Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919
Chapter Four — Gallipoli
On the sea to Sari Bair
And the Dardanelles:
Guns a-thund'ring, blunt folk blund'ring
Through the Turkish shells.
Hanks a-thinning, yet a-grinning.
In a thousand, hells!
O! we were an eerie crowd,
Gaunt and grim—a weary crowd.
Yet a dev'lish cheery crowd—
In the Dardanelles.
The camp of the Wellington Mounted Rifles was early astir on the morning of 8th May, 1915, in order to make preparations for the Regiment to entrain for Alexandria, en rôute for Gallipoli. Reinforcements were sorely needed there, and the Mounted men were delighted to have the opportunity of assisting their brothers of the Infantry.
The broken nature of the country which forms the Gallipoli Peninsula having been considered too difficult and the area too confined for mounted troops to operate in, the men were equipped as infantry. Only officers' horses and the first line of transport horses and vehicles were taken, but none of these were eventually landed on Gallipoli. The remainder of the horses were left behind to the tender care of our farriers, transport drivers and reinforcements, assisted by natives.
Precautions had been taken to equip the officers in uniforms similar to those worn by the other ranks, in order that they should not be picked out by enemy snipers, and all swords were left behind.
That night the Regiment, after marching in merry mood from Zeitoun, entrained in two parties—25 officers and 453 other ranks at Palais de Koubbeh, and one officer and 30 other ranks, with horses, at Cairo; the former to embark on the Glentully Castle and the latter on the Kingstonian.
All ranks had made themselves exceedingly popular with the European residents in and around Cairo, and crowds of friends page 15assembled to wish them "good luck" before the trains left at about two o'clock on the morning of 9th May.
The N.Z.M.R. Brigade arrived at Alexandria at about 7.30 a.m. and, with the 3rd A.L.H., it embarked on the Glentully Castle and sailed the same day.
The transport arrived at Gallipoli on 12th May. After dark, all troops were transferred to torpedo-boat destroyers, and from the latter to lighters, to effect a landing. During this operation terrific firing was taking place ashore, and the warships which lay along the coast from Anzac Cove to Cape Helles belched forth salvos of heavy broadsides, which created a deafening and continuous roar, ordinary conversation being quite inaudible.
As the lighters approached a temporary jetty at Anzac Cove the rifle fire from the hills above was of such intensity that the flashes illuminated the surroundings. Bullets occasionally splashed the water and hit the lighters, but the landing was accomplished quietly and expeditiously, only one man being hit. The Mounted Brigade then marched along the beach past the northern point of Anzac Cove and bivouacked. The strength of the W.M.R. on landing was 25 officers and 451 other ranks.
Meanwhile the Kingstonian, with the horses and first line of transport, returned to Alexandria.
At Anzac the Regiment bivouacked in the scrub of a dere (gully) which cut into a steep hill face, on the top of which the rattle of musketry continued throughout the night.
At mat time our position at Anzac from the line of the sea coast was roughly in the form of an arc, with Chatham's Post to the south on the right, and Sazli Beit Dere, 6000 yards north, on the left.
The country within this area was of the wildest description, and the defence line around it rose and fell, and sometimes broke, in conformity with the precipitous cliffs and jagged ravines which lay along its course, and where it was almost impossible to gain a foothold. Walker's Ridge was one of the highest points of the position, and from it dry water courses and crumpling gullies spread out to the north and east, while its western side, facing the sea, was a perpendicular wall.
Prior to the arrival of the Mounteds, this position had been divided into four defence sections, numbered from right to left. The 1st Australian Division held Nos. 1 and 2—from Chatham's Post on the sea up to but not including Courtney's Post,—whilst the Australian and New Zealand Division was responsible for the remainder of the line. No. 3 section included Courtney's, page 16Quinn's, and Pope's Posts at the head of Monash Gully, the latter disconnecting Pope's from the right of No. 4. No. 4 was divided into two posts—No. 1 (later called "Russell's Top") and No. 2. which comprised a line of posts along Walker's Ridge and then northward to the sea. Meanwhile, however, the N.Z. Infantry Brigade had been taken from Anzac to assist in operations at Helles, and the line vacated by it on the left flask had been taken over by two battalions of the Royal Naval Division, and when the Mounteds arrived the sections were held by the following troops:—
- No. 1—3rd Australian Infantry Brigade (Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan).
- No. 2—1st Australian Infantry Brigade 1 Brig.-General Walker)
- No. 3—4th Australian Infantry Brigade, two Royal Marine Brigades, and three sections N.Z. Engineers, with Brig.-General Trotman in command.
- No. 4—Royal Naval Brigade (Nelson and Deal Battalions) and one section of the N.Z. Engineers (No. 1 Field Company) (Brig.-General Mercer).
General Bridges commanded Nos. 1 and 2 sections and General Godley Nos. 3 and 4, General Birdwood commanding the whole, his headquarters being in Anzac Cove.
The left of the Anzac line, from which the N.Z. Infantry had been relieved, was then thinly held. Reinforcements were urgently needed. The arrival of the stalwart men of the Mounted Brigade, with their Engineers, Signallers, and Ambulance, was most opportune, and they were given a hearty welcome by the sorely-tried troops who were then defending Anzac. The Mounteds were fit to a man, and all were eager for the fray, for which they had not long to wait.page break
1. Captain (now Lieut.-colonel) H. J. McLean, having a rest on the desert near Cairo. The gallantry of this medical officer on Gallipoli, where he was severely wounded, is referred to in this volume. 2. Horses of the W.M.R. swimming the Nile an an endless rope. 3. 2nd Squadron Officers at Zeitoun, just prior to Gallipoli. Five of them were never to return. 4. Gallant W.M.R. Officers, all killed on Gallipoli. The lady is the wife of Lieut. Emerson,