The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919
Chapter VII. — Cape Helles
The "River Clyde"—Seddul Bahr—The Daisy Patch—An Order is Countermanded—Back to Anzac—Armistice—Courtney's Post—Monash Gully.
On the 5th May, we were relieved in the Walker's Ridge position by the Nelson Battalion of the Royal Naval Division and proceeded to the beach at the foot of Walker's Ridge. At 8.15 p.m. the battalion marched to the embarking piers on the beach and were taken aboard destroyers to proceed to Cape Helles with the rest of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Australian Brigade of the Australian Division for the purpose of taking part in a grand attack which was pending there. Embarkation was rapidly effected and the destroyers sailed from Anzac some hours later, and proceeded to various beaches at Cape Helles for the purpose of landing the troops. The whole battalion was ashore by daybreak and proceeded to a bivouae area about two miles inland. All ranks were greatly interested on landing to see the murderous barbed wire now gathered into tangled heaps, which the 29th Division had had to face in their rushes ashore; to see the "River Clyde" which had been run ashore to enable the Hampshires and other troops to land; to see the ancient fort of Seddul Bahr all shattered and its very guns dismounted by the fire of the battleships.
Passing over the high ground through the village of Seddul Bahr, our route lay between olive groves and green trees to some green fields somewhat damp and clayey, where we bivouaced. The bivouac was well within field gun range of the Turks, but screened to some extent by the growth. The change from the scrub covered rugged cliffs page 37of Anzac to the green fields of Helles was a very welcome one. The fields were gay with poppies, whilst, close to our bivouacs, was a well of beautiful clear spring water. Shallow shelters against shrapnel were dug or scooped out of the clayey soil, and the battalion settled down to get a little rest. Since the 27th April the battalion had been fighting and digging hard on Walker's Ridge without relief or rest, had come straight from the Ridge to the destroyers, and had spent the night huddled up on the destroyers with practically no sleep.
In front of us severe fighting was in progress. At the time the New Zealand Infantry Brigade and 2nd Australian Brigade reached Cape Helles, the line held by the troops which had carried out the attack at the southern end of the Peninsula was substantially the same as had been reached on the 29th April. The French held the right flank with their extreme right on the eastern shore. The Royal Naval Division were in the centre, immediately in touch with the French, while the Brigades 88th and 87th of the 29th Division, with Indian troops, were on the left.
The New Zealand Brigade was in reserve on the 6th, and remained quietly iu bivouac on the night of the 6th-7th. About 4 p.m. on the 7th, the brigade moved from its bivouac area, the Wellington Regiment moving across the open in artillery formation to the Gully Ravine leading inland in rear of the line held by the 29th Division. At the foot of the gully we settled down for the night. About 9 p.m., orders were issued to proceed up the gully and occupy a reserve trench some 500 yards in rear of that occupied by the 87th Brigade of the 29th Division. This move was completed by about 1 a.m. As the reserve trench was far too small to hold the battalion, Ruahine Company was sent back to the Gully Ravine, while the other three companies occupied the trench. West Coast Company was on the right, Hawke's Bay in the centre and Taranaki on the left. Battalion Headquarters were established in a stone hut about the junction of the reserve trench with Gully Ravine. Auckland Battalion moved up on the right of Wellington, in support to the 88th Brigade of the 29th Division. At daybreak, the Canterbury Battalion moved up on Auckland's right.page 38
At 8.30 a.m., detailed orders for the attack were received by the New Zealand Infantry Brigade Headquarters. Colonel Johnston now moved his Headquarters up to a ruined hut slightly in rear of the reserve trench, and, at 10.10 a.m., issued verbal orders to his battalion commanders of Wellington, Auckland and Canterbury to deploy in rear of the British front line and to advance to the attack of Krithia at 10.30 a.m. Rough boundaries for each battalion were pointed out by the Brigadier. At this time, Wellington and Auckland Battalions were still in the line of the reserve trench, some 500 yards at least behind the front-line trenches. The intervening ground was in full view of the Turks and exposed to shrapnel and long range rifle and machine-gun fire. Col. Malone hastily called his company commanders together and repeated the order he had received, parcelling out his frontage about 600 yards between the three companies equally as they lay. West Coast right to be in touch with Auckland Battalion, Hawke's Bay centre and Taranaki left. The battalion was to move to the attack at 10.30 a.m., which left ten minutes for company commanders to arrange the advance of their platoons. The intention of the Divisional Commander was that the advance should commence from the front line trenches at 10.30 a.m., at which hour the bombardment of the Turkish position was to cease. Through lack of time and some misunderstanding, the Wellington and Auckland Battalions did not move from the reserve lines till 10.30 a.m. and, consequently had to cover the open ground between the reserve trenches and the front line and emerge from the front line wholly unsupported by artillery. The three attacking companies moved forward in successive lines of platoons with five paces interval between the men and fifty paces between the successive lines. As the moving lines were seen by the Turks salvoes of shrapnel were poured into them while the ground was whipped with machine-gun bullets which spat up dust viciously among the advancing lines. The attacking companies moved as if on parade. Intervals and dressing were kept perfectly. At times the dust and smoke from the bursting shrapnel would appear to have swept our men entirely page 39away; but, when the air cleared, the lino could be seen moving steadily forward. The troops of the 29th Division cheered the advancing lines as they reached the front line trench and, without pausing, pushed steadily into the thickening hail of bullets. Taranaki Company early got into a vicious cross fire from Turkish machine-guns posted on the seaward side of the Gully Ravine. Its left flank was exposed by the slope of the ground, and, after making some progress, the line was forced to lie down to escape some of the fire, and the advance of the Taranaki Company came to a standstill. Hawke's Bay in the centre made steady progress against a heavy fire; but it kept in touch with Taranaki, and when its left flank bent back the right automatically came to a halt. West Coast Company on the right made good progress for a while, until its leading platoon bore to the right to keep touch with Auckland. Then it got into a low-lying patch of ground which proved a veritable death trap. The commanders of the two leading platoons had by messages reported back to the Company Commander that it was quite impossible to move out of this ground which was known as the Daisy Patch. Two sections of the leading platoon under Sgt.-Major Woodhead had reached some high ground some 400 yards in front of the Essex front line and were digging in. Major Cunningham, commanding West Coast Company, coming forward with his reserve platoon, ascertained the position from the leading platoon commanders, and made his way across the Daisy Patch to the sections under Sgt.-Major Woodhead, directing Lieuts. C. B. S. Menteath and H. E. MeKinnon to follow with as may men as they could dribble across. Major Cunningham reached the knoll safely and set the sections to dig in. Some stunted fir trees somewhat screened the rear side of the knoll from the Turkish fire and, though the Turks cut pieces off the trees with their fire, the digging progressed. While taking his turn with the pick and shovel, Sgt. F. J. Rule was shot in the head, dying some few days later on board a hospital ship. He had been recommended for a commission and was a very fine N.C.O. Lieut. C. B. S. Menteath, having given instructions to his platoons to try page 40and dribble across to the fir knoll, started to cross the Daisy Patch. He was badly wounded and one of his men endeavoured to crawl with him to safety; but he received a second bullet in the head which killed him. Lieut. Sandy Menteath was one of the most popular and efficient officers in the company. He had behaved with great gallantry on Walker's Ridge. Shortly after Menteath was hit, Lieut. McKinnon, who had led No. 1 platoon, received n severe wound in the head which rendered him unconscious. Both these platoons in the Daisy Patch had suffered severely and, scraping what shelter they could with their entrenching tools, they lay quietly in the grass till dusk. The Commander of the West Coast Company soon established communication with Hawkes Bay Company and Major R. Young, the Commander of Hawke's Bay Company, reported his position and inability to make further progress until the left of the line came up.
Auckland Battalion, as it emerged from the British front line, encountered the same murderous rifle and machine gun fire as had Wellington. The leading Companies got into the Daisy Patch to the right of West Coast Company, and though they made a gallant attempt to go forward, after losing heavily many of them took cover in a dry creek bed, where they sheltered for the time being from the Turkish machine gun fire. In the result, West Coast Company lost touch with the Auckland Battalion for the time being. Canterbury Battalion on the extreme right had been in the British front line ready to advance at 10.30, but waited for the other battalions to come up, and had fared no better than Auckland. Very few of the leading company got through the murderous fire, and the Turks directed such a withering fire on the British front line that it was impossible for some of the Canterbury Battalion to move at all.
Winners of the Guard Mounting Competition selected from the West Coast Coy, of the 1st Battalion, 1918.
The outstanding experience of the day was the heaviness of the Turkish rifle and machine gun fire and the invisibility of the enemy. The advance of the brigade from the reserve trenches had given the Turks ample warning of the impending attack. The invisibility of the Turks made it impossible for us to use supporting fire to assist the advance. The brigade had been rushed into the attack without the opportunity of reconnaissance, or without any clear cut objective, and there is no doubt that the whole effort was doomed to failure from the start. There appeared to have been very little in the nature of wire or protection in the front of the Turkish entrenchments, and it is difficult to understand why the attack had not been timed to commence at dawn; and the troops moved up under cover of darkness to their assembly positions in the front line. The New Zealand troops and the Australian Divisions had had conconsiderable training in night operations in Egypt and their experiences at Anzac had prepared them to do battle with the Turk under all conditions. It can be confidently asserted that, had the New Zealand and Australian Brigades been given this opportunity, the fighting of 8th May would have had a vastly different result.
Shortly before 5 p.m., a message was despatched to the front line that a general advance had been ordered of the whole line with fixed bayonets at 5.30 p.m. It was intended that the advance should be made by the New Zealand Brigade alone; but the first order was countermanded and Sir Ian Hamilton ordered a general advance. In view of the way the British line throughout was pinned down by the excellently served Turkish machine guns, it was difficult to see how the advance was to succeed in doing other than increasing casualties. The troops in the front line realized the hopelessness of attempting to progress until the machine guns had been silenced; but the Divisional Headquarters did not appear to have appreciated it. Ruahine Company, which had lain in reserve throughout the day in Ravine page 42Gully, was ordered up and participated in the general advance on the right of the battalion in an endeavour to fill the gap in the line between West Coast Company and the Auckland Regiment. A section of the Company under Captain Short got well forward up the Krithia Nulla; but, finding themselves completely isolated, they took cover and, at dusk, retired to the line occupied by the West Coast Company.
The 2nd Australian Brigade was rushed into the advance at 5.30 p.m. It did not receive its orders until 4.55 p.m. The brigade was then lying in Krithia Nulla in close formation from one half to three-quarters of a mile below the front line. By heroic efforts the brigade got under weigh and extended to cover its allotted frontage and pushed forward on the right of the New Zealand Brigade. Only the barest of directions could be given by the Brigadier to his Battalion Commanders; but the Brigade got into its fighting formation with wonderful speed and was not many minutes late in crossing the front line to the attack. However, once into the front line, it encountered conditions exactly similar to what the New Zealanders had had to face earlier in the day, and it suffered much the same fate as the other attacking troops had done.
A strong protest had been made by Lieut. Colonel Malone to Colonel Johnston, the Brigadier, when the first order had been issued for the New Zealand to advance. He had pointed out the absurdity of attempting to push forward, while the troops on his left flank had no orders to move, and while his right was already isolated and farther forward than any of the units on his right. His protest was endorsed by Colonel Johnston and passed on to Divisional Headquarters. The original order was then countermanded and the general advance ordered instead. However, the difficulty of distributing the orders to the exposed front line and the fact that anyone, who exposed himelf in the advanced lines, was immediately hit resulted in only a small portion of the advanced line going forward at the hour ordered for the general advance. The sections of West Coast Company with page 43Major Cunningham started forward with the general movement and were joined in the advance by some men of the 2nd Hampshire Battalion. After going forward for a hundred yards or more, it was quite evident that the troops on the left flank were not moving, and that the twenty or thirty men in Major Cunningham's party would achieve nothing by going forward on their own. He, therefore, made them lie down in the scrub and, as soon as it was dusk, the party of the West Coast Company returned to the partly completed trenches it had left at 5.30 p.m., and the Hampshires returned to the original front line.
Immediately darkness fell, the work of consolidating the ground gained by the advance of the morning proceeded apace. A supply of picks and shovels had been sent forward with the reserve platoon in each company, and digging proceeded steadily during the night. The Turkish fire was very active and the Turks throughout the night sent up star shells and Verey lights in front of the new lines. However, after the hand to hand conditions of Anzac, the battalion felt it had any amount of breathing space and went on stolidly digging in, without paying too much attention to the Turk. During the night the body of Lieut. C. B. S. Menteath was recovered from the Daisy Patch and buried near a fir tree at the rear of our new front line. Rations came up to the battalion after dark and, though the night was cold, the first night in the new line proved comparatively quiet.
At dawn, everyone was alert for a sight of the enemy. From the knoll on which the right of West Coast Company's trench rested an excellent view of the Turkish position opposite was obtainable, and Johnny Turk was visible strolling about in the scrub in front of his lines at a range of 500- 600 yards. For close on an hour some excellent sniping was carried on by our riflemen, until the Turk realised that his former recreation area was under fire and quickly vacated it.
The battalion remained in the front line until the night of the 12th May, when it was relieved by the Manchester Brigade of the 42nd Division. It was not until daybreak that the relief was complete and the front line companies finally page 44debouched into the Gully Ravine on their way to the bivouac area they had occupied when they first arrived at Helles. The Turk seemed to be aware of the impending relief, as he kept up an incessant fire all night and, as the orders were to proceed down the trench line to Gully Ravine and not to pass overland, filing down the crowded trenches was a long and tedious job. The exit into Gully Ravine lay through the trenches occupied by the Indian troops. The alternative was a dash overland running the gauntlet of the intermittent Turkish fire, and the risk of being shot at by our own troops. Through some oversight, the Indians had not been warned that the New Zealand troops were to pass through the trenches and, for several hours, Hawke's Bay and West Coast Companies were held up till the Commanding Officer of the Indian battalion concerned was informed of the position and gave permission to proceed.
From the 13th to the 19th May, the battalion remained in bivouac with the rest of the Brigade in corps reserve. Large fatigue parties were furnished for work on the beach, landing materials and supplies and making roads and tracks. The nights were somewhat disturbed by Turkish shells, but little damage was done, and the shelling was treated with complete indifference by all ranks. The surroundings of the bivouac with numerous shady trees, and the ground carpeted with wild flowers were very pleasant, and the battalion soon recovered from the strain of the previous four days' fighting.
On the 19th, orders were received that we were to embark after dark on the "Eddystone," a huge steel cargo steamer, to return to Anzac. Embarkation was safely effected via the River Clyde Jetty by midnight, and, at daybreak, the "Eddystone" was once more off Anzac Cove. All hands were safely ashore at the Cove by 8 a.m., and the battalion proceeded in single file round the beach to the north to a bivouac in a gully just below the Walker's Ridge-Russell's Top position. After rounding Ari Burnu point, Turkish snipers became very active, and bullets started to kick up the pebbles all round the troops. Several men were hit; but a new route was found page 45clear of this fire and the battalion reached the bivouac area without further loss.
The gully in which we were to bivouac received the name of Rest Gully. The sides were extremely steep, necessitating the construction of ledges or little platforms in the face of the steep side to enable the men to lie down. It was a bright, sunny day when the battalion took possession of this delightful rest area and set to work to make it homely. Bivouacs were constructed more with regard to comfort than to durability, and few thought of a good solid downpour of rain. There was only one track up the gully which was obviously the route the water took in wet weather. All "bivvies," therefore were approached via this water channel, which was improved and widened so far as circumstances would permit. Wellington had its battalion area at the head of the ravine, while Auckland, Canterbury and Otago occupied area further down. On the night of 21st May it rained, and the rain continued until 1 p.m. on the 22nd. Daybreak on the morning of the 22nd in Rest Gully was a sight to behold. The rain had melted innumerable "bivvies" and, all along the hill slopes, soft muddy patches in which were inextricably mixed blankets, waterproof sheets and personal gear of all descriptions were gradually progressing down the hillside towards the central channel. The rain was not cold, and the homeless made light of their troubles, seeking consolation in watching a similar fate overtaking their temporarily more fortunate comrades still asleep in "bivvies" which had not quite reached the melting stage.
Throughout the morning, the muddy state of the central road or channel made it almost impossible to climb it, and the attempt of ration parties to clamber up provoked tremendous merriment. An Indian transport private, in charge of two heavily laden mules, essayed to reach the top of the gully with rations. He made excellent progress as far as the Wellington area, where the mules jostled one another and one pulling back turned sharply round and bolted down the narrow track. There was a quick scattering on all sides and Mr. Mule, with his load of biscuit tins and crates, was page 46given a clear passage in his head-long charge. He reached the beach in record time minus his load. His wrathful driver, muttering unmentionable things in Hindustani, followed leisurely afterwards with the second mule. The Indian soldier is patience and perseverance personified, otherwise he would not be such an expert with mules, and, sure enough, in about an hour's time, the same driver arrived back with both mules, and this time delivered his load safely.
While at Rest Gully, the Brigade remained in Divisional reserve, furnishing fatigues and working parties daily. On the 23rd May and the following nights until the 27th, it furnished the inlying piquet in close support to the mounted brigade who now occupied Walker's Ridge position. The inlying piquet occupied each night a trench running from the beach to the foot of Walker's Ridge, blocking any attempt that might be made by the enemy to push along the beach. The battalion returned to its bivouac again each morning after daylight. Nothing occurred to disturb the serenity of the nights during the battalion's tour of duty as inlying piquet.
It would be well just here to review the happenings of Anzac during the absence of the Brigade at Helles from the 5th to the 19th May. When he was requested by Sir Ian Hamilton at the beginning of May to furnish two brigades from Anzac to assist in the projected attack at Krithia, General Birdwood had selected his two strongest Brigades in the 2nd Australian Brigade and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade. The departure of these two brigades, although to some extent compensated for by the arrival of the Naval Brigade and Marine Brigade, made it necessary for all troops to garrison the line, and even the troops employed on the beach in unloading and handling stores had to take their place at night in the inner lines of defence. On the 12th May, the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade, approximately 1,500 strong, landed at Anzac, to be followed next day by the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade. The two Naval Brigades immediately afterwards departed from Anzac and rejoined the Royal Naval Division at Helles. The New Zea-page 47land Mounted Rifle Brigade took over the left section on Walker's Ridge and Russell's Top, while the Light Horse Brigade proceeded to the left central section, Pope's Hill, Quinn's Post and Courtney's Post. On the 19th May, just before dawn, the Turkish Force at Anzac, which had been increased by the arrival of a fresh division, and now numbered approximately 42,000, attacked along the whole Anzac front. The Turkish plan was to get the assault and attacking troops into position immediately in rear of his front line in the hours of darkness, and to rush the Anzac lines just before daybreak, driving the defenders into the sea. Fortunately, the arrival of the Turkish reinforcements became known at G.H.Q., and the Anzac Commander was warned on the 18th May of an impending attack in force by the Turks, and extra precautions were taken on the night of the 18-19th May. Stand-to was ordered half an hour earlier than usual, 3 a.m. instead of 3.30 a.m., while all troops were warned to make everything ready to repel attack. The trenches had scarcely been manned when the Turks were seen in the clear light crowding with fixed bayonets into a depression in front of the Australian lines in the right central sector, and fire was immediately opened on them, thus giving the alarm. The Turks at all points now attempted to assault the Anzac lines. They came on bravely in mass formation, but were mowed down by rifle and machine-gun fire and scarcely a man reached the parapet of our trenches. Before day dawned, the grand attack had been broken with appalling losses to the Turks. Becoming confused in the darkness and the maze of their own trenches, their attacking lines had in many places moved obliquely across our front exposed to a withering enfilade fire. Daybreak found many confused and scattered groups of Turks scrummaging about in No Man's Land endeavouring to reach the shelter of their own trenches, all that was left of the main attack. The troops of the new Turkish Division, who were unfamiliar with the locality, suffered very heavily.
As the result of the fighting, a great many more dead were added to the numbers lying out between the lines at page 48Anzac and these unburied corpses threatened a very serious menace to health. Overtures came from the Turks for an armistice and, after some parley, this was finally arranged from 7.30 a.m. till 4.30 p.m. on the 24th May. The dividing line was marked out down the centre of No Man's Land with flags and burial parties worked on either side of the central line. The opportunity was seized by many of the officers of high rank to have a peep at their opponent's lines. The day passed without unpleasant incident, both sides loyally observing the terms of the truce. At 4.30 p.m., everybody was back in his own lines, and hosilities recommenced.
The intermittent rifle fire, both night and day was one of the peculiarities of the Anzac zone. Approaching Anzac from the sea the continuous "pop," "pop," "pop" of the rifle shots followed one right in shore and up to the front line trenches. It was the dominant note of Anzac, like the thud of the ship's engines in a ship at sea. The very few periods when the trench lines were absolutely silent were periods of uncanniness. At night, to troops in the reserve and rest areas, it was music which lulled them to sleep. If it ceased absolutely they waked wondering what the peculiar stillness foreboded; what had happened while they slept. With the return of the two brigades from Helles, the Anzac Corps felt once again its full strength, and the men who had faced the Turkish fire at Krithia were delighted to learn of the splendid defence put up during their absence, and viewed with amazement the piles of Turkish dead in front of our trenches.
The battalion passed on now to a period of garrison duty in the trenches alternated with periods of supplying working parties in the trenches and on the beaches and in rear areas, designated periods of rest. The period is interesting in one respect in that it marked a great personal triumph for our Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Col. Malone. He was a man to whom untidiness was anathema. He disliked it as much in war as he had done in civil life. His first desire on landing was to tidy up the beach a bit. On Walker's Ridge he quickly brought order out of chaos, and made the sector habitable. At Helles, when reinforcements arrived, he quickly set them page 49to work to tidy up the battlefield. Had he lived to see the battlefields of France and Belgium, he would have made an ideal Director of Salvage Operations. Lieut.-Col. Malone believed implicitly that men could fight better in clean and orderly surroundings than in dirt and disorder, and there was no reason why dirt and untidiness should be tolerated in the front line trenches any more than anywhere else.
On Friday, 29th May, orders were received for the battalion to take over Courtney's Post in the Left Central Section, one company to proceed there each day until the relief was complete. Next day, West Coast Company, under Major W. H. Cunningham, proceeded up Shropul and Monash Gully to Courtney's Post. The passage up Monash Gully was not without incident. The valley was well commanded by Turkish snipers, and the Australian units furnishing the garrison at the head of the valley had suffered a great number of casualties in using the valley which was the only route to Quinn's, Pope's and Courtney's Posts. To minimize the risk of being hit, large sand bag traverses had been built out on either side of the valley and these gave a limited amount of cover. It was necessary to move briskly from one traverse to the other because the Turks watched very carefully the points where there was most traffic and, probably using a machine-gun carefully laid, would snipe half a dozen in as many minutes at the same spot. West Coast Company went into the support trenches at Courtney's Post on the 30th May. They arrived in the afternoon whilst a raid was in progress at the next door post, Quinn's, and the activity had naturally communicated itself to the neighbouring posts. On the 31st, Taranaki Company arrived, to be followed next day by the C.O., Battalion Headquarters, and the other two companies, the battalion on the 31st May furnishing the complete garrison of Courtney's Post. On arrival of Battalion Headquarters, Lieut.-Col. W. G. Malone became the Post Commander, Major W. H. Cunningham taking over command of the battalion while the command of West Coast Company devolved on the second in command, Captain A. J. M. Cross.page 50
The first act of the new O.C. Post was to build, or rather dig, a decent Post Commander's Headquarters, and make a home where he could work and fight, free from flies, and clean and tidy. Plans also shaped themselves for the provision of more comfortable quarters for the garrison when not in the front line. Courtney's Post, like many of the Anzac sectors, was a trench line running along the top of a steep bluff. Behind the front line trench ran a support trench a few yards back, and then the ground started to slope more or less steeply towards Monash Gully. To reach the front line from Monash Gully it was a very steep climb up a zig-zag path with numerous steps. The garrison had lived in little holes scooped out of the hillside, each man making himself as comfortable as possible wherever he could. This gave the post a very higgley piggley appearance, and left much to be desired in case of emergency. Col. Malone, therefore, proposed to dig several deep terraces in the hillsides behind the support lines, obtain overhead cover and so ensure a greater degree of comfort for the men, better organisation for defence, and above all, order and tidiness. During the first week, these matters were attended to and the whole place was well cleaned up.
The dispositions in Courtney's Post were two companies in the front line, one in support, and one in reserve in Monash Gully. Companies did a turn of 48 hours in the front line and 48 hours in support or reserve. The system on which the line was held involved the presence of a strong garrison in the front line, both by night and by day, ready to repel any sudden attack. During the 48 hours of front line duty the men got practically no rest. Immediately after the arrival of the battalion at Courtney's Post, Brigade Headquarters of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade organised a special snipers' detachment composed of picked shots from the various battalions in the brigade to deal with the Turkish snipers, who were causing such loss and inconvenience in Monash Valley. The command of the detachment was given to Lieut. T. M. P. Grace of the Wellington Regiment. The snipers were supplied with special rifles fitted with telescopic page 51sights; powerful telescopes, and were struck off all other duties. Lieut. Grace handled his small command with marked success. Special sniper posts were selected in the scrub on the hillsides facing the Turkish lines, the scouts working in pairs. They lay in their posts all day, coming out at night to rest and returning before dawn. So well did they deal with the Turkish snipers that within two days after they had started operations the Turkish snipers had been almost completely silenced, and, within a week, Monash Gully became a safe route at any time of the day. The superiority thus gained by the brigade snipers was never lost, and was one of the measures which did much to make the positions at the head of Monash Gully the quiet and peaceful homes they afterwards became.
On the 3rd June, Lieut. J. R. Cargo (Taranaki), who had received his promotion in the field, was fatally shot while on duty in the trenches by enfilade fire from a Turkish sniper.
On the night of the 4th June, the Canterbury Battalion, who were in occupation of Quinn's Post on the left of Courtney's Post, carried out an attack on the Turkish trench in their immediate front. The attack was timed to commence at 11 p.m., and was preceded by an intense bombardment. Our battalion in Courtney's Post was assigned the role of looker-on. It was a dark night and, when the artillery opened intense fire, it was an awe inspiring spectacle for the onlookers on the seaward slopes of Courtney's; flashes and reports of rifles and machine-guns on all sides: shells appearing in the darkness to be red hot, coming straight at us from our own guns and passing just over our heads; every now and then one with a burning fire leaving a trail of sparks in its path. Then the report of the guns and howitzer; the scream and crash of the counter-bombardment by the Turks; the star shells, the bombs, all combined to make a weird impression on the onlookers in Courtney's. The Canterbury Battalion's operation was entirely successful, resulting in the capture of 28 Turkish prisoners and the taking of the trench opposite Quinn's, though later it was found impracticable to hold it, and the trench was vacated before morning broke.page 52
On the night of the 4th June, the Canterbury Battalion, was not to go into reserve at the end of its eight days'tour of duty in Courtney's Post; but was, instead, to relieve Quinn's Post. This latter position at the head of Monash Gully was considered the key of the sector. Situated on the fringe of the hillside, the approaches to it were steep and the whole position narrow and congested. Although a vital spot in the line, it offered very little facility for the accommodation of troops, and the reserve for the post had to be posted in a gully in rear of Pope's Hill.
The continuous fighting which had been going on in the vicinity of the post throughout May, had resulted in the demolition of a considerable portion of the front line trench which was unoccupied, while the sally points and tunnels which had been constructed for the use of raiding parties, gave the front line a weak and unstable appearance. Major Cunningham visited the post on the 7th June, to report on its condition to the C.O. and, after the well ordered and clean condition of Courtney's, he found that the prospect of the occupation of Quinn's as an alternative to a spell in reserve presented little attraction. A great number of Turkish dead in a highly decomposed state lay out just in front of the front trenches. Large fat maggots from these fly-blown corpses dropped with a gentle thud into the bottom of the trench, where they writhed uncomfortably in the dust. The stench from the corpses was most offensive and generally the post bore the marks of the strenuous conflicts that had been waged around it and stood very badly in need of first of all a good clean up, and then thorough re-organization.
With his work at Courtney's fresh in mind, the Divisional Commander must have concluded that Colonel Malone, with his Battalion, was the man to take charge of Quinn's and clean it up, and he was to act as the permanent Post Commander. To save his Battalion whatever work was possible, Colonel Malone immediately interviewed Lieut.-Col. Young, in command of Auckland, with a view to getting his battalion to do some cleaning up before page 53being relieved. However, Auckland had had a hard gruelling in the fighting of the 4th June, and was in no mood for straightening things up on the eve of relief, and it was with feelings of disgust that the battalion found itself housed in the insanitary and battered trenches of Quinn's Post after having made such a comfortable home for itself and its successors in Courtney's.
At 9 a.m. on the 9th June, Hawkes Bay and Ruahine Companies relived the Auckland Battalion in Quinn's Post, West Coast and Taranaki Companies remaining at Courtney's till next day. As soon as the relief of the Auckland Battalion was complete, Lieut.-Col. Malone took over the command of the post, and found it all that it had been reported to be and a bit more. An entry in his diary of this date says "a more dirty, dilapidated and unorganised post it is hard to imagine. Still I like work and will revel in straightening things up. There are no places for men to fall in. The local reserve is posted too far away and yet there is at present no ground prepared on which they could be comfortably put. I selected a new Headquarters Shelter for myself and gave orders that every rifle shot and bomb from the Turks was to be promptly returned at least tenfold. We can and will beat them at their own game." This was the spirit in which Lieut.-Col. Malone tackled the task of straightening up Quinn's Post and the period from the 9th June, until the end of July, is largely the story of how the Colonel converted the most dangerous and insecure post on the Anzac Position into the safest and most impregnable, and turned a higgledy piggledy collection of battered and insanitary trenches into a clean, well-organized post. In justice to previous garrisons it must be said that timber and iron for trench work were more easily obtainable in June and July, than they had been previously; but, in any case, Colonel Malone had a way of getting things quite his own and was never satisfied to take "No" for an answer.
When the battalion took over Quinn's Post, the Turks had a complete superiority over our men page 54in bomb throwing and sniping, and the front trenches were continually sending back casualties. An extract from Bean's Official History reads as follows:—"At Quinn's on the night of his arrival, Col. Malone caused to be opened up in the front parapet a number of loop-holes which had been closed by previous garrisons. The following day the two companies that were not on front line duty, were employed in what he termed 'tidying the slope behind the post and in cutting terraces on the sheltered side near the summit. Within a short time, these, neatly roofed with iron and sand bags, made a clean and comfortable bivouac for the supports. Below was headquarters, looking on to a small terrace, on which the Colonel occasionally entertained at tea some of the frequent visitors. On the walls of headquarters were a few pictures and he spoke of obtaining others for his men. If he had had roses, he used to say he would have them planted on the terraces. 'The art of warfare,' he would add 'lies in the culture of the domestic virtues.'"
On the 10th June, West Coast Company and Taranaki Company were relieved in Courtney's Post and, in turn, relieved Hawkes Bay and Ruahine Companies in the front line in Quinn's Post. The battalion remained in Quinn's Post as the garrison until June 18th. During this period, the whole post underwent a complete transformation. The abandoned portion of the front line was gradually recovered. The parapets were repaired and the trench deepened: overhead cover was erected in lengths to the front line to provide bomb proof shelters, and wire-netting on a framework was placed in position in front of our front line trenches to catch and throw back the Turkish bombs intended for the front line. It proved most effective for this purpose, the bombs catching in it and rolling back into No Man's Land and exploding harmlessly there. Proper terraced shelters for the supporting companies with overhead cover were constructed on the rearward slopes of the hill. Wide paths were dug to enable the supporting troops to get rapidly about the position and definite alarm posts page 55were allotted to all troops forming the garrison. Frequent practices by day in forming up on their respective alarm posts familiarized the garrison with problems involved in the defence of the post. These practice alarms were usually held about dusk and Colonel Malone took a delight in timing the various units in getting into position and getting one battalion to create a record for another to beat. The period or garrison duty in Quinn's Post was eight days alternating with eight days of nominal rest in Brigade reserve in Canterbury Gully. Actually the duties in the trenches were less arduous than the duties in rest. The battalion or the battalions in reserve furnished very large fatigue parties for work on the beach and for construction work under the supervision of the Engineers both by day and by night and these fatigues commenced immediately the battalion arrived in reserve.
At the beginning of June, the heat by day became oppressive. All ranks reduced their clothing to a minimum. Discarding tunics, a shirt and shorts became the accepted uniform for the trenches. With the advent of hot weather, flies made their appearance in swarms and the sick rate in most Regiments began to mount at an alarming rate. The most prevalent trouble was an epidemic in the nature of dysentery, medical opinion differing as to whether it was true dysentery or merely diarrhoea arising from unsuitable diet. Very few individuals who had been a few weeks in Gallipoli escaped this infection. However, the policy of the Medical Corps and the inclination of the officers and men themselves was to keep on duty to the last possible moment. No one would go sick or allow himself to be evacuated sick unless he were very near the collapsing point. The direct effect of this epidemic on the troops was that their physical condition became greatly lowered. Men lost weight rapidly, and became thin and gaunt. Despite all the sickness, no change was made in the diet of bully beef, usually very salty, biscuit and thin apricot jam. A few issues of bread were made, but these soon ceased. Assisted by the heat and dust in the trenches and by the page 56fact that the scarcity of water made it impossible to wash clothes or bodies, vermin spread among the troops. The only chance of a wash was by getting leave to visit the beach for a swim. Owing to the large number of men constantly on duty, this was not easy to arrange and as it meant a hot and dusty walk of a mile or more men soon lost the desire to undergo the exertion. No provision, such as later obtained in France, existed for the purpose of de-lousing the men's clothing.
On the 15th June, Lieut. McColl and twenty-five selected other ranks proceeded to the Island of Imbros to act as Body Guard to Sir Ian Hamilton at his headquarters there, returning to Anzac on the 30th June. They thoroughly appreciated the rest and change and the kindly interest displayed in their welfare by General Hamilton.
On 7th July, Lieut. Jardine had been wounded by a bomb in the leg and was evacuated to Lemnos. A few days later, Major Brunt (Taranaki Company) was evacuated with acute pneumonia and, though he eventually recovered, he was never fit enough to return to the post and was invalided back to New Zealand.
On 15th July, Major W. H. Cunningham, temporarily commanding the battalion, was invalided to Lemnos and the command of the battalion passed temporarily to Major E. P. Cox, while Lieut. Carrington and Wells were wounded and sent to Hospital.
On 2nd August, Major Cunningham returned to duty and resumed command of the battalion and Lieut. Jardine also returned from Hospital. A few days later, namely, on 5th August, the battalion was finally relieved in Quinn's Post by part of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade and moved into Happy Valley, immediately north of Walker's Ridge, where it was to remain till the offensive operations which had been planned commenced, thus ended the battalion's occupation of a memorable post which in the history of the Gallipoli campaign will always be associated with the name of Lieut.-Col. Malone, under whose guidance and organizing force it passed from being page 57a source of anxiety to its garrison to being a position of rest and quiet.
During June and July, both the Turks and ourselves went in for mining and counter-mining at Quinn's Post. The position lent itself to this uncomfortable type of warfare, each side occupying a slope the hill. The mining was done by a special mining company drawn from various units and composed of men who had been miners in civil life. It was difficult and dangerous work and there was always the feeling of uncertainty as to which side really had the upper hand or rather the lowest tunnel. On the 30th July, about 4 a.m., the Turks fired a huge mine about ten yards in front of our fire trench and beyond our defensive mine gallery. It blew the earth above it right over all our trenches on to the terraces where the supporting troops bivouaced. The descending lumps of earth and debris killed 4 men and wounded 8 in the support lines, but no one was hurt in the front line. An attack by the Turks following the explosion of the mine was expected and an immediate stand to arms was ordered but no attack came. The men were cool and steady despite the alarming explosion and Johnny Turk would have got a hot reception had he attempted to leave his trenches. During the two months the Turks fired 3 or 4 mines, while we fired no less than twenty-eight. On handing over the command of Quinn's Post, Lieut.-Col. Malone resumed command of the battalion and Major W. H. Cunningham undertook the duties of 2nd in command.