Rallying cry from the King as an Irish hero headed to war

Lieutenant Noel Worthington

Lieutenant Noel Worthington

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Noel Trevor Worthington is the only Irishman whose name appears on Garstang War Memorial.

He was also one of several servicemen from Garstang who made the long journey to the Mediterranean and the Middle East during the First World War.

Paul Smith at Garstang War Memorial

Paul Smith at Garstang War Memorial

Noel’s service was a brief one, in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915.

He was the son of a Dublin railway contractor, Robert Worthington, whose company won the contract to complete the much-delayed extension of the Knott End railway in 1908.

With the successful completion of the work, Noel, and his brother George Errol Worthington, were invited by the railway company to run the line.

In this manner, George became general manager, and Noel became assistant manager and secretary. Noel eventually moved to The Mount, Bowgreave, about the year 1911.

He quickly volunteered for war service in August 1914; being commissioned on September 15 as a 2nd Lieutenant, initially with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps but was later gazetted (on the same day as he was commissioned) as a temporary lieutenant in 6th Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment.

This battalion became part of the 38th Brigade within the 13th Division of the British Army – a part of Kitchener’s Army of volunteers. In fact, the men under Noel’s command were some of the very first Lancaster men to enlist in August 1914.

Noel and his men trained at Tidworth Camp, Wiltshire, before moving to Aldershot in February 1915 – they trained at Salisbury Plain, too, but in June the men of the 6th King’s Own were given notice by the War Office that they were to travel by train to Avonmouth. Many suspected that they were destined for France but they were wrong.

On February 13, after hearing a message of goodwill from King George V, they set sail and headed south.

Travelling via Alexandria. the battalion arrived at Mudros on July 4 and it was during the course of this journey that the men under Noel’s command first came to learn that they were going to fight “Johnny Turk” and not the Germans. To many, it must have been a disappointment.

Turkey had taken sides with Germany and her allies in November 1914 and this presented special problems for the British during the War.

Since then, Allied access to the Black Sea and the Russian Fleet was effectively blocked by the Turks at the Dardenelles, a narrow strip of water that led to the Sea of Marmara and Constantinople beyond.

Capture of the Turkish capital would knock her out of the war and give the Allies valuable warm-water access to Russia.

In order to break through at the Dardanelles, the Allies needed to seize the Gallipoli peninsular – a narrow strip of land that was heavily garrisoned by Turks and their guns.

This idea led to the Gallipoli campaign and the first landings took place on April 25, 1915; but Turkish resistance was so stiff that British troops were pinned down on the isthmus – and in trenches – just like those of the Western Front in Europe.

Men died of disease and suffered much from malaria.

The climate was intense and many British soldiers were falling prey to heat exhaustion. Conditions soon became desperate for want of reinforcements.

With the arrival of more British troops, including 13th Division, a new effort was being prepared for August 6, 1915.

Noel and his men were now being made ready for new landings at a northerly point on the Gallipoli peninsula known as Suvla Bay.

On August 6, 1915 the landings took place on schedule and without much attention from the Turkish garrison in the area.

Noel and his men found themselves on a wide, deserted cove, surrounded by small cliffs and rocky gulleys.

There was time to water the horses, make a camp and await further instructions but their Commanding Officer, General Sir Ian Hamilton, seemed content to leave the men there for the time being.

It was a fatal mistake ... and at dawn, on August 8 the Turks attacked the defences around the encampment.

Their artillery began to shell the cove and within minutes the 6th King’s Own were all but overwhelmed by Turks with fixed bayonets crying “Allah! … Allah!”.

It was a terrible baptism of fire for Worthington ’s Lancastrians. After a roll-call, Noel was posted as wounded and subsequently missing.

An article in Irish Life said he “fell while rallying his men when attacked by overwhelming numbers”.

In a letter the War Office told his father the wounds had probably proved fatal, and that Noel had died on or about August 8.

His remains were later buried at Embarkation Pier Cemetery, near Chailak Dere, in present day Turkey – far, far away from Salmon Pool,

Dublin, in the Emerald Isle.

Noel Worthington was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star.

This article is based on a chapter from the book “Garstang’s Great War Heroes” by Paul Smith and Anthony Coppin. Copies are available, price £8 from various outlets in Garstang. For more details ring 01995 605824.