ID RBN_WW1_500 / Roger Bullen

TitleGallipoli - Mersea Connections

Ninety years ago on April 25 1915, British, Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the beaches of the Gallipoli peninsular in Turkey at the start of the ill-fated campaign to open up a second front by capturing Constantinople (now Istanbul) and advancing through to the Balkans.

Part of the landing force that day were men from the 9th Battalion, Essex Regiment which included Private Hugh Smith, one of six sons born to George Frederick and Mary Overall Smith of Sunset House, Mill Road, West Mersea. After eight days of fierce fighting, Hugh was wounded and evacuated to Malta, from where he wrote back to his family ..... I shall never forget the Sunday we landed on the Peninsula, we were taken off a minesweeper, about 400 yards from the beach, and transferred to rowing boats manned by our brave sailors. Bullets flying all round us, our boat was hit 5 times, our Lieutenant was hit in the back, and died I heard afterwards the same night. During that few minutes, the thought flashed through my mind 'Have faith in God' and he has indeed been good.

After recuperating in England, he rejoined his Battalion at the beginning of 1916, which was now in northern France. On February 14, the Battalion entered the front line trenches near Vermelles, and participated in what was known as the 'Battle of the Craters. The following day, Hugh was killed by a shell and was buried in Vermelles British Cemetery, near Bethune.

Also landing on the beaches on April 25 was Sergeant George Walter Hewes of the 54 Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force. He was the son of Harry George 'Hoppy' and Maria Hewes of Walmer Cottage, St Peters Road, West Mersea. In 1914 he was an Able Seaman in the Royal Naval Reserve, and when war broke out, his ship had docked in Australia, so he volunteered for service with the Australian Imperial Force.

After the landing, conditions on the peninsula were not good, due particularly to the terrain, heat, flies, and lack of water, and George was admitted to the 3rd Ambulance Unit on May 22 1915 with impetigo. He returned to his unit on May 29 and while on the beaches he met Edwin Chatters, another Mersea man who was in the Royal Navy. In a letter home, he wrote..... I saw Walter Hewes, the son of George Hewes, chauffeur at the White Hart, West Mersea, on shore, he was alright when I left him the other day. We had a good yarn with each other several evenings about old times such as the Dabchick races at Mersea. We were talking one afternoon when suddenly a big shrapnel shell burst about ten yards from us, but we managed to swing clear alright. Bullets were whistling over our heads like rain, but it was a bit of a change after being on board so long.

Having realised that the offensive had failed, the British government ordered a general evacuation of all troops and George left on the Huntsgreen for Alexandria on December 28 1915. On June 29 1916 he arrived in France and travelled to the Western Front and took part in the attack on July 19 at Fromelles on the Aubers Ridge where he was killed. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial on the Somme.

Edwin Chatters and his brother Jack, the sons of Mr and Mrs Charles Chatters of West Mersea served on HMS BACCHANTE which was in support of the troops at Gallipoli. Both survived the war, with Edwin being presented with a gold watch by the Minister of Pensions, Sir I. Worthington for bravery at sea on October 28 1918 when he helped save the crew and passengers of a Russian liner, the KIEV. It was reported that while in the waters around Gallipoli his ship was sunk by shell fire and a subsequent vessel that he served on was sunk by collision.

AuthorRoger Bullen
SourceMersea Museum