Thank you for Andy Middlemiss for contributing this article on the King's Own Scottish Borderers at Gallipoli.
THREE GENERATIONS COMMEMORATE
BORDERERS’ SACRIFICE AT GALLIPOLI 1915- 2015
As Britain marks the 100th anniversaries of the four years of the First World War, past, present and possibly future soldiers from the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) have just returned from a pilgrimage, to commemorate one of the most tragic battles of the war. Although in the public imagination, the First World War is very much associated with the Trench warfare of the Western front, for those close to the KOSB, the heat and slaughter of Gallipoli is one of the first battles that comes to mind.
Photograph: The KOSB group in May 2015 by the Helles Memorial.
This is why a group of KOSB veterans, current soldiers from its successor battalion in the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, Royal Scots Borderers- 1 SCOTS- and school pupils, and staff, from Queen Victoria School (QVS), Dunblane, travelled all the way to Turkey in mid May, to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle. The children are all sons and daughters of Servicemen and women. The 35 strong group spent five days at the battlefields seeing for themselves just where the soldiers of the KOSB laid down their lives.
Lt Col (Retd.) Andy Middlemiss, a former career officer in the KOSB, of 34 years service all over the world, and one of the trip’s organisers, said he believed it served an invaluable purpose:
“Many people associate Gallipoli solely with the ANZACs, but actually they made up less than a third of the allied forces,” he said. “The courage and sacrifice of the British, French and Colonial troops should also be remembered. On the first landing, the KOSB’s 1st Battalion lost 296 men in 24 hours, including their Commanding Officer, Lt Col Koe.”
British, French, Colonial and Anzac soldiers began a poorly planned attack, up brutally steep cliff faces, on the Dardanelles peninsula, South of what is now Istanbul. Despite taking huge casualties, they battled on for 8 months against courageous Turkish soldiers, desperate to defend their homeland.
Trench warfare again broke out, but this time in blistering heat, and with swarms of flies attending the soldiers’ every move, bringing disease and sickness. So great were the casualties that more troops were sent out, including the famous Scottish 52nd Division, with 2000+ Territorials from the Borders, and Dumfries and Galloway.
As the battles wore on, so many were lost that postmen in the Borders stopped delivering mail, such great was the sorrow back in Scotland, the postie’s arrival having become synonymous with bad news. Some of them weren’t even 18…:
Carol Dunn, Matron at QVS Dunblane, and herself mother of a serving soldier in 2 SCOTS, with operational tours behind him said:
“The children who came with us are not much younger than poor Private Gilbert above, and it was very emotional for all of us, to see where these very young men fell. I really saw this from a Mum’s perspective. We mustn’t forget that it would have been horrendous for those on the homefront too. The worst bit was probably the not knowing, and the length of time it took to get any hard information and news. We at QVS were thrilled with this trip of a lifetime, and were delighted the Head picked us to go. ”
Captain Russell Macleod-who led the party from 1 SCOTS said:
“Gallipoli is one of our major battle honours and for today’s Jocks to walk precisely in the footsteps, on the harsh terrain and rocky peninsula, of the 1915 Jocks was incredibly special. We must learn from what happened, we must honour our forebears, and most importantly, we talked about it with all 3 generations in the group .It was an honour for us to have been chosen by the Colonel to represent the Jocks of 100 years ago.”
After 8 months hard fighting with appalling casualties, both from disease and combat, the allied forces withdrew in January 1916, in ironically the most successful part of the whole operation, without losing a single casualty, but thousands had already paid the ultimate price with their lives.
Several members of the party had relatives who fought at the battle. Ian Domingo, from Dumfries- an ex Regular KOSB RSM - visited the memorial to his grandfather, Pte Richard Domingo, who was killed only 6 weeks into the campaign. Three others had KOSB grandfathers who survived the battle. For Colonel Andy Middlemiss, whose grandfather, Captain George Middlemiss RAMC, was a doctor on a hospital ship, taking wounded and sick off the beaches, this pilgrimage was a powerful tribute to those who fell on Turkish soil.
“It is important to remember that these men of the KOSB, and thousands of others on both sides, showed incredibly bravery and guts in terrible conditions,” he said “So, the conclusion of the trip was a small ceremony at the main war grave cemetery, with 4 pipers , prayers by Padre Blakey of 6 SCOTS, and readings. It was incredibly powerful and emotional to be there, to remember, and to see what was lost in human sacrifice. For all of us, the young school kids, the serving Jocks from 1 SCOTS and us “Old and Bold” -this was a never to be forgotten trip. We are really grateful to Legion Scotland for helping us fund this trip, with a generous grant from their WW1 Commemorations Fund. ”
Pte Jim Turnbull, KOSB, killed in action on his 17th birthday, 12 July 1915.