Battle of Scimitar Hill, Suvla.

Sat, 08/21/1915 - Sun, 08/22/1915

GallipHills(Above, looking north from Hill 60. In the middle distance are W Hills, Green Hill, Chocolate Hill, Salt Lake and Lala Baba near the beach. Between and behind the first two is Scimitar Hill)(© IWM (Q 14458)).

Following a preparatory but ineffective (blind) artillery shoot starting at 1430 hours on 21 August 1915, the 87 Brigade attack on Hill 70, or Scimitar Hill, began at 1500 hours. The strength of the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was 19 officers and 758 other ranks.

The 29th Division attack against the Anafarta Ridge's Hill 100 and Hill 70 (the latter known as Scimitar Hill due to its shape) was part of the last major offensive mounted at Suvla in the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War. It became the largest one-day attack ever launched by the Allies at Gallipoli and its immediate aim, in concert with attacks on the W Hills by the 11th Division and Hill 60 by the ANZAC force (that included the Connaught Rangers), was to capture the Turkish-held ground that threatened the Suvla landing area. It was also an attempt to capture ground that would link the 29th Division and the ANZAC force to the south.

At 1530 hours, A, B, and D Company 1st Inniskillings passed through the Kings Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) to assault Hill 70, and advanced through the burning scrub that had been ignited by shellfire. After 400 yards they emerged from the cover of the scrub to be engaged by a devastating enemy fire that inspired a charge for the relative safety of the enemy's first trench, entering it around 1540 hours. Although then beaten back, the Inniskillings rallied within 150 yards of the top of the hill and, when the KOSB and the South Wales Borderers (SWB) moved up in support, another charge for the crest was made.

Unfortunately, it failed as depth positions brought deadly direct fire to bear while the immediate enemy stood on their parapets firing from the hip and throwing hand grenades. Accurate enemy shrapnel also inflicted heavy casualties. As the neighbouring 11th Division's attack faltered, the Inniskillings on Scimitar Hill were coming under fire from Turkish positions higher up the Anafarta Spur to the east and from the W Hills to the south. Elements of A and B Company, with some KOSB and others, grouped under cover of a small nullah, on the right just below the crest line of the hill, where they reorganised and attempted to form a firing line. This group held their position awaiting the development of a charge that was made at about 1900 hours and succeeded in reaching the first trench, which the enemy abandoned. However, the group was driven from the second trench and once more was forced to withdraw to its previous position. It was at this point that 87 Brigade's battalions consolidated gains and dug in. Their situation then became more perilous when the blazing scrub invaded their positions.

At 2300 hours, the 1st Inniskillings, ordered to withdraw when relieved by the remnants of KOSB and SWB, moved to reorganise at the rear of the KOSB. As the Inniskillings retired they collected tools and every two Fusiliers carried down one wounded. The remnants were collected and retired to bivouac at 0100 hours. The next Roll Call revealed that there remained only 4 officers and 230 other ranks. Once they were reorganised, parties of six men with blankets and capes ventured throughout the night to recover the wounded, many of whom had already perished, having been engulfed by the blazing scrub.

It was during this battle that Captain Gerald O'Sullivan VC came forward to a group of some fifty to urge them on with the words, 'One more charge for the honour of the Old Regiment' and then led them in one final desperate charge over the crest, which none of them survived except one wounded sergeant. Captain O'Sullivan's body was never recovered, and he is remembered on a panel of the Helles Memorial.