26 November 1915

SUVLA - Captain R. Gee, 2nd Royal Fusiliers, 29th Division - The rains the previous day were soon replaced by high winds and then a snow blizzard whih brought a hard frost and a two-day freeze. Known as the Great Storm, many men froze to death, especially those in exposed positions in and around Suvla.

"It was a dark night in the trenches at Suvla Bay and the 26th Nov will long be remembered and perhaps spoken of in years to come. The men had just "stood to" and the Sgt Major reported "Garrison correct, Sir" when a terrible clap of thunder, worse than a bombardment of HE broke the stillness of the night. This was followed by zig-zags of lightening which appeared to split the heavens in two and then the rain fell as only it can fall in the tropics. Within half an hour the trenches held a foot of water rushing so quickly that it was difficult to stand. At 7 pm the Barricade gave way and a solid wall of water 7 ft high swept the trench carrying everything and everybody before it. By 8 pm the flood had reached its height and the force of the water had somewhat abated so that I was able to swim from a tree to No.1 Platoon. The men were on the parados of the trench up to their breasts in water, it was the same with No.2 Platoon, only about 9 rifles had been saved. No.3 Platoon had gathered on a high bit of land and having no trees to hang on to had formed groups and were clinging to each other. No.4 Platoon were fighting for their lives, their part of the line being a maze of trenches many of which had been washed away burying the men in the mud and making it very difficult for the man to retain a footing anywhere.

At 2 a.m. the water began to subside and the men were set to work to construct a breastwork behind the trenches. No tools being available we had to do this by scooping up handfuls of earth and by dawn a resemblance of cover had been formed and we found it useful for the enemy gave us about a dozen shrapnel. To add to our comforts it began to freeze hard and a snow blizzard came down and the whole of the place was soon covered by snow; many of the survivors of the flood died from exposure. With the help of the Sgt Major I counted the Company and of the 139, only 69 remained.

It was now discovered that the ration party had been drowned and all the food and drink we had was one gallon jar of rum, this we issued out and Pte Oldfield who had swum to HQ brought up orders that the line was to be held at all costs. This order was also afterwards brought to me by the Adjt. During this time – the first night – the cheerfulness of the men was marvellous, the slightest joke or mishap produced roars of laughter. By 8 o'clock I had a few rifles in working order and we were able to return the fire of the Turks, but I gave the order to cease firing as soon as the enemy ceased and during the whole of the 27th very little rifle-fire took place. All day the weather was freezing & more men died; towards night it turned to rain & it was impossible to move."

Signed Captain R. Gee.

The battalion War Diary also has a good description for the day.

Nov 26th. Fine day until 5 pm when it started to rain heavily, soon developing into a regular tropical downpour. Water stood 2 feet deep in the trenches after 1 hour's rain. A tremendous flood of water poured into our trenches from the hills behind the Turks, washing away our barricade completely and drowning several men. A mule, a pony and 3 dead Turks were actually brought into our trench by the water. In the space of about 2 minutes our entire section was converted into a regular lake, communication trenches being transformed into swirling streams of muddy water. The entire ground between us and the main communication trench became to all intents a river. All that could be seen above water was an occasional tree and a few banks of mud where the parapet or parados had been particularly high. All the battalion with the exception of about 6 or 8 men who were drowned in the first rush of water had managed to scramble out of the submerged trenches and were standing about on the pieces of ground remaining above water, soaked to the skin and the majority without overcoats or rifles as the flood had come so suddenly that they had been unable to get them out with them. The flood reached its zenith about 9 p.m. when the trenches were full and the intervening terrain about 1 foot deep in water and mud. The moon came out and lit up the scene – a waste of water with clusters of men standing about on little banks in an even worse state than we were. At a rough estimate 50% of the battalion had rescued their rifles and about the same number their overcoats. One telephone was rescued and the signallers succeeded in getting through to Bde, whence came orders to hold on to the line at all costs, where practicable and to dig in as well as possible. In the meantime two orderlies (Pte Frost & James) made their way to the Bde with a message having to swim a part of the way. CO went up to the firing line and Adjutant to the Munster Fusiliers and Lancs Fusiliers to tell them to hang on. It was necessary to take a plank to cross the trenches. About 10 p.m. the water started to go down slightly and as soon as it was possible the men started to throw up breastworks of mud as cover, working with anything which came to hand which was practically nothing but their hands. A bitter North wind got up, gradually increasing in violence."

Map: The trenches, streams and marshes in the Hetman Chair area of Suvla, an area badly hit by the storm.

National Archives, Ref CAB 43/224 and the Great War Forum, 'Gallipoli' page.