Page 62 - The-History-of-the-Lancashire-Fusiliers-1914-1918-Volume-I

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EGYPT-GALLIPOLI-THE LANDING--Ist KRITHIA
47
for this voyage. On 2nd January, I9I5, the Grand Duke Nicholas,
Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armies, appealed to Lord
Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, for a diversion to
relieve the Turkish pressure on his forces in the Caucasus. Lord
Kitchener did not consider that he could spare any troops and
suggested a naval demonstration against the defences of the
Dardanelles. Naval bombardments took place on the outer forts on
I9th and 25th February. On 26th February and again on 3rd
March small parties of marines were landed at the foot of the
Gallipoli Peninsula and moved unhindered as far as the commanding
hill of Achi Baba, which could not be taken two months later even
at the cost of thousands of casualties. On 4th March, however,
slight opposition was met and the parties returned to their ships.
An
intermittent bombardment was kept up, culminating on I6th March
in a general fleet attack, under cover of which the mines in the
Straits were to be cleared. But the loss of three British and one
French battleships caused the abandonment of the attempt,
although the Turkish defenders of the forts were almost at the end
of their tether and did not believe they could stop any further
attack. The British Cabinet then decided that, if necessary, land
forces must be made available in order to force the Straits. So,
after much argument, the 29th Division was put under orders for
the Mediterranean and General Sir Ian Hamilton was nominated for
the command of the expedition. Its original destination was
Mudros, in the Greek island of Lemnos; but Sir lan found that this
place was unsuitable for a base and moreover that such transports
as had already arrived there had been so chaotically loaded that
there was no alternative to moving the base to Alexandria in Egypt
and re-stowing all stores and transport in such a way that things
needed first on landing should be first out of the holds. The delay
involved was a priceless boon to the Turks, for they were enabled to
complete their defensive arrangements just in time, the place of
attack having been indicated to them by the naval bombardments.
It was for these reasons that the ISt Battalion, in s.s.
Alaunia,
once more entered the Mediterranean, the voyage being devoted to
training exercises, lectures and fruitless watching for submarines.
Malta was reached on 23rd March without incident and, in the
station which the battalion knew so well from its stay there from
I899 to I907, many old friendships were renewed. The kindness and
warmth with which the troops had been received in Nuneaton
reacted on the officers engaged in censoring their letters for the
homeward mail; and it was found necessary to restrict men to "one
sweetheart and one mother." On leaving Malta on 25th March, s.s.
Alaunia
had passed Crete and was nearing the Straits, when orders
were received on 27th to go to Alexandria, near which the 29th
Division camped at Mex on 29th. Here the battalion met for the
first time their comrades of the East Lancashire Division, Territorial
Force, including the Lancashire Fusiliers Infantry Brigade. The
men looked on each other with mutual approval, for the Territorials