Tragic Gallipoli campaign remembered 100 years on

Lieutenant'Commander Martin Nasmith, a Scot who was awarded the VC, stands on his submarine, E11, in 1915. Picture: PA
Lieutenant'Commander Martin Nasmith, a Scot who was awarded the VC, stands on his submarine, E11, in 1915. Picture: PA
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A SUBMARINE commander who was awarded the Victoria Cross will be among thousands of servicemen who fought in the Gallipoli campaign 100 years ago to be remembered this week.

Anzac Day, on Saturday, has long been celebrated by Australia and New Zealand, but some relatives feel British involvement in the heroic but doomed landings has been overlooked.

The Prince of Wales will on Friday meet relatives of those who took part and attend commemoration events on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, before taking part in Anzac events the following day.

And in Edinburgh, Legion Scotland will host a commemorative event from 7.45am at Edinburgh Castle on Saturday. The service at the Scottish National War Memorial will be beamed out live onto a large screen on Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade, where members of the public can take part.

Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith, 88, a renowned architect from Findhorn, Moray, will this week honour his father, Martin, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for commanding a submarine crew that sank 97 enemy vessels.

Sir James said his father, who lived in Elgin and died aged 83, had been a modest man and, although he could have told tales of escaping nets and mines to sneak through the Dardanelles straits into the Sea of Marmara, he did not speak of his heroics.

Soldiers and volunteers prepare to take part in re'enactment events in Australia yesterday. Pictures: PA/Getty Images

Soldiers and volunteers prepare to take part in re'enactment events in Australia yesterday. Pictures: PA/Getty Images

“I don’t think people do if they have been very brave,” Sir James said. “My father developed a great respect for the Turks – he thought they were very brave and very fair fighters too.”

The submarine commander sank several dhows but spared the civilian crews.

One had a cargo of Turkish Delight, which the submariners took to add to their rations.

Later, they came across another dhow, this one carrying locals and hens to market. This, too, was sunk, but locals, who included elderly women, were first taken on board the submarine and given a lift ashore.

He thought they were very brave and very fair fighters too

Sir James Dunbar-Nasmith

“As they left, he would shake each of them by the hand and he gave each of them a box of Turkish Delight,” Sir James said. “Some aspects of the war were very civilised.”

The disastrous Gallipoli campaign left another fighter, Ernest Boissier, with shrapnel wounds, a Distinguished Service Cross and a life-long aversion to flies, his son recalled.

Roger Boissier was a 12-year-old schoolboy when he asked why his father became agitated if he saw a bluebottle buzzing around the room.

His father’s stark response was that if he had seen flies crawling over dead men’s faces, he would understand.

Now 84, Mr Boissier will be in a group of 15 descendants of British and Irish Gallipoli veterans who will travel to Turkey.

Mr Boissier, who was chairman of the Royal Derby Porcelain Company, and who lives near Carlisle, still has a letter in which his father speaks in glowing terms of their Australian comrades.

He described them as fitter and bigger than the British. The Royal Naval Division Lieutenant-Commander wrote: “They are absolutely fearless, they cannot believe they could be killed. They are cheerful men, it is good to see them.”

About 58,000 Allies died at Gallipoli, and around half the 559,000 servicemen were casualties. The campaign ended in failure and did not change the course of the war. There were 29,500 dead from Britain and Ireland, 12,000 from France, 11,000 from Australia and New Zealand and 1,500 from India.

Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had pushed the plan, and he was tainted when it ended in ignominy.

Mr Boissier said: “My father didn’t think much of Churchill until 1940. As a schoolboy, I remember hearing remarks about him, but that all changed and he said ‘I suppose we have the best man possible’.”

The poor planning and tactical mistakes that were made informed later military thinking, not least ahead of D-Day some 29 years later.

The Legion Scotland Commemoration Service commences at 7.45am on Saturday, and is part of the Scottish Government’s WW100 Scotland project, a series of commemorations highlighting Scotland’s role in World War One to mark the 100th anniversary of the war. For more information see www.legionscotland.org.uk.