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Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919

Chapter Eight — Eventful August

page 40

Chapter Eight
Eventful August

Sunday, 1st August, heralded in what was to prove a most momentous month for the Regiment—in fact, for the whole of the force on Gallipoli,—for at this time plan for a big advance, on which so much was to depend, were being prepared. The objects of this advance were as follows:—

(1)To break out with a rush from Anzac and cut off the bulk of the Turkish Army from land communication with Constantinople.
(2)To gain such a command for our artillery as to cut off the bulk of the Turkish Army from sea traffic, whether with Constantinople or with Asia.
(3)Incidentally, to secure Suvla Bay as a winter base for Anzac and all the troops operating in the northern theatre.

The disposition of the Regiment remained unaltered, and the day passed quietly, except for the shelling of the Nek, Table Top, and Bauchop's Hill by the naval guns.

August 3rd was hot and quiet—an instance of calm preceding a storm, for it was known that an advance was pending. Having the latter information in view, Colonel Meldrum held a meeting of senior officers, and the project was discussed. Afterwards a number of W.M.R. officers foregathered in a dug-out at the request of the Colonel. This informal meeting is referred to for the reason that several of the participants in the merry party that night were killed a few days later.

For the operations General Godley's Army was to be divided into four different forces—a Right and Left Covering Force and a Right and Left Assaulting Column. The Right Covering Force, under Brigadier-General A. H. Russell, comprised the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade, the Otago Mounted Rifles, Maori Contingent, and Field Troop Engineers, and its task was a most important one—viz., to capture old No. 3 post, Big Table Top, Destroyer Hill, Little Table Top, Bauchop's Hill, and Walden Point, to clear the way for the Right Assaulting Column. The Left Covering Force was to seize Damak Jelik Bair and assist a new force landing at Suvla, and to protect the left flank of the page break
A Sketch Map to illustrate the Battle of Sari Bair.—The area represented is about 5,400 yards by 3,000 yards. The distance from the mouth of the Sazli Beit Dere to the apex is approximately 2,300 yards, and about 3.700 yards to the top of Hill 971.By kind permission N.Z. Government.][Copyright.

A Sketch Map to illustrate the Battle of Sari Bair.—The area represented is about 5,400 yards by 3,000 yards. The distance from the mouth of the Sazli Beit Dere to the apex is approximately 2,300 yards, and about 3.700 yards to the top of Hill 971.
By kind permission N.Z. Government.]

page break page 43Left Assaulting Column advancing up Aghyl Dere. As part of the Right Covering Column, the W.M.R. and part of the Maori Contingent were to capture Destroyer Ridge and Big Table Top. whilst the A.M.R. captured old No. 3 post, and the O.M.R. and C.M.R. Walden Point and Bauchop's Hill.

The attack was to be delivered by bomb and bayonet only, and silence was to be strictly observed. No great coats, coats or blankets were to be taken, white patches for identification were to be worn on the back, and no lights were to be shown. A percentage of tools and jam-tin bombs with slow fuses were to be taken, each man to carry two hundred rounds of small-arms ammunition and water, which was to be carefully conserved. Only fit men were to be taken, as the country to be traversed was along deep ravines and up steep hill faces, where footholds were few and going was difficult It is a country of desolation and confusion—tangled gullies which spread fanwise in a most perplexing manner, slippery hill faces devoid of grass, mushroom-topped hills almost impossible to scale. In the face of these appalling difficulties, in absolute silence, and with absolute precision in order to surprise the Turks and catch them unawares, advancing under cover of darkness against a resolute foe, the attack was to be made and successfully carried through.

On 5th August the W.M.R. moved to a new bivouac area at No. 1 post to prepare for the great advance.

The success of the action depended on each regiment gaining Ms objective exactly to time. The W.M.R., with two platoons of the Maori Contingent, were to follow the A.M.R. (which was to take old No. 3 post) and time their movements (after detaching a troop to capture Destroyer Hill) so as to reach a point from which they could deliver their final assault at the moment when the searchlight from the destroyer Colne was switched off Big Table Top—that is, 10 p.m. This searchlight played an important part in the operations. It had for some weeks been thrown rightly on old No. 3 post at 9 p.m. precisely, while the destroyer shelled this post till 9.30. After ten minutes the light was turned on Big Table Top for twenty minutes, while at the same time this position was shelled, the object of this manœuvre being to accustom the enemy to abandoning his front line as soon as the searchlight appeared.

The W.M.R. were to be careful that they did not, by going too far forward, give the alarm of the A.M.R.'s assault on Old No. 3 post, which was to take place at 9.30 p.m. on 6th August.

page 44

The tasks allotted to the N.Z.M.R. were considered by the General Staff to be particularly hazardous, Colonel Skeen, who prepared the operation orders, having remarked that his only doubt about the success of the venture was whether it was possible for the mounted men to do all that had been asked of them.