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Remembered Today:

a french battery at gallipoli


Guest gumbirsingpun

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Guest gumbirsingpun

hi lads

in the book of " defeat at gallipoli", its mentioned that there was a french battery under the name of " la demoiselle" firing upon the turks in the third battle of kritha,

my first question is as regards where this battery had been put into place beffore the attack, has any of you a map showing the location of the battery?

and my second question is that what the range of this french battery was.

regards

tuna

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Tuna,

the foll from the OH might help

Vol II, page 45 "...General Gouraud had lent six batteries of French 75's to support the advance of the British right and right centre." and in a footnote "Kirte Dere was to be the dividing line of British and French artillery support."

regrads

Michael

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Tuna,

Ignore my post above; I was misled by your referring to a French battery

I now see from Steel & Hart's book that the name la demoiselle was used in a quote from Brig Gen William Marshall's 'Memories of Four Fronts' and in fact refers to a particular French trench mortar lent by Gen Gouraud and which fired "death dealing bombs (100lb melinite) bang into the dangerous Boomerang redoubt."

re its placing: I would guess that you will have to look along Gully Spur or Fir Tree Spur somewhere

regards

Michael

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CPO F.W. Johnson (RNACD) was manning a machine gun trained on the main Boomerang sap and he saw the French mortar shells (which he refers to as 'Torpedoes') appearing to be flying at 200 feet directly overhead.

It sounds more like Fir Tree Spur than Gully Spur, but perhaps this will catch Steve's eye and he may be able to tell you where

Michael

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I think Michael's assessment is correct - Fir Tree Spur is most likely. It is very unlikely that a mortar capable of firing 100lb shells would have been manhandled across onto Gully Spur. I do not know the range of this particular weapon but I would be surprised if a heavy trench mortar were more than 1,000 yards behind the line. Can the weaponeers on the Forum help?

H2

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There is a further ref to La Demoiselle in Steve Chambers' book 'Gully Ravine'

see page 85 where he informs that there were two of them and that they

"..could drop bombs ranging from thirty to seventy pounds of melinite vertically into the trenches at fairly short range."

I second H2's plea that an expert gunner offer us advice on this one

regards

Michael

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Guest gumbirsingpun

Michael and horatio, thank you both for the replies,

hmm, the idea never suggested itself to me that it might have been located near fir tree spur, what do you say to the idea that it might have been located on eski hisar?

regards

tuna

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If by Eski Hisar you mean the area around Tott's Battery, I think it unlikely. The range would have been around 3 miles to The Boomerang - much too far for a mortar, I think. More possible if the weapon was a howitzer firing at high angle, but all the accounts state that it was a mortar. Also, as a close support weapon, the trench mortar would have been better placed near the action.

H2

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Tuna,

I agree with Horatio here

Per the refs which I have seen (Brig Gen Marshall & CPO Johnson) the French Mortar 'la damoiselle' was linked to the attack on the Boomerang and at fairly close range

By the way, I've put up a link on the 'Uniforms, arms, insignia, equipment, medals' section and hopefully we can catch an artillery expert's eye who may know something more

regards

Michael

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  • 8 years later...

I now see from Steel & Hart's book that the name la demoiselle was used in a quote from Brig Gen William Marshall's 'Memories of Four Fronts' and in fact refers to a particular French trench mortar lent by Gen Gouraud and which fired "death dealing bombs (100lb melinite) bang into the dangerous Boomerang redoubt."

re its placing: I would guess that you will have to look along Gully Spur or Fir Tree Spur somewhere

CPO F.W. Johnson (RNACD) was manning a machine gun trained on the main Boomerang sap and he saw the French mortar shells (which he refers to as 'Torpedoes') appearing to be flying at 200 feet directly overhead.

It sounds more like Fir Tree Spur than Gully Spur, but perhaps this will catch Steve's eye and he may be able to tell you where

There is a further ref to La Demoiselle in Steve Chambers' book 'Gully Ravine'

see page 85 where he informs that there were two of them and that they

"..could drop bombs ranging from thirty to seventy pounds of melinite vertically into the trenches at fairly short range."

I second H2's plea that an expert gunner offer us advice on this one

2006 – 2015, and still looking......................

The French Mortar was named 'la damoiselle' by the British and I suspect that this was in fact an English battlefield corruption of the French name 'Dumezil'

The attack on the Boomerang was at the end of June 1915 and this coincides with the first mentions of Trench Mortars - see the 29th Divisional Artillery history (2nd July)

On 18th August 1915, the above records '...two British 3.7” trench mortars had been received and were being used as well as the French Dumezil mortars.'

When the French evacuated Gallipoli, they left behind a number of mortars (12 per one report) for use by the RND trench mortar battery under Alan U. Campbell RNVR. These Dumezil mortars were said to fire a 130lb shell

Does anyone know which type(s) of Dumezil mortar the French had at Gallipoli?

Thanks in advance

Michael

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87th Infantry Brigade War Diary


12th Aug 1915. Another quiet day. Lt Col AGNEW left. Capt PIKE assumed command of the 1st Bn ROYAL INNISKILLING FUS. The 2nd Bn SOUTH WALES BORDERERS relieved the 1st Bn KING'S OWN SCOTTISH BORDERERS in the night subsection of the Brigade firing line, and also took over the length of trench occupied by the right platoon of the 1st Bn ROYAL INNISKILLING FUS.


The 1st Bn BORDER REGT will now permanently hold FUSILIER BLUFF, and the 1st Bn ROYAL INNISKILLING FUS INNISKILLING TRENCH, and carry out their own reliefs. The 2nd Bn SOUTH WALES BORDERERS and 1st Bn KING'S OWN SCOTTISH BORDERERS reliving one another every four days in other subsection. The Reserve Battalion to be in Y RAVINE.


After dark, the 1st Bn BORDER REGT by previous arrangement with the destroyer SCORPION placed a machine gun on the beach and opened fire on the Turkish barricade. On this signal, the SCORPION opened on the same target with searchlight, guns, and machine guns. The result has not been ascertained. Later, a patrol was sent out by the 1st Bn BORDER REGT to find out. They met a strong Turkish patrol and opened fire. The SCORPION again came to the assistance and dispensed the Turks. A naval 12 pounder was dragged up the cliff after dark and placed in position in our bomb proof in J 13 to blow down the Turkish bomb proof 30 yards away. A 15 pounder was similarly dragged up and placed in the support trench behind INNISKILLING TRENCH to blow the roof off H 13c.


Four "Demoiselle" trench mortars were dug in a concealed positions behind BORDER BARRICADE (two large throwing 100 lb bombs, two small 4 ½ lb bombs). These mortars are inaccurate, but very destructive.



13th Aug 1915. At 04:30, The naval 12 pounder in position behind our barricade in J 13 opened fire on the Turkish barricade opposite about 25 yards away after firing six rounds began (sic) broke down doing little damage to the barricade. The bomb attack was to be launched down the trench after the destruction of the barricade was therefore abandoned.


During the early morning, the four trench mortars threw bombs into H 13 A doing considerable damage. These mortars fired again at 17:00 on the same trench and with great effect. At this time our front trenches had been evacuated to allow a French battery to range our H 13a and its network of trenches round it. This battery did indifferent shooting at the trenches in front but landed three HE shells on the parapet of our second line trenches causing no casualties.



14th Aug 1915. The trench mortars again opened fire early in the morning on H 13c while a 15 lb gun which had been placed in position in the mule track near J 11 took this trench in enfilade; the result was that by now H 13c was for the most part debris.


About 18:30, the Turks fired their mine under J 12, it blew up half way between our barricade and theirs (about 15 yards short). Four men of the 1st Bn ROYAL INNISKILLING FUS were buried behind our barricade, two of whom were dug out alive. This explosion broke the leads of our mine under the same.


During the night, the 1st Bn BORDER REGT sent out an Officer's patrol, 20 strong along the beach. After going out some distance, two parties of about 30 Turks each crawled passed them higher up the cliff towards our trenches so the 1st Bn BORDER REGT patrol returned. The 2nd Bn SOUTH WALES BORDERERS sent out an Officer and two men up the ravine towards the Turkish barricade; they bolted a few Turks from the heather in front of our trenches who ran back towards their own line.

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Don't know if this of interest or not but according to the 29th Divisional Artillery: War Record and Honours Book, p.6, a Capt.D.Daly, 29th Div. Artillery, was decorated / mentioned in dispatches for his "fine work in charge of the Dumezil Trench Mortar Group" at Gallipoli.

Also, they were apparently used in support of the 2e regiment de marche d'afrique on the 5th July: "Notre artillerie de 75 et les Dumezil tirent sur les tranchées ennemies, les Turcs affolés se jettent en arrière en se montrant à découvert, notre infanterie les prend sous ses feux".- see: http://tableaudhonneur.free.fr/2eRMA.pdf

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Here is another that although tangential may be of interest - if not, then disregard... It is from a facsimile of: My Life and Some Letters: The memoirs of Mrs. Patrick Campbell and is viewable at: http://booksnow1.scholarsportal.info/ebooks/oca9/21/mylifesomelett00camp/mylifesomelett00camp.pdf (VERY slow loading...). It is ALSO at http://archive.org/stream/mylifesomeletter00camp/mylifesomeletter00camp_djvu.txt which has a different pagination... I have used the original (as in the facsimile) below and highlighted the references to the Dumezils

P.299: "Lieut.-Commander Alan U. Campbell, MC ... Howe Battalion ... Gallipoli.

"....

"Landed beginning of August, joined up with his old battalion, Anson, found himself in command practically two companies (including reinforcements) at the Cape Helles end in the trench, whilst the remainder of the battalion was at Suvla. Transferred to Howe Battalion, became Trench-Mortar Officer, September, 1915. In October, 191 5, took part in operations carried out by the 52nd Division (Lowland) in taking Vineyard Trenches; employed protecting their left flank, with all available mortars of the division, relieving the French Division on the extreme right of the line. Was put in command of the Divisional Heavy Mortar Battery, 18 guns, afterwards reduced to 12 (Dumezils), firing 130 lb. shells, which the French handed over in December, 1915.

"He was ordered by the 8lh Corps to draw all enemy fire possible from the 52nd Division (on the left), who were taking some trenches near the " Vineyard," which he very effectively did, firing on an average 30 heavy shells from each mortar and having the " Dumezil " gun positions and trenches nearly flattened out.

P.300: "Prior to the " evacuation," acting under orders of the Divisional General, he invented a means of converting the remainder of the large " Dumezil " torpedoes into electrical contact land mines, by means of tins of ammonal, lashed to the sides of the aerial torpedoes, and trip wires to contact pieces into electric batteries.

"Using the personnel of the Mortar Battery, and with the help of N.C.O.'s from the Divisional Signal Company (R.E.'s), he laid out 13 mine fields in the divisional area, protecting the withdrawal of troops from the line.

"The mine fields started from between the firing line and support line and, covering the whole front, continued down to the Eski line (or final reserve line). On the night of the evacuation he was placed in command of the last thirty-two men who remained up with Divisional Engineers (who were cutting wires or pulling down obstructions in the trenches), and when all troops had passed through, his party connected up all the trip wires, completely blocking the way, should the Turks attack.

"Some of the mine fields had as many as 250 large aerial torpedoes lashed together (about 25,ooolb. of " Melanite "), and from reports of aeroplanes, and news from the Athens papers during the next few days, they appear to have caused great havoc amongst the Turkish patrols (2,000 casualties being admitted by the Turks).

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The volume of the French official history (Les Armées Françaises dans la Grande Guerre) that contains documents dealing with the Dardanelles campaign (Tome VIII, 1e Volume, Annexes, 1e Volume) includes two telegrams, both dated 21 May 1915, that list the number of trench mortars sent out for the use of the French expeditionary force. The first of these documents the dispatch of "24 mortiers Dumézil, 12 légers type 1 bis et 12 lourds type 2" while the second attests to the sending out of 24 "mortiers de 58 Dumézil." As both telegrams also mention that these pieces were accompanied by 2,400 rounds of ammunition, I think it is reasonable to assume that they deal with the same weapons. (Scans of the relevant pages are attached.) If that is the case, then these mortars were standard 58mm trench mortars of the day.

The following paragraphs (from a soon-to-be-published article of mine on the subject of French artillery in the First World War provides a short description of these weapons.

The first standard trench mortar in the French service, the “58T”, was as much a product of serendipity as the improvised weapons it replaced. Its barrel was a steel tube with an interior diameter of 58 millimeters that had been taken from the recoil mechanism of the Schneider 105mm heavy gun. (These were left over from the failed attempt of the state arsenal at Bourges to build complete copies of the latter weapon.)[1] The projectile had a diameter of 150 millimeters because cylinders of that size had been built for use with the mortier de 15. Nonetheless, the 58mm trench mortar represented a considerable improvement over its predecessors. Thanks to combination of fins and impact fuzes, its “aerial torpedoes” flew further than projectiles fired by the improvised trench mortars, were much more likely to hit their intended targets, and detonated with much greater reliability. Thanks to an adjustable barrel, crews could adjust for range and even change targets without having to move the entire piece.[2]

By the spring of 1915, three different versions of the 58mm trench mortar were serving at the front. The original model (“58 T no. 1”) fired a light (16-kilo) “torpedo” to a maximum range of 250 meters. The improved light model (“58 T no. 1 bis”) delivered a similar projectile, but could reach out to 500 meters or so. The improved heavy model (“58 T no. 2”) could throw a variety of finned bombs, the largest of which weighed 40 kilos.[3]


[1] Bouchon, Cours d’Artillerie de Tranchée, p. 14

[2] The best account of the genesis of the 58 T is that of its inventor, Colonel Duchêne: “Comment Naquit l’Artillerie de Tranchée Française”, Revue Militaire Française, January-March 1925, pp. 107-124

[3] Bouchon, Cours d’Artillerie de Tranchée, pp. 15-18

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Martin, Trajan & Bruce,



Many thanks for your in-put here gentlemen


and especially thanks to Bruce for sharing the scarce French technical information on these weapons



the '58 T No.2' mentioned by Bruce may be seen in these links to the IWM's photographic collection here http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205027134


and http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205221820



The history of the 29th Divisional Artillery [see pages 175 & 179] notes that per the reorganisation of 23rd August 1915, the Trench Mortar Group fell under the direct orders of the G.O.C VIII Corps Artillery, and at that time the commander of the Mortar Group was Capt T S Sayers



The weapons listed were


three French Dumezil


two 3.7”


one 6”



Alas, not mentioned are the Dumezil mortars employed directly by the French under their own command structure.



Further information on this subject will be most welcome.



Michael


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"Alas, not mentioned are the Dumezil mortars employed directly by the French under their own command structure."

The 40 kg (88 lb) projectile of the "58T No.2" comes nowhere near the 130 lb projectile recorded at Post #13. These heavy mortars of the RND "Dumezil Group" which Lt Alan Campbell commanded from 29 December (so for little more than one week at Gallipoli) had been handed over by the French shortly before that date (the unit is noted as "recently formed"). These larger mortars could have been the 240mm Dumezil, firing projectiles up to 180 lb. It would also seem that by this date the mortars were a divisional weapon and not a corps weapon.

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Searching the British line infantry diaries there are 62 mentions of mortars in the 29th Div diaries alone. There is a high concentration of mentions in mid August 1915 in the units of the 87th Inf Bde (see my post # 11 above). Some more snippets at battalion level.Note 1st KOSB and 2nd SWB were in 87th Inf Bde.

1st Bn KOSB War Diary:

11th Aug 15. A very quiet day and night indeed. A Coy built emplacements in support lines for the French mortars.

13th Oct 15. 08:30 - 12:30 and 14:30 - 16:30 Confirmation of work on lines. Quiet day. 09:00 Lt S A GILLON of KOSB 1 NCO and 1 Pte reported to OC TRENCH MORTARS of ROYAL NAVAL DIV to attend a course in Mortar blasting for a fortnight. 1 man admitted to hospital

2nd Bn SWB War Diary

13th Aug 1915. 16.45 Trench mortar guns opened fire on H 13c and did considerable damage to same. Turks retaliated by shelling our trenches with small HE shells.

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I had recently come across the term 'Dumezil' in a War Diary and was contemplating asking what it meant so my thanks to everyone.

From 17th Brigade RFA

24th Sep 1915

0545

13th Battery on duty

1015 onwards

Naval 12pdr fired 2 shrapnel & 28 HE on (i) E KRITHIA NULLAH, (ii) G13Z & Nullah (iii) Red dugouts in GULLY behind J13. 26th Battery fired 1 round at 1953 on H13. 1 round at 2136 on GULLY Target, in answer to a Test message. In the evening a pre-arranged 'hate' on the H 12's was carried out.

2205 -2215

The 92nd Battery was given 50 rounds to fire on H12Y and H12Z. The 13th 40 rounds on H12W.

2250-2305

The ammunition was equally divided between the two periods starting at 2205, and 2250, with the first round from the DUMEZILS. Both our batteries got through their allotment in the first few minutes - salvoes being fired at 30 secs interval. From FOO's reports a lot of damage was done - to a Turkish working party caught out, to their wire and to their parapets.

Regards

Alan

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I have had to crop the attached quite a bit, thus I hope it is still readable. 'Dumezyl' is mentioned several times. The map is dated 23rd August 1915.

Regards

Alan

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A closer look at the relevant volume of the French official history (Tome VIII, 1e Volume, Annexes, 1e Volume) yields several references to Dumézil mortars (with no mention of caliber), a few references to 58mm Dumézil mortars, but no mention of any of the 240mm Dumézil mortars.

Among the documents that mention Dumézil mortars without further description is an order, dated 11 December 1915, with details about the relief of French forces by the Royal Naval Division. (The first two pages of this order, which contain a discussion of the eventual transfer of an unspecified number of Dumézil mortars, are attached.)

By the way, the French-language version of Wikipedia has a short article about Brigadier General Jean Dumézil, the namesake of the Dumézil mortars.

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Here is a bit of information on the 240mm trench mortar introduced to the French Army in 1915, a piece variously described as the "240 CT" (for "court tranchée"), the "Dumézil" (whence this discussion), and the "Dumézil-Bagnitolles." Of particular interest to this discussion is the weight of the projectile (87 kilos, which amounts to 191 or so pounds) and the date of the first widespread use of the piece on the Western Front (September 1915.)

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Very interesting documents. Thank you, Hoplophile. If the Dumezil 240 CT did not go into action in France until 23 September 1915, it seems a bit unlikely (but not impossible) that 18 units would have been sent to the Dardanelles in October/November. The 190 lb projectile is even further removed from the 130 lb reported. I incline towards the weapons at Gallipoli being the lighter 58.T No.2 firing the 90 lb 'torpedo' (and Alan Campbell's Mum just got the facts wrong in her book).

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At the risk of pedantry, I offer two additional documents of interest to those investigating the question of the "Dumézil" mortars serving at the Dardanelles. The first, attached to this note is from General Dumézil himself, and lays out a schedule for the formation of batteries armed with the new 240mm trench mortar. (The first battery was to be formed on 20 July 1915.) The second, attached to the following note, describes the state of the French trench mortar program in the summer of 1915.


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the It is interesting to note that the author of the letter reproduced below, Monsieur Albert Thomas of the War Ministry, uses the term "Dumézil" to describe the 58mm mortar but not the 240mm mortar.

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It may be of interest here to have a look at what the British were doing at this time

Perhaps the following also gives us an insight as to why the French Dumezil became so important to the British at Gallipoli

[Details are taken from 'Winston S. Churchill, by Martin Gilbert, Vol. II, Companion Part 2, Documents May 1915 – December 1916']

On 3rd September 1915 Churchill wrote to Dr. Christopher Addison (Liberal MP & Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Munitions of War)

WSC described how he and Lloyd George had been impressed by a demonstration of the 'Stokes gun' in early June 1915, however he believed that the project, previously and currently, was much delayed by the War Office and Woolwich 'making difficulties.'

Following a meeting with LG two months later, on 11th August 1915, WSC understood that 1000 guns had been ordered without waiting for further approval from the WO or Woolwich

On 10th September 1915 Addison wrote to Churchill mentioning

'twenty 4 inch [stokes] Guns have gone to France and 10 leave in a day or two..........

….......we may expect to have 100 three inch Guns ready for proof within three weeks ….................

….......with regard to 2 inch Trench Mortars.....there is good reason to hope that by the end of September 50 to a 100 guns will be ready for proof and that during October not less than 200 further Guns will be ready.........'

Dr Addison then goes on to say that the difficulties of production are complex and not fully appreciated. He encloses a couple of documents regarding the packing arrangements for shells and a list of equipment for the 10 Guns and the shells

[Addison's letter could easily have been drafted for him by some WWI ancestor of Sir Humphrey]

Captain Francis Arthur Sutton MC, RE., served at Gallipoli where he lost his right hand, before moving to the Ministry of Munitions of War from where he wrote to WSC.

Ltr%20Capt%20Sutton%20RE%20to%20WSC%20Se

Ltr%20Capt%20Sutton%20RE%20to%20WSC%20Se

regards

Michael

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