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Amphibious Raids against the Turkish Guns

Royal Marines acted as landing parties in the Naval campaign against the Turkish fortifications in the Dardanelles before the Gallipoli landings. They were sent ashore to assess damage to Turkish fortifications after bombardment by British and French ships and, if necessary, to complete their destruction.

During February and March 1915 elements of the 3rd Royal Marines Brigade (Brigadier C N Trotman RMLI), landed largely unopposed on the Gallipoli peninsula to dismantle Turkish defensive positions. [1]

8.30am 4 March Plymouth Battalion landed one company each at Kum Kale and Sedd-el-Bahr, to cover the demolition of Turkish guns by raiding parties.

Sedd-el-Bahr company re-embarks at 2.30pm, Kum Kale at 7.15pm. Operations successful, at cost of 22 dead and 22 wounded. [2]

Raid at Kum Kale from the Diaries of Sergeant Meatyard Plymouth Battalion RMLI

During the night of march 3/4 we moved to the Straits and at 7 a.m. 4 March the Plymouth Battalion landed one Company at Kum Kale Fort and one Company at Sedd ul Bahr Fort. We were the only battalion present with our transport the H.M.T. Braemar Castle. This was probably due to our Commanding Officer being the senior Commanding Officer amongst the Marine Battalions. The transport remained some distance out from the shore. l was detailed to land with the force at Kum Kale, and we were transferred to H.M.S Scorpion (a destroyer), and when closer in to shore we moved into pulling boats, and were towed to shore by steamboat.

Enemy shells began to fall around the boats, and there were also casualties from well- directed rifle fire. Had the enemy had machine guns I don't think many would have landed. A rifle bullet killed Sergeant Minns before we got ashore, the bullet having first passed through and wounding Private Liversage who was sitting on his lap. We got alongside a wooden landing stage that was about 40 yards long, and clambered up on to it.

Being flat without rails and being clear of obstacles it afforded no cover. We were subjected now to a good deal of rifle fire. On reaching the top we laid down flat until the first boat load had assembled. We were then given the order to stand by, and all rising together doubled to the shore. There were two who could not obey this order.

We were now at the foot of the Fort, and at the commencement of the road that led directly into the village. This road I had been detailed to follow with the advanced patrol which consisted often men under Captain Brown. The advance of this patrol was not successful, we had only gone a few yards when we were compelled to lay prone and look for targets to return the fire.

Out of ten, only three of us remained who were not either killed or wounded. The enemy was well concealed and apparently firing from houses. It was when on aiming (having spotted one of the enemy coming up to fire from behind a garden wall), that l got hit by two bullets from the flank, one in the chest and the other in my left foot. I wriggled back around the corner of the Fort and got my wounds dressed. Fortunately the wounds were not serious and after a breather did not feel much the worse, although lamed.

No headway was made up the village road and machine guns were posted at the comer to command it whilst headway was made by another party around the other side of the Fort. The idea was to keep the enemy at bay whilst a demolition party went inside the fort and completed the destruction that the warships had commenced.

A section was told off to man the crest of a bank overlooking the fort, and now I joined up with this party, being anxious to get my own back at the enemy, but they still kept well concealed.

A Turkish gun position at Kumkale. Note that any hostile surface ship coming through here will take fire from both sides [The Great War Blog]

Meanwhile the party on the right of the fort had made good progress, in fact being too eager I think they went too far, the same thing having caused disaster to the party concerned many times during the war. Overstepping the objective. They must have advanced about a mile up Yennisher Heights and were outside the Fort of that name.

The Turks received reinforcements and overwhelming our small party compelled it to retire. During this fighting another company had been landed to reinforce us. A signal was sent to the senior ship, asking that the destroyers might close in and open up covering fire to assist our men's retirement. This the destroyers did with a vengeance, being able to get fairly close in, and it was as well for us that they did, otherwise I don't think many would have got back.

Steaming single line ahead their broadsides of small guns simply smothered the Turks, who were prevented from following up their successful counter attack. The necessary destruction inside the fort having been carried out we re-embarked at 7 p.m., the wounded going off first, and we were put on board HMS. Irresistible.

Our losses were 19 killed 36 wounded and 5 missing. I think the enemy must have lost heavily especially from the destroyers' fire, as it surprised them. Volunteer crews were soon available from the sailors and marines belonging to the Ship's Company, and they proceeded to pull boats to shore and searching for the missing wounded or otherwise, and so well did they carry out their work, that there were only five missing as already stated.

From the Irresistible I was transferred to the Hospital Ship S.S. Soudan, and from there to HMS Inflexible, (Major Finlaison commanded the detachment on board this ship), on March 11, at Mudros, and getting under way we arrived at Malta on March 15. Bighi Hospital found me in bed where I stayed for some time and underwent an operation on the foot, getting "A.1." again, on April 16 when I left hospital at 3 p.m. and embarked on a tramp steamer called the Carrigun Head and arrived at Mudros at 9 p.m. on the 19 April. I transferred to the Braemar Castle at 4 p.m. where I met old chums again.

I happened to be the first back from the batch that had been wounded, naturally I was an interesting creature and I was besieged with questions, "How's Nobby getting on", "Did Hooky lose his leg", We heard you'd lost yer big toe", and so forth. At any rate I was glad to be amongst them once more, and be away from the hospital, as while in there I received news that my daughter aged 1 year and 4 months had passed away, and that was worse than any flesh wound. The signallers were watch keeping on the bridge. By chance signalling to a transport I found out that my cousin in the Australian Artillery was on board. I had never seen him before, so it was a lucky shot and we were able to make our acquaintances the next day. [3]

After the unsuccessful naval attempts to force the Narrows in March, the Turkish Army reinforced the peninsula in strength. Thereafter a major amphibious operation was required. The Plymouth Battalion RMLI took part in the initial landing on 25 April but the Brigade did not land until the night of 28/29 April when it went ashore at Anzac Cove to relieve 1 and 3 Australian Brigades. [1]

Related 'Dits':

Search more 'Dits' for Royal Marines actions in Gallipoli here


[2] The Long Long Trail - Royal Marine Deployment to Gallipoli

[3] Widecombe in the Moore - Diaries of Sgt Meatyard [RND Royal Naval Division. From 1916 63rd (RN) Division. W.W.1. 1914-1919. Magazine © Leonard Sellers 1998]

This extract is from Issue Number 19 pages 1870-1874]

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