Victoria Crosses

VCs of Gallipoli and The Dardanelles

The meticulously researched work on this subject, highly commended to all students of the campaign, is Stephen Snelling’s ‘VCs of the First World War – Gallipoli’ Publ. Alan Sutton , Stroud, in 1995 and again by Wrens Park Publishing 1999 (ISBN  0-905-778-332) from which much of the material in this section is drawn. Snelling’s book delves into the family backgrounds of the VC winners as well as providing a lively commentary on the campaign.

Ranks are those held at the time of the deed earning the award. Lack of space prevents much more than the briefest summary of the acts which gained the supreme award. As in Snelling's book, these are presented in chronological order, although dates of gazetting often differ widely.

13 December 1914 Sari Sighlar Bay, Chanak Bair. Lt Commander N .Holbrook RN

Holbrook was the commander of the submarine B 11 which made its way through several minefields to torpedo and sink the elderly Ottoman battleship Messudieh, anchored as a floating battery and guard ship off the town of Chanak. He was the first of a distinguished company of submarine VCs.

26 February 1915 near the Orkanieh Battery, Kum Kale: Lt Commander E G Robinson RN: Gazetted 16 August 1915

Robinson displayed great bravery and leadership during the operation to complete the destruction of the Orkanieh battery. He also played a leading part in the successful operation to destroy the submarine E 15 which had gone aground near the Dardanos battery near Kephez Point on the night of 18/19 April.

Robinson retired as a Rear Admiral in 1933, returned to service in 1939 and served as a convoy Commodore until forced to retire again in 1941 due to ill health. He died in 1965 and is buried in St John's churchyard, Langriosh, Hants.

25 April 1915. 'W' Beach, Helles

Capt. R.R. Willis
Capt. C. Bromley
Sgt A. Richards,
Sgt. F.E.Stubbs.
Cpl. J.E.Grimshaw.
Pte W.Keneally

Gazetted at various times.

These are the 'Six VCs before breakfast' gained by the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers and recommended (though not by individual names) by Major General Hunter-Weston to GHQ on 15 May. Hamilton supported this but there was much bureaucratic bungling at the War Office before permission was given, under the rules for the VC, for a ballot to be made. Three of the men were gazetted in August but it was not until 1917 that the other three were gazetted, by which time several had been killed in action.

25 April 1915. 'V' Beach, Helles

Gazetted 16 August 1915, except that of Tisdall (who was killed in action on 6 May without knowing of the award, which was not gazetted until 11 March 1916)

Comd. E.Unwin RN, Sub-Lt A.Tisdall RN
Midshipman G. L. Drewry RNR,
Midshipman W.Malleson RN.
Able Seaman W.C.Williams RN, (posth)
Seaman G.Samson RN.

All were crew members of the River Clyde, the collier converted, by the addition of ports in her sides and ramps, into an assault ship for the landings at 'V' beach. Tisdall was not strictly a crew member but was serving in the Royal Naval Division and in command of a beach party carried aboard. . All six men displayed sublime courage when the beaching of the ship went awry and the steam tug, manned by Greeks, failed to position itself properly to manoeuvre the towed barges into position to form a pier.

26 April 1915. Sedd-el-Bahr village, above 'V' Beach

Gazetted 23 June 1915

Lt Colonel C.H.M. Doughty-Wylie, Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Capt (temp major) G.N. Walford, Royal Artillery

Doughty-Wylie was detached to the River Clyde from Hamilton's staff for the landing, as was Walford, who was Brigade Major Royal Artillery in 29 Division. Having been helpless spectators of the slaughter during the landing attempt on 25 April, Doughty-Wylie and the C.O of the Munster's stopped further landings. During the night more troops were brought ashore and on the morning of the 26th, these officers led a desperate charge up the village of Sedd-el-Bahr against fierce resistance, which they and their mixed body of troops managed to overcome. Walford was killed in the village but Doughty-Wylie gained the summit of the hill overlooking the beach where he too fell to a sniper. He remains where he fell, in the only solitary war grave on the peninsula and the senior officer to win the VC in the Gallipoli campaign.

26 April 1915. 'V' Beach, Sedd-el-Bahr
Gazetted 23 August 1915
Cpl W.Cosgrove, R. Munster Fusiliers

As the Fusiliers emerged from the ports in the side of the ship on the morning of the 25th they came under heavy fire which pinned the survivors down on the beach until last light. During the night some re-organisation was possible but at dawn on the 26th it was clear that most of the Munster's' officers had been killed or wounded.  Even when the village had been cleared of snipers the centre of the beach was still covered by Turkish machine guns and a thick belt of wire. Cosgrove, an enormously strong man (he was 6ft 6in tall) rushed forward and rooted out the wire pickets, enabling a gap through which the survivors charged. Despite numerous wounds he continued to lead the attack after all the officers and senior ranks had been wounded or killed. He transferred to the British Army in 1922 and retired in 1934 as a Staff Sergeant Instructor with the Rangoon University Training Corps, and died in 1936.

30 April - 2 May, Anzac Sector
Gazetted 22 June 1917
L/Cpl W.R.Parker RM, Portsmouth Brigade, RND

Within a few days of the Anzac landings the Turks were launching fierce counter attacks and a brigade of the Royal Naval Division was sent from Helles to augment the still endangered front line, which as yet was not continuous but no more than a series of outposts. Parker was serving as a medical orderly and when a strong Turkish attack came in on 30 April he went from post to post carrying medical supplies and tending the wounded under heavy fire. When, on 2 May, it was decided to evacuate a particularly exposed position, now held by only a handful of unwounded men, Parker helped the wounded to safety, being wounded severely himself in the process. Although no immediate award was made, a number of senior officers and witnesses testified to Parker's sacrificial gallantry and he received his Cross from the King in 1917, by which time he had been invalided. He died in 1936.

27 April -18 May 1915, Sea of Marmara
Gazetted 21 May 1915
Lt Commander E.C.Boyle RN

Boyle was the commander of the submarine E 14 which entered the Straits and penetrated the narrows within 48 hours of the Helles landings, to embark on a sensationally successful series of attacks on Turkish shipping, including the torpedoing, with huge loss of life, of the troopship Guj Djemal, and several warships. He retired as a Rear Admiral in 1932 and died in 1967 having been run over on a pedestrian crossing.

19 May- 7 June 1915, Sea of Marmara
Gazetted 25 June 1915
Lt. Commander M.E.Nasmith RN

Nasmith commanded the submarine E 11 which followed Boyle's E 14 into the Sea of Marmara. His final briefing, from Commodore Roger Keyes, was to the point: 'Go and run amok in the Marmara!'  Quite literally he did just that. In three weeks he sank eleven ships and penetrated into Constantinople Harbour. He also sank a ship off the port of Rodosto and another as it lay alongside the dock there, finally being driven offshore by a troop of cavalry with their carbines. On a subsequent cruise in the Marmara he sank the old battleship Heiruddin Barbarossa before re-entering Constantinople where he sank another ship in full view of the alarmed population. He retired as Admiral Sir Martin Dunbar-Nasmith after World War 2 and died in 1965.

19 May 1915, Courtney's Post, Anzac.
Gazetted 24 July 1915
L/Corporal (acting) A.Jacka

On 19 May, before dawn, the Turks launched their greatest massed attack on the Anzac front line, advancing in mass formation. They met with disaster but got within yards of over-running the defence at several points. Jacka was serving in the garrison of Courtney's, manned by the 14th Battalion AIF. At one point the Turks, using hand grenades, got into the post, to be met by Jacka, the only defender still on his feet, who held out with rifle and bayonet for 15 minutes until help arrived. Obtaining some bombs, he led a counter attack, shooting and bayoneting every Turk he came across. Later in the war he was commissioned and gained further awards for gallantry in France, he died in 1932.

6 June 1915, Krithia sector, Helles.
Gazetted 24 July 1915
2nd Lt G.R.D.Moor, Hampshire Regiment

The Third Battle for Krithia took place on 4 June and although the 42nd East Lancashire Division came close to taking the village, the bloody repulse of the Royal Naval Division on their right laid bare their flank.  The Hampshire's, to the left of the 42nd Division's line of attack, initially advanced successfully but at dawn on the 6th a sudden panic appeared to seize the units in the front trenches, who began to stream to the rear. By this time, Moor, who was only 18 years old, was in virtual command of what remained of his battalion. He took charge of the situation, shot several men who were running off in terror, and led several charges to stabilise the line. His recommendation came from officers of a neighbouring battalion who had witnessed his extraordinary conduct. Having gained the MC and bar later in France, Moor died of influenza in November 1918, aged 21.

28 June / 2 July 1915
Gazetted 1 September 1915
2nd Lt H.James, Worcestershire Regiment

During  the fighting for the village of Krithia  the attack of the 29th Division, astride Gully Ravine, was initially successful. However, due to sparse artillery support (partially due to the shortage of high explosive shell) the attack of the 156th Brigade of the 52nd Lowland Division, thrown piecemeal into battle with little chance to familiarise with conditions in the line, had failed.  The newly appointed 29th Division al commander, Major General Beauvoir de Lisle, ordered the resumption of the attack 'at all costs' H-hour was to be 0900 hrs on 2 July and the attack consisted of detachments of the Hampshire and Worcestershire Regiments.  Conditions were appalling; the trenches over which the battle now raged were clogged with corpses and in the smoke and dust communication was near impossible. James was in charge of a bombing party armed with jam tin grenades; the Turks had proper bombs, far more effective than the jam tins. Soon, James's party was reduced to a handful and soon he was alone, all his men having been killed or wounded. Until reinforcements arrived he held the trench with two rifles and a sack of home-made bombs. He remained in the Army after the war and retired as a major in 1930 dying as a virtual recluse in 1958

18/19 June and  1 / 2  July  1915, Area of Gully Ravine, Helles
Gazetted 1 September 1915
Capt. G.O'Sullivan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Cpl J.Somers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

The fighting at this stage was centred around Gully Ravine, the nullah running up from Gully Beach towards Krithia and a key tactical feature of the battlefield throughout the Helles campaign. The Turks were keen to regain what was known as 'Turkey Trench' and succeeded in driving the South Wales Borderers out of it. A counter attack by  the Inniskillings and Borderers  led by Capt. O'Sullivan drove the Turks back. Throughout the fighting, O'Sullivan had been closely supported by Cpl Somers, who, as an enthusiastic cricketer, revelled in grenade throwing. He continued the fight after O'Sullivan had been carried off wounded and held his ground against all attacks. O'Sullivan spent some weeks in hospital but returned to the battalion in time to take part in the disastrous attack on Scimitar Hill on 21 August when he was killed, having led a last charge up the hills with the words '…one more charge for the honour of the old Regiment'. Somers died at home in Ireland in May 1918, almost certainly as the result of gas poisoning sustained on the western front.

7-9 August 1915, Lone Pine, Anzac Sector.Gazetted 15 October 1915

Capt. A. Shout (posth)
Lt J.Symons
Lt. F.Tubb, Cpl. A. Burton (posth)
Cpl. W.Dunstan
L/Cpl L.Keysor
Pte J.Hamilton

All these awards arose from the attack on the enormously strong Turkish positions around the ring contour since known as Lone Pine, in which, as the result of careful planning by the staff of the 1st Australian Division (Maj-General Walker) the leading assault troops burst suddenly from saps that had been dug, unseen by the Turks, to within fifty yards of their front line. Total surprise was achieved but matters became fraught when it was found that the Turks had covered their trenches with beams of timber; these had to be prised up to permit entry by the attackers into the maze of galleries below, in which ferocious hand-to-hand fighting raged for 48 hours before the position was firmly in Australian hands.

8-10 August 1915, Rhododendron Spur, Anzac Sector
Gazetted  15 October 1915
Cpl. C.R.G.Bassett, NZ Engineers (Signals)

Bassett was in charge of a telephone line-laying party which accompanied one of the three columns sent round the Turkish northern flank on the night of 6-7 August as part of the great attack on the Sari Bair ridge. Commanded by Brig-General Johnston, the column comprised the New Zealand Brigade, a battery of Indian mountain guns and the company of field engineers in which Bassett was serving. Due to Johnston's lack of drive the attack fell behind schedule and the opposition became intense as the advance was resumed up the steep slopes. The telephone lines were continually cut by enemy shellfire and Bassett and his squad were kept busy on the open slopes of Rhododendron Spur and under continuous fire, often at ranges below 100 yards. His VC was award, not for an isolated act but for almost a week of outstanding gallantry and leadership in the face of the enemy. When he died, in 1983, he was the last surviving Gallipoli VC.

9 August 1915, Scimitar Hill, Suvla Sector.
Gazetted 1 October 1915
Capt & Adjutant P.H.Hansen, Lincolnshire Regiment

As the first attack on Scimitar Hill developed, only two days after the initial Suvla landings,  it became apparent that a great brush fire had broken out and that the wounded lying in its path were in danger of  being burnt alive.  The battle was characterised by total confusion on the British side, where inexperienced Kitchener battalions, new to active service, became disorientated and in some cases panic broke out. Earlier on 9 August some of the East Yorkshires had actually gained the summit of the Tekke Tepe ridge overlooking the Suvla Plain but had been overwhelmed there. The 6th Lincolns managed to get onto the lower slopes at Scimitar Hill but no further as the units supposedly on their left had been driven off. Once it became apparent that the situation was hopeless, Hansen, an Anglo-Danish officer who had played a major part in steadying the troops of his own and other units,  gathered a party of volunteers and began to rescue any wounded left on the hillside before the flames reached them. Later, he was to say that '…I was in the biggest funk of my life , and I hardly knew what was happening'. Hansen remained in the army after 1918, attended the Staff College and in 19139 was commanding the 2nd Battalion of his regiment. After more staff appointments he ended the war as a Brigadier, retiring in 1946. He died in 1946.

7-9 August 1915, The Vineyard, Helles.
Gazetted 9 September 1915
Lt. (temp Capt and QM) W.T.Forshaw, Manchester Regiment.

As part of Hamilton's plan for the great attack of 7 August on the Sari Bair ridge, a diversion was to be made at Helles in hopes that it would distract Turkish attention from the main thrust. In the event the Helles diversion proved a costly reverse. The 9th Manchester's, part of the 42nd East Lancs Division, were ordered to attack in the area of the Vineyard, about 1000 yards south of Krithia village and the apex of the British line, at 3.50 pm on 6 August, shortly before the Suvla landings began. After a feeble artillery bombardment the attack on the left of the Manchester's began, carried out by the 88th Brigade of 29 Division. It was thrown back with very heavy loss. The 9th Manchester's' turn came at 9.40 am on the following day, against strongly entrenched Turkish positions. Forshaw established himself in a forward post, armed with a huge pile of about 800  jam-tin bombs and withstood repeated Turkish attacks which continued all night.  After the war Forshaw transferred to the Indian Army, left in 1922, then served in the RAF's educational branch for several years. Working as a school teacher for some time he eventually worked for Gaumont British. In the 1939 war he served as a major in the Home Guard but died in 1943.

13 August 1915, The Vineyard, Helles.
Gazetted 13 January 1917
Pte D.R.Lauder,  Royal Scots Fusiliers

The  9th Manchester's, in which Forshaw had just gained his recommendation for the VC were relieved in the line by Territorial's of the 52nd Lowland Division, who were met almost at once by a fierce Turkish counter attack. Lacking machine guns, the Scotsmen had to rely on their jam-tin bombs to keep the enemy at bay. Lauder was a member of a mixed bombing party in the front line when he saw that a bomb thrown by him had fallen back into the trench. He immediately placed his foot on it. His foot was blown off but the lives of his companions were saved. In later years he remained in contact with his old regiment and at his funeral, in 1972, a piper from the Royal Highland Fusiliers played a lament.

21-23 August 1915, Scimitar Hill, Suvla
Gazetted 1 October 1915
Tpr F.Potts, Berkshire Yeomanry

The 2nd Mounted Division, which arrived to serve as infantry at Suvla shortly before Hamilton's great attack of 21 August, included the Berkshire Yeomanry. The execution of the Suvla attack had been placed in the hands of General de Lisle whose optimism failed to achieve success. Instead, the initial assault on Scimitar Hill, entrusted to regulars of 29 Division, was thrown back with great loss, as were successive attacks by less well trained Kitchener  troops of the 11th (Northern) Division, whose commander, Hammersley, had already been taken off following a major nervous breakdown. As the day developed, so did a dense pall of smoke and dust, obliterating the high ground which the yeomanry were supposed to take. When called forward from behind the cover of the Lala Baba hill the 2nd Mounted Division marched in parade ground order across the dry Salt Lake and then almost immediately on into the murk ahead. As darkness fell the men struggled up the slopes against a stream of wounded men and stragglers from earlier attacks. Potts was wounded in the leg and had to lie out all night between the lines where he was joined by Tpr Andrews, also wounded and incapable of walking. They emptied the water bottles of dead men lying nearby and lay low all night  and through the next day. . Potts laid Andrews on a shovel and began to propel him back towards the British lines, which they regained after 48 hours. They had taken this time to cover about 600 yards. He died in 1943, having played a prominent part for many years in church and civic affairs.

29 August 1915, Hill 60
Gazetted 15 October 1915
2 /Lt H.V.H.Throssell, 10th Australian Light Horse

Hill 60 formed a key point of the Turkish defence; situated below the northern slopes of the Sari Bair ridge and, at the junction of the Suvla and Anzac sectors, with commanding views over the Suvla Plain, it was heavily fortified by concentric rings of trenches and lavishly equipped with quick-firing artillery and machine guns. Its capture was essential if further advances were to be made around the northern flank of the main Turkish positions. Several attacks by Anzac troops had already failed with great loss before the assault of 28-29 August. Throssell was at the forefront and found himself in a trench jointly claimed by both sides, in which a vicious close-quarter battle developed. It was possibly the most prolonged grenade fight on the peninsula, as the Anzacs picked up the Turkish grenades as they fell and threw them back, together with their own jam-tin bombs. After his superior officer had been killed Throssell assumed command of his section of trench, holding out against every subsequent Turkish attack. One of his colleagues, who was reckoned to have thrown some 500 bombs, had his arm blown off but continued to throw grenades, though now mortally wounded. Throssell was himself now badly wounded and was evacuated; in later life, much affected by his experiences, he became a founder member of the Australian Communist Party. He fell into debt and, in the belief that he would help his family financially and secure for them a war pension, shot himself in 1933.

19 November 1915, near Ferejik Railway Junction, Bulgaria
Gazetted 1 January 1916
Squadron Comd. R.Bell Davies RNAS

With the entry of Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Central Powers and the overthrow of Serbia, a rail link across the Balkans enabled the Germans to send munitions and warlike stores to Constantinople directly by goods train. Bell Davies had been flying in the Aegean since the beginning of the Dardanelles campaign as second-in-command to Sqn Commander Charles Samson, already a legendary figure in his own right.  Samson was given permission to bomb targets on Bulgarian soil and selected a number of them for treatment. On 19 November three aircraft attacked the railway station at Ferejik; in the course of the attack Bell Davies saw that one of his colleagues had been compelled to force-land.  The pilot, seeing a unit of cavalry approaching, set fire to the aircraft and prepared to escape on foot; but Bell Davies landed in a dried-up watercourse and picked up his fellow pilot, who had to cling to the upper wing of the biplane as Bell Davies took off under heavy fire as his passenger found his way into the second cockpit, which had been covered with a spare engine cowl. Bell Davies became one of the pioneers of naval aviation, retiring in 1941 as a Vice Admiral but immediately returning as a convoy commodore, finally retiring in 1944. He died in 1966, having written his memoir, Sailor in the Airing which there is no mention of the circumstances that gained him the VC.

23 December 1915, Fusilier Bluff, Helles.
Gazetted  January 1916
2/Lt. A.V.Smith, East Lancashire Regiment (posth)

Fusilier Bluff was the foremost British position at Helles and marked the apex of the line, with its flank resting on the cliffs overlooking the Aegean. As the evacuation of the Anzac-Suvla sector went ahead undetected by the Turks until the troops had all left unscathed, it became necessary to make the enemy believe that the Helles sector was still held strongly and Smith was prominent in aggressive patrolling  from early on  in December. He made it clear to all that he wanted to make as lively as possible for the Turks, whose trenches were only yards away, and he ensured that a continual shower of bombs was thrown into the opposing trench. However, early on the morning of 23 December, Smith lost his grip on the grenade he was about to throw and it fell to the trench floor; at once he saw that his comrades' lives were in danger and threw himself bodily onto the smoking bomb, dying instantly as it detonated. His was the last VC awarded for the Gallipoli campaign.