21 August 1915

SUVLA - Captain William Wedgwood Benn, 1st County of London Yeomanry, 4th Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division and Lieutenant Ismail Hakki Sunata, 2nd Battalion, 35th Regiment 12th Division, Fifth Turkish Army - The night of 21 August brought utter chaos to the Britihs lines. The final attack of the 2nd Mounted DIvision had been a textbook example of how not to introduce troops into the line or to make an attack. It was extremely difficult for officers and NCOs to maintain any kind of good order with men tried beyond all endurance in a situation for which their meagre training had by no means them. Soon something like panic was generated as the Yeomanry tumbled back on to Green Hill.

Photograph: William Wedgwood Benn - the father of Tony Benn.

Captain William Wedgwood Benn of the 1st County of London (Middlesex) Yeomanry was caught up in the terrors of the dark.

"A young officer ran along the trench shouting that the orders were to retire at once. I can remember how foolish I thought his conduct, for the effect on our troops under fire for the first time and completely fatigued by ten hours of fighting, was of the worst. However, I had to carry the order to the regiment on our left, and gradually the whole of what remained of the brigade was withdrawn, and began to form up in a road some two or three hundred yards to the rear. I was then sent back to inform whatever troops I could find on our right that the brigade was moving. For me this was the most unpleasant hour I had had during the day. The moon seemed suddenly to be extinguished, and the rifle fire to redouble in vigour and the flashes all to become visible, though up to then I had hardly noticed them. I was suddenly convinced that the Turks now were actually coming on. I found the regiment on our right, and shouted out my instructions in much the same style as the officer I had been blaming! I was pulled together by the conduct of a very young person in charge, who rose from the trench and most strenuously damned me for giving orders direct to his men, adding that as they did not belong to our Brigade he intended to ignore the orders and remain where he was. I shall always admire that exhibition of grit."

But the night was terrifying for the Turks too. Not sure what exactly was going on, they feared a renewed night attack or perhaps a British breakthrough. Lieutenant Ismail Hakki Sunata, 2/35th Regiment remembered the tension of the night.

"It is getting dark. With the ceasing of the artillery fire some calm has descended on the scene. But the infantry fire continues. The sound of the artillery has given way to other sounds. From our left come shouts, moans, groans and screams, and orders are given. The rear of the trenches is full of wounded and moaning men, there are dead also. In the twilight some are coming, some are going, total confusion. Nothing can be understood of what is happening. A medical orderly has been raked across the stomach at the level of his navel by a machine gun, his wounds are exposed. Sergeant Hakki, whom I first met in the 6th Company, is badly wounded. I went to him at once. “Don’t forget me, avenge me on the British, I am going. Give me your blessing!” he said. I immediately sent him with some soldiers from his company to the aid station. Will the poor fellow survive, I wonder? I doubt it. A clean, innocent, honourable soldier of this army. What a pity. There are many dead and wounded. The enemy wounded are also calling out in front. The enemy was completely repulsed. The night passed with carrying the wounded and burying the dead. We were all awake. The day’s events had made us so nervous we had forgotten even what sleep was."

OTHER SOURCES:

I. H. Sunata translated by ‘Reha’, Geliboludan Kafkaslara, (Is Bankasi Publications) Axis History Forum: http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=80&t=153416&start=15

SOURCE:
W. William Wedgwood Benn, In the Side Shows (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1919), pp.31-32