One of the few men to survive the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War wrote to the Eccles and Patricroft Journal in December 1915 describing the unimaginable horrors he had witnessed.
120,000 British soldiers were wounded or killed at Gallipoli in the mess of trench warfare and close-quarter fighting with Turkish troops.
It would be one of the bloodiest campaigns of the entire war, and one which would live ingrained in the memory of the many thousands of Salford families who lost loved ones.
Private JJ Worthington was serving under the leadership of Major Cronshaw when he was one of only eight out of 120 comrades left on the battlefields in the Dardenelles straits.
Worthington, who lived at Paradise Street in Eccles – and his home must have seemed well named when compared with Gallipoli – told the local paper of the ordeals he’d witnessed, while still trying to maintain a gung-ho attitude to inspire his fellow soldiers.
In a November letter to the Journal the Private complains about the lack of mail and delay in receiving parcels from home, but reserves his strongest criticism for the ‘rest’ periods after a bout of trench warfare.
These ‘days off’, he tell us, consist of being awoken at 5.30am for a running parade, followed by a ‘Swedish Drill’ at 6am and an unsatisfying breakfast of cold bread.
On a growling stomach follows six hours on the beach with a pick and shovel filling sandbags!
As he notes: “This is our rest period so you can imagine what active service is like.”
Turkish troops fighting for the now-disbanded Ottoman Empire “come out of their trenches shouting ‘Allah!’ at us,” he says, “we like them to come out into the open ground and then we give them ‘Allah’.
Brushes with death are alarmingly regular; on one occasion an enemy shell explodes above his head causing the trench to collapse – “I thought I was a goner,” he recalls, but luck is on his side and when stretchers fall on top of him he is left with only a bruised head and minor cuts.
The Turkish prisoners that they have captured are described as being “hungry and having no boots on their feet”. Private Worthington is convinced that it is only a matter of time before the Turks surrender. Sadly history would prove him wrong.
Rather angrily he says that he has spent nine months in the blazing heat of the Egyptian desert and five months fighting the Turks in Gallipoli and has heard rumours that officers are already going home, and if its good enough for them, then it should be for the ordinary soldier.
He launches into a rather patriotic statement adding that he is prepared to stay there and fight until his beloved flag is flying over Germany and Turkey and we have paid back the blows that they have given us,
“If I win through I shall be able to hold up my head and say to my children and fellow men that I did my share of duty for King and Country.”
It’s not known whether Private Worthington did indeed survive return to the streets of Eccles where he could hold his head high.
I really hope that he did, to me he is the perfect example of the British Tommy, prepared to fight to his last breath and is convinced that he is needed by his King and Country for what he considered to be a just and noble cause.