02 July 1915

HELLES - The Battle of Gully Ravine - Captain Gerald Robert O’Sullivan and Sergeant James Somers, 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 87th Brigade, 29th Division - The Battle of Gully Ravine had been fiercely raging on since 28 June with the British fighting to hold on to their gains, and the Turks fighting to regain their lost ground. Trenches had been changing hands several times in the fierce hand to hand fighting that ensued.

During the night, 1 July, it had started to rain when another Turkish counter attack was launched, this one successfully forced the Gurkhas out of trench J12. Captain O'Sullivan, with just over a company of Inniskillings and with bombing support from Corporal Somers, restored the situation by recapturing J12.

A report by Lieutenant-Colonel Buckley stated how the two men responded to the knowledge that J12 was in Turkish hands:

"He immediately attacked, leading the storming party. Accompanied by Cpl Somers, he advanced in the open along the parapet of the trench, bombing the interior as he regained it. The Turks bombed back and from where I was I could distinctly see the flashes of the Turkish bombs, generally two to Capt O'Sullivan's one. we had only the jam-pot bomb ... while the Turks had quite a useful bomb."

Captain Gerald Robert O'Sullivan was born on 8 November 1888 at Frankfield, Douglas, County Cork, son of Lieutenant-Colonel George Lidwell O'Sullivan and his wife Charlotte. He spent most of his boyhood in Dublin, entering Wimbledon College in 1899. When he left Wimbledon in June 1906 he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, being commissioned on 9 May 1909 in the Inniskillings as a Second Lieutenant. He saw service in China, which included the revolution of 1911, and later in India with his battalion.

When war broke out in August 1914 the 1st Battalion Inniskillings were brought back to England to form part of 87 Brigade, 29th Division. The 29th Division sailed for Egypt in March 1915, landing in Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. O'Sullivan now commanded a company and fought many actions against the Turks in the Helles sector as the breakout from the beaches commenced. One such action was on the night of 18 June, when O'Sullivan organised an immediate counterattack that drove the Turks out of the recently occupied Turkey Trench previously held by the South Wales Borders on the Inniskilling flank. In the VC action during the night of 1 July 1915 he was wounded in the leg, and evacuated to hospital in Egypt.

His VC citation appeared in the London Gazette of 1 September 1915.

"For most conspicuous bravery during operations south west of Krithia, on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On the night of the 1st-2nd July, 1915, when it was essential that a portion of trench which had been lost should be regained, Captain O'Sullivan, although not belonging to the troops at this point, volunteered to lead a party of bomb throwers to effect the recapture. He advanced in the open under a very heavy fire, and in order to throw his bombs with greater effect, got up on the parapet, where he was completely exposed to the fire of the enemy occupying the trench. He was finally wounded, but not before his inspiring example had led on his party to make further efforts, which resulted in the recapture of the trench."

Sergeant James Somers was born at Belturbet, County Cavan, son of Robert and Charlotte Somers. He first joined the Special Reserve of the Royal Munster Fusiliers on 14 January 1913. He joined the 2nd Battalion Inniskillings in July 1914, and later served in Belgium and France when war broke out, being wounded at the Battle of Mons. After recovery from his wounds in England he was ordered to join the 1st Battalion, and sailed off to Gallipoli.

Somers wrote to his father:

"I beat the Turks out of our trench single-handed and had four awful hours at night. The Turks swarmed in from all roads, but I gave them a rough time of it, still holding the trench ... It is certain sure we are beating the Turks all right. In the trench I came out of, it was shocking to see the dead. They lay, about 3,000 Turks, in front of our trench, and the smell was absolutely chronic. you know when the sun has been shining on those bodies for three or four days it makes a horrible smell; a person would not mind if it was possible to bury them. But no, you dare not put your nose outside the trench, and if you did, you would be a dead man ..."

His VC citation appeared in the London Gazette of 1 September 1915.

"For most conspicuous bravery on the night of 1-2 July 1915, in the southern zone of the Gallipoli Peninsula, when, owing to hostile bombing, some of our troops had retired from a sap, Sergeant Somers remained alone on the spot until a party brought up bombs. He then climbed over into the Turkish trench, and bombed the Turks with great effect. Later on, he advanced into the open under very heavy fire, and held back the enemy by throwing bombs into their flank until a barricade had been established. During this period he frequently ran to and from our trenches to obtain fresh supplies of bombs. By his great gallantry and coolness Sergeant Somers was largely instrumental in effecting the recapture of a portion of our trench, which had been lost."

Somers remained at Gallipoli until the close of the campaign, later seeing further service in France, taking part in the 1 July 1916 attack on the Somme at Beaumont Hamel. On the 1 April 1917 he joined the Army Service Corps. After being gassed quite badly, he was to die at his home in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary on 7 May 1918. He is buried in the churchyard at Modreemy, County Tipperary.

Unfortunately, owing to a misunderstanding, this act of bravey was frivolously thrown away as the men were withdrawn back to their original positions. Confusion in war! The Turks wasted no time and immediately seized the window of opportunity, reoccupying J12 once again. The Turks were not beaten yet.

Gallipoli - VCs of the First World War by Stephen Snelling pp.136-141