In April 2015 I was lucky enough to attend the centenary commemorations of the Allied landings at Gallipoli.
One of the sites well worth a visit is “W Beach” and the nearby Lancashire Landing cemetery. While there I made the short film below:
W beach was known to the Turks as Tekke Bay. It was one of the principal landing sites for the British assault force on the morning of 25th April 1915.
Due to it’s large beach and strategic position the Turks had recognised it’s potential and had dug trenches on the high ground. The beach and water line were covered with barbed wire obstacles.
1st Lancashire Fusiliers had been given the task of taking the beach but they were decimated by heavy Turkish fire as they landed.
The wire cutters they had been given were not up to the task and the men had to crawl through the wire as best they could.
As Brigadier General Hare approached the beach with the second wave he saw the problems and ordered his troops to land just around the corner to the west of the beach. This threatened to outflank the Turks who didn’t have enough men.
Meanwhile, the Lancashire fusiliers of the first wave began to push forward but were thwarted and suffered further casualties for little gain.
The gallantry displayed that day lead to the famous “Six VC’s before breakfast” for the men of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers.
The battalion had started the day with 27 officers and 1,002 other men. Twenty-four hours later, a head count revealed just 16 officers and 304 men left.
Six men from the regiment were nominated by their peers for the VC and were eventually gazetted – Together they became known as the “Six Before Breakfast” VCs.
Among the six VC’s was one for William Kenealy who is buried at Lancashire Landing cemetery. His citation read:
On 25th April, 1915, three companies, and the Headquarters of the 1st Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers, in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine guns which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained. Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Capt. Willis, Serjt. Richards, and Pte. Kenealy have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty.
— The London Gazette (No. 29273), 24 August 1915
Shortly afterwards he was promoted to corporal and then lance-sergeant. He was seriously wounded in the Battle of Gully Ravine on 28 June 1915 and died the next day.
Lancashire Landing was eventually turned into a small port with piers going out to receive boats travelling to and from the fleet. Wounded were taken out from the beach, and there were several Dressing Stations nearby. The banks of the cliffs were used for command centres and dugouts.