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Y Beach Gallipoli - Cliff Assault

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

Unit/ Formation: RMLI

Location: Gallipolli

Period/ Conflict: World War I

Year: 1915

Date/s: 25 April 1915

Y Beach was one of three allocated to 29th Division on 25th April 1915, and was the most northern landing site on Cape Helles. The beach here had been spotted by Sir Ian Hamilton during the naval operations on 18th March, and earmarked as a possible landing zone. Given the narrow beach and high cliffs, Hamilton presumed rightly it would only be lightly defended by the Turks.

The landing was part of a diversion to confuse the Turks, and hopefully draw them away from the main operations further south. The task was to be undertaken by Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Koe’s 1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB). They were supported by a company from 2nd South Wales Borderers, and Lieutenant Colonel Godfrey Matthew’s Plymouth Battalion of the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI), then attached to 29th Division.

The pre-landing briefing by Major General A. Hunter-Weston, commander of the 29th Division, had resulted in some confusion regarding the orders and command structure of the landings at Y Beach. Matthews of the RMLI had presumed he was in charge, despite the fact that his inexperienced battalion had been relegated to a support role and would land later. Koe, although not present at the briefing, thought he was in command. Things did not bode well.

Map of the southern section of the Gallipoli Peninsula []

The actual landings were trouble free. Only four Turks were encountered, and the entire force was on the beach by 5.45am with no casualties. Matthews had perceived their orders to involve a push inland, capture a Turkish gun thought to be nearby and link up with 2nd Royal Fusiliers near X Beach. Pushing inland they crossed Gully Ravine to the outskirts of Krithia. Orders had come from Hamilton for a push inland, but Hunter-Weston failed to inform him he already had troops ashore at Y Beach and these were unopposed.

The true picture did not reach the commander, and on the ground while Matthews made contact with 2nd Royal Fusiliers it was to ask them about placing a guard on his ammo dump! Fatally he withdrew his men from beyond Gully Ravine back to the cliff edge above the beach and told them to dig in. This proved difficult with the tools available, and only a few scrape-holes were completed by the time the Turkish 9th Division attacked in strength that afternoon.

The line held, however, but on the morning of 26th April conflicting orders and lack of a clear command – Koe had now died of wounds (1) – resulted in an evacuation of the positions. Signallers sent back messages asking for boats, and these arrived. Within twenty-nine hours of arriving, Y Beach had been left behind.

It was not reached again until July 1915, when the advance along Gully Ravine finally swept up this ground. The beach was reopened, and the Y Ravine used to bring up supplies and men. Wounded from the advance posts nearby were also evacuated down it to the beach, and the waiting boats. [1]

The landing at "Y" Beach, Gallipoli, 25/4/15, was a Battle Honour of great distinction for the Marines of the Plymouth Battalion. After making an unopposed landing & climb of the 200 foot high cliff face in support of the 1st Battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers (1/KOSB) & one company of the 2nd Battalion of the South Wales Borderers (2/SWB), they waited for troops from the southern beaches to advance & link up. They waited in vain.

Late in the afternoon of the 25th they began to receive shrapnel-shell & sniper fire from the Turks. At about 5.30pm the Turks began a series of attacks that increased in intensity & continued throughout the night of the 25th-26th. The last Turkish assault was repulsed at 6.45am on the 26th. After suffering heavy casualties with no reinforcements and with no sign of British troops advancing from the south, it was decided to abandon the position and 'Y' Beach was evacuated by 11am on the 26th.

The landing at 'Y' Beach was a lost opportunity, ending with a failure to exploit an unopposed landing and an embarrassing withdrawal just as the Turks had had enough and done likewise (which allowed the surviving troops a virtually unmolested re-embarkation). [2]

55 Royal Marines were lost in this action on the 25/26th April, most are listed incorrectly as KIA in May.

[1] ©PAUL REED 2001-2006 - Y Beach Gallipoli

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