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Discovered letters reveal horror of Gallipoli campaign
AN ex-soldier's recollections of the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign, that claimed hundreds of thousands of casualties among Allied and Turkish troops, have been discovered at the home of Prenton widow Esther Lewis.
Esther's father-in-law Thomas Edward Lewis survived World War One and some time later he put his reminiscences down on paper in a letter to his son Bernard.
It described battle conditions and the severe hardships soldiers faced on a daily basis as opposing forces fought for control of the Dardanelles.
Mr Lewis wrote: “Dust, flies, dysentery, strictly rationed water, interminable beef. Soldiers in France had outings, entertainment and leave.
"The troops in Gallipoli had none of these let-ups, nor was there any billets except dugouts in the cliffs by the beaches.
“The only bathing was in the seas under threat of gun-fire.”
Official documents on the Gallipoli campaign said conditions defied description.
The terrain and close fighting did not allow the dead to be buried. Flies and other vermin flourished in the heat, which caused epidemic sickness.
On another occasion a great blizzard, followed by a “cataclysmic thaw” caused thousands of casualties throughout the British contingent.
Realistic estimates indicated that the Turkish army suffered 300,000 casualties in the campaign and the Allies 265,000.
A family member typed out the details of thedecades-old letter, which Mrs Lewis found this week while she was sorting her late husband Bernard’s belongings.
She is convinced that the original hand-written letter is still somewhere in the house.
She said: “I was trying to get some things sorted out in Bernard’s ‘den’ when I came across this ‘Gallipoli ‘ envelope. I feel certain that the original letter is somewhere among his things and I intend to keep on searching for it.
“With next year being the centenary of World War One I would be quite prepared to offer this material for use in any kind of commemorative exhibition.
“ I don’t think we should let their sacrifice be forgotten.”
Thomas Lewis was born in Birkenhead and after school he became a joiner.
He went on to become vice chairman of the local branch of the Allied Steel Workers Union and at the end of World War One he became Clerk of Works with Birkenhead Corporation.
Esther said: “My father-in law didn’t talk to be about Gallipoli, though he probably did to my husband. It was pretty horrible for them out there.”
• The Gallipoli campaign took place between April 1915 and January 1916.
Aiming to secure a sea route to Russia, the British and French launched a naval campaign to force a passage through the Dardanelles.
After the naval operation an amphibious landing was undertaken on the Gallipoli peninsula to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople.
After eight months the land campaign also failed, with horrendous casualties on both sides, and the invasion force was withdrawn to Egypt.
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