Sikhs In The Army

Gallipoli

14th Sikh Regiment

14th King George's Own Ferozepore Sikhs

The Battle of Krithia (Gallipoli) 1915

 

Sir lan Hamilton had decided to carry out a general attack on the 4th of June with the object of gaining ground along the whole length of the Allied Forces at Helles.

On the front of the Indian Brigade, the open ground on Gully Spur sloped up towards two lines of Turkish trenches known as J  10 and J 1 1. Gully ravine was about seventy-five yards wide and forty to fifty feet deep, the lower portion being covered with low scrib. The Turks were known to have several small trenches in this ravine. Some enemy machine guns were also reported to be hidden on the sides commanding the approaches up the gully. The fire from the trenches J 10 and J 1 1 on Gully Spur, could sweep not only the bottom of the ravine but also the flat eastern slope and the ground beyond as far as the crest line. The artillery bombardment, which took place according to plan, produced little effect on the enemy in his strong trenches.

     At 1200 hours the first wave of the Indian Brigade dashed forward to attack. The Lanca¬shire Fusiliers were moved down by enemy fire as they left trenches. Therefore, throughout the day they were unable to make any progress. The 6th Gurkhas on the left gained some ground, but were forced eventually to withdraw to their original line.

In Gully Ravine Lieut Colonel Jacques led No. 2 Double Com¬pany of the 14th King George's Own Ferozepore Sikhs with a gallant dash in the face of very heavy fire. They encountered numerous machine guns in hidden positions on both sides of the Ravine. The Double Company suffered heavy casual¬ties while trying to cut its way through the enemy wire Never¬theless, the Sikhs, displaying great resolution eventually forced their way across the wire and pushed on. Atone place where they were held up along the barbed wire, Havildar Maghar Singh suddenly leapt over the obstacle, as if it was a hurdle, and followed by his section, captured an enemy trench.

On the right of Gully Ravine No. 4 Double Company of the 14th Sikhs advanced on the left of the Worcestershire Regiment. This Company sustained very severe casualties from machine guns located on Gully spur. Lieutenant Fowle was killed and 2nd Lieutenant Savory was wounded in the first few minutes. Continuing the assault the remnants eventually captured and held the enemy's front trench alongside the Worcesters.

At 1215 hours the second wave of the attack dashed forward according to plan. No. 3 Double Company of 14th Sikhs accompanied by Colonel Palin and Battalion Headquarters advanced up the Gully Ravine and joined the remnants of No. 2 Double Company. Colonel Palin, seeing that further progress up the Gully Ravine was impossi¬ble until the enemy trenches J 10 and J 1 1 were captured, immediately seized a small spur just south of J 10. Here the Sikhs suffered further losses. Captain McRae, Lieutenant Cremen (the Adjutant) and Lieutenant Meade (the Quartermaster) were all killed. Nevertheless, the Sikhs held on and  entrenched the position. Later in the afternoon the Battalion's own two machine guns, and two machine guns from a Royal Navy unit, joined Colonel Palin and helped to strengthen the position.

Meanwhile, on the right Captain Engledue led No 1 Double Company forward behind No. 4 Double Company and captured the second and third lines of enemy trenches. This Double Company also 'sustained heavy casualties in its deter¬mined attack on the enemy. By the afternoon it consisted only of Captain Engledue, Jemadar Narain Singh and some thirty men. This small party held the captured trench in spite of continuous enemy efforts to force their   way back from Gully Ravine.

During the afternoon efforts were made to continue the attack along the whole Brigade front by sending up, reinforce¬ment, but all attempts failed, Although the Turks made no counter on No. 1 Double Com¬pany on the right during the night, Colonel Palin and his: men were attacked time and again from Gully Spur   and subjected to almost continuous fire..This party suffered further casualties during these attacks and the two naval machine guns and one of the Sikhs guns were knocked out by enemy bombs. But the Sikhs hold on stubbornly to their trenches. By dawn on the 5th of June, Lieutenant Cursetjee and forty seven unwounded men were left with Colonel Palin.

In the meantime the Turks renewed their attacks on Captain, Engledue's party which had been by this time reduced to twelve men.

By midday on the 5th of June the remnants of 14th Sikhs collected in their original trenches and were then ordered back to reorganise.

When Lieutenant Mathew, the battalion Machine Gun Officer, heard that one gun had been left undamaged at, the position, he insisted on leading a party to recover it. With his men he succeeded in reaching the gun. As each  man carrying the gun was hit, another took his place until finally Mathew alone was left unhurt. He then tried to bring the gun back personally but in doing so was hit at seven places. He died of his wounds later in the hospital.

. During one of these attacks on Colonel Palin's party, on the evening of the 4th June, a Sikh firing from the trench next to Lieutenant Cursetjee, suddenly fell back and said he was hit in the head. There was mark on his turban and no sign of any bleeding. Cursetjee, therefore, told him to continue firing. The next afternoon, when the Sikhs were all washing in the stream that flowed through the gully, this man ran up to Lieutenant Cursetjee, nearby, and said:    Look! you said 1 was not hit last evening", and he held up the "Kanga" with a bullet embedded in it.

In this battle the 14th Sikhs lost three hundred and seventy one officers and men killed or wounded. Out of the fifteen officers only Colonel Palin Captain Engledue and Lieutenant Cursetjee did not have battle wounds

In 1915, writing to the Commander in Chief soon after the third battle of Krithia (4 June 1915), General Sir Ian Hamilton paid noble tribute to the heroism of all ranks of the Ferozepore Sikhs. Some passages of his letter read :  

"In the highest sense of the word extreme gallantry has been shown by this fine Battalion. In spite of these tremendous losses there was not a sign of wavering all day. Not an inch of ground gained was given up and not a single straggler came back. The ends of the enemy's trenches into leading into the ravine were found to be blocked with the bodies of Sikhs and of the enemy who died fighting at close quarters; and the glacis slope is thickly dotted with the bodies of these fine soldiers all lying on their faces as they fell in their steady advance on the enemy. The history of the Sikhs affords many instances of their value as soldiers, but it may he safely asserted that nothing finer than the grim valour and steady discipline dis¬played by them on the 4th June has ever been done by soldiers of the Khalsa. Their devotion to duty and their splendid loyalty to, their orders and to their leaders make a record their nation should look back upon with pride for many generations."

Sikhs Dardenelles crop copy