WW1 Casualties Remembered
ALBERT JOHN SIMMONS
In 2014 I produced a booklet to commemorate those with a connection to Hook Norton who lost their lives during the Great War. One of those was Albert John Simmons who was killed during the ill fated Gallipoli Campaign whilst serving with the 4th Battalion Worcester Regiment. The battalion initially landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, however Albert was one of many replacements who did not arrive until July.
The war diaries of several regiments are now available to view online and it is from these sources that I have been able to ascertain how Albert lost his life.
On the 6th August the battalion left Gully Beach at 4am having been ordered to attack. Their mission was to capture an enemy trench known as Trench H13. Supporting artillery fire shelled the trench and the surrounding area for most of the day until 2.30pm when the infantry advance started. The Turks retaliated with their artillery which caused some of the British troops to move to other trenches before they were able to move forward in attack. Machine gun fire from the Turks pinned down the Worcesters and their brigade colleagues for a time before they were able to advance. Enemy fire accounted for many British troops and only a small section succeeded in getting more than 50 yards from their own trench.
Despite apparent initial losses some parts of the enemy trench were occupied. However, it could not be established until after dark how much had been occupied. The attacks on the flanks had failed and the only approach was across open ground. The remainder of the battalion was subjected to heavy machine gun fire which continued for some time even after the last line had nearly all been shot down. A patrol went out to try and locate parts of Trench H13 which might still be in British hands. However, after an hour the patrol were convinced that the Turks had recaptured it concluding that the British troops who had entered it during the day had either all been killed or captured.
A sergeant and twelve men eventually returned to the British trench. They were the survivors of a group who had secured part of the enemy trench. They had bravely held on for several hours until they ran out of ammunition and returned under cover of darkness. During the night more wounded were brought in and at dawn on the 7th the battalion returned to Gully Beach to re-organise.
It is difficult to quantify the actual losses suffered by the battalion. It was recorded that the embarkation strength at Avonmouth back in March was 26 officers and 931 other ranks. One source stated that battalion strength on 6th August was 20 officers and 770 other ranks. The war diary records that out of these figures 16 officers and 752 other ranks were lost. This equates to an 80% rate of loss for the officers and an horrendous 98% rate of loss for other ranks. This has been noted as perhaps the highest percentage of losses incurred by any battalion during the course of the whole war even including the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916.
The 4th Battalion was evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916 and sailed for France where they spent the rest of the war.
Albert Simmons was one of the 752 other ranks lost on that fateful day. He is remembered on the Helles Memorial, Turkey and also on the memorial in St Peter’s Church.