The exceptional Great War Gallipoli Battle of Scimitar Hill 21st August 1915 Distinguished Conduct Medal, Mention in Despatches and French Croix de Guerre, and subsequent Battle of the Somme casualty group awarded to Private T. Martin, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who landed with his battalion as part of the 87th Brigade in the 29th Division at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the first day of the campaign, the 25th April 1915. After witnessing the First Battle of Krithia on 28th April, the Second Battle of Krithia on 6
The exceptional Great War Gallipoli Battle of Scimitar Hill 21st August 1915 Distinguished Conduct Medal, Mention in Despatches and French Croix de Guerre, and subsequent Battle of the Somme casualty group awarded to Private T. Martin, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, who landed with his battalion as part of the 87th Brigade in the 29th Division at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the first day of the campaign, the 25th April 1915. After witnessing the First Battle of Krithia on 28th April, the Second Battle of Krithia on 6th May, the Third Battle of Krithia on 4th June, the Battle of Gully Ravine on 28th June, and the Battle of Krithia Vineyard on 6th August. It was on the 21st August during the final attack of the campaign, the Battle of Scimitar Hill, that Martin won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. His battalion, launched a number of assaults before finally taking the summit of Scimitar Hill, also known as Hill 70, but was then forced to retire after coming under fire from overlooking Turkish positions on the W Hills to the south. It was in the immediate aftermath of the initial charge which capture the first enemy trench, entered at 1540 hours, and in the moments after they rallied after the first failed attack within a 150 yards of the top of Scimitar Hill, and then made the second attack which resulted in the brief capture of the summit of Scimitar Hill on 21st August 1915 that Martin performed the deed which led to his being recommended for an immediate award of the medal. ‘He went on three occasions, beyond the fire trenches and rescued wounded men under fire. Later, by his fine example of bravery and devotion, he inspired all ranks when the order to advance against very heavy odds was given’. The Inniskillings eventually had to retire, and the scrub being now on fire, and number of their wounded were consumed by the flames. Martin was also Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Palm for his services at Gallipoli, which would indicate that he distinguished himself on more than one occasion during the campaign. Then present on the Western Front during the Battle of the Somme, it was during the fighting in and around Pozieres in the period from 23rd July to 7th August 1916 that Martin was mortally wounded, and he died of his wounds on 9th August 1916.
Group of 5: Distinguished Conduct Medal, GVR Fm. bust; (9377 PTE. T. MARTIN. 1/R.INNIS: F.); 1914-1915 Star; (9377 PTE T. MARTIN. R.INNIS.FUS.); British War Medal and Victory Medal with Mention in Despatches Oakleaf; (9377 PTE. T. MARTIN. R.INNIS.FUS.); France: Croix de Guerre, reverse dated 1914-1915, with Bronze Palm.
Condition: Nearly Extremely Fine.
Together with the following original documentation:
The original typed recommendation form for his award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, confirming the award as having been earned at Suvla Bay on 21st August 1915, and with handwritten details stating ‘recommended for immediate reward’.
Award Certificate for the French Croix de Guerre, typed details for: ‘9377 Private Thomas Martin, 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers’, certificate dated 4th April 1917, but awarded for an earlier action at Gallipoli. This torn, folded, creased and repaired in places.
Infantry Record Office Dublin posthumous forwarding letter for the British War Medal and Victory Medal, inscribed to: ‘No.9377 Pte. T. Martin Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers’, dated 24th February 1922.
Buckingham Palace Condolence Letter forwarding the Memorial Plaque.
Thomas Martin was born in Shankhill, County Antrim, Ireland, and saw service during the Great War as a Private (No.9377) with the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. His battalion arrived home from India in January 1915, but was then sent to the Mediterranean and was stationed at Mudros from 17th March 1915. Martin would have landed with his battalion at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the first day of the campaign, the 25th April 1915, when the 87th Brigade, of which his battalion was a part, landed together with the 86th Brigade at five beaches around Cape Helles at the tip of the peninsula, both brigades being part of the 29th Division under the command of Major-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston. Three of the landings faced little or no opposition but were not exploited. The two main landings, at V and W Beaches on either side of the cape, met with fierce Turkish resistance and the landing battalions were decimated.
The original objectives of the first day of the campaign had been the village of Krithia and the nearby hill of Achi Baba. The first concerted attempt to capture these was made by the division three days after the landings on 28 April. In this First Battle of Krithia an advance up the peninsula was made but the division was halted short of its objective and suffered around 3,000 casualties. The attack was resumed on 6 May with the launch of the Second Battle of Krithia. On this occasion the 88th Brigade attacked along Fig Tree Spur and, after two days of fighting without significant progress, it was relieved by the New Zealand Infantry Brigade. On 24th May Major-General Beauvoir De Lisle took over command of the Division.
On 4th June the 88th Brigade was once more required to make an advance along Fig Tree Spur in the Third Battle of Krithia. In the subsequent counter-attacks, 2nd Lieutenant G.R.D. Moor, 2nd Hampshires, was awarded the Victoria Cross for shooting four of his own men who attempted to retreat. The division finally saw successful fighting at Helles during the Battle of Gully Ravine on 28th June when the 86th Brigade managed to advance along Gully Spur. As a prelude to the launch of the August Offensive, a "diversion" was carried out at Helles on 6th August to prevent the Turks withdrawing troops. In what became known as the Battle of Krithia Vineyard, the 88th Brigade made another costly and futile attack along the exposed Krithia Spur.
At Suvla, the Battle of Scimitar Hill on 21st August was the final push of the failed August Offensive. The 29th Division had been moved from Helles to Suvla to participate. The 87th Brigade was briefly able to capture the summit of the hill but was soon forced to retreat.
The plan for 21 August was to attack Scimitar Hill with the 29th Division and the W Hills with the 11th Division, keeping the yeomanry in reserve near the beach. As was so often the case at Gallipoli, the preliminary artillery barrage looked impressive but achieved little. The British had no sight of their targets, which were obscured by mist and smoke, whereas the Ottoman artillery had a clear view of the entire Suvla battlefield and ample opportunity to register their targets.
The 11th Division attempt to capture the W Hills, collapsed in confusion when confronted by an Ottoman strong-point and artillery fire. As a consequence when the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, managed to capture the summit of Scimitar Hill, they found themselves under fire from the defenders higher up the Anafarta Spur to the east and from the W Hills to the south. The Irish retreated from the summit while the undergrowth around them was set ablaze by the shellfire, incinerating the wounded as they lay helpless.
Around 5:00 p.m. the troops of the 2nd Mounted Division were ordered forward from their reserve position on Lala Baba, near the beach. They advanced, marching in formation, across the bed of a dry salt lake. By this time the air was clouded by mist and smoke so that they had little idea of where they were going. The 5,000 men of the five brigades formed in columns by regiment and, marching in extended order, were easy targets for the shrapnel. Most of them halted in the cover of Green Hill, west of Scimitar Hill but Brigadier General Lord Longford, led his 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade in a charge over Green Hill and up to the summit of Scimitar Hill. Continuing on, Lord Longford was cut off and killed. The yeomanry too were driven from the summit.
An account of the 1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers activities on this day are best recorded here.
‘Following a preparatory but ineffective (blind) artillery shoot starting at 1430 hours on 21 August 1915, the 87 Brigade attack on Hill 70, or Scimitar Hill, began at 1500 hours. The strength of the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was 19 officers and 758 other ranks.
At 1530 hours, A, B, and D Company 1st Inniskillings passed through the Kings Own Scottish Borderers to assault Hill 70, and advanced through the burning scrub that had been ignited by shellfire. After 400 yards they emerged from the cover of the scrub to be engaged by a devastating enemy fire that inspired a charge for the relative safety of the enemy's first trench, entering it around 1540 hours. Although then beaten back, the Inniskillings rallied within 150 yards of the top of the hill and, when the KOSB and the South Wales Borderers moved up in support, another charge for the crest was made.
Unfortunately, it failed as depth positions brought deadly direct fire to bear while the immediate enemy stood on their parapets firing from the hip and throwing hand grenades. Accurate enemy shrapnel also inflicted heavy casualties. As the neighbouring 11th Division's attack faltered, the Inniskillings on Scimitar Hill were coming under fire from Turkish positions higher up the Anafarta Spur to the east and from the W Hills to the south. Elements of A and B Company, with some KOSB and others, grouped under cover of a small nullah, on the right just below the crest line of the hill, where they reorganised and attempted to form a firing line. This group held their position awaiting the development of a charge that was made at about 1900 hours and succeeded in reaching the first trench, which the enemy abandoned. However, the group was driven from the second trench and once more was forced to withdraw to its previous position. It was at this point that 87 Brigade's battalions consolidated gains and dug in. Their situation then became more perilous when the blazing scrub invaded their positions.
At 2300 hours, the 1st Inniskillings, ordered to withdraw when relieved by the remnants of KOSB and SWB, moved to reorganise at the rear of the KOSB. As the Inniskillings retired they collected tools and every two Fusiliers carried down one wounded. The remnants were collected and retired to bivouac at 0100 hours. The next Roll Call revealed that there remained only 4 officers and 230 other ranks. Once they were reorganised, parties of six men with blankets and capes ventured throughout the night to recover the wounded, many of whom had already perished, having been engulfed by the blazing scrub.
It was in the immediate aftermath of the initial charge which capture the first enemy trench, entered at 1540 hours, and in the moments after they rallied after the first failed attack within a 150 yards of the top of Scimitar Hill, and then made the second attack which resulted in the brief capture of the summit of Scimitar Hill on 21st August 1915 that Martin performed the deed which led to his being recommended for an immediate award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
His award was published in the London Gazette for 2nd February 1916, with the citation being published in the London Gazette for 11th March 1916 and reading as follows: ‘For conspicuous gallantry on the 21st August 1915, at Suvla Bay, when he went on three occasions, beyond the fire trenches and rescued wounded men under fire. Later, by his fine example of bravery and devotion, he inspired all ranks when the order to advance against very heavy odds was given.’ Martin had been in addition, Mentioned in Despatches for gallant and distinguished services at Gallipoli in the London Gazette for 28th January 1916, and awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Palm in the London Gazette for 24th February 1916. The number of awards made to Martin for the Gallipoli campaign would indicate that he distinguished himself on more than one occasion, however only the recommendation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal action on 21st August 1915 survives.
The attack at Scimitar Hill on 21st August was the last attempt by the British to advance at Suvla. The front line remained between Green Hill and Scimitar Hill for the remainder of the campaign until the evacuation on 20th December.
The 29th Division was itself evacuated from Gallipoli on 2nd January 1916, and then moved to Egypt, before being sent to France in March 1916 for the upcoming Somme offensive.
Passing through the Mediterranean port of Marseilles the 29th Division arrived in the rear of the Somme battle front from 15th to 29th March 1916. From this time the Division was put into the British Front in the area north of the Ancre River, near to the German-held village of Beaumont Hamel. For the following three months the battalions in the Division spent their time doing tours of trenches and training behind the lines to prepare for the large British offensive against the German position planned for the end of June. Following a 7-day artillery bombardment of the German Front and Rear areas, the battalions of the 29th Division were in position in their Assembly Trenches in the early hours of Saturday 1st July. At 07.20 hours the huge Hawthorn mine was blown on the left of the division's position. The leading battalions in the attack left the British Front Line trench at 07.30 hours. The British casualties were very heavy, with many men never reaching the German Front Line. The men of the Newfoundland Regiment moved forward at about 09.00 hours to follow on behind the leading battalion in the advance of 88th Brigade. Many of them were shot down trying to clamber overground to cover the few yards from where they were in the rear of the British Front Line to start their advance down the hill.
It was during the fighting in and around Pozieres in the period from 23rd July to 7th August 1916 that Martin was mortally wounded, and he died of his wounds on 9th August 1916, being buried in Bedford House Cemetery.