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Gallipoli - Story of a Bloody Handkerchief mystery


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I hope this is okay to post here as it pertains directly to Gallipoli...

ARNOTT to FILBEY - “The Story of a Bloody Handkerchief”

(Updated as of 04-06-05)

I would like to relate a story of great sentimental value passed down to me from my father and grandfather, the later of whom was a soldier in the British army, who gallantly fought at Gallipoli in 1915 during World War One. It would be of great sentimental value to our family to discover the identity of this friend of my grandfather.

My grandfather, Stephen “Patch” Filbey, service number 6662, was a career soldier in the 1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He enlisted at age 14 in 1899 as a drummer boy. Upon his discharge in 1923 he had attained the rank of Company Quartermaster Sergeant Drummer. During World War One he participated in the Gallipoli (Dardenelles) Campaign including the disastrous landings on V-Beach at Cape Helles on April 25th,1915.

My Grandpa’s service record indicated he was wounded in the back of the head during initial landing on April 25th when the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers landed from open boats on V-Beach. A bullet, spent from either a ricochet or a distant shot, hit him in the back of the head. Luckily it turned and lodged between the skin and skull. Eventually he was brought to shelter beside the River Clyde, a 2000-ton collier that was purposely grounded at V-Beach on the Helles Peninsula. While awaiting medical attention he happened upon a fellow soldier by the name of Arnott. The unfortunate soldier had also been wounded, badly, and was bleeding to death. My grandfather grabbed a handkerchief, stuffed it into the soldier’s wound, and summoned medical attention for the soldier, thereby saving the fellow's life. In the course of action the two went their separate ways. My grandfather continued on with the Gallipoli Campaign, was seriously wounded in the leg during the Suvla offensive, and sent home to England to recover. Later he returned to the Western Front and fought on in the 3rd battle of Ypres on the European continent. Arnott either returned to Australia or immigrated there sometime after his recovery.

The Great War ended, wounds healed, many years passed, and life went on. My grandfather married and emigrated from Scotland to Canada settling in Windsor, Ontario where he worked as a machinist in the cold-header department at the Ford Motor Co., played the cello in the Windsor Symphony, and raised my father. Christmas of 1941 my grandfather received package from Australia - it was from Arnott, the soldier he had saved. Twenty-six years later the gracious man had somehow located my grandfather. In an act of thanks and remembrance he returned the bloodstained handkerchief to my grandfather along with a Christmas card and letter!

The two men in fact continued their correspondence, writing letters and exchanging Christmas cards for several years. We still have in our possession and greatly treasure one of those cards from Mr. Arnott. It is a small card in the shape of the Australian continent and it simply states in Arnott's handwriting, 'From all at home with hopes of all the best for your future welfare. Arnott to Filbey'.

Sadly, none of the letters survived and unfortunately we don't know Mr. Arnott’s first name, which Anzac or British army unit he served with, and whether or not he was originally from Australia or had moved there from Great Britain after the war. It is quite amazing to contemplate how Arnott ever located my Grandfather many years after the war for Arnott was not a Royal Dublin Fusilier and my grandfather, a British career soldier, emigrated from Scotland to Canada after 1923. We strongly suspect Mr. Arnott or a family member might have worked for Ford Motor Company Australia - my grandfather's photograph was published in the June 1941 issue of the Ford Times, Canadian Edition that was circulated throughout the Commonwealth countries. Arnott must have recognised my grandfather in the photo and thus had the means now to contact my grandfather either directly through Ford Motor Co. or by asking them for my Grandfather’s address in Windsor.

There are many unknowns here but what we do have is a wonderful story of courage, friendship and hope –a simple act of kindness and a simple act of gratitude, from a time of terrible hardship and suffering. I would greatly like to discover the identity of Mr. Arnott and connect with his descendants to share this story with them!

My research to date leads to several conclusions regarding the identity of Mr. Arnott:

Facts: Arnott was a British or Australian soldier, wounded at Gallipoli during WWI, was awaiting medical attention and was saved by my grandfather at or near the River Clyde on V-Beach, Cape Helles, he survived World War 1 and returned or moved to Australia, lived there with family, contacted my grandfather in 1941, and corresponded for several years afterwards.

Conclusions: Arnott,

- possibly worked for or had a family member working for Ford Motor Co., Australia

- possibly lived in the Geelong or Melbourne area; the location of Ford Headquarters

- possibly from Victoria (if served with 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade)

Arnott – if an Australian soldier:

- The majority of Anzac troops were located on the northwest side of the peninsula and were not in physical contact with British troops in the Cape Helles area to the south. However, the following Anzac units were transferred to Cape Helles in early May 1915 for duty on the British Front and therefore had direct contact with the British troops. They are mainly from the 1st Australian Division, 2nd Brigade and the New Zealand & Australian Division (N.Z. & A.):

• 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade, composed of four infantry battalions (5th, 6th, 7th and 8th) raised in Victoria during 1914

• along with their “bearer sub-divisions” of their respective field ambulances

• the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th Batteries, Australian Field Artillery (A.F.A.)

• 3rd Battery, New Zealand Field Artillery

• New Zealand & Australian Division’s New Zealand Infantry Brigade

- So far I cannot find an Arnott who was attached to any of these units

Arnott – if a British Soldier:

- Must be from a battalion that served in the Cape Helles area of Gallipoli. Either landing on the beaches April 25th, 1915 or involved in later action, reinforcements, etc.

My Grandfather was wounded on 25 April - problem is I cannot find a British Arnott who landed on one of the beaches at Cape Helles on or about 25 April and survived the war.

My Grandfather was also wounded in the leg later in the campaign during the Suvla action. If this was when he saved Arnott how did he end up back down in Helles beside the River Clyde? This doesn't make sense to me?

Any help, advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated?



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Hi Brian,

What a great story. I guess that odds are Arnott was a member of the British Forces if he was wounded on the 25th April 1915 at Helles.

Many men who emigrated served in some capacity with the Australian Forces during WW2 and it may be worth looking at the Nominal Roll at the Australian War Memorial website. If he worked for Ford he was probably in a protected occupation though.

I had a quick look and found two possibilites...born in England and old enough to have served in WW1. Both are WA enlistments in the VDC. W26181 Rowland Arnott born Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 1895(there is a 148029 by the same name who served with the RE in WW1) and W26547 Walter Arnott born Broomhill 1890 (there are six listed at National Archives).

May be worth a look.



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  • 2 weeks later...
Both are WA enlistments in the VDC.  W26181 Rowland Arnott born Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 1895(there is a 148029 by the same name who served with the RE in WW1) and W26547 Walter Arnott born Broomhill 1890 (there are six listed at National Archives).

Thanks for the help mate!

Pardon my ignorance, but I'm not getting the acronyms WA and VDC and does RE mean Royal Engineers? :blink:


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Brian, what a wonderfully moving story. I wish you all the best with your research and hope you find your man. Please do let us know


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Thank you to Patrick, Andrew and Tim for your kind words and help!

I have struggled for some time now with trying to find an Arnott who participated in the landing at V-Beach on April 25th, 1915.

Initially I found a George Arnott, Private 10512 with the 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers, who landed at V-Beach from the River Clyde. I thought I'd found my man. He is also listed with the Machine Gun Corps as sn73140. Apparently he was a casualty 28, March 1918, died in Flanders - I cannot seem to confirm this with the CWGC database though! So still not sure?

I will look into your info Tim, thanks for the initial footwork!

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Do keep us all posted with any progress or dead ends - we would love to hear the outcome and people may be able to help you out of a dead-end.

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  • 1 year later...
I had a quick look and found ...born in England and old enough to have served in WW1. Rowland Arnott born Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 1895 (there is a 148029 by the same name who served with the Royal Engineers in WW1)




There was a detachment of Royal Engineers on the "River Clyde." I don't know if any of them were wounded. But for the fact he appears to have died in 1918, I would have thought that your Royal Munster Fusilier would have been a more likely candidate. Could I ask your source/s on him?





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You could write to the Ford Motor Company in Australia and see if they have employee details of an Arnott working for them in that time period.

There is also Births , Deaths and Marriages. You could try checking for the death of Arnott, starting with Victoria, being where Ford Comapny is.



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It seems BD &M Victoria, have had a change. I suspect it has something to do with the privacy laws that have been coming in. I rember, I think, being able to pull up the records, but anyway, maybe a letter to them may help.


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There is a George Arnott on Soldiers Died CD who died of wounds on 28 March 1918 but he isn't MGC

Rank: Private

Number: 10512

Regiment: Royal Munster Fusiliers

Battalion: 1st Bn

Surname: Arnott

Christian Name: George

Born: St Leonard's Edinburgh

Enlisted: Leith, Edinburgh

Residence: Edinburgh

Date died: 28/3/18

Died how: Died of Wounds

Theatre of War: France & Flanders

Supplementary notes: Formerly 9248 Lancers of the Line

Perhaps your George Arnott who was MGC did survive and emigrate?

Hope this helps


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  • 7 years later...


Something struck me upon re-reading the story. I agree with Tim's comment "I guess that odds are Arnott was a member of the British Forces if he was wounded on the 25th April 1915 at Helles."

Up to now this thread has implied that Arnott could only have been a soldier (British or Australian). But could he, perhaps, have been a sailor? The boats that carried the men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers ashore were manned by members of the Royal Navy, many of them from HMS Cornwallis. Also in the boats and aboard the River Clyde were men of the Anson Battalion, Royal Naval Division and I am aware of at least one officer from the Hood Battalion who was assigned to the beach. Apart from that, ten Royal Naval Officers and 300 other ranks were assigned to V Beach as beach and working parties.

I see from the National Archives website that quite a few Arnotts served in the Royal Navy. I understand that people with access to ancestry.com can view medals cards without having to pay for them individually (and, as I said, there are quite a few).

Fingers crossed that, perhaps, this avenue of approach might pay dividends.


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