This month marks the anniversary of the Royal North Devon Hussars arrival in Gallipoli in 1915. By the time they arrived the British and ANZAC troops had already suffered heavy casualties and there were already calls for the Peninsula (also known as the Dardanelles) to be evacuated.
The Royal North Devon Hussars landed in Suvla Bay on 8th October. By the 17th October they had lost one of their commanding officers, Major Moorland Greig, in a shell attack on their trenches and Sir Ian Hamilton, the man in charge of the Gallipoli operation, had been recalled to London to give his account of what was happening there. Hamilton was replaced by General Munro who immediately started to plan for the evacuation of the Peninsula.
There were more losses to come for the Hussars both on and off the battlefield as many of their number fell victim to dysentery and the effects of frost bite and other conditions related to the harsh climate they faced. Articles carrying news of the fate of some of the Hussar’s and letters from the men appeared in the local newspapers and included descriptions of the Hussars’ landing and how bread was made to feed the troops. The articles and letters published in the North Devon Herald and North Devon Journal can be found in our newspaper archive and a selection of them have been posted on our Facebook page.
Other first hand accounts of the campaign were published after the war in volumes such as The Great War…’I Was There’ edited by Sir John Hammerton and contained the stories of those who served on both sides of the conflict throughout the war. Fuller accounts of what went on during the Gallipoli campaign; The Uncensored Dardanelles by E. Ashmead-Bartlett and Gallipoli Memories by Compton Mackenzie can also be found on our shelves. Ashmead-Bartlett was a war correspondent and the first one to report on the ANZAC landings, while Mackenzie was in counter-intelligence in Gallipoli but is probably most well known for his novels Whiskey Gallore and The Monarch of the Glen.
The Times newspaper produced volumes entitled The Times History of the War throughout the conflict and contained some of the more haunting images of the war as it progressed. The Illustrated London News also produced images of the conflict with each edition containing pictures of some of the commanding officers who had perished since the previous issue had gone to print and produced a supplement covering the Dardanelles Operations.
We have the pleasure of presenting our readers this week with a supplement of most unusual interest and value. It consists of eight pages, and four of them in colour from the paintings made by Mr. Norman Wilkinson, R.I., as the outcome of his personal and trained observation while serving in the Navy at the Dardanelles. These are the first coloured pictures of these historic operations to be published…Mr. Norman Wilkinson has painted scenes which he saw with the accuracy which is characteristic of all his work, and the result is a series of pictures which possess the charm of art and the distinction of historic value. [The Illustrated London News, Nov. 27, 1915-686]
The supplement included 10 colour reproductions of Wilkinson’s work alongside photographs taken of the operations.
Alongside these volumes are also histories of the war, many of which were published before 1939 and written by some other familiar names (including a certain Winston Churchill).
As for the Royal North Devon Hussars – they were evacuated from the Peninsula on 18th December 1915 and spent Christmas en route to Egypt where they were to spend a quiet few months before their next role.
They were only eleven weeks on the Peninsula, and they consequently suffered less–both from the enemy action and from disease–than troops that had landed earlier; but the experiences wer trying enough, and they faced them in a manner that won the approval of the high authorities. Their staunchness was not tested in the evacuation, which was successfully accomplished without the firing of a single shot… [The Yeomanry of Devon 1794-1927 by Engineer-Com. Benson Freeman, R.N. p196 (D355/FRE)]
You can find all the items mentioned in this post on our shelves for more information about the resources we hold visit the General Collection page on our website or search our Library Catalogue. You can also find out more about the Royal North Devon Hussars at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon which serves as the regimental museum.