||Hell’s Foundations: A Social History of the Town of Bury in the Aftermath of the Gallipoli Campaign,
by Geoffrey Moorhouse. New York: Henry Holt, 1992..
The debacle at Gallipoli has been etched indelibly into modern memory and has gained the epic and heroic proportions of myth in the process. Indeed, the annual celebrations held on 25 April to commemorate the unmitigated valor demonstrated during the initial landings at Gallipoli in 1915 honor, according to many, the “Anzac” – Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – soldiers who fought there. The town of Bury, England, celebrated the same anniversary, although in doing so the Anzacs were not the subject of their adoration.
Bury was the regimental home of the Lancashire Fusiliers, the 1st Battalion of which led the assault on “W” beach at dawn on 25 April 1915. In doing so the Battalion suffered 533 casualties (including 189 killed and 61 missing) and earned “six Victoria Crosses before breakfast.” The latter “contributed more than any other thing to the enduring myth of Gallipoli in Bury” (p. 125). A total of six Lancashire Fusilier battalions eventually served in the Gallipoli campaign, and they left behind 1,816 dead men on the peninsula, which reinforced the “myth” of Gallipoli and had a significant impact upon the town of some 50,000.
This superb book is not merely another battle, campaign, or unit history, but is instead an insightful social history of the evolving relationship between town and regiment, and the impact of Gallipoli on each. Author Geoffrey Moorhouse, who was born in Bury and has written fourteen other acclaimed books, begins his study by dissecting and analyzing the reasons for the fascination with the Gallipoli campaign and its perpetuation as a “legend.” Within that context, the author explores the history of the town, which played an important role in the Lancashire cotton industry, and the conditions which made it an ideal recruiting area and regimental depot. This information is juxtaposed with a martial history of the Lancashire Fusiliers – the XXth Foot – heroes of Minden (1759) and Inkerman (1854) who suffered humiliation at Spion Kop (1899) during the 2d Boer War. On the eve of the Great War, the Lancashire Fusiliers consisted of eight battalions, Regular, Reserve, and Territorial, and would expand to thirty battalions, losing 13,642 soldiers during the course of the war.
Moorhouse uses myriad sources in weaving the subsequent chapters of his social history together, including chronicles of Gallipoli, the history of the town, and biographies of Bury’s and the regiment’s leading personalities. Especially noteworthy is the author’s extensive use of the local newspaper, the Bury Times, which provides an untainted contemporary view of events depicted, and oral interviews with surviving Gallipoli veterans and family members. The result is a wonderful tapestry of the people and places bound together by the common, cataclysmic experience of Gallipoli.
The fiasco of the first day’s landings at Gallipoli in 1915 was sheer hell for the assault troops, especially the Lancashire Fusiliers. That day and the subsequent campaign had a tremendous and profound impact upon the soldiers involved, the regiment as a whole, and Bury. Moorhouse has written a highly-lucid and enthralling military history which serves as a paradigm for neglected aspects of military history and points the direction for future areas of research. Hell’s Foundations is recommended in the most glowing terms.
Book Review, Hell’s Foundations: A Social History of the Town of Bury in the Aftermath of the Gallipoli Campaign, by Geoffrey Moorhouse, Journal of Military History 58 (July 1994): 535-536.