Divisions of faith, invasions and occupations over centuries, mean that Britain has long had an uneasy relationship with Ireland. The burdens of this have fallen most painfully upon the Irish and their country, for no Irish army ever ravaged English shires. Objective viewers of the history of the two nations might therefore think it peculiar that there have been so many famous Irish regiments within the British Army—with colours carrying outstanding, hard won, battle honours—or that so many Irishmen have readily supported British causes in conflict. The reasons why this is so are many, and important among them is that the ‘Emerald Isle’ gives birth to natural warriors who are among the most enthusiastic and able fighting men on earth. This book, published to coincide with centenary of the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, focuses on the Irish at war from two different perspectives. One account deals with the abortive campaign in the Dardanelles and the fighting in Turkey on the Gallipoli peninsula. It is an account of extraordinary heroism combined with the ribald good humour typical of the ‘sons of Erin.’ The second book concerns the regiments of the Ulstermen of Northern Ireland, descendents of rugged Scottish immigrants, and their hard fought experience of war among the mud, wire and trenches of the Western Front in France.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
While Chocolate Hill was being attacked, the remainder of the division was hotly engaged to the northward.
When Sir Bryan Mahon arrived from Mudros with the 6th and 7th Royal Munster Fusiliers and the 5th Royal Irish Regiment, he found that the force under General Hill had already landed, and was in action. Nothing remained of the division which he had raised and trained for nearly a year, but the three battalions which he had brought with him and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, which had not begun to disembark. It was an extraordinary position for an officer who was a lieutenant-general of three years’ standing, and had commanded a division for more than six years, to find himself entering into an action with only four battalions under his command, the whole of the rest of his command having been diverted elsewhere. However, he made the best of the situation and proceeded so far as the force at his disposal would permit, to carry out the task which had been allotted to the division, namely advancing on the left of the 11th Division and securing the Kiretch Tepe Sirt.
Beach “A” had been found unsuitable for use, as the water near it was so shallow that the lighters ran aground at a considerable distance from the shore. The navy had by this time found a better landing place on the north shore of Suvla Bay, slightly to the east of an isolated peak called Ghazi Baba, which rises from the shore. To this new landing place the two Munster battalions of the 30th Brigade with Brigadier-General L. L. Nicol and their Brigade Headquarters and the Divisional Pioneer Battalion were directed. It proved by no means ideal, since many of the lighters ran aground a considerable distance from the shore, and officers and men had to plunge into the water, which was waist deep, and wade to the land. Fortunately, wet clothes were soon dried by the Gallipoli sun, but the stranded boats afforded excellent targets to the Turkish artillery. On reaching the shore a little before noon, the 6th Munsters who landed first found that the enemy had sown the beach with land mines which exploded on contact. Several men were injured by these, while the adjutant of the 6th Munsters was knocked down, but not hurt.
The orders given to the two battalions of Munsters and the Royal Irish who acted as support, were to climb the Kiretch Tepe Sirt Ridge at its western end and push forward along the crest as fast as possible. A certain amount of ground had been made good in the course of the night by the 11th Manchester Regiment, but it was desirable that the whole ridge should be secured as quickly as possible in order to safeguard the left flank of the advance across the Anafarta plain. The Munsters accordingly struggled up the steep bushy slope under the burning rays of the midday sun, and deployed for advance about 1.30 p.m. The 6th Munsters were on the left and the 7th on the right. They then pushed forward, but it was at once obvious that the country was one which offered many advantages to an enemy who wished to fight a delaying action.
Although from a distance the Kiretch Tepe Sirt appeared to be a long whale-backed hill six hundred feet high, yet its sides were seamed with gullies and tiny peaks almost invisible from below, which detached themselves from the main contour of the crest line. Moreover, it was covered with dense oak and holly scrub, which entirely concealed the numbers of the enemy and made it impossible to ascertain whether a unit was being opposed by a handful of snipers or a battalion. As they pushed through this dense thicket, the Munsters passed many indications of this fight waged by the 11th Manchesters, and soon the sight of fly-infested corpses ceased to cause a shudder. Soon they came in contact with the battalion itself, or rather what was left of it, since it had suffered heavily. Its colonel was wounded, his second-in-command killed, and nearly half its strength were out of action.
Those who remained were exhausted and very thirsty, and were unable to advance further. The Turks were holding a rocky mound which commanded the crest of the ridge for about six hundred yards to the west of it. From this point of vantage they were pouring a considerable volume of rifle fire on any troops who attempted to advance. Having taken in the situation, the Munsters went forward to attack the position, and had succeeded in getting within about a hundred yards of it when darkness fell.
In this engagement, fought in an unknown country against an enemy who knew every track and gully, and was able to leave snipers in the bushes behind him as he retired, the Munsters suffered severely, but were ready to advance again at dawn. A night attack was considered impracticable, since the country was absolutely unknown to the troops and very intricate. On the following day (the 8th) the Turkish position was attacked and finally stormed. The party of the 6th Munsters who took the culminating point, were led by the second-in-command of their battalion. Major Jephson, and the knoll was christened after him, Jephson’s Post. Further advance proved impossible, the enemy being in possession of a strongly entrenched position, extending right across the ridge, and steps were taken to dig in on the line held.
In this brisk engagement the two battalions of Munsters, supported by the Royal Irish Regiment, and on the 8th by the 5th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, had had to contend with an enemy possibly weaker in numbers, but possessing an intimate knowledge of the country and favoured by the lie of the ground. It was believed at Headquarters that the Turkish force on the Kiretch Tepe Sirt consisted of close on 700 gendarmeries, who had been for months patrolling the Suvla district, and had the advantage of having already prepared entrenchments on the ridge. Against such a foe it was no mean achievement for a newly landed force to have advanced over two miles in a puzzling and intricate country and to have expelled the enemy from a well-fortified position, the whole being accomplished within twenty-four hours of landing.
Naturally, there were numerous casualties. The 7th Munsters suffered most severely, having Captain Cullinan, Lieutenant Harper, Lieutenant Travers and 2nd-Lieutenant Bennett killed, and Major Hendricks, Captain Cooper-Key, Captain Henn and half-a-dozen subalterns wounded. In the 6th Munsters, Lieutenant J. B. Lee, a Dublin barrister, was killed on the 7th, and Major Conway, a Regular officer of the Munster Fusiliers, fell in the assault on Jephson’s Post on the 6th. Several subalterns were wounded, and there were numerous casualties among the rank and file. It was, however, fortunate that the enemy had no machine guns, and that the thick scrub made it hard to direct their artillery fire with accuracy, or the losses would have been far heavier.