The Great War
The special service section of the Rifles were called up on July 29th, 1914, they were issued with ammunition and sent to take up various pre-arranged posts in accordance with the 'Instructions for Portsmouth Outer Defence Troops.' The battalion fully mobilised on the 4th of August 1914 and relieved the Royal Fusiliers of the duties in the Island Forts. The Royal Fusiliers were to immediately go overseas. The Rifles also took over the coastal defence posts along the southern shores of the Island. On mobilisation men from the Ventnor and Shanklin detachments were sent down into their respective towns with orders to arrest all of the very large number of German waiters who were working in the hotels at that time.
Unfortunately most of them had received telegrams from home warning them of the coming War and had already left. A few men of the Ventnor detachment were sent down to the Landslip and Niton Undercliff to carry out nightly patrols along the coastal area, they were billeted in a large private house and were, apparently, very well treated. They received their meals in the drawing room of the house and were waited on by the domestic servants. During the course of one of their night patrols they were to find out at first hand just how keen was the eyesight of the torpedo boat crews who also carried out patrols along the coast. Four men on this particular night's patrol decided to stop and have a smoke, they found what they thought was a secluded spot, stopped and proceeded to light up cigarettes, quite unaware of the torpedo boat lying just offshore of them. The captain of the torpedo boat saw the culprits. On seeing that the offenders were a military patrol and that they were breaking the blackout he went straight back to his base on Shanklin pier and reported the matter. The men of that patrol considered themselves very lucky that there was no disciplinary action taken against them other than the receiving of a reprimand. Had further action been taken it would probably have meant that they would have lost their comfortable posting.
At the outbreak of war recruits came in rapidly until the army decided to check the recruiting into the Territorial regiments in favour of Lord Kitchener's army in France. In December 1914, the first battalion of the Isle of Wight Rifles was accepted for overseas service and as a result they started to form a second battalion. Nine hundred men were then required to bring both battalions up to full strength so a big recruiting campaign was launched with excellent results, within a few weeks both were almost at full fighting strength. Early in 1915, the garrison troops at Parkhurst organised a sports day to which all units on the Island and those in the Portsmouth District were invited to send teams. On the day almost every unit was represented giving a very large turnout. The Rifles did well in these spots, their best result being a win in the mile by Sgt. Channing.
At the end of April 1915 the 1st Battalion was sent to Bury St. Edmunds where they were to take the place of the 1 /4th Suffolks in the 163rd Brigade of the 54th East Anglian Division. The Suffolks had in fact been sent to France so excitement ran high in the battalion with everyone looking forward to the day when it would be their turn to head for active service overseas. During May the 54th Division was concentrated in the St. Albans and Watford area where they were to make lasting friendships and they spent a very happy two months. During their period at Watford the Rifles completed their transport training with a lively lot of large South African mules. Whilst with the 54th in preparation for their active service the Rifles had a very high reputation for their smartness, fitness and very high efficiency, the fitness showed on the innumerable route marches in heavy kit, usually well over twenty miles in length, they would start at their usual fast pace and would return at the same speed and it was extremely rare for anyone to have fallen out during the march.
Church parades were held every Sunday in the open air and large numbers of the local population would always turn out to see the Rides with their band and corps of bugles performing a display of their precision drill, marching at the light infantry pace.
At Bury St. Edmunds the Rifles had had their first taste of the enemy when the Zeppelins carried out their first raid on the East coast. Several times the battalion were to see the German airforce come over and drop their bombs but very little damage was ever done. However, on one raid, six zeppelins came over the town and dropped their bombs, on this occasion they had managed to do quite a considerable amount of damage although no serious injuries were reported. The bombs used were fairly small, being in the order of fifty pounds or so, they managed to flatten the Queen's Head Hotel and several shops were burnt to the ground by incendiaries. One of the public houses at the Upper end of the town had a landlord of German origin and somebody had reported that he had been on the roof signalling to the zeppelins with a light, this infuriated the townsfolk who marched up to the pub, started a riot and proceeded to wreck the premises, threatening to lynch the landlord if they could catch him. The Rifles were called out and sent to the scene to quell the riot and to stop the place from being looted. At Watford the battalion again did extremely well in the sports day that had been put on by the division taking several cups for athletics. It was while they were at Watford that Lt. Col. Rhodes was to give them the much awaited news that at last they were to go overseas and that they were bound for the Dardenelles and the inhospitable shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula. At this news Moor Park resounded with the cheers of the younger men of the battalion who were delighted by the thought that they were at last to exchange blows with the enemy, the older men standing back, saying nothing, knowing full well the horrors of war as several of them had served in South Africa during the Boer War, both with the Rifles and the Imperial Yeomanry and also a few who had seen service with the regular army. At this time the battalion did not consist purely of Islanders as, just prior to the outbreak of war, Lt. Col. Rhodes had been working as a bailiff on a large country estate in Buckinghamshire, and when he was recalled to take command of the battalion he recruited a large number of men from the High Wycombe area. These 'oveners' were soon accepted by the Islanders and they were soon to prove their worth as most of them had been game keepers in civilian life and were therefore expert in field craft and first class marksmen with a rifle.
At 1 p.m. on the 30th of July 1915 the men of the Rifles along with the rest of the 163rd Brigade, the London battalions of the 162nd Brigade and the 54th Divisional Headquarters staff left the quayside at Liverpool on board the Aquitania. There were on board some seven or eight thousand men. The ship anchored in mid stream and the men proceeded to undergo lifeboat and fire drills. At 11 p.m. that night the Aquitania sailed with two escort destroyers but in the early hours of the 31st the weather had deteriorated and the wind had got up to a severe gale and the escorts had had to return to Liverpool. The Aquitania continued on her own and took a wide sweep out into the Atlantic in order to avoid German submarines known to be lurking in the approaches of Liverpool. Their next sight of land was on the 2nd of August when, during the afternoon, the northern coast of Africa was seen on the port bow. Gibraltar was passed at 4 p.m. that same day. The voyage passed uneventfully and they arrived at the port of Mudros on the 6th of August.
On the 8th of August the battalion transferred to smaller ships and moved on to lmbros, an island just off the coast of Gallipoli. At Imbros they transferred yet again to the smaller landing ships for the final part of their journey to the beaches of Suvla Bay. One of these small ships was named the 'Water Witch,' she was an ancient tug and I am assured by several of the men who travelled in her that she lived up to her name.
Most of the actual landings were done in small landing barges that had been especially built for the job, one of these was the X24 and she was one of the very few of her class to survive the war and return to the United Kingdom. After the war, in 1921 she was sold to a civilian company and moved to the Isle of Wight and she may still be seen plying up and down the Solent and the river Medina, she is now named the 'Arreton' and is a very familiar sight to the residents of Cowes. During the landings the Rifles were supported by HMS Swiftsure, a battleship laying just off shore at Suvla, she put down a very heavy barrage with her main armament in the hope of keeping the enemies heads down. The Isle of Wight Rifles actually landed on the 10th of August but remained in the reserve area for the first two days. As the Islanders were landing some two and a half thousand men, most of them seriously wounded, were waiting to go back to Mudros to board the Aquitania for home, the sight of the shattered limbs and bodies of the men whose place they were taking was hardly a boost to the morale of the youngsters who were about to face their baptism of fire. The area where the Rifles landed was in the middle of Suvla Bay, this bay is just over two miles across stretching from Suvla Point in the north to Nibrunesi Point in the South. At the northern end the land rises steeply to a rocky ridge of hills which extend northwards and rise to a height of about five hundred feet. To the south, inland from the point rises a little hill which was known as Hala Baba. From the beach inland for about two miles stretched a sandy plain, a part of which was covered by a salt lake which dried out in the summer leaving a heavy salt crust.
The plain which was partly cultivated, was covered with patches of thick scrub and dotted with small trees. About three miles from the beach the land rose sharply to a ridge of bare hills between eight and nine hundred feet high. Two villages at the foot of these hills were known as Little Anafarta and Big Anafarta. The peace and quiet enjoyed by the battalion for the first forty eight hours came to an end at 4.45 p.m. on the afternoon of the 12th when the 163rd Brigade were given the order to advance in the hope that they would succeed in occupying the ridge of hills in front of them, cut off the Turkish armies in the area of Anzac beach and Cape Helles, and to dominate the Dardenelles straights.
Prior to the departure of the 1st Battalion from the Island a silver bugle was presented to them by the Officers and Men of the 2nd Battalion. This bugle was carried and used by Colonel Rhodes' bugler, Bugle Major Reginald Frank Peachey, as he sounded the 'advance' the sun glinted on the silver bugle, marking him as a target for the Turkish snipers, he was hit and fell to the ground wounded. Bugler Peachey was one of the first of the wounded to actually return to the Island so was in much demand as a source of information as regards to the luck or otherwise of those who were still on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
To appreciate the position on the Gallipoli Peninsula at this time perhaps it would be wiser to study the earlier months of the campaign. The first wave of landinas in the Dardenelles were originally planned as a major offensive to open the straights to allied shipping and to give our navies access to Constantinople and the Russian Black Sea ports. One attack went in at Cape Helles on the southern most point of the peninsula and a second at Ari Burnu on the western side. Meanwhile a French Division made a diversionary attack on the Asiatic coast of the straights.
During these attacks the navy bombarded Bulair, some fifty miles north east of Nees. At Ari Burnu the Anzac force moved up towards Chunuk Bair but Turkish troops under the command of Mustapha Kemel beat them to their objective and then counter attacked fiercely, driving the Anzacs back to the beaches with losses of over five thousand men. On the orders of the GOC, General Ian Hamilton they dug in on a narrow beachhead.
At Cape Helles the 29th Division landed on five separate beaches suffering heavy losses. One part of this Division almost reached its objective, a hill mass known as Achi Baba. These landings reached a stalemate and evolved into a form of trench warfare very similar to, that existing on the western front at that time. In late July the plans were drawn up for the second wave of landings which took place between the 6th and 8th of August. The landings at Suvla Bay were made without encountering any serious opposition but they were not pressed home hard enough, thus allowing time for the Turks to bring up reinforcements which had arrived before the 54th Division were in a position to mount their attack.
When the advance started the objectives were not clear and the men had no proper maps of the area, their main objective was to be the capture of the Anafarta Ridge. They suffered very badly from enemy snipers and from heavy shrapnel but eventually managed to establish a line covering the wells at Anafarta Ova. The Turks launched a very heavy counter attack on the 14th, this was beaten off and that evening the battalion was relieved by the Essex Regiment. During the first few days fighting the Rifles suffered very heavy casualties, the first part of their advance was through open grazing land cut up by dry water courses and dotted with trees, here and there were small patches of cultivation surrounded by ditches and the occasional hedge. Through this sort of country the advance moved forward, unchecked for several hundred yards but after half a mile or so the casualties began to occur and it soon became clear that it had been a mistake to attempt to cross open country in daylight. About a thousand yards from the start line casualties became so heavy that all units lost their cohesion and the advance began to slow, eventually dying away altogether. On the right a company of the Norfolks led by Major Lewis, continued to press forward. This party was unsupported and after they had penetrated the enemy lines the Turks managed to close behind them, none of this party was ever seen again. After being relieved by the Essex Regiment the Rifles moved over on to the left and formed a line running down the hill slopes to the sea. By this time the battalion had suffered almost fifty per cent casualties. As the positions were consolidated the losses through the activities of the Turkish snipers started to diminish but dysentery and enteric fever had set in and the men were reporting sick at the rate of about fifty a day. In September the battalion moved back to Anzac Cove and they were to remain in this sector until they were eventually evacuated at the end of November.
The following stories of the Gallipoli campaign are personal recollections of some of the survivors who are still alive, as will be appreciated the view points given are very narrow as each man had only the knowledge of what was happening in a very small area close to his own position. On the morning of the 12th the officers and. NCOs were called together for a briefing, this was attended by all concerned with the exception of Captain Clayton Ratsey who had vanished into the surrounding scrub just before the briefing had been called. On his return Captain Ratsey asked what had been said and when he was told that they were to go into action that same afternoon he replied "My God we'll all be killed," as it turned out this was to be a true prophesy as far as he was concerned as both he and his brother Captain Donald Ratsey were to perish. The trees which dotted the plain were used to good advantage by Turkish snipers, a large number of whom were women, almost every single tree contained one. 11 Platoon of 'C' Company was pinned down by one of these snipers so a man was detailed to go forward and get him out whilst the remainder of the platoon concentrated a heavy rapid fire into the tree. The lone man ran forward, reaching the tree without being hit, he pushed his bayonet up into the foliage and winkled out the Turk, as it turned out, this sniper was to be the first Turkish prisoner taken by the Rifles. During the advance there was very little opposition coming from the front but a heavy enfilading fire was corning from the high ground on the left in the area known as Kidney Hill and also from the right flank. The total casualties for the battalion in this first day's fighting amounted to eight officers and over three hundred other ranks killed or missing.
The 54th Division were part of the IX Corp commanded by Lt. General Sir F. W. Stopford and he notified General Hamilton that the opposition encountered by the 163rd Brigade had been far heavier than had been anticipated and he doubted if the 54th Division would be in a position to attack the Anafarta Ridge before the 15th of August. The Turks then began to shell the front line heavily, particularly the part occupied by the 53rd Division and Stopford informed GHQ of the very dangerous situation that was developing, adding that in his opinion the 54th were 'sucked oranges' and that they were liable to turn and run at any minute. It is very hard to find any form of justification for this critisism of the 54th as they had showed in the previous two days' fighting that they could not only take and hold a line but were prepared to advance against impossible odds regardless of their own losses. During the later part of the first days advance, 'C' Company of the Rifles continued their advance under the command of Captain Ellery, when the advance stopped they started to reform under the cover of smoke that was coming from a burning field of wheat through which they had been advancing, suddenly the smoke cleared and they were able to see the heavily fortified Turkish positions some two hundred yards in front of their position. Deciding it was impossible to move any further forward, Captain Ellery split up the remains of his company, himself leading one half and Sgt. Channing the other, each group gave the other covering fire in turn as they withdrew to a more easily defensible position in a narrow lane with steep banks on either side. As, at that time, the 54th Division were some seven or eight hundred yards in front of the forward positions of the 53rd, a large number of Turkish snipers had managed to infiltrate round the right flank of the 54th, enabling them to get at the rear of the British lines. These snipers began to enfilade the position of 'C' company causing them to have to reinforce their position by cutting down trees and making a roof over their makeshift trench. A large number of casualties began to arrive at this position, they were tended by Captain Raymond and Corporal Stears of the Royal Army Medical Corps, these two men worked tirelessly to relieve pain and suffering and it is to these men that a large number of the wounded from all regiments of the 54th Division were to owe their lives.
During the takeover by the Essex Regiment the sadistic tendencies of the Turkish snipers were shown at their worst, one of the relieving force was seen, badly wounded, crawling between the reserve and forward trenches, he was going from body to body trying to find water. Each time he approached a water bottle the snipers would put several shots through it, thus allowing the water to drain out before the wounded man could get any. The unfortunate man was eventually to be rescued by the men of the Rifles who took him back with them, he was then sent back to Mudros and hospital, he was later to fully recover. While the battalion was in the reserve trenches, part of their duties was to go down to the beach and bring up the rations for the front line troops, this was a hazardous venture as it meant exposing themselves to the Turkish sharp- shooters and on many occasions, when taking evasive action, both men and rations went into the sea! The battalion then moved to Hill 60, this position had been taken from the enemy by the Australian Light Horse with very heavy casualties on both sides. The ground here was very hard and rocky making it almost impossible to bury the dead, the stench of decaying flesh of men and horses was so bad that it became a risk to health and men were sent out under the cover of darkness to spray the battlefield with lime to try and reduce the danger. Those who survived the war to come home, could never forget the terrible sights and smells encountered on these night sorties. At the time that the Rifles went to Hill 60, the battalion had suffered so many casualties that the small number left was only just sufficient for them to be posted at two hundred yard intervals along the trenches. The trench system at Hill 60 was very deep, in places as much as nine feet with ledges on the walls for the men on duty to stand on to fire over the parapet. The Turks were constantly throwing bombs into the trenches causing extensive injuries and damage, on one occasion a bomb fell at the feet of Lt. Fox who very smartly picked it up, and attempted to throw it back, as it reached the top of the parapet it exploded and he was badly injured, he recovered but had lost an eye in the process. The battalion regularly came under fire from an old French gun that the Turks had captured, this gun had been nick-named 'Old Whiz Bang,' it had gained this name from the fact that when it was fired one heard a long 'whizz' as the shell came over, this was followed some seconds later by the bang when the shell eventually decided to explode. This gun rarely did any damage although on one occasion, one of its shells landed in one of the forward machine-gun posts, exploding at once, killing several men and wounding the others. On Gallipoli rations were very short and almost every man took any opportunity that presented itself to pilfer a little extra, several men had managed to steal a crate of condensed milk which they promptly consumed between them, shortly afterwards they were to become very ill as their stomachs, after the hardships and semi-starvation that they had been subjected to, could not take the richness of their loot. Rum was regularly issued with the men's rations but the medical team kept a supply of alcohol which was referred to as 'comforts,' this was issued to the men who reported sick as a little extra to help them recover, of course, this privilege was abused, many men reporting on sick parade for no other reason than the hope of obtaining a little extra booze! On one trip down to the supply depot to pick up the rations, one party of men from the Rifles decided to risk opening one of the gallon jars of rum.
On their way back to the lines they consumed fairly large quantities from the jar and were well inebriated by the time they got back to their own trench. On reaching their post, the culprits immediately fell asleep and when the duty sergeant came to post them for their turn of duty on the firing steps, he could not awaken them and so, thinking that they had been taken ill, he went for the medical officer. The M.O. became rather annoyed when he found that he had been dragged out to the front line just to find out that his 'patients' were far from ill, just stone drunk.
No disciplinary action was taken against these men although the matter had been reported to the battalion headquarters, they could have easily faced a court martial for their offence. Whilst at Hill 60, the battalion received reinforcements, these came from several different regiments and included a detachment of Australians. One morning, Sgt. Channing was on duty in one of the forward trenches when a young officer who had just arrived from England, was sent forward, he had been warned that it was possible to encounter the odd Turk between the reserve and forward trenches, with this thought in mind, he crept forward and into the trenches where he was confronted by a very scruffy dirty man, wearing a balaclava helmet, his immediate reaction was to put his revolver against the man's head and to order him to put his hands up, highly pleased with the thought that he had captured a Turk on his first trip to the front line. After a heated argument with the so called enemy, the young officer decided to go back to battalion headquarters and check the man's story. He returned, dragging with him Major Marsh, the battalion adjutant, Major Marsh, on seeing the man in question, burst into laughter and telling the officer "Don't be a bloody fool, that's Sergeant Channing not a damn Turk." This was by no means an isolated incident as the men were in such a poor state that they were often being mistaken for the enemy.
The Rifles had also been joined at this time by officers and men of the Sandringham Imperial Yeomanry who had left their horses behind and taken on the role of infantry, one afternoon, a young Yeomanry officer attempted to enter the forward trenches, he was stopped by one of the Islanders and asked for the password which he did not know, he was promptly arrested and without ceremony, marched back to headquarters for identification. He had been rather lucky, as the men in the trenches had by this time become very trigger happy and were inclined to follow the old maxim 'shoot first and ask later' if they were given the slightest cause to suspect that anyone was an enemy infiltrator.
Patrols were sent out every night, these usually consisted of at least two or three men but Lt. C. W. Brannon was in the habit of travelling light and he would often go out on his own with only his revolver as a weapon, one night he carried out a patrol on his own around some old gravel workings, as he crept along he suddenly heard a peculiar noise and decided to investigate. Creeping up on the source of the noise he discovered a Turkish sniper sound asleep, he carefully approached the sleeping man and removed his rifle, then, placing his revolver against the man's head, woke him up. As Lt. Brannon attempted to bring his prisoner in, he was travelling over ground which was unfamiliar to him, when suddenly the Turk took a flying leap into one of the gravel workings, he let fly a couple of shots with his revolver but missed in the dark and on seeing that the quarry into which the Turk had jumped was about twenty feet deep, he decided that it would be useless to attempt to chase him.
In the conditions that prevailed at that time, the men had grown very hard and callous, and had developed a most macabre sense of humour, the Turks had tried to bury some of their dead in a shallow trench which had then been filled with sand but in their hurry, they had not done a complete job and a hand and arm protruded from the ground, the men of the battalion had to pass this sight as they came on and off duty in their trenches and many of them were in the habit of getting hold of the hand, giving it a good shake and saying : "See you tomorrow Johnny," or similar comments.
The Islanders had suffered more heavy casualties on the 15th of August when they took part in an attack on the left flank of Suvla Bay, in this second attack they were supported by fire from destroyers laying just off shore. By the time they had reached the Munster Fusiliers who were carrying out the offensive, the battle had come to an end and there was nothing to do but to dig in and hold on to what had been gained by the Fusiliers. Towards the end of August the situation on the Gallipoli Peninsula had become extremely confused, no-one knew exactly where they were or where the enemies front lines were situated, on one occasion one of the Islanders, a Rifleman Bill Weeks, had been cut off from his comrades and as darkness was starting to fail, he decided that it would be better to try and hide for the night and to make his way back to his own lines in daylight, he crawled into a clump of thick bushes and settled down to go to sleep for the night. As he was laying there he heard voices approaching, it turned out to be a patrol of Turkish soldiers led by a German officer, it appeared that they had had the same idea, they made their way into the same clump of bushes and the officer removed his pack and placed it down to use as a pillow, he actually placed it on Bill Weeks feet! Bill remained still, trying not to give his presence away to the German and when he was sure that the officer was sound asleep he carefully removed his feet and gingerly crept out of the bushes. Once clear of the sleeping enemy he decided that perhaps it would be wiser to attempt to reach his own lines. He eventually reached the British lines without any further contact with the enemy.
At this time the whole of the British Army on Gallipoli were suffering very heavy casualties amongst the officers and senior NCOs, this was due to the fact that the Turkish High Command had ordered their snipers to concentrate on killing only the senior men, hoping that they would be able to totally demoralize the British soldiers once they had become leaderless. They were very nearly to be successful in this aim as chaos reigned in some units who were without command but orders were issued by GHQ that all badges of rank and other distinguishing marks were to be removed. This move appears to have worked as the losses of officers and NCOs dropped drastically from this time on. During the night of the 15th of August the Rifles were engaged in the evacuation of the wounded and loading them into boats to take them back to Mudros. During this time little could be done during the hours of daylight without attracting the attention of the enemy snipers, the snipers however did not have things all their own way, one of their biggest headaches was Captain Charles Seely who had been presented with a magnificent sporting rifle by his father, this weapon had very powerful telescopic sights and Captain Seely used it to its fullest advantage with great skill and marksmanship. Captain Fox was later awarded the Military Cross for his work on patrols between the lines and Captain Charles Pittis was also awarded the MC for his work with the two machine guns with which the battalion was equipped.
After resting at the southern end of Suvla Bay, the Rifles moved up to the trenches again where conditions were, to say the least, deplorable, water was in such short supply that the men passed round a can full to allow them to use it in turn. To while away the time they manufactured home made bombs from empty jam tins, these were then lobbed over into the Turkish trenches, less than the length of a cricket pitch away. When the enemy retaliated the troops stretched wire netting over their trenches and trusted in the whole force of the explosion travelling in an upward direction. The battalion continued to suffer losses due to the activities of snipers, the occasional burst of shrapnel and bombs but above all from dysentery and enteric fever. The flies swarmed everywhere, torturing the thirsty wounded and helping to spread the diseases. During the four months that the Rifles remained on the peninsula they were commanded in turn by Lt. Colonel Rhodes, Major Veasey, Captain Ellery and finally by Captain Marsh.
A change in the weather brought even greater misery for the men than all the months of heat and thirst. On November 26th a violent thunderstorm burst, this was followed by a torrential downpour which lasted for twenty four hours and completely soaked the troops and all of their equipment. A month earlier this would have come as a most welcome relief but the rain was in turn followed by an icy hurricane from the north which changed into a blizzard of blinding snow. The snow was followed by two nights of very severe frost. The 'Official History' of the campaign recorded that at Suvla, at that time, there were over five thousand cases of frost bite and over two hundred men were drowned or were frozen to death in their trenches. The enemy fared no better, their trenches were flooded as well. In some parts of the line the situation was so bad that for several days an unofficial truce existed as it was totally impossible for either side to man their trenches. During the period of the blizzard conditions were so bad that even the bolts of the rifles seized up. Towards the end of the month of November the Isle of Wight Rifles were due to be evacuated but when they arrived on the beach they found that their transport had been reallocated to the Ghurkas who had suffered far more severely from the effects of frost bite than had the Islanders. The battalion eventually left from Anzac Cove on the 3rd of December and it was a very different lot of men from the fine battalion that had entrained at Watford a mere five months earlier, they were thin and very weak, almost every man suffering from dysentery and in such a state that they did not even have the strength to carry their packs and weapons. In spite of the numerous reinforcements they had received during the course of the campaign the strength of the whole battalion was somewhat less than two hundred men when they finally arrived back at Mudros.
At Mudros a large quantity of clothing from the Isle of Wight Gift Fund was waiting for them, this proved to be a godsend and the men rapidly mended. Also at Mudros most of the men received food parcels from home, these were the first they had received since leaving England, these were a most welcome supplement to the meagre rations on which the men had been existing. After spending two weeks at Mudros the battalion again loaded itself on board ship and headed for Alexandria in Egypt where they were to arrive just in time for Christmas 1915.
During the Great War quite a number of men became amateur poets, the following verses were penned on Gallipoli by an unknown member of the Isle of Wight Rifles, the poem was sent home and appeared in the local press at the time but nobody had been able to find out exactly who wrote it;
Let us tell how the Island Rifles,
Eight Hundred of the best,
Crossed Anafarta Valley
to Anafarta's Crest.
And how with their Trusty leader,
Colonel Rhodes the brave,
Dashed through the Turkish valley
to Victory or the grave.
It is a famous story
proclaim it for and wide,
and the Island's children
re-echo it with pride,
How Princess Beatrice's Rifles
their name forever made,
When they stormed Anafarta Valley
in the one six third brigade.
It was on the twelth of August
that the order it came through,
That the 163rd Brigade
its duty had to do,
Our officers nobly led us
as we went to face the foe,
Alas, Our valiant major fell
and some gallant captains too.
Norfolks, Suffolks, Hampshires
formed that brigade so brave
And they fought like true born Britons,
many finding a soldier's grave.
Praise to our fighting parson
and to Doctor Raymond too,
For their devotion to the wounded
while around the bullets flew.
Now remember the Island Rifles
who faced death on that far shore,
Some called them the last hope of England
but they won't call them that any more
For their names are engraved at Gallipoli
with Anzac staunch and true,
Their deeds shall shine in history
showing what Island men can do.
Yes, it is a famous story,
proclaim it far and wide,
and let the Island children
re-echo" it with pride
How our Princess's Rifles
faced fearful odds that day,
And won undying glory
in the great Gallipoli fray.