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Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919

Operations Prior to and Including the Second Attack on Hill 60 (Kaiajik Aghala)

Operations Prior to and Including the Second Attack on Hill 60 (Kaiajik Aghala).

On the 21st August, Colonel Meldrum took charge of the line of defences in the vicinity of Table Top, Brigadier-General Russell having been placed in command of a force which was to attack Hill 60 at 3.30 on that day. The absence of the W.M.R. and A.M.R. in this attack was due to the heavy casualties which they had previously sustained, but the C.M.R. and O.M.R. participated in the operations, in which they captured and consolidated about two hundred yards of enemy trenches. On this date the ill-fated attack on Scimiter Hill was made by the Suvla Bay Force. From the height of Table Top—from which the movements of the troops could be seen—the advance gave promise of success, a considerable force pressing forward most doggedly in extended order towards their objective, from which the enemy was shelling. The progress made before night-fall was very encouraging to the diminished number of troops which then occupied Anzac, but disappointment awaited them, for during the night the Suvla Force was driven back to their original line.

On the afternoon of 23rd August the Regiment was relieved from its posts by the Canterbury Battalion, and they rejoined the Brigade at Kabak Kuyu at 5.15 p.m., where they bivouacked, and at 7.30 p.m. five officers and 125 other ranks relieved the C.M.R. in trenches on the western slopes of Hill 60. The Gurkhas were on their left and the 13th Battalion A.I.F. on their right. Our men were alert, and during the night a party, under Lieutenant Maunsell, captured twenty yards of Turkish trench on the left.

On this date Captain Clifton, 2nd-Lieutenants Kettle and Caute, and seventy-seven other ranks reinforced the Regiment.

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The trenches occupied were narrow, but the work of improving them continued daily, the communication trench also being improved. During the day Major H. J. McLean, of the N.Z.M.C.—attached to the Regiment—was severely wounded by shell fire.

The loss of Major McLean was much regretted. He had proved himself a most capable, painstaking, and fearless medical officer.

On the 25th our troops in the trenches were relieved by the C.M.R. and O.M.R., and at that time preparations were made for a further attack on Hill 60, for which every fit officer and man in the Brigade was in readiness. It was intended to make a night surprise attack with bombs and bayonets only, but owing to insufficient support being available on the left, the operation was deferred till the 27th.

For some considerable time a great number of the men had been suffering from septic sores, their arms and legs being bandaged to enable them to "carry on." These men not only required a change from the strenuous work which they had been called upon to perform, but they required a change of diet as well.

At 2 a.m. on the 26th three officers and 100 other ranks relieved the same number of C.M.R. and O.M.R. in the trenches. In view of the attack to be made on the 27th, the troops were rested as much as possible.

On August 27th all preparations had been made by Brigadier General Russel for the attack, the troops available for which were as follows:—

  • For the right objectives: 300 Australian Infantry.
  • For the centre objectives: 300 men N.Z.M.R. and 100 men 18th Battalion, 5th Brigade, A.I.F.
  • For the left objective: 250 Connaught Rangers.

Major Whyte, of the W.M.R., was given command of the Centre Force, in which were included five officers and 100 other ranks of the Regiment.

The three forces were to co-operate; bombs and bayonets only were to be used during the attack, and red and pink flags were to be carried to mark the flanks of the foremost line in the advance from time to time for the guidance of the artillery; the advance to be preceded by an artillery bombardment for an hour, the gunners having promised to distribute 500 shells over an area of 500 yards in that time.

At 4 p.m. all the available guns commenced to shell the objectives, and half an hour later the Centre Force was in position in readiness to attack in three lines—the first comprising page 62160 men of the Auckland and Canterbury Mounted Rifles, the second line of the Wellington and Otago Mounted Rifles being in die trenches, the third line comprising the Australians in reserve.

The first line was ordered to capture the first enemy trench, the second line to follow on, jump over the first trench and capture the second.

Punctually at 5 p.m. the bombardment ceased and the attack commenced, the two lines of the Centre Force dashing "over the top" with great vigour, their combination and speed presenting a magnificent sight. Intense rifle and machine-gun fire was immediately encountered, for notwithstanding the effect of the bombardment the enemy trenches were found to be fully manned, and our men met with very strong opposition. The intervening ground was much exposed, the casualties in consequence being very heavy. The sight of comrades falling in all directions intensified the determination of the men, and they pressed forward in magnificent style. Nothing could stop them, and the front line entered the first Turkish trench a few minutes after the charge commenced. The Turk is a first-rate and skilful trench fighter, but is no match for the New Zealander at close quarters, and immediately our front-line men reached the first enemy trench they sprang into it and quickly proved their superiority with the bayonet amongst the hive of Turks, the second line continuing its advance whilst their comrades completed the destruction of the enemy in the first trench. The Connaughts had meanwhile captured part of the line on the left.

At this stage a very hot fire was encountered on the right flank, the troops there being held up by machine-gun fire, but a party of thirty men from the Centre Force overcame the obstruction, and the advance continued.

Meanwhile the Turkish gunners had ranged on the Centre Force, and their deadly shrapnel reinforced the fusillade of rifle and machine-gun fire, which continued to concentrate on the advancing line. The casualties of the latter steadily increased, but the enthusiasm of the survivors was undiminished, and they pressed forward most resolutely. The dauntless courage of these men in face of the enormous weight of the enemy and of death-dealing missiles was indeed inspiring. Their penetration of the enemy position was almost unbelievable, but all doubt as to their success was dispelled when the pink flags carried to show the progress made were seen fluttering on the flanks of the attackers from time to time in the midst of the enemy.

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The Positions at Hill 60 prior to, and after the attack.

The Positions at Hill 60 prior to, and after the attack.

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At this stage large bodies of enemy reinforcements were observed advancing towards Hill 60, in spite of continuous shell-fire from our guns and of Australian machine-gun fire. Orders were therefore sent by General Russell to the force on the right to press forward, and to the Centre Force to call up the reserve, whilst our Artillery shelled the crest of the Hill. Meanwhile, the Centre Force was working forward along the trenches, its casualties increasing en rôute. Turks were encountered in all directions, but the fury of the onslaught against them was irresistible. With increasing boldness and desperate determination, the New Zealanders bombed and bayoneted the more obstinate Turks and captured the second trench.

By this time the ranks of the Centre Force had been grievously reduced. The Turks were in great strength in the immediate vicinity, and some time later the Connaughts withdrew from the line they had taken on the left. With the Australian advance held up on the right, the New Zealanders were in a precarious position in a narrow salient, against which the Turks were pressing. It was therefore decided to discontinue the advance and to hold the second trench.

Arrangements were then made to strengthen the defences to repel counter-attacks, a captured machine gun being used with great effect, whilst our own machine guns were hurried to forward positions, a bomb duel continuing meanwhile. Staff-Captain King had been wounded, and was still remaining on duty, doing wonderfully good work, when Captain Blair, of the C.M.R., was sent forward to relieve him. At this time Captain R. Logan, of the W.M.R., and forty men of the Mounted Brigade were holding the forward trench, and Captain Blair took command of the trench which ran at right angles from it. These trenches were in the midst of the enemy position, and special praise is due to the defenders for the determination and tenacity which characterised the stout defence maintained in positions which were practically "in the air."

On account of the narrow trenches being almost filled with dead—principally Turks—great difficulty was experienced in evacuating the wounded other than those who could crawl, as stretchers were too cumbersome to use there. In order to relieve the congestion, dead bodies were thrown over the parapets and the wounded were extricated by passing them along the bottom of the trenches—as low as possible—till all sharp angles and obstacles were overcome and stretchers could be used. The dressing stations were kept very busy. Bombing and rifle fire page 64 continued, and at 10 p.m. Captain Logan's party was reinforced by fifty men of the 18th Australian Infantry Battalion.

The Turks were in great strength on our left flank, and it became necessary to erect six sandbag barricades to keep enemy bombers at safe distance, and these proved effective. In this locality our men and the enemy again occupied the same trenches, the two parties being separated by barricades previously referred to, the length of the intervening or unoccupied trench being ten yards.

At 10 p.m. Lieut.-Colonel Renell and 250 stalwart men of the 9th A.L.H. Regiment arrived to reinforce the New Zealanders. These splendid fellows were heartily welcomed. They were tried and trusted comrades from Walker's Ridge, and we knew they could and would fight. What an exhilarating effect is produced by such confidence, the feeling of which must be experienced to be fully appreciated.

As previously mentioned, the enemy was in considerable strength on the left of No. 2 Trench, and Colonel Renell's party was directed to join up with the New Zealanders there. A further reinforcement of fifty men of the 9th L.H. having arrived, they were directed on the same objective as their comrades, but by a different route, some distance to the right.

Colonel Renell advanced with his party, but the strength of the enemy on the line taken appears to have been very great, for the party was practically annihilated. In consequence of these losses, it was decided to hold the positions we had taken, and to await the arrivals of further reinforcements.

The work of consolidating this salient continued all night, notwithstanding repeated bomb attacks, and by morning the position was considerably strengthened.

The Turkish machine gun captured by the New Zealanders was then in position with one of ours at the top of the Hill, a third machine gun being in one of the captured trenches, further back.

The W.M.R. casualties were:—Officers killed: Captain H. P. Taylor and Lieutenant W. Risk. Officers wounded: Captain E. C. Clifton and A. Batchelar, Lieutenants A. S. Wilder, H. B. Maunsell, and F. V. Kettle. Other ranks killed, 48 (including 32 first reported wounded, since reported killed) and 54 wounded.

Captain Taylor—affectionately known as "Bruiser" by his brother officers—was most popular with all ranks. He fell in the charge, and, although mortally wounded, his voice was heard cheering his men forward.

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1. Firing a periscopic rifle from the trenches on Gallipoli. 2. W.M.R. trooper firing a periscopic rifle at Gallipoli. 3. Some valiant Main Body Officers of the 2nd Squadron bathing at Gallipoli. Left to right: Lieutenants James (killed), Risk (killed), Major Elmslie (killed). Captain Hardham, V.C., (wounded), and Lieutenant Janson.

1. Firing a periscopic rifle from the trenches on Gallipoli. 2. W.M.R. trooper firing a periscopic rifle at Gallipoli. 3. Some valiant Main Body Officers of the 2nd Squadron bathing at Gallipoli. Left to right: Lieutenants James (killed), Risk (killed), Major Elmslie (killed). Captain Hardham, V.C., (wounded), and Lieutenant Janson.

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Big Table Top, a Turkish stronghold, captured by the W.M.R. on the night of 6th August, 1915.

Big Table Top, a Turkish stronghold, captured by the W.M.R. on the night of 6th August, 1915.

W.M.R. "dug-outs" on "Wellington Terrace."

W.M.R. "dug-outs" on "Wellington Terrace."

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Lieutenant Risk, a promising officer, was first reported as wounded.

Very good work was performed by the following of the Regiment:—Captain Logan, Captain A. Batchelar (who, although wounded, remained at his post for some time), Sergeant B. Ronaldson and J. Wilder (the two latter being killed).

Captain "Gus" King (later killed in France) was in command of the A.M.R., which formed a part of the Centre Force, and his great services among the troops during the fight are worthy of special mention. He was wounded early in the attack, but, notwithstanding this disability, his cheery optimism, fearlessness, and bulldog tenacity did much to inspire the men during the most critical stages of the operation.

During the night of 27/28th, the remainder of the Regiment in bivouac moved into the trenches to support those already there. Meanwhile, the work of deepening the trenches and consolidating the position was continued under difficulties owing to the bursting of shrapnel and bombs from trench mortars. Counter-attacks were beaten off, our artillery assisting to accomplish this by concentrating their fire on the north-eastern slopes of Hill 60, and thus preventing the enemy from massing there. Our bombers also did very good work. The enemy guns on the left became most active, enfilading the position, causing numerous casualties and damaging the trenches, in which the Regiment remained all night. During this period Senior Sergeant-Major Pye-Smith, of the 2nd Squadron, was killed whilst on reconnaissance.

At noon on the 28th Colonel Meldrum relieved Major Whyte. The enemy artillery bombarded our positions with great fury, shells and bombs playing havoc with the trenches throughout the day. Machine-gun and rifle fire was also intense, but the work of strengthening the defences and clearing the trenches of dead bodies continued, whilst a stout defence was maintained with bombs, machine-gun and rifle fire. Preparations were also made for the capture of the line running at a right angle from the junction of "B" and "C" on the left of the Centre Force, for which purpose 180 men of the 10th A.L.H. had arrived, they surveying the position later in the day.

About Chaplain-Major J. Grant, of the Regiment. was killed when attempting to attend a wounded man who had fallen beyond a barricade which our troops had erected against the Turkish position. The ground in the vicinity was covered with dead bodies, and Major Grant, who was accompanied by page 66another clergyman, remarked, "We are now most assuredly in the Valley of the Shadow of Death," and immediately afterwards he was killed. In his sermons, Major Grant had frequently exhorted his congregation to "play the game," and it is safe to say that no better example could be shown of what he intended to convey than when he "played the game" so heroically himself by sacrificing his life in attempting to save others.

The attack of the 10th Lighthorsemen was timed to take place at 11 p.m. in two parties of ninety men each. One party from the first captured trench and the other from the second trench, both of which were still held by the New Zealanders. The Australians' objective ran at right angles to and on the left of the New Zealand trenches, the intention of the attack being to dislodge the enemy there, to link up the trenches already captured, and to extend the line to the right and left.

Fifteen minutes before the appointed time the Australians were in position at the heads of the "jumping-off" trenches, and punctually at 11 p.m. the New Zealanders assisted them over the parapets. They rushed the surprised enemy with bayonets and bombs, no firing being allowed. The Turks were routed, and by midnight the Australians had linked up the position. The latter was then consolidated and firmly established, and although the Turks continued to bomb and shell, our men outbombed them, the trenches taken during the two previous days, as shown on the sketch, being held till the evacuation. We had captured a part of the top of Hill 60, but we never gained the whole of the crest.

In referring in his despatches to the tenacity of the New Zealand Mounted troops, General Sir Ian Hamilton stated:—"Luckily, the N.Z. Mounted Rifles refused to recognise that they were worsted. Nothing would shift them. All that night and all next day, through bombing, bayonet charges, musketry, shrapnel, and heavy shell, they hung on to their 150 yards of trench."

Throughout the operations, in spite of enemy attacks with artillery, bombs, and rifle fire, Lieutenant McGregor, of the A.M.R., held a machine-gun position which he had taken up on the right flank of one of the captured trenches. There McGregor displayed great coolness, determination, and judgment.

The success of the Australians' attack on the night of the 28th had been most gratifying to the mounted New Zealanders, with whom the Lighthorsemen had always been united by the strongest ties of friendship, which had been welded on the heights page 67of Walker's Ridge. The New Zealanders appreciated the good, soldierly qualities of the Australians and their self-sacrificing spirit under the most trying circumstances. Apropos of this, a story is told of a Lighthorseman whose right arm had been blown off at Hill 60 during a bombing attack. On emerging from the trenches en rôute to the dressing station, the Australian refused all offers of assistance on the grounds mat others required it more than he. When the dressing station was reached the doctor in charge tenderly referred to the loss of the arm, to which the Lighthorseman replied: "It's not me arm I'm concerned about; it's me sleeve. I spent two hours patching the b——thing last night!"

In addition to Major Chaplain Grant, killed, eleven other ranks of the W.M.R. were wounded during the day.

At four o'clock next morning Major Whyte replaced Colonel Meldrum in charge of the Centre Force.

The loss of the popular padrè was keenly felt by all with whom he had been associated. During his period of service with the regiment his constant care for the welfare of the troops and his denunciation of all things unclean strengthened the link of comradeship which his noble character had formed with all ranks early in the campaign. During the heavy fighting which occurred at old No. 3 post and at Chunuk Bair Major Grant had, at great risk, succoured the dying and wounded with wine and water. His activities, however, had not been confined to the ordinary routine of a chaplain. He loved to assist in any capacity where help was most needed, and it is gratefully spoken of him by the men concerned that when a large percentage of them were seasick on the Main Body transport Orari Major Grant voluntarily worked amongst the horses when stable parades were held.

On the night of the 29th the New Zealanders, who had been constantly engaged in bombing, repelling counter-attacks, and, clearing the trenches of dead since the capture of the position, were relieved, the trenches being taken over by 1000 men of the 163rd Infantry Brigade. The Regiment remained in close proximity to Hill 60 during the next three days part of it being in reserve, its numbers dwindling daily, and by 2nd September there were only six officers and ninety-nine other ranks left—about a fifth of its full strength. Of these, five officers and thirty-nine other ranks were sent to occupy a position on Cheshire Ridge, just below the "Apex," overlooking the "Farm," whilst Major Whyte and sixty other ranks remained page 68to strengthen the Infantry at Hill 60, rejoining their comrades at the Apex some days later.

During the Hill 60 operations the New Zealand hospital ship Maheno lay off the Coast of Anzac, and many of our wounded men were lucky enough to be evacuated from the grime and stench of the blood-stained trenches direct to the tender care of New Zealand doctors and nurses, whose cheery "Kia Ora" acted as a tonic on the war-worn and stricken men and did more to heal their ghastly wounds than the best medical skill.