Commemorative visit to the site of the Battle of Gully Ravine

Posted by webmaster | Uncategorized | Monday 8 February 2016 3:36 pm

A Commemorative visit to the site of the Battle of Gully Ravine - 28 June 1915

It was Sir Stephen Young who first suggested a tour to Gallipoli for the anniversary of the Battle of Gully Ravine where his great uncle had fallen whilst serving with the 8th Battalion. It is interesting to note that the losses in that battle were substantial and led to both battalions being amalgamated after the withdrawal albeit not long after reconstituted into their original form as the 7th and 8th Battalions. Following the battle the final roll call was -

The account of the battle recorded in Volume 1 of the Regimental History  begins:-

The 7th Battalion and 8th Battalion the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) had been embodied and were in camp when war was declared. In May 2015 now part of the 156th Infantry Brigade, 52 Division, they embarked for an unknown destination. As the transport ships made their way out through the Mediterranean, it seemed obvious that the destination was Gallipoli…

Response to the possibility of an anniversary visit, promoted on the Regimental Blog was minimal but Sir Stephen persevered and together with some other family members decide to proceed with the expedition supported now by David Thompson who too had lost a great uncle in that very battle together with Douglas Workman and Tom Beatty, the first of these two, a great uncle and the second a great-great uncle and then they later met up with  the Cuthbert brothers who had similarly come to the battlefield on 28 June to remember their great uncle,

Unfortunately Sir Stephen was unable to complete the tour but here follows the excellent report by David Thompson:-.

Major Brian A S Leishman MBE

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Monday, 28 June 1914

On 28th June 1915, exactly one year after the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event which triggered World War 1, two territorial battalions of the Cameronians/ Scottish Rifles went into battle for the first time, at Gallipoli. Although the battle, known today as the Battle of Gully Ravine, resulted in the capture of 5 Turkish trenches on the left of Gully Ravine and the capture of a key redoubt on the right of the ravine and was considered a “magnificent success” by the British, it was a tragedy for the Cameronians and central Scotland.

The 1/7th and the 1/8th battalions, which together with the 1/4th and 1/7th Royal Scots comprised 156th Brigade of the British Army, had landed on the Dardenelles peninsula in mid-June, just two weeks earlier. The 1/8th battalion were placed on the extreme right flank of the attack with 1/7th placed in reserve trenches. The 156th brigade commander’s battle orders reflected the information given to him that the attack would be preceded by a 2 hour artillery bombardment of the Turkish trenches. However, as throughout the Gallipoli campaign, there was a dire shortage of suitable heavy artillery and shells and the generals who planned the attack concentrated their artillery bombardment on the left. Some eye-witness accounts say no shells were fired at the trenches the Cameronians were to attack. Further, no one seems to have been aware that the Turkish defenders had positioned machine guns with a clear line of fire across the 200 hundred yards of open ground over which the 1/8th were to charge. The Turkish defenders, alerted to the coming attack, had commenced their own, more effective, bombardment of 156 Brigade’s trenches at about 10.30am. The troops went over the top at 11am precisely. The men of the 1/8th battalion had no chance and were massacred by the defenders’ rife, machine gun and shell fire as they ran forward. 14 officers and 334 men were killed. 11 officers and 114 men were wounded, many seriously. At the roll call the following day only one combatant officer, the Machine Gun Officer, and 2 non-combatant officers, the Medical Officer and the Quarter Master plus 70 other men (mostly non-combatant support staff) were still fit for duty.

After the failure of this initial attack, a message was received at about 11.45am from the headquarters of Major General Henry De Lisle, the general responsible for the planning and execution of the attack, that the Cameronians’ primary objective, the Turkish trench “H 12 is to be taken at all costs. If necessary you will send forward your reserve battalion.”  About one hour later, first D and then B companies of 1/7th battalion went over the top (the battalion’s other 2 companies had earlier been allocated to support the Royal Scots and to other duties) and were duly slaughtered in turn. 1/7th battalion lost 10 officers and 158 other ranks killed on 28th June.

Although they had some slight protection from more favourable terrain, the Royal Scots on the immediate left of the Cameronians (fellow Territorial battalions similarly taking part in their first battle), also suffered huge losses in the attack. One 1/7th Cameronian officer, HC Maclean who was wounded on 28th June, wrote after the war that “The full losses of the brigade during the attack were 72 officers and 1,281 other ranks out of a total strength on 27th June of 102 officers and 2,839 other ranks.” However he went on, excluding non-combatants “the strength of the brigade on the morning of 28th June may be estimated at approximately 90 officers and 2,300 men, so that the percentage of casualties amongst the officers may be taken as 80, and amongst other ranks as slightly over 50. The losses amongst officers included the Brigadier, three commanding officers, three majors, three adjutants and twenty captains” (“losses” means killed and wounded).

Even though similarly awful disasters were suffered by all sides during the first World War, the losses suffered by the 1/8th battalion, in particular, on 28 June stand out as exceptional. “The unit’s losses were greater than those sustained by any of the assault battalions on the first day of the Somme” (Stephen Snelling, VCs of the First World War).

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Cameronians were Glasgow and Lanarkshire based and the Royal Scots were based in Edinburgh. The tragedy that befell the156th Brigade on 28 June 1915 followed closely on the appalling Quintinshill (Gretna Green) rail crash on 22 May 2015 – the worst rail crash in British history in which 210 men of the 1/7th Royal Scots died and 224 were injured on their way to Liverpool to embark for Gallipoli. The two tragedies had an enormous impact on many families and institutions (23 of the Royal Scots who died on 28 June were former pupils of George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh which is believed to be the highest number of dead suffered by a British school on a single day during World War 1). It was keenly felt across central Scotland at the time and has not been forgotten. There have been several articles published in newspapers and in school and university magazines during 2015, and various posts on the internet commemorating individuals killed that day.

At least 9 of the officers of the 1/8th Cameronians and 1 of the 1/7th who died at Gully Ravine on 28 June 1915 were Glasgow Academy old boys, and 2 were also Scottish rugby internationalists, and a ceremony was held by the Glasgow Accies rugby club at the Glasgow Academy War Memorial on Great Western Road on Sunday 28 June 2015.

Also that morning, family members remembering three Cameronian relatives who had died there 100 years before were at the Gully Ravine battlefield itself. David Thompson, remembering his great uncle 2nd Lieutenant Robert Macfie Pattison*, and Douglas Workman and Tom Beaty, remembering Douglas’s great uncle (and Tom’s great-great uncle) Captain Eric Templeton Young, both of 1/8th battalion, had teamed up to visit Gully Ravine as a result of a message placed on the Cameronians website last year. At 11am, they were near the position known in 1915 as the Kink and observed one minute’s silence in memory of all those who lost their lives in the battle there one hundred years before. Shortly afterwards, in the nearby Twelve Tree Copse cemetery, they met the two Cuthbert brothers who had similarly come to the battlefield on 28 June to remember their great uncle, 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Martin Taylor, of 1/7th battalion. Daniel Taylor has a memorial stone in the Twelve Tree Copse cemetery. Robert Pattison and Eric Young’s names are recorded at the Cape Helles memorial, together with the more than 20,000 other British and Commonwealth servicemen who died in the Dardenelles campaign and have no known grave.

David Thompson

* Illustrating the many close family, school and other relationships between men in these territorial battalions, several other members of my family also took part in the battle. My maternal grandmother’s other brother, Captain James William Henry Pattison, had transferred from the 1/8th to be the 156th Brigade’s Machine Gun officer in May and was at the Kink, and three of my maternal grandfather’s first cousins were officers in the 1/8th: 2nd Lieutenant Oswald Tennant Sloan and Lieutenant William Newlands Sloan (who were both wounded on the 28th), and Captain Alexander Bankier Sloan, the Medical Officer. All 5 had attended The Glasgow Academy.

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