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Ezekiel GUMMERY


Early Life and Enlistment in Army

Ezekiel Gummery was born in Worcester in 1881, the son of Walter Charles Bury Gummery, a general labourer, and his wife Emily Payne. At the time of the 1881 census the family were living at Court 13, Sidbury Street, in St Peters parish, Worcester. There were six known children of Walter and Emily:-

  • Annie Gummery born and died 1876 in Worcester
  • Benjamin Gummery born 1877 in Worcester
  • Walter born 1879 in Worcester
  • Ezekiel born 1881 in Worcester
  • William born 1883 in Worcester
  • Frederick born and died 1891 in Worcester

Ezekiel enlisted in Worcester in the 4th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment as a Private (No. 9147).

The 4th Battalion had been fighting in Burma and returned to Britain on 1st February 1915, arriving in Banbury on the 2nd where they joined the other units of the newly formed 80th Brigade, part of the 29th Division, and went into billets. One month later they moved to fresh billets in Leamington. After a period of uncertainty the Cabinet decided on 10th March 1915 that the 29th Division was to support operations already in progress in the Dardanelles. In October 1914 Turkey had entered the war on the enemy side, and on 1st November 1914 Britain had declared war on Turkey. Once the decision was made to send the 29th Division to Turkey things moved fast and on the 13th March secret orders were received for embarkation. One week later "a whole army of relations from Birmingham" came to Leamington to wave goodbye to the 4th Worcestershire.

The Battalion sailed from Avonmouth on 22nd March 1915. Officially their destination was a secret, and orders issued at Avonmouth were to proceed to Gibraltar; but the real objective was known and talked about so no-one was surprised when they sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar and on into the Mediterranean. After briefly stopping for coal in Valetta Harbour, Malta they arrived in Alexandria harbour in Egypt on 4th April, Easter Sunday but due to the density of shipping space at the dockside couldn't be found for three days. On 11th April they left Alexandria and passed safely through the Aegean Islands to their rendezvous point at Lemnos. They were aware that their job was to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and on 21st April they received definite orders that the 29th Division was to land at several beaches around the end of the Peninsula near Cape Helles. Their objective was a line across the Peninsula which included the high point of Achi Baba to the east of Krithia, five miles from Cape Helles.

The Landing at Cape Helles

To gain that objective a concentric attack was planned - the troops were to be landed on five beaches designated by the letters, from right to left, "S", "V", "W", "X" and "Y". The Worcesters, part of a planned deployment of 2800 troops at "V" beach, were landed on the morning of 25th April, but when the landing was attempted the gunfire was so intense that most of the men in the first two platoons were struck down on the wire entangled beach. It soon became clear that the landings on "V" beach were stalled. Within minutes the casualties amounted to 70% of those who had attempted to land - the few observers could see the colour of the water running deep red for 50 yards out to sea. The remainder of the Battalion was diverted to "W" beach where the Lancashire Fusiliers had cleared the beach and gained a precarious hold. The Worcesters were instructed to capture the high ground, which involved some heroic acts as volunteers cut their way through thick belts of high barbed wire under close and heavy fire from the Turks - when one volunteer was killed or wounded another came forward to take his place. The fighting of April 25th and 26th had secured the landing at Cape Helles, but the losses were heavy and the British forces were still far from their objective of Achi Baba. The casualties of the 4th Worcestershire during the first two days of fighting was about 100 men.

The country in front of them was an expanse of low ground covered with scrub and long grass with a few trees, and cultivated in places, forming a saucer shaped depression between the heights already taken and the greater height of Achi Baba. The enemy's position was uncertain. The Worcesters advanced on 27th April under sniper and shell fire from the the Turkish artillery in position near Achi Baba. By nightfall the Worcesters took up defensive positions near a fir wood and tried to get some rest.

The First Battles of Krithia

The advance began at 8.00 on 28th April and the Worcesters fought to gain a ridge where the enemy were well entrenched. The ridge was eventually charged and cleared with bayonet, and a definite position established and held under heavy fire from the enemy trenches 400 yards beyond. Heavy firing continued until evening when a message was received that the French on the right had retired before a counter attack and that the 4th Worcestershire Regiment were to fall back into line with them. The position of the Battalion was secure, and it was with great annoyance that the troops abandoned the ground for which they had fought so hard. The losses during the day had been heavy - 300 men including 9 officers, leaving only 400 men to occupy the same position near the fir wood which they held that morning.

April 30th was spent in reserve, 400 yards to the rear of the front line, trying to get some rest amid constant sniper fire. This respite didn't last long and when they returned to the front they were pinned down for several days under constant fire but held their positions. By the 6th May they were advancing - the attacking front line advanced 500 yards with about 100 Worcesters killed or wounded; 7th May saw a further 100 yards gained; and on 8th May 200 yards. For three days the Battalion remained in the front line, enduring shell fire and bombs but without suffering heavy losses. On the evening of 11th May fresh reinforcements arrived and the Worcesters retired through the darkness and heavy rain to the rest camp behind the reserve line of trenches where they had four days of well deserved rest.

The heavy losses had left the Battalion very weak, and reinforcements arrived on May 27th - 13 officers and 159 other ranks.

The Third Battle of Krithia

At 9.30 a.m. on the 4th June the British artillery opened fire and kept up the bombardment until 11.30 a.m. when followed ten minutes silence intended to confuse the enemy. At 11.40 the artillery opened fire again and continued rapid fire until 12 noon when the guns stopped and the attacking battalions scrambled out of their trenches and advanced. In spite of all they had gone through the 29th Division advanced "not a slacker amongst them" (according to the Battalion Diary). Under a storm of fire the Worcestershire platoons rushed forward across the open and into the enemy trenches. Three successive lines of trenches, 80 prisoners and four machine guns were taken.

On the left of the advance the Sikh battalion had been almost wiped out, leaving the left flank of the Worcesters exposed so the Battalion formed a defensive flank along the steep slope of Gully Ravine and the rest of the day was spent consolidating that line under heavy fire. Over the next three days the Turks counter attacked again and again trying to recapture their lost territory, without success. Of the 4th Battalion nearly all the original officers and N.C.O's had fallen and there were very few old soldiers left in the ranks. Gradually the Battalion was brought back up to strength by fresh drafts, notably by a large draft which arrived on June 16th.

Action of Gully Ravine

A new attack had been planned. The Turkish defences were extremely strong directly in front of the 88th Brigade and an advance up Gully ravine was planned. The British guns opened fire on the morning of June 28th and at 10.00 the attacking troops advanced. The job of the Worcesters was to hold the line to the right of the main attack - they came in for heavy fire. The Turkish defences along the sea cliff were taken but those in Gully Ravine itself held and the fighting went backwards and forwards for three more days until on 1st July the enemy were finally driven back from their advanced lines to the trenches they had previously occupied. The Turkish trenches formed a salient (a projection or outward pointing angle ) which invited attack.

An attack on this salient was organised, and began on the morning of 2nd July by the Worcesters and Hampshire. The attacking parties rushed the Turkish trenches surprising the enemy and made good progress but soon became hindered by the number of dead bodies in the winding trench. Since June 4th this trench had been the site of heavy fighting and the bodies of soldiers of all ranks were heaped in the trench, some half buried by fallen sand, others newly killed. The party advanced to the trench junction and here the Turks were waiting, well supplied with bombs. Lieut. James' party of 4th Worcesters were struck down in rapid succession until only the Lieutenant and a corporal were left. The corporal was sent back to bring help while Lieutenant James successfully held off the Turks single handed until help arrived. For his bravery he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the first of the regiment to gain the highest award for bravery.

The 4th Worcestershire held the trenches nearest the sea to the west of Gully Ravine until July 16th when they were relieved, and embarked the next day for rest on Lemnos Island. From April 25th until July 16th the battalions of the 29th Division had been constantly under the shell fire and close rifle fire of the enemy, so never was there a more welcome rest.

The action at Gully Ravine brought the first phase of operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula to a close. At the beginning of the Gallipoli expedition there had been confidence of a quick success but the difficulty of the task and the strength of the enemy had been underestimated. After nine weeks of continuous fighting the 29th Division and other troops at Cape Helles had fought their way to the outskirts of Krithia, albeit with heavy losses.

The Action of Krithia Vineyard

It was decided that the main attack was to come from the Anzac area in the hope of gaining possession of the mountain of Sari Bair. Because of the strength of the enemy it was essential to mislead them, and this was to be done by subsidiary attacks on other points - one of these being the 29th Division attack towards Krithia. This began on the 6th August when the 4th Worcestershire assembled in their trenches at 4.00 a.m. Their numbers had been brought up to full strength by fresh draughts and they were now 800 strong. The attack was not due to begin until early evening so the day was spent under the grilling sun and a haze of flies. At 2.20 p.m. the British heavy artillery opened fire and immediately the Turkish guns replied showering the trenches with shrapnel. At 3.15 p.m. the British machine gun batteries opened up, and five minutes later the field guns. For half an hour the storm raged overhead, then at 3.50 p.m. the platoons advanced.

The Battalion advanced in four waves to attack the Turks in their trenches. All went well for the first 50 yards until they reached the crest of a low rise where they were hit by the enemy's machine gun bullets. The remnants of the charge jumped into the enemy trenches and fought, hand to hand, until they were overpowered by sheer numbers.

A fresh attack was to be made at 8.15 p.m. In the absence of any news it had been assumed that the 4th Worcestershire Battalion had taken their objective and were holding it, and the fresh troops were ordered to gain touch with them. In the gathering darkness the Manchesters advanced to the Turkish trench. An officer went forward and asked "Are the Worcesters there?" - the reply was heavy gun fire.

Except for the personnel of Battalion HQ, the trenches of the 4th Worcestershire were empty that night. Out of 800 men, only 32 had survived - the casualties numbered 16 officers and 752 N.C.O.'s and men. Ezekiel Gummery was among the dead, being killed in action on Friday 6th August 1915. The only consolation for the virtual destruction of the Battalion is that the very strength of the Turkish defence proved that from the strategic point of view the object of the attack had been obtained - the enemy had concentrated at Krithia to meet the attack, leaving the decisive attack further north a full chance of success. This was the gist of the speech the Divisional Commander gave to the survivors of the Brigade.

In early October 1915 Lord Kitchener requested information from Sir Ian Hamilton, the Gallipoli land forces commander, about the possible human cost of an evacuation. Hamilton's terse reply was an estimate of 50% casualties. He was replaced within 24 hours by General Sir Charles Monro, who after three days inspection of the peninsula recommended a total withdrawal of all forces. The politicians were unable to decide - a withdrawal would be an admission of failure, even defeat. Kitchener himself came to Gallipoli in November to see what could be salvaged, and concluded that evacuation was inevitable. On 7 December 1915 the British cabinet agreed to Kitchener's proposal for the withdrawal of all forces, except those at Helles. During the seven months of the Gallipoli campaign there were 213,980 British and Empire casualties - of these more than 145,000 were due to sickness with 50,000 cases of dysentery, diarrhoea and enteric fever.

The Helles Memorial was erected at Cape Helles on the south west tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula to commemorate the dead of the Gallipoli campaign. It is an obelisk standing over 30 metres high that can be seen by ships passing through the Dardanelles, they use it as a land mark.

Helles Memorial

If you wish to know more about this family, or have any comments or corrections, then please email me .

References:-
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War, by Capt. H. Stacke
Great Battles of the Great War, by Michael Stedman
Thanks to James Kimpton for the use of his photos of the Helles Memorial
URL=http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~gomery/ezgumm.html
Last revised: 20 March 2012
Linda Hansen 2000 - 2012