Belican Hills | 10 July 1915

Battle of Malazgirt

After clearing out of Van and Malazgirt, the Ottomans had fallen back on the Belican Hills, a dominating area of higher ground rising to two peaks some some 3,300 feet above the surrounding plains. Their northern slopes run down to the very upper River Euphrates. Yes, the same Euphrates where the British Empire force in Mesopotamia is currently buggering about. It’s an absolutely gigantic river, the biggest in Western Asia. The Belican Hills are about 700 miles north of Baghdad.

Anyway. The Russians are determined to advance into the Anatolian heartland after securing Van Province. The first thing to do is assault the Belican Hills. The Russians believe that the Turks have only a division or so’s strength garrisoning the hills, and that the Third Army that it’s part of is still in severe disarray after the Battle of Sarikamis. Today they begin attacking the hills. We’ll be back to see how they get on.

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Kenneth Best

Major ructions on Gallipoli. Kenneth Best has been tipped off that his Division is going to be asked to attack yet again. His brigadier, General Prendergast, is less than happy with this.

General Prendergast goes to Little W and they have high words. East Lancs Brigade not given fair chance. Given dirty jobs when exhausted. All censure, no praise. Gained no kudos for work done in conjunction with Regulars. As good as other Brigades.

Little W said they were useless, so General P has been gazetted out.

“Little W”, as you may well be able to work out, is General Hunter-Weston. It’s perhaps unsurprising that he’s shitcanned Prendergast, but the thought does occur that good generals aren’t often faced with having to deal with these situations.

Live and let live

With no attacks due for the next little while, significant little pockets of line on the Western Front are gradually lapsing into quiet as the summer heat beats down on them. Let’s have a funny story about the sort of things the blokes got up to to keep themselves entertained. Private James Hall is a Kitchener’s Army man who’s on one of his first stints in the trenches. Care was usually taken to ensure that green units were introduced to the front gradually, in quiet sectors.

The strain of constantly watching and seeing nothing became almost unbearable at times. We were often too far apart to have our early morning interchange of courtesies, and then the constant phtt-phtt of bullets annoyed and exasperated us. I for one welcomed any evidence that our opponents were fathers and husbands and brothers just as we were.

I remember my delight, one fine summer morning, at seeing three great kites soaring above the German line. There is much to be said for men who enjoy flying kites. Once they mounted a dummy figure of a man on their parapet. Tommy had great sport shooting at it, the Germans jiggling its arms and legs in a most laughable manner whenever a hit was registered.

In their eagerness to ‘get a good bead’ on the figure, the men threw caution to the winds, and stood on the firing benches, shooting over the top of the parapet. Fritz and Hans were true sportsmen while the fun was on, and did not once fire at us. Then the dummy was taken down, and we returned to the more serious game of war with the old deadly earnestness.

I recall such incidents with joy as I remember certain happy events in childhood. We needed these trivial occurrences to keep us sane and human. There were not many of them, but such as there were, we talked of for days and weeks afterward.

Louis Barthas

Louis Barthas goes back up the line today, but his weakened squad is to be kept in the reserve trenches for its four-day stint. It’s a happily dull one.

Actions in Progress

Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive
Armenian Genocide
Battle of Malazgirt

Further Reading

I have a Twitter account, @makersley, which you can follow to be notified of updates and get all my retweets of weird and wonderful First World War things. If you prefer Tumblr, I’m also on Tumblr.

The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.

(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)

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