12 July 1915

HELLES - Major D. Yuille, 1/4th Royal Scots Fusiliers, 155th Brigade, 52nd Division - Private Nixon, 1/4th Royal Scots Fusiliers, 155th Brigade, 52nd Division - Lieutenant Arthur Chater, Chatham Battalion, Royal Marine Brigade, RND ...Hunter-Weston and Gouraud had seen the successful advances on the left and right flanks as merely the first stage before a joint attack by the British and French to bring the lagging centre into line. Although Gouraud had been wounded by shrapnel whilst visiting a French hospital on V Beach on 30 June, his successor, General Bailloud, was in agreement.

The importance of the superior French artillery was now clear and as it would not be ready until 12 July this was the date adopted for the attack. Meanwhile it had belatedly dawned on Hunter-Weston that all three of the original British divisions were now only suited to fairly passive line holding duties until they had a chance to rest and assimilate their reinforcement drafts. Therefore the task inevitably fell to the newly arrived, but already blooded, 52nd Division.

Hamilton had hoped to use this division at Anzac but his scepticism about Helles frontal attacks was overcome by his desire to capitalise on any Turkish weakness following their crippling losses on 5 July and he approved the plans put forward by Hunter-Weston.

Yet the delay before the attack could be organised inevitably gave the Turks a vital breathing space in which to recover and re-organise their defences. The attack on 12 July was again planned to take place in two halves to allow the artillery to concentrate on each in turn. In the morning the 155th Brigade on the extreme right of the British line were to advance in conjunction with yet another assault by the French on the banks of the Kereves Dere. To the left of the 155th Brigade, 157th Brigade were to remain in their trenches whilst the guns swung round and bombarded their objectives on either side of Achi Baba Nullah. Unless a real opportunity presented itself they were not to advance until late afternoon. The already battered 156th Brigade was to be the divisional reserve. All the troops in the initial attack were to advance in four waves starting at the same time one from each of the British trench lines. The objectives were strictly limited to the first three Turkish lines, although this was to cause considerable confusion as in many areas only two Turkish lines had been completed. The bombardment duly opened up at 04.30 with the French 75's as usual causing devastation in the Turkish trenches. At 07.30 the gunners lengthened their range to put a ring of scything steel around the area which it was hoped would prove impenetrable to the Turkish reinforcements inevitably rushing to the scene. The leading waves of troops set off across No Man's Land while the 157th Brigade tried to keep the Turks' heads down with the rattle of small arms fire. The Scottish troops reached the Turkish trenches with relatively few losses but then became bogged down in the labyrinth of smashed trenches. One of them was Major D. Yuille of the 1/4th Royal Scots Fusiliers.

"Unless one has seen it there is no imagination that can picture a belt of land some 400 yards wide converted into a seething hell of destruction. Rifle and machine-gun bullets rip up the earth, ping past the ear, or whing off the loose stones; shrapnel bursts overhead and the leaden bullets strike the ground with a vicious thud; the earth is rent into yawning chasms, while planks, sandbags, clods of earth, and rugged great chunks of steel hurtle through the air. The noise is an indescribable, nerve-racking, continuous, deafening roar, while drifting clouds of smoke only allow an intermittent view of the damnable inferno."

Under these circumstance efforts to locate and capture the largely none existent third line of trenches caused many unnecessary casualties. In the confusion many of the soldiers were isolated in the 'third line' - one of them being Private Nixon also of the 1/4th Royal Scots Fusiliers.

"I managed to get to the furthest point, that was the third Turkish trench or dummy trench. It was about one foot deep, and we had to set-to and fill sandbags. We were packed together and enfiladed from the left. Our fire rapidly diminished, till there was no one left to fire. Then I was knocked out. When I came to, our little trench was occupied by a Turk to every two yards. Four or five of our men were lying across me, and I could not get up. I was bayoneted six times in the back whilst lying there. A Turk officer, at the point of his revolver, ordered the Turks to release me."

The French had advanced in similar fashion and reached the Turkish second line. This time they maintained a link with the British right and avoided the domino collapse which had so plagued the allies. This left the attack balanced between success and failure and the generals faced a difficult decision as to whether to continue with the afternoon attack. Valour once more prevailed as Hunter-Weston agreed to the 157th Brigade attacking in conjunction with a renewed assault by the French and 'tactical advances' where possible by the 155th Brigade. The second bombardment opened up on the Achi Baba Nullah sector and at 16.50 the 157th Brigade went forward to a repeat performance: initial success, confusion caused by the absence of the third trench and eventual consolidation in the Turkish second line in touch with the 155th Brigade on their right. The outcome was still in the balance. No breakthrough had occurred and although Turkish trenches had been captured they were extremely vulnerable to counter attack. The Royal Marine Brigade of the RND was moved up as a immediate reserve in any such emergency. With them was Lieutenant Arthur Chater of the Chatham Battalion, RND

"The Battalion moved from our rest area in the afternoon. As we approached the 52nd Divisional Headquarters which was in the position normally used by our own Brigade Headquarters when we were in the line, the CO said "I do not want to have to halt the Battalion here, so run on and find out where they want us to go". I reached the Headquarters dug-out, saluted, and asked for orders. A voice from the depths said "Don't stand up there my lad, you may get shot. Come down here and sit down". To my surprise I found myself being addressed by the Divisional General. His next remark was - "I have been up since four this morning, and feel so tired". I suppose that for years past, the old man had had an afternoon nap. Without it he was defeated. He was quite unfit to command in battle."

Overnight the troops in the newly captured Turkish trenches faced the hard graft of consolidation. Trenches had to be turned round, old communication trenches barricaded off, new communication trenches dug back to the old British front line, the wounded had to be evacuated and supplies brought up. All this against a backdrop of chattering machine gun fire, flares and shrapnel bursts.


D. Yuille, 4th RSF, quoted in R. R. Thompson, The Fifty Second (Lowland) Division 1914-1918, (Glasgow: Maclehouse, Jackson & Co, 1923), p.90, Nixon quoted in G. F. Scott Elliot, War History of the 5th Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers, (Dumfries: Robert Dinwiddie, 1928), p.33, IWM Docs, A. R. Chater, memoir p.11