Caption: Lieutenant Henry Sinclair Horne, of Stirkoke House.

By 1915, both the Allied Forces and the central powers were struggling to make progress on the Western Front. It was decided that the British and French navies would carry out an attack on the Dardanelles Straits with the aim of capturing Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. After a failed naval attempt, the Allied commanders concluded that troops needed to land and conquer the Turkish defences before naval attacks could resume. So, in the early hours of the 25th of April 1915 Allied troops landed along the east and southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. However, the Turkish defences were well prepared and the Allied troops struggled to get ashore, suffering many casualties. The campaign, which would last until the 9th of January 1916, resulted in both sides suffering devastating losses and little ground being made by either side.

The British Army consisted of troops from Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India and Newfoundland. The French army included men from the North African colonies as well as from France itself. The significant events at Gallipoli are well remembered by the Australian and New Zealand communities; it is one of the most defining and unifying moments of their shared history.

Although additional troops were brought in and a new offensive launched in August, this only resulted in more devastating losses and the deadlock continued. The conditions at Gallipoli were extreme and presented constant difficulties for the troops. An unbearably hot summer was followed by torrential autumn rain and an early, freezing winter. In the blistering summer heat water was in short supply, and the air was filled with swarms of flies caused by the many dead abandoned in no-man’s land. A blizzard in November caused 160,000 cases of frostbite and 280 men froze to death. It is thought that 44,000 British, French, ANZAC and Indian troops were killed. Estimates of those killed from the Ottoman Empire range between 66,000 and 86,000.

Caption: Lieutenant Horne's home Stirkoke House, Caithness.

One of those who played a major role in the events at Gallipoli was Henry Sinclair Horne, a Scot serving in the British Army. Horne was born in Stirkoke House, a large mansion situated to the west of Wick in Caithness. Dating back to 1858, it is now a category B listed building. This Caithness-born man had a successful military career: he served as a general in the British Army, he was the only British artillery officer to command an army in the war, and was notable for his association with the Lord Kitchener. The letters which Horne wrote home to his wife, Lady Kate Horne, and the entries in his diary indicate that he was greatly concerned with the extraction of troops from Gallipoli, which did not bring him popularity with some of his superiors. Winston Churchill, for one, never forgave him for his recommendation for retreat. However, Horne’s concern for the troops was evident in his personal accounts and correspondences. In his diary he noted that there was a “great daily wastage of men” as the Turkish forces had an “ideal observation post” overlooking “every portion of our position”.

By the end of 1915, plans were put in place to withdraw troops from Gallipoli. Horne, alongside Kitchener and the other commanding officers, played a significant role in the organisation and execution of the evacuation, which carefully employed cunning tricks to fool the Turkish forces. It was, ironically, one of the only aspects of the entire campaign considered a success:

“… no tents will be struck and Divisional Commanders are held responsible that the appearance of the camps as observed by the Enemy is kept as was… Fires will be kept lighted night and day and personnel remaining is to show movement about all portions of the camps by day… Flags are to be left flying…”

In addition supplies were destroyed during the retreat to ensure that they did not fall into enemy hands. By the 9th of January 1916 the last of the men had left, with only three casualties reported during the evacuation.

After the war, Horne returned to Stirkoke House and lived out his days there until his sudden death in 1929, whilst out shooting on the estate. Although he had been offered the position of Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Malta, he declined the position “for private reasons”, one of which was his love for Stirkoke and his life in his native country.

Image credits

Main image of Gallipoli:

Lieutenant Henry Sinclair Horne: 

© IWM (HU 115918)

Stirkoke House:

© RCAHMS (SC 808495)

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