There are a great many bagpipe tunes written to commemorate the events and people of WWI and a number have become well worn classics. Many of these tunes were written by men who served and stand as lasting memorials to their experiences. It is worth spending some space to explore the background and inspiration for these tunes and, where possible, the music and recordings of them as well. For this article, we'll cover the tune “6th Highland Light Infantry's Farewell to Gallipoli."
The First World War was not limited to just the western front in Europe. It truly was a "world war" with campaigns fought from the Mediterranean to Greece and the Balkins, Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Mesopotamia, among others.
The British and Commonwealth Armies saw action in almost all of these campaigns, and Scottish troops took part in most of them.
Gallipoli is one of the most well known campaigns outside of Western Europe. The campaign was essentially one long battle composed of smaller, major actions. It’s well known because it was a major defeat for the Commonwealth forces and the only major victory for the Ottoman Empire during the war.
At the start of the war the Ottoman Empire was on it’s last legs. Founded at the end of the 13th century with its center in what is today, Turkey, the Ottoman Empire during the early 20th saw a long series of military defeats, internal political strife, and isolation from the rest of Europe. Importantly they controlled the Dardanelles and Bosphorus which was the only route to the Mediterranean for Russians.
In the early 1900s the Ottomans allied itself with Germany in an effort to modernize it’s military and end it’s isolation. In 1914, Germany offered the Ottomans an alliance against Russian that included guarantees of territorial integrity. Two days after the start of the War they signed a secret Ottoman-German Alliance.
In September of 1914 the Ottomans closed the passage through the Dardenelles. After several unsuccessful attempts by the British and French to force the passage the Allied forces officially declared war on the Ottoman Empire.
In late 1914 and early 1915, the Allies conducted a naval campaign against the Ottomans in a continued effort to open the passage for the Russians. In the early spring of 1915 it was decided that a land campaign would be needed to secure the straights.
It was decided that a landing would take place on Gallipoli, a peninsula on the northwestern side of the Dardenelles. The peninsula had the majority of Ottoman forts that protected the straights. If they could be captured by the Allies it would give them control of the straights. The invasion would have the added benefit of splitting the Ottoman forces which were also fighting the Russians in the Balkins.
In the spring of 1915, the Allied forces formed the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. This was made up of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand, who were formed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). It also contained members of the 29th Division, made up of British Units, the Royal Naval Division, and the French Orient Expeditionary Corps.
The landings took place on 25 April, 1915, on 6 beaches across the peninsula. The Allied forces had a confused but successful landing. The encountered stronger than expected resistance from the Ottoman forces, who were led by German Officers. The landings soon stalled and were contained to a beachhead a mile or two deep.
Casualties during the landing were high. At one landing site there were over 2,000 casualties on the first day. At another site of the 200 men who left the boat on 21 of them made it to the beach.
On April 27, the land campaign started with the first of series of battles. By May of 1915, Allied advances stopped and trench warfare began. May through August of 1915 saw a series of battles the resulted in little gain by either side with heavy losses.
Due to the heavy losses of Allied troops, the brigades and battalions started to rotate to provide fresh troops. Both sides suffered almost 25% casualties during June of 1915. July, 1915 saw the arrival of the 157th Brigade of the 52 Lowland Division. This contained the 1/6th (6th) Battalion (City of Glasgow) Highland Light Infantry.
This was the 6th Battalion’s first taste of combat during WWI. The Battalion landed on Cape Helles, at the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula on the night of July 2nd. They landed under fire, the Ottoman lines were very close to the beach. One of the first men killed was Pipe Major John Thomson.
Their first action was on 12 July, 1915. The objective was a series of Ottoman trenches. They were successful in capturing the trenches after heavy hand-to-hand fighting and several counter-attacks. They suffered the loss of 12 officers and 300 enlisted men. On 17 July, 1915, they were pulled back from the frontlines. In August they returned to the frontlines and spent the next 51 days in the trenches.
By the end of August, 1915 the Gallipoli campaign was at a stalemate. The Allies realized that there was no chance of success. Allied losses in Serbia created the need for French and English troops in Greece to counter German advances. Bulgaria joined the Germany and the other Axis powers in October of 1915. This created a direct supply route from Germany to The Ottomans.
The decision to evacuate Allied forces from the peninsula came in December of 1915. The first evacuations started in mid-December with the ANZAC forces. The evacuation continued until the beginning of January.
The 6th Battalion served as the rearguard for troops evacuating from Cape Helles. The battalion left Gallipoli on January 9. 1915. The last allied forces left on January 17th. The Battalion was moved to Egypt for a time and by April they arrived at the western front.
The Gallipoli Campaign was major defeat for the Allied forces and the only major victory for the Ottoman Empire during the war. Over 58,000 Allied soldiers were killed, 29,000 British and Irish troops and 11,000 Australian and New Zealand troops, while the Ottomans lost almost 87,000 men. Over 300,000 men, on both sides, were wounded.
There is not much information available about the Highland Light Infantry’s Pipe Bands during the war. It appears that every Battalion had a pipe band of some sort. Twenty-six Battalions were raised during the war and evidence of pipe bands have been found for many of the battalions. Below is a photo of the 1/7th (7th) Battalion Highland Light Infantry leaving the barracks with their pipe band. They served in Gallipoli with the 6th Battalion.
Photo from The Glasgow Story - Original Photo
The tune "6th Highland Light Infantry's Farewell to Gallipoli” was written by Pipe Major F.C. MacKenzie. The tune can be found in “Logan’s Collection of Highland Bagpipe Music, Volume 8.” This volume was published around 1925 and had the subtitle of “Special War Memorial 1914-1918.” It contains tunes about the war written during, or just after the WWI.
It was written as a 2/4 march but most references to the tune refer to it as a quickstep or quick march. The version found in Logan’s Collection is written in a older style. Some of the embellishments are written out as they are played rather than the style we see today. The best example is the birl at the end every part.