Seven Victoria crosses were awarded to British sailors and soldiers for heroism at V Beach. Five were awarded to sailors of the Royal Naval (Commander Edward Unwin, Able Seaman William Williams, Seaman George McKenzie Samson, Midshipman George Leslie Drewry, and Midshipman Wilfred St Aubyn Malleson). A further two Vcs were awarded to soldiers during fierce fighting on the following day (Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doughty-Wylie and Corporal William Cosgrove).
British Landings at V Beach, Cape Helles, 25 April 1915
On 25 April, most of the British forces were landed at various beaches at Cape Helles, designated S, V, W, X and Y Beaches.
At V Beach, troops of the Royal Munster Fusiliers and Royal Hampshire Regiments were landed from a converted collier (SS River Clyde), which was run aground to allow the troops to disembark via ramps onto a bridge of small boats and onto the beach. Meanwhile, troops of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers were to land from open boats. Unfortunately, the SS River Clyde grounded some distance from the shore directly under the machine guns manned by the Turkish defenders. The disembarking troops were massacred as they attempted to exit the ship and down the ramps. By amazing acts of bravery by British soldiers and sailors in the face of near certain death, the British were able to force a landing and fight their way off the beaches. Six Victoria Crosses were awarded for acts of heroism on V Beach.
The landings at V Beach were vividly re-created in the film Go Tell England (1931). A clip from this film, with the re-creation of the landing itself, was later used in a documentary with an explanatory narration.
The following film clip is available publicly on YouTube:
V Beach: Victoria Crosses Awarded for Bravery on 25 April 1915
In planning the landings at V Beach, Commander Edward Unwin intended that the SS River Clyde (a converted collier) would carry 2,000 British soldiers close to the beach. On grounding, the troops aboard would disembark the ship via the hatches, down ramps onto a series of smaller vessels linked together to form a bridge from the SS River Clyde to the beach itself.
On 25 April 1915, the SS River Clyde carried detachments from the British 29th Division: the 1st Battalion of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, two companies of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Hampshire Regiment and one company of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The ship grounded at 06.22am, however, the smaller vessels grounded out of position.
Commander Unwin, accompanied by Able Seaman Williams, leapt into the water in an attempt to manually haul two lighters into position as bridges for the men waiting to disembark from the SS River Clyde. Unwin and Williams remained in the water working the lighters into position, exposed to Turkish machine-fire, until Unwin was driven back to the Clyde by extreme cold and the mortal wounding of Williams. Other men (Seaman George McKenzie Samson, Midshipman George Leslie Drewry, and Midshipman Wilfred St Aubyn Malleson) took their place, trying to secure the lighters into position. Unwin returned to the water after 1 hour’s rest, working until he was wounded. Efforts to land were eventually discontinued. However, Unwin went out a third time to recover wounded men lying in the water.
For Commander Uwin’s citation for the Victoria Cross, see: