22nd May 1915. Reports from the Dardanelles




At the Baptist Church on Sunday night, the Rev J H Lees read a letter, received by Mr and Mrs Flowers and family, of Dunchurch, from Corpl Walter Whale, of the 1st Border Regiment. Mr Lees said he hesitated to read the letter in a place of worship, but he had decided to do so because it presented so graphic a description of the actual fighting, and brought home to them the need for prayer and self-examination. The letter is dated May 4th, and we make the following extracts from it :-

“ I expect you will have seen by the papers I am wounded and on my way home. We were to have gone in hospital in Alexandria, but when we got there they were full up. I am on a hospital ship now, and the sisters are very kind. I think I am lucky in being sent to England, though, of course, I shall be sent back as soon as I am fit.

“ We landed on Sunday, and had to climb a big cliff before we got to level ground, and as we came over this cliff the enemy were firing on us. Of course, they were knocking out men over in hundreds, as we were right in the open, and they were in trenches only about 200 yards away.

They could scarcely help hitting us, and our men were falling all round me. My officer got killed before we had gone twenty yards. Sergt Johnstone was killed just after. Another of our sergeants got knocked over, and there were, dozens of privates falling all round me. I was expecting to get hit any minute, but we kept advancing. At last the enemy retired ; then it was our turn to shine. As they retired we popped them over. After that we laid down flat and dug trenches the best way we could. Of course, it was a difficult job, but we dared not look up, or we should have had our heads blown off. They did not trouble us for about two hours after that, so we got a trench finished after a style.

“ At night on they came again to about 100 yards from our trench, firing on us the whole time, and we were firing back as fast as our rifles could fire. There were only twenty of us, and two of them were wounded, so that left us 18 to keep that lot back, and with no officer. There were more troops further back, but they could not get to us, nor we to them, so we kept up a rapid fire. I fired about 300 rounds that night. We thought they would rush us any minute. If they had we should have had no earthly chance, for we were so outnumbered. We kept our bayonets fixed ready for them, and in the finish they retired altogether. Didn’t I thank God for the dawn ! I broke my rifle, and took one from one of the dead Royal Fusiliers. We finished off our trench, and had another go at them in the afternoon and all night. We must have killed hundreds of them. An officer came to take charge of us, and he praised us for the work all had done the night before. He said it was wonderful how we kept them back.

“ Tuesday we advanced again and dug more trenches and stayed the night fighting. The next day we advanced to take a hill five miles away, on which the enemy were entrenched. We had to drive them out, and we had had no sleep, and so were exhausted before we started.

“ We were in fall pack, and it was a broiling hot day, so we were told to throw our packs down. It was a bit better without that weight, but they were on the hill with their big guns, and we were advancing, so they just mowed us down.

“ The corporal in charge of our section told me to take charge when he got shot. We had not gone 100 yards before I got hit, too, four times in the back while I was lying down giving orders. I told the men to go on, but I had not been lying there more than ten minutes before our men began retiring. I got up and ran as best I could to the cliff, and then I rolled down to the seashore, when I got picked up and put in a boat. I did sleep when I was put in bed. We had gone four days and nights without sleep. My wounds did not keep me awake. My clothes were cut off me, soaked with blood, so I have not a thread of clothes, only a pair of boots and a cap-not even a shirt. I left everything I had. I am going on finely now, only cannot use my left arm. I was wounded by shrapnel.”


In a number of private letters to Rugby people the death of Sergt Johnstone, of the 1st Border Regiment, is announced. Sergt Johnstone was an earnest Christian man, who took an active part in religious work during the stay of the regiment in Rugby. He conducted services at the Baptist Chapels at Dunchurch and Draycote, and also at the Rugby Railway mission. He was an enthusiastic temperance advocate, and induced many men in the regiment to sign the total abstinence pledge.


One or two Rugby people made a special journey to Manchester on Wednesday in order to visit wounded soldiers home from the Dardanelles, who were billeted in the town. They found Corpl Owens, of the 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers and Pte T Connolly in the military hospital at Crumpsall, and both were delighted to see their friends ; as was also Pte Pat Mullen, who was billeted in Cambridge Street, and is in Trafford Park Hospital, with his face badly damaged.

Corpl Owens has a bullet lodged in his chest which has to be extracted.

Pte Connelly has been badly wounded, as will be gathered from the following letter received by his landlady in Corbett Street :- “I was wounded in two places. I was shot through the arm and through the side, and have been very ill, but am now on the road to recovery. We had very severe fighting and we lost very severely. Our Colonel was killed and half of our officers and about 400 of us were killed and wounded ; but we made the Turks pay very heavily for what we got. At the place we landed there were 20,000 Turks, and there were only 8,000 of us. We captured 2,000 of them, and I don’t know how many we killed and wounded. We got a lot of German officers among them, and we took two forts at the point of the bayonet. The Inniskillings, the Border Regiment, and the Royal Fusiliers, fought splendidly, and lost heavily ; but we won a lot of ground. It take time to force the Dardanelles, as they are so strongly fortified.

Capt Charles Unwin, of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, son of Dr Unwin, formerly of Dunchurch, who was wounded in the fighting at the Dardanelles, has since died.

Pipe-Major Mackenzie, the stalwart leader of the band of pipers of the K.O.S.B, and who will be remembered by Rugbeians, has, we regret to learn, been killed.


So cordial was the reception given to the troops belonging to the Brigade recently billeted in Rugby that it is not surprising many of the soldiers anticipate with pleasure the time when they will get an opportunity to re-visit the town. At least one wounded soldier-it is reported there have been more-has this week taken advantage of the chance to spend a short time at his old billet. This is Pte Harris, a member of the Border Regiment, who stayed with others at a house in Craven Road. He was shot in the wrist, the bullet afterwards passing into his leg. The first-named injury has caused him to lose the use of two of his fingers. The fighting in the Dardanelles he describes as simply terrible. Two other men billeted in the house have also been wounded. Pte Keelian was shot in the elbow, and is under treatment at a hospital in Manchester, whilst the other man (Pte Greenhow) is reported to have sustained a broken leg and it is feared he may have fallen into the cruel hands of the Turks.



Pte Thornbury, of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who was billeted with Corpl Owens, at 26 Corbett Street, the home of Mr and Mrs Thos Sheppard, has written to his Rugby friends a letter containing a characteristic Irish ” Bull.” The letter is dated from Malta on May 14th in it Pte Thornbury says : “ I hope you are in good health, only I am wounded.” He adds, however, that the wound is slight, and he expects to be better in a short time. Pte Thornbury proceeds to give an interesting account of his experiences at the Dardanelles :-

“ I have had a hot time of it since I started out here,” he says. “ I have been very lucky. I have been is the mouth of death once, and I don’t know how I got out of it. The Turks are very bad fighters. They would not fight at all, only for German officers leading them. I tell you it felt very strange to us that morning we landed. It was on Sunday. At six o’clock I woke up out of bed to hear big naval guns booming like thunder. Some of our chaps were shot in the water before we got to shore. When I left the firing line our chaps were doing well. I wish this war was over, as I should like to give Rugby a call when I get back.”



During the time the troops were billeted in Rugby several of them attended the Railway Mission, and for ten Sundays in succession the services were sustained by soldiers, who both gave addresses and sang hymns. To commemorate the happy associations the members of the Mission had with the soldiers an address and roll has been prepared ; and on Sunday afternoon, at a service conducted by Mr Frank Ward, this was presented by Mr T Hunter, who made a suitable speech. The document will henceforth occupy an honoured place on the wall of the Mission Room. The address was as follows :-

“ RUGBY RAILWAY Mission.-We desire to place on record our appreciation of the services rendered in this branch off the Mission by members of his Majesty’s Forces during the time the 87th Brigade, 29th Division, was stationed at Rugby, between January and March, 1915.”

Appended are the names of twenty men belonging to the several regiments who worshipped at the Mission, and received a copy of the “ Happy Warrior,” together with a promise that during the war they would be remembered at the services on Sunday mornings.

The proceedings were rather saddened by this news that Sergt Johnstone, who headed the list, had been killed and in a letter from Corpl Northam, dated April 20th (read by Mr Ward), reference was made to this, the writer stating that he did not know what they would do without Sergt Johnstone and Pte Wood, of the R.A.M.C., as the section of the Army to which he belonged had no chaplain with them, and the two men named had made it their custom to conduct religious meetings.

The roll had been very nicely illuminated by Stanley Beard. Down the left-hand side was a golden sceptre with floral embellishments, and an Egyptian landscape scene, crossed naval flags, and an aeroplane hovering over a war vessel had been introduced with good effect.

A solo, “ Thou art passing hence, my brother,” was rendered during the service by Mr W Butcher.


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