Official History of the New Zealand Engineers During the Great War 1914-1919.
Chapter II. — Gallipoli
On arrival at Mudros, the general plan of attack had been made known to the Divisional Staff, All hope of surprising the Turk had long since been dissipated by the previous naval efforts; some attempt to assist the actual landing was now to be made by a series of feints on other positions, calculated to confuse the enemy as to our final intentions and to pin down his local garrisons. The three outstanding features of the country about to be attacked were Achi Baba, a great hill on the southern end of the Peninsula overlooking Cape Helles; the lofty plateau of Kilid Bahr, guarding the approaches to the great fortresses of Kilid Bahr and Chanak, whose capture would largely have fulfilled the objects of the expedition; and further north, inland from Suvla Bay, the tangled knot of cliffs and ravines leading up to the heights of Sari Bair, 1000 feet above the sea. Both Achi Baba and Sari Bair commanded the central plateau, and had to fall before the control of the latter could be hoped for.
Two feint attacks were organised, one by portion of the Royal Naval Division up at Bulair, near the head of the Gulf of Saros, the other by the French Division, on Kum Kale and surrounding forts on the Asiatic shore at the entrance to the Straits. The main attack was entrusted to the only seasoned Division present, the immortal 29th, assisted by units of the Royal Naval Division. Their orders were to land at the extreme south-eastern tip of the Peninsula near Cape Helles, and to push on against Achi Baba and Krithia, a small village lying in the shadow of the great hill. Just south of Suvla Bay, between Gaba Tepe and Fisherman's Hut, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (to be known hereafter as Anzacs) were to tackle the cliffs, and if all went well would push on past the southern flank of Sari Bair to capture the roadlines running down the full length of the Peninsula from Gallipoli to Cape Helles, thus materially assisting the southern attack by threatening, if not cutting, the only line of retreat of the forces opposed to it, and also of the garrisons of the Kilid Bahr forts.
The Australian Division was to land before the New Zealand and Australian Division, and by afternoon of the 24th April, with the band on the "Queen Elizabeth" playing "Fall page 16in and Follow Me," its transports had slipped their anchors, and were standing out of Mudros Bay for the rendezvous off the coast of the Peninsula. Here the troops were transferred to boats and destroyers and moved on quietly towards the beach. Sir Ian Hamilton's Despatch of 20th May, 1915, gives a vivid picture of the scene:—
"All these arrangements worked without a hitch, and were carried out in complete orderliness and silence. No breath of wind raffled the surface of the sea, and every condition was favourable save for the moon, which, sinking behind the ships, may have silhouetted them against its orb, betraying them thus to the watchers on the shore.
"A rugged and difficult part of the coast had been selected for the landing, so difficult and rugged that I considered the Turks were not at all likely to anticipate such a descent. Indeed, owing to the tows having failed to maintain their exact direction, the actual point of disembarkation was more than a mile north of that which I had selected, and was more closely overhung by steeper cliffs. Although this accident increased the initial difficulty of driving the enemy off the heights inland, it has since proved itself to have been a blessing in disguise, inasmuch as the actual base of the force of occupation has been much better defiladed from shell-fire.
"The beach on which the landing was actually effected is a very narrow strip of sand, about 1000 yards in length, bounded on the north and south by two small promontories. At its southern extremity a deep ravine, with exceedingly steep scrub-clad sides, runs inland in a north-easterly direction. Near the northern end of the beach a small but, steep gully runs up into the hills at right angles to the shore. Between the ravine and the gully the whole of the beach is backed by the seaward face of the spur which forms the northwestern side of the ravine. From the top of the spur the ground falls almost sheer, except near the southern limit of the beach, where gentler slopes give access to the mouth of the ravine behind. Further inland lie in a tangled knot the under-features of Sari Bair, separated by deep ravines, which make a most confusing diversity of direction. Sharp spurs, covered with dense scrub, and falling away in many places in precipitous sandy cliffs, radiate from the principal mass of the mountain, from which they run north-west, west, southwest, and south to the coast."The boats approached the land in the silence and the darkness, and they were close to the shore before the enemy stirred. Then about one battalion of the Turks was seen run-page break page breakpage 17 page 18ning along the beach to intercept the lines of the boats. At this so critical a moment, the conduct of all ranks was most praiseworthy. Not a word was spoken—everyone remained perfectly orderly and quiet awaiting the enemy's fire, which sure enough opened, causing many casualties. The moment, the boats touched land, the Australians' turn had come. Like lightning they leapt ashore, and each man as he did so went straight as his bayonet to the enemy. So vigorous was the onslaught that the Turks made no effort to withstand it, and fled from ridge to ridge pursued by the Australian Infantry."
Lieut Colonel G. Barolay, O.B.E
All night long at Mudros the orderly procession of ships passed out of the harbour for the performance of their several parts in the great drama; a mighty and impressive pageant of the power of Britain. When morning broke they were still moving out, all too slowly for some of the eager spirits who could now hear the faint rumble of the guns 50 miles to the eastward. At 9 a.m. the "Goslar," with the 1st Field Company among the occupants of her crowded decks, weighed anchor, and took her appointed place in the departing line of ships.
Meanwhile the Australians had made good their glorious landing, and were now fighting desperately among the rocky ridges and scrubby valleys of the hills behind the beach. Their leading troops had struck east and south-east from the landing place—Anzac Cove hereafter—and had forced their way over the first ridge (Maclagan's Eidge) and to the further side of the next gully, which from the early hours of the assault was known as. Shrapnel Valley. By evening they had established a line of posts, Quinn's, Courtney's, and others, from Pope's Hill, the farthest point reached up Maclagan's Eidge, stretching fan-wise in a southerly direction round the ridge line on the farther side of Shrapnel Valley and so to the beach about a mile south of the landing place. The centre and right of their newly-won position were thus tolerably defined, if by no means secure. The position on the left was far less satisfactory, with an actual gap between the troops and the sea. A well-defined ridge, known as Walker's Ridge, leading down from near Pope's Hill in a north-westerly direction to the beach some distance north of the Cove, was the. obvious defensive line in this locality, and here several of the New Zealand battalions were sent on landing.
As the New Zealand transports neared Cape Helles, the men enjoyed a clear view of their distant goal, and of the operations immediately in progress. Under a blue and cloudless sky, apparently almost treeless, but swathed in the verdure of Spring, lay the gaunt ridges of the Peninsula. Tower-page 19ing above them the heights of Achi Baba and Sari Bair rose calm and serene, wearing even then an air of stern detachment unmoved by the advancing hosts. Farther off the snowcapped ranges on the Asiatic shore looked down upon the beginnings of this titanic struggle. To the north-west, like gems on the breast of the calm sea, lay the beautiful islands of Imbros and Samothrace, while in the blue haze of the dim distance the Turkish mainland was faintly discernible. The whole scene was strongly reminiscent of New Zealand on a calm day in early December. But close at hand the battleships, both French and British, were heavily bombarding the coastal forts and Turkish positions further inland, the whole air a-quiver with the recurring detonations, and filled with dust and smoke. On the beach in the immediate foreground, the famous "River Clyde," that modern Horse of Troy, was clearly seen aground, surrounded by smaller craft valiantly pushing troops ashore. Here, too, fountains of earth and water marked the crash of innumerable shells, grim testimony that the Turkish gunners were by no means disabled, and that many of the 29th Division would never see another landing.
But on went the "Goslar" and her sister transports, and within the hour the sight of a concentration of ships beyond Gaba Tepe headland was sufficient evidence of our own approaching trials to distract the mind from consideration of the landscape or the sufferings of others. Here also the guns boomed unceasingly, while a rattle of rifle fire from the nearer cliffs showed that the gallant Australians had gained at least a footing. A captive balloon swayed above one ship, while vigilant seaplanes were circling between the warships and Sari Bair, spotting for the Turkish guns. Destroyers steamed from ship to ship collecting men, and when fully loaded, dashed for the beach, then out again for another load. But the never-ceasing procession of boats to the hospital ships at the end of the line gave some indication of the price of progress.
The glory and sacrifice of that immortal day of landing have been told elsewhere on several occasions, and no attempt at elaboration will be made here. At. 3.30 p.m. the destroyer "Foxhound" drew alongside the "Goslar," and an hour later, the 1st Field Company was on its way to the shore. Closer in it was transferred to large cutters which were run aground on the beach. Men leaped into the water and after landing picks, shovels and other gear, the Field Company was lined up in the page 20shelter of a cliff while arrangements were made for their immediate employment.
Finally, all but two small detachments were sent to dig support trenches on Plugge's Plateau, a flat knoll on the seaward end of Maclagan's Ridge overlooking the mouth of Shrapnel Valley. Of those left behind, one part was set to prepare gun emplacements for two Australian howitzer batteries, while the other was detailed to construct machine gun posts covering either flank. On Plugge's Plateau, though by no means in the foremost line, the whistle of machine-gun bullets and the constant crash of shrapnel conspired to assist the untried sappers to put up a record first performance in the way of digging trenches under fire. As the trench sank into the kindly earth, and they found themselves with a little decent cover and not yet all dead men, they found time to draw breath and take stock of their surroundings. Out in the bay the battleships were still bombarding the Turkish positions, and the flashes of the guns showed redly through the gathering gloom. Pinnaces and lighters were running to and fro incessantly, with shrapnel lashing the water like hail around them. On the beach below stores and men were accumulating; troops were hurried off as soon as they landed to one or other of the critical points in the uncertain line, but their places were filled immediately by the constant stream of wounded. The ground from the beach came up steeply in sharp narrow ridges, composed of a gravelly soil and covered with short wiry scrub in which, a few hours earlier, the Turkish snipers and machine-gunners had screened themselves while they took toll of the first intrepid landing parties. Further inland the ground rose more gradually, still much cut up by spurs and gullies, to the dominating peak of Sari Bair, some two or three miles away. Everything was seen through a haze of smoke and dust, while the acrid fumes of various explosives polluted the whole atmosphere. Night was falling, and nothing could be seen of either friend or foe up towards the fighting line, but the rattle of rifle and machine-gun fire never ceased.
By midnight trench and emplacements were complete, but there was no sleep at Anzac that night. The sappers manned the trench they had just dug and stood by till dawn, in momentary expectation of being called upon to withstand the enemy, who had received reinforcements and kept up incessant activity along the whole line. The beach gradually became one long hospital ward, but without appliances and almost without attendants, though the weary doctors did all that men might do.page 21
With daylight, road reconnaissance was immediately undertaken and later in the day the Field Company commenced to form a track out to the front line positions at Walker's Ridge on the left. That night parties were again employed on howitzer emplacements, but by the afternoon of Tuesday, the 27th, every available man was required for the front line. Half the Field Company was sent to Walker's Ridge and the remainder to Quinn's Post, where they alternately took spells of front line duty, and bent their energies to the provision of communication and firing trenches. At Walker's Ridge, in particular, the garrison had been too busy skirmishing and fighting ever since the landing to have spent any time on their trenches, which were practically non-existent in some places, and only a series of shallow disconnected pits in others. The sappers began at once to deepen and connect these early efforts, but were soon forced to drop their shovels and help to repel a determined attack. For his coolness and resource in this little brush, Corporal C. W. Saunders was awarded the first decoration won by a New Zealand Engineer—the D.C.M.
On the other side of the Divisional sector, at Quinn's Post, the sappers were immediately in the very forefront of the battle, in a spot notorious throughout the whole of the Gallipoli operations. This position had been taken on the day of the landing by Captain Quinn and his party of the 15th Australian Battalion, and had been held since despite all efforts by the Turks, entrenched not more than 20 yards away. Situated right on the rim of the ridge at the head of Monash Gully, as the top end of Shrapnel Valley was already named, this Post was the only point in our whole line where our position could be said to excel the Turks', and the fact appeared to annoy the sons of the Prophet beyond belief. As at Walker's, there were no trenches when the sappers arrived, and a very limited field of fire. The existing pits were soon deepened and connected up into a serviceable firing line. Saps were then pushed steadily forward to just over the crest of the ridge, when by joining up from saphead to saphead a new trench was formed, giving the superiority of fire and observation, which alone enabled us to hold Quinn's right through the campaign. These sapping operations were greatly assisted by the command given by a small observation post erected under fire by Corporal C. W. Salmon, which was afterwards extremely useful to both infantry and artillery observers. Salmon received the D.C.M. for his fine work. On completion of this front line trench, parties were set on to the problem page 22of communications, and numerous tracks gradually made their appearance, breaking off up the spurs to the firing line from the convenient main track afforded by the line of Shrapnel Valley.
The Turk was fully alive to the possibilities of this deep, narrow valley running up into the heart of our position; in fact, it was due to his assiduous attentions that the place came by its expressive name. Though no amount of shelling could hinder us from using this natural access, the gully soon became a veritable Valley of Tribulation, strewn with every kind of equipment and flanked by stinking dead mules, with a never-ending stream of the pathetically cheerful walking wounded, or of more serious cases on stretchers, many of them doomed to die long ere the transports reached Alexandria from sheer lack of accommodation and necessary attendance.
With these improvements, the need for a comprehensive survey of the whole position became acute, and by the beginning of May, the C.R.E. was able to furnish G.H.Q. with a serviceable plan showing the whole of the Divisional position. Apart from the continual conflict against superior numbers, conditions of life were still pleasant enough. The great heat of summer had not yet come, and the invigorating breath of spring was still in the air, with birds singing in the bushes, and wild flowers growing on the open ridges.
Down on the beach some sort of order was gradually being evolved, with Headquarters, Field Ambulance Hospitals and Ordnance Stores nestling under the precarious shelter of the low cliffs. The Engineers' Stores of explosives, wire, sandbags, timber and so on, were not so fortunate, and were relegated to Hell Spit, a narrow point jutting out at the southern extremity of Anzac Cove, and receiving all attention going in the way of fire from both flanks. The position had its advantages in that stores were terribly scarce and the unhealthy locality of the depot may have deterred some importunate applicants for material. For a time the Turks enjoyed uninterrupted observation of all our movements at the Cove from positions they had established on two promontories—Nibrunesi Point, about four miles to the north, and Gaba Tepe, about two miles south. Expeditions were ultimately organised to deal with these offensive lookouts. The Adjutant and two N.C.O's of the 1st Field Company accompanied a New Zealand force to Nibrunesi Point, where everything was destroyed and the garrison captured. Australians attacking Gaba Tepe found the position heavily wired, page 23and were forced to withdraw, and the place remained in enemy hands till the evacuation.
The horses belonging to the 1st Field Company were left for some days on the "Goslar," and were then returned to Lemnos and Egypt. Many of the drivers, however, returned from Lemnos and served in the line as sappers. For some days after landing, officers and men of the Engineers, in common with all other troops on the Peninsula, had slept when and where they could, but with the first easing of the constant pressure of work some attempt was made to establish definite bivouacs—in Walker's Rest Gully and on Pope's Hill—for the respective parties of left and right sectors. These "bivvies" or "possies" were simply ledges and holes cut out in the rear slopes of the hills, but day after day in spare moments men worked away at their little shelters till some became quite pretentious residences fitted with many conveniences. Later on these mansions were quite commonly put up to auction; in fact, one enterprising sapper made a regular business of it, and spent all his spare time and energy in building up-to-date shelters to trade to the cash aristocrats of the moment. The flies were the most persistent enemy on Gallipoli; it was occasionally possible to avoid Turkish attentions, but even in the few hours allowed for sleep, generally in the day time, the fly was always on hand and always a source of irritation and discomfort. Food of course was never free from the plague, and the cumulative evil effects of a protracted diet of bully beef and biscuits were inevitably heightened in that sordid environment by the disease-carrying tendencies of the myriad flies.
At the beginning of May, the impression still remained general that we would commence a successful advance again before very long, if only because the positions won on the first day were now proving themselves so perilously insecure. A minor attack was in fact arranged for the evening of May 2nd, with the intention of improving our line between Walker's and Quinn's. The Turks still held the head of a small gully forking from Monash Gully and running up between Pope's Hill and Walker's Ridge, where, in addition to fine observation of all our movements in the vicinity, they prevented any direct communication between Pope's and Walker's. Again between Pope's Hill and Quinn's Post there ran out a sharp narrow ridge, so far unoccupied, but likely to prove very dangerous to us if the Turks should establish a hold upon it. A mixed force of Australians, New Zealanders, and men of the Royal Naval Division was detailed for the page 24assault, which took place at 7 p.m., assisted by bombardment from the warships off-shore. Some delays undoubtedly occurred in assembly, so that the first attackers from Quinn's Post were advancing "on their own," but this could hardly have affected the ultimate result. From none of our positions was it possible for more than a handful of men to come into action at the same time; and as soon as they showed on the crest of the ridge they fell riddled with a stream of machine-gun bullets. All night vain efforts to advance were continued till morning showed the hopelessness of the attempt, and the precarious position of the gallant few who were now out in front in improvised pits or lying behind rocks. Two parties of Engineers were attached to the attacking forces. Of one party attempting to dig a forward line about midnight all were killed or wounded save two, and the other party was early requisitioned to carry the wounded back to the shelter of our side of the ridge, and later to cut a track to get them down to the beach. In this work they were assisted by the Royal Navals still waiting to support the already hopeless attack on the hills above. Soon the Navals were ordered to make a final effort up the ridge between Pope's and Quinn's, and up to the ridge they went, to die as soon as they came within view of the waiting Turks. At 8 a.m. orders came to withdraw. The attack had failed, and Dead Man's Ridge, as it was rightly known thereafter, became a Turkish post. Captain F. Waite, of the New Zealand Engineers, who had led forward a party at a critical period in the early morning, was awarded the D.S.O., while Sapper Scrimshaw received the D.C.M. for coolness and gallantry throughout the proceedings. Sergeant Wallace and Sapper A. S. Carlyon were recommended at the same time, but were unfortunately killed before any action could be taken in the way of awards. Both men had been prominent in all activities of the Company right from the day of the landing.
This reverse showed plainly that for the present at any rate our activities were to be confined to the ground already held, and detailed plans were laid for consolidation and improvement of each portion. In particular an inner line of defences were determined upon, and immediately put under construction in those areas where no trench already existed. Starting at Hell Spit this inner line ran up Maclagan's Ridge, over Plugge's Plateau, and then down the cliffs to Ari Burnu, as the small point at the northern extremity of Anzac Cove was known. No alteration was possible in the line of the outer defences; all that could be done there was to improve them—a task that would have taxed the energies of six times page 25the number of sappers available. The normal equipment of a Division on active service is three Field Companies—here on Anzac one only was available, and that one already sadly depleted by wounds and sickness.
The defences of the outer line were now divided into four distinct sectors, of which No. 3 comprised the cluster of Posts at Quinn's, Courtney's, and Pope's, while Walker's Ridge constituted No. 4. Nos. 1 and 2 were under control of the purely Australian Division further south, and do not enter into this account. On the three Posts mentioned, and at Walker's Ridge, great efforts were now made. All trenches were deepened and widened, some deviated, and other isolated portions joined up by judicious sapping, while communications were improved and shelters provided, and the whole front put into as permanent a form as possible under the circumstances. Quinn's Post, as ever, was the centre-piece of the daily harassing efforts of the enemy, and the occupants actually took their lives in their hands every time they entered the front line. However, some measure of relief was close at hand.
Back in Egypt the men of the Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles had been daily growing more and more impatient as time went on and no prospect appeared of joining in the struggle on the Peninsula. Finally they were all sent to serve as infantry, leaving a handful of men to care for the horses in Egypt. With them came the Field Troop as reinforcements to the Field Company; with them also came the horses of the Field Troop for reasons more difficult to explain, since no transport had ever been used at Anzac; These finally found themselves back in Egypt after some weeks cruising in the Mediterranean. The Field Troop on the 13th May took over all Engineering works, on Walker's Ridge, where the Mounted men also relieved the Infantry garrisons. A considerable portion of their time at this stage was occupied in digging wells. Water could generally be had for a day or two, then slowly but surely the well dried up, and more digging had to be carried on. At the same time the track up to Russell's Top, on the summit of Walker's Ridge, was re-graded and widened, and in certain places the firing line was being improved by pushing out sap heads to be joined up later.
The Turks were not long in providing a full-dress performance for the benefit of the newcomers, who now held most of the line, the original garrison having been withdrawn to take part in the great attack at Helles on the 7th May. For a week our line had been perilously thinly held, but the enemy page 26had been in ignorance of his opportunity. On the evening of the 18th a heavy bombardment appeared to presage another enemy attempt to drive the unbelievers into the sea, and with the dawn of the 19th it commenced. Covered by intense rifle and machine-gun fire and a cloud of snipers, the Turks came on along the whole line in droves, crying vigorously on Allah as they advanced. But the united efforts of Allah and his faithful followers were powerless against the machine-guns of the infidels. Well posted in hopeful anticipation of just such an opportunity, the Mounteds mowed them down in swathes. The advancing line would ebb and flow and finally break, but ere long a fresh line took its place, coming steadily down to meet the withering hail of lead. The Turk is a bonny fighter, but valour alone has little chance against machine-guns, and it is to be hoped that his belief in the special corner of Paradise reserved for those who die in battle has some foundation in fact. Only the merest trickle of men ever reached our trenches, and by 11 a.m. the attack had completely broken down. Soon after a white flag appeared, and appeals were made for an armistice to bury the dead. While negotiations were proceeding, opportunity was taken by the soldiers on both sides to have a good look at one another and at the ground so recently fought over. Very soon, however, the Turks were observed to be collecting rifles and bayonets outside their trenches, and when a fat German major, with the original notions of honour peculiar to his species, commenced solemnly to pace the distance between the opposing lines, proceedings were hurriedly broken off and firing went on as before.
The activities of ordinary trench warfare once more held the stage right along the front, marked by continual effort on our side to improve our inferior positions against the ceaseless firing and bomb-throwing of the better-posted enemy. Bombing, particularly at Quinn's, was practised by the Turks incessantly, their supply of the cricket ball variety being apparently unlimited. To meet this constant menace, the sappers erected the systems of overhead cover, which became such a feature of all front line work on Gallipoli where the trenches were close enough to enable hand-thrown bombs to be used.
Later on, as steel loopholed plates became available for letting into the parapet, the front trench was more like a long closed-in gallery than anything else. Such a system could only have been possible in a place like Quinn's, where hostile artillery was powerless to operate owing to the proximity of the opposing trenches.page 27
The overhead cover and sandbag walls were carried down right into the small gullies behind, where there was almost as much need for them as in the front trench. The ridge was so narrow that any bomb thrown a little too far came bounding on down the steep hillside to explode among the garrison off duty in rear. Bombing operations of course were not entirely a prerogative of the Turk. We had used bombs from the start, but where the Turks seemed well supplied with the manufacturned article, we were forced to make our own from jam tins and bulk explosive in the Engineer's Stores, a job which was always waiting down on the beach for any men of the Headquarters' section temporarily unemployed. One humourist up at Quinn's amused himself by throwing over lightly-loaded bombs supplied with a long slow-burning fuse. When a few of these had gone across the Turks hit on the bright idea of heaving them back again. After timing their efforts for a few minutes, the operator substituted a full-powered projectile armed with a short piece of slow fuse spliced to a length of "instantaneous;" His vis-a-vis and his admiring friends enjoyed the joke exceedingly, if the squeals and jabbering that followed the burst were any criterion. But that little notion could only succeed once or twice, and generally speaking, the Turk had the best of the bombing exchanges.
On the 21st May, the enemy again renewed his requests for an armistice, and though reluctant on general grounds, our authorities decided to take the opportunity of burying and identifying the dead, arrangements being finally made for a truce all day on the 24th. Burial parties from either side were to meet in neutral territory, and to mark out the ground by a line of white flags midway between trenches. Each party would work on its own side, but would hand over strange dead to be buried by their own compatriots. In practice this was found impossible; in some places the dead lay so thickly and so intermingled, that there was no time to sort them out if they were to be buried at all. A certain number of Anzac dead were thus buried by the Turks, unidentified, and these were the men afterwards recorded "missing, believed killed," by the Court of Enquiry. Down on the beach the majority of their surviving brethren were celebrating their temporary freedom from care with a glorious wash !
After the armistice work went on as before, the only departure from routine lines being the commencement of mining operations on an extended scale. At Walker's, the improved firing line formed by the joining of the sap heads was now complete. In point of fact further saps were already being driven out, which within a few days provided this sub-page 28sector with an additional trench, line, which, added to internal improvements, left the position pretty secure. Support lines were also in progress at all other points along the front.
At Pope's Hill, New Zealand Engineers were working with a garrison composed of men of the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, whose CO., Colonel Monash, went to the trouble of forwarding special commendation of the good work done by Lieutenant Paine and the sappers working with him in that locality. The work consisted principally of sapping forward to improve the fire positions, and was carried on without cessation under constant shell fire, which caused many casualties, and ultimately resulted in the death of Lieutenant Paine before any official action could be taken to recognise his good work.
Several small mine tunnels had been pushed out by the sappers in front of Quinn's during May, with a view to protective rather than offensive action, since it was recognised that a Turkish mine of any magnitude would have practically had the effect of blowing the top clean off the small crest of the ridge held by our men. On the 25th sounds of enemy picks were heard at a distance estimated by several experienced miners to be only two feet. A charge of 32 lbs. of guncotton was therefore laid and fired, without much success, since the enemy was heard once more within a few hours. Next day he was again located, driving towards one of our loaded galleries, but apparently at the moment just above an empty chamber. A small charge was accordingly laid here and duly fired. Inspection revealed a hole in the roof leading into an enemy gallery, but the Turkish miners were on the alert and a shower of bombs precluded any attempts at closer investigation. To clear this unpleasant situation, a side drive was decided on from one of our existing galleries, from which, when sufficiently near, we might definitely destroy the Turks' gallery or at least close their entrance into our system. This was ultimately successful, but a small mine, fired at the same time in another gallery where suspicions had been aroused, again had the unlooked-for result of opening up a passage into another Turkish chamber. Two more small charges failed to close this, and ultimately we had to block the hole with packed sandbags and post a sentry, pending arrangements to drive under the chamber and wreck it from below.
Before this operation could be carried out, noises in another of our tunnels had become so loud that the miners became a trifle apprehensive, and one, on striking a soft patch with his pick, thought he had broken through into the Turks' page 29gallery. Being totally unarmed at the moment, he rushed hastily out of the tunnel, possibly to get a rifle, but his impetuous movements were not reassuring to other men nearer to the exit, who also made for the open air with stories of hostile invasion. On receipt of this news, 2nd Lieutenant the Hon. R. P. Butler, who was in charge of the general Engineering activities of the Post, led a small party bent on the eviction of the intruders, only to find that the only occupant of the still intact tunnel was a "listener" who had entered on the course of his usual rounds. He reported the enemy very close, however, so a charge of 100 lbs. of ammonal was laid and well tamped, an operation of some two anxious hours, but which, when fired, caused an excellent upheaval, which must have caught some Turks and shaken their fire trench considerably. Lieutenant Butler, accompanied by Captain McNeill and Sergeant A. W. Abbey, immediately entered our tunnel to investigate results, and, just as they reached the debris, were startled by a sudden burst of flame, which enveloped the whole area, but fortunately did not follow them in their retreat. While they were underground, a further explosion had been heard, which seemed to show that the Turks had been laying a charge when their efforts were frustrated by the explosion of ours. Nothing daunted, the enemy were heard again almost immediately on the other side of the Post, apparently determined to achieve results somewhere. Colonel Pridham took an early opportunity of visiting the Post and forming his own opinion of the situation on the spot. Next night we blew two more charges in selected localities, and thereafter, for a time at least, Turkish enthusiasm was considerably diminished.
The insignificant charges used by us naturally appear to invite comment, but the difficulty was that we dared not use large charges even had they been available, for fear of threatening] the stability of the position. All we had in mind was to forestall the Turk by blowing in his galleries or exploding his charges while he was still as far as possible from our trenches. However he got in first in the early morning of the 29th May, when one of two mines fired wrecked a portion of the Post and broke a gap in the front line through which the Turks poured pell-mell. The crash of the explosion had been sufficient alarm to every man on Anzac, and while the machine-gunners on Pope's Hill and Rssell's Top thrashed the ground in front of Quinn's, reinforcements hurried up from the reserve areas in rear. However, the surviving garrison was equal to the test, and very soon overpowered those page 30of the enemy who had entered the Post, and by a sudden counter-attack dispersed the clamouring horde in front. To the sappers fell the ticklish task of clearing up and repairing the broken trench, As soon as darkness fell a party crept up to the job, but their disgruntled opponents in front kept up such a fusillade of bombs that no progress was possible and all hands save isolated sentries were forced to seek cover. Next morning work was again attempted. The only possible approach to the damaged trench in daylight was through a small tunnel, the end of which was almost completely blocked with debris of one sort and another. One man only could work at one time, and slowly and laboriously he cleared the exit, loading the spoil into bags which were dragged away by relays of men behind him. Once out in the trench, the dangerous position, and the unpleasant nature of the blood-soaked and fly-covered ruins, combined to effect a speedy clearance. Two sentries watched from adjacent stations, and on the warning cry of "Bomb!" the sapper engaged in the trench at the moment was forced to dive into his tunnel for cover. During that night the trench was practically reconstructed.
The Turk on his side had not been idle; in fact, for either gallantry or resource he was very hard to beat. During the same night he built a heavy blockhouse in the crater of the second mine fired on the 29th, about half-way between the opposing lines. From this he now began to make himself so extremely objectionable to the overwrought garrison that two men of the 1st Field Company—Lance-Corporal F. J. H. Fear, and Sapper E. A, Hodges—volunteered to attempt the demolition of his new stronghold. At 10 p.m. on the 1st June they crawled out over the parapet and wormed their way towards the blockhouse. Once on the spot the job was still one of extreme delicacy, since the Turks could be heard conversing below, and earth and sand had to be scraped away in order to lay their 12 lbs. of guncotton directly on the wooden roof. For 35 minutes they lay there quietly perfecting their arrangements, then after lighting the fuse under cover of a haversack they reached their own trench just as the blockhouse and garrison were destroyed with a loud bang. Both men received the D.C.M. for their courage and initiative.
Among men noted by Colonel Pridham, with special reference to gallantry and ability shown on these defences at Quinn's Post, was Sergeant H. A. Foote of the 1st Field Company, who ultimately received the Military Medal.
But critical as the situation at Quinn's undoubtedly always page 31was, the, devoted occupants of that spear head of the defence had no monopoly of the dangers and excitements incidental to mining operations on the Peninsula. Thus the records note that on One occasion Sergeant H. W. Newman, of the 1st Field Company, while stationed at Courtney's Post worked for some hours with a bayonet enlarging a hole between one of our galleries and one of the enemy's. He later entered the Turkish tunnel and made a valuable reconnaissance, though enemy voices were plainly audible all the time, doubtless engaged in the philosophical discussions with which all soldiers while away the hours of trench duty. On Newman's return an attempt was made to lay a charge in the enemy's gallery, but the noise attracted their garrison, who immediately commenced investigations. Newman shot one of them and held up the others while the hole was blocked with sandbags, when the charge was laid behind the block and blown with disastrous results to the enemy's mine. Incidents of this description, while not frequent enough to become monotonous, were constantly occurring all through our period of occupation of the forward Posts, but very few have been actually recorded, and probably many others were never known save to the two or three principal actors in these underground dramas.