Gallipoli - 90th anniversary

This page is dedicated to Benjamin Hemmings, died at Gallipoli on 3 May 1915
Lance Corporal of 16th Battalion (AIF) born in Peckham, S. London on 2nd August 1889 (great great uncle of James Brannan)

Ben emigrated from England to Western Australia, with his brother Joe, in 1911. He lived near Bunbery and at Mount Barker, where he enlisted with the 4th Brigade of the 16th Battalion (AIF) on 04/09/1914, number 101. On 6th November he was promoted from Private to Lance Corporal. He is listed on the Nominal Roll of the 16th Battalion as embarking on Troopship A40 "Ceramic" on 22/12/1914 with the "E" Company. He sent postcards to his family from Egypt before going to Gallipoli. A week after the landing at Anzac Cove, he was killed by Pope's Hill on 2/3 May 1915. According to the Red Cross statements (showing he was then in "B" Company), he was seen lying in a dug-out by other soldiers of the battalion: Sergeant J. Matthews (who described Ben as "his only chum in the 16th Battalion"), Private T. Taylor, Private Noon and Corporal G. Bradley. His name is on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.

This photograph shows Sgt. Frank Howard, Pte. Harry Mortimer and L/Cpl. Albert Butler, all of the 16th Battalion. 18 names of other soldiers are listed in pencil - all these names can be found on the Nominal Roll. Mortimer and Butler both came from Gingin, Western Australia, and both survived the war. Howard was from Echuca, Victoria, and he was killed at Gallipoli in September 1915.

After the war, Ben's father William Hemmings filled in a questionnaire for the Australian Roll of Honour. It shows that his only training before going to Australia was in the Forest Hill Boys' Brigade.

Above: the back of a postcard sent by Ben to his parents while in Egypt, thanking them for their Xmas card (Christmas 1914). Below: another card, front and back, sent from Egypt, showing the "sort of streets" he had ridden through in the dark.

After apparently enjoying his stay in Egypt, Ben proceeded to Gallipoli on 12th April. He participated in the landing at Anzac Cove on 25th April.

After a week of heavy fighting, Ben Hemmings died between Pope's Hill and Dead Man's Ridge

The 16th Battalion's ill-fated attack on the Bloody Angle:

"The Turks held the Chessboard and the Nek and had a foothold on Russell's Top. From here they could fire into the back of Quinn's and the other posts. Therefore an attack was planned to extend the Anzac line to encompass Baby 700. After dusk on May 2, the 16th and 13th Battalions of the 4th Brigade climbed the Bloody Angle, next to Quinn's, and attempted to establish a line along the Chessboard to Baby 700. They only managed to form a series of disjointed trenches along the foot of the Chessboard.

Only adjacent to Quinn's were the original objectives achieved. Elsewhere the positions gained were useless, being overlooked and exposed, offering no advantage to the Anzacs. With dawn on May 3, most of the troops withdrew. The debacle of the attack was compounded when the Nelson and Portsmouth Battalions of the RND were told to advance in support after dawn on May 3, by which time the attack had clearly failed. In a move that gave "Dead Man's Ridge" its name, the Marines of the Portsmouth Battalion were led up that precipitous slope in full view of the Turkish machine guns.

The attackers suffered about 1,000 casualties in this attack, only one of which was taken prisoner. The 16th Battalion had lost 338 men, over half its strength."

Extracts from witness statements (Australian Red Cross files)

Private Noon:

"...saw Hemmings wounded on 2/5/15 in front of Pope's Hill about 10 p.m. He was badly wounded in the stomach and was lying in a shallow trench..."

Corporal Bradley:

"On the night of the 2nd to 3rd May 1915, about 2.30 a.m., witness was coming down from Dead Man's Ridge and found Hemmings in a dug-out right against the Turks' trench, which they had taken but eventually had to evacuate. Hemmings was in the dug-out with another man and they had both been shot through the shoulder. Witness tried to get them to come down with him, but they would not try because the fire was so hot. Neither of them had had his wound dressed and they were both bleeding rather badly. Witness thinks they must have died from exposure because neither the Turks nor our men could get possession of that place for several days. Witness says it would have been alright if they had come on, but he supposes they thought they would remain in a safe spot".

Sergeant Matthews:

"Private T Tayler lay out beside Hemmings for two days. Witness began bandaging Tayler and Hemmings continued it, as witness was shot in the should while so employed. Hemmings died of exposure".

Further information from Australian National Archives

The inventory of Ben's effects after his death consisted of: "2 signalling and musketry books, Bible, matchbox containing part of an old necklace, 2 broken images"

In response to an enquiry from his relatives, he was still reported as missing as late as March 1916. After the Court of Enquiry on 28 April 1916 at Serapeum, he was officially recorded as killed in action, almost one year to the day after he died. A few weeks later, on 27 May, his brother Joe enlisted with the Australian 28th Brigade and headed for the trenches of the Somme. He was wounded in 1918 at Villers-Bretonneux but returned to Australia after the armistice.

Ben's parents are seen here on the occasion of their diamond wedding, March 1932. The article records that "During the war they lost one son - who was serving with the Australian forces - at the Dardanelles". The baby is my uncle Leslie Tripp.