6/7 June 1915

By the end of 4 June, seven out of the twelve available reserve battalions of VIII Corps had been sent in to reinforce the failure of the attacks on the left and right flanks — although it has been suggested that using them to reinforce the success in the centre would have been even more disastrous. Consequently, as Bryn Hammond of the Imperial War Museum writes in a special paper on the Third Battle of Krithia, there were insufficient reserves to ‘meet the Turkish forces flung against the captured positions on the following two days. As a result, those who were counter-attacked were hard pushed to hold on and the loss of the whole of Helles was a very real threat’.

The situation at the end of 7 June was that there was a slight salient in front of Twelve Tree Copse, but the 88th Brigade had had to abandon trenches H14, H13 and H12 (see map in post for 4 June). Essentially, the whole front now ran along line 11 of the trenches — the original First Objective of the battle. Only 250-500 yards had been gained on a front of about a mile. Of their original attacking force of about 34,000 troops, the Allies had lost 6500, of which 4500 were British. The Turks had lost at least 9000 men.

The 52nd (Lowland) Division was now arriving at Helles. These troops were the reinforcements promised by Kitchener at the beginning of May. On 6 June the 1/5th Battalion (Territorials) of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers landed as part of this Division. In the ineffable words of the Official History, ‘by an unfortunate mistake in psychology’ the first task of the 1/5th KOSB was to bury the corpses of the 1st KOSB killed on 4 June, which it will be remembered were piled up as ramparts on either side of the new communication trench being dug during the Turkish counter-attacks.

The overwhelming probability is that George Calderon’s body was removed by the 1/5th KOSB in this operation on 6 or 7 June. The fact that between June and September Kittie received conflicting War Office telegrams about George’s fate suggests that his identity disc was not retrieved. One wonders why, but after three days in the hot sun these corpses must have been so decomposed as to necessitate burial as quickly as possible. It is most likely that he was buried at a cemetery behind Fir Tree Wood.

After the Armistice of 1918, the graves from Fir Tree Wood Cemetery were brought together with those from many other local burial grounds to form a single cemetery at the site of the original Twelve Tree Copse (see map in my post of 4 June). Of the 3360 servicemen buried or commemorated here, 2226 are unidentified. The identified men include twenty from the 1st KOSB killed on 4 June 1915. Amongst these is the commander of George Calderon’s company, Captain Grogan. We may reasonably assume, then, that George’s remains now rest at  Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery.

Next entry: George Calderon: a tribute

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About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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