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The New Zealand Medical Service in the Great War 1914-1918

[introduction]

page 75

Following the initial success at the landing, the Anzac corps—numerically too weak in men or artillery to continue the advance on the main ridge dominating the Narrows—had been tied down to a passive defence. The area of territory so far gained was not sufficient in extent to afford full protection to the landing places nor the beaches further north, lightly held by our outposts. The security of the piers and store dumps was menaced daily by observed bombardments at moderate range. The troops were much weakened by disease, and the high sickness wastage rate of the Anzac corps threatened an attenuation which would soon rob it of all efficiency as a fighting force.

At Helles, the same deadlock existed. No further ground could be gained on the slopes of Achi Baba now gashed with tiers of trenches and bristling with barbed wire. The Commander-in-Chief, Sir Ian Hamilton, early in June, foresaw the deadlock and obtained reinforcements to the extent of two army corps to complete his task of assisting the Fleet to conquer the Narrows. There were various possible methods of continuing the offensive, but the plan adopted was to reinforce Anzac with sufficient troops to carry their original objectives, Koja Chemen Tepe, Sari Bair, the dominating points of the range, and the spurs leading seawards, with a simultaneous landing at Suvla Bay, so that a rapid advance on the left of the Anzacs might join hands with them for a final advance to Maidos from a good base and sure harbour at Suvla. The new forces were concentrated in various islands, Imbros, Lemnos and Mytelene; the early part of August was selected because the moon rose late, ensuring long hours of darkness. The water supply for so large a body of troops and transport animals was a special source of anxiety. It was believed that there was an ample supply in the Anafarta Valley. Anzac however, must be provided for: a reservoir was dug on the hillside to be filled by a pump landed for the purpose. The pump, a very large and mysterious affair, lay on the beach for some time attracting the attention of the artillery observing officer at Kaba Tepe who, coming to the conclusion that it must be a monstrous page 76howitzer, shelled it industriously, until it was eventually dragged into position and harnessed to its work.

As Anzac was to deliver the knock out blow, Anzac was to he reinforced by a division. Much heavy work was doing in preparation, well hidden "possies" for the new troops, new roads to be made, stores and munitions to be landed; hence the excessive and exhausting fatigues of the latter end of July, which are referred to in the sanitary diaries. At the beginning of August everything was in readiness and when the news spread from Shell Green to Wellington Terrace, the tired and sickly garrison were heartened and all aglow to undertake this new and promising adventure. General Birdwood was to have 37,000 rifles and 72 guns, the landing party at Suvla would comprise two divisions, and the old war dogs at Helles were to bark up at the Turks on Achi Baba, pinning them to their ground. Stealthily, by night, the new troops came in and were packed away in crowded Anzac, till the hive was full and the time for swarming had come.

The local tactical scheme was as follows:—A very determined sortie was to be launched from the extreme right of our line by the 1st Australian Division, destined to seize the Turkish "Lone Pine" positions, and, in order to attract the enemy reserves to that side, the Fleet were to simulate an attempted landing at Kaba Tepe; whilst on our left, strong assaulting columns breaking out beyond our outposts to the north were to climb in the night through the steep gorges that led upwards to the crest line of Sari Bair. On the morning after, two divisions from Suvla would be joining hands on our left and would assist in the final rolling up of the Turkish right flank. Such was the general idea; we must examine it somewhat more in detail, at least as far as the central attack is concerned, an attack in which the New Zealanders were to play an important part.

The New Zealand and Australian Division were to lead in the movement that was to seize the heights of Sari Bair. To this end the 13th Division under Major General F. C. Shaw, C.B., and Cox's 29th Indian Brigade of Gurkhas and Sikhs, were placed under General Godley's command with additional artillery. The battle orders issued from Anzac Cove by General Birdwood, dated 3rd August, 1915, read, in part, as follows:—

"The New Zealand and Australian Division, the 13th Division, less three battalions, less artillery, the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, and 1 mounted artillery brigade, less 1 section, will occupy the line, Chunuk Bair—Hill 350, during the night 6/7th August; operations to commence at 9 p.m."

page 77

The main ridge which shielded the Narrows from our observation ran inland almost due N.E. from near Kaba Tepe to Hill "Q", its highest point, some 2,500 yards inland from the mouth of the Chailak Dere at No. 3 outpost, and rose gradually from the sea on our right to 971 feet at its highest point on our extreme left. The ridge was the watershed of the Peninsula; on the western side Anzac and Suvla, on the eastern, Maidos, the Narrows and the only military road from Bulair to Maidos and Helles. The distance from Hill 971 to the nearest point of the Narrows was about 3½ miles. From the main height six spurs were projected towards us; the longest spur, a continuation of Sari Bair itself, terminated in Tasmania Post, the extreme right of the Australian. Division facing Kaba Tepe. On the crest of this main spur a military track ran all the way up through Lone Pine, Johnson's Jolly, Quinn's Post, Baby 700, Battleship Ridge, Sari Bair, Hill Q, to Koja Chemen Tepe, dropping down at the northern extremity of the massif into the village of Biyuk Anafarta. The second spur ran seaward through Russell's Top, Walker's Ridge, and McLagan's Ridge to Plugge's Plateau; between the main spur and the second lay Shrapnel Valley with its offset, Monash's Gully; the third spur, terminating at No. 2 and No. 3 outposts, ran out to sea in a westerly direction, bounded by the Sazli Beit Dere to the South, and the Chailak Dere to the north. About two miles north along the beach from Anzac, the mouth of the Aghyl Dere (Farm Gully) opened out into flat land and was separated from the Kaiajik Dere, the next stream, by the spur Damakjelik Bair, the foot hills at this point trending almost due west delimiting the northern extremity of Sari Bair. The last spur was the Abd el Rhaman Bair running almost due north from 971 with the Asmak Dere, said to be a running stream on its seaward side. Like the spokes of a giant wheel these six spurs were projected seaward from 971. We were to attack the hub by advancing between and upon the spokes. Maps give only a poor impression of the extreme roughness and broken nature of the country where a difference of a few feet frequently meant untenable exposed slopes or dead ground completely protected from any kind of fire.

In considering the medical arrangements for this operation two important points emerge:—The line of evacuations of wounded must be along the rim of the wheel—across our front—and by hand carriage over at least 2½ miles, as there was no ambulance transport and no road practicable by daylight: sea transport might be possible if fresh piers could be erected, say, at the mouth of the Chailak Dere, the centre of the new attack. As there was no rapid means of crossing the spurs from dere to dere, small dressing page 78stations would have to be established by the ambulances, in the gullies so as to be in touch with the troops on the crest of Sari Bair. Inter-communication between dere would be very difficult unless we held the whole ridge top, as the Turks occupying the hub had a clear view down all the gullies. Some sort of central depot, a C.C.S., would be required to hold and tend the wounded pending evacuation. Col. Manders would have at his disposal:—Two Australian Light Horse Field Ambulances—1st and 3rd; two New Zealand Ambulances—part of the N.Z.M.B.F.A., had already arrived —and one Australian, the 4th Field Ambulance. The 13th Division brought part of two field ambulances, bearer personnel only, and Cox's brigade was attended by an Indian Field Ambulance. The corps medical arrangements provided for two C.C.S.'s: the 13th, and the 16th to be established, one at Mule Gully—near Lt.-Col. Begg's M.D.S.—the other at No. 2 outpost. In the divisional orders it was provided that stretcher parties were to follow all columns and attend to the wounded. Bearers were not to block or interfere with the movement of troops; they were not to make use of any communication trench or sap until all movements of fighting troops through the communications had ceased. The bearer subdivisions of the Indian Field Ambulance were to be at the disposal of the officer commanding the Indian brigade.

On August 3rd, the New Zealand Brigade concentrated in Happy Valley just north of Mule Gully where the New Zealand Field Ambulance had its main dressing station. The strength of the New Zealand Field Ambulanee was at this time 11 officers and 146 O.R. The A.D.S. was still up in Monash's Gully at the foot of Pope's Hill under command of Major Murray. At Mule Gully Lt.-Col. Begg had, besides his main dressing station, an "Enteritis Hospital" in charge of Major Hand Newton, who commanded the New Zealand Mounted Field Ambulance bearer parties which arrived at Anzac on July 24th, and a dental section under Capt. Don, N.Z.M.C., now fitted with appliances for the repair and making of artificial dentures and doing a great deal of work. The mouth of the big sap leading out to the outposts was not very many yards away, and some tanks for local supply of water had been recently installed. The position was not under observation and was well protected down as far as the beach by the high cliffs of Walker's Ridge. The 4th and 5th were quiet days except for heavy shelling of Anzac Beach. 1000 New Zealand reinforcements—"the Fighting Fifth"—arrived with part of the 13th Division, Cox's Gurkha Brigade, and three British field ambulances, the 39th, 40th and 41st, less their tent subdivisions.

page 79

By August 6th the final preparations for the advance that night were complete. At 2 p.m. Col. Manders held a conference of field ambulance commanders at the New Zealand M.D.S. at Walker's Ridge for the purpose of distributing the new 1/20,000 maps and explaining more fully his orders, of which the following is an exact copy:—

[Secret.]

Medical Corps Orders by Colonel N. Manders, A.M.S., Commanding Medical Corps, New Zealand and Australian Division.

Information.—The G.O.C. Army Corps intends a series of operations on August 6th; his objective is the line Gaba Tepe, Chunuk Bair and thence along the Chunuk Bair Ridge to, and including Koja Chemen Tepe.

The G.O.C, New Zealand and Australian Division undertakes operations on the 6th-7th August as follows:—(1) With covering forces to attack and hold the line Destroyer Hill-Beauchop's Hill.

The force for this movement comprises:—The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment and Maori Contingent.

The New Zealand Mounted Field Ambulance is allotted to these troops. The Bearer Division will move forward to collect wounded as soon as possible after daybreak 7th August.

The O.C. Bearer Division will send word to his O.C. when he has found a convenient site for the Field Ambulance and a practicable route for its advance. This site will probably be in the Chailak Dere where Brigadier-General Russel collects his men after the attack.

The O.C. Bearer Division should send two messengers at quarter hour intervals to inform his O.C. of above.

The line of evacuation in all cases will be to the nearest Casualty Collecting Station on the beach.

The O.C. Mounted Field Ambulance will inform A.D.M.S. of the hour he moves off, and the number of stretchers he is taking with him.

Right Assaulting Column.—The New Zealand Infantry Brigade, one mountain battery, one company of New Zealand Engineers, under Brig.-Gen. Johnson will move up the gullies Sazli Beit Dere and Chailak Dere; their first objective is the line Point 161 (80) (K.6) Chunuk Bair head of Kur Dere (81. A. 4); their further objective is the Baby 700. There will be a halt after the first objective has been obtained.

The medical units allotted for this Force are:—C Section New Zealand Field Ambulance and 1st Australian Light Horse Field page 80Ambulance. C section will take the area Sazli Beit Dere and 1st A.L.H. Ambulance the Chailak Dere.

The Bearer Sub-Division New Zealand Field Ambulance and Bearer Division 1st Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance will follow the above Force at daybreak August 7th.

The O.C.'s of these units will send back messengers similarly as directed for the New Zealand Mounted Field Ambulance (above) to inform their C.O. of the advance of the Tent Sections; they must bear in mind that the nearer they get to their final destination, i.e., the heads of their gullies, the better.

O.'sC. will inform the A.D.M.S. of the hour he moves off and the number of stretchers he takes with him.

Left Assaulting Column.—The 29th (Indian) Brigade, 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, one mountain battery, one company New Zealand Engineers under Brig.-Gen. Cox, will attack Koja Chemen Tepe and will move via Walden Point and the Aghyl Dere. The Medical Units allotted are the 3rd Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance and C Section 4th Australian Field Ambulance.

In the event of the G.O.C. attacking by both branches of the Aghyl Dere, the 3rd A.L.H. Field Ambulance will take the right branch.

The instructions regarding the time of departure and request for Tent Sections is the same as for the Right Assaulting Column.

"A" Section of New Zealand Field Ambulance and 4th Australian Field Ambulance are held in reserve; they must be prepared to move at short notice with only such equipment as can be carried on stretchers. The former will reinforce the left assaulting column and the latter the right assaulting column. They will be asked for by the Senior medical officer of the left or right assaulting column by message to A.D.M.S. who will be with G.O.C. at Divisional Report Centre.

The A.D.M.S. wishes if possible, that the two Light Horse Field Ambulances will be able to leave their wounded in charge of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance and New Zealand Field Ambulance, and push on to collect wounded at the final assault; in any case it is imperative for them to keep some portion, however small, for this purpose. The main thing to be kept in mind is that there shall be some portion of a field ambulance able to advance with the troops.

In case of a shortage of stretcher bearers, messages for reinforcements will be sent in good time to A.D.M.S. and it should be made clear where exactly they are wanted.

page 81

The areas to be cleared are roughly as follows:—

New Zealand Mounted Field Ambulance: Big Table Top (80 C.9); Old No. 3 Post (80. B.9); Beauchop's Hill (92x7 and 8) and all adjoining slopes.

Right Assaulting Column.—C. Section, New Zealand Field Ambulance: Both sides of Sazli Beit Dere to Chunuk Bair and Kur Dere and finally Baby.

1st Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance: Both sides of Chailak Dere to Chunuk Bair and Kur Dere and finally Baby.

Left Assaulting Column.—C. Section, 4th Australian Field Ambulance: Both sides, left branch Aghyl Dere, Koja Chemen Tepe.

3rd Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance: Both sides, right branch Aghyl, Dere, Koja Chemen Tepe.

In case of urgency the A.D.M.S. allows O.C. units to exercise their discretion in calling up to their assistance the A. sections of 4th Australian Field Ambulance and New Zealand Field Ambulance, held in reserve, informing the A.D.M.S. of their action, but they are to bear in mind that the heaviest losses will probably be at the final assault Koja Chemen Tepe (971) and joining hands with the Light Horse Brigade on Russell's Top.

The Australian Light Horse Brigade will hold our present position on Pope's Hill, Walker's Ridge, and will subsequently join in the assault to turn the enemy out of the Chess Board; their line of evacuation will be either by Walker's Ridge, where there will be a dressing station of the 13th Division told off for their use at the bottom of the gully, or Nash Valley where B. Section New Zealand Field Ambulance and 4th Australian Field Ambulance are already posted; the latter section must, however, be ready to move at short notice as it may be required for duty elsewhere.

Sections of field ambulances acting independently will keep A. and D. books, and the tallies marked Mudros for light cases or Base for serious injuries; M. and B. will suffice in urgency.

The A.D.M.S. feels sure that every wounded man will leave the beach properly dressed, labelled, and given suitable nourishment. Water must be most carefully used; for this reason only the most urgent operations should be undertaken. It is expected that all troops will be entirely dependent on their water bottles for at least eighteen hours.

(Sgd.) N. Manders, Col. A.M.S. Commanding Medical Corps, N.Z. & A. Div.

So far the plans of the new landing and the exact nature of our outbreak had been kept secret by Sir Ian Hamilton's orders, page 82so that it was necessary for the A.D.M.S. to explain the situation and to point out the geography of the locality on the new maps, copied from Turkish maps taken from prisoners, as they differed materiallly from the original 1/40,000 map used at the landing, which was inaccurate and misleading. Several matters of importance were discussed: the A.D.M.S. hoped that the first field dressing would be so applied that it would not be necessary to remove it for 12 hours, but he hoped that in the coming movement there would be time to attend to each wounded man without the hurry that existed at the landing. He concluded the conference by expressing his entire confidence in all the medical officers under his command and wished them the best of luck in the forthcoming operation. At the termination of the conference, Lieut.-Col. Begg wrote his orders: He allotted to the right assaulting column—New Zealand Brigade—"A" and "C" section bearers of the New Zealand Field Ambulance. "C" section was to take the Sazli Beit Dere, the bearers under Captain A. V. Short were to follow the assaulting column. The O.C.'s bearer sections were to send back messengers every quarter of an hour to the M.D.S.; "A" section, less bearers, was to remain in reserve at the M.D.S. until receipt of information as to a suitable site for the advanced dressing station, "C" section tent subdivisions would be moved up with portable equipment carried on stretchers, the O.C. A.D.S. to report four hourly after opening. Distinguishing patches and brassards were to be worn. A large white patch was issued to all troops for this operation to be worn on the back near the right shoulder, so as to render it easier for our artillery to recognise their own men in advanced position.