The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
The First Attack on Kaiajik Aghala
The First Attack on Kaiajik Aghala.
The attack from Anzac met with better fortune. It will be remembered that the Left Covering Force occupied Damajelik Bair on the morning of August 7. The 4th Australian Brigade which fell back from Abdel Rahman had dug in along the southern bank of the headwaters of the Kaiajik Dere.
The line to be attacked was shaped like a boomerang. The operation was divided into two parts.
The 29th Indian Brigade of Ghurkas and Sikhs was to seize the important wells, principally Kabak Kuyu—the Suvla end of the boomerang.
[Lent by N.Z. Y.M.C.A.
Ocean Beach after the August Offensive.
This picture shows the Y.M.C.A. marquee in the centre. The road along the beach, the new wharfs from which the New Zealand brigades embarked at the evacuation, and the hospitals are plainly shown.
The troops for (2) were disposed from right to left as follows:—
The 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, now reduced to about 1,400 men, had available for the attack about 400 men from the 13th and 14th Battalions.
The Canterbury Mounted Rifles were already on the ground, and the Otago Mounted Rifles were brought over to reinforce them. To each of these regiments a platoon of Maoris was attached.
Detachments of the 5th Connaught Rangers (10th Div.), the 4th South Wales Borderers (13th Div.) and the 10th Hampshires (10th Div.) were on the extreme left, where the South Wales Borderers had been since August 7 waiting for the joining up of the Suvla forces. The Indians, it must be remembered, were also part of the Anzac Army.
The ravine of the Kaiajik Aghala separated the Australians and New Zealanders from their objective. This ravine gradually broadened out in front of the New Army troops, and debouched on the wide open plain around the wells of Kabak Kuyu and Susuk Kuyu.
The line was to be attacked as follows:—
29th Indian Inf. Brigade.
|13th & 14th
(about 500 men)
By some strange mischance, the artillery bombardment which was so liberal at Suvla, overlooked Hill 60 altogether. But at 3.30 the troops made ready for the advance.
The 13th and 14th Australian Battalions—those veterans of Pope's and Quinn's, the men who early in August struggled on to the Abdel Rahman—dashed down the slope. Losing heavily, they raced into the gully and up the other side. Beaten by Turkish machine gun fire, they held their ground, but could not get on.
The New Zealand attack had about 800 yards to go. Squadron and troop leaders spent the day observing the page 252 objective and the best lines of advance. They went back to their men, explained the position and made clear to everyone that the attack was to be by bayonet only, then bombs. The formation was to be in lines of successive troops; each ridge to be taken advantage of as a reforming point for a fresh advance.
There was some wonderment at the lack of artillery fire, but punctually at 3.30, over the top went the troopers. Down the slope went the Canterburys and Otagos. Troop after troop dived into the hail of death and pushed on to the first ridge to collect their scattered fragments. Each troop made its fifty yard rushes and fell down exhausted. These men had lived for months on hard rations and were weakened by dysentery and fatigue. But on they swept again. It was a triumph of resolute minds over wasted bodies. Reaching the shelter of the gully, they reformed and commenced the steep ascent. Between the large ridge and the Turkish trench there was about 100 yards of bullet-swept scrub. Dozens of the troopers fell never to rise again; the wounded crept into positions of comparative safety. The Turkish shells set the scrub and grass on fire, but luckily there was little wind, and the little there was blew the flames away from our wounded.
By now the Canterburys and Otagos had reached the first enemy trench, and a bomb fight ensued. Down the communication trench the Turk was driven. Our men came across an enemy machine gun, which was promptly turned on to the fugitives. Back came the Turk with a counter attack, but the troopers stuck like limpets to their hardly-won position.
The position now was: The Indians had seized the well, and were well round the Suvla flank of Hill 60. The N.Z.M.R. had 150 yards of the Turkish trenches; but on the right, the 13th and 14th Australians could not get on. We had a precarious hold that night, as the Connaughts sent round between us and the Indians were mercilessly bombed back again.
A most dramatic incident occurred when there was a sudden cry of “cease fire,” and from the Turkish page 253 trenches on Kaiajik Aghala over 150 Turks issued with their hands held high in the air. They had rifles with them, but their movements and demeanour strongly suggested that they were willing to be taken prisoners. There was no one who could talk Turkish, so an interpreter was sent for. But before he arrived our men were out of the trenches trying to carry on a conversation with the Turks, who seemed perfectly friendly, but could not understand our words or signs that they must put down their arms and come quietly away. Suddenly shooting rang out on the right and left. But the O.C. Otago Mounteds went right out into No Man's Land towards the Turkish trenches, surrounded by a mob of Turks. He was convinced that we were about to make one of the biggest hauls of prisoners in the campaign. The few New Zealanders were hopelessly outnumbered, but still they tried to indicate by signs and pantomimic gestures that the Turks must first lay down their arms. By this time firing was brisk in other parts of the line. Some Turks who came to our trenches reached down to assist our fellows out, but our men pulled them in and made them prisoners, very much to their annoyance. The Otago colonel got right to the enemy's trench, and a Turkish officer tried to pull him in. This did not seem good enough, so in the grey of the morning the colonel, a lonely figure, retraced his steps across No Man's Land. Then firing became general, but not before we had captured a dozen of the enemy.
To this day the senior officers who were on the spot are not certain of the Turk's intention, but as it was discovered that all the prisoners and the dead carried many bombs, it is almost certain that they did not wish to surrender. The most likely story is that a few New Army men were captured out on the Suvla Flats, and told the enemy intelligence officers that we were badly shaken and perhaps would surrender. So this party came down to conduct us into their lines. But instead of finding a place in the line—if there was one—where men were willing to give themselves up, they came upon a nest of hornets that stung them very severely.page 254
During the rest of the night, communications were dug from the old Australian trenches to their new front line on the other side of the Kaiajik Dere. The New Zealanders in the Kaiajik trenches were not in touch with the Australians on the right.
The newly arrived battalion of Australian Infantry—the 18th—now came out from Anzac as reinforcements. This was at 4.30 a.m. Two companies were taken round by the Kabak well, along an old Turkish road, and sent to attack the northern flank of the hill. At first they were very successful, but the bombing tactics of the enemy were too much for the newly arrived soldiers, who had to evacuate—about 9 a.m. on the 22nd. At 11 a.m. the N.Z.M.R. again took part of those trenches on the extreme left, and built a sandbag barricade.
The position now was that the front line trench on Hill 60 was held for about 200 yards by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. This trench ran approximately round the 60 metre contour line. We built traverses to separate us from the enemy, who held the rest of the trench.
This attack had fallen very heavily on the troops engaged. The Canterburys, Otagos and Maoris had severe losses—the Canterburys losing 58 per cent. of their effictives, the Otagos 65 per cent. But we had taken part of the enemy's trench, and that was something—in fact, the only thing gained in the whole line from the Asma Dere to the Chocolate Hills.
We set to work on our communication trenches, and the Turks dug and dug until they made the rest of Kaiajik Aghala into a veritable redoubt.