Thursday 30 April 2015

The Landing

THE following grim and characteristic story of the landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula — five days of hell, as he himself calls it — is told by a New Zealander who took part in the fighting. In a covering letter the writer says I have had my second turn with the 'unspeakable Turk' and as a result am in hospital with a wrecked spine and rather a badly tangled set of nerves, caused through concussion from a shell and a fall. The enclosed is perhaps crude, but I made rather an effort to write it, and Nurse says 'never again' — for a while anyhow."

The "enclosed" is probably the most vivid personal narrative of the Gallipoli fighting which has yet reached this country. — The TIMES.


May 5. 

A glass flat sea covered with a shallow mist, and beyond, the tops of green hills peering through the vapour, dim shapes of warboats and transports, and a fleeting glimpse of a seaplane as it winged over the Turkish positions: this was the scene that met our eyes on the morning of April 25 when we approached the peninsula of Gallipoli. Drowning the noise of the winches in our transport there rose and fell the thunderous arpeggio of the heavy guns, ceaseless in its monotonous roar, but, as we drew nearer, relieved by the staccato crack of the bursting Turkish shrapnel and the plunge of the heavier shell in the water amongst the transports.

As we approached the shore there came to our ears the continuous rattle of musketry, first scarcely perceptible, but at last growing to an ear-racking roll as of giant kettle-drums beaten without reason. Through glasses I could see one of our skirmishing lines advancing from the boats on the beach. It was as though one watched a cinematograph screen. The white boats on the beach and some brown figures sadly still on the grey sand, the green grass, and a tilled field across which advanced lines of our attacking force formed the foreground. Steep hills, clay faced and covered with dense scrub and dwarf ilex, over which the cottonwool puffs of shrapnel appeared and disappeared, made the background.

Troops of the Essex Regiment going ashore at 'W' Beach, Cape Helles, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915. (c) IWM Q70723
Business-like and brisk a destroyer glided alongside our transport towing strings of heavy barges.

"What's it like over there?" we asked.

"Pretty warm, boy," answered a smiling gunner, "but they're on the run."

Straight to the beach we ran, to the foot of the hill, but the destroyer necessarily could not take us right in to the sand, and we lay smiling sickly smiles at each other as the bullets purred and whistled over and round us. The sharp-pointed bullet "meows" like a motherless kitten as it passes you, but it enters the water with a "phut" that suggests something more unpleasant.

At last the barges were taken as far in as possible and we jumped into water up to our armpits and half swam, half waded ashore. I had often wondered how one would feel going into a tight corner for the first time, and then I knew. It was as if some one had given me a smack below the chest with the flat of a heavy spade. Later came a sense of elation.

Formed up we marched along the beach past dressing-stations already hemmed in with stretchers and wounded men. An Australian and a sailor lay beneath an oil sheet, their feet in the little waves.

"Reinforcements at the double on the left," roared an officer through a megaphone, and then added as a shell burst overhead, "Keep in under the bank — shrapnel's unhealthy."

Then came a toilsome, tiresome scramble over the high bluffs to the firing line. On the top of the first ridge we came through a Turkish trench. In it were a dead Turk, bayoneted, a box of ammunition, and many flies. Stooping low we doubled to the brow, ever with the purring bullets overhead. Wounded on the way to the beach passed us cheerfully, saying, "It's hot as hell up there!" And it was. When we had crossed a gully and gained another ridge, half an hour's scrambling and sliding, we were scarce 200 yards from the last, so steep is the ground.

Snipers were everywhere, and as we made one descent of about 100 feet, at an angle of about 10 degrees past 90, bullets spattered about on the stones and in the bushes round us. I struck a shingle slide and my downfall was expedited.

At the bottom I saw a wounded man bleeding badly over one shoulder. He grinned hideously with his shattered mouth. "Got it where the chicken got the axe," he wheezed, and fainted as the stretcher-bearers came up for him.

British official photograph. A Turkish sniper photographed immediately after capture,
and while he was being brought under guard. He was ingeniously screened
by a Jack-in-the-Green arrangement of foliage attached to his clothing. (c) IWM Q 109176.
And so on, up to the firing line, where I got separated from my own unit and found ranges, that being my job, for an Australian regiment. Through the powerful telescope of the range-finder I could see the Turkish retirement and then an embryo bayonet charge by some of our men. Still the wounded came back in apparently endless procession. They were wonderful, cheerful, and full of information and profanity.

Then in our trench things began to happen. Personally I think a sniper spotted the range-finder, for two bullets lobbed into the trench parapet and then the man next to me stood straight up and fell back over my legs. "Mafeesh," he said quaintly, the Arabic for finished, and then more slowly, "Money-belt — missus and kids — dirty swine, dirty ----"

Then a strange thing happened. Dying, shattered beyond recognition, he rose to his knees and dragged his rifle to the parapet. With a weak finger he took shaky aim at the sky and fired his last shot, to collapse finally in the bottom of the trench.

Obviously the Turks had our range, for things began to get too hot for comfort. Those who were left of us changed position about a hundred yards along the trench, one of the Australians first resting a dead man's hat on a bush on the trench parapet. "Got our range," he said laconically, "better let 'em have a little target practice." They did, for the hat only stayed there five minutes.

Then we spotted our sniper. Have you ever gone stalking in open country with only dry watercourses or stone slides as cover and a Royal smelling danger on the slope opposite? It was rather like that.

Two of our men crept from the trench and crawled out of sight through the bushes. All unconscious the Turk continued his rifle practice until a double report rang out and our two men appeared on our left waving the sniper's hat — their equivalent of a scalp. After that we had comparative peace.

Away to the right a machine gun, like a motorcycle, purred incessantly, and then one started nearer and to our front. A seaplane from the Ark Royal, anchored in the bay behind, soared overhead, and twice white puffs of shrapnel appeared below her, where the Turks lobbed two shells. It is rather like shooting at a rocketing pheasant, this aeroplane-potting, and has about the same result. Then she turned and went back to report.

Something was due to arrive and it did, suddenly, in the shape of a naval shell. First came the ear-and-nerve-shattering roar of the gun, then the shriek of the shell overhead, and away in front a cloud of smoke and earth rose slowly and drifted away, showing a gap in the skyline and a few Turks, who obviously recollected that it was about time to start for the last train to Gallipoli. Away they went out of sight, and then the naval guns started in earnest.

From the bay below came one continuous thunder, and the screech of the heavy projectiles was incessant. No sooner had one burst than another was on its way.

A French battleship firing at Turkish shore positions in the preliminary bombardment.
(c) IWM Q 13336
Presently the 15-inchers started and we tore up some "pull-through" rag to put in our ears. Commands, unless shouted, were unintelligible now, and one felt ridiculous yelling against such thunderous voices. Below in the bay a warship was firing salvoes from her 6-inch battery. Puffs of brown smoke would jet from the bulwarks, and then, a long while afterwards, the roll of reports would shake the hills.

Then the enemy's guns joined in the argument. Shrapnel began to burst above us, and the whistle of the flying bullets was everywhere. The brass nose of a howitzer shell struck from nowhere upon a mound in front and rolled into the trench. I burned my fingers picking it up. For three hours this violent cannonading lasted and then it gave place to a more desultory, but still severe, bombardment.

We had gained our footing, at heavy cost it is true, but at least a mile square of the Gallipoli Peninsula was ours, and Von der Goltz Pasha was proved a liar. Back on the beach stores were beginning to come in. Horses, donkeys, and mules were landed and ammunition reserves grew as one watched. Men were carrying water to the firing line, ammunition and oil for the machine guns. On every path the stretcher-bearers toiled with their sad loads, and wounded waited patiently in little knots by the dressing-stations, laughing, chatting, and cheering each other. Sweating under the hot sun the doctors worked like machines, probing, washing, bandaging. Often the hurts were beyond aid, and a handkerchief covered the face of one man I had known as a cheery optimist on board the transport. The Brigadier-General in khaki shirt and neat riding breeches was sending off innumerable messages — cool, ubiquitous, and business-like, he inspired others to emulate him.

Wonder of wonders ! We had been ashore only six hours when three wireless stations sprang up mushroom-like on the beach, and their buzzing sparks told the warships just how and where to send their screaming missiles. Troops continued to land, and as soon as they were landed were rushed to the firing line, usually to the left, for the right was well held and safe for the time.

At nightfall the bombardment ceased, but Turkish shrapnel burst over the beach and the wounded in the boats were submitted to a hot shell fire. The rifle fire continued, nerve-racking and noisy. Sleep was out of the question, and trench digging, to consolidate the position we had won, commenced almost immediately.

(c) IWM CHR 30
On our left along the beach about half a mile, a boat, sunk in the surf, rocked uneasily. With the aid of a glass I could see its freight. Sitting upright were at least eight dead men, and on the beach another twenty. A sailor, distinguishable by his white cap cover, lay in an attitude strangely lifelike, his chin resting on his hand, his face turned to our position. The next afternoon I casually turned my glasses on the pathetic group, and saw that the sailor was now lying on his back with his face to the sky. There was no mistake: he had been alive, and perhaps even now, after lying there nearly thirty-six hours, he was still alive. I was destined to get yet another thrill. In the centre of the heap on the beach there was some movement.

And then I saw distinctly a khaki cap waving weakly, and presently a man detached himself from the group and hobbled slowly towards us along the beach. Immediately the snipers started afresh.

Four other men and myself made off along the beach to meet the sad figure, which by this time had collapsed. Ten yards out from our trench we drew fire, and the bullets whispered confidingly "Duck," and as they entered the water or hit the stones by our feet, "Run like the devil!" I personally cut out the first hundred yards in well under eleven seconds, and although my style might have been ragged, it was good enough and got me to a small sandy knoll where I was able to talk to the man. There were four others still alive out there, he said, and "last night there were eight, but it was cold, and they'd had no water or food, and couldn't last it out." That was all.

We got him in slowly, and afterwards the others, but not until one of the warships had dealt with the snipers. Later we buried all the others. One of the men we brought in had been out there half in the water and half out, shot through both knees, but he was cheery and bright, and asked first about his brother in another company, and then explained where the Turks were sniping from.

At night the rifle fire waved backwards and forwards in fluctuating bursts, and we expected an attack at dawn. It came, but not against our position. More in the centre the enemy made a desperate effort They approached our trenches — came through the lines, and were certainly brave and venturesome. Once an unmistakably foreign bugle blew the "Cease fire," but an order was passed down our line to take no notice, it was a ruse. At one time, as darkness came down a voice in English called out "Retire! Retire!" but as there was no immediate reason why we should retire, we waited, and again Brigade Headquarters informed us it was not a British command.

It will be hard to forget those first days, and even now I wake at night with the patter of musketry in my ears, only to find some cart is rumbling past the hospital on uneasy wheels.

From Light and Shade in War by Captain Malcolm Ross and Noel Ross, 1916.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Dardanelles Landing – A Glorious Achievement




General Sir Ian Hamilton has sent to the Secretary of State for War a despatch describing the landing of the British and French forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula. It is one of the most graphic accounts of the work of the Army which has been published during the present war. From the first he realised the enormous difficulties to be overcome, and reluctantly came to the conclusion that all the forces at his command would be required to enable the Fleet to force the passage of the Dardanelles. The great difficulties of the country are described at length and reference made to the remarkable defences and bravery of the Turkish forces. One sentence of the despatch dealing with the landing near Capo Hellos may be quoted — "It is my firm conviction that no finer feat of arms has ever been achieved by the British soldiers — or, any other soldiers — than the storming of these trenches from open boats on the morning of the 25th April." The British losses during the period covered by the despatch were 1,167 killed, 8,219 wounded, and 3,503 missing.

In the course of his narrative Sir Ian Hamilton States — The landing of an Army upon the theatre of operations — a theatre strongly garrisoned throughout, and prepared for any such attempt — involved difficulties for which no precedent was forthcoming in military history except possibly in the sinister legends of Xerxes. The beaches were either so well defended by works or guns, or else so restricted by nature that it did not seem possible even by two or three simultaneous landings, to pass the troops ashore quickly enough to enable them to maintain themselves against the rapid concentration and counterattack which the enemy was bound in such case to attempt. It became necessary, therefore, not only to land simultaneously at as many, points as possible, but to threaten to land at other points as well.


The covering force of the. 29th Division left Mudros Harbour on the evening of April 23rd for the five beaches S, V, W, X, and Y. Of these, V, W, and X were to be main landings, the landings at S and Y being made mainly to protect the flanks, to disseminate the forces of the enemy, and to interrupt the arrival of his reinforcements The landings at S and Y were to take place at dawn, whilst it was planned that the first troops, for V. W. and X. beaches should reach the shore simultaneously at 5-30 a.m. after half an hour's bombardment from the fleet.

A general view of men possibly on board HMS Queen Elizabeth on their way to Gallipoli.
Several other ships can be seen in the background. IWM Q103294
The detachment detailed for S Beach (Eski Hissarlik Point) consisted of the 2nd South Wales Borderers (less one company) under Lieutenant-Colonel Casson. Their landing was delayed by the current, but by 7-30 a.m. it had been successfully effected at a cost of some fifty casualties, and Lieutenant-Colonel Casson was able to establish his small force on the high ground near De Totts Battery. Here he maintained himself until the general advance on the 27th brought him in touch with the main body. The landing on Y Beach was entrusted to the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Plymouth (Marine) Battalion, Royal Naval Division, specially attached to the 29th Division for this task, under Colonel Coe. So impregnable had the precipices here appeared to the Turks that no steps had been taken to defend them.

Both battalions were able in the first instance to establish themselves on the heights, and an endeavour was made to gain touch with the troops landing at X beach. Unfortunately, the enemy's strong detachment from Y 2 interposed, and the attempt to join hands was not persevered with. Later in the day a large force of Turks were seen to be advancing from the cliffs above Y beach from the direction of Krithia, and Colonel Koe was f obliged to entrench. From this time onward his small force was subjected to strong and repeated attacks, supported by field artillery. Throughout the afternoon and all through the night the Turks made assault after assault upon the British line. The Turks were in a vast superiority and fresh troops took the place of those who temporarily fell Lack. Colonel Koe (since died of wounds) had become a casualty early in the day, and the number of officers and men killed and wounded during the incessant fighting was very heavy. By 7 a.m. on the 26th only about half the King's Own Scottish Borderers remained to man the entrenchment made for four times their number. These brave fellows were absolutely worn out with continuous fighting; it was doubtful if reinforcements could reach them in time, and order's were issued for them to be embarked. The re-embarkation of the whole of the troops, together with the wounded, stores, and ammunition, was safely accomplished, and both the battalions were brought round the southern end of the peninsula.

The troops to be landed at X beach were the 1st Royal Fusiliers, who were to be towed ashore from H.M.S. Implacable in two parties, half a battalion at a time, together with a beach working party found ty the Anson Battalion, Royal Naval Division. About 6 a.m. H.M.S. Implacable, with a boldness much admired by the Army, stood quite close in to the beach, and fired very rapidly with every gun she could bring to bear. Thus seconded, the Royal Fusiliers made good their landing with but little loss.


The landing on V beach was planned to take place on the following lines — As soon as the enemy's defences had been heavily bombarded by the Fleet, three companies of the Dublin Fusiliers were to bo towed ashore. They were to be closely followed by the collier River Clyde (Commander Unwin, R.N.), carrying between decks the balance of the Dublin Fusiliers the Munster Fusiliers, half a battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, the West Riding Field Company, and other details. The River Clyde, had been specially prepared for the rapid disembarkation of her complement, and large openings for the exit of the troops had been cut in her sides, giving on to a wide gang-plank by which the men could pass rapidly into lighters which she had in tow. As soon as the first tows had reached land the River Clyde was to run straight ashore. Her lighters were to be placed in position to form a gangway between the ship and the beach, and by this means it was hoped that 2,000 men could be thrown ashore with the utmost rapidity. Further, to assist in covering the landing, a battery of machine-guns, protected by sandbags, had been mounted in her bows. Needless to say, the difficulties in the way of previous reconnaissance had rendered it impossible to obtain detailed information with regard either the locality or to the enemy's preparations. Whilst the boats and the collier were approaching the landing-place the Turks made no sign. Up to the very last moment it appeared as if the landing was to be unopposed. But the moment the first boat touched bottom the storm broke. A tornado of fire swept over the beach, the incoming boats, and the collier. The Dublin Fusiliers and the naval boats' crews suffered exceedingly heavy losses whilst still in the boats. Those who succeeded in landing and in crossing the strip of sand managed to gain some cover when they reached the low escarpment on the further side. None of the boats, however, were able to get off again, and they and their crews were destroyed upon the beach.

A Royal Irish Fusilier attempts to draw the fire of a Turkish sniper to reveal the enemy position, Gallipoli, 1915. IWM-Q13447
Now came the moment for the River Clyde to pour forth her living freight; but grievous delay was caused here by the difficulty of placing the lighters in position between the ship and the shore. A strong current hindered the work and the enemy's fire was so intense that almost every man engaged upon it was immediately shot. Owing, however to the splendid gallantry of the naval working party, the lighters were eventually placed in position, and then the disembarkation began. A company of the Munster Fusiliers led the way; but, short as was the distance, few of the men ever reached the farther side of the beach through the hail of bullets which poured down upon them from both flanks and the front. As the second company followed, the extemporised pier lighters gave way in the current. The end nearest to the shore drifted into deep water, and many men who had escaped being shot were drowned by the weight of their equipment in trying to swim from the lighter to the beach. Undaunted workers were still forthcoming, the lighters were again brought into position, and the third company of the Munster Fusiliers rushed ashore, suffering heaviest loss this time from shrapnel as well as from rifle, pom-pom, and machine-gun fire. For a space the attempt to land was discontinued. When it was resumed the lighters again drifted into deep water, and at this time, between 10 and 11 a.m., about 1,000 men had left the collier, and of these nearly half had I been killed or wounded before they could reach the little cover afforded by the steep, sandy bank at the top of the beach. The situation was probably saved by the machine-guns on the River Clyde, which did valuable service in keeping down the enemy's fire and in preventing any attempt on their part to launch a counter-attack. One half-company of the Dublin Fusiliers, which had been landed at the Camber just east of Sedd-el-Bahr village, was unable to work its way across to V Beach, and by midday had only twenty-five men left. Late in the afternoon part of the Fusiliers seemed likely to relieve the situation by taking the defenders of V Beach in the flank, but at nightfall the Turkish garrison still held their ground. Just before dark some parties of our men made their way along the shore to the outer walls of the Old Fort, and when night had fallen the remainder of the infantry from the collier were landed.


Twenty-four hours after the disembarkation began there were ashore on V Beach the survivors of the Dublin and Munster Fusiliers and of two companies of the Hampshire Regiment. The remnant of the landing party still crouched on the beach beneath the shelter of the sandy escarpment which had saved so many lives. With them were two officers of my General Staff — Lieutenant-Colonel Doughty-Wylie and Lieutenant-Colonel Williams. Now that it was daylight once more, Lieut.-Colonels Doughty-Wylie and Williams set to work to organise an attack on the hill above the beach. Under cover of bombardment by the Fleet, and led by Lieutenant-Colonel Doughty-Wylie and Captain Walford, Brigade-Major R.A., the troops gained a footing in the village by 10 a.m. So strong were the defences of W Beach that the Turks may well have considered them impregnable, and it is my firm conviction that no finer feat of arms has ever been achieved by the British soldier — or any other soldier — than the storming of these trenches from open boats on the morning of April 25. The landing at W had been entrusted to the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (Major Bishop). As in the case of the landing at X, the disembarkation had been delayed for half an hour, but at 6 a.m; the whole battalion approached the shore together, towed by eight picket-boats in line abreast, each picket-boat pulling four ship's cutters. While the troops were approaching the shore no shot had been fired from the enemy's trenches, but as soon as the first boat touched the ground a hurricane of lead swept over the battalion. Gallantly led by their officers, the Fusiliers literally hurled themselves ashore, and fired at from right, left, and centre, commenced hacking their way through the wire. Covered by the fire of the warships, which had now closed right in to the shore, by 10 a.m. three lines of hostile trenches were in our hands, and our hold on the beach was assured. About 9-30 a.m. more infantry had began to disembark, and two hours later a junction was effected on Hill 114 with the troops who had landed on X beach. At 2 p.m., after the ground near Hill 138 had been subjected to a heavy bombardment, the Worcester Regiment advanced to the assault, and by 4 p.m. the hill and redoubt were captured.

The landing of the Australian and New Zealand corps is then described. The boats approached the land in the silence and the darkness, and they were close to the shore when the enemy stirred. The moment the boats touched land the Australians turn had come. Like lightning they leapt ashore, and each man as he did so went straight as his bayonet at the enemy. So vigorous was the onslaught that the Turks made no attempt to withstand it and fled from ridge to ridge pursued by the Australian infantry. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the enemy, now reinforced to a strength of 20,000 men, attacked the whole line, making a specially strong effort against the 3rd Brigade and the left of the 2nd Brigade. This counter-attack was, however, handsomely repulsed with the help of the guns of H.M. ships. Between 5 and 6-30 p.m. a third most determined counter-attack was made against the 3rd Brigade who held their ground with more than equivalent stubbornness. During the night again the Turks made constant attacks, and the 8th Battalion repelled a bayonet charge; but in spite of all the line held firm. Their casualties had been deplorably heavy. But it is a consolation to know that the Turks suffered still more seriously.


An advance was commenced at 8 a.m. on the 28th, and carried out with commendable vigour, despite the fact that from the moment of landing the troops had been unable to obtain any proper rest. The 87th Brigade pushed on rapidly, and by 10 a.m. had advanced two miles. Here the further progress of the Border Regiment was barred by strong work on the left flank. They halted to concentrate and make dispositions to attack it, and at the moment had to withstand a determined counter-attack by the Turks. Aided by heavy gun fire from H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, they succeeded in beating off the attack, but they made no further progress that day. The 88th Brigade, on the right of the 37th, progressed steadily Until about 11-30 a.m., when the stubbornness of the opposition, coupled with a dearth of ammunition, brought their advance to a standstill. By 2 pm. the whole of the troops, with the exception of the Drake Battalion, had been absorbed into the firing line. The men were exhausted, and the few guns landed at the time were unable to afford them adequate artillery support. The small amount of transport available did not suffice to maintain the supply of munitions, and cartridges were running short despite all efforts to push them up from the landing places. Had it been possible to push in reinforcements in men, artillery, and munitions during the day, Krithia should have fallen, and much subsequent fighting for its capture would have been avoided. On April 29, April 30, and May 1 our positions were solidified, and more troops, &c., landed.


At 10 p.m. on May 1 the Turks opened a hot shell-fire upon our position, and half an hour later, just before the rise of the moon, they delivered a series of desperate attacks. The first momentum of this ponderous onslaught fell upon the right of the 86th Brigade, an unlucky spot, seeing all the officers thereabouts had already been killed or wounded. So when the Turks came right on without firing and charged into the trenches with the bayonet they made an ugly gap in the line. This gap was instantly filled by the 5th Royal Scots (Territorials), who faced to their flank and executed a brilliant bayonet charge against the enemy, and by the Essex Regiment detached for the purpose by the officer commanding the 88th Brigade. The rest of the British line held its own with comparative ease, and it was not found necessary to employ any portion of the reserve. About 5 a.m a counter-offensive was ordered, and the whole line began to advance. By 7-30 a.m. the British left had gained some 500 yards, and the centre had pushed the enemy back and inflicted heavy losses. The right also had gained some ground in conjunction with the French left, but the remainder of the French line was unable to progress. As the British centre and left were now subjected to heavy cross fire from concealed machine guns, it was found impossible to maintain the ground gained, and, therefore, about 11 a.m., the whole line withdrew to its former trenches.

The net result of the operations was the repulse of the Turks and the infliction upon them of very heavy losses.

The losses, exclusive of the French, during the period covered by this dispatch were, I regret to say, very severe, numbering —
       177 officers and 1,990 other ranks killed.
       412 officers and 7,807 other ranks wounded.
         13 officers and 3,580 other ranks missing.

Throughout the events I have chronicled the Royal Navy has been father and mother to the army. Not one of us but realises how much he owes to Vice-Admiral de Rebeck, to the warships, French and British, and to all their dauntless crews, who risked everything to give their soldier comrades a fair run in at the enemy.

Throughout these preparations and operations Monsieur le General d'Amade has given me the benefit of his wide experiences of war and has afforded me always the most loyal and energetic support. The landing of Kura Kale, planned by me as a mere diversion to distract the attention of the enemy was transformed by the commander of the Corps Expeditionaire de l'Orient into a brilliant operation which secured some substantial results. During the fighting which followed the landing of the French division at Sedd del-Bar no troops could have acquitted themselves more creditably than those under Monsieur le General d'Amade.

The beaches and landing places mentioned under letters throughout the despatch are —

S — A small beach in Morto Bay, by Eski Hissarlik.
V — Sandy beach, about 300 yards across, inside Sedd el-Bahr.
W — Sandy Bay, south of Tekke Barnu.
X — Half a mile north of this point, with a break on the cliffs.
Y — Mouth of a small stream two miles further up the coast.
Y — Scrub covered gully about a mile and a half further on.

Text: The Witness, 9th July 1915.
Image top: The Battle for Sari Bair by Terence Cuneo

Thursday 23 April 2015

The Real Hero of the War

There is an impression about that among the candidates for the position of real hero of the war King Albert might have a chance; or even Lord Kitchener or Sir John French. But I have my doubts, after all that I have heard — and I love to hear it and to watch the different ways in which the tellers narrate it: some so frankly proud, some just as proud, but trying to conceal their pride. After all that I have heard I am bound to believe that for the real hero of the war we must look elsewhere. Not much is printed of this young fellow's deeds; one gets them chiefly by word of mouth and very largely in club smoking-rooms. In railway carriages too, and at dinner-parties. These are the places where the champions most do congregate and hold forth. And from what they say he is a most gallant and worthy warrior. Versatile as well, for not only does he fight and bag his Bosch, but he is wounded and imprisoned. Sometimes he rides a motor cycle, sometimes he flies, sometimes he has charge of a gun, sometimes he is doing Red Cross work, and again he helps to bring up the supplies with the A.S.C. He has been everywhere. He was at Mons and he was at Cambrai. He marched into Ypres and is rather angry when the Germans are blamed for shelling the Cloth Hall, because he tells you that there was a big French gun firmly established behind it, and only by shelling the building could the enemy hope to destroy that dangerous piece of ordnance. He saw something of the bombardment of Rheims and he watched the monitors at work on the Belgian coast.

And not only does he perform some of the best deeds and often get rewarded for them, but he is a good medium for news too. He hears things. He's somewhere about when General ----------- says something of the deepest significance to General -----------. He knows men high up in the War Office. no refers lightly to Kitchener, and staff officers apparently tell him many of their secrets. He speaks quite casually and familiarly of Winston and what Winston said yesterday, for he often has the latest Admiralty news too. It was he who had the luck to be in the passage when Lord Fisher and another Sea Lord executed their historic waltz on the receipt of the news of Sturdee's coup. I don't pretend that he is always as worthy of credence as he was then; for he has spread some false rumours too. He was, in fact, one of the busiest eye-witnesses (once or twice removed) of the triumphant progress of millions of Russians through Scotland and England some months ago. He is not unaware of the loss of battleships of which nothing has yet been officially stated. In fact, his unofficial news is terrific and sometimes must be taken with salt. But denials do not much abash him. He was prepared for them and can explain them.

His letters are interesting and cover a vast amount of ground. They are sometimes very well written, and in differing moods be abuses the enemy and pities them. He never grumbles but is sometimes perplexed by overwork in the trenches. He hates having to stand long in water and has lost more comrades than he likes to think about. One day he was quite close to General Joffre, whom he regards as a sagacious leader, cautious and far-sighted; another day he was close to Sir John French, and nothing could exceed the confidence which his appearance kindled in him. On the morning of the King's arrival at the Front he was puzzled by the evolutions of our air scouts, who seemed to have gone mad; but it turned out that they were saluting His Majesty. Some of his last letters were from the neighbourhood of Auchy and described the fighting for the canal. He is a little inconsistent now and then, and one day says he has more cigarettes than he can smoke, and the next bewails the steady shortage of tobacco. As to his heroic actions he is reticent; but we know that many of the finest deeds have been performed by him. He has saved lives and guns and is in sight of the V.C.

And what is his name? Well, I can't say what his name is, because it is not always the same; but I can tell you how he is always described by those who relate his adventures, his prowess, his news, his suspicions and his fears. He is always referred to as "My son."

"My son," when all is said, is the real hero of the war.

Text: Punch, 30th December 1914. 
Image top: 'Over the top' by Alfred Bastien.
Image bottom: IWM  CO-2533 – Four Canadian soldiers, sleeping and writing letters in the trenches.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Historical Notice of the City of Dublin (pt3)

Gerald, 9th Earl of Kildare
In giving historical sketches of Dublin it may not be irrelevant to notice that branch of the Geraldine family so much connected with the City as being always their neighbours, often their champions, and very frequently their viceroys. The earls of Kildare commanding by their castles of Maynooth, Leixlip, Kilkea, &c. the approaches to the valley of the Liffey, and having a fixed residence at Thomas's Court adjoining the town, always occupied an important position in the good opinion and affections of the citizens. And indeed the peculiar characteristics of the family, which were well defined as the well known lines of a Fitzgerald's mind, seemed best suited to rivet popular affection, and secure for them 'golden opinions.' In the government of their retainers, mild – to their enemies stern – easily displeased – sooner appeased – warm friends and bitter foes – liberal, brave, pious, merciful – the anecdote recorded of Gerald, the eighth Earl, might be told of any other of the race. In a rage with one of his followers, an English horseman seeing the chafed earl in his fearful mood, offered Master Boice, a gentleman of his household, an Irish Hobby (Poney) on condition that he would go up to his lord and pluck a hair out of his black heard. Boice, who knew his master, and felt how far he might venture on a Geraldine's nature, even while boiling in the heat of his choler, approached his lord and said, "here, my master, is one who has promised me a choice horse, if I snip one hair out of your honor's chin." "One hair," quoth the earl – "I agree thereto, but mark me Boice, thou malapert varlet, if thou pluckest more than one, I promise thee to bring my fist from thine ear." But it is (pursuant to our promise) with Gerald, the ninth earl, and his son Thomas, that at present we have to do, and we present them as subjects of historical entertainment to our readers, because not only connected in a very interesting manner with the City of Dublin, but also with a very stirring period of Ireland's history. The civil wars of England being brought to a close by the accession of the House of Tudor, and the politic Henry the Seventh having seen the great value of Ireland, a system of government was commenced in his reign, and adhered to during the long reign of Henry the Eighth, of keeping up an English interest in Ireland, and managing the great Irish lords, whether Milesian or Anglo Irish, by creating and fostering jealousies amongst them, and alternately elevating or depriving the rival interests. In this way was Gerald, earl of Kildare, at one time favored, at another suspected; now lord deputy, now accused of treason; one while pursuing, as Chief Governor of the land, the rebel Irish; storming the strong-holds of the king's enemies in Munster and in Ulster, sending as the most acceptable of presents the grim head of Shane O'Toole, from the glen of Imale, to John Rockford, mayor of Dublin, and returning from all his hostings, as the historian of his day has it, "loaden with hostages, prey and glory" – again summoned to London to answer for his usurpations, and his correspondence with the enemies of the State, and finding Cardinal Wolsey his bitter as well as his able enemy. Wolsey, in order to conduct the English interest, had sent over a confidential person to Ireland, Dr. John Allen, who had been very active in England in the suppression of the monasteries – this clever and subtle man, appointed at the same time lord chancellor and archbishop of Dublin, acted as a counterpoise to the Geraldines, and reported all their conduct to his employer; therefore on the earl of Kildare's appearance before the Council Board of England, Wolsey, with that swelling hauteur that marked the purpled Churchman, and which gave occasion to the following couplet, not more remarkable for its alliteration than its bitterness –

  "Begot by butchers, but by bishops bred,
  "How high his honour holds his haughty head" –

accused the earl before the king in a taunting style that wounded the fierce, nobleman more than the matter of the allegation: conniving at the rebellious practises of the "lewd earl of Desmond, his kinsman," of acting "more as king of Kildare than the earl, reigning more than ruling in the land." To this the Geraldine most characteristically replies, "What is Kildare to blame for Desmond more than my good brother Ossory (Butler,) who, notwithstanding his high promises, having also the king's power, is yet content to bring him in at leisure? – cannot the earl of Desmond shift, but I must be of his council – cannot lie hide himself except I wink – if he be close, am I his mate – if he be befriended, am I a traitor? This is a doughty kind of accusation which they urge against me, wherein they are gravelled and moved at my first denial. You would not see him, say they. Who made them so familiar with mine eyesight – or where was the earl within my view – or who stood by, when I let him slip – or where are the tokens of my wilful hoodwink? But you sent him word to beware of you – who was the messenger – where are the letters – convince my negatives – see how loose the idle gear hangeth together – Desmond is not taken – well – you are in fault – why – because you are – who proveth it – nobody – what conjectures – so it seemeth – to whom – to your enemies – who told it them – they will swear it – what other ground – none." After for some time continuing in this strain to justify himself from this accusation, and others of the same nature, he in defending himself against the taunt of being king of Kildare, addresses himself to Wolsey and says, "I marvel greatly my Lord, that one of your Grace's wisdom should appropriate so sacred a name to so wicked a thing – but howsoever it be, my Lord, I would you and I had changed kingdoms but for one month, and I would trust to gather up more crumbs in that space than twice the revenues of my poor earldom. But you are well and warm, and so hold you, and upbraid not me with such an odious term. I slumber in a hard cabin when you sleep in a soft bed of down – I serve under the king's cope of heaven, when you are served under a canopy – I drink water out of my steel skull cap, when you drink wine out of golden cups – my horse is trained to the field when your jennet is taught to amble. When you are graced and my-lorded, and crouched, and kneeled unto, then I find small grace with our Irish Borderers, except I cut them off by the knees."

It may well be supposed how the English arch-prelate winced under this indignant reply of the Hibernian; accordingly lie adjourned the cause under pretence of waiting for further evidence, and had the earl remanded to the tower, from whence he was restored through interest made for him by the English nobility, but was again recommitted, and if Speed tells truth, a circumstance occurred, during his second detention in the tower, which, as giving another tint to the picture of a Geraldine, is worth the reader's perusal. The cardinal having got at length sure evidence, as he said, that Kildare had plotted with O'Neil and O'Connor, sent a mandate for his immediate execution. At the instant of the arrival of the fatal messenger, Fitzgerald was playing at push-groat with the lieutenant of the tower, who on reading the paper changed countenance, and shewed signs of great grief, whereupon Kildare swore by St. Bridget that there was some "mad game in that villian scroll. But come Master lieutenant, fall what will, this throw is for a huddle," and accordingly throwing he gained his groats. The game over, with great composure he listened to the contents of the letter, and had little difficulty in persuading his keeper to go to the king, and know from him personally whether he was to die; accordingly the officer went and had an interview with Henry, who, surprised at the mandate, which was surreptitiously obtained from him, and offended at the malice of the cardinal, and in order to control (as he said) the priest's sauciness, gave the lieutenant his signet for a countermand of execution, at which the cardinal stormed; but soon after his day of disgrace came, and Kildare restored to royal favour, returned to Ireland to assume the sword as lord deputy, and to stand at the head of the party opposed to the English interest there. The changeful story of this nobleman is not yet told – clever, dauntless, and victorious, he shone brighter when breaking forth from the cloud of adversity than when basking in unobstructed beams of good fortune. Hating the Butlers, more perhaps for enjoying the favor of Wolsey, than even from hereditary motives, he was not content with carrying his arms against the obstinate enemies of his king, the O'Neils and O'Connors; but with the royal forces he invaded Kilkenny, and destroyed all belonging to the Earl of Ossory and his party. Moreover, instead of devoting himself to restoring peace and prosperity to the distracted island, he made himself a mere partizan in the quarrels of the Milesian chieftains; and in. order to support his son-in-law, the Tanist of Ely, O'Carrol, against the son of the deceased chieftain of that district, who, being of age, and a competent man, had asserted his right, to succeed his father, he besieged the castle of Birr, held by the young O'Carrol, where he received a shot from a falcon in the head, that caused him to raise the siege, and so deranged his intellect, that hot and fiery as he was before, he now became more unruly, and committed errors and extravagancies that nearly brought about the destruction of his noble family.

On the occasion of his wound; there is an anecdote recorded of him that does not redound much to the credit of his good nature. When recovering a little from the stun of the bullet, he sighed deeply, which when one of his followers observed, he, in order to raise his lord's spirits, said – "Good, my lord, be not discouraged; for I myself have been shot three times, and yet have recovered – to which the angry lord replied – "Would to God thou hadst, received also the fourth shot in my stead!"

The extravagant use which Kildare made subsequently of his power as deputy, raised a host of enemies against him which he could not resist. The Earl of Ossory, Sir William Sheffington, and Allen, Archbishop of Dublin, formed a cabal to put an end to his administration; and John Allen, Master of the Rolls, a creature of the Archbishop, was sent over the water to complain to the king of how matters were managed in Ireland. To the ear of an English monarch, the report which this official gave of the decay of Ireland, must have been in no small degree vexatious. He acquainted his majesty, that "neither English order, tongue, or habit, nor the king's laws, were used above twenty miles in compass; that the decay was occasioned by the takers of coyne and livery,1 without order after mens' own sensual appetites, and taking cuddies garty, and caan for felonies, and murder, alterages, saults, slaunciaghs, &c. &c. and that they want English inhabitants, who formerly had arms and servants to defend the country; but of late the English proprietors hath taken Irish tenants, that can live without bread or good victuals, and some for lucre, [it seems that the Irish landlord has been always pretty nearly of the same character,] to have more rent, and some for impositions and vassalages, which the English cannot bear – have expelled the English, and made the country all Irish, without order, society, or hospitality. Formerly, English gentlemen kept a retinue of English yeomen, according to the custom of England, to the great security of the country; but now they keep horsemen, or kernes, who live by oppressing the people. The great jurisdiction of the nobility is another cause of destroying the king's subjects, and revenue, and the black rents which the Irish exact, enriches them, and impoverishes the English."

Thomas, 10th Earl of Kildare
It is not to be wondered at, that upon such a report being made, the Lord Deputy should be summoned to London, to account for his administration. This mandate he most unwillingly, and after much evasion, obeyed; and being permitted to name his successor, on an undertaking of being accountable for his conduct, he had the hardihood to nominate his eldest son Thomas, a young man of one-and-twenty, who possessed all the qualities peculiar to his house, together with an excessive rashness and sensitiveness of character that made him altogether unsuitable to govern Ireland. Perhaps, says the historian, this promising young Geraldine would have exceeded his ancestors, if by laying the too great burthen on his weak shoulders, they had not broken his back in the beginning. In our next sketch we shall give an account of the government, rebellion, and destruction of this tenth Earl of Kildare, who, as we have before reported, went by the name of Silken Thomas.

[1] Hereafter we shall give a particular explanation of these terms, which so frequently occur in Irish history. For the present let it be understood to mean all the licence of the free quartering of military men upon a wretched peasantry.

Source: The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Jul. 21, 1832)

Thursday 9 April 2015

Historical Notice of the City of Dublin (pt 2)

We now take up the history of Dublin from the period of the Anglo-Norman conquest; and in thus approaching nearer to our own times, we crave the indulgence of the reader, and hope that we will be enabled to state truths without indicating any bias.

No king, perhaps, ever gained so important a possession as Ireland, at so little personal expense, as did Henry the Second of England. While with all his chivalry, and the flower of his dominions, he was vainly endeavouring to preserve France as part and parcel of the British empire, a few of his subjects on the marches of Wales had won for him apparently against his consent, an island without which the empire must have been incomplete, even though France had been retained. The Plantagenet, though he affected to be angry until Strongbow and the extraordinary handful of men who had secured Dublin and the east of Ireland for him, was not slow in proceeding to take possession in person of the crown that was thus won. On landing at Waterford, he immediately went on to Dublin, attended by Strongbow, and having in his train a gallant body of the Anglo-Norman nobility, and a small but well appointed army. When he reached the metropolis, he summoned the Irish kings to meet him, which was obeyed by the kings of Meath, Brefney, (Longford,) Uriel, (Louth,) and many others. But O'Connor, the Irish monarch, would not trust himself on the eastern side of the Shannon, and made his submission to Hugh de Lacy, who was commissioned to receive it, acknowledging Henry as his liege lord. Dublin, at the period of the Plantagenet's arrival, did not contain a house fit to receive a King, or capable of exhibiting those festive hospitalities which, as a King, he was determined to display to his new subjects. Therefore, outside the walls, in what was then called Hoggin, but now College Green, a large temporary building was erected, composed of wattles plastered with clay. In this pavillion, run up after Irish fashion, Henry kept his Christmas. Within these rude walls, hung with the draperies of Flanders, and with the gorgeous plate and household decorations of France and Italy, he dazzled, while he feasted the Irish chieftains, and confirmed them in the opinion of his wealth and power. Having established courts of justice, granted English laws, which were accepted, and held a Parliament, according to the existing Anglo-Norman constitution, and after staying a few months, he hurried back to the peculiar field of his ambition -- Normandy; leaving Dublin, not under the government of Strongbow, for of him he was ever jealous, but of Hugh de Lacy, Robert Fitzstephen and Maurice Fitzgerald, who, for their talents, rank and possessions, amongst the Anglo-Norman conquerors of Ireland, he supposed would prove a counterpoise to the power of Strongbow. Henry, though he accepted the conquest of Ireland because it cost him little, and though he had cunning enough to see that it was worth something, yet actuated by his mean parsomony, political views, and perhaps a low estimate of the real value of our country, determined that the private individuals at whose risk it was obtained, should also be at the expense of preserving what was already mastered, and of subduing the rest. So, after bringing over a colony from Bristol to settle in Dublin, and occupy the place of the evicted Ostmen, he distributed immense territories to the grandees who had first invaded, and gained a footing on our isle. To Strongbow he gave all Leinster; to De Lacy, Meath; to De Courcy, Ulster; and to Robert Fitz Stephen and Miles de Cogan, Cork. Thus he laid the foundation of that great Anglo-Norman aristocracy, or rather oligarchy, who ever at war with the Irish or the crown, were the chief cause of the unquiet state of Ireland for five hundred years.

It is not within our scope to enter into detail on the annals of Dublin, because, in fact, there is not a great deal that is really historically interesting. The colony of Bristollians settled under Henry's encouragement and charter, seemed to have amalgamated readily with the Irish and Ostman remnant that remained in the city after the seizure of it by Miles de Cogan. The walls being strengthened, and the Castle of Dublin commenced in 1205, by Meyler Fitz Henry, and completed in 1220 by Henry de Londres, the Archbishop, and rendered a respectable fortress, the citizens of Dublin were found to be of great use in maintaining the English power in Ireland. They went forth from the Lords lieutenants and Lords deputies, in carrying the war beyond the pale, and in breaking the hostile confederacies of the Anglo-Irish or Milesian chieftains; and the fame of their martial prowess went before them beyond the Shannon, and as far as the Giant's Causeway. On these occasions the martial force of Dublin consisted of twenty companies, drawn from the Corporations, and headed by their Masters as Captains, and bearing before them their black standard, which, as Stanihurst says, was "ragged and jagged, and almost by the rough tract of time, worn to the bare stumps." This array was always beheld by their enemies with particular respect and dread, and it was not alone the Byrnes or the O'Tooles that were kept by them in check, but the farthest north had reason to feel their power.

The particular day for mustering the martial array of Dublin was Easter Monday, which is still called Black Monday, for the following reason: the Bristollians, to whom Henry the Second had granted the city, and who now in fact composed the majority of the citizens, had introduced a sport which appears to have been lost in England, but is to this day a favorite game with the Irish -- the hurling of balls on an extensive green. In the year 1209, a party of the citizens having challenged another party to a hurling match on Easter Monday, they fixed on an open space, now Cullenswood, which then stretched from within two miles of the Castle of Dublin to the Wicklow mountains. Here, while unarmed, and deeply engaged in this beautiful and interesting game, they were set upon by the Byrnes and the O'Tooles, and a dreaded slaughter ensued.1

It was chiefly owing to the defensive precautions of the Dublin citizens, and to their reputation for discipline and valour, that Edward Bruce failed in his attempt at making Ireland an appendage to the Scottish crown. He had engaged in his alliance, all Ireland north of Dublin, and had marched (A.D. 1316) as far as Castlenock, within four miles of the city. But the townsmen having set fire to the suburbs, demolished Thomas-street, and even in the ardour of defence having pulled down part of a monastery of Dominican friars to strenghten the fortifications. Bruce saw that he had no chance, and under the mixed discouragement of his failure and want of provisions, he was forced to retreat to Ulster, where he was finally defeated. Thus this brief but dangerous attempt of the Scotch on Ireland was frustrated: and the good citizens of Dublin, in suing out their pardon from the king for demolishing part of their town, and making submission to the Church for delapidating a holy house, doubtless mixed no little pride with their penance, as having made sacrifices in their country's cause.

But this was not the only occasion on which the Dublinians committed acts which compromised them with both Crown and Church. They unfortunately engaged in the long feud that was carried on in the fifteenth century, between the earls of Kildare and Ormond, taking part with the Geraldine against the Butler. On a certain occasion they tore the earl of Ormonde from the sanctuary at Mary's Abbey, and breaking open the door, they not only did violence to him, but to the Abbot, carrying him forth from his own altar as they would a corpse. For this the mayor and sheriffs had to do public penance, walking barefoot through the streets of the city, from Patrick's church to Christ's church, and so on to Mary's Abbey. But this was not all. In a quarrel which took place between Ormonde and Kildare in st. Patrick's church, the citizens, who thought their favorite Geraldine in danger, actually discharged a flight of arrows in the sanctuary, at Ormonde's retinue, some of which having stuck in the sacred images that were kept in the rood loft, complaint was made to the Pope, and a legate a latere was sent to make inquisition into the matter. The citizens could only be absolved by their undertaking that their mayor should ever afterwards, in detestation of the enormity, walk barefooted through the city in open procession, on Corpus Christi day. Indeed in these primitive times the ecclesiastical discipline under which good people were kept, was by no means light; and perhaps the world is not much better since the Church's discipline has been relaxed. What, for instance, would the worthy people of Dublin in the nineteenth century say, if subjected to the penalties for sinning to which their forefathers of the thirteenth century were bound? The Black Book of Christ's church records the following ordinance:-- "If any citizen committed a public sin, he should for the said offence commute for a sum of money; if he continued in his sin, and that the same was enormous and public, that then ('fustigetur') he should be cudgelled about the church; that for a third offence he should be cudgelled before the processions made to St. Patrick's or Christ's church; and if after his penance he should persist in his sin, the Official of the Archbishop should give notice of it to the mayor, and bailiffs, who should either turn him out of the city, or cudgel him through it."

But Dublin fell into a worse scrape than any that have been mentioned. In the year 1486, the citizens, encouraged by the influence and example of the earl of Kildare and the Archbishop, received Lambert Simnel, and actually crowned him king of England and Ireland, in Christ's church; and to make the solemnity more imposing, they carried the young imposter on the shoulders of a monstrous man, one Darcy, of Platten, in the county of Meath; and being in want of a crown, they borrowed one for the occasion from the head of the image of the blessed Virgin that stood in the church dedicated to her service at Dame's-gate.2 But the townsmen soon finding out their error, and feeling that they had to do with a prince of the house of Tudor, who was both resolute and wise, (Henry the Seventh) tendered their humble apology and submission in the following words:-- "We were daunted to see not only your chief governor, whom your highness made ruler over us, to bend the knee to this idol, but also our father of Dublin, and most of the clergy of the nation, except his Grace the Archbishop of Armagh. We therefore humbly crave your highness's clemency towards your poor subjects of Dublin." The prayer of this petition his majesty was pleased to accede to, though the citizens were not entitled to pardon on the plea of benefit of clergy, for many who affixed their marks to the instrument could not write.3

But we must conclude for this number, promising our readers a treat when we come to give the history of Silken Thomas, -- Thomas Fitzgerald, lord deputy of Ireland, -- who was so called from the splendour of his military trappings and his gallant and noble bearing. His life and fate are highly interesting, and will adorn a page of our little Journal. In the mean time, hoping that our readers will not complain that we are either dry or tedious, we bid them good-bye -- for a week.

[1] It may interest the reader to peruse the quaint description that Stanihurst gives of this affair:-- "The citizens, having ever great affiance in the multitude of the people, and so consequently being somewhat retchless (reckless) in heeding the mountain enemie, that lurched rude, their noses, were wont to roam and royle in clusters, sometimes three and four myles from towne. The Irish enemy espying that the citizens were accustomed to fetch such odd vagaries on holydays, and having an inkling withal by the means of some claterfert (traitor) or other that a company of them would range abroad, on Monday in the easter week, towards the woode of Cullen, they lay in a state very well appointed, and layde in sundry places for their coming. The citizens rather minding the pleasure they should presently enjoy than forecasting the hurt that might ensue, flockt unarmed from the citie to the woode. Where, being intercepted by their lying in ambush, they were to the number of five hundred miserably slayne. The citizens, deeming that unluckie tyme to be a cross or dismall day, gave it the appellation of Black Monday. The citie, being soon after peopled by a fresh supply of Bristollians, to dare the Irish enemie, agreed to bancket yearly in that place. For the mayor and the sheriffes, with the citizens, repayre to the Woode of Cullen, in which place the mayor bestoweth a costly dinner within a moate or roundell, and both the sheriffs within another, where they are so well guarded by the youth of the citie, as the mountain enemie dareth not attempt to snatch as much as a pastye crust from thence."

[2] This gate was so called from the church of St. Mary les Dame that adjoined it.

[3] Our readers are aware that benefit of clergy was extended to those only who could read and write.

Text: The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Jul. 7, 1832)

Thursday 2 April 2015

Historical Notice of the City of Dublin

The period of the foundation of our City is involved in as much obscurity as the etymology of its name. It may easily be supposed that men would congregate at such a convenient spot for fishing and commerce as the ridge of land that rose above the last place where the Liffey was fordable, before it joined the sea; and therefore it is very probable that such a position, presenting means of safety and support, of offence and defence, was very early seized on. The geographer Ptolemy places (A.D. 140,) a town exactly in the parallel of Dublin, and calls it "Civitas Eblana." Our city therefore has a just claim to an antiquity of seventeen centuries. But we are inclined to suppose that though the Greek cosmo-grapher had good reason to lay down such a place as "Civitas Eblana," yet it is to the Vikingar — pirates, or "Sea-Kings," of Scandinavia — that the settlement of Dublin, as a place of commerce, and as a fortified town, may be attributed.

These bold intelligent Ostmen, (as the Scandinavians were called by the Irish, because they came from a comparatively Eastern country,) saw that Dublin harbour was one of the best, and the river Liffey one of the most commodious, and the valley of Dublin one of the most fertile, in the island. They therefore selected this central position, and landed their troops, where, according to custom, they erected a fortified Rath; and on that ridge that hangs over the lowest ford of the Liffey, on the exact spot where the Cathedral of Christ's Church now stands, they excavated large vaults or crypts, in one of which St. Patrick, the apostle of Ireland, is said to have celebrated the sacred offices of his religion.1 Here they deposited the produce of their commerce and their plunder, and used to retreat to them on occasion of any sudden invasion of their enemies.

But very probably, it is to the sea-king, Avellanus, that we owe the establishment of our city as a place of military and commercial importance. He, with his brethren, Siterick and Yvorus, having heard from their roving countrymen of the fertility and capabilities of the green western isle, landed a fresh swarm from the Baltic, and proceeded to win, by their swords or their policy, a settlement in Ireland. Yvorus, who was doubtless the more cautious of the three, and had a good military eye, pitched on Limerick; Siterick, struck with the great commercial advantages that the junction of the Nore, the Suir, and the Barrow, presented, sailed up that fine estuary, and landed at Waterford; but Avellanus, with the eye of a king, saw at once that neither the waters of the Shannon or the Suir would answer his purpose; and so he selected that spot where the Awn-Liffey ceased to be navigable, and on the rising ground that rose from its southern bank, he planted himself, convinced that if ever Ireland was to come under the sway of one monarch, it would become the seat of the metropolis of the island. Stanihurst, on the authority of Giraldus Cambrensis, asserts that the city owes its name to this Avellanus, and with the license of an etymologist deduces it in this way:—
But this surely cannot be the derivation: for Ptolemy, upwards of six hundred years before, called it Eblana Civitas. Probably the author of the life of St. Kevin gives the best derivation. Speaking about St. Garban, he says, "he lived near Ath Cliath, which is also called by the Irish, Dubh Lein, signifying the dark bath." Now any one who observes the Liffey may see good reason why the ford over this unusually dark flowing stream might be called the black bathing place.2

Stanihurst, with his usual quaintness, in commenting on the wise choice of Avellanus, says, "The Dane did well — for our city is of all sides pleasant, comfortable, and wholesome: if you would traverse hills, they are not far off; if champaign ground, it lieth of all parts; if you be delighted with water, the famous river called the Liffey, named of Ptolemy Lybinum, runneth fast by; if you will take a view of the sea, it is at hand."

The Ostmen, then, may be considered as the founders and colonizers of Dublin, as indeed they were of the most important towns in Ireland, such as Cork, Waterford, Limerick, &c. &c. for the same Stanihurst observes, that "until the arrival of the Danes, such means of strength the Irish had not, for until these days they knew no defence but woods, bogs, and strokes." The colonization of the Danes in Dublin and other maritime places had no doubt a great effect on the character of the Irish. Their commerce with the Ostmen in peace made them more acquainted with the wants of civilized life, and their contests in war made them more expert in the art of attack and defence. But nothing could effect a continued unity of purpose among the Irish chieftains. The Danish king, acting under the same wily policy as the English used long afterwards in India, at one time mediated between the contending chiefs, and at another time sided with the weakest, occasionally protected a usurper, or set himself up as the avenger of blood. Thus did he establish his influence, and strengthen his kingdom; and long after the Danish power was broken in the interior of the island, the Ostmen still remained firm in Dublin. In vain did the Airdrigh (Monarch) call together the Righbegs (petty kings) to unite in expelling the stranger from their shores. The Dubh Gael and the Fin Gael,3 (for so in these days were the Norwegians distinguished from the Dane) still kept possession of their strong hold, Dublin, and the surrounding territory; and not even the just vengeance of O'Melaghlin, king of Meath, nor the Munster confederacy, cemented by the talents and the military prowess of Brian Boro, could effect the purpose. It was reserved for those mailed warriors, the Normans, who had acquired by their settlement in France, and their achievements in Italy, all the arts of civilized warfare, and the discipline connected with chivalrous training, without losing any of their Scandinavian hardihood, to upset the Ostman power in Dublin.

During the period immediately preceding the Anglo-Norman conquest, the Danes or Ostmen of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, more especially of Dublin, living-under a polity, civil, military and ecclesiastical, quite distinct from the Milesian kingdoms into which Ireland was divided, kept up an active and close correspondence with their kindred settlements in the Isle of Man, the Orkneys, and England. A barbarous and insulting murder first brought the Anglo-Normans to the Danish gates. Dermot M'Murrough, in revenge for the assassination of his father, (whom the citizens of Dublin had invited to a feast, and taking advantage of his security, not only slew him, but buried his body in a dunghill along with a dog,) joined with the Normans, commanded by the redoubtable Miles de Cogan, and marched to Dublin. O'Connor, the monarch of Ireland, saw that if the Normans were successful, they would keep the city, and thinking that old enemies were better than new ones, and not choosing to let them get the key of Ireland into their hands, marched with an immense force to protect the city, and at Clondalkin waited the approach of the enemy. But on the arrival of king Dermot of Leinster, with his allies, the appearance of the English warriors, steel-clad from head to foot, struck such terror into the undisciplined and disunited Irish, who were without defensive armour, that they did not stand the shock, but fled before their foes. Dublin did not share a better fate. While the citizens were parleying with a herald, and disputing about the terms of surrender, the fierce Miles de Cogan burst with his men over the city wall, and sacked the town. The Ostman king, Asculph M'Torcall, escaped with difficulty to his shipping in the bay — and thus Dublin changed its masters.

But it was too valuable a possession to be allowed to remain quietly in the hands of its new occupiers. The Norman adventurers, under their leader, Strongbow, had fallen under the jealous displeasure of king Henry II. of England, who ordered them to return home, and while they were hesitating what to do, O'Connor, the Irish monarch, entered into a confederacy with the ejected Ostman king of Dublin, who had gone amongst his Danish allies in the north to raise supplies, and having summoned the largest army ever before collected in Ireland, surrounded the city, and cut off its supplies. Lawrence O'Toole, the Archbishop of Dublin, true to the Milesian cause, and patriotically anxious to get rid of the English, did all he could to persuade Strongbow to surrender, who, seeing the difficulties he had to encounter, was inclined to take the advice: but unfortunately, the Irish, not knowing the enemy they had to deal with, insisted on such extravagant terms, that they were rejected; and Miles de Cogan, the bravest of these Anglo-Normans, advised a sudden and desperate sally upon the Irish. Accordingly five hundred men, led on by Cogan, supported by Strongbow, and Raymond le Gros, broke in upon the Irish lines at Finglas — and this handful of determined and desperate men actually routed the Irish host, and nearly took king O'Connor prisoner, who at the time was enjoying the luxury of a bath.

The Irish army were scarcely dispersed, when M'Torcall appeared with his Ostman shipping and forces in the river. These were so numerous, that he had full expectation of recovering his lost city; and had he arrived in time, and joined in the attack with the Irish monarch, there is every reason to suppose that the Norman-English would have been driven out of the country. But the fortune of war was otherwise. There is a great deal of romantic interest attached to this last struggle of the Danes with the Anglo-Normans. As Strongbow had his brave and valiant knight, the indomitable Miles de Cogan, so M'Torcall was attended by a Scandinavian, named John le Dane, or John the Mad. Maurice Regan reports that this northern Hector was of such enormous prowess, that with one blow of his battle-axe he could cut the thigh bones of the horsemen like cheese, and their legs would fall off like so many cabbage-stalks to the ground. Thus these two fierce knights were matched together, and dreadful must have been the struggle as they met
"Foot to foot and hand to hand."
But this is not the only romantic circumstance attending this celebrated engagement. A petty king of the name of Gille Mo Holmock, of Ostman descent, but who had adopted the manners, dress, and habits of the Irish, and who governed a district not far from Dublin, came and offered the English his assistance. "No," says Miles de Cogan, in the pride of his knighthood, "we won't have your help!" (perhaps he distrusted him,) "all we want you to do is this: if we beat the Danes, cut off their retreat to their ships, and help us to kill them; and if we he defeated, and are forced to fly, why, fall on us, and cut our throats, sooner than let us he taken prisoners by these pirates."

The performance of these conditions Gille Mo Holmock swore to observe, and he stood aloof while the Ostmen marched to assault Dublin. The assault was made at Dame Gate, and the furious onset was headed by-John le Dane, but Miles de Cogan stood there to oppose him, just where the entrance to the Lower Castle Yard now is. But in the meantime, the Norman knights, who had learned in the battle fields of Italy and France the military arts and stratagems by which superior numbers may he matched and overpowered, made, under the command of Richard de Cogan, a sally from the postern then called Pole Gate, at the foot of Ship-street, and taking a circuit through the fields whereon now stand Stephens-street and Georges-street, John le Dane was attacked both in flank and front. This decided the day. John le Dane was slain by Miles de Cogan, and M'Torcall was taken prisoner by Richard de Cogan, and hanged the next morning; while Gille Mo Holmock, true to his promise, fell upon the retreating Danes, and cut them to pieces, so that few escaped to their ships in the Liffey.

Thus ended the dominion of the Sea-Kings in Ireland. Henceforward the history of Ireland is connected with the Anglo-Normans or English; but as our space is limited, we must suspend our continuation of the History of Dublin, till our next Number; and after we have concluded it, we will take up the history of all the great towns and cities in Ireland, presenting a short but clear account of Irish customs, manners, fortunes, and adventures.

[1] Over one of these early Danish vaults or fornices, or crypts, sanctified, as tradition says, by the consecration of St. Patrick, Sictricus, son of Avellanus, king of the Ostmen of Dublin, built Christ's Church. There are still many of these under ground Danish depositories in Ireland, of which we may very probably give some account in our Journal. In the county Antrim we have seen them, where they are called Picts' holes. Within six miles of Dublin, and adjoining the beautiful village of Lucan, there is a fine and commanding Danish Rath, in the centre of which there is one of those artificial caves spoken of above. About twenty years ago, the author of this article was shown a very large and double circular cave in the side of the hill between Rathcoole and Naas, a few hundred yards from the ten-mile stone in that line of road.

[2] The other and more ancient name Bally Ath Cliath, the town of the ford of hurdles, arose from a common practice of the Irish who used to make muddy rivers, such as the Liffey was, near its junction with the sea, and near bogs and marshes, fordable by means of hurdles or kishes laid down where they desired to pass. It was a rude substitute for a bridge, and did more mischief than perhaps those who laid them down thought of — for the course of rivers was impeded, bogs formed, and swamps established.

[3] The Fin Gael were settled in that broad and fertile plain that stretched north of the Liffey, until it meets the high lands that hang over the Boyne. The inhabitants of this district form a distinct race to this day, and evince a marked difference from the natives of Meath and Louth, not only in their habits of industry, but also in their personal appearance. The Dubh Gael were settled In those parts south and west ot Dublin, joining Wicklow and Kildare.

From The Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Jun. 30, 1832)