SUVLA - Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stopford, GOC, IX Corps - Was there a change to Stopford, who now was pressing to attack Kavak Tepe? Earlier attempts to capture the high ground has failed, even attempts to capture the lower hills, namely Scimitar Hill, has failed. Stopford was not happy with the performance of the 53rd Division (TF) but now pinned hope on pushing the 54th Division (TF), who had just landed, into the affray. Again, without maps, clear orders and with a total disregard to the strength and unknown positions of the Turks, this was going to be another recipe for disaster.
Photograph: Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford.
In fairness reconnaissances by the RNAS still reported that no troops had entrenched on the high ground, even though we know that the line in general had received a new injection of troops. With news that further Turkish reinforcements were being sent up from Helles, this was going to be the last roll of the dice for the British before they would be pinned into Suvla forever.
Here follows the entry from "Gallipoli Diary" by Sir Ian Hamilton, for 11 August.
"At 4.30 p.m., a letter from Stopford anent the failure of the 53rd Division,—depressing in itself but still more so in its inferences as to the 54th Division. He says these troops showed "no attacking spirit at all. They did not come under heavy shell fire nor was the rifle fire very severe, but they not only showed no dash in attack but went back at slight provocation and went back a long way. Lots of the men lay down behind cover, etc. They went on when called upon to do so by Staff and other Officers but they seemed lost and under no leadership—in fact, they showed that they are not fit to put in the field without the help of Regulars. I really believe that if we had had one Brigade of Regulars here to set an example both the New Army and Territorials would have played up well with them but they have no standard to go by."
"Worse follows, for Stopford takes back his assurance given me after my cable of the 9th when he said, "given water, guns and ammunition, I have no doubt about our being able to secure the hills." He tells me straight and without any beating about the bush, "I am sure they" (the Territorials) "would not secure the hills with any amount of guns, water and ammunition assuming ordinary opposition, as the attacking spirit was absent; chiefly owing to the want of leadership by the Officers. Ignoring our Kavak Tepe scheme, he goes on then to ask me in so many words, not to try any attack with the 54th Division but to stick them into trenches."
"This letter has driven me very nearly to my wits' ends. Things can't be so bad! None of us have any complaint at all of the New Army troops; only of their Old Army Generals. Stopford says the 13th Division were not reliable when they were at Helles, whereas now, under Godley at Anzac they have fought like lions. Stopford urged that these last two Territorial formations sent out to us were sucked oranges, the good in them having been drafted away into France and replaced by rejections. He says he would have walked on to the watershed the first day had we only stiffened his force with the 29th Division. There happened to be some pretty decisive objections but there was no use entering into them then. So I merely told him that the 9th Corps and the Territorials being now well ashore we may be able to bring up the 29th. No doubt—had we a couple of Regular Divisions here—British or Indian—at full strength—no doubt we could astonish the world. Having the 53rd and the 54th Divisions, half-trained and at half strength, I tried to make Stopford see we must cut our coats with the stuff issued to us. The 54th were good last winter, and, even if the best have been picked out of them, the residue should do well under sound leadership: Inglefield was a practised old warrior, and would not let him down."
There was nothing solid to go upon in crying down the credit of the 54th beyond hearsay and the self-evident fact that they are half their nominal strength. To assume they won't put up a fight is a certain way of making the best troops gun-shy. We are standing up to our necks in a time problem, and the tide is on the rise. There is not a moment to spare. The Turks have reinforced and they have brought back their guns; that is true. Now they will begin to dig trenches—indeed they are already digging—and more and more enemy troops will be placed in reserve behind the Anafartas and to the East of the Tekke Tepe—Ejelmer Bay range. On the 10th the Helles people reported that, in spite of their efforts to hold the Turks, they had detached reinforcements to the North. These extra reinforcements may arrive to-morrow at Anzac or on the Anafartas; but, for at least another twenty four hours, they will not be able to get round to the high ridge between Anafarta and Ejelmer Bay. So far as can be seen by aeroplane scouting, this ridge is still unoccupied; certainly it is unentrenched."
"Stopford who, at first, was dead set on digging agreed to have a dart at Kavak Tepe. He will throw the 54th at it. He will turn out the 9th Corps and, if chance offers, they will attack along their own front ... Stopford seemed in much better form to-night; I think he is more fit."
We will read tomorrow if Stopford's offensive spirit was enough to influence success at Suvla.
Sir I Hamilton, Gallipoli Diary, Vol.II, (Edward Arnold: London 1920), pp.90-92