Maiden City Great War Roll of Honour Part 16

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Local historian Trevor Temple chronicles the individuals associated with Londonderry who lost their lives in WWI.

Ruddy, Gunner William, 5731

William Ruddy, Royal Garrison Artillery, was born at Londonderry, enlisted at Belfast, and died on April 24, 1915.

His remains are interred in Carrickfergus (Victoria) Cemetery, County Antrim.

Smith, Private Walter John A., 498

Walter Smith, 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry (90th Winnipeg Rifles) died on April 25, 1915.

Aged 29, he was the son of John W. T. and Jane Smith, Lawrence Hill, Londonderry.

His name is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium. It is also recorded on St Augustine’s Church (Church of Ireland), Londonderry, First World War Memorial, and on the Diamond War Memorial.

The 8th Battalion (90th Winnipeg Rifles) CEF, was an infantry battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War.

It was organised at Valcartier, Quebec, in September 1914. The battalion embarked on October 1, 1914, aboard ‘SS Franconia,’ disembarking in England on October 14.

It arrived in France on February 13, 1915, where it fought as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division in France and Flanders.

On April 14, 1915, the battalion entered the Ypres salient. At 0400 hrs on the morning of April 24, a blue-green-yellowish cloud was seen coming towards the battalion trenches. It was the second enemy gas attack. Half the battalion succumbed to the poisonous fumes.

The battalion on the left retired and the 8th Battalion discovered itself in danger of being surrounded. But it held on. While supporting battalions were preparing new defences in the rear, the men of the Regiment kept up a fire on the enemy, drove off an attack on its front and withstood fire from left and right, and this from an enemy force five times its size.

Early the following day – the day Walter Smith lost his life – came relief troops from the Durham Light Infantry, but only for three companies of the battalion. Number 4 Company, on the right, under Captain George Northwood, saw its relief start forward and then turn back.

As the day wore on and the battle’s intensity did not relent, the Durham’s were seen gradually falling back. By 1800 hrs there were no troops left on the front fine except 4 Company and the machine gun section of the battalion.

Walter Smith went missing, and was later concluded dead. Three of his brothers served in the Great War. Albert J. Smith was gazetted second lieutenant, South Wales Borderers, around May 1918.

Robert Smith served with the 12th Inniskillings. And George F. Smith joined the 1st Battalion of the City of London Expeditionary Force, and was with the machine gun section around December 1914. Writing to a friend in Londonderry from the Front, around the same Christmas period, he said: ‘I am just dropping you a line, as I thought perhaps you would like to hear from me. No doubt you have heard I have been here for some time. So far I have got on all right, in spite of the very severe weather we’ve been having. We are being very well fed and looked after. Indeed, an army so well treated can spell nothing but victory. Our battalion has been in the trenches some time, and, considering the work done, our losses so far have been light. Personally, I have not yet been in the trenches, but am at present stationed a little to the rear of them with the gun section horses. I suppose we shall have our share in the conflict ere long, and Fountain Street won’t be in it when that comes. I am writing this in a barn, which is well “aired,” but, nevertheless, very comfortable. Wishing you a happy Christmas.’

Smyth, Private Samuel, 10696

Samuel Smyth, 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was killed in the Dardanelles, on April 25, 1915.

Aged 28, he was the son of James and Annie Smyth, 32, Emerson Street, Waterside, Londonderry.

His remains are interred in ‘V’ Beach Cemetery, Turkey, and his name is commemorated on the Glendermott Parish Church World War 1 Memorial, and on the Diamond War Memorial.

At the outbreak of the Great War, the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers were based at Madras in India. On November 19, 1914, they sailed from Bombay arriving at Plymouth on December 21.

They were billeted at Torquay, but in January 1915 went to Nuneaton. They came under orders of the 86th Infantry Brigade in 29th Division. On March 16, they left from Avonmouth for Gallipoli, going via Alexandria and Mudros, where their transport anchored on April 9. They landed at Cape Helles on April 25, aboard the collier ‘SS River Clyde.’

29th Division had orders to land at the southern tip of the Dardanelles peninsula, at Cape Helles. It proved to be an extremely unsuitable landing place. The beaches were either open beaches without any cover, or else the land rose straight up from the sea, and in either case defensive positions with machine gun emplacements could decimate troops landing from the sea.

The British plan of attack was first a naval bombardment of the Turkish positions around the village of Sedd-el-Bahr, followed by a landing of troops. The naval bombardment failed to destroy the Turkish defences before the troops landed.

At 0500 hours, on April 25, the navy began their bombardment of the Turkish positions around Sedd-el-Bahr. At 06.25, the naval bombardment stopped and the skipper of the ‘Clyde,’ Commander Unwin, ran her aground on the beach just under the ancient fort at Sedd-el-Bahr.

The section of the beach assigned to the Dublin Fusiliers was called ‘V’ Beach.

Sides had been cut out of the ‘Clyde’ and the landing plan was for the ‘Clyde’ to be beached and that the men inside her would run down wooden gangways onto pontoons that had been dragged near the shore alongside the ship. From the pontoons the men would jump onto the beach and advance inland to fight the Turks. Machine gun fire would cover the men coming ashore.

But it all went wrong. The German commander advising the Turks, General Von Sanders, knew that Cape Helles was a vitally important part of the peninsula to defend so he had heavily defended it with barbed wire under the water, and along the ridge he placed more wire and machine-gun placements. The Dubliner’s did not stand a chance. The packs the men were carrying were sixty pounds in weight. Due to this, many of the Irish were drowned when they jumped into the water trying to get ashore.

Private Samuel Smyth’s brother, Lance Corporal William John Smyth, also died fighting at Sedd-el-Bahr on April 25, 1915. Another brother, Private Joseph Smyth, served with the Northumberland Fusiliers, and was severely wounded on the left arm circa April 1917.

Smyth, Lance Corporal William John, 10058

William John Smyth, 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was killed in the Dardanelles, on April 25, 1915.

He was the son of James and Annie Smyth, 32, Emerson Street, Waterside, Londonderry. His remains are interred in ‘V’ Beach Cemetery, Turkey, and his name is commemorated on the Glendermott Parish Church World War 1 Memorial, and on the Diamond War Memorial.

Lance Corporal William John Smyth’s brother, Private Samuel Smyth, was also killed on April 25, 1915. The scene of their deaths, and many others, was described by Petty Officer David Fyffe, No. 3 Armoured Car Squadron, RNAS, aboard the ‘SS River Clyde,’ as he witnessed men from the Royal Dublin and Munster Fusiliers as well as the Hampshire Regiment attempt to land on ‘V’ Beach, Cape Helles, Gallipoli: ‘Out of six boats that formed one tow, only one reached the shore and beached side-on, and out from among the crowded benches only about a dozen leapt into the water and rushed for the sand.

‘Their comrades still crouched upright in the boats but they were strangely still, shot dead where they sat. The other four boats never reached the shore.

‘One by one the oars fell from the dead hands of their occupants and drifted slowly away, and the big white boats lay rocking idly on the shot-turn water many yards from the shore, with not a movement amid the huddle of khaki figures that fill them to the gunwhales. As we watched in wordless horror, one of the boats floated slowly past us, bumping along our side, and we could look straight down into her motionless cargo.

It was a floating shambles. A mass of corpses huddled together in the bottom of the boat and lying heaped above one another across the crimson benches. Here an arm and hand hung over the gunwhale, swaying helplessly as the boat rocked on the waves.

‘There a rifle stuck upright into the sunshine out of a mass of shapeless khaki figures. And everywhere crimson mingling with the brown, and here and there a waxen-white face with draggled hair staring up into the smiling heavens.

‘Slowly the ghastly boat scraped along our sides and slowly drifted out to sea leaving us frozen with a nameless horror and an overpowering dread. ‘Such was our introduction to the glories of war, and when one big fellow turned his drawn white face to us with a slow ‘Good God!’ as we stared at the vanishing boat, we could only look at him in a queer tight-throated silence and wonder what in Heaven’s name it all meant.’

Kewell, Private Charles, 8441

Charles Kewell, 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment, was born at Greenham, Berkshire, enlisted at Winchester, and resided at Burghclere, Hampshire.

He was killed in action at the Dardanelles on April 26, 1915. Aged 28, he was the son of Henry Kewell, and his wife, Martha, resided at 25, Pine Street, Waterside, Londonderry. His remains are interred in ‘V’ Beach Cemetery, Turkey.

When the Great War began, the 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment were in Mhow, India. They returned to England, arriving at Plymouth on December 22, 1914. They moved to Romsey, and, on February 13, 1915, to Stratford-upon-Avon. They came under the orders of 88th Brigade in 29th Division, and moved to Warwick. They sailed from Avonmouth on March 29, for Gallipoli, going via Egypt, and landed at Cape Helles, on April 25.

Men of the Second Hampshire’s were aboard the ‘SS River Clyde’. The ‘Clyde’ grounded forty yards from the beach before the tows reached it. Almost immediately, a fire caught the crowded boats and within a few minutes terrible losses had been inflicted, men attempting to escape jumped into the water and a large amount drowned. Commander Unwin managed to get three lighters in tow on her starboard side into position to make a bridge, giving the Munster’s a chance to dash along the gangways to shore. So murderous was the fire, that only a handful achieved their objective and the gangways were shortly filled with dead and wounded. The sailor helping Commander Unwin was killed and the lighters drifted into deeper water.

A few men made it ashore, but the Commanding Officer stopped any further attempts because of the useless loss of life. Meanwhile, boats on the starboard side of the ‘Clyde’ made a dash for the shore under heavy fire. These troops joined the Dublins and Munsters sheltering along a bank under the Sedd-el-Bahr cliffs.

They attempted to attack Sedd-el-Bahr fort but were beaten back. Later in the afternoon, fire on ‘V’ beach slackened and sailors hauled the lighters connecting the ‘Clyde’ with the shore back into position where again the Munsters attempted to rush the shore, only to awaken the Turkish machine-guns. Later, naval gunfire from three battleships gave the Turkish positions a fresh pounding and sent the Turks into cover and Hampshires accompanied by Dublins and Munsters dashed into Sedd-el-Bahr fort and took up positions on the north face. This prevented the Turks from counter attacking on that side and allowed the rest of the troops on the ‘River Clyde’ to come ashore.