GALLIPOLI: THE EGERTON DIARIES AND PAPERS
Gallipoli: the Egerton diaries and papers
Author: David Raw
Publisher: Helion & Company (2020), 143 pages, 8 photographs & 2 maps
Price: £19.95 (Softback)
Publishers blurb … As Commander of 52nd Division, Granville Egerton kept a detailed long daily diary of the events, conditions and personalities at Gallipoli between June and September, 1915. He is highly critical of the decisions and tactics of the campaign as well as of his C-in-C Sir Ian Hamilton and Corps Commander Aylmer Hunter-Weston. ‘Ian Hamilton can’t help himself from being a liar’. The daily long diary was sent by King’s Messenger to his mother in Bournemouth. It gives a vivid picture of life on the Peninsula. The long diary is now deposited in the National Archives. He also details the impact of the Gretna Railway disaster before embarkation. ‘I landed at Cape Helles Gallipoli Peninsula in Command of the 52nd Lowland Division on June 21st, 1915, and left it on September 16th, 1915. I landed a weak division of 10,900 men, and within three weeks, had lost 4,800 killed and wounded, and about 1,000 sick – of the officers over 70% were hors de combat during this short period’. He also kept a short diary which details the deteriorating state of his own health, exacerbated by local conditions. The short diaries are in the National Library of Scotland. In addition Egerton supplied evidence to the Dardanelles Commission and kept post-war Journals with an evaluation of the campaign and the views of his own circle of friends. He records a critical conversation with Kitchener before embarkation. The papers and journals are in the National Library of Scotland and in the Imperial War Museum. The author reproduces the diaries and papers in full with detailed notes and analysis in chronological order.
This is a study of Major-General Granville Egerton, commander of the Territorial 52nd (Lowland) Division during the Gallipoli campaign. Largely based on Egerton’s diaries and private papers, it is a fascinating insight into a Gallipoli general, especially one that was highly critical of higher command, its decisions and tactics, and the mistreatment of his division in this ill-fated campaign. You could understand his anger and frustrations that followed his landing in Gallipoli in June 1915. Landing with an already weakened division of 10,900 men, and within three weeks his division had lost 4,800 killed and wounded, and about 1,000 sick.
Egerton’s health was already poor by the time he landed in Gallipoli, this not helped by the local conditions. The author is probably correct in stating that Egerton shouldn’t have been sent to the Dardanelles in the first place due to his health. His division had also suffered. Long before they had left for Gallipoli several of its units had been transferred to other divisions, and just prior to its sailing in May 1915 disaster had struck when the 7th Royal Scots were involved in the dreadful Quintinshill railway disaster where they lost over 430 officers and men killed or wounded. Depleted in number, both in men and artillery, when they finally arrived in Gallipoli the division was fed piecemeal into battle. For the opening of the Battle of Gully Ravine 156 Brigade was nearly destroyed. Barely two weeks later 155 and 157 Brigades were used in the Battle of Achi Baba Nullah where casualties again proved heavy. Egerton struggled with command, and despite his best efforts his failing health impacted his effectiveness as a Commander. He was eventually removed from command by Lord Kitchener in September 1915.
The book begins with an essay on Egerton’s role and performance, the divisions training, embarkation, battle and its eventual evacuation. The main part of the book is then structured with transcripts of Egerton’s diaries and papers, including later correspondence with Aspinall-Oglander, the Gallipoli campaigns official historian. His papers make interesting reading and are a gold mine of information for anyone with an interest in Gallipoli, Great War generalship and the 52nd (Lowland) Division. To quote Egerton’s own words “it is possible that the historian of the future, if he comes across this story, may pick up some facts that may be of interest”, well, we are fortunate that he did write his story as it is truly interesting. Recommended.
Helion & Co Link: https://www.helion.co.uk/military-history-books/gallipoli-the-egerton-diaries-and-papers-the-diaries-and-papers-of-major-general-granville-egerton-cb-commanding-52nd-lowland-division-at-gallipoli-june-september-1915.php