The Great War – the War to End all Wars

Penny W-TStarred Page By Penny W-T, 6th Jun 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3f341qhp/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

There has been so much written over the last century now, about this Event, and I do not intend to repeat other peoples’ expert opinions on this, but I have been researching for the last decade the events at Gallipoli – Churchill’s greatest disaster.

Off to War

Today, the 6th June would be my grandfathe Leonard Hodgkins' birthday. He was born in 1896 which was 117 years ago. When War was declared in 1914 he was one of the thousands of young men who enlisted. This was going to be a ‘holiday’ to go and let the Germans know that Britain could fight its own corner. He and his elder brother both went off to camp at Devonport for their initial training.
Subsequently my Great-uncle was shipped to France, and my grandfather found himself on a ‘cruise’ to the Mediterranean. I know all this because I have over 100 letters that he wrote home over the next three years about his travels. You note, I say travels, because never once in all these letters does he make any comment about the atrocities and anguish that they were all suffering. But his letters open up a ‘tardis-like’ window on life in 1914-15 and his life as part of the Gallipoli Campaign. Before I read his letters I knew very little about Gallipoli because my grandfather, in the 15 of my years that I shared with him, never once discussed his war time experiences – never once! After reading all these letters, I suddenly found out that NOW I really know my grandfather.

Letters Home

He was part of a Battalion that went into Gallipoli on the first day - 25th April 1915.
On March 10th he wrote home saying “. . . . we go away for sure on Friday night to Egypt so it will sure to be a year or two before I see you again . . . .”
He then adds “. . . but Mother I don’t want you to worry about me, I shall be alright and it won’t be half so bad in fighting there as it is in France . . .” Little did they know what horrors were awaiting them.
From the documents supplied to me by the Worcestershire Regiment Museum Trust, at Norton Barracks,
“officially the destination of the Force was a secret and the orders issued at Avonmouth were only to proceed to Gibraltar, but actually the real objective was known {in fact the ASC had driven their lorries across the country to Avonmouth bearing the slogan – “Cheap Trip to the Dardanelles”} and no one was surprised when, on March 27th the convoy steamed straight through the Straits of Gibraltar and on without a check into the Mediterranean . . .”

En Route to the Dardanelles

The convoy docked overnight at Valletta harbour in Malta on 31st March, sailing for Egypt the next day, and reaching Alexandria on Easter Sunday 4th April. A week later the fleet sailed from Egypt, heading for Lemnos island, where other troops from Australia and New Zealand were also congregated. On 21st April orders were issued for the planned invasion, and the 4th Worcestershire Regiment was to make a landing at Cape Helles.
A letter dated 23rd April, and written on board the ship made the following comments
“Well Mother, I am still alright myself and all the Boys from HalesOwen are. We are expecting to have a big day one of these days and I hope we shall bring it off alright.”
In the second letter he says “. . . . we shall be landed the following day that I write this letter. I hope that there will be another big step towards the end of the war. In fact I think there will be if we land alright.”

First Days

The events of the next few days – the Dawn landings on 25th April and subsequent days before his injury, are not recounted until later in May, at which point he was already hospitalised on Malta. “Well Father, we got a warm reception on the Sunday (25th April) but we paid them back alright after.”
“You ought to have been there, just to have seen the Navy. We could hear nothing for our Navy guns . . .”

From the military report mentioned earlier, this information is confirmed as it states that the 4th Worcesters were carried to shore by a mine sweeper which stood off shore two miles for a time while the troops watched “the spectacle of the flagship ‘Queen Elizabeth’ firing her great 15 inch guns at the Turkish defences on ‘V’ beach.” Also landed at this time was the 2nd Hampshire Regiment and some of the Dublin Fusiliers, as well as various Battalions from the Australian and New Zealand forces (later to be known as ANZACs)
His letter then goes on to say “. . . . on the Monday we made our name . . . . we made a bayonet charge and took a fort. The General said it was the best bit of work as ever he had seen . . . .”
My grandfather’s letters home were never graphic – all the time his thoughts were obviously not to worry his family. Throughout his letters any war events news was addressed to “dear Father” whereas the pleasant news was addressed to ‘dear Mother’. I assume therefore that his father was reading out the letters to the rest of the family, and could therefore leave out any news that Len thought might worry his mother. (I later discovered, when discussing these events with my aunt, his youngest daughter, that my great-grandmother had never learned to read!)

Never Forget

It also seems to be a well established fact that virtually all of the men who came back from the horrors of trench warfare very rarely spoke of their experiences in future years. My grandfather certainly made little comment following the war, but from his letters I have discovered three observations he made, which I think probably sum it all up very succinctly –
‘It doesn’t do to say much, but I shall never forget the 25th April . . . . .’ (letter dated 31 October 1915).
‘. . . . there will never be another day like that as long as the World stands.’ (letter dated 14 June 1915).
“HalesOwen will seem very quiet when all the Boys have left” and is taken from a letter dated 6 January 1916.
I can confirm that he never did forget that day and yes, Halesowen was very quiet when all the boys had gone off to war, because many did not return, and I wish he had been right with this other thought that ‘there would never be another day . . .’ but sadly politicians never seem to learn from their mistakes, and continuing thousands of lads (and lasses now) continue to die ‘for their country’ nearly a century later.
Happy Birthday granddad, you have enriched my life in so many ways.

Tags

Gallipoli Campaign, Great War, Historic Personal Accounts, Malta, Military Records

Meet the author

author avatar Penny W-T
Published articles on education themes, travel, history and writing techniques. Written a book on WW1 - Gallipoli, and travel books. Run a marketing network for small businesses.

Share this page

moderator johnnydod moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know

Comments

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
6th Jun 2013 (#)

what a wonderful detailed page this is Penny...thank you so much...

Reply to this comment

author avatar Penny W-T
6th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you CNW. You know I started this project in 2004 with just a view to type out all the letters so that all the family could read them without the original letters being destroyed by too much handling. It has become a passion. One of my correspondents on this subject in Australia said to me right at the beginning -
"Be careful about digging too deeply into Gallipoli, it takes hold of you and never lets you go. I think he was right.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
6th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you for that, Penny.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Penny W-T
6th Jun 2013 (#)

My pleasure Eileen. I hope it will interest other people as it does me.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
7th Jun 2013 (#)

I'm looking for background to a piece I am starting about the women left behind.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Penny W-T
7th Jun 2013 (#)

I know of one piece written for reat War magazine by a lady I knew whose father in law served in the same regiment as my grandfather. She is now dead, but I will find the piece and you can have a look.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Eileen Ward Birch
7th Jun 2013 (#)

thank you.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Delicia Powers
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Amazing page and history well done Penny...

Reply to this comment

author avatar Penny W-T
8th Jun 2013 (#)

Thank you, it is true what I was told, Gallipoli never lets you go.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Username
Can't login?
Password