At the start of the First World War, Arthur Beecroft was a recently qualified barrister in his twenties. Determined to enlist despite a medical condition, he volunteered for military service, first as a regular soldier, then as a despatch rider. Offered a commission in the Royal Engineers, in 1915 he saw action at Gallipoli.
Now a byword for catastrophic military disaster, the Gallipoli Campaign was the ill-conceived Allied invasion of the Dardanelles. The campaign stalled almost immediately, resulting in over half a million casualties on both sides.
Lucky to survive, several years later Beecroft wrote a detailed memoir of his experiences. Discovered by his granddaughter and now reproduced here almost exactly as it was written nearly a century ago, Beecroft’s vivid narrative takes us through those heady days of the declaration of war, enlistment, initial training, the bungled landing at Suvla Bay, and the exceptionally difficult conditions of the Gallipoli terrain. This is no mere jingoistic account. With a keen eye, Beecroft brings to life the men dogged by disease and exhaustion – ordinary soldiers who, even as they suffered the betrayal of incompetent leadership, displayed extraordinary reserves of heroism and bravery.
Throughout this rare insight into what it was like for an ordinary ‘civilian soldier’ swept up in the fog of war, Beecroft’s authentic voice still speaks honestly to us today – of comradeship and devotion to duty, of fear and facing death. Now published for the first time in the centenary year of the Gallipoli Campaign, this is a soldier’s story in his own words.