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Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

Back to Anzac

Back to Anzac.

During the absence of the Battalion at Cape Helles several events of interest had occurred at Anzac. The Newpage 39 Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade under Brigadier-General Russell, and the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade had arrived from Egypt. On May 13th Brigadier-General Russell assumed command of the No. 4 section of defences, and the N.Z.M.R. Brigade took over and occupied Walker's Ridge. On May 18th enemy mounted troops and guns were observed moving north and east of Krithia in a westerly direction towards the coast, and a warning was issued that this might mean that a hostile attack was contemplated against the Anzac line. At 4 a.m. on May 19th hostile gun fire broke out, and a report was received that the Turks were massing against the left of the 1st Australian Division. The attack quickly developed, and before long practically the whole line had become seriously involved. A succession of assaults, delivered with great weight and persistence, were beaten off with heavy loss to the enemy. In some instances the attacking waves had been simply mown down by accurate machine gun fire. By the afternoon this apparently great effort on the part of the Turks had expended itself, and the Anzac line had held firm. On the following morning Otago Battalion, along with other units of the New Zealand Brigade, on being hurriedly recalled from Helles, had returned to Anzac.

About 6 o'clock on the evening of the 20th it was reported that Turks in large numbers were moving along the sunken road in the valley east of Johnstone's Jolly. At the same time white flags appeared at many points in the enemy lines. This was at first suspected as a ruse and preparations were made accordingly; but by means of white flags and the Red Crescent the Turks secured a cessation of fire. Their firing he stood up in the trenches, and in some instances came forward with the flag parties as they advanced. Meantime an interrogator had gone out to meet the enemy, and the answer received was that they wished to bury their dead and remove their wounded. They were peremptorily informed that a flag of truce should he sent on the following morning along the beach from Gaba Tepe.

The enemy party appeared on the following morning as agreed upon, and was met by a patrol and conducted through the lines to Army Corps Headquarters. The outcome of these pourparlers was the arrangement of an armistice or cessation of hostilities between the hours of 7.30 a.m. andpage 40 4.30 p.m. on May 24th for the purpose of burying the dead and removing the wounded between the opposing trenches. At the appointed time firing ceased all along the line, and the delimitation parties from either side, having met on the beach at a point two kilometres north of Gaba Tepe, proceeded to move down the centre of No Man's Land and mark out with improvised white flags the line of demarcation. This completed, the burial of dead, the removal of wounded, and the clearing of the area of the wreckage of battle was commenced by the fatigue parties from either side. The task was a heavy one, for the Turkish dead in some places lay almost in heaps it was estimated that 3,000 Turkish dead were scattered over the area—and it was soon found that it would be impossible to carry out the original intention of each side burying its own dead. Otherwise the terms of the agreement were adhered to; although there were mutual recriminations as to the amount of curiosity being displayed regarding the opposing trenches both by the Turks and ourselves. By 4 p.m. everyone was under cover again, and the resumption of firing shortly after 4.30 p.m. signalled the close of this remarkable armistice.

On May 21st the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade arrived and bivouacked in the gully south of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, and was followed by one squadron of the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment, which was despatched to Walker's Ridge.

May 25th, the day following the armistice, was no less memorable because of the sinking of H.M.S. Triumph by an enemy submarine, when lying off-shore about a mile from Gaba Tepe. The vessel heeled over shortly after being struck, and sank within a few minutes, a tragic sight for all those who watched her from Anzac.

Quinn's Post, situated on the outer circumference of the semi-circle which represented the Anzac line, and at the furthest point from its diameter, now became the centre of bitter and prolonged fighting, On the retention of Quinn's Post depended not only the stability of the general line, but the security of the communications in rear, in Monash Gully and Shrapnel Valley. Recent developments had suggested that the enemy intended to make a determined effort to gain a strong foothold at the head of Monash Gully.

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Entrance to Trenches, Courtney' s Post.

Entrance to Trenches, Courtney' s Post.

At Quinn's Post.

At Quinn's Post.

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Troops Landing on Improvised Pier, Anzac Beach.

Troops Landing on Improvised Pier, Anzac Beach.

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In view of the pronounced salient which the Anzac position formed, the loss of any post was calculated to imperil the retention of the whole line; and further, the ground in the vicinity of posts was generally so restricted and difficult that direct and effective assistance to any post could rarely be given; while difficulty was invariably experienced in making full use of all men at the disposal of post commanders owing to the narrowness and intricacy of the communication trenches. Thus handicapped and restricted from the outset, the situation was made more complex by the fact that before very long the retention of a vulnerable point was not to be determined alone by what took place above ground. In other words, fighting was being carried on under ground as well as above it by a process of burrowing and cross-burrowing, and then listening for indications of the enemy's presence and endeavouring to counter his activities in the same work. These operations were always hazardous, and frequently there was necessity for blowing in galleries in order to counter the development of enemy mining. The explosion of an enemy mine at Quinn's Post on the early morning of May 29th was followed by heavy bombing attacks. The left of the post was isolated by the explosion and No. 3 subsection of the defences rushed and seized by the enemy. An hour and a-half later the lost trench was retaken, but the enemy, now reinforced, again attacked in a determined manner, and in answer to the demand for reinforcements, 4th Company of Otago Battalion was despatched to the locality, and remained there for 36 hours ready for emergencies.

It was at this stage that orders were issued which resulted in the New Zealand Brigade taking over the line held by the 4th Australian Brigade in the No. 3 section of defences. This was in accordance with a general scheme of relief which was to be effected gradually, and was commenced on the closing day of May. On completion of the relief Courtney's Post was occupied by Auckland Battalion, with Otago Battalion in reserve; Quinn's Post being held by Canterbury Battalion. Interchange of battalions was to be effected every eight days. During one of these periods of occupation of Courtney's a new trench in advance of the foremost line was constructed by Otago and Auckland Battalions in conjunction. Threepage 42 saps were driven forward for a distance of 30 yards and an underground trench constructed; the remaining few inches of overhead crust being broken through when the task was completed, and the new line then occupied. In the process of digging operations, the body of a dead Turk was met with, and it was decided that those who were brought in contact with such an unpleasant object should receive a fortifying issue of rum. A continuance of this stimulant the parties engaged were successful in securing by producing nightly, as evidence, a piece of the same dead Turk.

On June 9th reinforcements, the 4th, were received to the number of four officers and 239 other ranks. Owing to the reduced strength of the Regiment these were urgently required. There was a daily toll of casualties, even under what might be regarded, in a comparative sense only, as normal conditions. On the morning of June 5th Captain V. J. Egglestone, Battalion Quartermaster, who had rejoined the Regiment when it was at Helles, was killed while drawing rations at the Brigade Dump. Lieut. A. C. Boyes succeeded to the post of Quartermaster.

Relief of the garrisons of the Posts within No. 3 Section was now effected. In the holding of Courtney's two companies of Otago Battalion were disposed along the crest line, with two companies in immediate support in the terraced bivouacs below. The garrison of the forward line was periodically violently harassed by the enemy, and on these occasions numerous casualties were suffered and the defences badly breached. There was, however, some compensation when a gun of the 26th Indian Mountain Battery firing from Courtney's, engaged two enemy guns on Mortar Ridge and silenced them, for a time at least, after an exciting duel.

On June 28th a fire demonstration was carried out along the Corps front with the object of preventing, as far as possible, any move of enemy troops from the Anzac zone to the southern or Cape Helles zone, where the 8th Corps was launching an attack with the object of advancing the outer left flank of the British line. The close of the month of June was remarkable for a heavy attack which the enemy delivered against the positions facing the Nek in No, 4 Section, occupied by troops of the mounted regiments. Commencing at 1.30 a.m. on June 30th fierce fighting broke out and lasted untilpage 43 dawn. According to a prisoner, the attack had been ordered by Enver Pasha himself, with orders to drive the enemy into the sea; but after the most desperate fighting it was sanguinarily repulsed. Otago Battalion had been relieved in the holding of Courtney's on June 26th; on July 8th it again took over these defences. On the morning of June 30th no attack was delivered against the front of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade.

Serious attention was now being given to the organisation and formation of hand-grenade parties for use offensively against an entrenched enemy; and orders were issued for the establishment of regular company grenadiers; of permanent arrangements for ensuring and regulating the supply of grenades; and for the training of grenadiers in handling and tactical methods. In the course of the bitter struggles which had waged round the more vital points of the line in the past the effectiveness of the enemy's bombing methods and the profusion of his supplies had been only too apparent, and served to emphasise the serious difficulties under which our garrisons laboured in this all too one-sided phase of close conflict. One result of this development of bomb-fighting was the setting up at Anzac of a bomb factory, from which grenades of various types, the commonest being the jam tin variety, were improvised from material at hand. The necessary organisation had also recently been developed for the prosecution of counter-sniping on a much wider scale than hitherto.