turkish ammunition [-carrying] pony which had come downstream and got caught in a bush. I put two men onto getting [the pony] out of the stream and he continued his career in the British Army.’

The cold was probably the worst affliction. Lieutenant Gething of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment recalled, ‘When I returned along the trench, which was still unfit to stay in, I found six men had crawled back and were huddled on the firestep frozen to death. We then found about 20 men lying by a hedge with groundsheets over them, more or less frozen stiff. We got them up after a lot of groaning and complaining and made them jump around in a circle to restore the circulation.’

Once again, the Finsbury Rifles were luckier than some on two counts: they were about to leave and they were not on the Suvla Plain, where the worst flooding took place. The Rifles began their journey to Mudros by tramping through mud, rain and snow. It took them five hours to march the few miles south from Aghyl Dere to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital  (https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/units/278on ANZAC) on ANZAC North Beach where they were to be accommodated until a ship could take them off. The allies had made North Beach into a harbour soon after the landings by building a pier and sinking a steamer, the Milo, there to form a breakwater.

Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 15 November to 21 November

Date: 15.11.1915
Battalion relieved at dawn by Suffolk Yeomanry. Rest camp shelled by 5 howitser about midday and one man wounded. Day and night otherwise quiet. 5 men to hospital. Routine parades and inspections.

Date: 16.11.1915
A few shells burst during day over camp but no damage done. Parades and Physical drill as usual. Bombing course restarted. Some names of various officers, N.C.O.s and men submitted for trench war decorations allotted to Division. Uneventful night. 2 men to hospital.

Date: 17.11.1915
Some shelling throughout day without result. Parades as before. Bombing course continued. Day quiet. About 1930 heavy firing all along line and at 2000 at urgent request of Suffolk Yeomanry half battalion sent to left sector as supports, of night: our men did not come into action. Four men to hospital. Weather very bad. Much rain and wind and very cold.

Date: 18.11.1915
Some ineffectual shelling during morning, otherwise day and night very quiet. Parades inspections as before. Bombing course continued, 2 men to hospital.

Date: 19.11.1915
Quiet day and night. Routine as usual. No men to hospital.

Date: 20.11.1915
Suffolk Yeomanry relieved in centre section at dawn. Trenches somewhat heavily shelled during day, particularly left-half sector but little damage done. Patrols out throughout night but no enemy movements reported. BULGAR BLUFF apparently unoccupied. Considerable work done in draining STAFFORD GULLY. 1 man to hospital. Much colder.

Date: 21.11.1915
Quiet morning but considerable shelling in early afternoon. No damage done. Trench improvements carried on generally. Patrols out at night as before. Second one fired on from neighbourhood of BEDFORD RIDGE but retired without casualties. No men to hospital. Weather very cold and damp.


More Information

The Turks were taking advantage of the quiet days . Forces opposite the Finsbury Rifles’ trenches were reorganised; fresh troops were brought into the frontline. Ever more complex and secure defences were constructed in the high ground.

The Turks could take advantage of the high ground above the beaches. They had  modern heavy artillery and plentiful ammunition from Germany. After 20th November, these guns started bombarding the British and their allies based below them. There were fewer and fewer places where soldiers could hide from the blasts of the enormous shells. The Finsbury Rifles were fortunate to avoid most of these attacks.


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Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 8 November to 14 November

Date: 8.11.1915
Quiet day and night. Routine parades as usual. No men to hospital. Weather during past few days very fine. Practise alarm at 2030.

Date: 9.11.1915
Uneventful day and night. Orders received for relief of Suffolk Yeomanry in new Centre Sector on following day. Trenches visited by officers in afternoon. Two men to hospital. Routine as usual.

Date: 10.11.1915
Suffolk Yeomanry relieved at dawn. Day mostly spent on necessary fatigues and in improving accommodation for troops. A few shrapnel burst near the BARRICADE during morning and one man wounded. Night uneventful. Patrol reported everything quiet to our front. One man to hospital.

Date: 11.11.1915
Two Turks surrendered themselves at the BARRICADE at 0700 and escorted to Bde Hqrs. A few shells burst over lines about 1100. No damage. Lines visited during morning by G06 Divnn. 40 men engaged in various trench improvements under trench Engineering Officers. Quiet day and night. Nil report from patrol. Four men to hospital and strength of battalion reduced below 200. Definite warning received that gas attacks may be expected at any time

Date: 12.11.1915
Battalion stood-to at 0530 on receiving warning from 10th London advanced post on BEDFORD RIDGE that bodies of Turks were advancing towards our lines. None of the enemy however seen. Remainder of day and night quiet. Patrol reports enemy occupying trench on summit of BULGAR BLUFF. One man to hospital. Work on trenches as usual.

Date: 13.11.1915
Quiet day and progress made on various trench improvements. Patrol left trenches at dusk and proceeding at once up slopes of BULGAR BLUFF found enemy trench unoccupied; after remaining undisturbed fro some hours it retired. Night quiet until midnight. Three men to hospital and one officer (2nd Lt E.Wilson).

Date: 14.11.1915
About 0200 10th London post on BEDFORD RIDGE heavily attacked. Fire opened on enemy from our trenches with success and attack eventually driven off. Capts Clark and Lewthwaite with draft of 48 men arrive from Mudros. Three men to hospital. Remainder of day quiet. Two patrols sent out 1800 and 2300 respectively. Former found BULGAR BLUFF occupied and retired under fire. Night otherwise quiet.


More Information

The Turks were not the only enemy. As it got colder, dysentery became less of a threat. But, just as the numbers of soldiers being sent to hospital began to go down, winter came in with a vengeance. This was not the tourist dream of Turkey’s coasts with beautiful blue seas bathed in sunshine. The weather worsened after the 15th November.

Boy Soldiers: voices from the Great War

Boy Soldiers: voices from the Great War, is a short film, commissioned by the Museum of London which tries to imagine some of the experiences of boy soldiers in the trenches.

No one aged under 18 should have been able to sign up, yet we know that over 250,000 boys fought in the war.

Research carried out by John Shepherd at Islington Museum found that over 50 boys from Islington alone joined up and never came back. The names of these Islington boys create the backdrop for the film.

Actors from Islington’s Young Actors Theatre give voice to their peers from 100 years ago and in so doing try to bridge the gap of the intervening century connecting the generations together. Scenes filmed at a reconstructed trench are juxtaposed with teenagers in contemporary Islington locations interspersed with archive footage some of it taken from the Imperial War Museum.

The film was conceived, written and directed by artist and film maker, Mark Maxwell and produced in collaboration with Islington based Three Legged Theatre Company  Mark Maxwell has over 20 years experience creating artworks, video and paintings. A common theme in his work is the transformation of materials and their reformation to show qualities not normally visible. Founded in 1990, Three Legged Theatre Company focus on commissioning and developing new writing. They have produced 14 plays including a national tour. This is their first foray into film.

The film was shot on location at a reconstructed trench in Charlwood, Surrey and at Barnard Park and the Young Actors Theatre in Islington. It was funded through Arts Council England.

We hope that the film will stimulate debate and discussion around the Great War.

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Finsbury Rifles in Gallipoli: 1 November to 7 November

Date: 1.11.1915
Day quiet until about 1600 when during shelling of Franklin’s Post a few shells came very low over right of our line bursting about 100 yards behind trenches. Night uneventful nil report from patrol. 2 men to hospital, routine as usual.

Date: 2.11.1915
Quiet day, a few shells as on previous day over trenches about 1700. Patrol came into contact with enemy outpost at 92Z5 but retired without incident. Capt Hammond and 3 men to hospital.

Date: 3.11.1915
About 0900 six shrapnel burst over right of line, pieces falling both hqrs, no casualties and no damage done. Remainder of day and night uneventful. Patrol reported no sign of enemy in near neighbourhood. 2 men to hospital.

Date: 4.11.1915
Line again reorganised and shortened. Orders received for relief on following day by Suffolk Yeomanry and 1/5 Norfolks as part of new centre and right sectors. Day quiet, but much firing on extreme right throughout night and movement generally along except immediately to our front. Patrol observed by enemy soon after going out, and being fired on considerably, retired eventually without getting into actual touch with enemy. 1 man to hospital.

Date: 5.11.1915
Relief by Suffolk Yeomanry and 1/5 Norfolks completed, soon after dawn. Battalion proceeded into rest camp, now known as Penton Hill where day spent improving dugouts. One small brigade fatigue. 3 men to hospital.

Location: Aghy and Dere (ANZAC)

Date: 6.11.1915
Uneventful day and night. Routine as usual. Lients Ford and Jones and two men to hospital. Lieut Harding returned from the hospital.

Date: 7.11.1915
Buffalos paraded for divine service at 16.45. Parade inspection as usual. A few shrapnel shells burst to rear of camp and ? pieces of shell fell in camp: no damage or casualties. Five men to hospital. Lieut Stanbrook returns from the hospital.


More Information

By the beginning of November 1915, the nightmare of the Finsbury Rifles’ stay on Gallipoli was nearing its end. Dysentery was still taking its toll: 17 men were sent off on sick leave on 30th October. There was now not much fighting on their front, though plenty of shelling and snipers to beware of.  Occasionally, one side or the other attempted a limited advance, and fierce little battles developed.

A pattern was established during most of November 1915: In rotation with other units, the Rifles spent five days on the front line and five days down the hill in reserve. They got to know the ravines, sharp little peaks and scrubland around Aghyl Dere very well. The contour lines on this map give some idea of the difficulties they faced in any movement. It was very hilly!

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If the Rifles were hardly moving, the top military men were on the march. The new commander-in-chief, General Monro, arrived in Gallipoli on 28 October to replace Sir Ian Hamilton. On the 30th, he rushed round on a whistle stop tour to visit all the places where the British and their allies were fighting.

He was horrified by what he saw. He immediately wrote to Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, that the Allied forces held positions that possessed every possible military disadvantage. ’The mere fringe of the coastline had been secured,’ he noted. Monro could see no sense in the troops staying on in Gallipoli, and recommended evacuation as the best option, although he was concerned that the Allied forces might suffer many casualties as they withdrew.

Back in London, General Monro’s recommendation jolted and scared Lord Kitchener. The risk of heavy casualties worried him and he also thought Britain would lose face in the world, particularly in the Muslim world, if we withdrew from Gallipoli. So he spent time exploring some silly ideas, such as a proposal for yet another landing on the Turkish coast and another for a new attempt by the Royal Navy to smash through the narrow channel of the Dardanelles to Constantinople.

Fortunately, Kitchener had the sense not to take up the ideas, which would have led to further catastrophe. He went to Gallipoli. ’Thank God I came to see for myself,’ he said to ‘Birdie’ (General Birdwood), ‘I had no idea of the difficulties you were up against.’ Kitchener agreed that withdrawal must go ahead.

[NP1]May be add a photo.