Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Remembering Gallipoli

One hundred years ago the invasion of Gallipoli, conceived by Winston Churchill, began and became one of the low points of World War I for the Allies. When Allied troops landed on the beach at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915 a small British minesweeper, a converted Great Eastern Railway channel packet named the CLACTON, was at the forefront of the action. The image here depicts that day’s deadly action in a fanciful sketchbook/diary kept by CLACTON’s commander, William Herbert Coates. Coates seemingly coped with the exigencies of war by depicting daily action and activities in his version of early English language and images. His minesweeper, used primarily for hauling cargo and troops while in this conflict, was portrayed as a 17th or 18th  century brig. The day’s date, “ye yeere 1915, April ye 25th,” can be seen in the lower right hand corner of the drawing. Click on the image to see the enlarged version.

From sketchbook by W.H. Coates. VFM 970. G.W Blunt White Library. Mystic Seaport

In his description of the day, Coates states, “Ye littel brigs, ye “NEWMARKET” & ye “CLACTON” closed in to land ye souldiers ____ while ye greate shyppes, ye “ALBION” & ye “CORNWALLIS”, with their gunnes at point blank range, turned EARTH into HELL.  Miseracordia twas ye dreadfulle daie.”

Coates, who was in his fifties when in command of the CLACTON, had written two books in his earlier life on shipping and trade on the Indian ocean. Unfortunately, he did not live to write another as he was killed in action on July 15, 1917 when HMS REDBREAST was torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

The image is one page of many from scrapbooks in the Manuscripts Collection in the G.W. Blunt White Library. See the article from the South African Military History Journal for an interesting account of Gallipoli and the part that the CLACTON played in the invasion.

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