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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Working on the Big Sap

page 194

Working on the Big Sap.

To get troops quickly and secretly from Anzac to the outposts and to the foot of the deres up which the assaulting columns must approach the Turk, it was necessary to widen the communication trench known as the “Big Sap.” This trench had been evolved as the outposts were established, and at many places could be enfiladed by the enemy on the heights; and nowhere was it wide enough to take troops two abreast. The pack mules used it by day, and though the soldier cared little for Turkish shells, he lived in fear of the donkey's steel-shod hoofs; it was no uncommon sight to see the soldier, disbelieving the warning “No kick! No kick!” of the Indian muleteer, climb out of the trench and risk a bullet rather than encounter a transport mule.

Partly the way was
Black and white photograph of a carved Maori figure.

The Maori at Anzac.
A convential figure carved in the clay wall of the Big Sap. The telegraph linesmen of the Signal Troop have condescended to drop their wire a little to avoid the figure.

through the sandhills—here the necessary width of 5 feet was easy to attain; but in the harder clay, the pioneer working parties had been content to make a narrow slit, leaving the hardest work still to do. All through July the men of No. 4 Defence Section toiled at their herculean task—the Australian Infantry of the 4th Brigade, the N.Z. Mounted Rifles and Australian Light Horse from Walker's Ridge, and best workers of all, the Maori Contingent from No. 1 Post.

Man is naturally a lazy animal. When men work hard, there is always some incentive. The Maori soldier, picked man that he was, wished to justify before the world that his claim to be a front-line soldier was not an idle one. Many a proud rangitira served his country in the ranks, an example to some of his Pakeha brothers. Their discipline was superb, and when their turn came for working party, the longhandled page 195 shovels swung without ceasing until, just before the dawn, the signal came to pack up and get home.

Where the trench was liable to enfilade fire, its direction was altered, and here and there overhead protection was built with some of the precious timber and sandbags. At every few hundred yards a recess was cut to enable troops to stand aside while mule trains or passing troops moved up or down. Leaving nothing to chance, infantry parties, two abreast, marched through the trench from end to end to ensure that nowhere would there be a check.

Now these communications were complete, and July came and went, and still there was no big attack. But vast
Black and white photograph of the Maori soldiers at no. 1 Post.

[Lent by Rev. Wainohu, C.F.
With the Maoris at No. 1 Post.

page 196 quantities of ammunition, and piles of peculiar foodstuffs that signified Indian troops to the initiated, showed that something was in the offing. With August, the transfer of the new English troops from the neighbouring islands commenced.

Before this could happen the soldiers of Anzac were called on to do one more big digging task—dugouts and shelters had to be made, and terraces formed on the already crowded hillsides, in order that the large bodies of new troops might be hidden from the enemy aeroplane observers. For the first nights of August our men worked feverishly at the terraces. Hope ran high, for here at hand was the help so long and earnestly prayed for. During the nights of August 3, 4, and 5, the beach masters and military landing officers disembarked the New Army troops intended for Anzac. After the tiresome monotony of three months' dogged holding on, months of incessant picking and shovelling, months of weakening dysentery, plagues of flies, and a burning sun, the men of the New Armies and of India were arriving, and a great blow would be struck. Sick men refused to attend sick parade in the mornings, and in the hospitals, and on the Red Cross barges, proud men wept because they were too weak to strike a blow.