Gallipoli's grim November 1915 storm in WW I

This fall marks 100 years since the 1915 battle, which took the Newfoundland Regiment to the Mediterranean and the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Newfoundland Regiment fought tough four-month campaign, with many casualties

The Newfoundland Regiment joined the 88th Brigade of the 29th Division of the British Army in the summer of 1915. They endured four months of harsh weather, highly unusual for the Gallipoli Peninsula. (Courtesy Australian War Memorial)

Before the First World War tragedy at Beaumont-Hamel, there was the Gallipoli Campaign.

This fall marks 100 years since that 1915 battle, which took the Newfoundland Regiment to the Mediterranean and the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. 

The Regiment fought a tough four-month campaign, which was made even tougher by the extreme weather it encountered in the late fall of 1915.

In late November 1915, Gallipoli was hit by a number of severe rain and thunderstorms, which turned into blizzards. (Submitted photo)

The Gallipoli Peninsula is located on the Aegean Sea, on the northern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. 

With an annual average temperature of 17 C, the summers are impressively hot with average highs near 30 C, and the winters are mild with average daily highs near 14 C. 

In preparation for entering the battle in the month of September, the Regiment was sent to Egypt for two weeks, to acclimatize to the heat.

The men were given lighter uniforms with short pants. 

This preparation made the severe storm of Nov. 26 and 27 all the more unexpected and punishing for the troops.  

"The sky grew dark, and suddenly the rain fell in torrents. The trenches were flooded quickly and became rivers. Everyone was soaked to the skin. This rain was followed by sleet, and later the wind changed and became a northerly gale with frost." - George Hicks

This unnamed soldier stands in a trench that's covered with snow and ice. (Courtesy Australian War Memorial)

It's estimated that 10 per cent of the British contingent, or roughly 15,000 men, were injured by the storm, most with frostbite. Nearly 2,000 were sent to hospital.

Others weren't so lucky.

With the flooding rains that first night and trenches filling with feet of water, it's also estimated more than 200 men in the British Brigade drowned. 

"It was pretty severe, a lot of men went off with frozen feet and one thing and another, I managed to survive. We wore shorts, and we wore pith helmets, so when the storm came on, we weren't prepared at all." - Bernard Forsey

The Newfoundland Regiment battled on.

However, the casualties from that late November storm, the deteriorating weather conditions through a colder than average December, and of course a strengthening Ottoman Army — all were factors in the eventual evacuation of the Allied troops from Gallipoli between late December 1915 and early January 1916.

It's estimated that roughly 15,000 men were injured by a severe storm in 1915, most of them suffering frostbite. (Courtesy Australian War Memorial)

Ryan Snoddon is one of Saturday's presenters at a one-day symposium, Before Beaumont-Hamel, There Was Gallipoli, hosted by Memorial University. The event will examine conditions experienced by Newfoundland and Turkish troops 100 years ago. The symposium takes place in the Bruneau Centre for Innovation and Science, Innovation Hall (IIC-2001) of Memorial's St. John's Campus.

About the Author

Ryan Snoddon

Weather

Ryan Snoddon is CBC's meteorologist in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.