Edward Watkin Colver was the youngest son of Robert Colver, J.P. and Elizabeth Pearson Colver [née Dransfield] and was born in Ecclesall Bierlow, Sheffield, Yorkshire on 22nd October 1891. He had ten siblings, two of whom died at a fairly early age. His father, a Master Cutler, ran a well-known Sheffield steel firm [Jonas & Colver Ltd] with his partner Joseph Jonas and was affluent enough to employ a large domestic staff.


Edward, or “Ted” as he was known within the family, was educated at St Anselm’s preparatory school and Wellington College. After leaving school he worked as a clerk, most likely in his father’s business, and took up a commission in the 455th (West Riding) Field Company, Corps of Royal Engineers, which was part of the Territorial Force.


In early 1915 the War Office formed three more regular Divisions made up from the last units recalled from overseas. As all the regular Field Companies had been allocated, arrangements were made for nine Territorial Field Companies [of which the 455th was one] to fill the places in the three new Divisions. Consequently the 455th found itself allocated to 29 Division as 1st (West Riding) Field Company.


By February Ted was with his unit in Kineton, Warwickshire. An extract of an undated letter1 he wrote to his eldest sister Charlotte, known as Lottie or Tots in the family, [1879-1971] gives a flavour of life at the time.


Dear Lottie,

Can you do me a favour and try and get me a Map Case somewhere in Town like the enclosed sketch. It should be about 8” or 9” square. Leather outside and the maps show when open just like a music case. Also can you get me from Burroughs and Welcome’s a small case of active service medicines. I believe they are making up small sets of useful things such as Veg Laxatives, Dover’s (?) Powders, Opium or Morphia Tablets (in case of wounds) Quinine and Formamints etc.

We like this place immensely as it is in the heart of the Warwickshire hunting district and as we have been favoured with lovely weather we have been able to go several long Route Marches round by Edge Hill. We are very busy equipping and hope to be ready early next week, when we expect the King will inspect us somewhere near Stratford.

I will let you know when so that if you like you can come over and see us then. We are going to have dinner with Lady Willoughby de Broke this evening and on Saturday with the M.F.H. of the Warwickshire Hunt.

I must end now with love to Joe and the kiddies.

Ever your loving Brother,

Ted


His sister obtained the map-case and medicine chest for him and so Ted wrote to offer his thanks.


My dear Tots,

Please excuse my not having written before to thank you for getting me the map case and medicine chest which are exactly what I wanted, but I hope I shall have no occasion to use the latter.

We have had a very busy week equipping and I spent all my spare time with Evelyn2 in Stratford. Unfortunately our car broke down on Sunday and wasn’t right until Tuesday so they couldn’t see as much of the country as they should have liked.

On Wednesday we went on a long Route March with all our new vehicles and Margery got some very good photos of us. Tomorrow we are going out all day and shall have a sandwich lunch in Mr King’s (Eric’s uncle) park. Mrs Scott, Monica and Nell are staying there the weekend and will be taking photos of us in all our paraphernalia of war. The inspection by the King didn’t come off last Thursday much to everyone’s disappointment but we expect it will take place just before we move off, and we don’t know when that will be as several of the Regiments which have come from India are down with ‘Flu’.

I hope Joe brings out something good in the trench periscope, we have one here which is quite good and very simple but it might be improved by having the frame made telescopic like camera tripod legs. Two mirrors about 2” × 3” are quite big enough; if they were made of Nickel Silver like a small pocket mirror I have, it would be a great improvement as the great trouble is that the mirrors get so easily broken, and are very hard to replace.[Small diagram of periscope in right-hand margin]

If he brings out a good one tell him I will send him an order immediately. We are having simply glorious weather just now and yesterday I took my Section Cyclists out map reading and had a most enjoyable and instructive ride round Edgehill and a Windmill from which Oliver Cromwell watched the battle from.

I’ll let you know if the Inspection, when it does come off, is public or not and then perhaps you could come up and see it.3

With love to the children

I remain your loving brother

Ted


The final letter in the collection, written whilst Ted was still in England, was dated 28th February 1915.


My dear Tots,

I am so sorry to hear from home that Pamela has been so very ill and do so hope that the dear little girl is now well on to recovery. I hope Antony is keeping fit and well and being very good and that Joe is finding trade a bit better.

We are still very busy training and equipping and don’t know when we shall go out as they are keeping the Infantry back to get properly acclimatised as the last lot of troops from India went across to France too soon and suffered badly from Malaria and chills.

Yesterday afternoon just as we were finishing work the hounds came near the village so the Major, Eric, Bertie and I had our horses saddled and went off for an enjoyable afternoons hunting which we hope to be able to repeat again in the near future. The people round here are awfully nice and we get scores of invitations to dinner and tea but as we are doing a lot of night digging and marching we have to refuse most of them.

We were out on a “Road Report” March the other day and the Map Case proved most useful and so much handier and more inconspicuous than the one I had before. Hugh wants to know where it came from as he says he must order one. Hugh and I always compete as to who is the more up to date in equipment etc. He has got a Medicine Box exactly like the one you sent me.

I am so pleased to hear from Mother that Papa4 is showing marked signs of improvement and hope it will continue.

I must end now as I have to go and inspect the Guard before going to bed so love to all and hoping to hear that Pamela is quite well again.

I remain, Your loving Brother

Ted


Not long after this letter was written Ted left Avonmouth in March 1915 and went via Malta to Alexandria. On 7th April they began to re-embark for the move to Mudros, the deep water harbour at the island of Imbros that was going to be used as a forward operating base [FOB] for what later turned out to be the ill-fated campaign at Gallipoli.


On 25th April 1915 Ted took part in the original landings from the “SS River Clyde” on what was termed “V" beach, (Cape Helles-Seddul Bahr Camber, Seddul Bahr). An account of what happened on that day, of which this is an extract, is set out in a despatch written by Vice-Admiral John de Robeck, (commanding the fleet operations at Gallipoli), to the Secretary of the Admiralty. It dealt with the landings and early operations on Gallipoli from a naval perspective.


Sir, I have the honour to forward herewith an account of the operations carried out on the 25th and 26th April 1915, during which period the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force was landed and firmly established in the Gallipoli peninsula. The landing commenced at 4.20 a.m. on 25th.

Landing at "V" Beach.-

This beach, it was anticipated, would be the most difficult to capture; it possessed all the advantages for defence which "W" beach had, and in addition the flanks were strongly guarded by the old castle and village of Seddul Bahr on the east and perpendicular cliffs on the west; the whole foreshore was covered with barbed wire entanglements which extended in places under the sea. The position formed a natural amphitheatre with the beach as stage. The first landing here, as at all other places, was made in boats, but the experiment was tried of landing the remainder of the covering force by means of a collier, the "River Clyde."

This steamer had been specially prepared for the occasion under the directions of Commander Edward Unwin; large ports had been cut in her sides and gangways built whereby the troops could reach the lighters which were to form a bridge on to the beach. "V" beach was subjected to a heavy bombardment similarly to "W" beach, with the same result, i.e., when the first trip attempted to land they were met with a murderous fire from rifle, pom-pom and machine gun, which was not opened till the boats had cast off from the steamboats. A landing on the flanks here was impossible and practically all the first trip were either killed or wounded, a few managing to find some slight shelter under a bank on the beach; in several boats all were either killed or wounded; one boat entirely disappeared, and in another there were only two survivors.

Immediately after the boats had reached the beach the ''River Clyde'' was run ashore under a heavy fire rather towards the eastern end of the beach, where she could form a convenient breakwater during future landing of stores, etc. As the "River Clyde" grounded, the lighters which were to form the bridge to the shore were run out ahead of the collier, but unfortunately they failed to reach their proper stations and a gap was left between two lighters over which it was impossible for men to cross; some attempted to land by jumping from the lighter which was in position into the sea and wading ashore; this method proved too costly, the lighter being soon heaped with dead and the disembarkation was ordered to cease. The troops in the "River Clyde" were protected from rifle and machine-gun fire and were in comparative safety. Commander Unwin, seeing how things were going, left the "River Clyde" and, standing up to his waist in water under a very heavy fire, got the lighters into position.

The bridge to the shore, though now passable, could not be used by the troops, anyone appearing on it being instantly shot down, and the men in “River Clyde" remained in her till nightfall. At 9.50 a.m. "Albion" sent in launch and pinnace manned by volunteer crews to assist in completing bridge, which did not quite reach beach; these boats, however, could not be got into position until dark owing to heavy fire. It had already been decided not to continue to disembark on "V" Beach, and all other troops intended for this beach were diverted to "W". The position remained unchanged on "V" beach throughout the day, men of war and the maxims mounted in “River Clyde “doing their utmost to keep down the fire directed on the men under partial shelter on the beach. During this period many heroic deeds were performed in rescuing wounded men in the water.

During the night of the 25th-26th the troops in "River Clyde" were able to disembark under cover of darkness and obtain some shelter on the beach and in the village of Seddul Bahr, for possession of which now commenced a most stubborn fight. The fight continued, supported ably by gunfire from H.M.S. "Albion," until 1.24 p.m., when our troops had gained a position from which they assaulted hill 141, which dominated the situation. "Albion" then ceased fire, and the hill, with old fort on top, was most gallantly stormed by the troops, led by Lieutenant-Colonel C. H. H. Doughty-Wylie, General Staff, who fell as the position was won. The taking of this hill effectively cleared the enemy from the neighbourhood of the "V" Beach, which could now be used for the disembarkation of the allied armies. The capture of this beach called for a display of the utmost gallantry and perseverance from the officers and men of both services-that they successfully accomplished their task bordered on the miraculous.

J. M. DE ROBECK, Vice-Admiral.


A Captain Guy Nightingale who was on the “River Clyde” wrote in a letter dated 1st May 1915:


The water was shallower than they thought and the Clyde was stuck about 80 yards out. None of us felt it, there was no jar. As she beached 2 Companies of the Dublin’s [Royal Dublin Fusiliers] in "Tows" came up on the port side and were met with terrific rifle and machine gun fire. They were literally slaughtered like rats in a trap. Many men sank owing to the weight of their equipment and were drowned. The carnage on 'V' Beach was chilling; dead and wounded lay at the water’s edge tinted crimson from their blood. After being set adrift by their steam pinnaces, the boats had to row the last few hundred yards to the shore. The Turks waited until the men tossed their oars and were within 20 yards of the shore and swept them with fire.


For his gallant actions on that day First-Lieutenant Edward Colver was subsequently recognised with a ‘Mention in Despatches’.


On 9th May Ted wrote to his sister from ‘somewhere in Turkey’ giving his account of some of the events of the day in question.


My dear Lottie and Joe,

Very glad to hear that both you and the children are fit and well again and that a change will do you all good. As you most probably know we have now been fighting for two weeks, having landed on Sunday April 25/15, and we did have a time of it. The noise and smell from the naval guns, which were quite close into the shore, was appalling and everyone of us had a headache. But now we have grown quite used to the racket and even go to sleep with guns firing quite close.

It is fearfully hot here during the day, but bitterly cold at nights and for the first few days on land we didn’t manage to get much sleep, but now we have got our vehicles on land we can make ourselves more comfy in dugouts. We are at present road making on the sides of a deep ravine and have built ourselves a grand home in the cliff side, sheltered from the flying shells and bullets. We’ve covered it with pine branches to give us shade and generally made it as comfy as possible.

We have been doing our cooking in our mess tins over our ordinary wood fire, but expect my ‘primus’ up today. We are very well fed indeed, drawing exactly the same rations as the men. Breakfast consists of tea, sugared, without milk, bacon and biscuits (very hard but jolly good). Dinner; tea again, Bully, biscuit, cheese. Tea; Bully biscuit, jam, tea. Rum, lime juice and cigs are provided once a week. So you can see we don’t do badly even on active service. And we are hoping to get bread issued in a day or two. Of course we supplement it with a little chocolate but our supply is running very short indeed. We allow ourselves one 1d bar of Mexican per officer per day. But look forward to being able to increase the ration when our supplies arrive from England.

We are hoping that some will arrive in the mail of which part was delivered today. We had a great luxury the other day in a piece of cake which we bought while in Alexandria a month ago and which we found in our mess basket the other day. It tasted none the worse for being stale. How I should just love a mouthful of Moscar Bun.

We get absolutely tired of […] and hearing aeroplanes overhead as there is nearly always one patrolling somewhere near. German tanks occasionally come over and drop bombs on the shore but are quickly driven off by our machines. We saw quite an exciting chase the other morning, but unfortunately our Biplanes were not quite fast enough for the tank, so they didn’t do him in.

We’ve got our horses with us but don’t get much chance of using them yet. The weather has been beautifully fine, only had one wet night and it just happened that we had to go into the trenches and had no greatcoats with us so got the full benefit of getting soaked thro’ and sitting in the cold for several hours, but funnily enough it doesn’t seem to have any ill effects.

In the landing I slipped off the gangway and fell into the sea and got wet thro’ but soon dried in the sun and last night tripped up when marching down this nullah and fell into a pool but fortunately had plenty of blankets etc, in the dugout so was able to sleep in comfort and found my clothes dry this morning when I wanted to get up. It’s the first time since we’ve landed that I’ve gone to bed without my boots and breeches on. We allow ourselves one wash a day if it is procurable and as we are near the sea can occasionally get a bathe, but as our valises with spare underclothing has gone astray we haven’t managed a change in that quarter.

Well, I must really end now so heaps of love to you all and hoping the children are keeping fit and good.

I remain, Your loving brother

Ted


A typewritten letter to his mother dated 14th May 1915 brings her up to date with the less unsavoury aspects of life out there.


My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your letter of the 22nd, which arrived this morning together with Land and Water. Very pleased to hear that Papa is still improving and getting out now the weather is improving. You would like the weather here, it is lovely and fine every day, if a little too hot during the middle of the day for working. It has now turned warmer at night and as we have our new blankets with us and the Artillery fire is not so near it is quieter, we manage to sleep very well in our dugouts.

We’re up every morning with the sun and kept very busy road making and preparing water-supply. We are still feeding on Bully beef and biscuit but as they now issue us with dried veg: we have the lot made into a very excellent stew with the aid of an Oxo cube. We are looking forward to parcels of eatables from England by the next mail which should arrive any day now.

Very pleased to hear about Minnie Colver and hope both Mother and child are doing well. We have all written to Winnie Britain. Glad to hear that Lottie and the Children are all fit and well again. Tell Antony I will send him a Turkish bayonet sometime.

The Turks amuse themselves every morning by shelling the road on which we are working for about an hour, but as the whole place is just a huge human rabbit warren we drop into a neighbouring trench and watch the fireworks until it is over and then proceed with our work again.

The papers and illustrateds which are sent out to us are very acceptable indeed as it gives us something to read in the middle of the day when we are resting and also lets us know even if a little late what is happening in France.

Now that things have got fairly well going we have a daily pamphlet called the ‘Peninsular Press’, which contains the official news from England and France, but what is lacking in news etc is amply made up for by rumours and wonderful ones they are too; with the result that we daren’t believe anything unless we see it in writing from a reliable source.

I met some of Tom Wragg’s company the other day, who told me he was still in Alexandria with their base party.

As I must go and do some more work, I will end with love to all,

Your loving son

Ted


On 17th May 1915 Ted penned a letter to his sisters Gwladys and Margery.


Very many thanks for your two letters which arrived here today. As they send the letters up as they are sorted, we get bits of mail nearly every day. I got a letter from Mother about four days ago, and one from Evelyn yesterday, and I hear that there are still more letters to come and we hope parcels as we are now quite out of chocolate and other luxuries. Evelyn says she sent me some biscuits and with your chocolate we should be well off for a few days.

We are still having glorious weather and are enjoying ourselves as well as can be expected under war conditions. We are all quite used to the noise of the guns and are getting quite expert at knowing whether the shell is coming our way and if it is time to slip into the nearest dug-out. We have had a rest today, the first proper one since we’ve been on shore and as our valises turned up yesterday, we indulged in the luxury of a bath (the 2nd in 3½ weeks) and a change of underclothing (also the first since we’ve been ashore), so am feeling quite nice and clean for a change. I don’t know when we shall get another chance.

There’s really very little to tell you, as anything of real interest would be deleted by the censor. We are still keeping very fit except for Eric, who has had to go to Alexandria into hospital. We are wondering if Simpson will have left England with his detachment to join us.

I wish I could paint, with all the different troops and uniforms amid the beautiful scenery. The orchards and fields and blue sea beyond and the towering mountains of Asia and the islands showing above the horizon are a wonderful setting for the drama of war. It’s rather different I should think, to the mud and dirt of Flanders, but the fighting is none the less severe here though it’s nothing like as hot as it was at first.

Glad to hear that the Girl-Guides are flourishing. Shall I send them a War souvenir as a mascot?

Give my love to all at home and remember me to everyone in Sheffield.

With love

I remain

your loving brother

Ted


Ted’s friend and brother officer Wilfred Seaman5 (brother of Evelyn) wrote to Harry Colver, (Ted’s brother and former OW) who was serving in France at the time giving expression to his views on life in Turkey.


We have come to the conclusion that life out here is infinitely preferable to life in France. I am sitting in a palatial dug-out on a Turks carpet in Khaki drill shorts, bare knees, and puttees and a thin shirt and that’s all! The sun is terrific, but we have delightful sea breezes and wonderful views. The aerodrome is quite near, so we see a sort of model Hendon all day.

I have sent home copies of our official Rag, which E. will show you when you see her, it is rather amusing. I am sorry to hear of our political troubles at home, but think the arrangement will be better.

Your Pater is wonderful. I am glad to hear that he is out again. I have just been riding round our area and ran across Ted standing in a deep gully, having an animated confab, with a Worcestershires sub: Ted had a couple of biscuits enclosing a slab of chocolate, in one hand and was munching as usual! His parties were working nearby on a culvert and road improvements, I happened to be near a battery just before, over which 6 shrapnel burst, but all I got was a few whizzing fuses, the brass cap that is, which buried themselves in the ground nearly.

Another of our boys was slightly wounded today, he was working on the road where my guys were, and a stray bullet caught his shoulder bone, Ted’s horse was there and also got a flesh wound.

We have made a great improvement in this place in a month. Now we have good roads and cross roads and paths and wells everywhere. Sign boards and direction boards and horse-troughs. All fords and gullies are bridged. Steps made of ammunition boxes are made down all steep cliffs leading to the beaches. We have made cliff and hill roads and main-roads for motors. It looks odd to see Triumph motor bikes ripping past our bivouac at all times of the day; in the Gallipoli Peninsular.

We are going to have another service tomorrow morning.

23.5.15 Just had above service, very touching, all the fellows sang well and the service does a lot of good, I think. Had a bathe today in lovely clear water, but there is a submarine out in the bay, so I was expecting a stray torpedo from one of our T.B.D.’s to miss the German sub and land on our shore. A lovely rock-coast, no-one about; big ships firing like the d—l somewhere about 10 miles up the coast, where the Australians are, but that did not affect me.

I had a small adventure last night, prospecting for a road for armoured Rolls Royces. I had to go up to the Sikhs trenches to prospect, and just as I got up to the front trenches, after walking for about ¾ hour and riding ½ hour, the Indians crept out over their parapet and disappeared towards the Turks trenches 40 yards away, fire was promptly opened from the latter trenches and I had a fairly lively ½ hour dodging stray bullets, until I got back to safety. This sort of thing occurs frequently, at first it was uncanny, now I am used to it.

24.5.15 Have just had 5 hours sleep in the last 48; am half dead. Was working on a mountain road last night with about 2 N.C.O.’s and 50 Infantry. Every time you turn round, they sit down or go off in the dark. Another mail in today. Will wait for it before I close.

Later; They won’t give us our mail until tomorrow, so will close now. Two shells just dropped, one behind and one in front of our dug-out 6 yds away. Both Doddy and I covered with bits, What a life! Still merry and bright. The shells had steel caps, brass must have given out, I suppose.

Our daily routine here is:-

Reveille. 5am. Breakfast 5.30 am. Bacon. Biscuits. Tea and Jam.

Works Parade 6.30am Roads. Wells. Boring (?). Barbed wire entanglements.

Dinner. 12 noon Bully stew with dried potatoes and veg: added. Biscuits, Tea and Plum and Apple jam. 2.0 works to 6. Tea 6pm. Bed 7-30 No lights. A rumour of bread and fresh meat and vegetables is running round. Rum is issued at the rate of two teaspoonful’s per man per week, and tobacco 2 oz per man per week or cigarettes; also sometimes lime-juice in lieu of rum; and marmalade in lieu of jam. Such is life on the Gallipoli P.

Have just returned from my afternoon circuit and a shell dug a hole in the road within a minute of my riding down past our horselines, so I have had two ‘good-lucks’.


Ted wrote again to his mother on 8th June 1915.


My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your letters and newspapers. I am sorry I have not answered them before but we have been exceptionally busy lately and I have only managed to write to Evelyn today for the first time for a week. For nearly a fortnight until Wednesday June 3rd, I had been making an important trench up a nullah6 nearly a mile long. I had working parties of 75 men from 4am till 8am and as I was absolutely responsible for the proper construction and drainage of it, I had to spend a good many hours on the works. We finished on Wednesday evening and were ordered to move to a new bivouac where Hugh and his section were, as important work in connection with an intended attack wanted doing.

On Thursday morning at 6-30am we moved off and I met Hugh and Bertie at about 8-0am. After discussing the work in hand Hugh and I went round the fire, support and reserve trenches which took us till dinner time and at 2-30 we had to attend a meeting at Bgde Hqtes, and got back about 6-30 and after making arrangements for the following day we had tea and then started to write letters, but we were interrupted by an order from the Major to be ready to move during the night into the trenches so as to move forward when the attack commenced. We of course got no sleep that night except for an hour I snatched whilst waiting for Wilfred to arrive with more detailed orders.

We moved again at 4am and got into our first position in the support trenches about 6 o’clock. I then had to find the officers in command of the different working parties which was very difficult in that labyrinth of trenches, especially as in the dark many had got into their wrong places. The bombardment preceding the attack started about 11 till 12 and was a very violent one too. The noise was terrific and everywhere both where the guns were and over the Turkish trenches was a cloud of smoke and dust. At 12 o’clock the sudden opening of a terrific rifle fire from the Turkish trenches told us that the attack had begun and we moved slowly along communication trenches until about 2-30, we reached our old firing line, where I set on a party digging a communication trench to the first captured Turkish trench. I then went forward to the 2nd Turk trench where I found our Infantry converting it into a trench for their own use; I found all my men had gone astray but they turned up later and we were able to get on doing several important jobs. As a night counter attack was expected we got no sleep again and I was so weary that I dropped off once when standing talking to another officer.

After daylight next morning I got a couple of hours sleep and then on with the work again. All day and it was most terribly hot and water was none too plentiful. In the evening Wilfred sent me up a party of men to relieve some of mine and later Bertie came up to relieve me, but as it was nearly dark by the time I had shown him what I was doing and as also I didn’t like leaving part of my section still at work I decided to stay on till next morning.

About 11 o’clock Bertie went off to see how they were progressing with the comm: trench, and told me to get a few hours sleep, and then about an hour later I was woken up by my Corporal, who came to tell me poor Bertie had been wounded, at that moment the C.R.E. and Major Dodworth and Hugh turned up and so off we dashed to find out what had happened, poor old Bertie was badly wounded in the stomach and died about an hour later, the Major remaining with him till the end. I went off in search of a Doctor but had to return to the trenches to see that the work was going properly.

Soon after I got back the order “stand to arms” was given and just as the first signs of dawn were showing themselves in the sky a heavy fire opened on our trenches on the right. Then we saw men moving across our front to the left and then heavy fire from that quarter. Then just as it was light enough to make things out fairly clearly we saw that the Turks had collected in considerable numbers behind some dead ground and bombed our men out of the trenches, then followed a few exciting moments. The whole line turned and ran except our bit of the line who by cheering and waving wildly and doing a charge across the open succeeded in putting fresh courage into our troops, and they reformed and retook the trenches. I don’t know what would have happened to us had they not returned. The Major says he saw me standing on top of the parapet waving my rifle and cheering madly and then blazing away at the Turks; but personally I don’t quite remember what I did do.

We spent the rest of the day working hard, further strengthening our position and in the evening Wilfred sent up a party to relieve me and my men and we got back absolutely done up at 7 o’clock. I was so done up myself that I collapsed in Wilfred’s dug-out and sobbed and laughed hysterically, Wilf gave me Oxo and Brandy and put me to bed and I didn’t wake up for 14 hours feeling much better for the rest, but still very done so I rode slowly back to my old dug-out and had a wash, change and sea-bathe and plenty of sleep and now after another day’s rest and another bathe am feeling nearly alright again. Hugh was wounded in the arm whilst firing, but it is not anything serious I believe. I saw him walking calmly down a field about 600 yards away during the hottest part of the fight holding his left arm to stop the bleeding. The C.R.E. was very seriously wounded further up the line when leading a Bayonet charge and is not expected to recover as the bullet went through his neck and touched his spine.

Our new Subaltern called Carter was injured by a beam falling in one of the trenches and striking the base of his back, but it is hoped it has done no injury to his spine, but he has had to go to Hospital, so now there is only the Major, Wilf and I left and we must thank God that he has brought us through safely. We are hoping to be put on R.E. services of a less strenuous nature for a bit whilst we can rearrange the company. Of course we are all rather upset at poor Bertie’s death, but one gets rather callous in time, after six weeks of warfare it hasn’t the same effect as it would have had earlier on. We have received several parcels of good things from Evelyn (and?) Margery which have been much appreciated by both Officers and men.

June 9th

Eric has unexpectedly turned up today from Alexandria looking very fit and well and quite recovered from his operation and keen and ready for work. He has turned up at a very opportune moment. We are moving our bivouac tomorrow and are going to join up with the London Field Company, as our Company is now so small that we couldn’t take any decent sized job alone now.

Eric and I went for a swim this morning. The Major wouldn’t let me resume work until tomorrow morning, but I am now quite recovered and ready to do my bit once more. The Turks still have a very disconcerting habit of suddenly shelling anywhere and six shells have just dropped in our camp without any warning, and then off they went and shelled somewhere else.

We still hear all sorts of wonderful rumours as to the state of the war elsewhere and don’t know how much to believe as our Daily paper has not appeared for the last day or two as the Printing Office is being enlarged or moved. I have sent Evelyn some photos which I hope arrive safely. I am going to try to get my films home as they will only get lost or spoilt out here. I am so glad to hear that Papa is so much better and am looking forward to seeing him again. Have read all the accounts in the papers of our doings and they are very good indeed. There is a very good sketch in the Illustrated Sunday Herald, of May 16, of the men landing from the “River Clyde”; if a bit far-fetched it gives a very good impression of what it was like landing.

Tell Margery that she must read Hilaire Belloc before sending it on to me as he is very good indeed on the Dardanelles fighting and is quite right every time.

Well Mother I think I have told you everything so will end now. Let me know how Harry is getting on, I am writing to him tonight.

Love to all

Your loving son

Ted

Please thank Margery for her letter and Gwladys for hers.


Later that day Ted also wrote to his brother Harry in France in which he gave a more detailed account of the attack on 25th April than he had so far given to his family. It is remarkable in that it passed through the hands of the military censor without modification. The address given is Gallipoli Peninsula, TURKEY.


Dear Old Sport,

Very many thanks for your long and interesting letter of May 11th. Sorry have not answered it before but much too busy. Glad to hear that you and all your Battn. are fit and well and we all wish them the very best of luck ‘somewhere in France’. I am sorry to say that after six weeks fighting we have suffered pretty considerably and have lost poor old Bertie Johnson killed last Saturday night, Hugh wounded next day, Carter (a new man from Chatham to replace Eric who left about a month ago with a rupture but returned today) injured at base of spine, and C.R.E. dangerously wounded at same time as Hugh. All during a big Counter attack by the Turks after we had captured three lines of their trenches on Friday.

I was up at the time doing R.E. work for the Hants and their bit of the line was the only bit to stand, the remainder being driven out by the Turks. It was all very exciting - I remember standing on top of the parapet and yelling for them to come back and help as the Turks having occupied their trenches would not advance but tried to bomb us out of our bit, but we got an Enfilade fire down the trenches and stopped the rot. The right of our line then charged across the open and cut off some of the Turks, and our retiring troops, seeing that, returned and retook the trenches.

The C.R.E. was hit whilst leading a Bayonet charge of Sappers. How I came off unhurt I really don’t know. There was only a Subaltern in charge of the Hants and he is being recommended for the D.S.O. I believe. He certainly deserves it. He handled his men wonderfully in a very awkward position. Until Eric turned up this morning, there was only Wilf, Dodworth and myself to run the Company and I was on the rest list suffering from over fatigue and nervous breakdown after the trying experiences. We had been four days working in the trenches without any sleep and finished up with that Counter attack.

I am now at our Base, Bivouac, but unlike France, we can never get right away from the battlefield. Only a few minutes ago six shells fell about 20 yards from my dug-out amongst our waggons and last night a shell fuse came into it. But thank Heaven they have no very heavy guns and not over many Field guns, otherwise we shouldn’t be long on the Peninsula I’m afraid. As it is every one wanders about as if on manoeuvres within ½ mile of the Turk trenches and risks the few shells they lob over.

We are at present stuck at the bottom of Achi Babi as you will see from the papers, but we are moving slowly forward and I expect will ultimately take it, but it has been very strongly fortified and most of their guns are on rails and only come forward to shoot and then retire into the hill, and so can only be put out of action by a lucky shot catching them when firing. Like you in France, we suffer from lack of High Explosive, shrapnel doing very little good against the Turk trenches. We captured any amount of German Officers the other day and several German men off the Goeben.

As I expect you have already heard and read, we landed here on April 25th taking part in the “most terrible of all the landings, that on ‘V’ Beach between Cape Helles and Saddul Bahr”. That landing will always be memorable on account of running an old collier, especially fitted with gangways on either side, full of troops deliberately ashore. Amid a terrific bombardment from the entire French and English Fleet, we steamed slowly towards the shore just as dawn was breaking. The ‘River Clyde’ ran ashore about six o’clock, but the water was still too deep to allow of the men leaping from her and wading ashore. A steam hopper and a couple of lighters had been provided against this, but one of the lighters swung out of position and made landing considerably more difficult for the men who had to cross the hopper, two lighters and then a wooden gangway on to a projecting reef of rock, during which they were subjected to a terrific fire from rifles, Maxims and pompoms.

In the face of this terrific fire two Companies of Munsters tried to land, but some were shot on the gangway and falling into the sea were drowned, others were hit on reaching the hopper or the reef. A few only survived and lay under a bank of sand about 4ft high which ran along the beach, and which gave them some cover from the leaden storm. As it was seen that it would mean annihilation to make further attempts in day-light, it was decided to postpone all further movement until dark. Whilst this was going on the Dublins had attempted to land in tows but met the same tempest of fire and very few indeed ever succeeded in reaching the shelter of the shore. Gen Napier and his staff were in one of those boats and were wiped out by a machine gun. It was an awful sight to see those boats approaching the shore, man after man being struck down and when the boats did finally reach the shore, often only under their own momentum, hardly a man was capable of running ashore.

On seeing that the attempted landing had for the time failed, the ‘Cornwallis’ and ‘Albion’ and also the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ opened a furious bombardment on the fort at Sedd-el-Bahr and the Turkish trenches on the hills behind. It was a wonderful and awe-inspiring sight to see “Lizzie’s” 15 inch shells smashing into the fort only 200 yards away. The noise was terrific, but it was wonderful to see the fort and village crumble before the fire from the battleships.

Throughout the entire day the ‘River Clyde’7 lay ashore with the men packed like sardines between the decks, whilst the bullets rattled harmlessly against her side. During the morning howitzer fire from the Asiatic shore was directed against the Collier but was kept under by the covering warships in the Straits. Four big shells which fortunately did not explode, however, pierced her, and two falling in the hold occupied by our men killed two and wounded six. After those shells had struck us we felt like rats in a trap wondering when and where the next would come, but thank heaven the Fleet did its part well and never gave that Battery another chance. As soon as it was sufficiently dark a fresh attempt was made to disembark and almost the entire force was got ashore before the Turks, suddenly alarmed, opened a terrific fusillade which for a time stopped the remaining troops, which included some Dublins and ourselves, from landing.

We however landed at daylight on Monday and were subjected to fire from snipers posted in the forts and houses of the village. Many of the men jumped into the water from the last lighter and struggled ashore by the reef, and though wet through were soon dried by the heat of the Eastern sun. A further advance through the village was then tried but for a time was held up by a machine gun placed in one of the towers of the castle, but this was soon demolished by the ‘Cornwallis ‘who fired straight over our heads at an object only a few yards from us, a truly unique experience. There being no immediate use for the R.E.’s, we held ourselves in reserve to the Infantry, who advanced up through the village of Sedd-el-Bahr which presents an amazing spectacle of battered masonry. Huge Krupp guns were lying about the forts smashed to atoms and quantities of ammunition strewn all over the place. During the advance through the village I was ordered to take up a position with my men in one of the towers of the fort and watch for snipers with whom the village was infested, and from that vantage point was able to watch the Hants do a fine bayonet charge up the slopes of Hill 141.

That night we dug ourselves in above the village and were relieved by the French the next morning. Ours was indeed a wonderful and I can safely say, unique baptism of fire as not only did we take part in probably the greatest landing in history, but we watched a naval bombardment of a fort by some of our most powerful ships from a position barely 200 yards away from the target. Even then our wonderful experience did not cease as it is not everyone who is lucky enough to see a British bayonet charge take place under his very eyes. It was a wonderful and inspiring and never-to-be-forgotten sight. It has often been said of the war in France that it is no longer spectacular, but that cannot be said of the war out here, certainly not for the first few days.

Between that landing and the attack I described earlier in this letter, we have been busy doing R.E. work, roadmaking, very necessary in this country; arranging water supply, for though water is more plentiful than we expected it was, wants carefully conserving and protecting. We have also done a certain amount of barbed wiring and trench draining. As we are never out of range of the Turkish guns and rarely work out of range of their rifle fire, we are continually losing men hit by stray bullets or shrapnel.

We have now been continuously under fire for 6½ weeks but we are looking forward to quickly shifting the Turk from his present position on the Achi Babi, which he boasts is impregnable, but he said the same of the Peninsula against invasion.

We have a wonderful assortment of troops out here, which certainly adds to the picturesqueness of the place. Gurkhas, Sikhs, Punjabis, Australians and New Zealanders, French troops in their highly coloured uniforms, Zouaves, Senghalese and Algerians. The Australians and New Zealanders have done very well indeed, but with a little bit more discipline and a little less dash they would be better still.

Well, old man, I expect I have bored you stiff by now with our doings so will end. Hope you pull through the beastly war successfully and do great things with the 5th Y. and L.

Remember me to all and give my love etc. to Mary when you write. I hear from Evelyn every week but wish it could be more often.

Well, so long and good luck to you all in France,

Your loving brother,

Ted.

Send this letter home when you have read it, as it is a more detailed account of the landing than I have sent them. The food here is pretty good but for the first three weeks we lived almost entirely on Bully and Biscuit, but now we get bacon, jam, cheese and bread. Also an old Greek has started a Canteen on the beach where sardines, chocolates and fruit can be got at 100% prices.

One great luxury we have here, and that is sea bathing as we are never far from the sea and it is very refreshing bathing in the Gulf of Saros. Eric and Wilf. wish to be remembered to all their friends in the 5th Y. and L. especially Johnnie Archie and Alf. Carter.

Ted


On Monday 28th June 1915 at about 1.00pm First-Lieutenant Edward Watkin Colver, 455th (West Riding) Field Company, Corps of Royal Engineers, [1st (West Riding) Field Company, 29 Division], was killed in action near Krithia in the Dardanelles as a result of being hit by shrapnel. He was 23 years of age. His friend and brother officer Wilfred Seaman wrote the following letter to Ted’s father the next day.


Dear Mr Colver,

It is with the very greatest sorrow that I write to tell you that poor Ted was killed in action by shrapnel yesterday, about 1pm during a great advance by the 29th Division.

By the time you receive this letter I trust and expect you will have had official news from the War Office. I wish to convey to you and Mrs Colver and your family the heartfelt sympathy of the officers and men of the 1st West Riding Field Co R.E. in your great loss.

Poor old Ted died an instantaneous death, being hit in the right shoulder and chest by shrapnel which appears to have crossed inside the chest to the heart. At the time of his death, he was following Major Fisher, O.C. Royal Fusiliers 2nd Battn to whom he was attached as advising R.E. officer - he was in a small steep ravine running down towards the Aegean Sea, about half a mile South of Krithia, and was completely shielded from all fire, but shrapnel bursts.

His two orderlies were both badly wounded by the same shell. I saw one of the orderlies Sapper M.J.Howe (of Sheffield) at the R.A.M.C. Dressing Station, he was in great pain and could only tell me that his officer was killed outright by shrapnel. Sergeant C. Burnand, the N.C.O and the Sappers of No. 2 Section especially wish me to express their sympathy with Lieut Colver’s parents. He was well liked by every officer and man in the company and his loss is most keenly felt.

Immediately I received a report of Ted’s death I took out a party to search for him. I have collected some small things he carried on him, which are being sent home by the authorities. His kit and valise etc will be collected and an inventory made, after which Ordnance Department will despatch everything to you. I will return all letters which may arrive from now onwards, when I can do so, to the sender. Newspapers I will retain and distribute to his old Section, and Parcels according to contents, I will deal with as I think you would wish me to – Speaking personally, I have lost one of my very best friends and am quite unable to express my feelings on paper. I am absolutely heartbroken and feel this great loss most awfully – it is a very bitter ending to a long friendship – poor old Ted – he lived a clean and honest life, always worked hard and did his best for everybody– He died a soldier’s death serving his King right well, up to the last minute.

It was only a few days ago that the General in command of the Division, General de Lisle, expressed his pleasure at the work Ted was doing, and seemed very much impressed with his personality.

The C.R.E. also spoke highly of him, the thorough and keen way in which he performed his work and his general willingness – the C.R.E. is very cut up at the loss the 29th Divisional R.E. has sustained. Please excuse me if I have not expressed myself as I should. I do not like letter writing and am sure you will forgive me.

I personally helped to bury Ted’s body today after our Doctor had examined it. I am having a nice cross made and the grave is surrounded by a big barbed wire fence. The grave is in BRUCES RAVINE, the next ravine South of the one in which he was hit, and it faces East.

I have written Mother and Evelyn, who will no doubt let you see their letters, as I may have given them other details I have omitted in this letter. I must close now as Major Dodworth is away ill and I still have much to do. Please write and ask me about anything further you wish to know. I will always do anything I possibly can to help you –

With renewed sympathy to you and all your family I remain

Yours very sincerely, Wilfred.


Ted Colver is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey. The servicemen are commemorated in this way when there is no known burial for the individual, or in circumstances where graves cannot be individually marked, or where the grave site has become inaccessible and unmaintainable.


A Service of Remembrance was held in Sheffield Cathedral on 9th October 1915 in memory of Lieutenant Edward Colver and others from the area who had lost their lives at that point in the War. He is also commemorated on the memorial board at his old preparatory school, the Sheffield Council Roll of Honour, the Ranmoor War Memorial and St John the Evangelist Church, Ranmoor Roll of Honour. Also in the church can be found the huge stained glass memorial window featuring Joshua and Gideon ‘given by Mr. and Mrs. R. Colver in memory of their two sons, Edward and Henry, both killed in the war.’


The Corps of Royal Engineers remains a key component within the British Army today.


1. Family letters reproduced by kind permission of Dr Patricia Altham, MA, PhD, great-niece of Ted Colver and the grand-daughter of Charlotte (Lottie) Colver.

2. Evelyn Mary Seaman was Ted Colver’s fiancée, and an Executor of his Will, who remained a spinster until her death in Norfolk in 1984.

3. The much talked about inspection finally took place just before their departure for Gallipoli. The memorial to the 29th Division, on the A45 at Stretton-on-Dunsmore between Coventry and Rugby, marks the spot where the troops were inspected by King George V.

4. Died 2nd December 1916 aged 74 years.

5. Wilfred A Seaman finished the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel being awarded a MC. Having survived a gas attack he remained an invalid until his death in 1949 at the age of 58.

6. A nullah is an 'arm of the sea', stream, or watercourse, a steep narrow valley.

7. The River Clyde was later re-floated and renamed, and was used as a cargo vessel by various companies until finally scrapped in 1966.



See also the Imperial War Museum permanent digital memorial to the ‘Lives of the First World War’ for EW Colver. https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/911873