The 5th Battalion the Dorsetshire Regiment was the Regiment’s first “Service” Battalion, formed from the large number of patriotic volunteers who thronged to the Depot in Dorchester on the outbreak of war. After training at Belton Park, Grantham and Witley Camp near Hindhead, the Battalion, as part of 11 Division, were attached to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force commanded by General Sir Ian Hamilton.
Embarking on RMS Aquitania, they landed on the island of Lemnos on 11th July 1915, before being transferred to Imbros. In the early hours of 7th August, the Battalion landed at the southern edge of Suvla Bay. Despite a confused landing under enemy fire, the Battalion formed up on the beach and struck inland to clear its first objective, Hill 10.
Over the next month, the Battalion were in almost continuous action, battling the extremes of climate, terrain and a determined Turkish opposition. Shelter, water and rations were all in short supply, while enemy snipers and shrapnel fire caused a steady trickle of losses.
Flies in particular proved an irritation; Lt. Stuart Hibberd describes a Corporal sticking his fork into a piece of meat in his mess tin and it becoming black with flies on the way to his mouth, I can hear him saying now “Go ye devils where your bloody brothers have gone” as he put the meat into his mouth, flies and all!
On August 21st, as part of an attack designed to clear the high ground around Scimitar Hill, the Dorsets suffered over 300 killed, wounded or missing in an assault on Turkish trenches at Hetman Chair. The following day, the Battalion was only able to muster 250 fit men from an original strength of almost 800.
As the year wore on, continuous winter storms flooded trenches and made life even more difficult, the one redeeming factor being that the enemy were also suffering. Illness, particularly dysentery, continued to take its toll. The Battalion was finally withdrawn back to Egypt in January 1916.