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The Gallipoli Sonata


(All pictures and text by Ken Wright)


Sub Lieutenant Frederick Septimus Kelly


When Sub Lieutenant Frederick Septimus Kelly, Royal Naval Division, began writing a beautiful violin sonata in G major during the last days of August 1915 in a trench on the Gallipoli Peninsula, he could never have imagined the sonata, which he completed 31 December, would not only be played at his memorial service but would become a valuable piece of Australian history ninety five years later. 1 The sonata was penned for Jelly D`Aranyi, a lovely young Hungarian female violinist in London that Kelly had met in 1909 when she was 16. Their common passion for music bound them together in concert almost immediately and they regularly played music and performed on stage together.  Kelly is reputed to have treated D`Aranyi more like a sister but over the next few years of their professional relationship, she fell madly in love with him.

Kelly was born in Australia and educated at Sydney Grammar School then went to England to study at Eton College. After graduating from Eton he was awarded a Lewis Nettleship musical scholarship at Oxford and attended Balliol College. During his time at Oxford he took up sculling and became an excellent oarsman winning many prestigious competitions including Gold for England at the London Summer Olympics of 1908 as a member of the Leander crew in the Coxed eight. Also whilst at Oxford, Kelly became president of the university musical club and a leading spirit at the Sunday evening concerts at Balliol. 2

Kelly had a natural flair for music and had learned to play the piano at an early age performing Mozart and Beethoven to a very high standard that after leaving Oxford, Kelly entered into the world of music he was so passionate about and where his obvious talent could be expressed to the full. He made his formal debut as a pianist and composer with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1910. He returned to Sydney in 1911 to play many of his own compositions then returned to London to give a series of concerts. Experts predicted a great future for this virtuoso composer and pianist but sadly, the dogs of war were about to be unleashed.  On 28 June, 1914, one of the darkest periods of modern history began when Arch Duke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and his wife Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg were both assassinated at Sarajevo in Bosnia.  War clouds gathered, the storm broke and Europe was plunged into a darkness that was World War One with various countries citing treaties and obligations declaring war on each other with Germany leading the charge.

When England declared war on Germany at 11pm on 4 August 1914, there was a surplus of about 20,000 to 30,000 men from the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Fleet Reserves who could not be assigned to a ship of war. The men were formed into the Royal Naval Division comprised of two Naval Brigades and a Brigade of Marines to fight on land, not on sea. Called 'Winston's' Little army' after it's Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty. The RND comprised of eight naval battalions named after famous British Naval Commanders, Anson, Benbow, Collingwood, Drake, Hawke, Hood, Howe and Nelson plus the Royal Marine Brigade of four battalions from the Royal Marine depots at the ports of Deal, Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth. 3 The naval character and unit compositions of the RND would change over the course of the war due to heavy casualties as more regular infantry battalions were included.

Royal Naval Division Recruitment Poster


Kelly, like so many thousands in England and throughout the Commonwealth volunteered for service for King and Country. Commissioned as a Sub Lieutenant in Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve he joined the Drake Battalion of the Royal Naval Division to begin training as an officer. Kelly’s organisational skills came to the attention of higher command and was assigned, under protest, to the position of Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General to the battalion. The Ottoman Empire in Turkey had sided with Germany and the Turkish government had to be changed by force of arms. When rumours spread that the Naval Division was about to embark for the Dardanelles, Kelly, not wishing to be left behind, requested and was granted permission to go and was placed in charge of 5 platoon, Hood Division. The RND was part of the Gallipoli expedition that, with the possible exception of the Crimean War, was the most poorly mounted and ineptly controlled operation in British history.

To the Turks, it was no secret that foreign troops were preparing to invade their homeland. It was not a matter of when but where? Turkish High Command had time to prepare their defences and watched with amazement as Allied forces comprising mainly of British, Australian, French, New Zealand and Indian troops began the invasion by landing on the beaches of Gallipoli 24 April 1915. Among the British forces at Cape Hellas were five divisions of the RND. They stood out from the rest of the British forces. Petty officers instead of sergeants, leading seamen for corporals, could grow beards, had anchors stencilled on their equipment, attended sick bay instead of regimental aid post and were ‘adrift’ instead of absent without leave. Leaving these minor differences aside, they were a valuable contribution to the Gallipoli campaign. On 4th June during the battle of Krithia, suffered a gunshot or shrapnel wound to his right heel. After a spell in hospital in Alexandria and later was promoted to Lieutenant. Kelly returned to Gallipoli on 7th January 1916, was one of three men to remain at an observation post while the Allied troops went about their highly successful night evacuation from the Gallipoli peninsular and were also the last to leave. Lieutenant Kelly [RND] Captain Weller, [RMLI} and Temporary Lieutenant Riley [Royal Marines] were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their service on the Gallipoli Peninsula.


Badges of the Hood and Drake Naval Battalions

By the end of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign there were very few naval men left and the RND was redesignated the 63rd [Royal Naval] Division on the 19th July 1916 and no longer under the authority of the Admiralty. The division moved next to the killing grounds of the Western Front and the battle of the Somme. After a week of a non-stop artillery barrage, the Germans were supposed to have been obliterated. The noise of the barrage was said to have been heard in faraway Kent. One officer is reputed to have told his men before they went over the top that they would be able to light their pipes and march all the way to Pozieres without seeing a live enemy. The first Battle of the Somme began 1st July 1916 and as the Allied Forces comprising British, French, Australian, New Zealander's, Newfoundlander's, Canadian, Indian and South African troops began their attack across a landscape mutilated by 1,500,000 shells towards the German lines, the enemy machine guns opened up. Trials at the British School of Musketry in Kent showed that at 600 yards two German Maschinengewehr 08 machine guns could wipe out roughly 1000 men [ or an entire battalion] if they didn't go to ground, and "wipe out" they did. The British, French and Colonial troops lost approximately 20,000 killed and 40,000 wounded or missing on the first day and the slaughter would continue for another three and months. 4

Private George Coppard, 2 July 1916. ‘I’ve seen em, I’ve seen em, hanging on the old barbed wire. We gunners surveyed the dreadful scene in front of us. It became clear that the Germans had a commanding view of No Man’s Land. The British attack had been brutally repulsed. Hundreds of dead were strung out like wreckage washed up to a high water mark. Quite as many died on the enemy wire as on the ground, like fish caught in a net. They hung there in grotesque postures. Some looked like they were praying; they had died on their knees and the wire had prevented their fall.’ 5

On 1st November Lieutenant Commander Kelly was mentioned in dispatches and on the 13th September he went into action with the men of the 65rd Royal Naval Divisions with other elements of British and Canadian forces in the battle of Ancre [ 13-19 ] which was the final phase of the first Somme battle. In peace time Kelly had studied music in Germany and this time the Germans killed him as he was leading Hood Battalion in a successful attack on a machine-gun emplacement at Beaucourt-sur-Ancre which threatened to hold up the whole advance. The men of the Royal Naval Reserve eventually smashed  through the German lines taking Beaumont and to their left, the 51st [ Highland ] Division swarmed into the remains of Beaumont Hamel.

On 18 November, the British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig decided that enough had been achieved and the following day, the battle of the Somme was declared over. An area of approximately 120 square miles [193 kilometres] had been taken but the butcher’s bill was enormous. In three and a half months of fighting, various sources have put the German casualties between 350,000 and 500,000 with the British and French losing roughly 600,000. World War One, often described as the ‘war to end all wars’ would continue to sacrifice the youth of a generation  for another two years.

Lieutenant-Commander Frederick Septimus Kelly DSC, aged 35, Hood Battalion, Royal Navy Division, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve is the only Australian buried in the British Cemetery at Martinsart, not far from where he fell. Fortunately, his rich legacy of compositions to the world of music has been archived for posterity. They include;

Two Songs, Op.1 [1902] Waltz-pageant Op.2 for piano; arranged for two pianos [1905 revised 1911] Allegro de concert, Op. 3 for piano [1907] A Cycle of Lyrics, Op.4 for piano [1908] Theme, Variations and Fugue, Op.5 for two pianos [1907-11] Six Songs, Op.6 [1910-13] Song 3 was dedicated to the great English Tenor Gervase Elwes 1866-1921.Serenade for flute, harp and strings, Op. 7 [1911] String Trio [1913-14] Two Preludes for organ [1914] Elegy, In Memoriam  for Rupert Brooke [well known English poet 1887-1915] for harp and strings [1915] Violin Sonata in G Major ‘Gallipoli’ [1915] Piano Sonata in F minor-unfinished [1916] 6

With the passage of time, interest in Frederick Kelly had faded into virtual obscurity until January 2009 when Chris Latham, a violinist and director of the Canberra International Music Festival in Australia read about the Gallipoli sonata in Kelly’s recently discovered war diaries. After some excellent detective work, he found the violin sonata in Florence, Italy, with Jelly D’Aranyi’s grandniece and brought a copy back to Australia. 7 The Gallipoli sonata, thought to have been lost forever, has now not only taken its rightful place in the Australian music repertoire but has helped revive interest in Kelly, the man, the musician and the soldier and hopefully, the daring exploits of the Royal Naval Division with whom he fought and died with. 8


Martinsart British Cemetery and the grave of Lieutenant Commander Kelly



1-A sonata is a music composition for one or more solo instruments, one of which is usually a keyboard instrument usually consisting of three or four independent movements varying in key, mood and tempo.

2-Additional information; Radic. Therese. Associate Professor, Hon. Principal Fellow, Facility of the Victorian College of the Arts and Music, University of Melbourne

Race Against Time-The Diaries of F.S.Kelly. National Library of Australia, 2004.

3- 63rd Royal Naval Division-Wikipedia.

4-Second battle of the Somme took place in the spring of 1918.

5-Coppard. George. With a Machine Gun to Cambrai. Cassell 1999.p 82


7- Jelly D`Aranyi never married.

8- In Bisham, Berkshire [UK] where Kelly lived, there is a memorial sculptured by Eric Gill commemorating his sacrifice near the gates to Bisham Abbey.

Special thanks to Chris Latham Director, Pro Musica, Canberra for his valuable assistance.


 [C]Ken Wright. 2012.


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