Private Albert Arthur COPELAND

Household Cavalry & Cavalry of the Line
1/1st Derbyshire Yeomanry
Service Number:
Date of Death:
22 August 1915 - Killed in Action 
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 17

Personal History:

Albert was born in the March quarter 1884 (Christened: 1st June) in Hazelwood, Derbyshire, the son of Thomas and Hannah (née White) Copeland. In 1891 (Census RG 12/2741) Albert was living with his mother, Hannah, and younger sister, Annie E., at the home of his grandparents, William Mary White, at Lumb Lane, Hazelwood.

The 1901 Census (RG 13/3226) shows still him living with his mother, Hannah, and younger sister, at the same address, the home of his now widowed grandmother, Mary White, and was employed as a "Wheelwright's Apprentice". Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/20962) Albert's mother, Hannah, and sister, Annie, are at the same address, but Albert is not found.
In the December quarter 1911 Arthur married Flora Wetton in Belper, Derbyshire. Probate Records show that at the time of his death in 1915 they were living at 49 Dale Road, Buxton. His effects were valued at £119 7s 5d (£119.37).

Military History:
Albert enlisted into the Derbyshire Yeomanry at Buxton, most likely joining 'B' Squadron. The Derbyshire Yeomanry came into being when the Territorial Force was created in 1908. Unfortunately, Albert's Service Records have not survived but his Medal Index Card shows that he entered the War in Egypt on the 27th April 1915, having sailed from Avonmouth on the 7th. On the 24th the Battalion moved to Cairo.

The Yeomanry were part of the Notts and Derby Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, and in May 1915 the Brigade was redesignated "3rd Mounted Brigade (Notts and Derby)". Albert returned to Alexandria on the 14th August and sailed for Lemnos, arriving at Mudros on the 17th. After changing ships they moved on to Gallipoli, landing at Suvla Bay on the night of the 17th/18th. From there the Battalion went forward to Lala Baba on the 20th, and to a forward position at Chocolate Hill the next day.

Its War History reads:

"The Derbyshire Yeomanry, together with the South Notts Hussars and Sherwood Rangers formed the Notts and Derby Mounted Brigade in the 1st Mounted Division. In September 1914 another mounted division was formed, the 2nd, to which the Notts and Derby Brigade was transferred, and in November the division was deployed along the Norfolk coast, the regiment being stationed in Cromer.

In April 1915 the division sailed for Egypt where the brigade was redesignated 3rd Mounted Brigade. In August the division was sent, dismounted, to Gallipoli, landing at Suvla and two or three days later (21st August) the regiment was involved in the advance across the open from Lala Baba to Chocolate Hill in which action losses amounted to 78 with 20 dead."

The British plan for the 21st August was to attack Scimitar Hill with the 29th Division and the 'W' Hills with the 11th Division, keeping the yeomanry in reserve near the beach. As was so often the case at Gallipoli, the preliminary artillery barrage achieved little. The British artillery could not see their targets, obscured by mist and smoke, whereas the Turkish artillery had a clear view of the entire Suvla battlefield and plenty of time to pinpoint their targets. The Derbyshire Yeomanry was Brigaded in the 3rd Notts & Derby mounted Brigade with the South Notts Hussars and Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry. It is worth mentioning that there was absolutely no infantry training. They went into battle completely untrained for what they did. To manoeuvre the troops they used cavalry drill which makes the Yeomanry's assault on Scimitar Hill on 21st August even more remarkable.

At about 5.00 p.m. the troops of the 2nd Mounted Division, including The Derbyshire Yeomanry, was ordered forward from their reserve position on Lala Baba, near the beach. They advanced, marching in formation, across the bed of a dry salt lake. Because of the clouds of mist and smoke in the air they had little idea of where they were going. The 5,000 men of the five brigades formed in columns by regiment and, marching in extended order, were easy targets for the shrapnel. Most of them halted in the cover of Green Hill, west of Scimitar Hill.

The 3rd Notts & Derby Mounted Brigade War Diary for the 21st August 1915 reads:

"The Bde marched across the plain to CHOCOLATE HILL under heavy shell fire for 1 mile & 1/4 a number of casualties were incurred. The Bde was very [?] steady under their first experience of active service. The Bde arrived at CHOCOLATE HILL 4:50 p.m. Lieut Worthington acting staff Capt (temp on Divisional Staff) was wounded. The Bde was at dusk was ordered out by the S end of CHOCOLATE HILL to support the attack of 1st and 4th Bdes on Hill 112 (N). The Bde lost direction & extended the line to the right, the objective was not reached & after a short retirement held on to the line from 92 C 42,[see map in supplementary info] 400 yds N . About this time Col Cole SNH was severely wounded & Col Sir P Milbanke VC was killed. Major Lance 19th Lancers (FH) [Fane's Horse?] assumed command of the Brigade."

The War History of The Derbyshire Yeomanry recorded that on the day Albert died, 22nd August: "Sgt Elliot killed.  Lt Swanick (RSO) found himself behind enemy lines. A Sqn dont get orders to switch direction and drift right.  Main force grind to a halt. Darkness. No orders. Retire 300 yds. Transpires the objective "support trench" was in fact Turkish front line (double trenches). A Sqn reconnect. Div runners did not get messages through. Five men sent to collect water never return. Dig in.  Infy officer requests assistance to attack redoubt. [Hetman chair?] A Sqn sent. track peters out. Remain in situ."

The Derbyshire Yeomanry went in with 301 men and 9 officers, only 78 walked out of which 45 had been sent back from the Casualty Clearing Station that day as walking wounded, so only 33 men unscathed at the end. The attack at Scimitar Hill on 21st August was the last attempt by the British to advance at Suvla. The front line remained between Green Hill and Scimitar Hill for the remainder of the campaign until the evacuation from Gallipoli on the 20th December.

At some time during the day Albert was killed in action. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the HELLES MEMORIAL . The action at Scimitar Hill was in fact the largest single attack by the British throughout the whole campaign and involved 3 assaulting Divisions (including the 2nd Mounted Division) plus 2 others holding the line north and south. The march under shellfire by the Yeomanry of the 2nd Mounted Division across a mile of the barren Suvla plain was a significant feature of the action and was noted in many histories.

The Buxton men [see Footnote 2 - below] might well have fallen in this part of the action. If not, then they would have likely been killed in the dusk attack on the redoubt at Hetman Chair (south of Scimitar Hill). The ground leading to this area was later known as Dead Man's Gully. Twenty men of the Derbyshire Yeomanry fell in action on the 21st and 22nd August. All but two have no known grave and are commemorated with Albert on the Helles Memorial.


Footnote 1:
·  The panels on the Helles Memorial are made from Hopton Wood Stone, quarried in the Peak district in Derbyshire. It is a stone chosen for its
   purity and hardness and favoured by architects and stone masons for centuries. Some of Britain's most famous buildings used Hopton Wood
   stone. It was chosen by the IWGC (now CWGC) as one of the primary sources of stone for its panels, memorials and headstones, and shipped
   thens of thousands of tons of stones all over the world in the aftermath of WWI for the cemeteries, including Gallipoli.

Footnote 2:
·  Two more Buxton men fell in the same action as that described above - Private 19112 William GOODWIN, of the 1/Border Regiment, died of
   wounds on the 26th August, and Trooper William GREGORY, also of the Derbyshire Yeomanry, was killed in action in the same engagement,
   the day before Albert.

· I am grateful to 'Martin G.' for the information on the Derbyshire Yeomanry, via the Great War Forum.
· "DERBYSHIRE YEOMANRY WAR HISTORY, 1914-1919" Ed by Lt Col G.A.Strutt (Naval and Military Press) ISBN: 9781845742720
· "British Regiments at Gallipoli" - Ray Westlake [ISBN 085052511X] p. 252

Link to CWGC Record
The British Memorial at Helles
Pt Albert Copeland's name on the Memorial
... about the Battle of Scimitar Hill