Little Gully Publishing » Books

Lost Endeavour

by Charles Watkins, edited by Michael Crane & Bernard de Broglio

Charles Watkins, sometime after 8 June 1918, having received his commission in the Royal Air Force.

A survivor’s account of the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign

Charles Watkins sailed for the Dardanelles with the 1/6th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers in 1915. War, he said, was a welcome escape from hard labour in a Lancashire cotton mill. Fifty years later, he wrote his memoir, a ‘hotch-potch of Gallipoli memories.’

In perpetrating this literary outrage, some apology is due. I could give many plausible excuses for recording moments of this disastrous campaign, but the real truth is the selfish pleasure I find in recalling one crowded hour of glorious life. It was my very good fortune to serve with a Lancashire Territorial Division. To the memory of those contumacious, argumentative, sentimental and lovable Lancashire lads — ‘Salud.’ No better comrades ever trod the field of battle …

Students of military strategy and tactics had best throw this book away for they’ll learn nothing from it. In fact, I know even less of strategy and tactics than did the High-Ups who conducted the campaign. What’s more, a lowly private soldier sees very little of the larger picture of war — his own grubby little nose is always buried too deeply in his own particular patch of the dung-heap …

The Gallipoli Campaign is not short of operational histories, but few accounts get into the mind of the private soldier so successfully.

The trouble is that most old soldiers develop a reluctance to talk — except perhaps after a few drinks, and when we seem, then, to get a little boastful and silly. At best, and when we are stone-sober, we feel we are merely a little boring to a new and unsympathetic generation.

So we clam-up. We leave it to the cold, clinical dissection of historians to record the battles, the victories … and the defeats. The live and vivid experiences of the soldiers themselves are seldom, if ever, recorded — which is a pity, for without these how can the atmosphere of the times themselves ever be made to come to life.

Lost Endeavour was first published for ‘limited and private circulation’ in 1970, then again in 1982. However, copies remain scarce and Watkins deserves a larger audience.

For this modern edition, the editors have added a biography of Charles Watkins, alongside several articles he wrote for the Gallipoli Association’s journal, The Gallipolian. For background and context, the editors include their notes on individuals, places and events mentioned by Watkins in the text.

The reader will also find detail on the 6th Lancs Fusiliers at Helles — the battalion’s establishment, drafts and battle casualties, a timeline for May to December 1915, and a Gallipoli roll of honour.

Sometimes a personal experience book transcends its author’s occasionally wobbly memory and literary fancies. The writing can be so vivid that it opens a door to understanding ‘what it was like.’

‘Lost Endeavour’ by Charles Watkins does just that.

It brings the life of a private soldier at Gallipoli into sharp focus — the unceasing danger and the terrible privations they endured day-after-day, week-after-week and month-after-month.

In this it is unbeatable.

Peter Hart, author of Gallipoli (2011)

One of the most moving pieces of writing about Gallipoli that I have ever read.

N. F. Thornton (1970), Editor-in-Chief, Rochdale Observer

The author’s compassionate treatment and understanding of the soldier more than compensates for the book’s less salubrious episodes.

Major E. H. W. Banner (1970), editor of The Gallipolian and founder of the Gallipoli Association

His description of life at Helles is one of the most vivid in Gallipoli literature.

John Laffin

Order online from Amazon

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking these links. There is no cost to you.

Also available from good book retailers.

The ebook from Google Play offers both flowing text and the original page layout.

About the book

Appendices

  1. Charles Watkins: a short biography
  2. Notes on individuals mentioned in the text
  3. Notes on events and places mentioned in the text
  4. 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, Order of Battle and Field State, 2–5 May 1915
  5. Excerpt from ‘The Lancashire Fighting Territorials’ (6th Lancs Fus.) by George Bigwood
  6. Timeline, May to December 1915
  7. Establishment, Drafts and Battle Casualties
  8. Gallipoli Roll of Honour, 1/6th Lancashire Fusiliers
  9. Charles Watkins & ‘The Gallipolian’

« Home