19 June 1915

HELLES - Following the Third Battle of Krithia on 4 June, Major General Sir Archibald Paris commanding the RND had decided to push forward a more advanced firing line into No Man's Land. It was realised that they could get forward some 100 yards reasonably easily but that in the centre of the RND line there was an advanced Turkish trench which if captured would allow an even greater advance.

The Hawke Battalion was ordered to attack on the night of 19 June. Lieutenant Douglas Jerrold left an outline of the fighting when the attack started at 00.30 on 19 June.

Photograph: Hawke Battalion Officers, May 1915, before departing for Gallipoli.

"A dark, moonless night, and particularly quiet. The Turkish rapid fire was by now far less active, as our machine gunners learnt to keep the Turks below their parapets. Punctually at 12.30am Morgan led out his platoons from the saphead, and giving the word himself led the attack. From that moment the fortunes of this miniature battle alternated with bewildering speed. Advancing with more enthusiasm than method, and adopting the o1d fashioned and probably mistaken habit of cheering as they advanced, the assaulting line was seen to reach the trench; then there was a burst of firing from the enemy and five minutes' pause, broken only by a confused shouting of orders. by officers separated from their men; then a swift and inexplicable retreat. Morgan himself had reached the neighbourhood of the trench with some of his men and had there been killed. That much was certain, but the rest was confusion. Each man had found himself alone, as indeed happens to men facing death at night in the open for the first time; someone had ordered a concentration on the right; another had directed his fellows to the right; a third had heard his officer call a halt; nor had countenanced a retirement, yet the chances of war had resulted in nothing less. The attack had failed, and Sub Lieutenant Little and two men, who were the only party who had actually reached the trench unwounded, were obliged, seeing themselves isolated, to retreat themselves. But the attack had not begun. Such, at any rate, was the view of Lieutenant Horsfield, Morgan's second-in-command, who had been left out of the first assault; and a new attack was immediately planned and immediately executed. This time there was no mistake, and the trench was taken at 2.30am, Horsfield, Rush, Little, and Tremayne (Machine Gun officer), with the survivors of the first assault, reaching their objective with little loss. Now in the two hours of darkness that still remained the work of consolidation had to be completed. For a time there was peace. The Turkish garrison of the trench had fled, and silence reigned while their victorious successors filled sandbags and attempted to prepare a defensible position."

The account is then taken up by Sub Lieutenant Rush.

"The trench, however, proved to be barely 4 feet deep, and was untraversed for almost its entire length, besides having scarcely any parapet or parados. It was apparent, moreover, that its position alone rendered it almost untenable. Attempts to consolidate were made by reversing the parapet, and by blocking the trench about 100 yards towards the left. Here the `machine gun was mounted and got into action, though it soon jammed. Sub- Lieutenant Tremayne was here shot through the head whilst firing over the parapet. The garrison continued to maintain a steady fire until very heavy casualties, and the fact that there the enemy offered no very clearly defined target, made active defence difficult."

Lieutenant Douglas Jerrold continues:

"An hour before dawn the struggle entered on a new phase. Rifle and machine gun fire was concentrated on the position from the Turkish trenches which dominated it, and the enemy advanced to the counter-attack. Partly by fire from the captured position, mainly owing to the vigilance of the Nelson Battalion in Nelson Avenue, this was beaten off, but our losses in the trench were becoming serious, and ammunition was running out. Moreover, as it grew lighter our communications had become insecure. In the half light before dawn volunteers from D Company (among whom Able Seaman Chalkley was conspicuous) took out ammunition and rifles to the now small and exhausted garrison, and came back, for the most part, safely, (though six men of this fine company: L. W. Young, S. G. Brown, J. S. Menhinnick, L. H. Salaman, E. W. Langland, and H. W. Stoessiger were killed), it was already clear that the position would be held with difficulty. The garrison was dangerously reduced. Lieutenant Horsfield, wounded in the first assault, had been wounded again, this time mortally. Sub-Lieutenant Tremayne, the battalion machine gun officer, had been killed. Of the original assaulting party, not more than twenty were unwounded. Sub Lieutenant Rush made his way back to Colonel Wilson, watching the situation anxiously from the saphead, and gave him a detailed account. Whatever the issue might be, it was clear to Colonel Wilson that 'A' Company must be relieved, and Lieutenant Cotter's 10th Platoon ('C' Company) was ordered up. Before this platoon had reached the front line, however, the Adjutant, who was in charge at the saphead of the digging parties and other arrangements, got a message from the garrison that another officer was wanted."

The Hawke Battalion Adjutant was Lieutenant R. H. Sheldon and he takes up the story:-

"Being on the spot, I went over and found the trench, which was only about 3 feet deep, an absolute shambles. Soon after, Cotter arrived with his platoon, and as dawn was breaking, and there was about 20 yards of open ground to get over, I ordered the 'A' Company men to crawl back one by one; the Turks spotted this and turned a machine gun on to them, and it was then that Little was killed. In the trench there was no field of fire, but we kept the Turks back with bombs. When these were exhausted, the Turks crawled up and bombed us; this was at about 8am, and as we were badly enfiladed it could only have been a question of time before we would have been all wiped out. I then gave orders to withdraw one by one. Poor Horsfield was lying badly wounded in the trench, but managed, the Lord knows how, to crawl as far as the commencement of the communication trench, where Cotter and l found him and got him back to the front line; he died the next day. Of Cotter's platoon, which had held the trench for not more than half an hour, more than half had become casualties."

By 08.30 on the morning of 19 June this disastrous little operation came to an end. The Hawke Battalion had lost 29 men killed and 75 wounded.

SOURCE:
D. Jerrold, The Hawke Battalion: Some Personal Records of Four Years, 1914-1918, (London, Ernest Benn Ltd, 1925), pp.67-70.