Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, July 13, 2020

What Happened at Chocolate Hill at Suvla Bay?

Chocolate Hill Today

Chocolate Hill is one of those innocuous little pieces of real estate that for a brief period finds itself the site of historical events. In August 1915, British forces, including two New Army divisions mounted a well-planned and supplied effort to break the stalemate on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  It was launched just north of Anzac Cove at a place called Suvla Bay.  One feature of the battlefield that looks insignificant today (and probably back then too) would play an important role twice in the ensuing operations over the next two weeks.

Position of Chocolate Hill

When the plan for the Allied landing at Suvla Bay was detailed, several  specific positions were identified as immediate objectives. The only one of these priority positions that was secured before Turkish reinforcements would arrive in force to preclude their capture was a nub known from its coloration as Chocolate Hill. Nearby Green Hill and Chocolate Hill were important artillery observation posts on 7 August 1915 for the minimal Turkish defending force around the bay.

However, nothing went right. As the British official report described it, "The offensive was not synchronized or coordinated. The force which landed at Suvla did not attack vigorously and swiftly the weak force opposed to it." 

British Troops Atop Chocolate Hill

Due to confusion in the post-landing deployments, a patched together force was assembled and given the job of capturing Chocolate Hill. Eventually, by 1700 hours on 7 August, they converged some 300 yards from the objective where they rested and made final preparations.  Meanwhile supporting artillery shelled the Turkish positions. At 1900 hours, when it was almost dark, despite their thirst and fatigue, the assault troops rose and charged up the slopes with bayonets fixed. They were on the crest of Chocolate Hill by 2000 hours. Throughout the night, the troops worked at the defenses of the hill in preparation for the Turkish counterattacks, while others brought forward food and water.

Depiction of the Attack of 21 August 1915

Two weeks later, Chocolate Hill would be one of the launching spots for the greatest Allied attack of the entire Gallipoli Campaign. The local objective was to capture Scimitar Hill,  key high ground about a mile to the east.  It was an assault likened by British writers to the Charge of the Light Brigade and (by me) Pickett's Charge.  Not only was it assembled in full view of the enemy, thus cancelling  any element of surprise, it was mounted against what were now superior numbers of defenders occupying all those other priority objectives of the first days that the attackers had failed to capture. After the failed attack of 21 August, the forces at Suvla found themselves just as paralyzed as those at Cape Helles and Anzac. There was no salvaging the Dardanelles Expedition. It had failed in every way.


  1. One wonders how those soldiers could follow their orders. Suicide mission comes to mind.

  2. I wish they would mention 15 August 1915, because that is when my g-Uncle John Wooler was killed in action there.

    1. My Great Uncle Richard Brown was killed there too. He was one of the last few that remained from the 1st Lancashire Fusilliers that took W Beach and won 5 or 6 VCs before breakfast. I think the soldiers that took Chocolate Hill were a patched up force of what was left of different regiments. They were let down badly.

  3. My grandad spent a week on Chocolate Hill at the start of September as dismounted Scottish Horse but was evacuated with dysentery after 10 days. He kept the mortar round that landed next to his head in the trench sand bags and used it as a doorstop.

  4. I remember my dad telling me of chocolate hill. The Turks were chasing him back down the hill and he sees a tree about six feet high in front of him, then it's behind him. Did he jump it or run round it, he had no idea.

  5. Hugh MacDermot, the Prince of Coolavin, was among those who fought and fell and Chocolate Hill: