The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Three – Gallipoli 1915 – Disaster in the Dardanelles

The Gallipoli section of this series of posts is the only part where I have included all General Officers, including those who were dismissed – and one of them had earned a D.S.O. in South Africa in 1900 in an action that saw two of his men gain Victoria Crosses, so I would suggest that even his bravery should not be questioned – or vacated their positions due to sickness, because only by including all do you get an idea of the scale of the command disaster during the campaign.  Between late April 1915 & January 1916 at Gallipoli, in just nine months, 31 generals, and they are just the ones I have identified, would lose their jobs, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons, and one other would resign in a fit of pique, only to return soon after.  A staggering number, whatever way you look at it.

Now, here’s a thing.  The photographs, all taken in the Suvla Bay area, that I have used as backgrounds for this post, and all taken on or around 22nd August 1915, have certainly never been published before, neither in books nor on the web, nor indeed seen anywhere until now.  I stumbled across the originals – there are just seven – in a private collection (so I do know their provenance, if not, unfortunately, the photographer) many years ago and have kept these scans to myself ever since, but this seems a good opportunity to finally show them to you, and if you click and enlarge them fully, the detail is superb – you’ll keep spotting new things in the background (like the background blurs in one that become the fleet, or part of it, on enlargement), or soldiers you hadn’t noticed previously.  This photo shows the Salt Lake and beyond it, in the very far distance, Suvla Bay, taken from the western slopes of Chocolate Hill; note the grave in the right foreground.

Whereas this photo shows Chocolate Hill from the edge of the Salt Lake, the Turkish front line not very far away on the far side of the hill, the larger hills in the right background within Turkish territory, all of which you will be able to see on a map a bit later.  Note the shrapnel burst over the peak of Chocolate Hill.

The six generals pictured above were among seven put out of action, four of them killed, between the first Gallipoli landings at Cape Helles & ANZAC Cove in April, and July, three of them during the initial landings on 25th April.  On the far left, Brigadier-General William Raine Marshall, G.O.C. 87th Brigade, 29th Division, twice wounded in the South African War and twice wounded in the Great War, the second time during the landings at X beach on 25th April, where he was shot above the knee.  He would return to command the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force from 1917 until 1919.  Brigadier-General Steuart Welwood Hare, G.O.C. 86th Brigade, 29th Division, of whom I have no image, was badly wounded in the leg after the ‘W’ beach landings, and Brigadier-General Henry Edward Napier, G.O.C. 88th Brigade, 29th Division (second left), was killed by Turkish rifle fire during the landing at ‘V’ Beach.  His body was lost and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial.  He was 53.  On 8th May Brigadier-General John Gellibrand, D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 6th Australian Brigade, 2nd Australian Division (not pictured), was hit in the chest by shrapnel, although he would return to be wounded again the following year, as we shall see next post, when you might even get to see a photo of him.

The other four insets show, from centre left to far right; Major-General Sir William Throsby Bridges, G.O.C. 1st Australian Division, hit in the groin by a sniper’s bullet on 15th May.  Bridges died three days later on board the hospital ship Gascon.  Knighted on his death-bed, Bridges is supposedly the only Australian casualty in two world wars to be brought back to Australia for burial, his grave now to be found in the grounds of Duntroon Military College, Canberra.  He was 54.  Brigadier-General Noel Lee, G.O.C. 127th Brigade, 42nd Division, the first Territorial to be promoted to brigadier, had been wounded by a shell splinter in the throat on 4th June at Krithia Nulla, subsequently dying in hospital on Malta on 22nd June aged 46.  He is buried on Malta in Pieta Military Cemetery.  Brigadier-General William Scott-Moncrieff, G.O.C. 156th Brigade, 52nd Division, was killed in action on 28th June aged 57.  He had been severely wounded at Spion Kop in South Africa in January 1900 which left him with a permanent limp, and was killed personally leading his men in what he may well have considered a futile final attack on the Turkish trenches.  His body could not be recovered from No Man’s Land, and he is remembered by a special memorial in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery at Helles.  On 9th May, Brigadier-General James Whiteside M’Cay, G.O.C. 2nd Australian Brigade, 1st Australian Division (on the far right – note the stick), had been wounded at Krithia when a bullet broke his leg.  He returned to his brigade in June, and on 11th July, while descending a steep communication trench near Scott’s Point, his leg snapped where the bullet had previously broken the bone.  Ouch!  M’Cay would later become G.O.C. Australian Imperial Forces, U.K..

And so we move into August, and the impending calamity of Suvla Bay.  However, the first of three generals to die in action during the month was Brigadier-General Anthony Hugh Baldwin, G.O.C. 38th Brigade, 13th Division (above).  Aged 51, he was killed, along with many of his staff, at Chunuk Bair, inland from ANZAC Bay, just a few miles south of Suvla, on 10th August (Brigadier-General Richard Joshua Cooper, G.O.C. 29th Brigade, 10th Division, was severely wounded in the lungs in the same incident but would survive).  Baldwin has no known grave and is remembered on the Helles Memorial.  Enlarging this photograph will show you evidence that nobody bothered to take the 1915 version of the Pocket Book that I recently showed you to Gallipoli – or the latrine pages had already been torn out and used for who-knows-what……or probably you-know-what?

So here’s the map, which will, of course, enlarge considerably for your pleasure.  From the left, Suvla Bay itself is obvious, beneath the number 103 and a bit of 116, the Salt Lake is beneath 104, and between the two is the hill marked as Lala Baba (next photo).  Past the Salt Lake to the east, near the map’s centre, is Chocolate Hill (actually with two summits, as you can see, the eastern peak known as Green Hill, although unnamed on the map), and just beyond, the black hand-drawn zig-zag line a little further east shows the British front line.  Looking at the map, you really do have to wonder what on earth was the point of any of it once no immediate breakout had been achieved, or even undertaken.

Two generals had already been wounded on 7th August during the Suvla landings, which had actually begun at 10.00 p.m. on the previous evening.  Brigadier-General Henry Haggard, G.O.C. 32nd Brigade, 11th Division, was wounded in the leg by a shell during the landings, and Major-General Herbert Vaughan Cox, G.O.C. 29th Indian Brigade, G.H.Q. Troops, was hit in the leg once, possibly twice, either way, luckily for him, by a spent bullet or bullets, at Sari Bair.  I have so far been unable to find photographs of Cooper or Haggard, but Cox is pictured on horseback in the inset.  Photographs of the next three generals on our list, all three wounded on consecutive days, have proved elusive.  On the morning of 13th August, a shell from a Turkish gun shelling the British ships in Suvla Bay, from ‘somewhere up Sari Bair way’, landed short, way short, and by sheer bad luck fell among a group of officers watching the shelling, stones thrown up by the explosion badly wounding Brigadier General Edward John Granet C.R.A. 11th Division, in the hands and face.  He would be evacuated from Gallipoli, and we shall encounter him once more in the final post in this series.  The following day Brigadier-General Ernest Arnold Cowans, G.O.C. 159th Brigade, 53rd Division, was wounded by a Turkish sniper at Suvla, and on 15th August Brigadier-General Charles de Winton, G.O.C. 152nd Infantry Brigade, 54th Division, was seriously wounded during the attack on Kiretch Tepi from Suvla Bay as he personally led his men across unreconnoitred ground towards the Turkish lines.  The above photograph is annotated ‘Suvla Bay G.H.Q.’ on the reverse, and shows the western slope of Lala Baba, looking towards part of the fleet (nine or ten ships are visible, including one big ‘un) off the coast beyond.  Note the discarded Brodie helmets (no neck protection from the sun) on the dugout roof, the officer in shot wearing a pith helmet instead.  I would not be surprised if the scene of Granet’s wounding is visible in this shot.

On the far left – and I have difficulty in finding any excuses for him whatsoever except that he should never have been given such a command in the first place, Lord Kitchener & Sir Ian Hamilton, General Commanding the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, if your ghosts are listening – Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford, G.O.C. IX Corps, relieved of his command on the evening of 15th August.  Somewhere along the chain of command the requirement for speed, speed in everything, speed to ensure that the Turkish defenders, outnumbered maybe fifteen-to-one by the attackers, were overwhelmed before reinforcements could arrive, speed that thus required a battle to be won in an estimated three days, was transformed into something along the lines of ‘probably best to secure the beachhead and, um, well, let’s wait and see what happens, maybe think about doing something later.  More coffee Tarquin’.  Stopford decided to command the landings at Suvla Bay from aboard H.M.S. Jonquil, and thus, with supreme irony, perhaps the best example of a ‘Château General’ actually wasn’t one, because he chose to direct a land battle from a ship!  When I say direct, he reportedly slept in his comfy – I bet it was – bunk as the landings took place.  By the time Hamilton arrived on the scene a week later (A week?!  Why wait a week?  What on earth was going on here?) and sacked him it was all far, far too late.  On the removal of Stopford, Major-General Beauvoir de Lisle (not pictured), commanding 29th Division, was put in temporary command of IX Corps, prompting Lieutenant-General Sir Bryan Mahon, G.O.C.10th (Irish) Division (photo second left), who not only loathed de Lisle but was his senior in rank, and whose division were in the thick of the fighting at Suvla at the time, to resign rather than serve under him.  All was resolved in time (de Lisle returned to Helles and Mahon returned to his division, by October he was commanding the British Salonika Army, and in 1916 became Commander-in-Chief, Ireland) and none of it is strictly within the remit of these posts, but it serves to show that it was not just the Turks causing chaos among the High Command in the Dardanelles.

But the Turks continued to be beastly, and on 17th August, Brigadier-General Frederick Charles Lloyd, G.O.C. 158th Brigade, 53rd Division (no image), was wounded, and the next day saw not only Brigadier-General William Henry Sitwell D.S.O., G.O.C. 34th Brigade, 11th Division (centre photo), relieved of his command, but also the resignation of Brigadier-General the Hon. John Lindley, G.O.C. 53rd Division (again, no photo), as ‘his division had gone to pieces and he did not feel it in himself to pull it together again’.  Around the same time Major-General Sir Frederick Charles Shaw, G.O.C. 13th (Western) Division (second from right), became seriously ill and had to be evacuated (he would also later hold the position of Commander-in-Chief, Ireland, before retiring in 1920), and on 21st August Brigadier-General Sir Thomas Pakenham, 5th Earl of Longford, G.O.C. 2nd Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division (far right), was killed in an attack on Scimitar Hill.  Aged 50, his body was never recovered and he is remembered on a special memorial in Green Hill Cemetery, Suvla.

The above photograph, the only one dated (luckily), is annotated on the back; G.H.Q. Chocolate Hill 22/8/15, and you can see quite clearly that this is a different dugout to the one pictured earlier.  22nd August saw another general, Brigadier-General Felix Hill D.S.O, G.O.C. 31st Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division (no photo), evacuated from Gallipoli suffering from acute dysentery.  On a sombre note, the previous day, 21st August, large numbers of British reinforcements had arrived at Suvla Bay, and by afternoon had begun the trek from the sea, across the Salt Lake, towards the British forces already on Chocolate Hill.  For the last mile they were shelled by the Turks, a man of the London Yeomanry later writing, ‘We trudged forward for over two and a half miles, over a mile of which was swept by shrapnel fire, the shells falling all round us and men falling in every direction, while over our heads the good old ironclads pumped shell after shell in answer. The hills in the distance were just huge crackling mounds of rifle fire while here and there the sharp, insistent, rapping of the machine guns was heard. The ground was covered in places with dry gorse and stunted trees which caught fire and crackled fiercely. Many of the wounded had crawled under these bushes thinking in a frenzy of pain that they would afford protection instead of which the fires spread and they were found burnt to death, sometimes past all recognition.’  The main photo below shows the scrub to which the soldier refers spreading out across the Salt Lake, probably on the following day, the inset far left showing troops crossing the Salt Lake towards Chocolate Hill, and the centre inset showing the scrub burning on 21st August – compare this with the main shot.  Terrible.

During the week of 23rd August, Major-General Frederick Hammersley, G.O.C. 11th (Northern) Division (centre right), was ‘taken off the peninsula in a state of collapse’ (not for the first time in his career – he was simply not up to it) after just a few weeks in command, and subsequently invalided back to England, and at the end of the week, on 29th August, Brigadier-General Paul Aloysius Kenna, V.C. D.S.O., G.O.C. 3rd Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division (both photos on the far right), was wounded here at Chocolate Hill whilst inspecting the lines, a bullet hitting him in the left arm before entering his abdomen.  Carried to an aid station, he died of his wounds the following day.  He was 53 and is buried in Lala Baba Cemetery here at Suvla.  The terrible toll of August was over,…

…but although the deaths had apparently ended, still the generals found themselves in the firing line, and six more would suffer the consequences (before we go on, and before I forget, the above photograph is the only one of ‘A’ Beach, which was to the north of the bay).  On 3rd September 1915, Brigadier-General Hugh Gilbert Casson, G.O.C. 157th Brigade, 52nd Division (top left), was wounded in both thumbs when the trench periscope he was using was hit by Turkish fire, and on 18th September Brigadier-General Edgar Askin Wiggin, G.O.C. 1st Company, Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, of whom I have no photo, was wounded in the chest by a rifle bullet.  Then Major-General Harold Bridgwood Walker D.S.O., G.O.C. 1st Australian Division (bottom left), half-buried by a shell that burst in his dugout on 29th September, was severely wounded by a Turkish machine gun while inspecting the trenches at ANZAC two weeks later on 13th October.  Brigadier-General George Wyndham Chichester Knatchbull, G.O.C. 38th Brigade, 13th Division, another man I can find no photograph of, was hit by shrapnel bullets in the chest and foot, again at the scene of these photos, Chocolate Hill, on 17th November, and in the final month of the campaign, Brigadier-General Granville de Laune Ryrie, G.O.C. 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade, 1st Australian Division (bottom right), severely wounded in the South African War and wounded by a shrapnel bullet that penetrated two inches into his neck on Gallipoli on 29th September, from which he rapidly returned (!), was wounded for a third time, on 10th December, although he too would return from his wounds, later commanding the Australian Light Horse Division in Mesopotamia.  Finally, Brigadier-General George Benjamin Hodson D.S.O., G.O.C. 33rd Indian Brigade, 11th Division (top right), was wounded in the head by a sniper while looking over the parapet at Suvla, on 14th December.  The deaths, as it happened, had not quite finished.  He was evacuated to Malta where he died of his wounds at Tigne Military Hospital on 25th January 1916, a couple of weeks after the Gallipoli evacuation, and is buried at Pieta Military Cemetery.

Despite the total failure of the whole damned enterprise, it is still far too easy to heap all the blame on generals given an impossible task in the first place, the majority of whom, at the very least, and rightly or wrongly bearing in mind the responsibilities of command, were prepared to put themselves in danger alongside their men, indeed had little choice in doing so (and admittedly, as we have seen, some couldn’t hack it), as this section of the post has surely proven.  Some of these men, brought back from retirement because there was no one else to do the job (the best generals being on the Western Front), steeped in colonial tradition and veterans of numerous small wars across the Empire, and the South African War, had never seen anything like a volunteer citizen army, such as the Australians on Gallipoli*, much less take command of a brigade or division of such men. Neither were the divisional and brigade staffs of the calibre of regular divisions on the Somme; an awful lot of staff officers were required for the Dardanelles campaign, and most of the best ones were already taken.  What on earth were the generals supposed to do?  Well, obviously not sleep during an attack (back in England, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith had written to his Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener, suggesting that Stopford and his whole staff should face court-martial and be dismissed from the Army), but all they could do was their best, which many did in the only way they knew how.  Oh, and they were up against two serious men of war, in the persons of Colonel Mustafa Kemal and his German counterpart Generalleutnant Otto Liman von Sanders.  The photograph shows the original funeral of Major-General Sir William Throsby Bridges in Alexandria, before his body was later returned to Australia.

*there were no Australians at Suvla Bay, barring the men of the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train, a three hundred strong engineering and construction unit attached to the British for the landings, who found themselves constructing piers as there was nothing else to do further inland.

Sources sometimes mention other generals who were evacuated from the peninsula suffering from various illnesses, such as Brigadier-General Owen Wolley-Dod, commanding 86th Brigade, 29th Division, who was invalided home on 13th August, but although later a general, he was actually a colonel during his time on Gallipoli.  But there is one other casualty of the Gallipoli campaign who requires a mention.  The photograph shows Major-General Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton D.S.O. himself (on the right here alongside Admiral John de Robeck, on board H.M.S. Triad on the afternoon of his departure for England), whose tenure as C. in C. Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was cut short when he was ordered home on 16th October amid intense discussions about the future of the campaign (Hamilton was not in favour of an evacuation and was therefore probably not the man to carry it out).  His command had been a failure, his military career effectively at an end, and yet even Hamilton is described by those who knew him as a man of great personal courage, to which his D.S.O., earned in Bengal in 1891 (he was later wounded in the left arm by a shell during the Tirah Campaign in 1897-1898), surely attests.  Hamilton was replaced by Major-General Sir Charles Monro, whom we met in the first post of the series when he was lucky to survive the Hooge Chateau disaster in October 1914, and who would oversee the only successful part of the whole campaign – the evacuation.

What would the battles of 1916 have in store for our generals, I wonder?  It couldn’t get any worse, surely?

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13 Responses to The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Three – Gallipoli 1915 – Disaster in the Dardanelles

  1. Chris says:

    Quote: “It couldn’t get any worse, surely?” Unquote

    I’m afraid it will…

    BTW; VERY interesting post with unique pictures, I truly “enjoyed” it.
    Can’t wait for the next part!!!

  2. Nick Kilner says:

    Wow! Just Wow! Quite incredible! And those photographs, what an amazing find! Absolutely superb. Fantastic that they have finally been shown the light of day, it can’t have been easy hanging on to them until now, or indeed deciding that this was the moment to publish them, but I for one am very glad that you have done. Gallipoli is another place on my ‘to do’ list. I was actually hoping to get out there last year, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Hopefully one day soon.

  3. Nigel Shuttleworth says:

    Another fascinating read this morning – I had two relatives who fought in the Gallipoli campaign, my Grandfather Brigadier Bethan Shuttleworth (Captain at the time) 45th Rattray Sikhs, 32nd Brigade Staff at Gallipoli who survived, and his brother Major Robert George Shuttleworth 110th. Mahratta Light Infantry who died on August 10th. 1915 and who is Remembered with Honour on the Helles Point memorial.

  4. Mark says:

    Enjoying the series, thank you. A reminder that in all walks of life there are great leaders and poor leaders but sometimes people are also promoted above their ability. However the series does demonstrate that ‘the generals’ were much closer to the front line at this stage than the public perception, I was brought up on a good dose of blackadder and certainly far from the truth. Of course one of the changes in this conflict was the move to industrial warfare before this for centuries the commanders of any force generally were on the battlefield or actually amongst the fighting.

  5. Daisy says:

    Love your work Magicfingers! Wonderful post…
    I have been to Gallipoli twice. First time Anzac Day in 1985. The Dawn Service at 4.30am with was 7 people there. The official party arrived for the Dawn Service at 9.30am. The Irish Catholic priest was not happy when we told him we had already held the Dawn Service.
    Second visit was for a week in May 2015. Centenary commemoration for Albert Jacka VC at Courtney’s Post on 19 may 1915. Nobody there. Nothing official whatsoever. Only my wreath. Very sad… First VC to an Australian in WW1, to a national hero.
    The other Centenary commemoration on the same day? Death of John Simpson Kirkpatrick. Same deal, nothing official. Just a bunch of flowers… poor effort on both counts…
    I spent 3 days roaming Suvla area. Didn’t see another person, a couple of farmers in the distance. Good scheme could have worked to get behind the Turks. Gentle ground to cover unopposed and the land behind Chocolate and Green Hills is still sparsely populated with many valleys and sharp hills and would have made for an interesting attack and defence scenario. British troops could have been deeply entrenched on the heights. Simple to imagine it today…
    Suvla cemeteries are quite eerie with Green Hill cemetery surrounded by pine trees and with the wind blowing through it’s easy to be spooked…
    I have many photos of my time at Suvla… your original photos are a historical treasure. Thank you for showing them to us after all these years. Quite incredible in this day and age where there is very little new to find out about the First World War.
    I have just been reading about another Sitwell. Major General Hervey Degge Wilmot Sitwell, GOC British troops on Java 1942 and a POW of the Japanese for 3 years. Surely has to be a relative of William Henry…
    I have a photo of the grave of Kenna VC at Lala Baba.
    Some cemeteries there would never see a visitor; Azmak, Hill 10 and Green Hill. Others like Redoubt, The Farm and Hill 60 cemeteries are lonely isolated places where it’s easy for your imagination to wander. You should go and have a look but beware the Anzac Heights and Helles are overrun with Turkish tour coaches…. still love the place anyway.

  6. Jason McG says:

    Well done, great post and amazing photos.

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