Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gallipoli 1915 and Culloden 1746

My adopted town of Hawick remembers its dead. In May I visited the Gallipoli peninsular, scene of a disastrous campaign in 1915, where there is a marble shield to the Hawick fallen. 86 Hawick men lost their lives on 12 July 1915 and each year there is a service of remembrance here. Today, the centenary, there was an expanded ceremony; each of the 86 names was read out, the Last Post sounded: They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old... 

The Hawick men were from 4th Battalion, Kings Own Scottish Borderers. They were ordered to take a non existent line of trenches and ended up milling around in the open under heavy machine gun and artillery fire. Only two officers ended the day uninjured; seventy men from a unit of about 700 were fit for duty next day.

There are many heart wrenching tales from Gallipoli. Many are scarcely believable accounts of sheltering for days in the baking sun behind rotting bodies (a ready breeding ground for millions of flies). But the story that particularly caught my attention was that of Brigadier Scott Moncrieff. At the Battle of Gully Ravine, he watched his men being cut to pieces as they attacked into Turkish machine gun fire. He was ordered to attack again and felt he had no choice but to be at the head of his men. He led them 'over the top' and was hit in the head by a bullet. The attack failed.

The grave of Brigadier Scott Moncrieff
It reminded me of Cameron of Lochiel ('The Gentle Lochiel') at the Battle of Culloden in 1746; he was a polyglot, expert forester and much respected clan chief. He must have known that, after the failure of the night attack, the situation at Culloden was hopeless. But all the same he bounded across that moor in his powdered wig, brandishing a broadsword, endeavouring to engage the British Army.

But Lochiel did not reach the government front line as his legs caught the grapeshot of their cannons; he was carried back to his home at Achnacarry and escaped to France where he died.

Cameron of Lochiel (1700 - 1748)
Both men willingly put themselves in certain mortal danger in a battle they knew would be lost, leading their men in the full knowledge that it was probably all in vain. It was their duty. Better to die a hero than live a coward.