John Thorpe Lewis ("Jack" to his family) was the son of James Winterbotham Lewis, of Nottingham (James was the Chief Engineer to the South Indian Railway, and a Major in their Volunteers). Jack was a Captain in the 6th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment. His brother, Frederick W was a doctor with the Royal Army Medical Corps. By chance they found themselves serving in the same theatre of war during the summer of 1915, in Turkey. Fred's grandson has uncovered some letters that his grandfather wrote during this time, one of which describes his own brother's death. The letter also provides an eyewitness account of the sad fate that befell many soldiers of the Lincolnshire Regiment at Scimitar Hill and Chocolate Hill that year.
Captain John Thorpe Lewis
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The text of Fred's letter is reproduced here by kind permission of Mr R H R Cox of King's Lynn, the grandson of Captain Frederick W Lewis.
Sept, 25. 1915
Many thanks for your letter. 1m sorry to say I can only confirm what you write me about the end of dear old Jack, untill today I was hoping he might hare been picked up by the Turks, but now I know it is impossible.
I met Major Elkington today, and can give you all details known. After landing they had more or less constant fighting. Jack and his company did splendidly, and Elkington describes him as having been absolutely fearless, he was always in the best of spirits, and this seemed to have the best possible effect on his men. On the 8th, after Darcy Frazer had been killed, Jack took his place, and in a most strenuous fight they took Chocolate Hill. After it was over Elkington saw Jack sitting down by a wouaded Turk giving him a drink from his water-bottle and having a talk with him.
Very early next morning an attack was ordered on a hill covered with scrub, and it was during the charge up this hill that Jack was wounded. They were allowed to get some way up when Machine guns opened on them, and when Elkington came up to Jack he was sitting down with his finger on the main artery of a man who was bleeding to death, almost immediately a bullet came along, went through a man's foot, struck the rock and rebounded into the poor fellow's abdomen: he quietly said "My God" and fell back. He immediately felt in his pocket for some morphia, and Elklngton helped him to take it. He then put his head quite close to his and said "John, do you wish to say anything?", but he tells me that he could get no reply and that his face had already taken on the grey look which immediately preceeds death, so he was left there lying with the man he had tried to save. Was there ever anything more pathetic? Elkington had to go on, And was almost immediately wounded In the leg. Within half an hour of this, the whole side of the hill caught fire; there was a good deal of wind, and it burnt furiously. Elkington thinks that some 300 of the wounded Lincolns died in this fire, but he is perfectly satisfied that Jack was quite beyond the reach of any pain and anguish from the flames, they simply burnt his dead body. The hill is still in the possession of the Turks. I cannot think of a more glorious ending to any man's life; he had fought splendidly, and was finally taken doing all he could to save the life of one of his men. I can almost smile through my tears, I feel so proud of him.
Would you mind sending this round to the members of the family, I have not the time to write to them all. The 6th Lincolns with 200 reserves totalled 1200, at the roll call sow 240 answer to their names.
I have been called back to Alexandria, and am to start in a few days again for Gallipoli. A new casualty Clearing station has been formed, and I am the only member of the original one who is going. I have specially asked to go, and strangely enough we are to land where Jack did - Anafarta Bay. I hope the Germans will keep the Submarines away this time.
Relentless shelling caused Chocolate Hill to catch fire. As the Hill was engulfed by flame, Captain John Thorpe Lewis has no known grave. Hundreds of the British soldiers who lie in war cemetaries in this area of Turkey, were buried unidentified. In Green Hill Cemetery alone, 2,472 of the 2,971 men buried there are unidentified. For this reason, John Thorpe Lewis is one of the 21,000+ servicemen commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Cape Helles Peninsula, Turkey.
The obelisk is over 30 metres tall and can be seen by vessels passing through the Dardanelles.
Jack was 46 years old when he was killed.
Fred's letter tells of the terrible losses that the 6th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, sustained. A reduction in force from 1200 down to 240 men is a casualty rate of 80%.
Green hill and Chocolate Hill were named thus, by the allies, because of their colour.
The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea. Allies landed on the Turkish peninsula on 25-26 April 1915. Then on 6th August, further troops were put ashore at Suvla. The fiercest fighting came in early August when simultaneous assaults were launched on three fronts. Green Hill and Chocolate Hill (which form together Yilghin Burnu), rise from the eastern shore of the salt lake. They were captured on 7 August 1915 by the 6th Lincolns and the 6th Border Regiment but once taken, no further advance was possible. On the two following days, unsuccessful efforts were made to push on along the ridge of 'W' Hill (Ismail Oglu Tepe), leading to Anafarta Sagir and on 21 August, the attack of the 11th and 29th Divisions and the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade to take Scimitar Hill, left the front line at stalemate again.
The 6th Battalion formed part of the 54th (East Anglian) Division. The 54th was formed as a result of Richard Burdon Haldane's 1908 Army reforms, when he was Secretary of State for War. The 54th was one of 14 Divisions of the peacetime Territorial Force. All units of the 54th were mobilised for full time war service on 5th August 1914. On 8th July 1915 the Division was ordered to refit for service at Gallipoli. They left embarked between the 14th and 19th of July 1915, sailing from Liverpool and Devonport. The first ships reached Lemnos on 6th August. Then on 10th August more units landed at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli.
If you should wish to read more about the Gallipoli campaign, two books to consider are: Ray Westlake's British Regiments at Gallipoli and Col F G Spring's History of the 6th Bn. Lincolnshire Regiment during the First World War.
The Gallipoli Association Website: www.gallipoli-association.org
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