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Thursday 8 December 2016

Gallipoli was 'Ireland's D-Day' - only 11 out of 1,000 Dubs in invasion came home unharmed

Taken before he went to Gallipoli. Cecil Grimshaw with sons Tommy (older) and George
Taken before he went to Gallipoli. Cecil Grimshaw with sons Tommy (older) and George
Scene form Gallopoli

More than 1,000 members of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers were thrown into the bloody World War One battle at Gallipoli, but only 11 remained unharmed after nine months of slaughter.

Now, 100 years on, new book Beneath a Turkish Sky by author Philip Lecane tells the story of the Dublin troops who were almost wiped out in the ill-fated invasion of Turkey.

Philip, who visited Gallipoli five times during his research, said he is "haunted by the place".

Some 3,000 Irish troops were among the 56,000 Allied soldiers killed at Gallipoli.

Almost the same number of Turkish soldiers were killed defending their homeland in the nine months before the Allies finally gave up.

"In a way, it was Ireland's D-Day," said Philip.

trench

Deadlocked in trench warfare on the Western Front in France, the British High Command hoped to knock Germany's ally Turkey out of the war by capturing Constantinople, now Istanbul.

The attack was badly planned and poorly executed.

On April 25, 1915, British troops, including the Irish battalions, landed on five beaches and Australian and New Zealand troops landed on a sixth.

At Sedd el Bahr, the plan called for most of the Dublin Fusiliers to go ashore in rowing boats while the Munster Fusiliers and one company of the Dubs were packed aboard a coal ship, the SS River Clyde.

The British High Command believed the Turks were poor soldiers who would not put up much resistance.

"They could not have been more wrong. The Irish troops met with a withering fire from the Turkish defenders," said Philip.

"The Dubs were shot down in the row boats, with their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Rooth, being killed at the water's edge.

"The battalion chaplain, Fr William Finn, was killed while ministering to his beloved Dubs."

The chaplain had insisted on going ashore, saying that "the priest's place is with the dying soldier". The pilot of a British plane that flew over the battle said "the beach was absolutely red with blood".

The following day, as the Irishmen fought their way off the beach, Corporal William Cosgrove of the Munster Fusiliers cut his way through barbed wire under heavy fire and was awarded the Victoria Cross.

"Dubliner Major Cecil Grimshaw was killed while leading his Dubs in the final assault," said Philip.

"While the story of Gallipoli is well-known to every Australian child and adult, it is only just coming to be remembered in Ireland."

Beneath a Turkish Sky is available in bookshops, on Amazon and on Kindle

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