Terry Evans provides us with this account of the 18 young men of Cradley who went to Gallipoli in 1915, but never returned. Here is their story.
On the war memorial that stands in the Remembrance Gardens at Cradley are the names of one hundred and seventeen men who gave their lives in the First World War.
Probably other than vandals who add their graffiti to the memorial and the people who gather there on Remembrance Sunday every year, no one else is even aware of the names of these men. In addition, I am sure that even fewer know the stories behind each name -
However, there should be some kind of record other than just a list of names on a piece of marble that tells some of their stories, and I hope that this article will go a little way towards that goal.
Of the 117 men named on the memorial, 18 were to die directly as a result of the Gallipoli Campaign.
On April 25th 1915 the invasion of the Turkish peninsula at Gallipoli began and amongst the invading force was the 4th Battalion of the Worcestershire regiment. With them or to join them within the next three months, were eight men from Cradley who were to lose their lives before the end of the year. Some were to die in action and some of disease.
The 4th Worcesters was a Regular Army battalion and at the start of the war it was stationed in Burma. On February 1st 1915, they returned from there to become part of 88th Brigade, which in turn was part of the 29th Division. After re-
The battalion sailed from Lemnos on the evening of April 24th and by dawn of the next day they were off the coast of Gallipoli. They were due to land on "V" Beach at Cape Helles, but as they approached, they could see this would have been suicide due to the heavy shelling of that area by the Turkish guns. The lighters carrying the troops diverted to "W" Beach where the Lancashire Fusiliers had secured the beach and were working their way up the cliffs. The Worcesters came ashore and scrambled up the cliffs, over running an enemy redoubt before being held up by wire entanglements and a second redoubt further inland. They eventually captured this obstacle but heavy fire and uncut wire prevented further progress and they settled in for the night
A letter from Alfred Willetts printed in the June 5th 1915 edition of the County Express describes the coming ashore and the conditions they met once ashore:
One of our officers and several men, who were at Mons, say the fighting there wasn't to be compared with what we went through.
We fought our way ashore through water waist deep, and those of us who did land soon had the enemy on the run. But it was hard work, and we had over 36 hours of constant hard fighting-
On April 26th the Worcesters under cover of heavy gun fire from the British fleet secured the ground above "V" Beach and as the enemy retired out of gun range, they consolidated their position.
On May 13th, Alf Willetts wrote to his brother in Cradley to say that he was in hospital in St. George's Malta after being wounded. He recovered from his wounds only to be killed in action in France on March 23rd 1917 at the Second Battle of the Scarpe, part of the Arras area battles.
The Worcesters advanced with difficulty over ground consisting of open scrub or long grass on April 27th but made little headway. Next day they were ordered to continue to advance towards Krithia. The first battle of Krithia began at 8.00 a.m. and the Worcesters advanced about 800 yards before being halted by shrapnel and musket fire. A rush took them another 100 yards, but their losses were heavy and with ammunition running low, they withdrew as darkness fell. Losses for this action were estimated at 300 killed, wounded or missing.
The next few days saw them in the front line, under constant shelling and sniping, and fighting off the occasional Turkish charge.
At 11.00 a.m. on May 6th 1915 the second battle of Krithia began and the 4th Worcesters advanced into heavy shell and musketry fire, eventually being forced to dig in about 500 yards from their own front line. Here they remained all day under fire losing 100 men killed or wounded.
Next day another attack was made but the 4th Worcesters were forced to retreat under intense fire, during this attack William Byng was reported missing, believed killed. Like many on the Peninsula his body was never recovered or if so not identified. William Byng was a regular soldier, being with the 4th Worcesters in India and later Burma before the start of the war. Cradley born and bred, he was 23 years old when he was killed.
The 4th Worcesters remained in the front line for three more days under sniping, shellfire and bombing.
A letter was published in the County Express on July 26th 1915 from Lance Corporal John Homer of the 4th Worcesters, who wrote to his parents from St. Andrews Hospital, Malta where he was recovering from being wounded:
I was taken down to a dressing station in a nullah and given an injection to prevent lockjaw or blood poisoning. While I was lying on the stretcher the medical officer dressed my wound and gave me a drink of oxo and a cigarette. While I lay smoking on the stretcher Sam Jasper saw me and came and had a chat. Shortly after midnight I was carried down to the main base. When I reached the beach I was in agony from the jolting of the stretcher. The doctor put on a fresh bandage and gave me a drink of hot tea. Next morning I was carried on to a trawler, and then put on a transport ship. I was there till June 1st waiting till the ship was loaded for Malta. It was like heaven to get into a nice clean bed after the trenches. When I left Gallipoli I was almost eaten away with fleas, and no wonder, for during the past 15 days on the Peninsula we never had a wash. My nose and lips were skinned. But we took no notice; we were in our glory as long as we could knock Turks over
His next letter said he was nearly healed, but feared that Joe Round, Bill Byng and Whitehouse have been killed, and he hadn't seen John Bridgewater since the day before he himself was hit.
Sam Jasper had joined the 4th Worcesters with his three brothers George, Louis and William, all Cradley men. Sam Jasper was wounded and became a Prisoner of War of the Turks. George and William were also wounded at Gallipoli, but I have been unable to find any additional information on any of them.
Joe Round had been born in Quarry Bank but had lived for several years in Cradley before moving to Lye. His name is not recorded on Cradley, Halesowen Rural District, Quarry Bank or Lye memorials, but he has the credentials to be on all of them.
He had written a series of letters to his friend and wife; some of the details describing the conditions in Gallipoli were printed in the May 29th 1915 edition of the County Express:
Jack Roach was killed in the second day's action, and Bowen was wounded in the body on the fourth day. It's heart breaking to see the wounded coming out of the firing line. We have had four days' fighting, and we have captured a good few prisoners. Keep up your spirits and pray for me the same as I do for you; the Lord has been good to me, for we have been in places where it seemed almost impossible to come out of safe and sound. We get pretty good food, but it seems very hard to get water so far.
In a letter dated May 1st to his wife, Joe Round says that he has just taken his boots off for the first time in six days, after being relieved in the trenches by a French battalion. He continues:
The General gave us a good name on April 28th for keeping the enemy at bay till we received reinforcements. The same day I lost my chum, young Charlie Tolley, from Brettle Lane. Ben Mills from Bromley Street was wounded. We had an accident in our trenches last night. The ground was very wet, and it gave way and buried Harry Hall. It took them about eight minutes to get him out, but he was dead. It is very hot here during the day, but it is cold at night. We had to throw our overcoats away, and all those things I used to put in the bag on my back, so that we could run faster as we advanced. I had no overcoat that night, and I was trembling with cold all night long.
In his final letter to his friend, dated May 4th, he wrote:
We have been at it pretty hard for 10 days now. We have just come out of the trenches for a rest. We came out about four days ago, but we had to reinforce the firing line again the same night, for the Turks made an effort to breakthrough. But they got the worst of it. We had to bury their dead next morning [...]
He then goes on to describe briefly the landing of the Worcesters:
I shall never forget the landing; it was enough to turn anyone's hair grey. Our brigade need thank God that we were second to land
At this stage of the letter the area where he was came under fire from Turkish guns firing shrapnel:
I shall get under cover for a few hours. I hope they will keep quiet for tonight, for I have had no sleep for a week. We have to keep on the alert all night
Next day he added the following postscript to the letter:
The night passed quietly, and we made the best of the sleep until the cold woke us up. The Turks are defending. I heard they took two of our guns last night off the French, but up went a battalion of Gurkhas and took them back.
The article finished saying that he had been wounded in action and died on May 15th.
Of the men mentioned in Joe Round's letters I have found the following information: Charles Tolley lived at Pensnett, and was killed in action on April 28th 1915. Bowen was possibly James Bowen of Stourbridge, who was killed on April 30th 1915. Harry Hall was an Halesowen man was also killed on April 30th 1915. I can find no information on Ben Mills or Jack Roach, although there is a Thomas Roach who was killed on April 26th, the second day of the landing.
Back to John Homer's letter, Bill Byng as we know was killed and it is possible that Whitehouse was Lance Corporal Frederick Whitehouse from Netherton, who was killed on May 7th. John Bridgewater survived Gallipoli but was subsequently killed in action on December 10th 1916 in France.
On June 4th the 4th Worcesters went into the Third Battle of Krithia. With them was William Hill. He was an ex-
William Hill was killed in action on June 4th, and although there are no official casualty figures for the 4th Worcesters, on June 4th it was estimated they sustained about 300. He has no known grave on the peninsula, but the following letter was published in the May 13th 1916 edition of the County Express:
This week we publish in memoriam of Pte. W. Hill of Cradley who was killed in action on May 15th last year. A comrade named Pte. S. Jasper, 4th Worcesters, wrote that he saw Pte. Hill: -
The letter gives the date of his death as May 15th, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Soldiers Died give it as June 4th 1915, which it probably was, as from May 11th -
As the summer progressed the heat grew worse, the air was filled with the stench of unburied corpses and the millions of flies attracted by the smell. Lack of water, constant shelling and sniping made conditions almost anywhere on the peninsula extremely hazardous. Unlike the Western Front, where soldiers could go into safe billets or bivouacs away from the front line, Gallipoli had no truly safe areas where the soldiers could relax. No matter where you were on the peninsula, you were always in the range of some or other enemy artillery gun or sniper.
Into these conditions entered the 13th Division, amongst its infantry were the 9th Worcesters and 4th South Wales Borderers. The 7th South Staffords and the 9th West Yorkshire Regiment also arrived at the same time with the 11th Division. These four regiments all had Cradley men in their ranks. The 13th and the 11th were New Army divisions made up of Kitchener's Men and this was to be their first taste of action.
August was to be a disastrous month for at least ten Cradley families with kinfolk in Gallipoli. Actions at Krithia Vineyard and Sari Bair were to result in the deaths of James Clarke, Tom Green, Harry Tromans, and David Reynolds of the 4th Worcesters. Dan Heath, Harry Morton, Ismael Rawlins and Bert Wallace of the 9th Worcesters. Harry Dunn of the 7th South Staffords and William Pearshouse of the 9th West Yorkshires.
A letter written by Ben Tromans to his wife in Mill Street, Cradley and printed in the County Express describes the conditions that the 4th Worcesters met in their attack on Krithia Vineyard on August 6th 1915:
It was not fit for a fly to get out of the trenches, for the shot and shells were flying everywhere, knocking the sand bags off the top of the trenches which we had to mount to get at the Turks. For five days it was like that, and we had to advance in it. When we started we could see the men falling like rain, but when we got into the trenches it was our time. Then we started mowing them down. It can't last much longer here.
In the action he was wounded in the knee and evacuated to hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, from where he wrote:
Let me know if Harry has got through, for I did not see him after we made the charge on August 6th. I can't hear how he got on, and am very anxious to know.
Harry Tromans was his brother, enlisting at the same time as Ben at the Stourbridge recruiting office housed in the Labour Exchange. He was reported missing after the Krithia Vineyard attack, and his body was never found. Ben Tromans was evacuated back to England from Alexandria only to die on April 19th 1916 of an internal complaint, after undergoing two operations, aged 37 years. His body was returned home by rail to Cradley Heath station and he was given a military funeral at St. Luke's, Cradley Heath on April 22nd 1916.
A letter from C. Whiley, a Cradley man, also described the action of the 4th Worcesters at Krithia Vineyard:
On August 6th, about 3. 30. p. m., we went into the firing line, and had to charge right away, only having time to fix bayonets. We had to charge about 350 yards, and never shall I forget that dreadful time and also the bullets which were whistling all around us; but I succeeded in reaching the Turks' trenches without a scratch. We were afterwards treated to a taste of rifle and maxim fire, and nearly all my pals were either killed or wounded, but thank God I came out unscathed.
Very little can be found of C. Whiley -
The attack on Krithia Vineyard saw James Clarke, Tom Green and David Reynolds reported missing, and their bodies were never found or recovered.
Harry Tromans, James Clarke and David Reynolds were Cradley born and bred, and Tom Green had been born in Cradley Heath but lived in Cradley. All four men have no known grave and are named on the Helles Memorial, at Gallipoli.
The attack on Krithia Vineyard had resulted in the virtual annihilation of the 4th Worcesters as a fighting force with their casualties given as 16 officers and 752 other ranks either killed, wounded or missing.
As the 4th Worcesters contested Krithia, the 9th battalion were preparing at Anzac for what was to be their "baptism of fire" in their attack on Sari Bair, a three summit mountain mass of 1000 feet in height.
However, before the operations of the 9th Worcesters are looked at, the Suvla Bay landing, which was a diversionary operation for the main assault on Sari Bair, resulted in Lance Corporal Harry Dunn and Private William Pearshouse becoming casualties. Their respective battalions of the 7th South Staffords and 9th West Yorks were involved in the landings at Suvla Bay on August 6th. Lighters towed by destroyers sailed from Imbros and for both battalions the landings were fairly casualty free, but as they pushed inland from the beaches, this soon changed.
The 9th West Yorks fought their way inland capturing the heights at Lala Baba, Hill 10 and Hill 70 before being attacked in force on August 9th which resulted them suffering heavy casualties, one of the missing was William Pearshouse. Cradley born, he was an ex-
On the same day as Bill Pearshouse died the 7th South Staffords were also caught up in the Turkish attack at Hill 70 and suffered 53 killed, 206 wounded and 78 missing plus Harry Dunn. Born in Dudley, he had lived in Cradley Heath before enlistment, his medal card records that he died of wounds on the August 9th, although Soldiers Died records that he was killed in action on the same date. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial to the missing and the Roll of Honour for the men who fell from Rowley Regis Urban District, sealed inside the memorial at Powke Lane Cemetery, Blackheath.
In the next few days, four more Cradley men were to lose their lives when Daniel Heath, Harry Morton, Herbert Wallace and Ishmael Rawlins were killed in action with the 9th Worcesters.
The 9th Worcesters had been involved in the action at Anzac to capture Sari Bair, which had begun on August 6th. After days of mishaps and misunderstood orders the night of the 9th found the 9th Worcesters encamped below the crest line of Hill "Q". At dawn on the 10th the Turks rolled large bombs into the lines and charged in waves at the Worcesters. The battle raged for three hours before both sides had used up most of their resources and the fighting stopped. At this stage, it could be assumed that the three men named as being killed on August 10th died in the action on the slopes of Hill "Q", but this is too simple.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records give the 10th as the date of the deaths of Dan Heath, Harry Morton and Ishmael Rawlins, and that of Herbert Wallace as the 12th. The facts all seem straightforward until a letter from Edwin Grazier written to his wife and printed in the County Express edition of is taken into consideration:
I am sorry to tell you that Bert Wallace, Dan Heath and Harry Morton were killed in action on August 11th. We had a rough time of it when we went to take a well. Bert Wallace lost his life in the charge.
There is no mention of Ishmael Rawlins, so it is possible that he was killed on August 10th in the attack at Hill "Q". Consultation of The History of the Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War by H. FitzM Stacke showed that at 7.30 p. m. on August 12th 150 men and five officers attacked the heavily defended Kabak Kayu (Cabbage Well). This was in an effort to obtain a fresh water supply, as by now the water of the attackers was getting very low.
The attack resulted in heavy losses and although there are no casualty figures only about 60 men reported to the only officer next day. Although there is a day discrepancy in the dates given in the letter and the Stacke's History it still resulted in the same thing -
Ishmael Rawlins was born and lived in Cradley and was 43 years old when he was killed. Daniel Heath was born in Cradley where he lived with his wife Lily in Butcher's Lane. and was 31 years old when he was killed. Both Harry Morton and Herbert Wallace were born and lived in Cradley, the former at Foredraft Street and the latter in Anvil Yard. All four men are commemorated on the Helles Memorial.
The next man to die was the writer of the letter describing the Worcesters charge at Kabak Kayu, Private Edwin Grazier of the 9th Worcesters. He became the first Cradley casualty not to be killed, when he died of pneumonia after being evacuated to the Citadel Hospital in Cairo, Egypt. He had lived in Cradley all his life and was living with his wife in Anvil Yard when he enlisted. He is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.
William Henry Savage, Stourbridge born (but lived in Cradley) was working in Wales when on September 30th 1914 he joined the South Wales Borderers. When he arrived in Gallipoli, he was a sergeant with the 4th battalion of that regiment. On August 21st, he was reported missing, assumed killed, after being involved in a charge. He, like most of the men from Cradley to die in Gallipoli, is commemorated on the Helles Memorial. He was aged 19 years and on July 31st 1917 his brother Joseph Henry Savage, who had also joined the South Wales Borderers was killed in action in France -
George Plant had enlisted using an alias, and is shown in the records that I have been able to trace as George Boughey. A private with the 9th Worcesters, he died of wounds on October 23rd 1915. He has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Helles Memorial. He was one of a family that lived in the Maypole Fields area of Cradley, although he is recorded as being born in Brierley Hill and living in Cradley Heath. He is not named on the Cradley Memorial, nor can I find his name on those at Brierley Hill, Quarry Bank or Rowley Regis, but like Joe Round he has the credentials to be on at least one of them.
A letter from George Kirton, a private with the 9th Worcesters, who had lived in Lyde Green, Cradley, written to his old workmates at Messrs Jones and Lloyd where he had been a chainmaker, was published in the October 2nd 1915 edition of the County Express. It describes the everyday hazards on the peninsula:
I am safe and sound at present, but my lips often hunger for one spot of beer. I have now grown to do without it, for we never see any. I am sorry to tell you that our battalion has suffered lately. Of the 1,100 strong who first marched out we now muster 300 strong. But that has not broken our spirits. Only I am left out of our relations, for poor Bert Wallace was killed, and Fred Gill was wounded in the neck Joe (Kirton) is sick, and so is Edwin (Grazier). But there are still two of us left from Lyde Green -
George Kirton and Tommy Bradbury were both wounded at Gallipoli but survived the war, as did Fred Gill. Joe Kirton was evacuated from Gallipoli with severe dysentery and on recovery he was aboard the Hired Transport Cameronia on his way to join the 9th Worcesters in Mesopotamia. The ship was torpedoed and sunk on April 15th 1917 and his body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Chatby Memorial, Egypt along with the names of 126 soldiers who also drowned in the sinking.
On October 30th, the second soldier to die from disease did so in an Alexandria hospital. He was James Stevens of the 9th Worcesters, a native of Cradley where he had lived in Mill Street. He had only been in the Dardanelles nine weeks when he contracted dysentery and was evacuated to Egypt. He is buried in the Chatby Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria.
John Homer as we saw earlier had been wounded and hospitalised in Malta. I can find no trace of his whereabouts after this but on October 31st 1915 he died from dysentery in hospital in Cairo, aged 24 years and is buried in the Cairo War Cemetery, Egypt.
Back on the Peninsula, one of the many hazards was the sniper and our next soldier; Bert Ferraby was the victim of one. A private with the 9th Worcesters, he was shot in the head on November 22nd while delivering a message to an officer, he was aged 19 years. Halesowen born, he lived in Cradley with his wife Clara. He is one of only two soldiers from Cradley to have a known grave in Gallipoli and is buried in the Azmak Cemetery at Suvla, Turkey.
The last man from Cradley to be killed in Gallipoli was also the victim of a sniper when on November 23rd Thomas Burgess of the 4th Worcesters was shot through the head. He was born in Cradley and had lived at Lyde Green when he enlisted with his two brothers John and Bert (Bert Burgess was severely wounded in Gallipoli and was subsequently killed in action with the 3rd Worcesters on October 6th 1916 on the Somme). He was the other Cradley man to be buried in the Azmak Cemetery at Suvla.
Finally, the last Cradley man to die from his Gallipoli experiences was on December 18th 1915, when Caleb Bills succumbed to pneumonia in hospital at Alexandria, aged 39 years. Cradley born and bred, he was a Private in the 4th Worcesters. He is buried in the Chatby Military and War Cemetery, Alexandria, Egypt.
By early December the end was drawing close to a disastrous campaign. The storms of late November and the worsening winter weather became one of the factors in the decision to evacuate, starting in the middle of December. The campaign had been a failure, but the withdrawal was brilliantly planned and executed, and the remnants of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force left the Peninsula from right under the noses of the Turks with hardly any casualties. Evacuated with the 4th Worcesters was another Cradley man who was destined to have his name on the memorial, Thomas Raybould who, like Alf Willetts, was subsequently killed in action on April 23rd 1917 at the Second Battle of the Scarpe.
The Gallipoli Peninsula was finally evacuated on January 9th 1916, but fourteen "Cradleys" whose names are on the Cradley memorial still remain there and four more lie in Egyptian graves.
However, I hope now at least there is a little more known of some of the men from Cradley who left their homes voluntarily for whatever reasons they saw fit, fought and never returned, but as yet are not totally forgotten.
IF I KNEW I WOR CUMMIN' BACK
If I knew I wor cummin' back, thairs things I 'ood 'ave sed
I'd 'ave tode 'er mooer times 'ow much I luved 'er
an' tucked the kids up tieter in bed
A good nite in the boozer with me mates, me last goodbyes ter all
But I thort I woz invincerbul I wor ever gooin' ter fall
I woz gooin'ter do me bit, I woz that sort of mon
I'd jine the Woosters, for I 'new they'd got many a Craidlee son.
If I knew I wor cummin' back, I'd 'ave rote mooer oftun than I did
I'd 'ave tode 'er it 'ood be alrite and sum of the things I'd done an' sid
Me mates woz all around me, born an' bred in Craidlee town
I thort we woz soopermen and wor ever gooin' down
The Woosters 'ad trained us well, we 'new wot we 'ad ter do
But we wor gooin' ter France, but ter sumw'eer new
If I knew I wor cummin' back, I think I'd still 'ave gon
She 'ood 'ave whanted me ter jine, an' be proud of 'er mon
Ter plairces, sum I'd never 'erd on afower, we went
Befower we got ter Gallipoli, w'eer we 'ad bin sent
We landed at a plairce nairmed Helles, an' it woz truly hell
On the sond we woz 'ommered with bullet, shrapnul an'shell
If I knew I wor cummin' back, I think I'd 'ave tried ter med mooer of me life
But I 'oodn't 'ave changed 'er, she woz the perfect wife
We got used ter life under fire, we knew w'en ter duck and dive
We woz the Woosters from Craidlee and knew 'ow ter stay alive
Ower time 'ood soon be 'ere, we 'ood mek them Turks run
We 'ood soon be up out of ower trenches, chargin' with bayonet and gun
If I knew I wor cummin' back I'd 'ave rote that fineul day
She 'ood 'ave red it ter the kids the last things thair dad 'ad ter say
In swelterin' 'eat we waited for ower time ter charge the foe
Wot'ood it be like? We woz soon gooin' ter know
As we charged the Turkish lines, not a slacker woz there 'ere
We went forward, feelin' a mixture of excitement, pride an' fear
If I knew I wor cummin' back I'd 'ave left 'er picture back at camp
This lickwid cummin' from me chest ull meck it sticky an' damp
A'ommer like blow 'ad 'nocked me down, an' I lay in the dust
I'd got ter get up an'goo on an' 'elp me mates, I must
Jimmy Clark, Tummy Green and Dave Reynolds were lyin' not far away
It woz if the flower of Craidlee woz dyin' all around me that day
I just lay theer, I felt so tired, I coodn't move, no matter 'ow I tried
Surely this wor the end, this coodn't be 'ow yo felt w'en yo died
Suddenly I saw the missus an' the kids sittin' around me bed
I 'erd 'er say "Yo've dun yower bit, now goo ter sleep, rest yer weary yed"
'er fairce slowly vanished an' everything went black
Then I knew -
Dedicated to all who fought in the Gallipoli
Campaign, especially the men from Cradley with
the 4th and 9th Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment.
This essay is © Copyright 2001 Terry Evans,
who has generously granted permission to
Cradley Links to reproduce it on this web site.