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William Lawrence was born in Bolton in 1894 and was the son of William Samuel Sebastopol Lawrence b.1856, a mechanic labourer and sometime iron driller, and Jane Lawrence née France b.1860.

William first appeared on the 1901 Census living at 23 Ada Street, Bolton with his parents and siblings Louisa b.1884, Percy Stuart b.1887,Harold b.1890, Elizabeth Ann b.1892 and Alice b.1897.

The family remained unchanged at the same address in 1911 with the addition of another daughter, Ellen b.1902.

William was employed as a piecer in a cotton mill.

With the outbreak of War in Europe in 1914 William enlisted in Kitchener’s New Army and joined the newly-raised 6th (Service) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 15232.

The battalion moved to Tidworth and then Blackdown near Aldershot to complete their training for service overseas. On 14th June 1915 the whole of the 13th division (as well as the 10th and 11th) got the train at Farnborough station to go to Avonmouth where they were supposed to board the SS Japanese Prince but were re-routed to SS Braemar Castle instead and eventually sailed on 17 June bound for Malta.

Their next port of call was Alexandria in Egypt for more training and acclimatisation.

Mudros is the major port on the island of Lemnos and lies some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the landing beaches of Gallipoli. It is here that the divisions rested and trained whilst waiting for the call for invasion.

The invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was an entirely sea-borne operation. It has to be remembered that during that time no purpose-built landing ships existed. The main transport for men, mules, horses, artillery and all supplies was by barges towed by launches steered by 16-year old Royal Navy midshipmen, and by a variety of whatever craft was available. The hastily converted collier, SS River Clyde, having famously run herself ashore on V Beach in a one-off landing feat, remained stuck for the rest of the campaign.

V Beach

Landing on V beach – Click on image for larger version

During the night of 6 July 1915 the 6th LNLs were put ashore by lighter at Seghir Dere in Gully Ravine, where they went into bivouac.

W Beach

Encampment on W beach – Click on image For larger version

General Hamilton’s immediate battle plans were severely handicapped by the fact that he was greatly under strength. His original force, landed on 25 April, had suffered heavy casualties and, with some divisions not yet arrived, it is doubtful that he had more than a mere 110,000 men for the operation. This was to reinforce the Australians and New Zealanders at Anzac, to effect a landing at Suvla Bay and from there to attempt the capture of the main peak of Sari Bair, thus overlooking and commanding the narrows of the Dardanelles. The 6th Battalion LNL was sent forward immediately into the front line, relieving troops of the 29th Division.

The 6th Battalion LNL returned to Anzac Cove on 4th August and occupied bivouac billets in Victoria Gully where, as a result of enemy shelling, two men were killed and a further 32 were injured.

On the night of 6th August two battalions of the 13th Division, of which the LNL was one, commenced their advance from Anzac. On the following morning the 6th LNL was marched to the foot of the Chailuk Dere, and on the night of the next day it was sent to the Apex as reinforcement to the New Zealand Brigade.

On 9th August three columns were sent forward to complete the conquest of Chunuk Bair. During that night the worn out New Zealanders were relieved and the 6th Battalion LNL and the 5th Wiltshires took their places in inadequately shallow trenches.

The 6th Battalion LNL arrived first and set about trying to improve the poor shelter. The Turks realised that if the summit of Chunuk Bair was held, the outcome would be a massive Allied advantage. They therefore shelled the ridge at dawn on 9 and 10 August and then let loose a horde of infantry soldiers with fixed bayonets. Both the Wiltshires and the Lancashire boys had no chance – caught in the open they were swiftly and mercilessly overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. The battalions did all they could, Captain Mather’s company (6th Battalion LNL) doing especially well charging 3 times with the bayonet.

For a personal account of the Battle of Chunuk Bair – click here

The official despatch states: “The two battalions of the New Army chosen to hold Chunuk Bair were the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and the 5th Wiltshire Regiment. They were simply overwhelmed by a superior and determined foe.”

General Sir Ian Hamilton later wrote: “Generals fought in the ranks, and men dropped their scientific weapons and caught one another by the throat. So desperate a fight cannot be described. The Turks came on again and again, fighting magnificently and calling on the name of Allah. Our men stood to it and maintained, by many a deed of daring, the old traditions of their race. There was no flinching. They died in the ranks where they stood.”

It is interesting to note that the commander of the Turkish divisions in this battle was none other than Mustafa Kemal, later Kemal Atatürk, father of a new Turkish nation. At a later stage in the battle of Chunuk Bair he is reputed to have halted the shooting saying, “We have killed enough. Shoot over their heads to keep them occupied.” Unfortunately the continued firing set the gorse and bracken alight, resulting in many of the Lancashire and Wiltshire men being burned to death.

Some 450 men were lost at Chunuk Bair, most of whom have no known grave, but are remembered on the Helles Memorial. Lance Corporal William Lawrence from Bolton Lancashire is one of them.

W Beach

Collecting the kits of the dead and wounded on W Beach – Click on image For larger version

Big guns leaving Suvla Bay

“Big British guns leaving Suvla Bay, in broad daylight on a raft. They are being towed full speed out to sea by a naval pinnace, to be picked up by a transport.”

The Bolton Journal and Guardian of 30 March 1917 published the following announcement about William who was initially recorded as missing;

KILLED
Reported missing on the Gallipoli Peninsula on August 9th., 1915, Pte. WILLIAM LAWRENCE, L.N.L. Regt., is now presumed to have died on that date. His home is at 23, Ada-st., Bolton, and he formerly worked at Messrs. Eden and Thwaites’ Meetings Bleachworks. He was 20 years of age when he enlisted on September 1st, 1914, and went to Gallipoli in June, 1915. He is on the Roll of Honour at St. Matthew’s Church.

William Lawrence’s name is also inscribed on the Helles Memorial along with scores of other casualties from this Battle.

Helles Memorial

Helles Memorial

Rank: Private
Service No: 15232
Date of Death: 09/08/1915
Age: 21
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “A” Coy 6th Bn.
Memorial: HELLES MEMORIAL

DBBC

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from the DBBC young roots heritage project. The young people identified and researched the the servicemen pictured in a 1916 Bolton Journal and Guardian supplement who were killed at Gallipoli. You can visit their website by clicking on the DBBC logo.
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