The 5th (Service) Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment, Gallipoli, 1915-1916.
I begin this blog looking at the 5th (Service) Battalion due to the fact my own Great-Grandfather served with them until early 1916. Many of the men of the Battalion joined in August 1914 as volunteers in Dorchester, answering the call for Lord Kitchener's 'New Army'. Soon after, the men began their six months of training at Belton Park, Grantham and shortly after at Witley Camp near Hindhead. The Battalion (Btn) had now become part of the 11th (Northern) Division, forming one of the three 'K1' Divisions and were attached to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force commanded by General Sir Ian Hamilton. The 5th Btn alongside the 8th Btn Northumberland Fusiliers. 9th Btn Lancashire Fusiliers and 11th Btn Manchester Regiment, would form the 34th Infantry Brigade.
On 2nd July 1915, the men of the 5th Btn travelled to Liverpool where they embarked on the RMS Aquitania. From here they sailed for Gallipoli, via Lemnos and Imbros. Many of the men of the battalion were already beginning to suffer from the heat as well as sea-sickness, stomach issues and diarrhoea . At around 5am on 7th August, the 5th (Service) Battalion landed at the southern edge of Suvla Bay.
On 7th August 1915 the 5th landed at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli peninsular under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hannay. Around 300 men of the Battalion were sent as support with Major Leslie to Chocolate Hill. The remainder of the Battalion had stayed at Hill 28 to the north. The following day, the battalion along with the Lancaster Fusiliers were ordered to support the 30th Brigade along the Kiretch-Tepe Sirt ridge on the north coast of the Sulva Plain. This however, never came to fruition as the 30th Brigade failed to advance into their positions. Since their arrival, there had been major shortages in both food and water and many of the men were beginning to suffer from this lack of vital provisions. This would continue throughout their campaign in Gallipoli and be considered more of a problem than the enemy.
On the 9th August, the Battalion left Hill 28 for an attack half a mile to the North-East. Here, the Battalion would come under heavy enemy fire and by the time they were relieved and had re-joined the 11th Division the following day, 60 men had been injured and 20 men had been killed.
On 13th August, the Brigade would take over the trenches near Green Hill an the 5th Battalion would advance to the trenches, that would become known as 'Dead Man's House', near the Salt Lake and relieved the Northumberland Fusiliers. Lieutenant- Colonel Hannay was given command of the 34th Brigade on 17th August, as the Northumberland stepped in to relieve the Dorsetshire Regiment. This meant that Major Leslie now had command of the 5th Battalion. The night in the trenches had caused significant losses and injuries to the Northumberland's and the Manchester Regiment and their relief by the Dorsetshire Regiment would certainly have been a welcome one. On 20th August, the Turkish put up white flags requesting a meeting between the Allies and the Turkish representative. The temporary truce that was agreed allowed No-Man's land to be cleared and for wounded soldiers to be evacuated. In the mean-time the 5th Btn had relieved the Lancashire Fusiliers to south of the Dead Man’s House trenches. The following morning the 5th Btn and Lancashire Fusiliers became the first line of attack. The Dorset's managed to take the first Turkish trench but the objective to taking a second trench failed due to heavy enemy and stronger defences. There were many casualties in both the 5th and 9th Battalions.
On the 21st August, the Battalion attacked the Turkish trenches between Hetman Chair and Susak Kuya. Here, there was a huge number of casualties and fatalities among commanding ranks and by the 22nd August, the Battalion consisted of around 250 men. The Dorsets would join with the Manchester Fusiliers, and became known as 'No.2 Battalion' in order to bolster numbers. 'No.2 Battalion' were then send to the hold the trenches near Kazlar Chair. On 28th August, they and the rest of 11th Division were sent to Karakol Dagh to hold the trench line there.
On 20th September, the 34th Infantry Brigade was finally relieved. 35 men had had been wounded by sniper fire and 25 men had been killed. The Brigade was put into reserve until 28th September, when they returned to the trenches with some 550 men. Many officers had been taken ill, leaving a significant shortage, and during the month some sixty men were admitted to hospital with sickness such as dysentery. The men of the 5th Btn remained in the trenches until 16th October and had some success at locating and attacking Turkish sniper posts. After being relieved by the South West Mounted Brigade in early November, major storms became the enemy for the Battalion. The storms lasted until the end of November and caused at least one fatal casualty as well as adding to the number of sick and causing loss and damage to equipment and resources.
By early December, around 150 troops had been evacuated to hospital, including my Great-Grandfather who was sent to a field hospital in Alexandria, suffering from 'Pneumonia'. It was noted that by mid-December there were 17 officers remaining. Soon after 140 men were drafted in to increase the strength of the Battalion, however, by the 16th December the Battalion began their evacuation out of the Dardanelles. On arrival in Mudros, they were able to get hold of fresh water, fruit and vegetables, which would have been warmly welcomed by the men of the 5th Battalion. Shortly after on the 19th December, they were transported to Imbros where they remained for a month and where Major Kearsey of the 10th Hussars took command. Here the men had the opportunity to recuperate and rest, to some degree, from their ordeal in Gallipoli. ,
In late January 1916, the Battalion were redeployed to Egypt, initially to Alexandria and then to El Ferdan on the Suez Canal. The Battalions would remain here for six months, preparing for a Turkish offensive which would never arrive. Now at around 900 men string, including officers, the battalion would end up effectively using the preparations as valuable and additional training as these men would, on the 5th July 1916, return to Alexandria to board the H.M.T. Transylvania and travel to France, for service on the Western Front.