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- Biographies and personal histories, WWI operations
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- March 2011 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
What made Jim Mathews lie and come back among the stench of the dead, swarms of green fly which assailed dead and excreta, the living and their food, for six weeks knowing full well he needed surgery? Just guts, the strange band of comradeship which was bred in the trench warfare of the First War and, hidden in Jim by an aggressive exterior. He received the Military Medal at Beaumont Hamel in France 1916 and was killed 1917 at Gavrelle. In my opinion a piece of bronze in the form of a cross from the guns of the Crimean War would have been more suitable.
Signed: Stephen J. Moyle, ex Drake Battalion Royal Naval Division
The Royal Naval Division was principally formed because the Navy had surplus Reserve manpower whereas there were shortages in the Army. Sailors were given basic military training, retained their naval ranks but were put into Army uniform and to all intents acted as Infantry. Their one concession was that they retained the highly prized rum ration.
HMS Eagle referred to above was a Reserve training ship then based at Salthouse Dock in Liverpool. The Drake Battalion of the Royal Naval Division became the 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the Royal Naval Division. The Drake Battalion, with 33 officers, 996 other ranks, 14 horses and 78 mules sailed from Avonmouth in the SS Franconia on 28 February 1915. They reached Gallipoli on 24 April 1915 but initially were prevented from landing by bombing from Turkish aircraft. Following a successful naval bombardment they put their troops ashore on 26 April and made significant gains at first before a Turkish counter attack forced them back towards the beachhead. The battalion was later to see action in France.