Aspinall-Oglander

Military operations : Gallipoli. Vol. 2.
by Cecil Faber Aspinall-Oglander; A F Becke.

Chapter XIII. The Action of the 6th/7th August at Helles

It has already been shown that Sir Ian Hamilton’s plan demanded nothing more from the VIII Corps at the opening of the August offensive than a series of holding attacks.

The initial attack was to be a small operation to flatten out the Turkish salient astride the two forks of Kirte Dere. This entailed the capture of a network of short trenches and strongpoints, on a frontage of approximately one mile. Owing to the limited amount of artillery available, the operation was divided into two halves. The northern half of the objective was to be captured by the 88th Brigade (29th Division) on the evening of the 6th. The southern half would be taken by the 125th and 127th Brigades (42nd Division) on the morning of the 7th. Both attacks would be supported, under corps arrangements, by every gun and howitzer that could be brought to bear, and also, under divisional arrangements, by fire from massed machine guns.1 Naval support would be available once more, for the sailors, rising as usual to the occasion, had organized a squadron of special ships, more or less immune to submarine attack, to help the army with their fire2.

It was expected that by this method of dividing the operation into two halves the weight of artillery available would enable both parts of the objective to be taken with comparatively little trouble; and in full anticipation of success, the VIII Corps had completed plans for further and more extended operations to be undertaken on subsequent days. So great, indeed, was the confidence at corps headquarters that the intentions of the Commander-in-Chief with regard to the limited role of the VIII Corps were apparently overlooked, and on the morning of the 6th August a special corps order referred to the early capture of Krithia and Achi Baba:

The attack today is the first stage of operations which will, it is hoped, at last carry us on to the position for which all ranks have so hardly fought since the landing … It is now the beginning of a fresh year of war, and it is hoped that the advance of the VIII Corps will be the turning-point, and the capture of Krithia and Achi Baba the first steps towards the final victory.

These were rash words. In point of fact, the amount of high-explosive shells at Helles was entirely inadequate for the first day’s task.

Here it should be noticed that since the invaliding of General Hunter-Weston the VIII Corps had had only a titular commander. It was commanded for a few days in July by General Stopford, who had only just arrived from England and knew nothing of local conditions. After Stopford’s departure to open his own corps headquarters at Imbros, Major-General Douglas of the 42nd Division had assumed temporary command.3 Thus throughout the preparations for the attack, and during the actual fighting on the 6th and 7th of August, an unusual amount of authority was wielded by the senior staff officer of the corps, Br-General H. E. Street, who had been General Hunter-Weston’s right-hand man since the 25th April. This very capable officer had one blind spot: he could not bring himself to admit the increasing difficulties that confronted the troops at the southern end of the peninsula.

The function of a staff officer is to assist his chief, and to advice when asked to do so, but the responsibility for decisions belongs to the chief alone. For this reason a staff officer’s opinion is often more care-free than that of a commander, and many a chief of staff might find his confidence abating were he to suddenly find himself placed in high command.

For the attack on the afternoon of the 6th August, Br.-General D. E. Cayley (88th Brigade) had the 4/Worcestershire on the right, the 2/Hampshire in the centre, the 1/Essex on the left, and the 1/5th Royal Scots in brigade reserve. The task of the Worcestershire was limited to the capture of the Turkish front-line trench H.13. It was a difficult task, however for here the breadth of No Man’s Land was at least 300 yards, and the assaulting troops were likely to be enfiladed from both flanks. To protect their right as much as possible, it had been arranged that one battalion of the 42nd Division (the 1/5th Manchester Regiment) should simultaneously advance against two small trenches on the right bank of West Krithia Nullah,4 called H.11a and H.11b.

Order of Battle
From Military operations : Gallipoli. Vol. 2, Aspinall-Oglander

The task of the 2/Hampshire, in the centre of the line, was more difficult still. The battalion’s objective included two lines of trenches and a formidable strong-point. On the left, the 1/Essex had a shorter distance to go and could attack its objective from two sides. But the Essex too had a double row of trenches to capture, including a small redoubt.

The heavy artillery was to begin a slow bombardment at 2:20pm; the field artillery and the machine guns were to join in an hour later; and the infantry assault was to be launched at ten minutes to four.

The morning of the 6th August was fine and clear, with scarcely a breath of wind. The 1/5th Manchesters had moved into the front line overnight, and soon after daybreak the 88th Brigade filed up the communication trenches to relieve the 86th Brigade in the battalion sectors known as Hampshire Cut, Essex Knoll, and Worcestershire Flat.5

By 8am the assaulting troops were all in their assembly positions, and then followed a wait of over seven hours for the moment of assault to arrive. The day was oppressively hot, and there was little or no shade. All ranks, however, were in good spirits. In the 88th Brigade the three assaulting battalions had lately been brought up to war strength with well-trained drafts from home,6 and each battalion was going into action with 24 officers and over 800 men. Encouraged by this recent accession of strength, braced by their short rest at Mudros, and heartened by the corps belief that Achi Baba could really be captured at last, the “old hands” of the brigade were quietly confident about the relatively small task required of them that day.

The Turks had been unusually quiet of late in the Helles sector, and their only activity since the beginning of the month had been a half-hearted raid on the British line at Fusilier Bluff on the morning of 2nd August. But their silence can now be explained: they were saving ammunition for the big attack they had long been warned to expect. No hint had yet reached them that an attack at Helles was imminent, but all preparations had been made to meet eventualities and the Turkish battle-front in the south was well organized and prepared.7 It is now known, moreover, that the trenches astride the Krithia nullahs were regarded by the Turks as the most likely locality for a small British attack.

Within a few seconds of the opening of the British bombardment it was answered by heavy and sustained fire from the enemy’s batteries.8 Considerable casualties were sustained in the crowded British trenches; all the telephone lines from battalion to brigade were cut; communication trenches were badly knocked about; and two British guns were put out of action. General Davies,9 who was watching the operation as a spectator, has placed it on record that, fresh from the Western front, he was “horrified” at the total inadequacy of the British “bombardment”.

Punctually at 3:5opm the infantry surged forward to the assault. For the first few seconds all appeared to be going well. The troops in the centre disappeared over the low crest about 50 yards beyond the British line with practically no loss; the Essex on the left and the Manchesters on the right were seen to reach the nearest Turkish trenches with hardly a casualty; and watchers in the rear were soon reporting that the objectives had all been taken.

But the truth, as soon realized by 88th Brigade headquarters, though not by higher formations till many hours later, was altogether different. The strength of the Turkish defensive organization had been gravely miscalculated. A few minutes after zero hour the 88th Brigade had been shattered.

By a counter-attack from West Krithia Nullah the Manchesters on the right were soon driven from the trench which they had captured. On the left the Essex came under a withering fire as soon as they tried to move forward from the Turkish front line, and after losing very heavily, especially among their officers, were forced to give ground.

In the centre, long before the Worcestershire and the Hampshire could cross the broad expanse of No-Man’s Land in front of them, the Turks had re-manned their positions,10 and the troops were met by a devastating machine gun fire from the front and both flanks. Very few unwounded men succeeded in reaching the enemy’s trenches, and those who did were soon attacked by overwhelming numbers. At the end of an hour the only British still holding out in this part of the line were 30 men of the Worcestershire under a sergeant. Their numbers dwindled and after nightfall the twelve survivors withdrew to their own lines.

The Turkish position was now everywhere intact except in the extreme left, where some of the Essex, under Captain H. R. Bowen, clung to a corner of H.12a till relieved an hour before dawn by two platoons of the Dublin Fusiliers.

The casualties of the 88th Brigade amounted to nearly 2,000 out of the 3,000 engaged.

Br.-General Cayley was early conscious of the failure of the attack; but, in the absence of detailed news, his reports were not credited, and at divisional and corps headquarters it was long before this grave situation was fully realized.11 So few officers amongst the attacking troops were still alive that no messages were coming in, and it was only when wounded and unwounded began to trickle back after dark that it became possible to piece together an intelligible story from their disjointed and contradictory reports.

At 7pm, believing that the Essex and Worcestershire were in possession of a large portion of their objectives, General de Lisle decided to capture the intervening portion of the Turkish line, including the strong-point to the left of the Worcestershire objective, with a night attack by the 86th Brigade.12 Thereupon the Brigadier of the 86th went forward to the advanced headquarters of the 88th, sent for the commanders of the Royal Munster and Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and told them to take their battalions to the old British front line, and to be ready to assault at 9:30pm, after a short artillery bombardment; the actual hour of attack to be notified later. At 8:30pm, it was decided to postpone this attack till half past ten. Orders to this effect reached the battalions concerned at nine o’clock.

Up in the front line, however, and in all communication trenches, the situation was chaotic, and it was impossible to form up for attack. The trenches were blocked with wounded, and by this hour only 50 men of the Munsters had reached the front line. To Lieut.-Colonel G. W. Geddes, commanding that battalion, it was clear that an attempt to attack could only end in failure, and he assumed the responsibility of reporting this to the brigade:

O.C. 1/Royal Munster Fusiliers to Brigade-Major 86th Bde.

9:10pm. I can only get one company into the front line. There is no room to get another man in owing to congestion due to number of wounded Worcestershires who are coming in over the parapet every minute. Apart from that, both Hants and Worcs officers report that position to be taken will be bound to entail enormous losses and that the result will be very doubtful of success. Am I to continue (preparations for) attack? I have informed O.C. Dublins.

The brigade-major replied:

The attack will take place as stated in my B.M. at 10:30pm. The fact of another regiment being unable to take the enemy’s trenches is no reason for the Royal Munster Fusiliers being unable to take them.

The brigade-major’s irony, however, had no effect on the battalion commander, who by this time was evidently more sure than ever that, at all costs to himself, he must get the attack postponed. At 10pm he wrote again:

The chaos is indescribable. I have only 50 men of my battalion with me. I cannot state when I shall be ready to attack. The firing line is subjected to heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. The left of the Worcestershire is uncertain. I have informed the Dublins I am not ready to attack, and not to do so till I inform him that I am.

This message had some effect. At 10:42pm the 86th Brigade replied:

My B.M. 2050 is cancelled. The time for attack will be given later, but it will not be before midnight. Meanwhile the men should take as much sleep as possible.

By this time important information had been gained by the 1/5th Manchesters on the right. Earlier in the evening that battalion had been ordered to make another effort to gain its morning’s objective, and to link its left with the Worcestershire in H.13. The new effort to gain H.11b had ended in another failure, but a daring reconnaissance had subsequently discovered that H.13 was occupied throughout its length by Turks, and the officer in charge of that reconnaissance, on his way back across No Man’s Land had fallen in with the small party of Worcestershire who at that moment were slowly creeping back to the British line.

On receipt of this news General de Lisle decided at 3:15am that the projected attack by the 86th Brigade, already twice postponed, should be finally abandoned.

This was a wise decision. An attack that night on the unbroken Turkish line would probably have ended in the destruction of the 86th Brigade, and in the resulting confusion the British trenches in that sector would have been dangerously exposed to counter-attack by the Turks. In point of fact the Turks did attack from H.12a at daybreak; they drove in the small party of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers holding a corner of that trench, and obtained a footing in Hampshire Cut. But they were ejected, and the line was restored by the Dublins, supported by two companies of the Lancashire Fusiliers, at a cost to these two battalions of 240 casualties.

The first report to reach G.H.Q. of the utter failure of the Helles attack was a message from VIII Corps received at 6:35am on the 7th. The news was a bitter disappointment; but the message added that the second half of the attack, by the 42nd Division, had not been cancelled. This was taken to mean that there was no cause for anxiety, and Sir Ian Hamilton did not intervene. Certainly an attack by the 42nd would minimize the risk of the 29th Division being counter-attacked while its line was still disorganized; and, provided the situation at Helles was well in hand, the VIII Corps could best assist the northern operations by continuing to press the Turks in the southern zone.

Unfortunately for the British, however, their sacrifice at Helles the previous evening had not achieved the results hoped for. It is now known that Liman von Sanders, in view of the serious threat at Anzac and Suvla, decided at daybreak on the 7th that risks must be accepted at Helles, and ordered the Southern Group Commander – despite the latter’s vehement protests – to send his reserve division to reinforce the norther zone with all possible speed.

The frontage to be attacked by the 42nd Division, temporarily commanded by Major-General W. R. Marshall, measured only 800 yards, but as the division was far below its war strength the attack was to be made with two brigades in line. The 127th (Manchester) Brigade (Br.-General Hon. H. E. Lawrence) was on the left, the 125th (Lancashire Fusilier) Brigade (Br.-General H. C. Frith) on the right, and the 126th Brigade (Br.-General Viscount Hampden) in divisional reserve. The objective of the division was the main Turkish support line, F.13 – H.11b. The enemy’s defensive system in this part of the line was very intricate, and there was a labyrinth of small trenches near the Krithia nullahs, on the front of the 125th Brigade.

The arrangements for the attack, which was launched at 9:40am, were similar to those described for the 86th Brigade. There was a similar artillery preparation, a similar massing of machine guns to support the advancing troops; and some recently arrived trench mortars, under Captain T. Syers, R.A., were to join in the preliminary bombardment. The plan had been carefully explained to all ranks, and no step neglected that could help to ensure success.

But the results of the attack were as disappointing as those of the day before. On the left, the 127th Brigade could make no progress, and by noon, after suffering heavy casualties, the troops were back in their old lines. Early in the afternoon Br.-General Lawrence was obliged to report his brigade as temporarily unfit for further offensive effort. Its total strength amounted to only 28 officers and 700 men, or roughly that of a battalion.

On the right, where the Turkish position was weaker, the four battalions of Lancashire Fusiliers at first made some progress, and small parties of the 1/6th and 1/7th Battalions, under Major W. J. Law, succeeded in reaching the enemy’s second line. But the Turks drove them back with a counter-attack, and by midday the only portion of the captured position still in British hands was a small vineyard west of the Krithia road, behind the Turkish front line, and a short length of trench on either side of it. During the afternoon further efforts were made by the Fusiliers to recapture some of the lost ground, but in each case they were again forced to retire.

Trench Map August 7th, 1915
42nd Division War Diary

At nightfall the troops in the vineyard were still holding out gamely, but everywhere else the 125th Brigade was back in its own lines. The divisional commander at first ordered a withdrawal from this advanced and very exposed position in the vineyard. The trenches were narrow and blocked with dead and wounded, and very difficult to hold. Moreover, the position was a pronounced salient, protected on one side by only a few posts, and General Marshall feared that if the garrison was eventually driven out, the troops holding his old front line might become involved in the retirement. On learning, however, that the abandonment of the vineyard would mean leaving a number of wounded men behind, and that the officer in command was sure he could hold it, he gave him permission to try.

Not only that night but for several days the Turks made constant efforts to recapture this outlying point, but parties of the 1/6th and 1/7th Lancashire Fusiliers, reinforced later by detachments from the 1/6th East Lancashire and the 1/9th and 1/10th Manchesters,13 continued to defend it with great determination, and it was eventually incorporated in the British line.14

But the attack on the 7th had again been very costly. The casualties of the 42nd Division amounted to over 1,400 men in the two attacking brigades. In less than 24 hours, in a limited attack on a front of one mile, three brigades of the VIII Corps had lost nearly 3,500 of the 4,000 officers and men which an earlier calculation had laid down as the maximum that the whole corps could afford to lose in a series of operations to help the main offensive.15 The omens from the Helles sacrifices had not been propitious.

The full extent of these losses was not yet dreamed of at corps headquarters. But, on hearing at midday on the 7th of the almost complete failure of the 42nd Division attack, Sir Ian Hamilton determined that no further risks must be run by the Helles garrison. The vital consideration now was that the VIII Corps must not be allowed, by further costly attacks, to jeopardize its ability to hold its existing positions without outside help. Orders were issued that the Helles garrison was to undertake no more offensive operations till the march of events in the north had automatically weakened the Turkish southern line.

Next morning, as the operations planned by General Douglas were deemed to have ended, General Davies assumed command of the VIII Corps.

For the rest of August – and indeed, as events subsequently shaped themselves, for the rest of the campaign – the British and French troops in the south were destined to make no further serious attacks.16 The Turks similarly remained on the defensive, and, except that the 52nd Division succeeded in straightening out its line to the west of the vineyard in November, the opposing fronts at Helles remained virtually unchanged from the 8th August till the final evacuation exactly five months later.

Despite the failure of the operations at Helles, it is now known that they were not without their effect on the commander of the Turkish Southern Group, and that the VIII Corps staff on the 8th August were closer than they knew to the realization of their hopes. Wehib Pasha, as we have already seen, had protested strongly against the withdrawal from his command of his only reserve division. On the following day his German Chief of Staff took so serious a view of the danger to the Southern Group of losing its communications, that he personally urged Liman von Sanders to abandon the southern zone, including Achi Baba, and to transfer all the troops south of Kilid Bahr to the Asiatic shore “while there is still time to extricate them”.

But Liman von Sanders was made of sterner stuff. He replied that not one yard of ground was to be surrendered voluntarily, and the Chief of Staff was replaced.

Notes:

[1.] The artillery available amounted to four 60-pounders, 16 howitzers, eighty-four 18 pounders, and ten 15 pounders, in addition to six French howitzers and a Brigade of 75’s. The 91st Heavy Battery R.G.A. (four 60 pounders) and the LXVI Brigade R.F.A. (sixteen 18 pounders) had reached Helles in the latter half of July, but all the guns of the former were out of action owing to trouble with recoil springs. [back]

[2.] This squadron, commanded by Rear-Admiral Stuart Nicholson, comprised the blistered cruiser Edgar, five monitors and five destroyers, and mounted a total of 21 heavy and 24 light guns. [back]

[3.] Lieut.-General F. J. Davies, the corps commander designate, reached Imbros on 5th August, but as operations were imminent, the Commander-in-Chief decided that he should not assume command till the first battle was over. [back]

[4.] The two branches of Kirte Dere – known as West and East Krithia Nullahs – were both about 15 to 30 feet wide, with steep banks, in places from 10 to 20 feet high. The beds of these nullahs were practically dry. [back]

[5.] From an early date the VIII Corps adopted a very convenient method of naming the Turkish trenches. These were numbered serially, with a distinctive alphabetical prefix to denote the area to which they belonged. But no similar system was used for the British line, and the student who is accustomed to any of the orderly systems eventually evolved in France is bound to be somewhat confused by the names on the Gallipoli trench diagrams. An attempt to describe the derivation of British trench names would need a book to itself, and it must suffice to say here that at Helles each battalion sector of the front line was generally given a distinct name. These would often be taken from the name given to some point in the sector by the troops who originally occupied it. Looking at the map today it is easy to imagine that names like “Border Barricade” and “Hampshire Cut” commemorate brave deeds by the regiments concerned, but it is not so easy to realize that they designated portions of fire trench. But in 1915 the position of all these trenches was well known to the troops at Helles, with plentiful sign-posts for the new comers, and the name of, say, “Essex Knoll” for a fire trench caused no more confusion than that of Haymarket or Knightsbridge for a London street. [back]

[6.] No drafts had arrived for the 1/5th Royal Scots (T.F.), and this battalion still consisted of only two companies. [back]

[7.] The Turks appear to have been holding their southern front with 5 divisions, (4 in line and 1 in support), totaling about 40,000 rifles. A sixth division was in reserve near Serafim Farm. [back]

[8.] The Turks claim to have had 62 field and mountain guns in action, and 32 medium and heavy pieces. [back]

[9.] The commander designate of the VIII Corps. [back]

[10.] During the bombardment the garrisons of the trenches had taken cover in the deep nullahs. [back]

[11.] Corps headquarters had informed divisional headquarters that they knew the Turkish front line had been captured, as their forward observation officers could see the British “metal disks” all along the trench. Actually the wearers of these disks were dead. [back]

[12.] The 86th Brigade was in divisional reserve. The 87th Brigade was holding the line on Gully Spur. The 52nd Division and Royal Naval Division were in corps reserve. [back]

[13.] W. T. Forshaw, 1/9th Manchesters, was awarded the V.C. for conspicuous gallantry. [back]

[14.] The northern edge of the vineyard was lost again on the 12th, and a trench dug across its centre became the British front line. [back]

[15.] Casualties:                           Officers                Other Ranks
29th Division, 6th August                 54                           1,851
42nd Division, 6th, 7th Aug               80                           1,482

According to Turkish official figures the Turkish losses in the south, 6th-13th August, amounted to 7,510. [back]

[16.] For gallantry during a bombing affray on 13th August, Pte. D. R. Lauder, 1/4th R. Scots Fus., was awarded the V.C. [back]

Lieutenant William Thomas Forshaw

William Thomas Forshaw was born in Barrow-in-Furness on April 20, 1890. His father, Thomas Forshaw, was an engineering pattern maker and by 1915 had become the head foreman pattern maker at Vickers Naval Shipyard in Barrow.

William Thomas Forshaw, V.C.
From The 42nd (East Lancashire) Division; by Frederick P. Gibbon, published 1920.

A pattern-maker was a highly skilled job, their task was to make wooden replicas (so called patterns) of a finished product. This required engineering, joinery and carving skills coupled with precision and experience in the manufacturing process. From the patterns, a sand mould was made and then iron was poured into the mould to form the finished product. By 1911, William’s younger brother, Frank Forshaw, was an apprentice engineering pattern maker at Vickers and was later employed at Vickers’ London office as a draughtsman.

William’s father, Thomas Forshaw, was also a locally well-known Rugby Union three-quarter playing for Barrow in his younger years, (the position normally filled by the fastest players in the team). William Forshaw inherited his father’s speed and strength and was a good all round athlete, playing Rugby and Tennis and competing in field athletics meetings at school and college. He ran in the final of the 100 yards sprint at the Westminster College Inter-Year Sports competition in 1909,1 competed in the Weight Throw competition at London Inter-Collegiate Sports meetings and won a solid silver champagne cup at the Territorial sports day, on Boxing Day, 1914 at the Khedivial Sporting Club, Cairo.

Khedivial Sporting Club Member Pass
Copyright Imperial War Museum

William was educated at Dalton Road Wesleyan School, and later at Holker Street School, from where he won a scholarship for the Barrow Municipal Secondary School, (1900-1906). At 18 he entered Wesleyan Westminster Training College, (1908-1910), and studied in London for two years before returning home to prepare for, and sit, his inter B.Sc. exam 12 months later. While completing his studies he taught evening classes at his former secondary school and at the Barrow Technical School. Curiously, while he was teaching at the Barrow Technical School he taught a small group of Turkish military officers who were stationed in Barrow to monitor the construction of a naval warship for the Ottoman Government.2

After he passed his intermediate B.Sc. he obtained a permanent teaching position at Dallas Road School, Lancaster, and also taught an evening class at the Storey Institute. William was then hired to teach Physics and Mathematics at the North Manchester Preparatory School for the Manchester Grammar School, at Higher Broughton, and consequently moved to Manchester.

William was a keen amateur singer and was a member of Mr. Aldous’ prize winning choir while he was teaching in Lancaster and joined the Ashton Operatic Society after he moved to Manchester, appearing in the comic opera the “Duchess of Dantzic” at the Ashton Empire Hippodrome in February 1914. Newspaper reports indicate that William was still performing publicly in the 1920’s after his return to England from Egypt.

The 9th Manchesters

Forshaw joined the Ashton Territorials primarily due to his friendship with George Makin, a fellow teacher at the North Manchester Preparatory School, and fellow member of the Ashton Operatic Society. George, and his older brother Frederick Arthur Makin, both joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment as second lieutenants in 1913 after serving as cadets in the Officers Training Corps of Manchester University. Forshaw was himself commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 9th Battalion on March 13, 1914, three months after his friend George joined. Forshaw’s connection to the Makin family was evidently quite strong because he was staying with Richard Harold Makin (the middle of the three Makin brothers and fellow member of the Ashton Operatic Society) on a private visit to Ashton in October 1915 when he received notice to proceed immediately to London to receive his Victoria Cross medal from the King.

After war broke out, William sailed with the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment to Egypt in September 1914 and on November 13, 1914 was promoted to Lieutenant along with four of his brother officers. In Egypt, Forshaw drew the short straw and instead of commanding an infantry platoon was instead assigned as the assistant Quartermaster under the leadership of Major M. H. Connery.

Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant George Boocock indicated in an interview with the Ashton Reporter that Forshaw filled that position “for practically nine months” before moving into a combat roll with A Company. This implies that he switched sometime in late June 1915, probably as a result of the casualties the battalion registered that month. This timing is corroborated by an article in the Ashton Reporter that indicates Lt. A.W.F. Connery became assistant quartermaster, (replacing Forshaw), after Lieut. Handforth took over command of “C” company on June 28. In fact, by the end of June 1915 the 1/9th Battalion was down to half the number of officers who deployed to Gallipoli from Egypt having lost 16 Officers in Gallipoli killed, wounded or sick and had replaced them with just one junior officer.3 Seeking to boost their low numbers, 4 new junior officers from the 10th South Lancs and 11th Yorks & Lancs Regiments were temporarily assigned to them on July 2nd and 5 officers from the 2/9th Manchester Regiment joined on July 22nd but despite these additions the battalion had lost another six officers by the end of July.4

The battalion moved into the trenches on July 2nd and remained there (spending 4 days in the firing line) until they were relieved and returned to bivouac on the 18th. Consequently, by early August, Lieut. Forshaw had spent just over two weeks of time in the trenches, under relatively quiet conditions, before he was once again called upon to lead his men at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard where he won the Victoria Cross.

W. T. Forshaw's Victoria Cross Citation
London Gazette, September 9, 1915

When Forshaw rejoined the battalion on the morning of August 9th he was badly bruised in his side from shrapnel, weak from exhaustion, with no voice and suffering from headaches and problems with his vision. Initially he was prescribed rest but after a few days with little improvement regimental records indicate that Forshaw was medically evacuated to hospital in Cairo on August 25, 1915.

Lt. W. T. Forshaw in Cairo 1915
Copyright Imperial War Museum

Staff Nurse Mollie S. Lee-Heppel joined the Queen Alexandria’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve), (Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R)), in late August 1914 and although she was initially assigned to Caterham Military Hospital, Surrey, by 1915 she had been re-assigned to work on the Hospital Ship Goorkha.

HS Goorkha
Built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6287grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots.

Meanwhile, William Forshaw had been recovering in hospital in Cairo but by mid-September had cabled his parents “Doing well: may come home”.  William was invalided back to the UK from Egypt on His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Goorkha,5 embarking at Alexandria on September 26, 1915 and arriving at Southampton in the early hours of Friday October 8th. It was on this two week voyage where he met and fell in love with Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel.

Captain Forshaw and unidentified QAIMNS Staff Nurse on the Hospital Ship Goorkha, 1915
Photo Courtesy of Stephen Snelling

After arriving in the UK, Lt. Forshaw left the Goorkha. Spending the night, and making a speech, at his old school, Westminster College, before returning to his parents’ home at Barrow-in-Furness, arriving there on Tuesday evening. Needless to say, Lt. Forshaw was heavily engaged with public appearances in the Northwest throughout October and November at Barrow, Ashton, Manchester, Lancaster and Southport. The newspapers of the time dubbed him the “Cigarette VC” for the fact that he had constantly smoked cigarettes throughout the 41 hour ordeal, using them to light the fuses of the 800 improvised bombs they had thrown, which were made of jam tins filled with explosive and small pieces of scrap metal.

Date Forshaw’s Activity
Fri, Oct 8 Gave a speech and spent the night at Westminster College.
Tue, Oct 12 Arrived at his parents’ home in Barrow in the evening.
Wed, Oct 13 Visited Barrow Secondary School and was later received by the Mayor of Barrow.
Thu, Oct 14 Interviewed by the Guardian Newspaper.
Sat, Oct 16 Private visit to Ashton staying with R.H. Makin.
Mon, Oct 18 Investiture with the King at Buckingham Palace.
Wed, Oct 27 Given the freedom of the city of Barrow and presented with a Sword of Honour. Was later that day presented with watch, card case and binoculars by Barrow Secondary School.

Date Forshaw’s Activity
Fri, Oct 29 Visit to North Manchester Preparatory School and presented with an illuminated address and a silver tea service.
Sat, Oct 30 Visit to Ashton-under-Lyne. Awarded Freedom of the Borough and presented with a scroll in a polished silver casket.
Fri, Nov 5 Visit to Southport and received by the Mayoress. Dinner with the Mayor and speech to the cadets. Note that the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment were in training at Southport and Forshaw’s good friend Capt. George Makin was with them.
Fri, Nov 20 Attended a dinner of the Westminster Club in his honor. At the Holborn Restaurant, London.
Mon, Nov 22 H. S. Goorkha, having earlier docked at Southampton on the 19th, underwent repairs. Medical staff disembarked.
Wed, Nov 24 Visit to Lancaster and sang with Mr. Aldous’ choir in the evening at the Mayoress’ fund raiser for the war.
Mon, Nov 29 Medical staff re-embark on the H. S. Goorkha.

Marriage

With much of the initial fuss behind him, on November 20, 1915 Forshaw was back in London when the Westminster Club held a dinner in his honour at the Holborn Restaurant. Meanwhile, the Goorkha had arrived back at Southampton on November 19th and from November 22-29 the medical staff disembarked while the ship underwent repairs. There can be little doubt that Lt. Forshaw and Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel spent much of that week together, possibly traveling to Lancaster together and meeting his parents, and sometime during that week, he proposed to her.

Shortly after she re-boarded the Goorkha, on December 4, 1915, Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel wrote a letter to her direct supervisor, Matron Christopherson6, requesting permission to marry and to be allowed to continue working onboard the Goorkha. The Matron and the Medical C.O. (Lt.-Col. Haig, IMS7) both agreed, but the final decision was to be made by the military authorities in England. Although they gave permission for the wedding, they denied the request to remain onboard, instead offering a transfer to home service. Nurse Lee-Heppel was notified of this decision in a letter dated January 20, 1916.

On January 31, 1916 the Goorkha once again arrived at Southampton and, during its short stay, Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel married William Thomas Forshaw in a registry office in Barnet on February 5, 1916. On Nurse Lee-Heppel’s application for the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R) she gave her home address as “Moss Bank”, North Finchley, London (in the borough of Barnet) which is undoubtedly why they married in a registry office there.8

William Thomas Forshaw & Sadie Mollie Lee-Heppel Marriage Certificate

There wasn’t to be much of a honeymoon though because the Goorkha, with Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel on-board, embarked the baggage of 32 British General Hospital and sailed for Marseilles on February 8, 1916. In her subsequent letters to the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R), before she resigned for “urgent personal reasons” in August 1916, she referred to herself with her maiden name and provided a contact address “c/o Mrs. S. M. Forshaw”. The obvious conclusion is that she did not inform the authorities that she had married in February. Indeed, later in 1918, when she enquired about rejoining the service, while her husband served in India, she went so far as to state that she had left the service in September 1916 to get married.

When Staff Nurse Lee-Heppel left the Q.A.I.M.N.S.(R) in September 1916, (she arrived in England from Malta on the Acquitania on September 27, 1916), she gave her address as Kilworth, County Cork. Although Captain Forshaw, (and Lieut. Cooke,  his subaltern at the Vineyard), was at Codford with the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in mid-March 19169, by September 1916, Captain Forshaw was an instructor at the 7th Officer Cadet Battalion, Kilworth, County Cork, Ireland10 and he remained there until October 1917.

Indian Army Service

Army Order 206 of 1917 invited officers already commissioned into the Special Reserve, Territorial Force and New Armies to apply for transfer to the Indian Army as they were short of commissioned officers. This was largely because, at the time, Indians were barred from receiving the King’s Commission, the highest rank obtainable by them being that of Subedar. Although Forshaw was a decorated Captain in the Territorial Army, in order to transfer to the Indian Army in late 1917 he was subject to the terms and conditions of Indian Army Order 511 of 1917, which came into effect on May 14th of that year (replacing Army Order No 729 of 1916 and Army Order 126 of 1917).

I.A.O. 511 of 1917 stipulated that pensionable service in the Indian Army was to be calculated from August 5, 1914 and that “only service in the regular forces before that date will count for pension”, which did not apply to him. Furthermore, it stated that for the purposes of promotion service will be “the period of commissioned service which he is permitted to count for pension less nine months, and the date of his commission in the Indian Army will be regulated accordingly.” It went on to say that “an officer will be on probation for the first year in the Indian Army” and that he “will join the Indian Army on probation in the rank to which his length of service, adjusted as above, would entitle him under Indian Army rules of promotion, any higher rank being relinquished” and that such readjustments of rank will be effected “In the case of an officer sent from England to India, from the date of landing in India.”

This meant that Forshaw’s service in the Indian Army began on November 25, 1917, (when he landed in India), and that his service for promotion was set at approximately 3 years and 3 ½ months, falling short of the 5 years required to attain the rank of Captain. Consequently, he was forced to revert to the rank of Lieutenant and would not be eligible for promotion until May 5, 1919. This may seem a little harsh for such a decorated officer but at that time promotion in the Indian Army was governed strictly by tenure and forfeiting 9 months of service was intended to level up the transferees with those regular army officers joining from the Military Colleges at Quetta or Sandhurst.

But there was still one more hurdle for him to overcome. IAO 511 also stipulated that in order to be eligible to transfer, “an officer must be unmarried”.  But luckily for Forshaw there was a loophole. IAO 510 of 1917, stated that, “In exceptional cases of proved merit in the field, of which His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief in India shall be the sole judge, the conditions laid down … may be waived, each case being judged on its merits. No, application in respect of such a case should, however, be submitted unless the officer’s services have been not only meritorious, but exceptionally so.”  Forshaw’s application must have been submitted as such an exceptional case based upon his Victoria Cross and it was rightly successful.

On October 7, 1917 Forshaw left the UK and transferred to the Indian Army. There he was attached to the 1st battalion 76th Punjabis. The 76th Punjabis was one of the Indian infantry regiments which were besieged at Kut-al-Amara and captured by the Turks when Kut fell on April 29, 1916. During the Siege of Kut, between December 1915 and the end of April 1916, the Regiment suffered 171 casualties. Approximately 250 officers and men were taken into captivity after the fall of Kut and many would subsequently perish from ill-treatment, starvation and disease.

On January 1, 1917, the Depot of the 76th Punjabis received orders to reform the Regiment and they moved to Chaman, (near what is now the Afghanistan-Pakistan border). In November, a nucleus of men were sent to join the 2nd Battalion which was then being raised at Nasirabad.

Forshaw arrived in country on November 25, 1917 and just over a week later he joined the 1st Battalion 76th Punjabi Regiment as a company officer. On February 1, 1918 the battalion moved to Dera Ismail Kahn, North West Frontier Province, India, (in what is today Pakistan). Just prior to the move, the 1-76th Punjabis were reviewed by the brigade commander, Brigadier-General T. H. Hardy, Commanding Quetta 2nd Infantry Brigade. His report stated:

The regiment has suffered by frequent changes of officers, but in spite of this it has attained a standard of efficiency which is very creditable for so short a time, reflecting much credit on Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm and his Officers. The Battalion now only requires more systematic training in Outpost, Attack and Defence on lines pointed out to be come a useful and efficient one and ready for war.

As a company officer, Forshaw was also reviewed by his commanding officer, Lt-Col. W. L. Malcolm, and by Brigadier-General Hardy. His C.O. stated “Should make a first rate officer in the Indian Army when he has acquired a colloquial knowledge of Hindustani.” and the Brigadier followed that with: “A very promising officer for the Indian Army. Keen and zealous.

Following his good review, Forshaw spent some time commanding a company and so was made acting Captain, and on November 25, 1918 he successfully completed his one year probation. On December 12, 1918 Sadie Forshaw sailed from Liverpool to Calcutta to reunite with her husband now that the war had finally ended. By April 1919 Forshaw had completed a junior staff course and was promoted to Captain on May 5, 1919 and attached to the Poona Brigade of the Southern Command as a Staff Captain. This move south meant that he missed the 76th Punjabis’ involvement in the 3rd Afghan War which began on May 3, 1919 when Afghan troops crossed the frontier at the western end of the Khyber Pass and captured the town of Bagh and ended with the Treaty of Rawalpindi on August 8, 1919. But things were far from settled on the North West Frontier and Forshaw was drawn into the revolt of the Wazir and Mahsud tribes when he was attached as a Staff Captain to the 67th Brigade of the Waziristan Force, serving with them with distinction from November 9, 1919 to July 26, 1920. During this time the 67th Brigade was part of the Tochi and Derajat Columns under the command of Major-General A. Skeen, C.M.G.

For his services on the Waziristan Force he earned the India General Service Medal with clasps ‘Mahsud 1919-20’, ‘Waziristan 1919-21’ and ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaf (for operations in Waziristan, 1919-20, by General Sir C. C. Monro, G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., in his despatch dated August 1st, 1920).

A few weeks after completing his service with the Waziristan Force he took home leave in England, sailing from Bombay on September 4, 1920 on the P&O liner RMS Kaiser-I-Hind. He returned to India with his wife and rejoined the 1st Battalion 76th Punjabis Depot at Kirkee, the Battalion having left for overseas service in Egypt and Palestine in February 1920, (and remained there until April 1922).

Forshaw remained with the Depot, (now at Ballary), until September 14, 1921 when he was appointed General Staff Officer, 3rd Grade, Southern Command (Poona) as Inspector of Educational Training. He filled this post until the end of 1921 when a more senior officer from the Army Education Corps (AEC) was appointed to the position. Nevertheless, Forshaw remained attached to the General Staff of the Southern Command (Poona) officiating as Staff Captain until March 31, 1922.

On December 1, 1922, the 76th Punjabis were consolidated with the 62nd, 66th, 82nd and 84th Punjabis, and the 1st Brahmans to form the 1st Punjab Regiment, and were re-designated as the “3rd Battalion 1st Punjab Regiment”. The latter part of 1922 was a time of great organizational change within the Indian Army and perhaps related to this upheaval, Forshaw resigned his commission, retaining the rank of Captain. Accumulated home leave pushed out his official resignation date to November 3, 1922 but immigration records show that he and his wife, along with several of his brother officers, arrived at Plymouth from Bombay on August 25, 1922.

Civilian Life

Back in England, Forshaw had difficulty finding suitable employment as a schoolmaster. Although he had been a Certificated Teacher before the war, his Indian Army service did not count towards his teaching experience, (despite being assigned to Educational posts there), and so he found himself 8 years behind where he should have been had he not answered his country’s call to service.

In 1919 Lord Burnham chaired a parliamentary committee charged with developing a single national pay scale for teachers in elementary schools. Subsequently, the Burnham Committee was tasked with drawing up a scale for secondary school teachers and for those in further education. The reports were very specific about exactly what war service counted and what did not. Since Forshaw volunteered to join the Indian Army in 1917, and continued to serve after the end of the war, his entire military service was deemed inadmissible. Additionally, he was seeking employment four years after the end of the war which compounded the difficulty explaining why he had not taught for 8 years.

Consequently, he was forced to take an educational position in Egypt with the Royal Air Force helping to organize and administer more formal trade training courses for the airmen tasked with maintaining aircraft. A task which was rapidly becoming more technical as engines and aircraft systems increased in complexity, outstripping the knowledge and skills the RAF could reasonably expect from their recruits.

Immigration records show that he and his wife returned to England from Egypt on April 15, 1925. Upon their return they settled in Ipswich, where he briefly taught at s council school, later moving to Martlesham Hall, in Woodbridge, a few miles east of the city.

Martlesham Hall
Copyright Attribution: Andrew Hill / Martlesham Hall

In September 1927, he purchased an old golf clubhouse building and used it to start an all boys junior school called “Rushmere Heath School for Boys”, in the nearby village of Rushmere St. Andrew.11 Unfortunately, the school was not successful and just one year later he was forced to sell the school building at auction, in November 1928. Shortly thereafter, his creditors started legal proceedings against him which eventually forced him into bankruptcy in the middle of 1929. Forced to leave Martlesham Hall, he subsequently gave his parent’s address in Barrow as his residence in court documents.12 13

Forshaw was invited to the Victoria Cross dinner, held at the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords on Saturday, November 9, 1929. The dinner was chaired by the Duke of Windsor, the Prince of Wales, with 319 holders of the Victoria Cross present. Following a ballot held to determine place-settings, Captain W. T. Forshaw, V.C. was allocated seat 199, on Table 7, (this table seating 28 people including newspaper reporters from the Daily Express, Daily Sketch, Morning Post, and the Australian Press Association)14. Interestingly, his medal index card shows that his Victory, British and 15 Star medals, along with his India General Service Medal (with Waziristan 1919-21 clasp and MiD Oak Leaves emblem), were issued to him that month and since Forshaw’s original Victoria Cross medal had been lost, he was presented with an official duplicate, from Hancocks of London, on the same day as the dinner so that he could be properly attired.

Forshaw's Medals as worn to the VC Dinner
Courtesy of the Manchester Regiment collection (Tameside MBC)

[Victoria Cross; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaves; India General Service Medal with clasps ‘Mahsud 1919-20’, ‘Waziristan 1919-21’ and ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ oak leaf.]

After the setback of personal bankruptcy, he gave up his ambitions of ever teaching again and switched his focus to educational writing and film production. In July and August of 1930, after visiting Gallipoli himself, the Coventry Evening Telegraph published a series of nine short articles of his, published weekly, titled “Gallipoli Revisited”, which was also featured on the radio. And in September 1930 he published an article in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News describing a Gymkhana on the North-West Frontier of India that he attended while serving there. This work eventually led to him, in 1933, being appointed as the Midlands representative for Industrial Film Productions of Gaumont-British Equipments, Ltd., a subsidiary of Gaumont-British. A short article in a trade magazine at the time reported that he:

“has had considerable journalistic experience. He has written scenarios and produced several commercial films. For some time he conducted Trade tests in the Royal Air Force, and has made a study of the application of films to the needs of industry and commerce.”

Evidently, he was still reasonably fit and athletic because he won the “100 yards veterans’ handicap” at the Gaumont-British Sports Day in June 1934. Despite this new sporting accolade, by September 1939 he had left Gaumont-British, but remained in the midlands, and was employed as a representative for a Shadow Aircraft Factory in Birmingham.

Home Guard

On the evening of Tuesday 14th May 1940, Sir Anthony Eden, The Secretary of State for War, made an urgent appeal on the radio for all men aged between 17 and 65, not already serving in the armed forces, to become part-time, unpaid soldiers and join the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV). Within 24 hours of the radio broadcast a quarter of a million men had volunteered and by the end of July this number had risen to over a million. On 22 July, 1940 the LDV was officially renamed the Home Guard and by the end of 1940 the Home Guard was organized into 1,200 battalions, 5,000 companies and 25,000 platoons. In February 1941, nominal ranks were introduced for Home Guard officers, to match those of the regular Army.

At 50, being too old to enlist in the Army, Forshaw joined the Home Guard in 1940 and was for some time stationed at the Murex Works at Rainham, Essex with the 11th City of London (Dagenham) Battalion. It was here that he was later involved in a tragic car accident that injured the driver and killed the pillion passenger of a motorcycle, when his car collided with it at the end of 1940. In February 1941, when nominal ranks were introduced for Home Guard officers, Forshaw was appointed Major. And in September 1941, he successfully petitioned the court to lift his bankruptcy judgement as he was hoping to take up a paid commission with the Army, although there is no evidence that he actually did so. In fact, by March 1942 he was still in the Home Guard assigned as a Staff Officer, (general branch, responsible for operations, intelligence and training), for the London North East Sub Area, K Zone, of which the 11th, 12th and 13th City of London Battalions were part of.

On November 11, 1942 his 86 year old father died and he traveled up to Barrow for his funeral that weekend, his mother Elizabeth Forshaw, (née Preston), having died earlier in 1936. Just six months later he was himself to die, suddenly, of a cerebral hemorrhage, while working in the garden at Foxearth Cottage in Holyport, Berkshire where he and his wife had moved around 18 months previously. Major William Thomas Forshaw, V.C., died on May 26, 1943. He was 53 years old.

William Thomas Forshaw Death Certificate

Sadly, William’s younger brother Frank would also die of a cerebral hemorrhage, 7 years later, when he was just 55 years old.

The newspapers of the day carried short desultory obituaries of just a few sentences focused on the briefest of details regarding his award and resurrecting the ‘Cigarette VC’ nickname; nothing more. In keeping with his Wesleyan roots he was buried in the graveyard attached to the Anglican Holy Trinity church at Touchen End Cemetery, at Bray, Berkshire. He was buried at Touchen End, rather than the Bray churchyard since it had been closed to burials since 1941. The Assistant Curate at Bray, Revd. E.S.C. Lowman, buried Forshaw on May 29, 1943.

Touchen End Cemetery
Copyright Mike Crane

Sadie Forshaw died just under 10 years later in 1952, aged 72.15

Commemoration

On November 16, 1964 his original, (as certified by Hancocks), Victoria Cross was put up for auction by Glendining & Co, London. Despite strong interest, the medal was purchased by Bt. Colonel John Edgar Rogerson, O.B.E. M.C. T.D. J.P., honorary colonel of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, on their behalf for a record price of £1,150 and is today held by the Museum of the Manchester Regiment, in Tameside. To their enduring credit, shortly before the auction, a group of Barrow businessmen and old boys of Barrow Grammar School withdrew their offer to bid after learning that the Manchester Regiment were bidding. Likewise, Westminster College, Oxford also withdrew their offer when they too learned of the regimental interest.

Due to the exigencies of World War 2, Major Forshaw was buried without any official commemorative headstone and as a consequence the grave was for many years unknown to the public and the graveyard fell into some disrepair.

Original Condition of Forshaw's Gravesite at Touchen End
Copyright Iain Stewart
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But 51 years later, after the church had been deconsecrated and converted into a private residence, the grave was “rediscovered”, through the efforts of researchers in the Tameside area, and a new headstone was dedicated and provided by the Manchester Regiment at a dedication ceremony on Monday October 17, 1994.

W. T. Forshaw's Headstone, Touchen End Cemetery
Copyright Mike Crane

In November 1996, a blue plaque commemorating the life of William Forshaw was unveiled at the entrance to Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton.

Ashton Town Hall VC's Blue Plaque

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In 2005, on the 90th anniversary of the action in which Lieut. Forshaw won his Victoria Cross, a commemorative plaque was unveiled at the private residence Foxearth Cottage, Holyport where he and Sadie had lived.

Roy Johnson & Terry Nicolson Unveiling of the Plaque at Foxearth Cottage on August 12, 2005
Copyright Bayliss Media, Ltd.

And on Sunday August 9, 2015, to mark the 100 year anniversary of the action that led to the award of the Victoria Cross, a commemorative paving stone was unveiled in Barrow Park halfway up the hill leading to the town’s cenotaph. Members of Forshaw’s family, the Officer in Command of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (into which the Manchester Regiment was absorbed through amalgamations in 1958 and 2006) and local dignitaries all took part.

Barrow Commemorative Paving Stone
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Post Script

Touchen End Cemetery as it looked in 2022:

Forshaw's Gravestone Closeup
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Notes:

[1.] Westminster College Archives. Programme, ‘Westminster Training College, Fifth Inter-Year Athletic Sports, Tuesday, February 15th, 1910’. Link here. William was beaten in the final by another future Victoria Cross winner from Westminster College, Donald Simpson Bell, who was a noted athlete and went on to be a professional footballer for Bradford AFC. [back]

[2.] In 1911, there was no vessel in the Turkish Navy that could match the recently acquired Greek Navy cruiser Georgios Averoff. Consequently, Turkey resolved to buy dreadnoughts and the Ministry of the Navy placed an order with the British shipyard Vickers Ltd, in Barrow. The 27,500-ton ship was to be named Reşadiye and its price-tag was 2.3 million liras, to be paid in installments. In Turkey, a commission was appointed to monitor the construction of the dreadnought and this commission, led by Maj. Vasıf Ahmet Bey, went to Britain in 1912. More information here. [back]

[3.] From May 9 – June 30, 6 officers were killed, 4 were wounded & evacuated and 6 were evacuated sick to hospital. Additionally, Lt.s Shaw and Hyde went to Kepha on June 15 and Lt. Lillie transferred to Brigade in June. Although Lt.-Col. Egerton was attached to replace Lt.-Col. Wade as battalion CO, Egerton only lasted 2 weeks and so Major Nowell assumed command from June 9 – July 16. Major RP Lewis was attached to the battalion on June 4th and 2/Lt. Balmford arrived from the UK on June 22nd. [back]

[4.] Four officers joined on July 2nd and one officer was killed, three were wounded and evacuated and two were evacuated sick to hospital. Major RP Lewis was wounded and left the battalion on July 6th. On the plus side, Lt.-Col. Falcon arrived on July 16 freeing up Major Nowell. [back]

[5.] Fifty Thousand Miles on a Hospital Ship by Charles Steel Wallis describes Forshaw as a passenger from Alexandria to England. Link here. Although Wallis does not name the ship directly, there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence pointing to the Goorkha such as: the “Norwegian Matron” (Matron Fredrikke Christopherson was born in Lyngor, Norway), the Scottish Colonel with “the Kaiser-i-Hind decoration, wears the colours for the South African and North-West Frontier campaigns”, the gross tonnage referenced in the book, and the fact that the dates from the book match the dates in the war diary. [back]

[6.] Matron Fredrikke Wilhelmine Christopherson’s service record can be found at the National Archives here Link here. [back]

[7.] Lt. Col. Patrick Balfour Haig. Ancestry link here. [back]

[8.] “Moss Bank”, North Finchley was the home address of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Houle French and on her QAIMNS (R) application papers Ms. Lee-Heppel listed Mrs. (Dolina) French as her “nearest relative”. Dr. and Mrs. French were the two witnesses to the wedding. [back]

[9.] 1205 Corporal Samuel Eyre, was invalided to the UK from Gallipoli due to enteric. After he recovered, he was posted to Codford with the 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment where, on March 15, 1916, he was court martialed for smoking on parade. Lieut. Forshaw and 2/Lieut. Cooke were listed members of the court martial panel. Cpl. Eyre was found guilty and lost his stripe; a little harsh considering his service record. Ancestry link here. [back]

[10.] Westminster College Archives. A/4/a/i, Roll of Men in the King’s Forces. Link here. [back]

[11.] In 1895, Ipswich Golf Club was formed when it leased some common land on Rushmere Heath. In 1927, Ipswich Golf Club moved to Purdis Heath but some members wished to remain at Rushmere, and so formed the Rushmere Golf Club. The original clubhouse, standing next to the heath, was sold to William Thomas Forshaw of 19 Fonnereau Road, Ipswich on September 29, 1927 for £1,200. It was advertised as being suitable for an institution, school, club, etc. On November 29, 1928 it was again advertised at auction but now as Rushmere Heath School, a boys school. It was sold for £1,450 to the Rushmere Golf Club and became their new clubhouse. [back]

[12.] A petition of bankruptcy was filed against him by an unnamed creditor on April 20, 1929, (a bankruptcy petition is an application to the court for someone’s assets to be taken and sold to pay their debts). A receiving order was subsequently issued on June 14, (a receiving order places the debtor’s property under the control of the official receiver). The official receiver in this case being Harry Scotchmer Gotelee, the Official Receiver of Ipswich. The Adjudication Order was issued on July 6, 1929 making him legally bankrupt from that date forward. [back]

[13.] In September 1941, when William Forshaw successfully petitioned the court to lift his bankruptcy judgement, he told the judge that his financial troubles began when he borrowed money from a native firm while serving in India. [back]

[14.] Information regarding the seating arrangements at the 1929 VC dinner is available here. [back]

[15.] The Civil Registration Death Index record from 1952 indicates Sadie’s age at death to be 72. This squares with her 1891 and 1901 census records which also infer that she was born in 1879/80. However, in her Q.A.I.M.N.S. (R) application in 1914 she gave her date of birth as May 25, 1884 and passenger records from ships she sailed on in the 1920s consistently infer her year of birth to be 1888. Thus, by her own account, the older she got, the younger she became. If we assume that she was not Benjamin Button then we have to stick with the official numbers. It’s my belief that she was born on May 25, 1879. [back]

References:

  1. Collected newspaper articles for William Thomas Forshaw. Link here.
  2. Fifty Thousand Miles on a Hospital Ship by Charles Steel Wallis. Link here.
  3. Lines of Communication Troops, Hospital Ship, Goorkha (WO 95/4145/5), National Archives. Link here.
  4. Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, Name Heppel, Mollie (WO 399/3768), National Archives. Link here.
  5. Victoria Cross details of Forshaw, William Thomas (WO 98/8/196), National Archives. Link here.
  6. http://www.victoriacross.org.uk

Other Biographies:

  1. VCs of the First World War: Gallipoli, by Stephen Snelling. (October 4, 2010). ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0752456539.
  2. VCs of the North: Cumbria, Durham & Northumberland, by Alan Whitworth. (October 30, 2015). ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0189PTX82.
  3. Volunteer Infantry of Ashton-Under–Lyne, by Robert Bonner. (2005) ISBN-10: 1873907141.
  4. Key Military, The Chain Smoking VC. by Stephen Snelling.
  5. Museum of the Manchester Regiment, Men Behind the Medals.
  6. The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History (OCMCH), Archives & Library – William Thomas Forshaw, V.C. (1890-1943).
  7. The VC Online, William Thomas Forshaw VC.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank the author Stephen Snelling for providing permission to use the photograph of Lt. Forshaw and (who I believe to be) Nurse Lee-Heppel on the hospital ship Goorkha, Iain Stewart for permission to reproduce two newspaper articles and for supplying the photos of Touchen End Cemetery as it was when Forshaw’s grave was discovered. Thanks also go to Mike Crane for his photographs of Touchen End cemetery.

Lt. Samuel Porter

Samuel Porter was born in Stratford, Essex on March 5, 1889. He was the youngest of five children and his father, Linton Porter, was a train driver.

He joined the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment on July 2, 1915 in Gallipoli as they were going into the trenches. He was 26 years old.

The following passage is from De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour and has been slightly modified for clarity:

PORTER, SAMUEL. Lieut., 11th (Service) Battn. The York and Lancaster Regt., attached 1/9th (Territorial) Battn. The Manchester Regiment., son of Linton Porter, by his wife, Clara, daughter of Daniel Welderspen. Born Stratford, East London, 5 March 1889. Educated at Downsell Road Council School, East Layton; Pupil Teachers’ Centre, East Laytonstone, and King’s College London WC, where he graduated B.Sc. Was Science Master at Belper Secondary School. Joined the Leeds University OTC in September 1914; Gazetted 2nd Lieut. The York and Lancaster Regt. in December of the same year. Served with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli. Became attached to the 9th Battn. The Manchester Regiment, and was killed in action at Krithia Nulla 7th August, 1915. Buried there. A brother officer wrote: “Detailed with another officer to lead a charge, he was the first to mount the parapet of the trench, when a Turkish bullet struck him in the head, and he dropped back on to the firing step of the trench, dead.”

Lt. Samuel Porter, 11th (Service) Battalion, The York and Lancaster Regiment, was 26 years old and was killed in action on August 7, 1915 at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard. He is buried in the Redoubt Cemetery.

Redoubt Cemetery

2nd Lieutenant Charles Earsham Cooke

Charles Earsham Cooke was born in Nottingham on June 22, 1896 and named after his paternal grandfather. To family and friends he was known simply as “Earsham”.

Lt. Charles Earsham Cooke, MC

By 1901 the family had moved to Pontefract and Earsham’s father, Frederick William Cooke, was running W.J. Robson & Co Ltd, Maltsters. Earsham had a younger brother, Philip Brentnall Cooke, and a younger sister, Gladys Muriel Cooke, and they lived with their mother, Emma Louise Cooke (nee Brentnall), and father in a large house with three servants.

Earsham was educated at Marlborough College which he attended from September 1910 to July 1913. He was the 1913 Lightweight boxing champion and represented his house at cricket and rugby. After he left school he was employed in the family business and in such capacity may have sold malt to Thomas Grimshaw Hyde‘s family brewery and thus come to know him before military service.

On the 15th August 1914, on the basis of being a former cadet in the Officer Training Corps at Marlborough, he was awarded a probationary commission of 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. The York and Lancaster Regiment having their headquarters at Pontefract Barracks, Pontefract and therefore his “local” Regiment.  However, in the same edition of the London Gazette it was announced that he had become a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, effective September 2, 1914.

He joined the Battalion while they were at Chesham Fold Camp, Bury and sailed with them to Egypt in September 1914 serving with them there throughout their training and preparations for action. He landed with the 1/9th in Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 as a platoon commander in “A” Company.

On the 8th August the battalion went into the trenches, “A” and “B” Companies with the (125th) Fusilier Brigade, and “C” and “D” Companies with the (127th) Manchester Brigade. Lt. Oliver Jepson Sutton took two platoons of “A” company up to the firing line and was almost immediately wounded. Reinforcements were called for and so Lt. Forshaw and Lt. Cooke took two platoons of A” Company to the firing line. 40 hours of intense fighting at close quarters followed with the Manchesters separated from the Turks at times by only a parapet.  “A” Company under Lieutenants Forshaw and Cooke held the position thus saving the entire sector from being retaken by the Turks.  Lt. Forshaw stayed at his position for the entire period, killing 3 Turks with his revolver, and personally throwing a large number of the 800 bombs used in the action.

Lt. William Thomas Forshaw was awarded the Victoria Cross and Lieutenant Charles Earsham Cooke was awarded the Military Cross. Both also being mentioned in the despatches of General Sir Ian Hamilton.

On August 18 he left the battalion for Imbros on a GHQ Escort with 25 men. But shortly after arriving there he became sick and on September 5th, he was admitted to hospital. He was treated for Jaundice and quickly evacuated to Malta where he was admitted to the “Blue Sisters Hospital”  on September 10, 1915. A few days later, on September 14th he was embarked upon the Hospital Ship Massilia and repatriated back to the UK, arriving at Southampton on September 22nd,  suffering from enteric fever.

In the UK he was allowed to recover at home until January 21, 1916 when he was ordered to join the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Codford. Here he was put on light duty and on March 23 was passed fit enough to return to full duty. A month later he was ordered to rejoin the battalion in Egypt and embarked the Ivernia at Devonport on April 23, 1916.

He rejoined the battalion in Egypt on June 3, 1916 and was promoted to temporary Lieutenant on August 27, 1916. The only other mention of him in Egypt after that is returning from a course of instruction in Cairo, in late October and taking two days leave in Cairo from February 20-21, 1917.

He sailed with the 1/9th to France, landing on March 11, 1917, and is noted as being a platoon commander on April 22, 1917 when the Battalion was in Epehy. On the evening of May 6th and into the early morning of May 7th “B” Company, under Major Howorth, was responsible for carrying out the following special order:

Two small posts are to be established on either side of the road running from locality b. to QUENNEMONT FARM, one on either side of the road, and joined up. This should be undertaken as a very minor operation, with only sufficient men to dig a rifle pit on each side and then connect up. The object should be to advance these posts a short distance every night without attracting the enemy’s attention; and connect them up from behind with a communication trench.

Lt. Cooke commanded the party and they were met with heavy resistance from German machine guns resulting in many casualties, prompting several acts of heroism bringing wounded men in under fire.  Lt. Cooke was wounded and evacuated to Hospital in Rouen where he later died from his wounds on May 24, 1917. Lieutenant Charles Earsham Cooke, M.C. was 20 years old.

Commonwealth War Graves St Sever, Rouen

He is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave at St Sever, Rouen and commemorated on the:

  1. Ashton-Under-Lyne Civic Memorial.
  2. Leeds Corn Exchange Memorial.
  3. Marlborough College Roll of Honour.