Rifleman Hans (later Brian) Hurst number 10568 had joined the 6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in the first weeks of the First World War in Belfast.  Brian joined up with his best friend Bobby McKenzie (rifleman 10570) and both were to survive the First World War. 


The 6th (Service Battalion) Royal Irish Rifles ("6th RIR") War Diary records that the Battalion landed on 5th August 1915 at Anzac Cove with 23 officers and 743 other ranks.  They advanced on the 8th August via Walkers Ridge, Chailak Dere and Aghyl Dere until they reached a lone and isolated position known as The Farm.  From there the 6th RIR, a newly formed 'service' Battalion in its first significant battle with the enemy since formation and training on the Curragh launched attacks against the Turks occupying positions on the ridges above them.  The battle virgins suffered terrible casualties in a charge against the Turks and then in the Turks counter-attack.  The 6th RIR War Diary explains that on 10th August the Turks counter-attacked and after the battle the Battalion's strength was about 270. Poignantly it records that the casualties (dead or wounded) and missing "as far as can be ascertained" in that one battle on 10th/11th August 1915 amounted to 372 men.  

Model by Dave Mitchell depicting a Royal Irish Rifles soldier in the Gallipoli campaign uniform mounted on a plinth containing the RIR cap badge.
Preparing to disembark at Gallipoli
Model by Dave Mitchell depicting a Royal Irish Rifles soldier in the Gallipoli campaign uniform mounted on a plinth containing the RIR cap badge.

One of the most evocative documents detailng the experiences of the 6th RIR over those few days in August is from Captain FE Eastwood, one of the surviving officers.  In 1931 Captain Eastwood provided a four page account of his experience in the battle to the authors of the Official History of Gallipoli in a letter to The Director, Historical Section (Military Branch).  Grateful thanks to RW O'Hara of the ancestory and military research firm at www.searcher-na.co.uk for locating this entry at the public records office in Kew which is reproduced below.
Captain Eastwood Document Page One
Captain Eastwood Document Page Two
Captain Eastwood Document Page Three
Captain Eastwood Document Page Four

Brian's poem for Liam O'Flaherty about Gallipoli. Written June 4th, 1940 - Copyright © The Brian Desmond Hurst Estate
Liam O'Flaherty wan an Irish novelist and Brian introduced Liam to John Ford and was instrumental in The Informer (1935) when produced as a film

Brian in a hospital tent in Cairo


Brian on the road to recovery in a hospital tent in Cairo - Copyright © The Allan Smith Collection. On the table beside Brian are photos of his beloved sister Patricia and a nurse friend Ms Bailie.


Brian (rifleman 10568) and his best friend Bobby McKenzie (rifleman 10570) survived the First World War and returned to Belfast with their service medal  and were able to stroll past the building that had been the recruiting station back in August 1914. 

Brian's Medal Award Card
Robert 'Bobby' McKenzie's Medal Award Card

Others that had been in that queue were not so fortunate.  Belfast men of the 6th Battalion such as Rifleman Canavan 10541, Finlay 10573 and Laird 10585 who were all killed in the ‘cruel massacre’ on the 11 August 1915. 


A list of all men of the 6th Battalion killed in action or died of wounds has been provided by the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum in Belfast and is found below.  The surnames are typical of school registers to-day in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  A review of the names will show that the  battalion was very mixed in terms of men from Protestant and Catholic ‘districts’ of Belfast and also from both Belfast and Dublin.  It was quite a unique battalion. Service in that battalion is possibly one of the foundation reasons for Brian’s liberal views. As Brian's interview with Punch magazine records in 1969, "Catholic-Protestant antagonism vanished in this holocaust".

When in Belfast visit the Royal Irish Rifles Museum which is now called The Royal Ulster Rifles Museum. This is close to the city centre in the cathedral quarter behind the black steel railings of 9-15 Waring Street. For the website, please see the External Links section.


This was the most difficult of all the pieces of this site to create. It is delving into a period that Brian did not talk about and many of his friends did not know that he had been a soldier.   What we can conclude is that fighting alongside his fellow Belfastmen, Dubliners, Protestants and Catholics and seeing so many cut down in one battle will have been one of the foundation stones in shaping Brian's personality and future life. 

We can never experience what it will have been like to be up on those hills on the 9th and 10th August 1915 preparing to attack the ridges above.  We might, however, start to come close by watching the Australian's being bombarded by the Turks up at Lone Pine on Gallipoli on  or around 6th August 1915 in Peter Jackson- Restored Gallipoli Film- Anzac day and available on some internet media.  At around the 2 minute mark you will see Lone Pine being shelled and the terrain and the ridges above.  Maybe some of us will listen to Liam Clancy's rendition of "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" and its lines "Johnny Turk he was ready he'd primed himself well.  He rained us with bullets and he showered us with shells.  And in 5 minutes flat we were all blown to hell".  We might also buy Philip Orr's "Field of Bones" as shown above- a magnificently researched and beautifully written account of the Irish Division at Gallipoli.  We might then be getting close to understanding how this influenced Brain. 

Perhaps the closest we will come to understanding this period in Brian's life will be after buying and watching the Australian film director Peter Weir's Gallipoli (1981). The film portrays the young Australian men slowly losing their innocence until the final 4 minutes and the men of the Third Light Horse receiving the order to charge on 7th August 1915 at the Battle of Nek.  With the final 4 minutes and final second of the film you will be about as close as you are going to get.  

Two days later it was the turn of the Royal Irish Rifles to lose their lives or innocence and charge. After you watch the film Gallipoli remember Captain's Eastwood's words as shown above "I saw the Platoon Commander, a man of thirty, a Dublin barrister, come forth, his platoon also after him; they would have followed him anywhere.  They were laid low in the same way as number 1 platoon...I shouted GO!  About seven men rose out of the original hundred".

Helles Memorial, Turkey
Almost none of the 6th RIR dead were recovered from the battlefield at The Farm. Instead Brian's comrades became a 'Field of Bones' and with no known grave their names are recorded on the Helles Memorial.

Page One
Page Two


Page Three

Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten