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Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Helles Memorial, Gallipoli
First Name: James Alfred Last Name: JESSON
Date of Death: 06/08/1915 Lived/Born In: Silvertown
Rank: Private Unit: Essex1
Memorial Site: Helles Memorial, Gallipoli

Current Information:

Victoria Docks

Born-West Ham

Gallipoli 1915

On 25 April, British, Australian and New Zealand forces landed on the Gallipoli peninsula. The plan was that these forces would soon defeat a demoralised Turkish army, knock Turkey out of the war, open up the Mediterranean to the Russian navy and threaten Austro-Hungary from the south. None of these things were achieved despite nine months of hard fighting in terrible conditions. It was an heroic failure.

By July, 1915, and after much fierce fighting, stalemate had set in at Gallipoli both at Cape Helles where the British and French had landed and at Anzac Cove where the Australian and New Zealand Corps were unable to break out of their beach head. Fresh troops were needed and they were on their way in the shape of four divisions from Britain and things were put on hold until they arrived.

The plan for August was for a landing at Suvla Bay to the north of Anzac Cove whilst at the same time, the ANZAC Corps, reinforced by some of the new British troops would effect a breakout from Anzac Cove and establish a line across the peninsula. Whilst this was going on the troops in the south at Helles would stage a number of diversionary attacks. But it all went horribly wrong and much of the reason for this can be explained by inadequate planning and leadership. Nobody seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing and Lieutenant-General Stopford, in charge of the Suvla landings was particularly out of his depth. The landings at Suvla failed to link up with the forces at Anzac and the breakout from there did not happen despite valiant efforts by all concerned. The loss of life on all fronts was again enormous. L.A. Carlyon’s excellent  book “Gallipoli” gives a superb yet chilling account of the events.

The diversionary attack at Helles on 6th August, 1915 was made by the 4th Worcestershire, 2nd Hampshire and 1st Essex  battalions, all of 88 Brigade, 29th Division. Things did not go well from the start. When the British bombardment began in the afternoon the enemy immediately replied with their own artillery barrage which targeted the crowded British jump off trenches, killing and wounding many of those waiting to attack. At 3.50pm the troops went over the top only to find that their own barrage had been wholly inadequate and that the Turkish defences were still very much intact. Within a few minutes after zero hour, 88 Brigade had been shattered with two thirds of the attacking force becoming casualties and the few gains made were soon relinquished.

1st Essex attacked on the left of the line and although they took the enemy front line without great loss they were then hit by very heavy shrapnel fire and driven back by a Turkish counter attack. W Company clung on to an advanced position all night, exposed on three sides to enemy fire and at dawn was relieved by two platoons of 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers. On 7th August 1st Essex moved back to Gully Beach after having suffered over four hundred casualties, one of whom was James Jesson.

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