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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Death of Major Quinn

The Death of Major Quinn.

But at 3.20 on the morning of May 29, an ear-splitting explosion brought everyone in Monash Gully to his feet. A mine had wrecked No. 3 Subsection in Quinn's Post. Instantly, the musketry and bomb duel burst into life. Flashes of flame ran round the enemy's trenches and ours. The bursting of enemy shells fitfully illuminated Monash Gully. The detonations of hand-grenades, the bursts of machine-gun fire, the spluttering of musketry, the crashes of shrapnel and high explosive thundered round and round the head of Monash Gully, echoing and re-echoing in the myriad cliffs and valleys. In the confusion, a party of about twenty Turks rushed our front trenches. At last an effort was being made to break the Anzac line. As No. 3 Subsection was blown in, the men in No. 4 Subsection were cut off from Subsections 1 and 2, but all held stubbornly on. Reinforcements hurrying up to the stricken post could see, by the light of the bursting shells, the garrison clinging doggedly to the hillside. Some of the men off duty quickly clambered up the break-neck tracks. Led by the gallant Major Quinn, the defenders pushed forward in short rushes until they were once again sheltering in the broken front-line trench of Subsection 3. The party of Turks were now isolated within the post; barricading both ends of their little section of trench, they clung page 170 to the shelter of the traverse and recess. It was now breaking dawn. The machine guns on Russell's Top and Pope's Hill swept the region in the front of Quinn's with a devastating enfilade fire; but showers of bombs indicated that the Turk was still close up to the post. Major Quinn, realizing what his post meant to Anzac, warned his men for a counterattack. Presently, the observers on Pope's and Plugge's Plateau saw the little band clamber on to the parapet, and with bayonet and bomb hurl themselves into the enemy's ranks, which momentarily wavered, then broke and fled. Back filtered the garrison, to realize that their beloved leader was mortally wounded, killed in the defence of the post that bore his immortal name.

The Turks did not attack again. Anzac was still intact. But imprisoned in our lines were sixteen brave Turks, who, in the confusion after the explosion, had stormed our frontline trench. They could not be reached by bombs, but an enterprising soldier persuaded them to surrender. Hesitatingly, out they came. They had been taught to distrust “these cannibals from the South Seas,” even as we had been warned against falling into Turkish hands. With many salaams and ingratiating bows they filed down the pathway, somewhat disconcerting an R.E. officer by solemnly kissing his hand.

The Turks opposite Quinn's never neglected their opportunities. Their mine explosion made a fair-sized crater between the two front-line trenches. Next morning the periscope revealed a blockhouse built of solid timbers planted in the crater. This, being a direct threat to Quinn's, was too much for the section of New Zealand Engineers, who, with the men of the 4th Australian Brigade, had held the post from the first week. Two adventurous sappers volunteered to creep out across the debris of No Man's Land and demolish the menace by means of gun-cotton. This they accomplished with great skill, destroying the blockhouse and killing the occupants. The Turk, however, was persistent. Time and again he roofed over the crater; but with hairbrush bombs—two pounds of gun-cotton tied on to a wooden handle—with kerosene, benzine, and other gentle agents in the art of persuasion, page 171 the Turkish garrison were kept most unhappy, even though they were all promoted to the rank of corporal. About this time it was learned that the Ottoman soldiers had christened this set of trenches “the Slaughterhouse,” but it must be said that the Turks operating in No. 3 Section, especially opposite Quinn's, earned the respect of all who fought against them.

Early in June the New Zealand Infantry Brigade took over this No. 3 Defence Section. The posts once held by General Monash's famous 4th Brigade were now garrisoned by men from Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. The New Zealand Engineers still kept up their sapping and mining. The No. 1 Company had been on duty without relief from the landing, until relieved by the No. 2 Company, which arrived on June 3, and took over the sapper work within the section.