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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Part I

page 197

Part I.

The Preliminaries.

The great battle, apart from the feint attacks away at Bulair and Mitylene, was to comprise four distinct operations, all closely dependent one on the other.

1. An attack in force at Cape Helles on the afternoon of August 6. This would tend to commit Turkish reserves to an action far away from Anzac.

2. The Australian Division, holding the line from Chatham's Post to Russell's Top, was to make several attacks on the afternoon of August 6. These would serve to immobilize or distract the enemy reserves known to be concentrated at Koja Dere, behind Mortar Ridge, and at Battleship Hill.

3. A great assault by the N.Z. and Australian Division, assisted by the newly-arrived 13th Division and a brigade of Indian troops, advancing up the three deres that lead to the peak of the Sari Bair—up the Sazli Beit and the Chailak to Chunuk Bair, and up the Aghyl towards Hill Q and Koja Chemen Tepe.

4. A new landing at Suvla Bay by the 9th Army Corps, which would pass over the Suvla Flats early on the morning of August 7, and linking up with the left flank of the army from Anzac, would press up towards the height of Koja Chemen Tepe, to prolong the line towards the Anafarta villages.

The Struggle at Helles.

After a preliminary bombardment on the afternoon of the 6th, the infantry at Cape Helles dashed to the assault of the Turkish trenches at 3.50. Thus was the greatest battle in the Gallipoli campaign commenced by the men of Helles. page 198
Black and white photograph.

[Lent by Col. Falla, C.M.G., D.S.O.
Anzac Cove Early in August, 1915.

page 199 The bloody and stubborn combat lasted a full week, the Turks attacking and counter-attacking with two fresh divisions. The East Lancashire Division, assisted by the warworn 29th Division, clung tenaciously to ground they had won—in particular, a small area of vineyard about 200 yards long and 100 broad, on the west of the Krithia Road. So fierce was the fighting for this small piece of cultivated land that this week-long battle is always referred to as “The Battle of the Vineyard.” The object of this attack was fully achieved. No Turkish soldier could leave for Anzac or Suvla while this blow was being threatened at Achi Baba.

The Battle of Lone Pine.

Let us pass from the tragic vineyards of the south to the hungry hills of Anzac. During the afternoon of August 6, the slow bombardment of the enemy's left and centre was increased in intensity. The 1st Battery of New Zealand Field Artillery, firing from Russell's Top, was detailed to cut the wire in front of the Turkish Lone Pine trenches. The “Bacchante” searched the valleys which were believed to contain the enemy's reserves, while the monitors engaged the batteries at the back of Gaba Tepe and at the Olive Groves. This bombardment was intended to make the Turk believe that at last a determined effort was to be made from the Anzac right in the direction of Koja Dere and Maidos. The enemy felt that this was the heart thrust, and he waited in his well-placed cover for the inevitable assault. At 4.30 p.m., the New Zealand battery concentrated again on the Lone Pine trench, and the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade mustered in Brown's Dip ready for the assault.

Those awful hours of waiting! Platoon commanders fidgeting with their wristlet watches that seem to tick off the minutes so slowly. Men smoke cigarette after cigarette, and talk in undertones. At last the word comes, “Get ready.” Everywhere men crowd on to the firestep. “Over the top!” Men pull themselves up over the parapet and, regaining their feet, rush for the opposing parapet with its angry spurts of flame. Across that bullet-Swept No Man's Land race the impetuous men of Australia. Line after line page 200 sweeps on, but not to fall into an open fire trench on to the foe. These trenches are roofed with timber, which has to be torn up. A merciless machine-gun fire mows down the attackers. Some run round the back, get into the communication trenches and fight their way into the underground fort. So, with hand-grenade and bayonet, the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade overpower the stubborn Turks within the fortress.

With the cry of “Allah! Allah!” reinforcements arrive for the enemy. The weary victors again repel the foe. Night brings no peace. But the captors of Lone Pine fight on, for they know full well that by their vicarious sacrifice they have pinned down all the Turkish reserves on the Ari Burnu front, and have left a minimum of the enemy to resist the Anzac and Suvla thrust for the peaks of Sari Bair.

Against German Officers' Trench.

The attack at Lone Pine drew many Turkish reserves to Anzac. Everywhere the enemy was on the alert. What wonder, then, that the occupants of German Officers' Trench were ready for the 6th Australians? At 11 o'clock on the night of the 6th, mines were exploded at the end of the trench nearest the Turk. At about midnight, the artillery momentarily ceased, and the Australian infantrymen crept from the end of their tunnelled communications which had been constructed under No Man's Land. The first and second waves of men were mown down almost to a man. The attack on trenches defended with scientifically-manned machine guns was almost a forlorn hope.

The Glory of the Australian Light Horse.

At Quinn's, Pope's, and Russell's Top the line was held by the Australian Light Horse. In common with their brothers of the infantry, attacks from these places were to be made.

Units of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade were holding Quinn's. From here, two hundred men in four lines of fifty each were to dash across No Man's Land in an endeavour to simulate a determined attack. Most of these gallant troopers died on the parapet from a hail of machine-gun fire.

page 201

From Pope's it was determined to attack Dead Man's Ridge. This effort was at first a little more successful. Three trenches were occupied, but after about two hours' desperate fighting our men ran short of bombs, and tried to withdraw, losing heavily during the operation.

The attack from “The Nek” was as glorious, as tragic, and, alas! as unsuccessful as from Quinn's. In the first line there were 150 men of the 8th Light Horse Regiment. When the artillery stopped, about 4.25 a.m., the Turk commenced a barrage of machine-gun fire. The Victorians clambered up on their firesteps, and at the word dashed into the awful storm of lead. Down went the whole line. But the second line, with a few scaling ladders, was ready to go over the top. Out they sped to certain death. The scaling ladders lay forlornly out on the fatal “Nek.” The third line—150 men of the 10th Light Horse—followed and shared the fate of their comrades. The fourth line was stopped. Out of 450 men who started there were 435 casualties! Turkish prisoners stated that they never lost one man! Surely in military history there is no more splendid record of sacrifice than was enacted that fatal morning at Quinn's Post and Russell's Top.

But the Australian effort from the right and centre of the Anzac line had borne fruit, for at Rhododendron and on the Asma Dere, New Zealanders and other Australians were advancing to the stronghold of the Turk. Down at Suvla a great British landing was proceeding almost unopposed.