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Battle of Gully Ravine
The Battle of Gully Ravine was a World War I battle fought at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula. By June 1915 all thoughts the Allies had of a swift decisive victory over Turkey had vanished. The preceding Third Battle of Krithia and the attack at Gully Ravine had limited objectives and had much in common with the trench warfare prevailing on the Western Front. Unlike previous Allied attacks at Helles, the Gully Ravine action was largely successful at achieving its objectives though at a typically high cost in casualties.
The third battle of Krithia on June 4 had made some progress in the centre of the line at Helles but had failed on the left flank (west) along Gully Spur and Gully Ravine and on the right flank (east) where the French contingent were confronted by a number of strong Turkish redoubts on Kereves Spur. As a prelude to a new offensive the commander at Helles, Lieutenant General Aylmer Hunter-Weston ordered separate limited attacks to advance the flanks.
On June 21 the French, with overwhelming artillery support, attacked two redoubts controlling the crest of Kereves Spur. They succeeded in capturing Haricot Redoubt but the second objective, the Quadrilateral, was not captured until June 30. The French suffered 2,500 casualties but the Turks on the receiving end of the bombardment suffered 6,000.
On June 28 a similar attack was planned for the left flank along Gully Spur, Gully Ravine and neighbouring Fig Tree Spur. The terrain around Gully Ravine (Zigindere to the Turks) was closer to the wild and rough terrain at Anzac Cove than to the ground elsewhere at Helles. The plan was for the British 29th Division and the 29th Indian Brigade to attack along Gully Spur and the ravine while one newly arrived brigade on loan to the 29th Division, the 156th Brigade from the British 52nd (Lowland) Division, would attack along Fig Tree Spur.
The battle began at 10.45 am on June 28 with a preliminary raid to capture the Boomerang Redoubt on Gully Spur. The general advance commenced shortly afterwards. The artillery fire on Gully Spur was overwhelming and the 2/10th Battalion of the Gurkha Rifles and the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers advanced rapidly a distance of half a mile to a point named "Fusilier Bluff" which was to become the northern-most Allied position at Helles.
In the ravine the 1st Battalion of The Border Regiment did not advance as far as those troops on the spur. Their final position was fortified with rocks and boulders and became known as "Border Barricade".
On the right of the advance, along Fig Tree Spur, the battle did not go so well for the British. The inexperienced soldiers of the 156th Brigade lacked artillery support and were massacred by Turkish machine guns. Despite the opposition, they were ordered to press the attack and so the support and reserve lines were sent forward but made no progress. By the time the attack was halted the Brigade was at half strength, having suffered 1400 casualties of which 800 had been killed. Some battalions were so depleted they had to be merged into composite formations. When the rest of the 52nd Division landed, the commander, Major General Granville Egerton, was enraged at the manner in which his 156th Brigade had been sacrificed.
Gully Ravine became the scene of vicious and bloody fighting as the Turkish commenced a series of counter-attacks on the night of July 1-2. Two soldiers of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers , Captain Gerald O'Sullivan and Corporal James Somers, were awarded the Victoria Cross for recapturing a trench taken by the Turks during a counter-attack.
The Turks, with plentiful manpower in reserve, made incessant counter-attacks culminating with the strongest on July 5 but all were repulsed. The Turkish casualties for the period between June 28 and July 5 are estimated at between 14,000 and 16,000 — four times the British losses. Where possible the Turkish dead were burned but a truce to bury them was refused. The British believed the dead bodies were an effective barrier and that Turkish soldiers were unwilling to attack across them.
After the counter-attacks ceased, the front line stablised and remained largely static for the rest of the Gallipoli campaign although both sides engaged in a vigorous mining war around the ravine.
Achi Baba Nullah
Hunter-Weston had one final fling at Helles. Once the two remaining brigades of the 52nd Division had landed (the 155th and 157th Brigades) he planned a new attack for July 12 in the centre of the line east of the Krithia Road and along Achi Baba Nullah (also known as Kanli Dere and Bloody Valley) where the Royal Naval Division had spent most of its time at Helles and suffered so badly during the third battle of Krithia.
The plan was for one brigade to attack in the morning and the other to attack in the afternoon so that the full weight of artillery support could be lent to each brigade. The 155th Brigade would attack at 7.35 am and the 157th at 4.50 pm.
Both attacks began well with the capture of the first Turkish trench but descended into chaos and confusion as, in a repeat of the April and May Helles battles, the troops advanced to far, lost contact and came under artillery and machine gun fire. The next morning confusion and panic resulted in a disorderly retreat which was eventually halted but Hunter-Weston ordered the advance to resume and sent the battered Royal Naval Division in again. They suffered a further 600 casualties on this occasion but the line was stabilised.
By the end of the battle, one third of the 52nd Division had become casualties. General Egerton was temporarily dismissed from his command of the division for protesting at the treatment of his troops.
In late June General Hunter-Weston departed his command of the British VIII Corps, suffering some indeterminate ailment. This marked the end of Helles as the main front at Gallipoli. The British attempted no more major offensives there for the remainder of the campaign. The fighting now concentrated along the Sari Bair range and at a new landing at Suvla. In support of this new offensive in August, a diversionary attack was made at Helles which resulted in heavy fighting around Krithia Vineyard. Helles was finally evacuated on January 8, 1916.
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