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Review of “Gallipoli: the Egerton diaries and papers”

Gallipoli: the Egerton diaries and papers
by David Raw
published by Helion & Company 2020
Paperback ISBN 978 1 912390 84 7
143 pages plus bibliography and index
Reviewed by Chris Baker
I thank the publisher for sending me a copy.

A short review for a short book, which is a study of the work of Major-General Granville Egerton in command of the 52nd (Lowland) Division (Territorial Force) during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. It is largely based on Egerton’s diaries and private papers which are held at the National Library of Scotland, the Imperial War Museum, and the National Archives.

Egerton was appointed to command the division in March 1914 and took it to Gallipoli in June 1915, by which time the campaign was, in retrospect, doomed to failure. He was already 54 years of age and suffering from Bright’s disease. His division, strongly associated with Glasgow, had lost several of its original units to transfers; its 7th Royal Scots had been involved in the awful Quintinshill railway disaster shortly before the division sailed; and it went without its full complement of artillery. To compound the problems, one of the infantry brigades was delayed by an accident at sea. Soon after landing at Gallipoli the little that had arrived of the division was deployed piecemeal and was soon in a costly and unsuccessful action at Gully Ravine. The division has a good published history by R. R. Thompson which is worth reading.

Egerton came in for a good deal of criticism, notably from his commanding officer Hunter-Weston, who in July evacuated him, officially for medical treatment. Ironically, Hunter-Weston soon went the same way. Egerton was removed from command of the division by Lord Kitchener in September 1915.

The book is essentially in two parts: from page 55 onwards, structured as appendices, are transcripts of Egerton’s diaries and papers, and his later correspendence with the official historian of the Gallipoli campaign. This is all good reference material that will be of interest to those studying the division or the campaign. The earlier part is essentially an essay that assesses Egerton’s role and performance. In my own opinion David Raw quite rightly suggests that Egerton should never have been sent, simply as he was not sufficiently physically fit for such a demanding job in such a demanding environment. For the most part, the author provides a robust defence of Egerton on the basis that he found himself in a poorly structured, poorly resourced and ill-led campaign. Egerton seems to have held most of those commanding him, and indeed others such as the Royal Navy, in low regard and I sense that he would have been a difficult man to command and manage.

Overall, an insightful study.

Buy it

Links

52nd (Lowland) Division

The Gallipoli campaign