The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Chapter XIII. The Preparations in July
Chapter XIII. The Preparations in July.
The decisive repulses in June made the Turk very chary of attacking. On our side it was evident that the forces at the disposal of Sir Ian Hamilton were not sufficient to win through. After months of desperate attack and dogged defence the month of July saw the enemy still holding the high ground at Helles and Anzac. At Anzac there was a cheery optimism. Everyone was satisfied that with reasonable reinforcements we would win through to the Narrows.
[Photo by F. H. Dawn
Soldiers Bathing in Anzac Cove.
Sunset from Ari Burnu.
Units not engaged in the front line were officially “resting” in Rest Gully. Paradoxically, it was an accident if one got an hour's respite there! In civil life, where labour is expensive and difficult to obtain, all means of labour-saving devices are available to do laborious work. Near the firing line there is no room or concealment for these cumbrous instruments. On the other hand, labour is plentiful. So it happens that a multiplicity of men, with primitive picks and shovels, are available for any necessary work. On the Peninsula a spell of “rest” inevitably meant being detailed for a working party.
The Amenities of Anzac.
The noise of battle frightened away all the little song birds that had so charmed us in the spring. But there was always something of interest. The common tortoise of Europe—with a hard shell about 12 inches long—loving a quiet place shaded from the sun, crept into our dugouts during the night, so that in addition to having nocturnal visitors who caused a certain amount of irritation and annoyance, we had these larger “Pilgrims of the Night” to create a little amusement, for there is something comical about these prehistoric, rubber-necked shell-backs. The fact that a tortoise is something like a turtle also appealed not a little to the company cook, who may be a lover of the antique, but not to such a degree that the tortoise might notice it! Out on the Suvla Flats, red foxes played in the sun with their cubs. On the prickly scrub, the little praying mantis held up her supplicating green hands and prayed as if we were all far past redemption.
[Photo lent by the Otago Women's Association
Officers of the Otago Mounted Rifles.
The officer drinking from the mess tin is Lt.-Col. Grigor, D.S.O., who commanded “C” parties of the N.Z.M.R. Brigade at the evacuation. Behind him is Colonel Bauchop, C.M.G., the commander of the outposts.
During daylight the beach at Anzac Cove was practically deserted. “Beachy Bill” and his helpers attended to that. But when night came the hive buzzed and hummed. Picket boats brought in their barges, and the beach parties attacked the cargoes of stores and transferred them to the A.S.C. depots close at hand. Long convoys of pack mules and the little two-wheeled mule carts pulled in to the stores and the water-tanks, and started their adventurous journeys to the right and left flanks, and up the tortuous way to Monash Gully. The Turk had the range to a nicety, and knew quite well that if he dropped a few shells along the beach and on the communications some damage must be done. The marvel is he did not fire more. While the firing lasted the place was like Inferno, for in the darkness the shells could be seen red-hot overhead. The flash of the explosions would light up the busy scene—Indian drivers and their terrified mules inextricably mixed up with the piles of stores and water tins; mules braying and squealing, with the patient drivers striving to quieten them; the shells shrieking through the air; while the thunderous detonations punctuated the rhythmic lapping of the waves upon the beach, the moans of the wounded, and the insistent cries of “Stretcher bearer.”
After the unsuccessful attack on Krithia early in May, Sir Ian Hamilton cabled Home for two more Army Corps, pointing out that apparently we were to be left to our own resources in the campaign; the Greeks had decided not to move at all, and the Russians had been so punished by the Austro-Germans as to give up all hope of moving against Constantinople from the Black Sea. The General, in his Third Despatch to the Secretary of State for War, goes on to say:— “During June your Lordship became persuaded of the bearing of these facts, and I was promised three regular divisions, plus the infantry of two territorial divisions. The advance page 188 guard of these troops was due to reach Mudros by July 10; by August 10 their concentration was to be complete.”
|The French Army Corps||1st Division
The 8th Army Corps
|29th Division (Regular Army)
42nd (East Lancs.) Division
52nd (Lowland) Division
|General Headquarters Troops||Royal Naval Division|
|The A. & N.Z. Army Corps||1st Australian Division
N.Z. & Australian Division
The 9th Army Corps
|10th (Irish) Division
11th (Northern) Division
13th (Western) Division
|The Infantry Brigade only of||53rd (Welsh) Division
54th (East Anglian) Division
All of the troops—owing to the demands of the French front—were woefully deficient in artillery. The 9th Army Corps were part of the New Army—generally known as Kitchener's Army—and, of course, had not seen service. The infantry of the 53rd and 54th Divisions were of the Territorial Force, and likewise were inexperienced in war. These were the troops it was determined to lead against seasoned soldiers—inured to hardship and fighting for their native soil—the veterans of the Turkish Regular Army.
But when and where should these reinforcements be used?
[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
Headquarters Signal Office.
Signallers, telephonists, and linesmen risk their lives day and night sending and carrying messages and repairing wires. Snipers watch the wire and pick off the linesmen. It is significant that the only New Zealand V.C. awarded during the campaign went to a signaller.
So far, we knew what troops were available, when they would arrive, and the most desirable time to use them. Next, we must examine the proposals as to where they should be used to gain the greatest advantage.
Where should the Troops be Used?
In his classical Third Despatch, General Sir Ian Hamilton has clearly shown the different suggestions for employing the new troops. They were resolved into four practicable schemes, which may be summarized as follows:—
(1) Every man to be thrown on to the Helles sector to force a way forward to the Narrows. This was rejected because it was difficult to deploy a large body of troops in such a confined area. Further, the whole of Krithia and Achi Baba had been specially prepared against such a frontal attack.
(2) Embarkation on the Asiatic side of the Straits, followed by a march on Chanak. The number of troops available was not considered sufficient to press this to a victorious conclusion.
(3) A landing at Enos or Ibriji for the purpose of seizing the Isthmus of Bulair. Against this project it was known that the Turkish lines of communication were not only by way of Bulair and down the Narrows, but also by way of the Asiatic coast across from Chanak to Kilid Bahr. The naval objections to Bulair were overwhelming: the beaches were bad, and, worse still, the strain on sea transport would be tremendous. We know how difficult it was at Anzac, but a new base at Bulair would add another fifty miles to the sea communications, already threatened by enemy submarines.
(4) Reinforcement of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps combined with a new landing at Suvla Bay. There was a reasonable chance of success in first winning Hill 971, then across the low ground to Maidos. From thence both the Turkish land and sea communication might be cut. This plan was also acceptable to the naval authorities. The distance to Suvla Bay was approximately the same as to Anzac. There was also a tolerably good harbour that might be made submarine proof. The water supply would be difficult, but it was reasoned that efficient organization would page 191 mitigate this evil; in any case, it was known that this area was not so heavily entrenched as the other three suggested landing places.
The total allied force was known to be inferior to the enemy, but it was thought that with skilful generalship this superiority might be nullified. The aim of strategy is to concentrate a superior force at the decisive point. The advantage is always with the attacker, as the side attacked must be in sufficient strength all along the line and must keep sufficient reserves in hand until the enemy's real attack definitely materializes. Wherever Turkish troops were stationed in large numbers it was necessary to arrange feint attacks—away on the flanks opposite Mitylene on the Asiatic coast, and away up at Bulair. Holding attacks to keep the enemy pinned down in their areas were to be carried out at Helles and at No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 Defence Sections at Anzac. Having induced the enemy to become committed all along the general line, it was intended to burst out from the left flank of Anzac, at the same time land new troops at Suvla—the whole to push on towards Chunuk Bair, Hill Q, and Hill 971. These heights in our hands the fall of Maidos, Gaba Tepe, and eventually Kilid Bahr was only a matter of time.
The general idea was that at Bulair and Mitylene enemy forces would be immobilized, and that the Turkish reserves on the Peninsula would flow towards Helles and the right of Anzac. As soon as these reserves were committed the troops page 192 of Anzac and Suvla would press towards Hill 971 and turn the Turkish flank.
In anticipation of this advance, a party of selected officers and scouts lived day and night out on the Suvla Flats and in the Turkish territory on the Sari Bair. These were the men who were selected to guide the troops over the new ground to be attacked.
Two other important works were put in hand at once in the Anzac area; the first, to widen the long communication trench from Anzac to the outposts; the second, to make a road available for wheeled traffic along the beach. In order not to make the enemy suspicious, this had to be done after dark, as the entire area was under the observation and rifle fire of the enemy on the heights.
Making the Beach Road.
Night after night the troops who were “resting” crept with their picks and shovels along the beach, to make the necessary road. This after-dark activity is most trying—each man working as silently as possible with his rifle at his elbow. Any noise is a magnet certain to attract machine-gun fire. Even in daylight it takes careful management to collect working parties and the necessary transport at the right spot, but in the darkness and in a region where enemy scouts and snipers roamed as soon as daylight failed, the difficulties were increased a hundredfold.
Sand makes a poor road. To get a reasonable result it was necessary to collect the big stones of the seashore and carry them to the shore edge of the beach and place them as a foundation; on the top of this, clay was deposite—carted from the hillside near by in the mule carts of the Indian transport service; the whole was top-dressed by the sand of the beach, and finally, the hard-worked soldiers carried petrol tins of water from the sea and poured it over the surface to make the material set. So, harassed by the splutter of machine guns night after night, and weakened by the heat of the day, the faithful souls of the working parties steadily carried the road from Anzac Cove along North Beach towards the Suvla Flats.page 193
Working on the Big Sap.
To get troops quickly and secretly from Anzac to the outposts and to the foot of the deres up which the assaulting columns must approach the Turk, it was necessary to widen the communication trench known as the “Big Sap.” This trench had been evolved as the outposts were established, and at many places could be enfiladed by the enemy on the heights; and nowhere was it wide enough to take troops two abreast. The pack mules used it by day, and though the soldier cared little for Turkish shells, he lived in fear of the donkey's steel-shod hoofs; it was no uncommon sight to see the soldier, disbelieving the warning “No kick! No kick!” of the Indian muleteer, climb out of the trench and risk a bullet rather than encounter a transport mule.
The Maori at Anzac.
A convential figure carved in the clay wall of the Big Sap. The telegraph linesmen of the Signal Troop have condescended to drop their wire a little to avoid the figure.
Man is naturally a lazy animal. When men work hard, there is always some incentive. The Maori soldier, picked man that he was, wished to justify before the world that his claim to be a front-line soldier was not an idle one. Many a proud rangitira served his country in the ranks, an example to some of his Pakeha brothers. Their discipline was superb, and when their turn came for working party, the longhandled page 195 shovels swung without ceasing until, just before the dawn, the signal came to pack up and get home.
Where the trench was liable to enfilade fire, its direction was altered, and here and there overhead protection was built with some of the precious timber and sandbags. At every few hundred yards a recess was cut to enable troops to stand aside while mule trains or passing troops moved up or down. Leaving nothing to chance, infantry parties, two abreast, marched through the trench from end to end to ensure that nowhere would there be a check.
[Lent by Rev. Wainohu, C.F.
With the Maoris at No. 1 Post.
Before this could happen the soldiers of Anzac were called on to do one more big digging task—dugouts and shelters had to be made, and terraces formed on the already crowded hillsides, in order that the large bodies of new troops might be hidden from the enemy aeroplane observers. For the first nights of August our men worked feverishly at the terraces. Hope ran high, for here at hand was the help so long and earnestly prayed for. During the nights of August 3, 4, and 5, the beach masters and military landing officers disembarked the New Army troops intended for Anzac. After the tiresome monotony of three months' dogged holding on, months of incessant picking and shovelling, months of weakening dysentery, plagues of flies, and a burning sun, the men of the New Armies and of India were arriving, and a great blow would be struck. Sick men refused to attend sick parade in the mornings, and in the hospitals, and on the Red Cross barges, proud men wept because they were too weak to strike a blow.