The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Chapter VI. The Anzac Landing
Chapter VI. The Anzac Landing.
Early on Sunday morning the intention of Army Headquarters was made clear by the issue of orders for the attack. A study of the map revealed three dominating land features. In the south, overlooking Cape Helles, was the great hump of Achi Baba. Inland from Suvla Bay was the tangled mass of cliffs, valleys and hills culminating in the peak of the Sari Bair system, which, from its height marked in feet, was after wards known as “Hill 971.” Lying further over near the Straits and protecting the fortress on the European side, was the mountain system known as the “Pasha Dagh” or Kilid Bahr Plateau. Both Achi Baba and Hill 971 had to be captured before attempting the plateau, which latter having fallen, we could take possession of the great fortresses of Kilid Bahr, and Chanak on the opposite shore. These two places is our hands, the passage of the fleet would be largely a matter of careful mine sweeping.
In order to mystify the enemy and to encourage him to disperse his forces, two subsidiary attacks were undertaken. Away up at Bulair a fleet of empty transports, accompanied by a few men-of-war, were to make a demonstration. Down on the Asiatic coast the French were to land, reduce Kum Kale and the forts in the neighbourhood, and then withdraw The 29th and Royal Naval Divisions were to land on several beaches at the extremity of the Peninsula and push on towards Krithia and Achi Baba, being reinforced by the French Division after its withdrawal from Kum Kale. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was ordered to force a landing on the beach between Gaba Tepe and Fishremen's Hut. Hill 971 itself was to be avoided, the troops endeavouring to pass over its southern under-features to the road running from Boghali and Maidos. Mal Tepe was a hill specifically mentioned. “The capture of this position would threaten and perhaps cut the line of retreat of the enemy's troops on Kilid Bahr plateau, and have far-reaching results,” said the operation order.page 75
Passing Cape Helles.
[Photo by Col. Hughes, C.M.G., D.S.O.
A Battleship covering the Transports.
The old “London” steaming towards Anzac Cove.
Just opposite Gaba Tepe the transports slowed down. Like children kept inside on a wet day, we were very impatient. page 77 A desire to be doing something possessed all ranks. The men broke up cases and split the wood for kindling fires ashore. Every man pushed seven or eight pieces through the straps on the back of his pack. Many seized the opportunity to write the letter that most thoughtful soldiers write at the beginning of a campaign—a letter to be carried in the breast pocket and only to be forwarded by the comrade that buries him—tender farewells, simply and beautifully written, as men always do write when they are face to face with the things that really matter.
[Photo by the Author
Transports off Anzac Cove on April 25.
The ship in the foreground has disembarked Echelon A and is steaming out to make room for the next transport.
In groups of four the transports, covered by the battleships, moved up to about a mile off shore, disembarked the troops of the first echelon, and then moved to the rear, letting the next four continue the manoeuvre. On our port side the old twin-funnelled “Majestic” belched a stream of 12-inch shells on the ridges; away to starboard, the four long funnels of the “Bacchante” were dimly discernible through a tremendous column of smoke. Southwards, as far as the eye could see, were transports innumerable, and closer in-shore, the angry, barking battleships.
The destroyers were taking their human freights as far in as they dared—and the average t.b.d. commander will dare a good deal. Over the side and down the swaying rope ladders we went for the last time. This was not a Mudros page 78 Harbour practice. We felt uncommonly clumsy and three times our ordinary size. With our hob-nailed boots we clattered about the iron deck, until it was so crowded we had perforce to stand still.
Now the picket boat zone was reached. Off the destroyer and into a barge. Six barges made a tow. The little steamboat puffed and tugged, and off we swerved like a sinuous snake.
[Photo lent by Lieut. Moritzson, M.C., M.M.
A destroyer making ready to tow barges from the “Lutzow,”
Boat after boat of wounded passed us going back to the transports they had left only a few hours before. They waved their blood-stained arms and cheered with feeble cheers. The encouragement was certainly welcome.
We were now well within range. Rifle and shrapnel fire was whipping the water round the boats. About 300 yards page 79 from the shore the barges were cast loose, and each, with a naval rating as coxswain, pulled vigorously for the beach. Casualties were frequent. As the boats grounded, the men tumbled out; many were hit in the water and were drowned A major, jumping from the bows—the water was about 2 feet deep—was hit in the knee. He fell into the surf, but was hauled on board again, and the picket boat towed him back to the transport he had just left. The survivors fell in and adjusted their heavy equipment under the protection of the sandy cliff.
Straight into the Battle.
The orders given to our Division on disembarkation were for the New Zealand Infantry Brigade to prolong the line page 80 to the left of the 1st Australian Division, and particularly to support the left of the Third Brigade, which had landed as the covering force to the Army Corps; the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade was to be held in reserve. The landing of the Auckland Battalion was completed at 12 noon. Walker's Ridge was given as its objective. By 12.30 p.m., two companies of the Canterbury Battalion were ashore, and were directed to support the Auckland Battalion.
At 1 p.m., the Auckland Battalion was recalled from Walker's Ridge and brought more to the right, to occupy Plugge's Plateau, in order more directly to connect with the left of the covering brigade. The two Canterbury companies prolonged the left flank of the Auckland Battalion, in the direction of Walker's Ridge. Between 12.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. the Otago Battalion arrived and was sent up to Plugge's Plateau in support of the Auckland Battalion. When the remaining two companies of the Canterbury Battalion arrived they were sent to Walker's Ridge to prolong and reinforce the left flank.page 81
Owing to the accuracy of the enemy big-gun fire, the transports with our field guns aboard were temporarily forced to retire. The Turkish gunners were punishing us severely, and we realized to the full the bitterness of not being able to effectively retaliate. But the Indian Mountain Batteries endeared themselves to all by their sacrificing efforts. Gallantly led, these matchless gunners, with their patient mules, wheedled their guns up to seemingly inaccessible vantage points; unlimbering, they would get in a dozen effective shots and be down in the gully and up to an alternate position before their opponents could sense the situation.
All along the beach, under the scanty shelter of the cliff, the wounded lay—some on stretchers, some on blankets, others on the shingle. The surgeons worked as they never had before. Wounded poured down from the hills incessantly. The picket boats towed their barges, crammed with troops, to the beach, and seemed to take away almost as many wounded.
The sun went down and the ships stood over against Samothrace silhouetted in the sunset. But with the night came no peace. The Turks attacked with renewed vigour—reinforcements had arrived for them. Blowing trumpets and shouting “Allah!” they surged forward. Our fellows ran to meet them, cursing in good round English and very bad Arabic. Up there in the tangled gullies many a strange duel was fought that night. When not actually fighting, men dug for their lives. Then on would come the Turks again, shovels would be dropped, and the attack repelled. One desperate rush was stemmed by a gallant band headed by a corporal with nothing more effective than a pick-handle.
A Desperate Night.
As the evening wore on, the beach became one long lane of suffering soldiers. The doctors could only attend to the most severe cases. Many a man, when asked if he was badly hurt, said, bravely enough, “Oh, no!” and died quietly in the night.
[Photo by the Author
An early view of Anzac Cove.
The mule lines did not stay long unmolested. “Beachy Bill” ranged on them one day and caused awful havoc. They were then shifted up the deres for protection.
[Phot by the Author
Taken from Howitzer Gully, showing the road cut round the cliffside.