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

The Attack Launched

The Attack Launched.

The August Offensive, memorable by reason of the desperate and sustained nature of the fighting no less than by the narrowness of the margin by which victory was missed, may be said to have been launched with the assault delivered by the troops of the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade against the Lone Pine entrenchments. The Lone Pine attack was set down to draw the enemy's attention and reserves from the impending main operation; and it not only accomplished this but served decisively to wrest from the enemy a defensive work of main importance. Against a terrific enfilade fire from north and south the Australians gained the enemy's trenches, only to find them protected by an over-head cover of stout pine beams. Both by tearing up these beams and by working round the communication trenches the attackers broke into the entrenchments, killed or captured the Turkish garrison, and finally held their ground against a succession of counter-attacks which were maintained with unabated fury until the morning of the 9th, and in the course of which the losses sustained on both sides were exceptionally heavy.

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The opening of this sanguinary encounter was followed by a second frontal attack delivered a few hours later by the 2nd Australian Brigade against German Officers' Trench to the left of Lone Pine; and early on the morning of the 7th by assaults delivered by the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade against the Nek and Chessboard Trenches, opposite the centre of the line. In these attacks there were tragic losses, sustained by machine gun fire against which the utmost bravery was unavailing.

With the launching of the important diversion against Lone Pine the hour was rapidly approaching when the first move in the real drama was to be made, namely, the opening up of the Deres by capturing the positions which commanded them. Between the fall of darkness and 9.30 p.m. the Navy commenced the shelling of the Nek and Old No. 3 Post, bringing searchlights to bear over the area at intervals, a performance that had been practised nightly for some time and to which the enemy had apparently grown accustomed. At 9 p.m. that portion of the Right Covering Force, the Auckland Mounted Rifles Regiment, detailed to attack Old No. 3 Post, crept forward from under cover of the outposts, and half an hour later the searchlights were switched off. This was the signal for the attackers, who moved swiftly and silently out of the darkness. The enemy was overwhelmed, and in an incredibly short space of time the position was in our hands.

At the same time and in the same manner, the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, moving up the Sazli Beit Dere, effected the capture of Big Table Top, with its steep and rugged sides and its summit honeycombed with trenches. Simultaneously, the Otago and Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiments, assisted by the Maori Contingent, moved across the Chailak Dere to the assault of Bauchop's Hill—a confusion of ridges and ravines and enemy entrenchments—and shortly after one o'clock on the morning of the 7th this position was also in our hands. Lieut.-Colonel A. Bauchop, C.M.G., Commanding the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment, fell mortally wounded in this action; the success gained was largely influenced by his fine leadership and example.

As the attack against the seaward slopes of Bauchop's Hill progressed, the Left Covering Force made its way north-page 53wards by way of the Beach Road for the attack on the Damak-jelik Bair. Crossing the Chailak Dere, the march was continued to the mouth of the Aghyl Dere, though exposed to a certain amount of fire from the spurs of Bauchop's Hill not then captured. The Left Covering Force launched its attack against the Damakjelik Bair, and by 1.30 a.m. on the 7th its capture was reported to have been effected. The line represented by Destroyer Hill-Table Top - Bauchop's Hill-Damakjelik Bair was now held and the Deres opened up for the assaulting columns.

At midnight on August 6th, when the right and left covering forces had either effected their tasks or were actively engaged in their completion, the Right Assaulting Column, which included the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, and was commanded by Brigadier-General F. E. Johnston, was moving up the Chailak and Sazli Beit Deres, the two selected lines of advance, and the Left Assaulting Column was approaching the Aghyl Dere. In accordance with the order of battle for the Right Assaulting Column, Canterbury Battalion, on the right of the front and moving by way of the Sazli Beit Dere, was to attack Rhododendron Spur from the west, and thence continue the advance to Chunuk Bair. Otago, Wellington and Auckland Battalions were to move to the attack by way of the Chailak Dere; next in order to Canterbury from right to left across the Brigade front Otago Battalion was to attack Rhododendron Spur from the northwest, then in conjunction with Wellington Battalion moving on Chunuk Bair. By 10.20 p.m. the left column of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade had arrived at No. 3 Post; a few minutes later the capture of Bauchop's Hill was reported by the covering force, Otago Battalion having assisted to clear its southern slopes. All the attacks by the covering force had been carried out with the bayonet alone; magazines being empty.

A short distance beyond the entrance of Chailak Dere Otago Battalion, which was leading, came under fire from a concealed Turkish position on the right of the Dere. Lieuts. T. H. Nisbet and H. R. Ker rushed the position with the leading party and cleared it of the enemy. The Battalion then pushed on towards Big Table Top, some distance ahead; but there was direct evidence that there were still parties of the Turkspage 54 to the right who had not been disposed of. After a consultation between Lieut.-Colonel Moore, Captain Colquhoun, commanding 14th Company, which was leading, and Major Statham, commanding 10th Company, it was decided that 14th Company should push ahead, and that 10th Company should attack round to the right. In the course of this operation 10th Company accounted for 100 prisoners. The Battalion then continued the advance on its main objective, Rhododendron Spur, but met with considerable opposition from the enemy entrenched across the Dere, and had to resort to bombing attacks to clear these positions. Heavy machine gun fire from the Chessboard also swept the advance and caused severe casualties. At daylight Otago Battalion had gained its objective and was then joined by Canterbury Battalion, which had been delayed owing to losing direction on the previous night.

Three hours later the Battalion withdrew under orders from the line taken up, and under heavy machine gun and rifle fire from the direction of Walker's Ridge moved across Table Top into the Chailak Dere. Companies were re-formed, and later moved up to the Apex, which represented a continuation of Rhododendron Spur to the left; they were then in rear of Wellington Battalion.

The confused and broken nature of the country, the difficulty of maintaining direction in the darkness, and the opposition of the enemy had greatly retarded the progress of operations; also the element of surprise, which was to have counted for so much in the attack on Chunuk Bair, was fast disappearing. But the most advanced troops now pressed on beyond Rhododendron Spur, realising that if advantage was to be taken of the measure of success already achieved, then the attack on Chunuk must be driven home without delay. Against increasing enemy opposition the assault was renewed by Auckland Battalion and by the 10th Ghurkas, who were on the left of the New Zealand Brigade and linked up with the left assaulting column. This force came under heavy fire from the outset, and it was not long before it was brought to a standstill.

The advance overnight of the Left Assaulting Column had also been seriously retarded. This force had advanced up the line of the Aghyl Dere until it reached a point approxi-page 55mately 2,000 yards from the sea, and there the 4th Australian Brigade branched off to the left and followed the line of the north fork of the Dere; the 29th Indian Brigade diverging to the right at the same point and moving up the south fork and the spurs to the north of it. At dawn the Australians were on the line of the Asmak Dere, and the 29th Indian Brigade on a ridge west of the Farm and along the spurs to the northeast. Brigadier-General Cox, commanding the Left Assaulting Column, then ordered Brigadier-General Monash to collect his Brigade, with the addition of the 14th Sikhs, and move to the assault of Koja Chemen Tepe. The growing opposition of the enemy, now strengthened by the hurried arrival of reserves, and the exhausted state of the Column prevented the assault from being delivered.

The situation at 3.30 p.m. on August 7th was as follows: Brigadier-General Johnston's Column on Rhododendron Spur and ridge; the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade on the Farm ridge below Chunuk Bair and along the spurs to the north-east; the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade on the line of the Asmak Dere, the next ravine north of the Aghyl Dere. The Right Covering Force was in occupation of Old No. 3 Post, Big Table Top, and Bauchop's Hill. The Left Covering Force was in occupation of the Damakjelik Bair. The forces detailed for operations from the Nos. 3 and 4 Sections were in occupation of their original lines. The troops comprising the two assaulting columns had been actively engaged throughout the morning and the early afternoon, and were still holding firmly to what they had gained, but were exhausted by fighting and lack of sleep. It was therefore decided to halt on these positions until nightfall before making another attempt to gain a footing on the main ridge of Sari Bair. The Turks continued to hold portions of the low ground towards the left of the line of the attack between the ridge and the sea, and showed little disposition to retire from there.

Nor had the co-operation looked for from the north, on which hopes ran high at this crucial moment in our fortunes, materialised, even though the breaking dawn disclosed to many eager watchers the presence of numbers of our ships close in shore to Suvla Bay.