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

The Second Attack on Chunuk Bair. August 8th, 1915

The Second Attack on Chunuk Bair. August 8th, 1915.

4.50 a.m. The second attack of the New Zealanders on Chunuk Bair on the 8th, headed by Lt.-Col. W. G. Malone, commanding the Wellington Regiment reached the south western slopes of the crest without heavy casualties, the distance they covered was about a quarter of a mile from their assembly point at the Apex. In the centre Cox's Indian battalions were pushing up to Hill "Q" to the N.E. of the farm at the head of the Aghyl Dere. The 4th Australian Brigade, under Monash, had heavy going in desperately confused country, and in attempting to reach Abd el Rhamen Bair, was almost surrounded by a large body of Turks advancing against their left flank. They had posted a stout rear guard, however, and under cover of this detachment, the brigade extricated itself, regaining its point of departure with 1000 casualties.

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5 a.m. Prior to this hour the A.D.M.S. proceeded up to the dressing station of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance in the Aghyl Dere where he found that the 3rd Light Horse Ambulance had moved into "Australia" Gully, a north running branch of the Aghyl Dere, and had formed an advanced dressing station, and were evacuating wounded from Monash's Brigade to the dressing station of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance at the junction of the Aghyl Dere and Australia Gully. At 7.30, while Col. Manders was still away, the Acting D.A.D.M.S., Major M. Holmes, had the following message from the New Zealand Infantry Brigade Headquarters established just below the apex. "Evacuation of wounded still very difficult. There are no bearer subdivisions. Wounded have to be carried by regimental stretcher bearers to the dressing station over a mile and a half distant [means down to No. 3 outpost]. Prompt despatch of bearer subdivisions to connect with regimental aid post is most pressing necessity." Major Holmes instructs the O.C. New Zealand Mounted Field Ambulance to send four stretcher squads of four men with an officer to assist the New Zealand Brigade. Major Newton had by this time moved his dressing station to "Chalk Hills" a bluff at the western extremity of Beauchop's Hill immediately north of the opening of the Chailak Dere; he promptly complied with the order given. Further the D.A.D.M.S. notified the A.D.M.S. of the 13th Division that the New Zealand Infantry Brigade was urgently in need of stretcher bearers and asked that 20 bearers might be despatched to the A.D.S. at Major Helsham's post.

Very few casualties had passed through the M.D.S. at Walker's Ridge during the night; by 9 a.m. on the 8th some 50 cases were awaiting evacuation; a few bearers from the 41st Field Ambulance —13th Division—were assisting. "C" section was still in Sazli Beit Dere about half a mile from the mouth, "B" section still complete at Monash's Gully A.D.S.

Very heavy fighting was going on all along our front, the Wellingtons and the 8th Worcesters, with other troops assisting, were digging in as best they might to secure a precarious footing on Chunuk Bair crest under a wicked fire from all quarters; all forward movement had ceased—Malone of Quinn's the hefty leader, was dead, and with him most of the Worcester officers besides many others, the wounded lying thick about the the Apex and in No Man's Land between it and the forward trench line. A further message from Major Helsham gives a clear impression of the medical situation. "9.30 a.m. There are at present no relays of bearers to take over wounded from this station at the head of the page 90Chailak Dere. My men have been working continuously for two days and late into the night. The station is overflowing and fresh cases are coming in all the time. We cannot possibly carry the wounded all the way. Please arrange for more bearers to bring two stretchers per squad to keep things going. The O.C. of the 41st Field Ambulance cannot assist us any longer." No doubt he was fully occupied with the wounded of his own Division, 8th Worcesters and the Welsh Pioneers. In answer to this message 50 bearers were despatched at once by the D.A.D.M.S.

The 40th Field Ambulance of the 13th Division which had relieved Major O'Neil at No. 3 outpost at dark on the previous evening, collected, fed, and dressed some 350 cases during the first twelve hours they were evacuating to the pier. There was now an increasing congestion of wounded about No. 3 and No. 2 outposts. Affairs were not going well at the Red Cross Pier; there was serious congestion at the mouth of the Dere, the enemy fire was holding up evacuation. The N.T.O., Mr. Greenshields was killed before noon. Capt. Finn, N.Z.M.C, remained on and took his place.

Col. Manders was nearly the whole forenoon in the Aghyl Dere sector where exceedingly heavy casualties were occurring and where no less than five ambulances were working. There were the 3rd Australian Light Horse Field Ambulance, the 4th Australian Field Ambulance, the Indian Field Ambulance, the 39th Field Ambulance of the 13th Division and part of the 41st Field Ambulance. The D.A.D.M.S. of the 13th Division was at Waldren's point, where the 39th Field Ambulance had their M.D.S. More serious losses were being met with in this area than in the Chailak Dere, at least three brigades and part of a fourth were heavily engaged. The ambulance bearers were suffering considerable casualties; the Dere at its upper end completely open to fire and observation. Major Holmes now though it wise to bring the New Zealand Field Ambulance into action in the Chailak Dere—where as yet only the 1st Australian Light Horse, part of the New Zealand Mounted, and a party of 41st Field Ambulances were working. Lt.-Col. Begg reported at 10.45 a.m. that he could spare about 12 men with six stretchers, that "C" section are not very busy having dealt with only 58 cases since they opened on the night of the 6/7th, and that he thinks "B" section could be used also, as affairs, are not pressing at Monash's Gully.

The Medical position at noon was this:—A.D.M.S., Col. Manders, had now about 600 casualties mostly stretcher cases for evacuation. No. 3 pier was working fitfully under great difficulties; the mouth of the Chailak Dere, No. 3 and 2 outposts, were choked with stretcher page 91cases. Anzac wired to say they were full up and to send down no more stretchers at present; the C.C.S. promised had not arrived. At No. 2 outpost 300 wounded were being tended, to some extent, by the 40th Field Ambulance bearers less two officers and 30 men despatched to the Aghyl Dere during the forenoon. The C.C.S. is urgently wanted. Col. Manders wires the D.M.S. to that effect. To those who knew the western front with its clockwork methods of evacuation all this may appear very confused, very inept, but having in mind the limited means available for the evacuation from the beaches and the usual difficulties of amphibious warfare, and the fact that a landing at Suvla was in progress and the absence of any form of wheeled transport and the very limited communications—through one narrow sap—it would appear that the block was inevitable.

By midday the battle is easing down. On Chunuk Bair the remnants of the assaulting column, who by now have lost nearly every officer, are still hanging on. At Lone Pine on our right fierce fighting is still in progress since the afternooon of the 6th. The Turks seem to be shaping up for a counter attack at the head of Monash's Gully, the loss of which would have disastrous results. The A.D.M.S. cannot afford to take any bearers from the A.D.S. at Pope's Hill, Murray and his section are ordered to stand fast; the main thing is to get the C.C.S. ashore. But by 5 p.m. affairs appear to be very bad both in the Aghyl and Chailak Dere. Lt.-Col. Beeston, A.M.C. has succeeded in pushing "C" section of the 4th Australian Field Ambulance further up the Aghyl Dere; the A.D.M.S. of the 13th Division has sent up some more bearers to the assistance of the 4th Australian Brigade whose losses are pitiable. Major Helsham is again asking for assistance—a few bearers from the 40th Field Ambulance proceed to the dressing station of the 41st; the A.D.M.S. now determines to utilise "C" section of the New Zealand Field Ambulance, he accordingly sends orders to Major O'Neil:—"Proceed with your section to the head of the gully, get into touch with General Johnson [commanding New Zealand Brigade], and advise in the morning how many stretchers you require to evacuate to the beach." "A" section bearers had fortunately just cleared O'Neil's A.D.S., he did what he was ordered to do and proceeded to the head of the gully he was in, namely the Sazli Beit Dere. The intention of the A.D.M.S. was not clearly shown in his order. Nor is there any means, now, for determining what his intentions were. But it would seem that the better disposition of the party would have been in the Chailak Dere.

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We will now follow the adventures of Capt. Baigent, on the 8th. "I shifted my R.A.P. up to the Apex, my battalion was in reserve. Padre Luxford was with me"; [we remember him at Helles], "we took cover in the scrub which was very tall. It afforded concelment from "W" hills. During the day I had many wounded through, and Padre Luxford was wounded." He lost his leg by this wound; and later at No. 2 N.Z.G.H. was chaplain, held in much awe by those who had not been to Gallipoli. He died in New Zealand after a long and very painful illness, much honoured, his memory ever green to those who saw his tireless devotion to the wounded at Anzac and Helles. Capt. Baigent continues: "The wounded were carried down by the regimental stretcher bearers as far as the A.D.S. of the 1st Australian Light Horse Ambulance, at the old Turkish bivouac, where I had my first R.A.P. Home, Pearless and Craig were up at the Apex too. No rations, no water had reached the battalion when they moved up at dark to dig in."

The military situation of the New Zealanders on the evening of the 8th is, in tabloid form:—The New Zealand Brigade with the Auckland Mounted Rifles, and the Maori Contingent, are holding Rhododendron Spur and the reverse slopes of the south western end of Chunuk Bair. There is great difficulty in supplying the firing line, 400 yards ahead of the Apex, with guns, ammunition, water and communications. Adequate consolidation of this line is impossible, the trenches in some places are only a few inches deep. The main avenue of approach, a very narrow track through the Chailak Dere, is under direct observation of the enemy, and impossible for large bodies by daylight and by nightfall congested by stretcher parties, mule transport of the Indian S. & T. carrying water in fantassahs, ammunition boxes, and supplies; wounded side tracked everywhere, making progression impossible at times. Heavy cross fire by artillery and rifle fire on the upper slopes still further delay the arrival of water, ammunition, tools and reinforcements. On our left Cox's Brigade, the 4th Australian and the 39th Infantry Brigade of the 13th Division are as badly off. The Aghyl Dere is so open as to be unsafe to move in by daylight. They are holding on there with heavy losses. The force at Suvla which was ordered to seize Ismail Oglu Tepe—the "W" hills from which our advance on the heights is enfiladed by the Turkish artillery—has not been able to be of any assistance and have not as yet joined hands with Monash. Fresh plans for a final assault are drafted. A new brigade—Baldwin's—of five battalions, all of the 13th Division, drawn from the corps reserve is to pass through our firing line at Chunuk Bair. Cox is to assault "Hill Q," joining hands with page 93Baldwin's columns who have the same objective midway between Koja Chemen Tepe and Chunuk Bair. The attack is timed for 5.15 a.m. on the 9th.

By 8 p.m. Baldwin's battalions were entering the mouth of the Clailak Dere. The A.D.M.S. was instructed that the Dere must be kept free of stretcher parties during this phase in order to give Baldwin's column a clear passage to the Apex. General Godley in his report on the August fighting says "with this object" [giving Baldwin. a clear passage] "arrangements were made for the narrow track to be kept clear of all obstruction such as wounded coming down, rations going up, etc" With the tramp and dust of Baldwin's men assailing his jaded senses, Colonel Manders sits at his dug-out door powerless to help. His last reserves of stretcher bearers are in, his hands all tied by the necessities of the military needs. About him is a dust-grey welter of wounded, half naked, hungry, thirsty and forlorn, the tiny handful of the 40th Field Ambulance quite inadequate to help even a moiety of these sufferers of all races—water even is scarce. Blankets, there were practically none; most of the Anzacs, lying out on stretchers without shelter had fought all day in their shirts; the night was chilly; many had been lying there for over 24 hours. With a sad heart the A.D.M.S. turned to his own diary written for his family alone. "The lines of communication have been broken down," he writes, and a little further on, "completed 31 years of service—only one more"!

Now hear the story of the missing C.C.S.: it arrived off Anzac at 2 a.m. on the 7th August on the Ikalis, which also had the 16th C.C.S. aboard. They waited and signalled, but no lighters came off—they went to Suvla—there were no orders for them there. Lieut.-Col. McNaught, R.A.M.C, O.C. 13th C.C.S. was permitted to wire his whereabouts to the A.D.M.S. of the 13th Division, and on the 8th had orders to disembark on "A" beach at Suvla, where from is not clear. Both commanding officers duly disembarked at Suvla to be told by the beach master that they were both wanted at Anzac. On arrival at Anzac, Colonel Keeble, A.M.S., now acting as D.D.M.S. ashore, ordered Lieut.-Col. McNaught to proceed to No. 2 post. On arrival he found the 40th Field Ambulance bearer parties there, and noticed a small and flimsy pier with a red cross flag flying, being shelled; he also noticed one of our batteries just in front of it. He did not see Colonel Manders. His equipment was over a mile away at Anzac, no transport could be got that night; the beach road could not be used by daylight—that night it was choked with Baldwin's page 94mulecarts—but transport was promised for the following night. Accordingly he brought up 3 officers with 20 men and what equipment they could carry to assist the ambulance bearers that very night.

Out in No Man's Land between the fire trench and the Apex, the R.M.O.'s and their stretcher bearers spent most of the night clearing the slopes of the wounded of four brigades.