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100 years ago: Gallipoli on my mind – Eccles man’s eyewitness evacuation account

This Sunday 17 April in Bury the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will commemmorate the 101st anniversary of soldiers landing on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25th April 1915.

The First World War conflict, also known as the Dardanelles campaign, took place in what would now be modern-day Turkey.

It is recognised as one of the worst military disasters in an already horrific war.

Nearly 200,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in action as they tried to struggle up the narrow beaches faced by constant shelling from above.

This campaign cost the lives of 88 officers and 1,728 Lancashire men among 25,000 British soldiers.

It is also recorded that the Lancashire Fusiler regiment famously won six Victoria Crosses before breakfast in this short but brutal campaign.

In April 1915 British troops landed at Cape Helles.

Ships approach Gallipoli

The plan was to move inland and take the capital city, Constantinople, now called Istanbul, from opposing fighters.

But the lay of the land was so bad that soldiers would spend months in trenches dug under cliffs, at constant risk from sniper fire, cold, hungry, tired and in mortal danger.

Private George Weaver told the Eccles and Patricroft Journal in April 1916 of his regiment’s evacuation from Gallipoli.

George, who lived at 1, Cromwell Road in Eccles, was serving with the 1/6 Manchester Regiment in the 42nd Division.

private weaver1

He heard the news of the evacuation from a rather unusual source: he was engaged on road-mending duties when a group of men carrying bundles of blankets marched past him.

He enquired where they were going and was told that this was their “last fatigue in this ‘ole'” and they would be off the hated penisula that night.

An unamed General appeared and told the men that they too would be leaving. He states that they were so overjoyed they “attacked their work like demons”.

gallipoli beach leaving

The evacuation wasn’t as quick as they had hoped for.

Pvt Weaver says that they were to stay in a place called Geoghan’s Bluff for two nights in wet and muddy trenches awaiting the much-hoped call for evacuation.

His stay in the trenches was made a bit more bearable: in exchange for his daily rum ration he was treated to a hot meal, the next morning he was given porridge, sausage and bread for breakfast, which none of the other troops received.

That evening his company marched down to the beach and he noticed an enemy aeroplane in the sky.

He says he was fully expecting ‘Johnny Turk’ to drop a few bombs on them “as a going away present”, however two British aeroplanes appeared and fired their machine guns at the plane which promptly vanished.

The company struggled down a gully, carrying a full army pack must have made this quite the ordeal, oddly enough the men were given a pint of beer from a barrel which had been obtained for Christmas.

Gallipoli W Beach Cape Helles

It took the men a further hour to make their way down the gully to the beach, only for confusion to add to their misery as they wondered what beach they were to embark from.

‘W’ Beach wasn’t too far away, but ‘Y’ Beach was a long way away and ‘V’ Beach farther still.

They were told to fall in and the order, ‘Quick march!’ was given, much to their dismay, as they were told ‘V’ Beach was their destination.

Private Weaver tells that as he struggled along, an office carried his rifle for him whilst a Sergeant Major carried his great coat for him.


All the while the Turkish guns on Achi Baba continued to rain shells down onto the beach, inflicting terrible casualties.

A large explosion told them that one of the rescue ships, ‘Asiatic Annie’, had suffered a hit.

The men arrived at a short pier and were told in no uncertain manner to run for their lives.

A ship called the River Clyde was waiting to take them to safety and away from the horrors of Gallipoli for ever.

On the morning of April 25, 1915, one of the most courageous actions ever performed by the British armed forces took place at a beach close to Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

The gallantry displayed that day led to the famous “Six Before Breakfast” awards in which half a dozen Victoria Crosses were handed out in recognition of the bravery shown by the 1st Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers.

The successful capture of ‘W’Beach, however, came at a terrible price, with up to 700 members of the regiment being killed or wounded.

Main image: Gallipoli Association/AWM

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.