Yesterday morning I attended the 96th anniversary commemoration of the Gallipoli landing held at the Parish Church St. Mary the Virgin in Bury.
During the First World War there was some dissatisfaction with the progress of the war on the Western Front and the leaders of the Allied forces decided to lauch an attack on Turkey with the intention of removing the support of Germany. The plan was to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople and thereby secure a sea route through to Russia. The attack was to start by landing on the peninisula of Gallipoli. Opinion as to the wisdom of the move was divided at the time and it has continued to divide military historians ever since.
The 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers which was part of the 29th Division of the Regular Army played a leading part in the initial landings. The landing area was divided into sections and the Lancashire Fusiliers were to land on ‘W’ Beach which was a small beach surrounded by cliffs and protected by barbed wire. Six hundred of the one thousand Fusiliers who landed on the beach on 25th April 1915 became casualties but despite suffering these terrible losses the Lancashire Fusiliers were able to overwhelm the defences.
After the battle the Commander-in-Chief General Sir Ian Hamilton wrote:
‘So strong were the defences of W Beach that the Turks may have considered them impregnable and it is my firm conviction that no finer feat of arms has ever been achieved by the British soldier than the storming of the trenches from open boats and it was to the complete lack of the sense of danger or of fear of this daring battalion that we owed our astonishing success.’
It was as a result of this landing that the Battalion was awarded the famous “Six V.C.’s before breakfast”
Eighty-eight officers and 1,728 other ranks lost their lives during the campaign and it is estimated that a further 6,000 were wounded. Therefore some 8,000 families in Lancashire, many from Bury, were directly affected by the campaign.
In addition to the 6 Victoria Crosses, 3 Companion of the Bath medals, 8 distinguished Service Orders, 25 Distinguished Conduct Medals and 10 Military Crosses.
The Lancashire Fusiliers ended the First World War with more Victoria Crosses than any other infantry regiment in the British Army.