Wednesday, 22 April 2015

A Budleigh Royal Marine at Gallipoli: William Richard Bull, 26 April 1915


The Lancashire Fusiliers land at Gallipoli
Photo Q 13219 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 1900-61)

A brief mention of the Great War’s Gallipoli campaign has been previously featured on this blog. However with the centenary of the disaster in people’s minds today it’s time for another look. 

Winston Churchill’s heroic stature in British history owes everything to his leadership in the country’s darkest hour during the Second World War.

By contrast, his reputation as a military strategist has suffered from decisions that he made at crucial moments during his time as First Lord of the Admiralty in the 1914-18 conflict.

There was, for example, his refusal to allow additional ships to be sent to reinforce Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock’s squadron prior to the Battle of Coronel in the Royal Navy’s first significant defeat in the Great War on 1 November 1914.

Better known is his responsibility for the military offensive involving  Britain and its allies during the eight-month Gallipoli Campaign. 

Also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, the offensive took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916. The Allies’ aim was to provide a sea route to the Russian Empire.


Troops landing at Suvla Bay, Turkey, 25 April 1915

Image credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Russia's allies Britain and France launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula with the eventual aim of capturing the Ottoman capital of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul. The naval attack was repelled and, after eight months' fighting, with many casualties on both sides, the land campaign also failed and the invasion force was withdrawn to Egypt. Gallipoli was a major Allied failure and one of the greatest Ottoman victories during World War One.

'Anzac, the landing 1915' by George Lambert, painted in 1922 shows the landing at Anzac Cove, 25 April 1915
The first Allied troops landed on 25 April. Among them was Lance Serjeant William Richard Bull, one of four Royal Marines associated with the Lower Otter Valley who lost their lives during World War One.  He was one of 2,000 Marines, King’s Own Scottish Borderers and South Wales Borderers, who took part in an amphibious landing on a beach south of Achi Baba. Poor communications with divisional headquarters have been blamed for the ensuing confused situation which rapidly turned into a disaster.

The first VC of the war was won at Gallipoli by a Royal Marine, but the Plymouth Battalion in which Lance Serjeant Bull was serving was reduced to half its strength.  He is recorded on the volunteer-run website as having died on 26 April, although other sources, including the Commonwealth Graves War Commission, give a later date of 3 May 1915. 



Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery   Image credit:

Lance Serjeant Bull is buried in Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery in Turkey along with 1,134 identified casualties.   

He is listed among those who died in their country’s service on the Budleigh Salterton Roll of Honour, a copy of which is on display in Fairlynch Museum. But strangely, his name is absent from other memorials in the town. Research at the Museum has shown that he was born in London in 1876, and married Ellen Alexandra Vowden in 1902; the couple’s three daughters were all born in the Plymouth area. His wife is recorded as having lived in Colaton Raleigh, and in Exmouth, but William Bull’s connection with Budleigh remains unclear.   

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!! 

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