Gallipoli memories 21 years on


Gallipoli in memoriam

Gallipoli remembered one year on - The Luton News, August 1916


Today, wrote the Evening Telegraph on August 15, 1936, will bring a quickening of the pulse to many men in Luton. They will think of August 15th of 21 years ago when, as part of the 5th Battalion the Bedfordshire Regiment, they went into action for the first time in Gallipoli and won for themselves undying fame. They little realised what lay ahead, or how short for so many of them would be the participation in the struggle.

The newspaper told the Gallipoli story as reflected in the history of the Bedfordshire Regiment. But it then went on to interview survivors of the battle living in Luton those 21 years later.

First it carried extracts from the diary of Claude Gilder, of The Luton News, who had served as a private with the 1/5th Bedfords.

"When the order came through for 'Fix bayonets, charge' the boys were absolutely mad with the terrible gaps in the rank of those who had fallen in the fight for freedom, and saw red," he wrote. "The only thing to do is draw a curtain over that terrible charge, and the only thing to say being that we captured our objective - Kidney Hill - and held on to it against great odds, the Colonel's [Edgar Brighten] motto ringing in our ears from overnight - 'What we take we hold'.

"Well we did carry our that motto, but, alas, at what a terrible cost! We entrenched ourselves as best we could at night on hard, rocky ground, and only just got bare cover when the dawn appeared."

Later Mr Gilder wrote: "Our plight as regards water and rations was awful. Our tongues at times were absolutely hanging out of our mouths. I can give you instances where men drank oil out of their oil bottles.

"A certain well, sunk by the Engineers, was well known to be in the direct range of the Turkish guns and it meant certain death to go near it. But men were at their last gasp and so crawled to this well and had one long drink. What relief it brought. And then - all was over - yet another name was added to the Roll of Honour.

"It was very difficult to get water and rations up to the trenches. We were only three miles inland but every inch of this space could practically be swept clean by the Turkish gunners. It was impossible, therefore, to bring water and rations etc up in daylight. We learned a severe lesson by doing so, for the whole convoy was blown to atoms.

"That terrible, anxious week stands out alone among all others. Two or three of the fellows died of thirst alone, and several went light-headed through thirst and the heat. We lost the cream of our officers in that Sunday affair, and they were heroes one and all."

Bandmaster William Goodger, of 9 Langley Street, Luton, was attached to the Battalion Headquarters of the 5th Bedfords and had vivid memories of the Gallipoli campaign, including much that was best left unmentioned.

"On the whole the men kept their heads," he told the Evening Telegraph. "They did their bit, and stood above all others, and did so right through the campaign. They earned for themselves a great name, which was second to none in the history of the East."

Mr Goodger's son, Horace, who was only 17 at the time, was also at Gallipoli. His father recalled: "Horace was acting as a stretcher-bearer carrying wounded Sgt Thurley when he turned to me and said, 'Dad, isn't it awful? I said, Never mind, boy, carry on. Do your duty."

[Sheffield-born Bandmaster Goodger died on April 6, 1937 at the age of 67. Before being invited to take over the band of the Luton Volunteers that became the 5th Bedfords band, he had been conductor of the Luton Red Cross Band.]

Another Gallipoli veteran, Mr Harold Edward Cook, of Luton, was Col Brighten's orderly on the Peninsular. "The bullets coming through the scrub was like the buzzing of bees," he said. "I remember saying to another man, 'What is all this buzzing?' He replied, 'Bullets - come on!' and we did after that.

"I was wearing pincenez at the time and someone told me to take them off because of the snipers. I took them off but I couldn't see anything, so I put them on again and chanced it."

Recalling a lighter incident, Mr Cook said that on one occasion as they were going up a slope, there was an isolated tree. "The Colonel said to me, 'What is on that tree?' So I stuck my rifle through and then put my head through. The result was that my helmet became wedged in and I could not get loose for a while."

Mr John Roberts, of 26 Boyle Street, Luton, was another stretcher-bearer. Needless to say he and his comrades had a busy time - and a gruesome one. On one occasion he and a comrade had to carry a wounded 12-stone man a considerable distance from the line of action to the beach.

Mr H. J. Lambert, of 131 Hitchin Road, Luton, who was a sergeant in 'D' Company, which was in support of 'A' Company, was wounded in the early morning of August 16th.

"An aeroplane came over," he said, "and immediately it went back a shell came over. Having been at it all the time and feeling tired, I dozed off, and it was while I was asleep that I was hit. Of course, I passed out. With a lot of others I was in a ravine waiting for the stretcher to take us away.

"I was taken to the shore about 5.20 that night. I came round on one of the naval cutters when I was being taken to the hospital ship."

Despite the harrowing times, there was some irony. Mr Lambert recalled that one day he came across an inveterate snuff-taker drying cigarette tobacco in a tin in the sun. "I asked him what he was doing," said Mr Lambert, "and he replied, 'Trying to make some snuff. I'm dying for a pinch'."

Mr George Davies, 76 Park Road West, Luton, a sergeant in the 5th Bedfords, was one of the men who landed on August 22nd with men from various other battalions. On landing he met his brother, Mr Harry Davies, of Hastings Street. He recalled the delight of the men when they had some bread and a few cigarettes.

"What struck me when we landed was the explosions," he said. "They were in front of you, behind you, at the side of you, underneath the ground, and everywhere. Col Brighten told us we needn't 'get the wind up' as they were only 'crackers'. We soon got used to them.

"A Field Officer came along to us and asked us if we were the Bedfords. Then he told us what the Battalion and the Brigade had done, and said he wanted a hundred good Bedfordshire men.

"Of course we pulled ourselves up. He took us to a gun and said he wanted it taken to the top of the hill. We dragged it up, and as soon as we got it in position we were in action. That was our first 'good deed'."

Mr Davies remained there until the evacuation. The men, he said, suffered great hardships. Flies were a source of endless trouble and danger, as they carried germs on the food.

"When the men were eating biscuits and jam, flies used to settle around their mouths and all over their faces, and some men did not have the strength to brush them away," he said.

Mr Harry Rayner, of 66 Russell Street, Luton, was a sergeant in charge of No. 5 platoon of the 5th Bedfords. His platoon suffered terribly but "the men were great". Referring to the attack he said the men ran forward like hares.

Six months of torture was the description given to the campaign by Mr Albert John Day, 6 Gaitskill Terrace, Luton, who was a company sergeant major.

"When I went across I weighed 16 stone, but in six months I was only 10 stone," he said. "And I was in really good health, too, compared with the other."

Mr Day said there were many incidents best not recalled. "It was a horrible show for anyone to be in," he said.

Mr G. Smart, 21 Burr Street, Luton, who was a private in the Machine Gun Section, said the nature of the country imposed great hardships on the men. "We were never out of rifle fire, let along the big guns," he said. "It was what you would call an upside down land."

The 1/5th Bedfords had the distinction of being the only unit indicated by name in a disposition map issued by the enemy intelligence service, and discovered at the headquarters of the Yilderim Army Group at Nazareth in 1918.

The unit had apparently become of more than usual interest to the enemy staff, with the result that their whereabouts became a matter for special attention and mention.