• Si Biggs

First to Land - Last to Leave - Withdrawal from Gallipoli

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines


Location: Cape Helles


Period/ Conflict: World War I


Year: 1916


Date/s: 9th January 1916


At about 1:40pm on 13 November 1915, a small boat arrived at North Beach. From it stepped Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War. He had come to see the Anzac positions for himself.



As Kitchener walked up the pier with other generals, the men recognised him. They came running from all over and surrounded him on the pier. War correspondent Charles Bean watched Kitchener walk up from the pier:


The tall red cap [Kitchener] was rapidly closed in among them-but they kept a path and as the red cheeks turned and spoke to one man or another, they cheered him-they, the soldiers-no officers leading off or anything of that sort. It was a purely soldiers' welcome.


He said to them,

'The King has asked me to tell you how splendidly he thinks you have done-you have done splendidly, better, even, than I thought you would.'

[Kevin Fewster, Frontline Gallipoli – CEW Bean's diary from the trenches, Sydney, 1983, p.176]


The evacuation of Anzac Cove started on the 15 December. Over 5 nights, 36,000 troops were withdrawn to the waiting transport ships. The last party left in the early hours of 20 December from North Beach at Anzac. British and French forces remained at Cape Helles until 9 January 1916.



At Cape Helles unlike the evacuation from Anzac Cove, Ottoman forces were looking for signs of withdrawal.


Mines were laid with time fuzes and on the night of 7/8 January, under the cover of a naval bombardment, the British troops began to fall back 5 miles (8.0 km) from their lines to the beaches, where makeshift piers were used to board boats.


W Beach, Helles, on 7 January 1916, just prior to the final evacuation

The last British troops departed from Lancashire Landing around 04:00 on 8 January 1916. The Newfoundland Regiment was part of the rearguard and withdrew on 9 January 1916.


Of the 1st RMLI, one officer and 272 other ranks were withdrawn before the last day and 357 other ranks to be withdrawn on the last day.


The timetable was well kept throughout & the last troops embarked on HMS Grasshopper shortly after 0300hrs on the 9th Jan.


In the days immediately preceding the final evacuation some 3400 all ranks of the Division were evacuated.


No.4 Coy. Plymouth Battalion RMLI landing at Sedd-ul-Bahr 4/3/15. (RM Museum)

Among the first to land in 1915, remnants of The Plymouth Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry were the last to leave and the 1916 the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsular was completed.

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