V Beach


V-Beach is located at the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula at Cape Helles. This whole area was the main landing position of the forces on 25th April 1915 of the 29th Division. As described in the Official History, "V-beach lies at the foot of a natural amphitheatre which rises by gentle slopes to a height of a hundred feet. The actual beach is a sandy strip some 10 yards wide and 300 yards long, bordered in most places by a low bank about 5 feet high"and was to the west of the Sedd el Bahr fort.

V Beach4[Photo:  Acknowledgement: IWM].

At 06:30 on the morning of the 25th April 1915, the 29th Division landed at five beaches (from east to west round the coast S, V, W, X and Y ). At V-Beach, the converted collier SS River Clyde (with sallyport exit doors cut in its bow sides for the 2,000 men of the 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers, 1/2 2nd Hants and 2nd Royal Fusiliers) plus men of the 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers in six boat tows rowing for the last few hundred yards after being set adrift by steam pinnaces, arrived at the shore.

Turkish defenders on the cliffs at the far left of the beach would have had a view similar to the following (taken in May 1915 after the beach had become a base for the French).

V Beach2

Compare this image (Copyright: IWM) with the same view below (taken in 1999) albeit more modern houses in the foreground and the CWGC. Copyright: Andrew J Mullen.

 

V Beach3

 

First there was stillness, apart from the slight sounds of oars dipping in and out of the water. As the SS River Clyde came in and beached at the tip of the far sand-spur, Turkish MGs had already opened up and a tornado of fire swept over the incoming boats, bullets lashing the water. Devastating casualties were caused within seconds. Some of the boats drifted away with everyone aboard killed. Lieutenant Colonel Tizard (Dublins CO) was aboard the River Clyde and reported that of 240 in the boats, no more than 40 got ashore without being hit, most being killed outright. Many men jumped out of the boats to wade ashore but got hit and fell face downwards in the water. Many colleagues tried to go back to help and prevent them drowning in full-kit and were themselves immediately shot. The water eventually around the boats was red with blood.Aboard the River Clyde, the troops inside could hear the bullets whipping off the metal hull. Five minutes after the ship had grounded the precarious pontoon link of boats to the shore was established. The sally-port doors were opened and the Munsters poured forth. This too turned in mayhem, the gangways quickly filled with dead and wounded (some suffocating under the sheer weight of bodies above).

A path had to be cleared on the River Clyde before a second wave could follow. The pontoons had also been displaced so men, dropping into the water, found it too deep and drowned with the weight of their heavy but now also waterlogged kit. A number managed to get ashore and although there were many still exposed in the open (being picked off by the Turks including wounded trying to crawl in), some got to the shelter of the bank 6 ft high and 5 yards up the shore. The protective bank can be seen directly ahead to the left of the sea-spur.Sentries were placed at each end of the bank (to offer warning if they were rushed). No further attempt was made to land troops until after dark. Only 'blind' sniping occurring in the darkness. The sound of the groans of wounded could be heard all night. Only a concerted burst of Turkish rifle and MG fire at 2 a.m broke the relative quiet.By dawn on the 26th April, the remnants of the V Beach units were ashore.The SS River Clyde remained in situ throughout the campaign. V Beach soon became a base and was handed over for use by the French (who had been evacuated from Kum Kale on the Asiatic shore and were disembarked for action on the right of the line as the battle proceeded north).