Finsbury Rifles

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  ( 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.

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