I recently wrote about Cyril and Lawrence Marvell . The story prompted a friend, Michael, to get in touch to say that his grandfather, Ambrose Williamson, also fought and died at Gallipoli in the same battalion as Cyril (9th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment). I decided to look into it.
As readers of this blog will know, Cyril was shot dead by an enemy sniper during an assault on Chocolate Hill on 10 August 1915. This was part of the wider campaign to secure the Suvla Bay area of the Gallipoli peninsula. By the end of August, the offensive had reached a stalemate. The 9th Battalion had sustained very heavy losses and were holed up in trenches and dug-outs, with the enemy still holding higher ground. They called for reinforcements and Ambrose was one of several hundred who were dispatched from England by ship and arrived at Suvla Bay on around 21st September.
Ambrose was sent straight into the trenches, which were under regular sniper fire (although neither side mounted any infantry attacks during this period). The unsanitary conditions accounted for the majority of the battalion’s 11 deaths in October 1915.
At around this time, it was decided to evacuate the peninsula but, to disguise their true intentions from the Turks, the men were ordered to advance and strengthen their defensive positions. Three redoubts were constructed in the area around a hill called Karakol Dagh which is where Ambrose was sadly killed on 24 November 1915. I’m afraid that I don’t have details of the exact circumstances of his death.
Less than four weeks later, the entire battalion was evacuated to Kephalos.
Ambrose’s grave is in Hill 10 Cemetery, near where he fell. His will have been one of the first burials to take place there as it was first used as a cemetery in November 1915. Ambrose’s distraught widow was told of his death a few weeks later and it was reported in the Newcastle Daily Journal on 31 December 1915 (below).
The story of Cyril and Ambrose poignantly illustrates how the Great War was a conveyor belt of death: one young man is killed and immediately replaced by another who is also killed. And so it went on for four long years until almost an entire generation of husbands, fathers and sons was gone.