The music playing is the new Gallipoli March by the Royal Marines Band written for 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli
By Martin Ellerby and conducted by Capt Andrew Gregory RM
Gallipoli landing VCs: The Six Before Breakfast
Six British soldiers were awarded Victoria Crosses in a single action at the Gallipoli landings, one of the most forlorn campaigns of the First World War
British First World War soldiers at 'W Beach', Gallipoli
Gallipoli campaign: a British troop encampment on 'W Beach' Photo: 2003 Getty Images
By Michael Ashcroft Daily Telegraph
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 (VCs) were eventually 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.
By early 1915, the war on the Western Front was not going well for the Allies: the fighting had bogged down, casualties were high and all the signs were that it would not be the short conflict that many had predicted. The Russians, too, were struggling against the Turks in the Caucasus. To help their ally and to try to knock the Turks out of the war, Britains First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, began a campaign to force the Royal Navy through the Dardanelles. But this faltered and it was decided to land troops at Gallipoli to clear the way forward.
Unlike the Australians who landed at dawn beyond Gaba Tepe on the beach soon to be known as Anzac Cove, the British in the south were to land in full daylight on five beaches around Cape Helles. To make up for this loss of surprise, a heavy naval bombardment was to cover the British landing. This meant the Turks had a good idea of what was coming as the biggest amphibious landing of the war began. As part of the wider British attack, the Lancashire Fusiliers were chosen to land on and take control of a small, sandy cove code-named W Beach just 350 yards long and between 15 and 40 yards wide between Cape Helles and Tekke Burnu. It was so well defended that the Turks may have regarded it as impregnable to an attack from open boats. Nevertheless, the attack began at 6am on April 25.
John Grimshaw and his medals
Captain Richard Willis, who led C Company during the attack, was one of several survivors to record the events of the day: Not a sign of life was to be seen on the peninsula in front of us. It might have been a deserted land we were nearing in our little boats. Then crack! The signal for the massacre had been given; rapid fire, machine-guns and deadly accurate sniping opened from the cliffs above, and soon the casualties included the rest of the crew and many men.
The timing of the ambush was perfect; we were completely exposed and helpless in our slow-moving boats, just target practice for the concealed Turks, and within a few minutes only half of the 30 men in my boat were left alive. We were now 100 yards from the shore, and I gave the order overboard. We scrambled out into some four feet of water and some of the boats with their cargo of dead and wounded floated away on the currents still under fire from the snipers. With this unpromising start the advance began. Many were hit in the sea, and no response was possible, for the enemy was in trenches well above our heads.
We toiled through the water towards the sandy beach, but here another trap was awaiting us, for the Turks had cunningly concealed a trip wire just below the surface of the water and on the beach itself were a number of land mines, and a deep belt of rusty wire extended across the landing place. Machine-guns, hidden in caves at the end of the amphitheatre of cliffs, enfiladed this.
Our wretched men were ordered to wait behind this wire for the wire-cutters to cut a pathway through. They were shot in helpless batches while they waited, and could not even use their rifles in retaliation since the sand and the sea had clogged their action. One Turkish sniper in particular took a heavy toll at very close range until I forced open the bolt of a rifle with the heel of my boot and closed his career with the first shot, but the heap of empty cartridges round him testified to the damage he had done. Safety lay in movement, and isolated parties scrambled through the wire to cover. Among them was Sergeant Richards with a leg horribly twisted, but he managed somehow to get through.
Alfred Richards and his medals
Captain Harold Clayton, who was killed in action six weeks later, also described desperate scenes: There was tremendously strong barbed wire where my boat was landed. Men were being hit in the boats as they splashed ashore. I got up to my waist in water, tripped over a rock and went under, got up and made for the shore and lay down by the barbed wire. There was a man there before me shouting for wirecutters. I got mine out, but could not make the slightest impression. The front of the wire was by now a thick mass of men, the majority of whom never moved again. The noise was ghastly and the sights horrible.
In describing what happened at W Beach, The London Gazette, the official government paper of record, explained that the Fusiliers were met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine-guns which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.
The Lancashire Fusiliers had started the day with 27 officers and 1,002 other men. Twenty-four hours later, a head count revealed just 16 officers and 304 men. Initially, in May 1915, six men from the regiment, who had been nominated by their peers, were proposed for the VC, Britain and the Commonwealths most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy. But this number was turned down and only three Fusiliers were gazetted for the VC in August 1915. However, after much lobbying, nearly two years later, in March 1917, the remaining three who had originally been selected were also finally awarded the VC for their bravery at W Beach. Together they became known as the Six Before Breakfast VCs.
Over the past 15 years, I have obtained half of these Six Before Breakfast awards and I have researched the backgrounds of all three men.
John Grimshaw was born in Abram, Lancashire, on January 20, 1893. He was 19 when he joined the Lancashire Fusiliers, two years before the outbreak of the First World War. When war was declared, Grimshaw was in India with the rest of the 1st Battalion, but shortly thereafter he returned with them to Britain before going on to Gallipoli.
Richard Willis and his medals
Alfred Richards was born in Plymouth on June 21, 1879. He gave his trade as musician when, aged 14, he enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers (his fathers old regiment) as a bandboy. He was appointed a full drummer when serving in Ireland near the end of the century and was promoted to lance corporal in Crete in 1899. Over the next seven years, he served in Malta, Gibraltar and Egypt before returning to England. After just two months as a civilian, he reenlisted, rejoining his old battalion in India, where they stayed before beginning their journey to the Dardanelles.
Richard Willis (the captain quoted earlier) was born in Woking, Surrey, on October 13, 1876. He was educated at Totnes Grammar School in south Devon, Harrow and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned in 1897, joined the 2nd Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers in India, and was posted with them to the Sudan for the Mahdist War. A talented linguist and a wonderful sportsman, he was 38 years old when he landed at W Beach.
All three men survived the war. As already stated, Willis and Richards were both decorated in the first set of awards, but Grimshaws VC, along with two others, was not gazetted until almost two years after the landing. He received his VC only because of renewed pressure on the War Office by those who felt he and the others had been hard done by.
Initially, Grimshaw had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and he was more than content with that, unaware that his fellow Fusiliers were campaigning for the decoration to be upgraded. Indeed, when a journalist from the Daily Dispatch told him of his VC, he replied: Whose leg are you pulling? He needed a great deal of convincing that it was true.
The people of Abram, Lancashire, were so proud of his achievement that they presented him with a gold watch and chain to go along with the medal. By that time, he was living and working in Hull as a musketry instructor, having been invalided out of the Fusiliers with severe frostbite. He died in Isleworth, London, on July 20, 1980, aged 87.
Richards, who had been shot during the beach landings, was evacuated to Egypt, where surgeons amputated his right leg just above the knee. He then returned to England and was discharged on July 31, 1915. His discharge papers read: no longer fit for war service (but fit for civil employment).
When he was given his decoration, he was known as the Lonely VC because he had no family and was living alone at the Princess Christian Soldiersand Sailors Home in Woking. However, in September 1916 he married Dora Coombes, who had nursed him during the previous year. His disability did not prevent him joining the Home Guard during the Second World War, when he served as a provost sergeant in London. He died in Southfields, London, on May 21, 1953, aged 69.
Willis had survived the landing at W Beach unscathed but was later wounded in action. He was evacuated to Egypt and, eventually, back to the UK, where he earned a reputation as a silent and serious man. After recovering from his injuries, he was promoted to major and served on the Western Front at the Somme, Messines and Passchendaele. He retired from the Army, as a lieutenant colonel, in 1920, aged 44, and joined the RAF as an education officer in Palestine. He became a teacher but fell on hard times. Willis died in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on February 9, 1966, aged 89.
W Beach was renamed Lancashire Landing in honour of the Lancashire Fusiliers. The gallantry medals of Grimshaw, Richards and Willis are among a collection of more than 180 VCs I have amassed. They are on display, along with VCs and George Crosses (GCs), in the care of Imperial War Museums, at the Extraordinary Heroes exhibition.
My Grandfather Alfred Gillibrand who served in the Lancashire Fusiliers wrote a letter that was published in the national press while he was recovering from his wounds at the Dardanelles, i've attached a copy which may be of use to you.
My Grandfather survived the war and lived until a ripe old age in Darwen Lancashire.
A letter straight from W Beach 7 days after the Lancashire Landing
Written By Captain
A D Talbot KIA 4th June 1915
On Board the Cunard S.S. Alaunia
The names of 20 Lancashire Fusiliers
Officers Killed at Gallipoli
These files have been sent in by
50th Anniversary Gallipoli Survivors reunion Dinner
25th April 1965
Click on Photo to enlarge
The attached photograph is of the 50th Anniversary reunion Dinner of the survivors of the Lancashire Landing. My grandfather is Private 2020 Harry Cavanagh (pictured 1st left on the front row) who enlisted 12.02.1910 and was discharged on 27.08.1915 after losing his leg at Gallipoli.
sent in by
Mark Cavanagh grandson of Harry Cavanagh
Despite heavy losses
the Fusiliers kept a toehold on the beach and eventually advanced up
Six VCs were eventually
awarded for this action and W Beach was renamed
Sale 5012 Lot 527 Sergeant Alfred Richards VC
The Gallipoli 'Lancashire Landing'
Victoria Cross Group of Seven to Sergeant A. Richards, 1 Battalion Lancashire
Sergeant Alfred Joseph Richards
V.C. born 25.8.1880 in Plymouth, Devon, the son of Charles N. Richards,
V.C. London Gazette 24.08.1915
'Richard Raymond Willis, Capt.; Alfred Richards, No. 1293, Sergt.,
Captain Clayton, who was killed
six weeks later, wrote: "There was tremendously strong barbed wire
Major Shaw, who also did not
survive the campaign, wrote: "About 100 yards from the beach the
enemy opened fire,
Captain Willis, who led C Company
into the attack, later recalled 'Not a sign of life was to be seen on
The timing of the ambush was
perfect; we were completely exposed and helpless in our slow moving
We toiled through the water
towards the sandy beach, but here another trap was awaiting us, for
the Turks had cunningly
Our wretched men were ordered
to wait behind this wire for the wire-cutters to cut a pathway through.
Safety lay in movement, and
isolated parties scrambled through the wire to cover. Among them was
Fusiliers had started the day with 27 Officers and 1,002 other ranks.
Richards was evacuated first
to Egypt, where surgeons amputated his right leg above the knee, then
home to England.
At the time of the award of
his Victoria Cross Richards was living alone at the Princess Christian
Soldiers' and Sailors' Home
Capt. Richard Raymond Willis
Richard Raymond Willis was
an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious
award for gallantry
He was 38 years old, and a
Captain in the 1st Bn., The Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army
On 25 April 1915 west of Cape
Helles, Gallipoli, Turkey, three companies and the Headquarters of the
Captain Willis was one of the
six members of the regiment elected for the award, the others being
Cheltenham Borough Cemetery
The commemorative plaque to
Major Richard Willis, VC, 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, who died
in Cheltenham on 9th February 1966.
He is not a native Cheltonian
being born in Woking in 1876.
Victoria Cross, Queen's Sudan Medal (1896-98), 14-15 Star, BWM, VM + MID(missing in the photo), Delhi Dunbar Medal (1911), KG VI 1937 Coronation Medal, QE II 1953 Coronation Medal, Khedives Sudan Medal (1896-1908) + clap: "Khartoum"
William Keneally V.C.
Birth: Dec. 26, 1886
Corp John Elisha Grimshaw V.C.
Birth: Jan. 23, 1893
Death: Jul. 20, 1980
World War I Victoria Cross Recipient. Grimshaw was born in the village of Abram, near Wigan in Lancashire. He worked as a carpenter in a colliery like his father until enlisting in the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1912. Grimshaw was awarded the V.C. for action during the landings at W Beach during the Gallipoli Campaign, April 25, 1915, one of the group known in the press as The Six V.C.s Before Breakfast (the others were Capts. R.R. Willis and C. Bromley, Sgts. A. Richards and F.E. Stubbs, and Pvt. W. Kennealy). Grimshaw was acting as a signaler for C Company of 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, keeping contact between his unit and the operations headquarters on HMS Euryalus. In the course of the fighting Grimshaws pack and water bottle were riddled with bullets, and his cap badge was smashed, but he miraculously escaped injury, constantly braving intense machine-gun fire from the Turkish positions to maintain communications. Grimshaws citation read: On the 25th April, 1915, headquarters and three companies of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by very deadly fire from hidden machine guns, which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained. Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Captain Bromley, Serjeant Stubbs, and Corporal Grimshaw have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most single acts of bravery and devotion to duty. (The citation for Bromley, Stubbs, and Grimshaw was not issued until March 15, 1917, due to War Office regulations and red tape; the citation for Willis, Richards, and Kennealy, worded identically, had been issued on August 23, 1915.) Grimshaw survived Turkish gunfire only to fall victim to frostbite. He spent five weeks in hospital and then was sent to England to recuperate. In 1917 he was in France when he was commissioned in the field, after which he was posted to India. He rejoined the Lancs in 1921, then retired from active duty to become a recruiting officer, a role he filled until his final retirement in 1953 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel after forty-one years service. He passed away at the age of 87 at his home in the Twickenham area of London. His V.C. medal is privately
We also have a Feature on Colonel John Elisha Grimshaw V.C.
Click here to go to it
Sgt Frank Edward Stubbs V.C.
Capt Cuthbert Bromley
Birth: Sep. 19, 1878
Death: Aug. 13, 1915
World War I Victoria Cross Recipient. Bromley was born in Seaford, Sussex, the son of Sir John and Lady Bromley. In school he was reported to be an enthusiastic athlete but an indifferent student, so his original plans to pursue a career in either medicine or the civil service were out. Instead he joined the Army, gaining a commission in the 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers after a stint in the 3rd Kings Liverpool Regiment, a militia unit. He saw service in West Africa and India, where, under his leadership as adjutant the battalion won a number of Army championships in football, boxing, and cross-country running. Bromley was awarded the V.C. for action during the landings at W Beach during the Gallipoli Campaign, April 25, 1915, one of the group known in the press as The Six V.C.s Before Breakfast (the others were Capt. R.R. Willis; Sgts. A. Richards and F.E. Stubbs; L/Cpl. Grimshaw; and Pvt. W. Kennealy). Bromleys citation read: On the 25th April, 1915, headquarters and three companies of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by very deadly fire from hidden machine guns, which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained. Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Captain Bromley, Serjeant Stubbs, and Corporal Grimshaw have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most single acts of bravery and devotion to duty. (The citation for Bromley, Stubbs, and Grimshaw was not issued until March 15, 1917, due to War Office regulations and red tape; the citation for Willis, Richards, and Kennealy, worded identically, had been issued on August 23, 1915.) Bromley injured his back in the action at W Beach but did not seek medical attention until wounded by a bullet in the knee on April 28. He was wounded again while in temporary command of the 1st Battalion (with promotion to Major) during the Battle of Gully Ravine on June 28. This time he was evacuated to Egypt to recover, and in August begged his way aboard the troopship Royal Edward to return to the Gallipoli peninsula. The ship never arrived. It was torpedoed and sunk by the UB-14 on August 13, 1915, with the loss of 866 lives, among them Bromley. His body was never recovered. His V.C. medal is privately held.
A boat carrying Lancashire
Fusiliers, bound for Gallipoli.
2030 Pte John Patrick Collerton
Tommy Farrell (footballer,
Click on photo to enlarge it