The History of the Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F. 1914 - 1919
Chapter IV. — The Suvla Bay and Sari Bair Operations
The Suvla Bay and Sari Bair Operations.
After the fighting at the beginning of May, Sir Ian Hamilton realized that neither the forces at Cape Helles, nor those at Anzac, were strong enough to fight their way to the Narrows. The chief object of the campaign was to open the way for the fleet to Constantinople; and this involved the capture of the southern part of the peninsula as far as the Narrows, as the unsuccessful attempts of the fleet to force a passage had clearly shown. Sir Ian Hamilton accordingly asked for additional troops for this purpose. Ultimately he was promised three additional Regular Divisions and the infantry of two Territorial Divisions, all of which would be available early in August.
There were various ways in which the Commander-in-Chief might have used these fresh troops: he decided to strike at Maidos from the positions already held at Anzac, and by means of a landing at Suvla Bay, north of Anzac, to protect the flank of the main attacking forces, as well as to secure for them a winter base free from the dangers and difficulties of the original landing places. A successful advance from Anzac would also cut off the Turkish forces opposed to our troops at Cape Helles; and Sir Ian's plans included an attack in the southern theatre, with the object of deceiving the enemy as to his main attack, as well as preventing the Turkish troops in the south from striking at the flank of the troops advancing from Anzac.
* i.e. 305 metres in height.
The capture of the Sari Bair Ridge, dominating as it did the whole of the country between Anzac and the Narrows, was an essential part of the plan of attack. But before the ridge could be attacked, it was necessary for the attacking force to be in possession of the sea-coast and foot-hills, from Anzac to the mouth of Aghyl Dere. Between Sazli Beit and Chailak Dere, and near the sea, stood the Old No. 3 Post, which formed the apex of a triangular piece of hill sloping gradually down to our No. 2 and No. 3 posts on the beach. Since its recapture from the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade by the Turks on May 30th, it had been made into a very formidable redoubt, dominating the approaches to both the Deres.
Behind this post, and connected with it by a razor back, lay Table Top—a precipitous-sided, flat-topped hill, about four hundred feet above sea-level. Its summit was a small plateau, a maze of trenches, from which a communication-trench ran to Rhododendron Spur, which in turn sloped up to the peak of Chunuk Bair. Between the Chailak and Aghyl Deres, the prominent features were Bauchop Hill and Little Table Top; and beyond the Aghyl Dere a low hill called Damakjelik Bair commanded the entrance to the last named ravine, and also the beaches south of Nibrunesi Point. It was therefore necessary that there should be preliminary operations to seize the foothills dominating the entrances to the ravines, and for this purpose two covering forces were to be provided.
* Gully or ravine.
The preliminary arrangements for an attack on a large scale presented peculiar difficulties. The area behind our trenches at Anzac was unduly restricted even for the requirements of the normal garrison: but now large bodies of additional troops had to be landed and accumulated; and—what was still more important and difficult—their presence had to be hidden from the enemy, who by day had an uninterrupted view of our landing places, and whose aeroplanes were constantly reconnoitring and photographing our positions. Before a single man or gun, or the extra supplies necessary for either could be landed, extra accommodation had to be constructed, and camouflaged against aerial observation. All the work involved fell, of course, on the garrison. In his (final) Despatch of 11th December, 1915, Sir Ian Hamilton, speaking of these preparations, says:—
"All these local preparations were completed by August 6th in a way which reflects the greatest credit, not only on the Corps Commander and his staff, but also upon the troops themselves, who had to toil like slaves to accumulate food, drink, and munitions of war. Alone the accommodation for the extra troops to be landed necessitated an immense amount of work in preparing new concealed bivouacs, in making interior communications, and in storing water and supplies; for I was determined to put on shore as many fighting men as our modest holding at Anzac could possibly accommodate or provision. All the work was done by Australian and New Zealand soldiers almost entirely by night, and the uncomplaining efforts of these much-tried troops in preparation are in a sense as much to their credit as their heroism in the battles that followed."*
* Naval and Military Despatches, Part IV., page 12.
And in another place in the same despatch:—
"As to water, that element of itself was responsible for a whole chapter of preparations. An enormous quantity had to be collected secretly, and as secretly stowed away at Anzac, where a high-level reservoir had to be built, having a holding capacity of thirty thousand gallons, and fitted out with a regular system of pipes and distribution tanks. A stationary engine was brought over from Egypt to fill that reservoir. Petroleum tins, with a carrying capacity of eighty thousand gallons were got together, and fixed up with handles, etc., but the collision of the Moorgate with another vessel delayed the arrival of a great number of these, just as a break down in the stationary engine upset for a while the well-laid plan of the high-level reservoir. But Anzac was ever resourceful in face of misadventures, and when the inevitable accidents arose it was not with folded hands that they were met."*
The reinforcing troops were landed at Anzac on the nights of August 4th, 5th, and 6th. Of these, the available fighting troops consisted of the following:—
|38th||Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General A. H. Baldwin).
|39th||Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General W. de S. Cayley).
|40th||Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General J. H. du B. Travers).
|69th||Brigade (Howitzer) Royal Field Artillery.|
|8th||Battalion Welsh Regiment (Divisional Pioneers|
|72nd||Field Company Royal Engineers.|
* Ibid, page 9.
|29th||Brigade (10th Division) (Brigadier-General R. J. Cooper).
|29th||Indian Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General H. V. Cox).
These troops brought the strength of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Lieutenant-General Sir W. R. Birdwood) up to thirty-seven thousand rifles and seventy-two guns.
The plans for the attack divided the forces into two parts. The task of holding the existing positions at Anzac, and of making the frontal assaults from them, to divert the enemy's attention from the main flanking attack, was allotted to the Australian Division. to which were attached the 1st and 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigades, and the 8th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the 8th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, both of the 40th Brigade. The main attack was entrusted to Major-General Godley, whose New Zealand and Australian Division, reduced to three brigades (the New Zealand Infantry, New Zealand Mounted Rifle, and 4th Australian Brigades) by the detachment of the Light Horse Brigades, was strengthened by the addition of the headquarters and remaining two battalions of the 40th Brigade (4th Battalion South Wales Borderers and 5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment), the whole of the 29th Indian and 39th Brigades, the 6th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment (38th Brigade), the 8th Battalion Welsh Regiment (13th Division Pioneers), the 72nd Field Company Royal Engineers, and the Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade (less one section).
Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment (New Zealand and Australian Divisional troops).
The Maori Contingent* (about four hundred and fifty strong).
New Zealand Engineers Field Troop.
The task of this force was to seize Old No. 3 Post, Table Top, and Bauchop Hill, and so open up the Chailak and Sazli Beit Deres for the assaulting columns.
Right Assaulting Column, under Brigadier-General F. E. Johnston (New Zealand Infantry Brigade).
New Zealand Infantry Brigade.
26th Indian Mountain Battery (less one section).
No. 1 Company, New Zealand Engineers.
This column was to move up the Chailak and Sazli Beit Deres, and capture Chunuk Bair, on the Sari Bair Ridge; and eventually to attack the Chessboard from the rear.
Left Covering Force, under Brigadier-General J. H. du B. Travers (40th Brigade).
4th South Wales Borderers and 5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment.
Half of the 72nd Field Company, Royal Engineers.
The task of this force was to seize Damakjelik Bair, so as to open up the Aghyl Dere for the left assaulting column, and to protect the latter's left flank, especially against attacks from troops assembling in the Anafarta Valley. Its presence on Damakjelik Bair would also facilitate the landing of the 9th Corps at Nibrunesi Point.
Left Assaulting Column, under Brigadier-General H. V. Cox (29th Indian Infantry Brigade).
29th Indian Infantry Brigade.
21st Indian Mountain Battery (less one section).
No. 2 Company, New Zealand Engineers.
Reserve, under Major-General Shaw, C.B. (G.O.C. 13th Division).
13th Divisional Headquarters.
39th Infantry Brigade.
6th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment (38th Brigade).
8th Battalion Welsh Regiment (Divisional Pioneers).
(The headquarters and remaining three battalions of the 38th Brigade, which had originally been kept in Corps Reserve, were returned to their Division on the 7th, and became available as reserves for General Godley's forces).
The Canterbury Battalion had been detailed as the right assaulting section of the right assaulting column, and on August 5th had moved from its bivouacs in Canterbury Gully to others in Happy Valley (north-west of Walker's Ridge). There it remained till the evening of the 6th, when at 10.30 p.m. it moved to the attack by way of Sazli Beit Dere. Meanwhile the right covering force had attacked Old No. 3 Post, which was completely in its hands by 10.50 p.m.; and captured Big Table Top an hour later, and Bauchop's Hill by 1.10 a.m. on the 7th.
The task of the Canterbury Battalion was to advance up Sazli Beit Dere and attack the Turkish trenches on Rhododendron Spur from the west; and to picquet the right of the ravine, so as to meet Turkish counter-attacks from Battleship Hill. The remainder of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, moving up the Chailak Dere, was to attack the trenches on Rhododendron Spur from the north-west. After these trenches were captured, and the two columns of the brigade were in touch, the Canterbury and Wellington Battalions were to attack the summit of the Sari Bair Ridge, on a frontage of about 500 yards each, with the peak of Chunuk Bair inclusive to Wellington and on the latter's extreme right.
The time necessary for the Mounted Rifle Brigade to clear the entrances to the ravines having been under-estimated, there was considerable congestion and confusion in the saps on the beach; so that it was 1 a.m. before the Canterbury Battalion was in the Sazli Beit Dere, whereas, according to the time-table for page 60 the attack, the leading troops of the battalion should have reached the Dere before 11 p.m. The 1st Company acted as advanced guard to the battalion.
There had been no opportunity for reconnoitring the ground over which the advance was to be made, save for a distant view of the country from No. 2 Post, by the Commanding Officer and company commanders. on the afternoon of the 6th. Consequently the advance up the Dere was difficult, and the difficulty was increased by the darkness of the night. The battalion lost its way completely in a branch of the main ravine, and had to retrace its steps. About this time a party of the enemy was found on Destroyer Hill, and was attacked with the bayonet—the only weapon permitted to the assaulting and covering columns—and fifty prisoners were taken.
On the battalion turning about, the 12th and 13th Companies, at the rear of the column, received a garbled version of the Commanding Officer's orders to return to the main ravine, and thinking they had been ordered to go right back to Happy Valley, did so. The remainder of the battalion picked up its bearings again and moved up the Dere to Rhododendron Spur. A great deal of time had been lost, and it was now beginning to get light. Pushing on up Rhododendron Spur, the battalion about 5.45 a.m. came in touch with the Otago Battalion, which, in spite of the fact that it had already been heavily engaged at Table Top and Bauchop's Hill, had taken three lightly held Turkish trenches on the Spur.
The 12th and 13th Companies left Happy Valley at dawn, and finding the Dere clear of troops, had little difficulty in re joining the battalion on Rhododendron Spur. By 8 a.m. the New Zealand Infantry Brigade had reached positions which were practically on the site of the front line of the trench system held by us on the Spur till the evacuation of the Peninsula—Wellington on the north, Otago at the eastern point, and Canterbury on the south.* Here the brigade dug in, under very heavy rifle and machine-gun fire, especially from Battleship Hill, and from a trench on a spur north-east of Chunuk Bair.
* The Auckland Battalion was in brigade reserve.
At about 9.30 a.m. the brigade was ordered to assault Chunuk Bair, and as neither the Auckland Battalion nor the 10th Gurkhas had been heavily engaged up till now, these battalions were selected for the attack. On their advancing at 11 a.m., they immediately came under heavy fire; and though the Auckland Battalion reached a Turkish trench about a hundred and fifty yards east of our most advanced positions, its casualties were so heavy that it could get no further. The Gurkhas did not advance as far as the Auckland Battalion, which reached the point afterwards called the "the Apex."
At 12.30 p.m. the Canterbury Battalion received orders to hold its trenches with half the battalion, and with the remaining half to support Auckland in a new attack. The 1st Company was left to garrison the trenches (having had the responsible task of advanced guard during the attack) and the remainder of the battalion moved forward and lay down in the open. It at once came under heavy shrapnel fire from the left flank and suffered severe casualties, losing one officer killed and six badly wounded, in addition to three officers previously wounded.
The attack was not made; but an hour later orders were received that half the battalion was to move to the Apex, to make an attack in conjunction with Wellington. The Commanding Officer with three other officers and fifty men (representing half the battalion) moved to the Apex, leaving the remainder of the battalion to garrison Rhododendron Spur; but this attack was abandoned, as the Brigadier received orders from General Godley that no further advance was to be attempted till the following morning. The Canterbury troops detailed for the attack accordingly returned to Rhododendron Spur at 4.30 p.m.
The general position of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on the afternoon of August 7th was as follows:—
At Anzac proper, the Australian Division had, on the afternoon of the 6th, after severe fighting, captured the Turkish trenches known as Lone Pine, but could advance no further.page 62
The attacks against' German Officer's trenches, Dead Man's Ridge, and the Nek and Baby 700 trenches, during the night or the 6th/7th, had railed to make good any ground, though they had undoubtedly pinned to the positions at Anzac large enemy forces which would otherwise have been used against our troops attacking Sari Bair.
The Indian Brigade of the left assaulting column had reached the open slope known as "the Farm,"* east of Chunuk Bair, and north of the Apex, and had also occupied positions on the spurs north-east of the Farm; while the 4th Australian Brigade, of the same force, was holding the line of the Asma Dere, on a front of about one thousand yards, with its right flank on a point due north of Chunuk Bair. The left of this brigade was in touch with the left covering force, entrenched on and around Damakjelik Bair. The right covering force held Big Table Top, Old No. a Post, and Bauchop's Hill with two regiments of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade as garrison; and the remainder of this force was in readiness to move as required.
At Cape Helles, there had been fierce fighting on August 6th and 7th, with scanty gain of ground and heavy casualties; but here again large Turkish forces were engaged, which otherwise would have become available further north. The landing at Suvla Bay had been effected on the morning of the 7th with small losses; but the lack of enterprise shown by the landing force had defeated the expectations that the attack there would lighten the task of the columns assaulting Sari Bair.
* So called on account of the buildings there, which had stood out clearly before the attack.
The Second Assault on Sari Bair (August 8th).
On account of the exhaustion of the troops who had taken part in the first assault upon the Sari Bair Ridge, and the casualties they had sustained, General Godley obtained permission to break off the action till the following morning. In preparation for the new attack, he organised his forces into two columns—one to advance on the right, and the other in the centre and on the left. The new columns and their objectives were:—
Right Column, under Brigadier-General F. E. Johnston.
Objective: the summit of the Sari Bair Ridge from a point about four hundred yards to the south-west of Chunuk Bair to a point about three hundred yards to the north-east of that peak.
Centre and Left Column, under Brigadier-General H. V. Cox.
Objective: from the left flank of the right column to Koja Chemen Tepe (inclusive). This column was to attack at two points. The 4th Australian Brigade was to advance up the lower slopes of the Abd El Rahman Bair (a spur running down in a northerly direction from Koja Chemen Tepe) and then to wheel to its right and advance up the spur to Koja Chemen Tepe. The other two infantry brigades were to advance directly against the main ridge between Koja Chemen Tepe and Chunuk Bair.
The attack, which was preceded by what was at that time considered a heavy artillery bombardment, began at 4.15 a.m. on August 8th. General Johnston's right column was headed by the Wellington Infantry Battalion (on the right) and the 7th Gloucestershire Battalion; with the 8th Welsh Pioneers in the second line, and the Auckland Mounted Rifles (on the right) and the Maori Contingent in the third line. Half the Canterbury Battalion (represented again by four officers and fifty men) was ordered to support the attack, and moved to the Apex; but it was not called upon to advance, and rejoined the rest of the battalion on Rhododendron Spur during the day.
The Wellington Battalion, advancing with great dash, gained the south-western slopes of the main knoll of Chunuk Bair, on page 64 the summit of Sari Bair Ridge. On its left, however, the Gloucester Battalion came under heavy enfilade fire, lost its direction, and edged off to the right. It eventually dug itself in, in shallow trenches, in the rear of the Wellington Battalion; though about two companies later reached the Wellington's firing line. This was at first in a Turkish trench; but bombing attacks drove out our garrison, which had to dig in new trenches west of the Turkish trench, that is, slightly behind the Turkish trench. Here it hung on all day, in spite of serious enfilade rifle and machine-gun fire, bombs and shell-fire. Late in the afternoon, it was reinforced on the right by two squadrons of the Auckland Mounted Rifles. Just after their arrival, the Commanding Officer of the Wellington Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel W. G. Malone, who had been the leading spirit in the attack, was killed.
Meanwhile, the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment had come up to reinforce General Johnston's column; and, together with the Otago Battalion, was ordered to reinforce the firing line at dusk. By this time the strength of the Wellington Battalion was reduced to three officers and under sixty men, while the Gloucesters had lost all their officers. On the arrival of the reinforcemeats, the remnants of the Wellington and Gloucester Battalions withdrew, having erroneously assumed that they were relieved. instead of merely being reinforced.
The attacks of the other column had not resulted in the gain of much ground. The central attack had made no progress across the open ground in front of the Farm; but further to the left the leading troops had crept further up towards the saddle on the left of Chunuk Bair. The attack of the Australians further again to the left had been held up by machine-guns, and the brigade had been strongly counter-attacked and virtually surrounded by superior numbers. After losing over a thousand men, the Australians had to retire to their trenches on the south-west of the Asma Dere, which they reached before 9 a.m. For the rest of the day they were heavily engaged in a defensive struggle. Once again the expected support from Suvla Bay had been found wanting; but the footing gained on Chunuk Bair encouraged General Godley to issue orders for a third attack on the ridge to be made the following morning, and to call a halt for the day.page break
Officers of III Bn. Canterbury Regiment at Codford, 8th May, 1917.
Back Row.—Lieut. W. Johnston, 2nd Lieut. A. O. Ponder, Capt. H. W. Kennedy, 2nd Lieut. J. Maloney, 2nd Lieut. McKee, Lieut. J. G. C. Wales, 2nd Lieut. F. Richardson.
2nd Row.—Lieut. A. G. Bryan, Lieut. G. M. Lucas, 2nd Lieut. F. G. Painter, Capt. J. MacMorran, 2nd Lieut. C. Quartley, 2nd Lieut. T. Glass, 2nd Lieut. A. Deans, 2nd Lieut. M. O'Connor.
3rd Row.—Rev. G. S. Bryan-Brown (C.F), Capt. J. F. Tonkin, Major O. H. Mead, Major W. L. Robinson, Lieut.-Col. R. A. Row, Lieut H. M. Foster, Major D. A. Dron, Capt. A. F. R. Rohloff, Capt. R. D. Barron (M.O.).
Front Row.—2nd Lieut. A. S. Tonkin, 2nd Lieut. F. Foord, 2nd Lieut. M. Scott, Lieut. J. W. Langridge
The Third Assault on Sari Bair (August 9th).
The troops at the disposal of General Godley had now been reinforced by the arrival of the headquarters of the 29th (British) Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier-General R. J. Cooper, and the 10th Battalion Hampshire Regiment and the 6th Battalion Irish Rifles of that Brigade, which had been sent up from the Army Corps Reserve.* The new assault on the ridge was to be made by three columns, with the following constitution and objectives:—
No. 1 Column, under Brigadier-General F. E. Johnston.
Objective: The consolidation of our positions on Chunuk Bair, the pivotal point of the attack; to be followed by an advance to the south-eastern spur of Chunuk Bair, should the attacks of the other columns prove successful.
No 2 Column, under Brigadier-General H. V. Cox.
Objective: Hill "Q" (midway between Koja Chemen Tepe and Chunuk Bair).
- No 3 Column, under Brigadier-General A. H. Baldwin (Commanding 38th Infantry Brigade).
- 6th East Lancashire Battalion (38th Brigade).
- 6th Loyal North Lancashire Battalion (38th Brigade).
- 10th Hampshire Battalion (29th Brigade).
- 6th Royal Irish Rifles Battalion (29th Brigade).
- 5th Wiltshire Battalion (40th Brigade).
* The remaining battalions of this brigade (5th Connaught Rangers and 6th Leinsters) were sent from Corps Reserve to General Godley during the 9th.
Objective: Hill "Q," attacking from the south-west and moving on the eastern side of the Farm. This column was to make the main attack, and the other columns were ordered to co-operate with it.
The attack was timed for 5.15 a.m., but at that hour General Baldwin's column, which had lost its way among the gullies during the night, and had been hampered by the congestion in the approaches to Rhododendron Ridge, had not arrived. For three quarters of an hour before zero, the heights were bombarded by our artillery; and when the guns lengthened their range the assaulting troops of the second column went forward, without waiting for General Baldwin's column. As the operations of the first column were entirely dependent on the success of the other two columns, no forward movement was made by General Johnston's column.
The 6th Battalion Gurkha Rifles gained a footing on the col (or saddle) between Chunuk Bair and Hill "Q," whence it looked down upon the Dardanelles; but no fresh troops were near enough to support it, and a strong counter-attack by the enemy drove the Gurkhas down the hill again. The leading troops of General Baldwin's column, the 10th Hampshire Brigade and two companies of the 6th East Lancashire Battalion, arriving shortly afterwards, gained the high ground west of the peak of Chunuk Bair; but were met by the same counter-attack, and were pressed down to the Farm.
The garrison of the firing line of General Johnston's column held their position throughout daylight on the 9th, in spite of persistent Turkish attacks and harassing fire of all kinds. After dark that night, the New Zealand troops were relieved by the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Battalion, with the 5th Wiltshire Battalion in support. At dawn on the 10th, a very strong counter-attack, by a force variously estimated at a division and at "several thousands," advancing in seven or eight lines shoulder to shoulder, overwhelmed the firing line, and the Wilt-shires below, and was with great difficulty checked by the garrison of Rhododendron Spur and the Apex. When the attack was broken, the enemy attempted to retreat, but was cut to pieces by our rifle, machine-gun, and artillery fire, and very few succeeded in escaping over the ridge.page 67
While this struggle was in progress on the right, strong enemy attacks were delivered against the centre of the line, especially round the farm. Our lines were broken in several places, but by 10 a.m. the position had been restored and the Turks were retreating. Later in the day, enemy attacks were beaten off by the garrison of Asma Dere and Damakjelik Bair.
During the whole of the operations of August 8th, 9th, and 10th, the Canterbury Battalion remained in its trenches on the south of Rhododendron Spur, consolidating the position and linking up the posts into a continuous trench system: though, as mentioned above, four officers and fifty men were sent to the Apex for a time to support the Wellington Battalion's attack. Again, on the loss of the trenches on Chunuk Bair on the 10th, half the battalion was sent up the Apex, to take part in an attempt to recover the position; but the attack did not take place, and the party was sent back very soon after its arrival at the Apex.
During the fighting the 5th Reinforcement arrived, and was used as a separate unit in reserve. A party of sixty-five of them was sent to carry supplies to the Wellington Battalion on Chunuk Bair, on the 8th; and of these only four returned. The rest of the Canterbury draft was employed behind the firing line for various purposes, and came on several occasions under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. The result was that the great majority of the draft became casualties. A draft of two officers and thirty-eight other ranks of the same reinforcement arrived separately, and joined the battalion on August 11th.page 68
In the New Zealand Infantry Brigade's sector there were no serious attacks by either side after August 10th, and the opposing forces settled down to trench warfare. Minor operations on the left flank of the new Anzac positions, on the nights of August 12th/13th and 13th/14th, gained some ground, and improved the tactical position on that flank; although the left of our front line still remained out of touch with the forces at Suvla Bay.
The achievements of the New Zealand and Australian Division in the August fighting are referred to thus in Sir Ian Hamilton's Special Order of September 7th, 1915:—
"The troops under the command of Major-General Sir A. J. Godley, and particularly the New Zealand and Australian Division, were called upon to carry out one of the most difficult military operations that has ever been attempted—a night march and assault by several columns in intricate mountainous country, strongly entrenched and held by a numerous and determined enemy. Their brilliant conduct during this operation and the success they achieved have won for them a reputation as soldiers of whom any country must be proud.
"To the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, therefore, and to those who were associated with that famous Corps in the battle of Sari Bair—the Maoris, Sikhs, Gurkhas, and the new troops of the 10th and 13th Divisions from the Old Country—Sir Ian Hamilton tenders his appreciation of their efforts, his admiration of their gallantry, and his thanks for their achievements. It is an honour to command a force which numbers such men as these in its ranks, and it is the Commander-in-Chief's high privilege to acknowledge that honour."
The 9th Corps, at Suvla Bay, continued its attacks till the 15th, but with practically no success; and Sir Ian Hamilton then appealed to the War Office for further reinforcements to bring his Divisions up to strength, and also for an additional fifty thousand fresh troops, besides extra supplies and munitions. These were refused him, so he determined to make a final effort at Suvla with the troops then available; and for this purpose he broke off operations till August 21st. The attack on this day failed also; though a supporting attack by troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps gained further ground page 69 on the left of the Anzac positions, where the Kaiajik Dere was crossed.
Finally, on August 27th, 28th, and 29th, a force under Brigadier-General Russell, consisting of troops of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade, the 9th and 10th Regiments of the Australian Light Horse, the 4th and 5th Australian Infantry Brigades, and the 5th Battalion Connaught Rangers, stormed the knoll known as Hill 60. This hill lay north of Kaiajik Aghala, north-east of Damakjelik Bair, and between the Kaiajik and Asma Deres. The fighting was almost entirely hand to hand, with bayonet and bomb, and was of a severe nature: the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were particularly singled out for praise by the Divisional Commander. As a result of the operation, the communications along the beach between Anzac and Suvla were much improved, and our new positions commanded the valley between Biyuk Anafarta and the sea.
The New Zealand Infantry Brigade took no part in this fighting; but confined its energies to strengthening its positions on Rhododendron Spur and at the Apex. The Canterbury Battalion remained in garrison of the southern defences of the spur till August 18th, when it relieved the Wellington Battalion and the 8th Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Apex. The same night (18th/19th) at 12.30 a.m., Lieutenant D. Dobson took out a party of thirty men of the 1st Company, with the object of destroying a Turkish redoubt known as "the Pinnacle," east of the Apex. On reconnoitring the position, the leader of the party found the Turks prepared for an attack; and coming under fire, he withdrew his men, with a loss of one killed and three wounded.
The following night, at 8.30 p.m., a party of twenty men of the 13th Company, under Lieutenant J. B. Le Mottee, made another attempt on the same redoubt, and in spite of heavy fire succeeded in entering it. After remaining there for half an hour, during which time it partially demolished the defences, the party was forced to withdraw. Before the party regained our trenches half its strength had become casualties—three killed and eight wounded.page 70
On 20th August the battalion was relieved by the Otago Battalion,* and went into brigade reserve in bivouacs at Otago Gully, east of No. 3 Post and close to the beach.† Here it remained till the 23rd, when it was ordered to garrison the inner defences—Camel's Hump, Destroyer Ridge, Big Table Top, Bauchop's Hill, and Old No. 3 Post. During the next two days, the battalion was relieved in all these posts except Big Table Top and Old No. 3 Post, but remained in the two last-named posts till the 28th. In the meantime, the Maori Contingent had been attached to the Infantry Brigade, and a platoon was allotted to each battalion. The strength of the Canterbury Battalion was thus increased by one officer and forty other ranks.
The 4th South Wales Borderers took over Big Table Top and Old No. 3 Post on the afternoon of August 28th; and the Canterbury Battalion thereupon moved to the Apex and relieved the 8th Cheshire Battalion, which had been assisting the Wellington Battalion to garrison that post. The Wellington Battalion remained, coming under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes. The one noteworthy incident of the battalion's spell in the line was the shelling of the Pinnacle, by a gun from the 26th Indian Mountain Battery, which was brought up into the Apex trenches for the purpose. The gun fired nine rounds, destroying the redoubt, and was got away before the enemy's guns could open fire on it. The battalion was relieved by the Auckland Battalion on September 8th, and went into bivouacs in Chailak Dere, north of Big Table Top and close to brigade headquarters. Here it remained till the 12th, when it moved to bivouacs at Bauchop's Hill.
† This gully shortly afterwards became the headquarters of the New Zealand and Australian Division.
The brigade landed at Mudros about 2 p.m. on the following day (September 15th), and marched to the rest camp at Sarpi. This was a camp in name only, as very few tents were there, and the majority of the brigade slept, in the open for several days. No training was done during the first week, but the brigade was inspected on the 17th by Lieutenant-General A. E. Altham, General Officer Commanding Lines of Communication, and by the Admiral commanding the French Mediterranean Fleet. This was followed by an inspection by General Godley on September 21st.
Training began on September 20th, and was planned on progressive lines. The syllabus for the first week provided for only two hours' drill and marching daily, so as to smarten up the men, and gradually harden them after the relaxing life on the Peninsula. The work for the following week was increased to four hours daily; and thereafter four and a half hours' work a day was laid down, of which four hours were to be spent in field operations, including two night operations each week. Thus the remainder of September and the whole month of October was spent. At the end of September the 1st and 2nd Companies were quarantined, on account of an outbreak of scarlet fever and diphtheria. On October 4th Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes went to hospital,* and Major R. A. Row assumed the command of the battalion.
* Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes at this date finally severed his connection with the Canterbury Regiment.
It had been intended that the brigade should leave for Anzac at the end of October, but owing to unfavourable weather, it could not embark till November 8th. At 7 a.m. on that date, the Canterbury Battalion left the camp at Sarpi, and embarking on the Osmanieh at 9 a.m., landed at Anzac at 6.30 p.m., and bivouacked for the night in a gully off Chailak Dere, below Durant's Post. This post was at the junction of the trenches called Upper and Lower Cheshire Ridges, and was about five hundred yards north-west of the Apex. The following day (the 9th) the 13th Company took over part of the Upper Cheshire Ridge trench from the 27th Australian Battalion; and on the 10th the rest of the battalion took over the remainder of the section from the Australians.
The enemy was not offensive, so the battalion was able to do much useful work in the trenches. Owing to the possibility of the enemy bringing up much heavier artillery than he had hitherto used, it was necessary to dig very deep shelters; and it was on work of this nature that the battalion was employed during its spell in the line. The firing-trench was divided into three sections, and garrisoned by the 13th, 1st, and 12th Companies with the 2nd Company in reserve. On November 20th Lieutenant-Colonel R. Young, originally of the Wellington Regiment but in command of the Auckland Battalion since May, took over the command of the battalion.
* This was the reason given at the time: it appears that the real reason was to prepare the enemy for the evacuation.
It was at this time that the weather broke, and added another discomfort to the lot of the Gallipoli forces. Heavy rain fell on the night of the 26th/27th, and again during the following afternoon and night, with snow in the early morning of the 28th. Mud made progress in the trenehes difficult, but heavy frosts followed, and brought with them fine weather. Throughout the month dysentery had been rife; and though the only casualties caused by enemy action were one other rank killed and six other ranks wounded, the strength of the battalion had sunk again to nineteen officers and five hundred and twelve other ranks.