The word jumped out across the open grass. The word. One word.
From a broken headstone in an English churchyard to the corner of the Mediterranean most English people would never know.
It is almost an apologetic word. You. You unfortunate lot. You were the ones to die at Gallipoli. A campaign designed to sway the war towards the allied side. A quick campaign to neutralise the Turks, thus weakening the enemy alliance. A campaign which ended in what seems like a midnight withdrawal; a creep away into the night. A withdrawal that after eight months or 260 days, had killed over 44,000 men from Britain, Ireland, India, France, Australia and New Zealand. It occurred on a peninsula, a slither of land which juts out between the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles. But this land in 1915 would be riven with Turkish snipers, German heavy artillery and seemingly unattainable positions. For between April 1915 and when the last Allied soldier left in January 1916, the men fighting the Gallipoli campaign faced crippling conditions, disease, harsh terrain and war injury.
Many caught diseases like enteric fever, dysentery, trench fever caused by lice. Some suffered dehydration and sunstroke in the heat. Some from frost bite in the cold. Many from shrapnel wounds, gun shots, bayonet wounds. Some burned when fire lit up the isle, sparked by shell fire which took hold in the heat.
Gallipoli was not the Western Front with its mud, its incessant shellfire but it was a front on this war with its own singular difficulties. Difficulties which ended in massive casualty numbers. For along with this man, Edward Percy Mundy, 22,000 other British and Irish men died on that peninsula. For it is his name that appears on this half-broken gravestone. A man of the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
From research, I understand that the following information appeared on the headstone; the grave belonging to his grandparents.
William Munday 26th June 1900 Aged 63
Emma 29th Sept 1907 aged 72
also Edward Percy Munday
Private in the 4th Worcestershire Regiment
Grandson of the above
Died from exposure in Gallipoli on 26th November 1915 Aged 29
But now it says only half of the story.
Edward Percy Mundy was born in 1888 in Aust, just outside Bristol. Aust is known now as the site of the old Severn Bridge which bridges the River Severn to Beachley on the other side. But before the bridge, there was a ferry; the Aust ferry. Edward Percy, sometimes just known as Percy was the son of Mary Jane Mundy but was brought up by his grandparents. It seems therefore no surprise that Edward Percy was added to their gravestone in Aust churchyard in South Gloucestershire.
Edward Percy Mundy was a Private in the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He died from exposure at Gallipoli on November 26th 1915. It may have heatstroke, dehydration, disease. But on the November 26th 1915, the 4th Worcesters suffered after a crippling day of heat, the worst that mother nature could throw at them. For later that day, heavy rain drenched the trenches and positions on the peninsula; some drowned.
When first the Graves Registration Unit (GNU) and then the Imperial War Graves Commission returned to the Gallipoli peninsula, Edward Mundy’s grave was not found. For once Gallipoli was left to the Turkish forces, the cemeteries and graves were left to the elements. Plants grew back. Crosses were used for firewood. Cemeteries were ‘tidied’. Graves lost. Bones littered the landscape. Instead Edward Mundy’s name, along with over 20,000 others, are etched into the Helles Memorial which stands at the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. It represents all those lost to the Gallipoli campaign, lost to the sea or lost to the earth.
I do not wish for Gallipoli to be that apologetic after thought for World War One. Those men, like Edward, fought the war that was ordered to them. That they died for a campaign that was withdrawn, deemed by some a failure, seems too hard on them who fought it; it was not their fault, for they did not die in vain. Those men of Gallipoli died for a cause, for a purpose. They believed it the day they died. They believed that they fighting to win a war. I would not dare to take it from them. A military failure perhaps, but not a personal failure.
Edward Percy Mundy. Man of Aust. Soldier of Gallipoli.