|"Kent's survivors pull out of Gallipolli"|
|A Blast From the Past 1915|
December 24th: Surviving soldiers from the Royal West Kent Regiment and the Kent Fortress Engineers have successfully taken part in the evacuation of the Gallipolli Peninsula, right under the noses of powerful Turkish forces. It was an epic escape. 90,000 men with 4,500 horses, 1,700 vehicles and 200 guns were lifted off the bea, 'hes and, although 30,000 beds had been prepared for expected casualties in Mediterranean hospitals, not a single life was lost. The men are part of the ill fated Gallipolli campaign which was abandoned after months of indecision and what
David Lloyd George describes as the "mocking spectre of too late". He told the House of Commons: "Unless we quicken our movments damnation will fall upon the sacred cause for o much gallant blood has flowed." It has certainly flowed on the Gallipolli Peninsula and Kent is counting the cost in terms of sacrifice. A few weeks ago 127 soldiers of the 1/3 Kent Field Company Royal Engineers were drowned when their ship collided at night with another vessel in Mudros Bay. For security reasons both ships were sailing without lights.
Among those lost is Captain D.R.Salomons, only son of the great scientist, David Salomons of Broomhill. He stayed aboard his sinking vessel helping as many men as possible to escape. Other Kent men have been fighting alongside Australian and New Zealand troops with outstanding heroism and hundreds have been frozen to death, waist deep in their trenches in what the survivors describe as their worst experience of the war so far.
The most tragic week began on November 27th when torrential rain swept men and animals along the gullies and trenches, drowning at least 100. There followed two days of ferocious blizzards with driving snow when another hundred men died of exposure. The evacuation order came on December 20th when men from Tonbridge were among the Royal Engineer Territorials who rigged up an unmanned "firing line" and arranged realistic explosions to convince the Turks that the British trenches were still manned.
The Australians who suffered so heavily exploded a giant mine by remote control a few hours before leaving, killing hundreds of the enemy. Winston Churchill, as First Lord, played a crucial part in the Gallipolli campaign when he agreed that the Royal Navy should try to get munitions to Russia's Black Sea ports by forcing the passage of the Dardanelles. The land troops were sent ahead as a back-up force. Dardanelles casualties are 25,000 dead, 76,000 wounded and 13,000 missing. Many are blaming Churchill for the disaster.