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Gallipoli Battlefield Expedition 2017



In September 2017 along with one of my Australian cousins, Tom Morley, I will be driving out to visit the World War One Gallipoli battlefields. Our grandfather, Capt John Morley, was a surgeon with the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division of the Lancashire Regiment. He was decorated by the French and made a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. For part of his time there there was a French Regiment in the line with the Lancashires, so he must have operated on quite a few wounded French soldiers.

John Morley was a Manchester surgeon at the time that Britain war declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914. Within 7 days of the declaration he had volunteered to join the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He was at that time engaged to our grandmother, Miss Mollie Simon. He wrote frequently to her throughout this time and we have all their correspondence. When the Lancashires shipped out from Southampton on RMSP Aragon en route to Egypt he took a camera and was an astute observer of all that went on around him.

The Lancashire Regiment was the first of the Territorial units to go to war. Lord Kitchener had been responsible for a major modernisation and reorganisation of the British Army Territorial units starting at the turn of the 20th century. Following "boot camp" training in Lancashire wryly observed by grandfather in his letters: "Yesterday we went on a forced march - when I say march, the officers were mounted on horseback...." Similar to the 'Pals' regiments from Sheffield most of the Regiment would have come from the Manchester area providing an initial bond from the start.

Onboardship Sept 1914

          Lt John Morley (left) Khartoum 1915

The following is the text of a letter from John Morley to Mollie Simon, on Ship's letterhead paper "RMSP Aragon", dated Southampton Sept 10th 1914

"Sweet my love,

 If anyone had told me 6 weeks ago that Sept 10 would find me clad in Khaki, armed with a revolver & a moustache of horrid ferocity aboard a troop ship en route for Egypt I should have passed him lightly by as one demented. Yet this has come about. My history since mobilisation  been briefly this

1. 10 days at RAMC headquarters in Fife, partly bivouacking in afield, partly sleeping in horrid smelling rooms in headquarters and partly in a grossly insanitary Congregational Sunday school. Then one fine morning at 4 am the 1st E Lancs Field Ambulance set out on the march some 20 miles to a moorland country beyond Bolton. When I say marched I would not conceal the fact that the officers rode their chargers, nor yet that my charger at one slippery point of the granite set road, rolled over onto its side to my temporary discomforture. Then came weeks in a camp near Bolton, with fine weather on the whole, but things so uncertain re movements that we didn't get much training done, & lived a sunburnt ?????? sort of life, with a certain amount of horse riding and not much exercise besides. Then came the message from Kitchener (we having volunteered for foreign service) that the Lancs Division Territorials would proceed to Egypt for training, as soon as ready, would be sent on to the front. Our feeling is that we won't be in Egypt for more than two months or three - perhaps as far as the field ambulances (of which there are 3 to the Division) go, not more than 1 or 2 as we are sure to be wanted. We don't know  our station in Egypt, It will be either Cairo or Alexandria, hope the former.

For speed in travelling I do not recommend a troop train. We left camp at 12 yesterday, and reached Southampton at 3 am this morning, - 15 hours en route. Our Ambulance of 250 men came on the first train. The whole division of about 16,000 and transport took 76 trains to cart them and they are not all here yet.  Our journey across England was remarkable. Everywhere the natives seemed to have got wind of it and turned out with flags & similar things to wave. This demonstration in Lancs & Yorks was of course more enthusiastic than further South, where it was getting dark, but even in the South & after dark one heard the faint sound of cheers coming through the window at times.

But how shall I describe RMSP Aragon? It is magnifique, - de luxe! She usually sails between here & the Argentine, but now after just escaping the Kaiser Wilhelm debarcle on her last voyage she has been comandeered for us, & with 4 other similar boats start for Egypt tonight.

The Aragon is some 10,000 tons, about 8 years old, & triple clipper rigged abaft her main mizzen top and altogether spruce & dandy. Words entirely fail to describe the luxury with which one finds oneself surrounded, the officers have each a cabin, roomy well ventilated with electric fan, water laid on, wardrobe, settee & I know not what else. Superb baths & bogs adjoin. We mess in a very oriental palace. At present I sit in a superb writing room, oak panelled to the ceiling, with rich divans & settees & rugs from Araby & know not from where else are strewn around with prodigality. We have smoke rooms & lounges, - we have all & morethan we want for our 2 weeks voyage. I suppose it is the ordinary of a transatlantic liner, but I haven't seen it before, & and it impresses one. I fear there will be a bill for me using that will hardly be covered by the 2/- (2 shillings) a day ration allowance tendered by an all wise government. As a matter of fact in Camp so far we have practically lived on our rations alone, & I have been able to save about £5 or £6 a week out of my 17/- a day pay. And now for the open sea, & the salt breeze. If an untimely mine does not pick us off we have the beauties of the Bay to look forward to, & once past Gib, the eyes will strain for a possible attack by the Austrian Navy. We sail all 6 troop ships together, with a naval escort, but I don't know how strong. Wounded are landing here daily they say, & excellent hospital trains distribute them all over the country. They bring round stories of the systematic way in which the Germans polish off our wounded on the field rather than be bothered by them, and men who have these accounts from wounded officers are convinced of the truth.

It is hard to believe that the kind natives of the Shwarzwald can be turned into such devils. A Captain on a hospital train told me they had wiped out one of our field ambulances in France or Belgium. Have you had any news of January. Let me know as you love me, & whether you have or not decided. remarks of some sort to

Lieut J.M.

C section, 1st E Lancs Field Ambulance, RAMC, Egypt, which is my official address

How many of us will get back to England & in what condition is an interesting but profitless speculation. Let us only dwell on the fact that life is good & interesting, & we are a merry party. The people it really hits are one's people at home, & the ????, but they are all unanimous in approval of the step I'm glad to say,

I love you well,


I'm afraid Easter will be off for the wedding unless peace is declared before Xmas which seems unlikely."