The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919
Chapter VIII. — August Operations and Chunuk Bair
August Operations and Chunuk Bair.
Outline of the Scheme and Preparations—The Special Part assigned the Battalion—Happy Valley—The Night of the 6/7th — The day of the 7th and the Night of the 7/8th-The 8th August.
After the second Battle of Krithia, 6-8th May, it became apparent to Sir Ian Hamilton that, without very considerable reinforcement, the enterprise of forcing the Dardenelles by a land force was doomed to failure and a withdrawal from the Peninsula, with its bad effect on British prestige in the east, would become inevitable. The War Council in London was anxious to see the campaign made decisive and as a result of communications from Sir Ian Hamilton detailing the situation on the Peninsula he was, early in June, promised three fresh divisions and later in the month another two divisions, making five, the new forces to be available for operations on the Peninsula by the end of July and the 1st week in August. As soon as he was assured by the War Council of the new troops Sir Ian Hamilton set to work to formulate his plans. Ever since the first week's fighting had developed into trench warfare both at Anzac and Helles, the higher commanders had devoted much thought to the problem of making further substantial progress towards the main objective, still so far away. At Helles very little prospect offered except to "hammer away" at the Turkish positions until something gave way. Every advantage was with the Turk and "hammering away" had proved mighty costly and page 59never more so than in an attack in strength on June 10th. Other alternatives were a landing at Bulair or on the Asiatic Coast. At Anzac, General Birdwood and his Chief of Staff had been busily working out a plan for an advance from the Anzac position to capture the heights of "Sari Bair" on the main ridge overlooking the narrows and affording a position from which the Turkish communications to the south both by land and sea, could be successfully cut. As Sir Ian Hamilton says in his despatch of the 11th December, 1915, "the Australians and New Zealanders had rooted themselves in very near to the vitals of the enemy-By their tenacity and courage they still held open the door-way from which one strong thrust forward might give us command of the narrows."
A great deal of reconnaissance work had been done by scouts from the mounted troops from Anzac towards the Sari Bair heights during June and July, and the positions definitely occupied by the Turks were fairly accurately known. The Turks were reported to have no continuous line on those heights but apparently were content to occupy outpost positions on all commanding points and had the approaches to the heights up the various gullies also well picqueted. To open the way for the main attack it was necessary that these forward positions should be first seized so that the attacking columns could enter the gullies leading to the main Ridge.
Sir Ian Hamilton finally decided to use his fresh Divisions. First to reinforce the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, so as to enable that Corps to push out from the old Anzac position and to attack the heights of the Sari Bair Ridge. The crest line of this ridge ran parallel with the sea and its occupation would give command over the Turkish line of communications running south to Helles and would enfilade the Turkish lines facing Anzac.
Secondly to effect a surprise landing with a force at Sulva Bay in conjunction with the attack on the Sari Bair Ridge and to use this force to push rapidly inland to assist the progress of the main attack from Anzac.page 60
- 13th Division
- 1 Brigade 10th Division
- 29th Infantry Brigade
- Certain additional artillery and transport
The extremely difficult nature of the ground, over which the proposed attack on the Sari Bair Heights was to be carried out, was early recognized by General Birdwood and his staff. Three narrow and steep gullies lead at intervals from the foot of the ridge towards the summit. That nearest Anzac was known as the Sazli Beit Dere, then came the Chailak Dere and, further north, ran the Aghyl Dere, leading towards the highest point of the Ridge Koja Chemere Tepe. The entrance to the gullies was commanded by features on either side, which were known from the reports of scouts to be occupied in some strength by the Turks. As a necessary preliminary to an advance against the Heights, it was essential that the lower features commanding the entrances to the gullies should be captured and held. In view of the narrow and difficult approaches leading to the Ridge of Sari Bair, it was also necessary that the attacking force should be divided so that all three routes could be used. General Birdwood's detailed plan therefore provided for two main assaulting columns, the right to approach the Ridge via the Sazli Beit Dere and the Chailak Dere, and the left to use the Aghyl Dere. Each of these assaulting columns was to be preceded by a covering force, whose task was to seize and hold the ground covering the entrances to the gullies and so to clear the way for the assaulting columns and cover the rear and flanks of the columns after they had entered the gullies. In order to give occupation to the Turks in front of the Anzac position and to distract his attention from the operation and to attract his local reserves at the critical moment to another part of the line a demonstration was to be made by the Australian Division from the right central sector against page 61the Lone Pine Trench, which was a vital spot in the Turkish lines. An attack in force against Baby 700 from the Nek on Walker's Ridge was also planned to coincide with the capture of Chunuk Bair. The attack on Lone Pine though regarded as a demonstration was very carefully planned and in the event was most determinedly carried out by the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade. It not only wrested from the enemy a portion of his trench system of vital importance to his line, but drew towards Lone Pine the whole of the enemy's local reserves and inflicted on him exceptionally heavy losses.
For the assault on the Sari Bair Ridge the columns were detailed as follows:—
- The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade including the Otago Mounted Rifles.
- The Maori Contingent
- The Field Troop New Zealand Engineers
- The New Zealand Infantry Brigade
- Indian Mountain Battery (less 1 section)
- 1st Field Company New Zealand Engineers
- 4th Battalion South Wales Borders
- 5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment
- Half 72nd Field Company
- Under Brigadier-General J. H. Travers.
- 29th Indian Infantry Brigade
- 4th Australian Infantry Brigade
- Indian Mountain Battery (less 1 section)
- 2nd Field Company New Zealand Engineers
This Column was to proceed up the Aghyl Dere to the assault of Koja Cheme Tepe and to occupy a line from Koja Cheme Tepe to connect with the right assaulting column towards Chunuk Bair.
The attack at Lone Pine was timed to commence at 5.30 p.m. on the afternoon of the 6th August, while the covering forces were timed to move on at 8.30 p.m. By this arrangement, the Turks would have committed a number of their reserves to the Lone Pine fight long before they would have received any warning of the impending attack on the Sari Bair Heights. In the Right Assaulting Column the Canterbury Battalion had been detailed to proceed by the Sazli Beit Dere to attack Rhododendron Spur from the west and thence to advance on Chunuk Bair. The Otago Battalion was to proceed by the Chailak Dere and to attack Rhododendron Spur from the north-west and then supported by the Wellington Battalion to proceed to the assault of the Chunuk Bair Ridge. Auckland Battalion was to follow Wellington in Brigade reserve.
The day of August 6th, was spent very quietly in Happy Valley. All movement was forbidden, no fires were permitted, and the day which was beautifully fine was spent in quiet rest, many seizing the opportunity to write letters home. The impending operations were discussed at a Conference of Company Commanders with the Commanding Officer. White patches for the backs and bands for the arms were issued to all ranks to be worn in the attack on Chunuk Bair. The Battalion was well up to strength. The men, the greater number of whom had seen considerable fighting on the Peninsula, were pleased at the prospect of a change from the dust and flies of the Anzac trenches and its wearing routine. Physically the majority were far from fit and at least 30 per cent., who had been suffering for weeks from the prevalent dysentery, were more ready for hospital than an offensive operation. However, Anzac spirit carried them on and, in fact, the news of the projected attack had brought back from Lemnos a number of men who were still far from well but who scorned page 63to remain in hospital while their Regiments were going into attack.
At 8.30 p.m. the battalion quietly assembled in Happy Valley preparatory to moving out to its appointed place in the right assaulting column. Each man carried 48 hours rations, two water-bottles, and 120 rounds of ammunition. The night was clear and fresh and cool, making movement a pleasant reaction after our day of enforced inactivity. The battalion took its place in the column in rear of Otago Battalion immediately it was reported that the Otago Battalion was clear of Happy Valley.
The route lay along the new Long Sap past No. 2 Outpost to the mouth of the Chailak Dere. Lieut.-Col. Malone moved with the foremost company, Major Cunningham being with the Machine-Gun section in the rear. Progress was very slow and there were frequent long delays due to the difficulty experienced by the Right Covering Column in opening up the mouth of the Chailak Dere which it found blocked by a heavy barbed wire entanglement, flanked and enfiladed by fire trenches on the spurs on either side. With the assistance of a section of the Field Troop of New Zealand Engineers, who displayed great dash and bravery in face of heavy fire, the obstruction was removed and the mouth of the Chailak Dere opened and the covering force pushed on to complete the capture of its objectives, Table Top and Bauchop's Hill, the two features flanking the Chailak Dere, up which it was impossible to move until these two features were firmly held by our troops. It was expected that all would have been clear for the assaulting column to move up the Chailak Dere by 11 p.m.; but it was past midnight before word came for the battalion to move from the shelter of No. 2 Outpost, where it had been waiting for close on two hours, and to press on up the Chailak Dere. The Otago Battalion which had preceded the Wellington Battalion was expected to clear the country on either side of the Chailak Dere as it pressed forward, so as to ensure the passage of the Wellington Battalion, which, as soon as it debouched from the Chailak Dere on to the page 64lower slopes of the Sari Bair Ridge, was to proceed to take the summit by assault. The task of clearing the passage up the Chailak Dere proved a longer and more difficult one than had been anticipated. Scattered parties of Turks, sheltering in the scrub and quite familiar with the ground, opened fire on the advancing infantry, frequently throwing the leading troops into confusion. The Dere itself, as it ascended towards the hill, grew gradually narrower, steeper and more broken, in places it being extremely difficult for one man at a time to push through the narrow defile. In addition, many subsidiary gullies and ravines led off it, making for confusion and delay in selecting the right track up which to advance. The Wellington Battalion found the precious minutes after midnight rapidly passing, while it was obviously far from approaching the ground from which it expected to launch the assault on Chunuk Bair.
After midnight, the chill air struck the lightly clad men and at every halt there was not lacking ample proof of the extent to which the prevailing epidemic of dysentery had its grip on the force. Lieut.-Col. Malone, at the head of the battalion, after nearly two hours had been spent in traversing a few hundred yards, began to chafe at the delay, realising that, once daylight came, all chance of successfully surprising the Turkish troops on the summit of Chunuk Bair would be gone. He used every means in his power to expedite the advance, but one man could do little to assist the progress of a battalion now strung out in single file pushing its way up the mile long bed of the Dere past the boulders and overhanging foliage. It was just breaking dawn when the leading companies of the battalion, Taranaki and Ruahine, got clear of the Dere and debouched on to Rhododendron Spur in the vicinity of the position afterwards known as the Apex. With quick soldierly instinct, Lieut.-Col. Malone recognised that he was still a long way from the summit of Sari Bair where by the operation orders he was timed to be within assaulting distance at 2.30 a.m. and that the original scheme to seize page 65the summit under cover of darkness had failed. It would be broad daylight before the whole battalion was clear of the Chailak Dere and, meantime, the Spur which he had now reached with its semicircular rim appeared to offer a position worth securing as a jumping-off place for a further advance, and with the edge held would enable reorganisation to be effected. The Spur formed a shallow basin which appeared to afford cover from view and from fire from the summit where Turkish observers could now be plainly seen silhouetted against the growing light. The three leading companies were ordered on to the ridge to take up outpost positions covering the exit from the Dere and the fourth Company was held in reserve. The Auckland Battalion arrived shortly after the outpost dispositions were completed and took up a position lower down the Spur under cover of the outposts thrown out by the Wellington Regiment. By six o'clock, the Apex position was thoroughly secure and the men seized the opportunity of the lull in operations to scramble a little breakfast. During the forward advance, the Otago Battalion had become very scattered, isolated parties piqueting various ridges flanking the upper parts of the Chailak Dere. Shortly after daylight small parties of the Canterbury Regiment filtered across from the Sazli Beit Dere to the Apex position, but, as any movement from the Sazli Beit Dere to the Apex immediately drew machine-gun fire and shrapnel, the troops on the Apex were ignorant of exactly what fate had befallen the Canterbury Regiment. Shortly after six o'clock, the position was that two battalions of the Brigade were intact on the Apex position, Otago Battalion were scattered amongst the ridges surrounding the Chailak Dere, while Canterbury were apparently pinned down on the eastern slopes of Rhododendron Spur. The long and tedious journey up the Dere and the long night without rest or sleep had told on the troops in their low physical condition and they were tired and weary men who settled down on the Apex position at 6 a.m. Shortly after Col. Malone had piqueted the ridge, a British officer and a page 66party of Ghurkas from the left assaulting column appeared from the direction of the farm and conferred with him. No signs of the advance of the left assaulting column were then visible from the Apex, from which a good view was obtainable.
When the men of the Auckland Battalion debouched on to the Rhododendron Spur, they still had their white patches and armlets on and the Turkish observers, clearly visible on Chunuk Bair, must quickly have concluded that a formidable thrust was in progress against that part of the ridge. Although the troops in some exposed part of the Spur offered a tempting target, the Turks on Chunuk Bair did not commence firing at the Apex until a couple of hours later. It is just possible that Chunuk Bair at that time was very lightly held and the Turks refrained purposely from attracting our attention to the weak state of their defences there. No regular trench line existed but merely here and there on the seaward crests short lengths of trench for observation post. There was a chance that, had the Wellington Regiment advanced with Auckland in close support, the ridge of Chunuk Bair might have fallen an easy prey into our hands. On the other hand, the night's operations had lasted long enough to have convinced all ranks that the original scheme had under-estimated the appalling difficulties of the country: that the progress of the assaulting columns had been much delayed, and that the movements of the attacking troops now required co-ordinating. Units were hopelessly out of touch with one another and there was little information available for anyone, even for the staff. Great faith had been pinned to the anticipated rapid advance of the Suvla Bay force which was to take the pressure off and assist the progress of the Centre at Sari Bair. Earlier experiences on Gallipoli had warned commanders of the danger of isolated attacks on the Turks with flanks in the air, and weighing all the possibilities, Col. Malone took it upon himself to occupy the Apex position. Major Temperley, the Brigade Major, arrived as companies were getting into position and was anxious for Col. Malone to push on with page 67the attack, as Otago and Canterbury were, apparently, too scattered and out of touch as a result of the night's operations to effectively carry out the assault. Col. Malone held the view that much had been gained and, while the chance offered, it was better now that daylight had intervened that what had been gained should be secured. The heights were within easy assaulting distance, but the troops were tired and weary and in no mood for a rapid advance in broad daylight up a steep hillside. About 8 o'clock, Brigadier-General Johnson arrived and there was a conference between him and Cols. Malone and Young. Neither the Brigadier nor his battalion commanders were optimistic at that hour of the chances of a successful assault against Chunuk Bair. The approach from the Apex was along a narrow saddle with steep sides, fully exposed to enfilade fire from the main ridge. Chunuk Bair, by that hour, was occupied in some force by the enemy. Sniping and machine-gun fire had commenced and casualties were constantly occurring among the troops on the hillside. However, the matter was referred to the Divisional Commander, who ordered an immediate assault. The Auckland Battalion was detailed for this operation, to be supported by two companies of Canterbury, and, at 11 a.m., it moved out through the outpost line.
Immediately the leading troops debouched from the Apex, they were met by a withering fire from Chunuk Bair, where the Turks were in force with rifles and machine-guns. With magnificient bravery, platoon after platoon pushed on across that fire swept saddle; but the advance finally came to rest in an enemy trench about 200 yards from the Apex leading up from the valley of the farm below, which the New Zealanders immediately occupied. It soon became evident that no further progress could be made in daylight and the rest of the day passed with the position on the Apex unchanged. As soon as it was dusk the outpost companies on the Apex were ordered to dig in. The ground proved most difficult. It was full of boulders and to obtain a depth of a few feet involved page 68tremendous exertion. However, by midnight, a trench line had been constructed, the machine-guns were distributed along the trench, and the Battalion, with sentry groups on duty, endeavoured to settle down for a few hours rest.
About 1 a.m. the Brigade Commander sent for Lieut.-Col. Malone and gave orders that the battalion was to attack Chunuk Bair at 4.15 a.m. and that the attack would be preceded by a heavy bombardment of the enemy position on the ridge lasting three-quarters of an hour from 3.30 to 4.15. The advance of the battalion was to be timed so as to reach as near to the crest as the shelling would permit before the bombardment ceased. The 7th Gloucester Regiment, which during the night had moved up the Chailak Dere and was lying in rear of the Wellington Battalion, was to move out in line with the Wellington Battalion and attack on the left, prolonging the line towards hill 971. After returning from Brigade Headquarters, Lieut.-Col. Malone conferred with his second in command, Major Cunningham, and the necessary orders were drawn up for the attack. West Coast Company on the left, and Hawkes Bay on the right were to lead the advance, supported by Taranaki right and Ruahine left. The leading companies were to leave the Apex at 4 a.m., giving fifteen minutes to cover the distance to the summit. The question of water rations and ammunition was discussed and, leaving Major Cunningham to go round and give the Company Commanders the neccessary orders, Lieut.-Col. Malone returned to Brigade Head-quarters to endeavour to obtain a supply of water and ammunition before his battalion moved out. With soldierly instinct, he foresaw the next day's heavy fighting beneath a pitiless sun with water bottles empty and ammunition short. A party was immediately despatched to the beach to see what could be done. Col. Malone never felt the slightest doubt about his battalion taking the heights of Chunuk Bair, but he was anxious about his men's rations and ammunition supply. When he received the report that his Company Commanders had received their orders he realized nothing further could be done and turned in to his bivouac page 69under an oilsheet and slept soundly. At 3.30 a.m., he and his second in command proceeded to rouse the companies to ensure their moving out to time. Weary with 36 hours' incessant fighting and their night's heavy digging, the men were difficult to rouse and on the steep scrub covered hillsides it was a hard task in the dim moonlight to get companies out of their sheltered trenches and the battalion formed up.
Within a minute or two of 4 a.m., the leading companies in a solid phalanx, each company with two platoons in fours in line moved out along the narrow cause-way or saddle leading from the Apex towards Chunuk Bair, whose ominous crest line was sharply defined in the faint light. The two supporting companies, Taranaki and Ruahine, followed close on the heels of West Coast and Hawkes Bay. Two companies of the 7th Gloucesters followed some distance behind the Wellington Regiment, having experienced difficulty in getting clear of the Chailak Dere. The battalion passed through the Auckland Regiment, where it lay in the old Turkish Trench reached on the previous day, and Col. Young gave a cheerful greeting to his old battalion as it passed over the trench in which he had his head-quarters. The leading companies quickly assumed a fighting formation as they reached the open ground of the slopes leading up to Chunuk Bair, the leading platoons of each company forming up in two lines covering a frontage of 200 yards. This formation was reached without slackening the steady pace of the advance and the battalion, with grim determination, breasted the last rise, expecting every second to receive the full blast of rifle and machine-gun fire which had greeted the Auckland Battalion's advance the day before. Bayonets, however, fixed on the move before the crest was reached and, tired and weary though the men had been when they started from the Apex, instinctively, the battalion seemed to feel that at last the great chance had come and that Chunuk Bair was to be its supreme test. The men in a few strides had recovered their old jaunty spirit of the training days of Egypt and, led by their gallant page 70Colonel, they were in the right mood to tackle with cold steel any enemy that might stand to face them on the top Incredible as it may seem, they braced themselves for a shock that never came. As they reached the crest, the leading lines of West Coast Company quickly over ran and captured a Turkish Piquet covering in a small trench overlooking the farm. Not another Turk was on the hill top and not a shot was fired at the attacking lines as they came over the top and moved forward down the eastern slope where they were halted. Col. Malone had most definite orders to take and hold the crest and, realizing that the precious crest was in his possession without a fight, he quickly ordered the two leading companies to dig a trench on the forward slope of the hill, while the two supporting companies were set to work on a support line in rear of the crest. West Coast and Hawkes Bay Companies placed four covering parties (two parties each) out in front of the digging lines. The two West Coast posts were in charge of Lieut. McKinnon and were located in old Turkish gunpits well down the forward slope. The Hawkes Bay Posts found similar positions in line with the front of West Coast.
By this time dawn had broken and visibility was increasing. A long sap was visible going down from the gunpits occupied by the covering parties and disappearing beyond. After Col. Malone had set the lines digging, Major Cunningham went round the forward posts and walked out some distance in front of them. Everything was perfectly peaceful and there was no sign of a Turk anywhere. Passing along the lines, it was quite evident that the digging on Chunuk Bair was no easier than it had been on the Apex and the same stoney conditions obtained. From the lines on the forward slope the narrows were plainly visible in the distance. Battalion Head-quarters were established in the small straight trench which the Turks had occupied as an observation post on the sea-ward slope of Chunuk Bair overlooking the farm and near a very precipitous portion of the hillside. For quite an hour scarcely a shot was fired at the battalion and it was difficult page 71to realize that the position had been gained without firing a shot. It was as uncanny as it was unexpected.
An explanation of how the Turkish position came to be deserted at the very hour chosen for the Wellington Battalion to attack it is suggested in Bean's Official History of Australia in the War Vol. II at page 669. The Turkish troops who had fought there so valiantly on the 7th, had, during the night or during the shelling, fled in panic or else had been withdrawn by mistake. There was at least an hour of comparative calm before the Turks were fully alive to the danger which threatened their line. This hour was pregnant with possibilities for the attacking force had communications with the Brigade and the Division been established and the success exploited. The very unexpectedness of the situation left Col. Malone very doubtful as to whether to risk disobeying the very clear and definite orders he had received to take and hold the crest at all costs and to push further forward with the idea of penetrating in to the enemies' rear lines, or to seize the precious period of apparent calm to get underground. After some hesitation, he chose the latter course. Had he made an isolated attack with his battalion with both flanks in the air, there was serious risk that he might be entirely cut off and overwhelmed. It would have been necessary for fresh troops to have been at hand at once to be pushed in behind him to ensure the gap being widened, and with the confusion of the previous day's fighting still un-remedied, few battalions were in a condition to afford support to a rapid and unexpected advance. From the terrific Turkish attacks which ensued within an hour or so, it was quite evident that the Turks were in great strength in the vicinity and this fact renders all the more inexplicable that peculiar chance which enabled the Wellington Battalion to stumble in the dark into the only gap that had been left in the Turkish line.
No provision seems to have been made in the order for the advance to provide reliable communication with Brigade Headquarters. Later in the day, the Brigade Signal section, at great sacrifice, succeeded in getting a telephone wire from page 72Brigade Headquarters to Battalion Headquarters on Chunuk Bair, but, had wire been available, this valuable adjunct could have been installed at 4.15 a.m. and the Brigadier at once informed of the happenings on the heights. Had the Wellingon Regiment reached the heights of Chunuk Bair twenty-four hours earlier, as was intended by the original operation order, with the Auckland Battalion then fresh and close behind it, and with Otago and Canterbury Battalions still full of tight, it is easy to see what a splendid opportunity the New Zealand Brigade would then have had of opening the way to the capture of the hill 971 and of assisting the forward movement of the Indian Brigade on its immediate left. But fate willed otherwise and, once more, Sir Ian Hamilton was out of luck. In the appalling country over which the attack took place it was only too easy for the advance to lose momentum. Again looking back to the fateful hours between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on the 8th August, when Chunuk Bair rested peacefully in our hands, a gap in the enemy's front was then open which offered a brilliant opportunity for a commander on the spot to seize. The Welsh pioneers, the Gloucester Regiment, and the Auckland Regiment were all handy; but the precious hours passed and the gap was finally and effectively closed, without any effort being made to exploit the success already gained. It was going on for 6 a.m. when the covering parties of the West Coast Company perceived Turks making their way along the sap leading out of the valley behind Chunuk Bair, and fire was very soon opened on these somewhat isolated posts. About the same time, more of the enemy appeared further along the ridge towards the old Anzac position and opened an enfilade fire on the digging lines.
A few hours after taking Rhododendron Spur.-Wellington. N.Z., Mounteds charging over the hill to reinforce new Zealand Infantry on Chunuk Bair, Sunday, August 8th, 1915.
While the covering posts were fighting hard, the digging parties in the front line were forced to discard their spades and picks and pick up their rifles and defend the partly dug front line. Unfortunately this was not more than 1ft. 6in. to 2ft 6in. in depth. The stony ground had proved stubborn digging and the men were forced to defend this shallow trench as best they could against frontal and enfilade fire, realising how important it was to maintain possession of the forward slope with its view over the enemy's approaches and rear areas. With the onset of the Turks in force about 6.30 a.m. began one of the most intense infantry fights in the whole War. Clinging to their shallow trench until it was filled with dead and dying, the men or the Wellington Regiment fought like tigers to hold what they had gained. Fighting was not confined to the front line, for the supporting trench, which was only partly dug, also came under fire from the Turkish trenches on Battleship Hill. As soon as the front line was no longer tenable, the few unwounded survivors found their way back to the seaward slope among the supporting line. The attacking lines of the Turks, with the greateast bravery imaginable, surged towards the crest only to be met whenever they appeared with well directed volleys which took a heavy toll of their numbers and sent them reeling back behind the Crest again. In the intervals, men in any position they could find scraped hard with their entrenching tools to obtain a little shelter from the deadly and incessant rifle fire which enfiladed them from the direction of Battleship Hill. Casualties were numerous and ammunition began to get short. The pouches of the dead and wounded were carefully emptied and the ammunition saved. An attempt was made by the Battalion Machine-gun Officer to get the machine-guns into action, but the attempt was fruitless, the gun being disabled before it could be brought into action at all. As the morning wore on, the fighting became more stubborn. At least six times the Turks charged in the hope of carrying the Crest; but each page 74time they were sent reeling back with deadly volleys from the defenders rifles. Finding this method of attack could not succeed, the Turks tried bombing. Showers of egg bombs, fortunately with long fuses, were sent hurled over the hill crest among the defenders. Promptly and fearlessly were they picked up and hurled back to explode among the Turks.
Towards mid-day the Turkish attack had spent itself but a fresh trial awaited the hard-pressed men of the Regiment on the exposed slopes of Chunuk Bair. A Turkish battery from the Anzac position started to shell the seaward slope with shrapnel. For at least two hours, salvoes perfectly timed burst over the slopes. One gun devoted its attention to the short trench in which Battalion Headquarters was located and in which at least three badly wounded officers, Major Cox, Lieut. Turnbull and the commanding officer of the Gloucester Regiment were sheltering Shells burst just in front of the trench, the shrapnel bullets sweeping across it. The Gloucester Colonel raising himself during a temporary lull in the shelling to shift his cramped position, put his head above the trench and the next shell, bursting before he could get down, he got a ball through the cheek.
During this shelling, the Auckland Mounted Regiment made a gallant advance and reinforced the battalion. Major Schofield, who was in command, joined Col. Malone in the Headquarters trench.
Towards 5 p.m., the shelling seemed to have ceased and Lieutenant-Colonel Malone and Major Schofield stood up together in the trench with the idea of looking over the ground and deciding the dispositions of the troops to be maintained during the night and where the men of the Auckland Regiment might most profitably be employed. Just at this moment, the Turk fired his last salvo and the gallant Colonel fell with a ball through the head while Colonel Schofield received a ball through the lung. Throughout that long and arduous day, Lieut.-Col Malone had faught with his men and none knew better what a magnificent fight they had page 75put up. Armed only with an entrenching tool, he had, time after time, dashed in among the firing lines when the Turks threatened to break through, encouraging his men with his words and example. He was firmly resolved that the Regiment would rather perish than yield the hill.
As the day wore on the rearward slopes of the hill were strewn with the dead, but the spirit of the survivors became more stubborn and unyielding. Their ranks thinned as the day waned and evening fame with the little band of survivors still undaunted, still holding on, but hungry and thirsty and half-dead with the fatigue and the strain of the ordeal through which they had passed.
On the left, the Gloucester Battalion suffered during the day as heavily as the Wellington Regiment, losing all their officers and many of their senior N.C.O.'s, but still clung to the piece of crest they had seized in the early morning.
During the forenoon, the Brigade signal section had made several gallant attempts to establish telephonic communication between Brigade Headquarters at the Apex and Battalion Headquarters on Chunuk, and, finally, Lance-Corporal Bassett, displaying great bravery, successfully ran the gauntlet of machine-gun and rifle fire and got a line through intact. For his gallantry on this occasion, Lance-Corporal Bassett was awarded the Victoria Cross. The line, however, was difficult to maintain and was repeatedly cut by bullets, and, finally the attempt to keep it open had to be abandoned.
About 3 p.m., Lieutenant-Colonel Malone had despatched Captain E. S. Harston to Brigade Headquarters with a full report on the position of Chunuk Bair and with an urgent appeal for reinforcements. Captain Harston, a noted athlete, made short work of the deadly belt of bullet swept around between Chunuk Bair and the Apex and safely reached Brigade Headquarters, where he gave the Brigadier a full report of the happenings on Chunuk Bair. He was successful in returning to Battalion Headquarters within an hour and delivering the Brigadier's assurance page 76that, immediately it was dusk, strong reinforcements would reach the Battalion. The realisation that our men had the summit of Chunuk Bair had spread through the Anzac Forces and had everywhere stimulated the troops.
Upon the death of Lieut.-Colonel Malone, the command of the Battalion devolved upon Major W. H. Cunningham and, Major Schofield being seriously wounded, the command of the Auckland Mounted Rifles devolved upon Captain Wood. Both these officers were in the Headquarters trench and, the firing having lulled considerably, they left the trench to reconnoitre the position and fix the dispositions to be maintained during the hours of darkness. Within a few minutes of leaving the trench and while standing together discussing the positions, both Major Cunningham and Captain Wood were seriously wounded by the same bullet. Captain Wood's right arm was badly shattered, and Major Cunningham returned to Battalion Headquarters and handed over command of the Battalion to Captain Harston who was acting as adjutant. By this time, it was growing dusk and a welcome reinforcement in the Otago Battalion commenced to arrive. The first company to reach the firing line was in eharge of Major George Mitchell, and the rest of the battalion followed very closely.
As darkness settled on Chunuk Bair, numbers of seriously wounded men, who had been unable to move during daylight on account of the heavy fire, began to make their way down the hill to the dressing station. The stretcher-bearers came out from the Apex position and, working magnificently all night, were able to remove a great number of wounded too badly hit to walk. Before midnight, the remnants of the Wellington Regiment were relieved in the front line and returned to the Apex position.
Colonel Malone had been killed and also Captain L. S. McLernon, Commanding Hawkes Bay Company, Lieutenants T. M. P. Grace and T. A. Davidson, while scores of gallant men had been struck down.page 77
Sir Ian Hamilton has written:—"I lay a very special stress on the deeds of Bauchop and Malone. These two heroes were killed whilst leading their men with absolute contempt of danger—Bauchop after having captured what was afterwards known as Bauchop's Hill, and Malone on the very summit, of Chunuk Bair. Both Bauchop and Malone were soldiers of great mark and, above all, fearless leaders of men. Where so many, living longer, have achieved distinction, it is quite necessary that New Zealand should bear the names of these two gallant soldiers in tender remembrance."
During the night, the Turks massed behind Sari Bair. At dawn, the 6th Royal North Laneashires and 5th Wiltshires, now holding the ridge, were wiped out. Very shortly afterwards, the Turks delivered a tremendous counter-attack down the slopes of Chunuk Bair directed towards the British Battalions on the left of the Apex. On came the attacking waves. Canterbury had four machine-guns while Auckland were able to bring two guns into action. From Rhododendron Spur two Wellington machine-guns, the Maori gun and one Otago gun, firing over the heads of the guns on the Apex, commanded the whole of the approaches from Chunuk Bair. What a harvest of death for our machine-gunners! The Navy and Field Artillery picked up the range. Not a Turk could pass through such a zone of death. Wave after wave was mowed down. It was not long before the Turkish effort was spent. Later in the day, a number of Turks were seen, to crawl back to their own lines.
During the afternoon, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade was relieved and English troops took over the Apex with New Zealand machine-gunners behind them and behind them again the depleted New Zealand Battalions. A night of confusion followed. Next morning the New Zealanders were sent into the front line again with Auckland on the Apex with orders from Sir Ian Hamilton to "hold on for ever."