Friday, 8 May 2015

Major Richard Wells, Krithia and Ross McMullin in Ballarat

Today, May 8th, is the centenary of the charge to Krithia. Where or what is Krithia? people say, when I mention this.  After the ANZAC landings, what came next?  Krithia is one part of what came next.

We’ve been following Major Richard Wells, of the 6th Battalion.  He has tree no. 151 in the Ballarat Avenue of Honour, although he was from Melbourne. His father in law Con Burrow, was an outstanding Ballarat citizen, a very military man, and we suspect it was he who ensured Major Wells was included in the Avenue.

The 6th battalion was part of the brigade called to help assist the British in the assault on Krithia, a strategically placed little village on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Along with other country Victorian battalions the 5th 7th and 8th, the 6th left bitter fighting in the ANZAC sector and were shipped south.  They were already decimated by the fighting on 400 Plateau and Pine Ridge, but were to face worse yet.

Major Wells, Commanding Officer of C Company, 6th Battalion fell at Krithia.  Ron Austin in his history of the 6th Battalion As rough as bags writes “As the battalion advanced along Central Spur in full view of the Turkish defenders, the enemy fire quickly took its toll.  On the right flank of the Sixth’s advance, C Company, lost its company commander, Major Dick Wells, also Lieutenant Richard Kieran, both mortally wounded.”  Major Wells was evacuated to a hospital ship with gunshot wounds to his throat, and he died on 11th May.

The Krithia story is important to Ballarat because many Ballarat men were included in the 8th Battalion, and  were involved in the battle. The casualties at Krithia were higher than the ANZAC landings.

Tonight at Ballarat Library Ross McMullin will be speaking on this story, focussing on Clunes Mathison, the eminent young medical researcher killed at Krithia.  Mathison is the subject of one of the chapters of Ross McMullin’s award winning book Farewell Dear People.  Ross’ talk is part of Heritage Weekend, and free to attend.  It is 5.45pm for a 6pm start, this evening, May 8th.

Major Wells is the third officer on the left.  From "As Rough as Bags" p.26


  1. Major Richard Wells landed with his Brother In-Law Sgt Arthur Burrow at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915. Charles Bean in his W W 1 History mentions Major Wells as gathering together a group of soldiers on the lee of 'Pine Ridge' to provide a line of defence on the 25th to ward off the first counter attack by the Turks. After Major Wells was mortally wounded at Krithia one of his men also wounded wrote home to his family in Essendon to say he was helping Richard to bandage the wounds in his neck and groin. Major Wells told him to leave him and to go to the beach himself but here are the five pounds of the Unit's comfort funds see to it that they are handed in. Major Wells's Widow Grace nee Burrow was informed that Richard was buried at sea understandably horrified she wrote to the Army records office and was advised that Richard was in fact buried in the 'Lancaster Landing Cemetery' at Cape Helles. Grace Wells nee Burrow's Brother Arthur survived Gallipoli and was wounded four times in France, her other Brother Sydney suffered shell shock in France and her Sister Lucy's husband Edgar Youlden a Melbourne University Graduate teacher was crippled in France while his Brother Dick a 1st AIF Artillery Gunner was killed on the Somme. Con Burrow was an active speaker in the recruitment of Ballarat district men and the repatriation care for the returning wounded while his two Daughters the widowed Grace and Lucy were involved with the Red Cross Soldier's support work. Con Burrow financed, produced and directed equally the third feature film ever made in Australia and the first film on the Eureka Stockade Rebellion. None of this film stock survives but another film Con made about Ballarat around the same time does and it shows the bottom end of Sturt Street and Bridge Street as well as members of Ballarat soldiers on parade in Sturt Street. Con's Father Corporal Thomas Burrow a Grenadier Guard had his skull fractured by a Russian Musket ball on the 20th of September 1954 in the Battle of Alma in the Crimean War his Father named one of Con's Brothers Alma, Alma was also enlisted in the Grenadier Guards, Con at the age of 11. Thomas spent four months in the infamous, filthy and verminous Scutari Hospital where Florence Nightingale and her nurses arrived in November 1854. The Wells and Burrow families were both represented in the War in Vietnam with Richard Well's Major Wells's Grandson serving in the Armoured Corp and yours truly Bruce Burrow Con's Grandson in Artillery.

    1. Bruce, thank you so much for adding this information. The Burrow/Wells family contributed greatly to Ballarat life, indeed national life, we had not heard of this story about the film before. Thank you for contributing.