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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Part II

Part II.

The Anzac Thrust for “971.”

The attack from the left of Anzac was perhaps one of the most complicated in history. The huge sprawling mass of the Sari Bair system was broken by a multiplicity of water-courses, the sides of which were often sheer cliffs, scored and fissured by torrential winter rains. The only possible means of approaching the peaks was by way of these water-courses. Now, it is a well-known military axiom page 202
Black and white sketch map.

A Sketch Map To illustrate the Battle of Sari Bair.
The area represented is about 5,400 yards by 3,000 yards. The distance from the mouth of the Sazli Beit Dere to the Apex is approximately 2,300 yards; and about 3,700 yards to the top of Hill 971.

page 203 that troops cannot pass safely through a defile until the heights are made secure; it was also known that no troops could push up through two and a half miles of these savage, scrub-covered hills and be fit to fight a battle with a fresh, determined foe at the top. So the work had to be mapped out in stages.

Soldiers know that with more than one body of troops operating there is always a risk of someone being late. In night operations this risk is intensified. Further, it is very difficult to fit in what the staff officers call their “time and space problem.” The men could not all go up one gully. They would arrive at the top a few men at a time, and could not attack on a broad enough front, but only at one point. So it was arranged that the force under the command of Major-General Godley should be divided into four columns—two to break the line and open up the lower parts of the deres; the other two following shortly after, and proceeding up the three main deres, pass through the covering forces to the assault of Chunuk Bair, Hill Q, and Koja Chemen Tepe.

During the nights of August 3, 4, and 5, the New Army troops were landed at Anzac, marched along the “Big Sap” to their prepared bivouacs on the hillside, and remained under cover until the eventful night. The 29th Indian Brigade, consisting of one Sikh and three Ghurka regiments, also arrived and went to their allotted place on the left. This made available:—

The N.Z. and Australian Division (less the Australian Light Horse, who were at Quinn's, Pope's, Russell's Top, and Walker's Ridge.

The 13th (New Army) Division (less five battalions).
The 29th Indian Infantry Brigade; and
The Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade.

The Organization of General Godley's Army.

Right Covering Force—(Brigadier-General A. H. Russell):

New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade;
Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment;
Maori Contingent;
Field Troop, N.Z. Engineers.

page 204

The task assigned to this force was to clear the lower ridges of the Sari Bair system, seizing the Turkish posts known as Old No. 3 Post, Big Table Top, and Bauchop's Hill. The advance was to commence from No. 2 and No. 3 Posts at 9 p.m. on August 6, a movement which would enable the right assaulting column to get within striking distance of Chunuk Bair with a minimum of fatigue.

Left Covering Force—(Brigadier-General J. H. Travers):

4th Battalion South Wales Borderers;
5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment;
Half 72nd Field Company.

Composed entirely of units from the 13th (New Army) Division, this column was to march northwards along the flat ground; then strike inland and seize Damakjelik Bair. This force would be able to hold out a helping hand to the new army landing at Suvla, and would also protect the left flank of the left assaulting column moving up the Aghyl Dere.

Right Assaulting Column—(Brig.-General F. E. Johnston);

New Zealand Infantry Brigade;
Indian Mountain Battery (less 1 Section);
1st Field Company, N.Z. Engineers.

This column was to move up the Sazli Beit Dere and the Chailak Dere, commencing to move up these gullies at 10.30 p.m. Having cleared Rhododendron Spur, an attack was to be made on Chunuk Bair, eventually holding a line from Chunuk Bair to the head of Kur Dere, behind Hill Q.

Left Assaulting Column—(Brigadier-General H. V. Cox):

29th Indian Infantry Brigade;
4th Australian Infantry Brigade;
Indian Mountain Battery (less 1 Section): and the
2nd Field Company, N.Z. Engineers.

The leading troops of this column were to cross the mouth of the Chailak Dere at 10.30 p.m. towards Walden's Point and up the Aghyl Dere, pass through the left covering force, assault Koja Chemen Tepe, and occupy a line from Koja Chemen Tepe to the head of Kur Dere, thus joining up with the right assaulting column.

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Divisional Reserve:
6th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
8th Battalion Welsh Regiment (Pioneers)
at the
Chailak Dere;
39th Infantry Brigade
Half 72nd Field Company
at the
Aghyl Dere.

The troops were ordered to be at the foot of the valley mentioned at 1 a.m. on the morning of August 7, to be used at the discretion of the General Officer Commanding.

For artillery support, in addition to the divisional artillery already in position, there were two squadrons of H.M. Navy:


A southern squadron of five vessels, stationed off Gaba Tepe, detailed to fire at Chunuk Bair and the plateau on which Lone Pine was situated, and


A northern squadron of two monitors and two destroyers, which were to engage targets on the northern and western slopes of Sari Bair.

The entire expedition was woefully deficient in heavy guns. Heavy howitzers, for searching reverse slopes, were desperately needed. A pathetic entry in General Godley's “Order of Battle” is, “Corps artillery: one 6in. howitzer!” Once again the men of Anzac were asked to do with their bayonets and rifles what should have been done with heavy guns.

The Night of August 6.

We must now look at the scene near No. 2 and 3 Posts. At Helles and Lone Pine the battles were raging. Turkish reserves were being called up in both places. So far everything was going well. With the fall of darkness the four Anzac columns began to prepare for their arduous night march and assault.

Everybody was to travel light. Kits and tunics were discarded. In short sleeves and web equipment, with a rifle and fixed bayonet, the men may not have looked uniform, but they were animated with a spirit that would dare anything. Just before dark men sewed white patches on their backs and on their sleeves, so as to indicate in the gloom who was page 206 friend and who was foe. Officers spoke to their men. The principal injunction was to press on up the hill. If any man lost touch, he was to join the nearest party and go resolutely on.

The Right Covering Force.

The four regiments of New Zealand Mounted Rifles were the first to move. It was their duty to break the Turkish line for the infantry brigades. At 9.30 p.m. they were to move out from the shelter of No. 2 and No. 3. The Wellington Mounted Rifles were to take Destroyer Hill and then Table Top. The Auckland Mounted Rifles were to take Old No. 3 Post, while the Otagos by way of Wilson's Knob, and the Canterburys by way of Taylor's Hollow and Walden's Point, were to clean up the lower ridges and capture Bauchop's Hill. This should give us the line, Destroyer Hill—Table Top—Bauchop's Hill, and open up the Sazli Beit, the Chailak and the Aghyl Deres for the infantry.

The Capture of Old No. 3.

Old No. 3 Post was that high piece of ground taken and abandoned at the end of May. Falling down towards the sea, it resolved itself into two lower spurs, on which were our No. 2 and new No. 3 Posts.

Every night, as soon as it was dark, the destroyer “Colne” stood in and went through the performance of throwing her searchlight on the heavily fortified slopes of Old No. 3, and commenced a half-hour's bombardment. The light guns of the destroyer did not cause much material damage to the carefully constructed overhead cover; but it became the custom for part of the garrison to leave their trenches and retire to their dugouts in the rear of the post on the southern banks of the Chailak Dere. Now, a searchlight beam, while it illumines everything in its path, makes the surrounding darkness appear blacker and even more intensified. As the bombardment continued, the Auckland Mounted Rifles crept up the Sazli Beit Dere. In fifteen minutes the party was lying quietly at the foot of the fortress. Squadron commanders got their final instructions, and a small party of page 207 strong men, picked for their skilled work with the bayonet, crept up through the scrub towards the crest. Led by a scout, this party dodged from bush to bush until they came to a sentry post of the enemy. Silently closing in from every side, the four New Zealanders sprang upon the sentries and overpowered them. “Crack!” went a rifle. One sentry had discharged his rifle harmlessly in the air as a New Zealand bayonet did its deadly work. So far we had no casualites.
Black and white photograph of rough country.

[Lent by Lieut. Moritzson, M.C., M.M., N.Z.E.
Rough Country.
Calculated to throw any troops out of direction.

Up on the crest the destroyer's shells were crashing into the barbed wire and the heavy wooden beams of the overhead cover. In a few minutes the attacking party was lying all round the crest on the southern side. Presently the guns stopped, and the searchlight faded away. This was the signal! The Aucklanders rose and, spreading fanwise, went straight for the post. Into the covered trenches dived the Mounted Riflemen. The garrison fought gamely enough, but there could only be one end to it. The main body of the garrison came pouring back from their reserve trenches page 208 towards the post; but, caught in the open, they were no match for the men from Auckland. In a short time the whole work was completely in our hands. There was now time to closely examine the post. The trenches were roofed, just like those of Lone Pine, with heavy baulks of 8 × 3 sawn timber covered with sand bags. The guns on the destroyer had made no material impression on this cover, as shells striking it had glanced off and buried themselves uphill. In the front trenches was discovered a dugout with a complete equipment for electrically firing the 28 small square iron mines placed in front of the posts. Without the destroyer ruse and the quick, clean work of the attackers, the casualties would have been very heavy; as it was, we had only twenty casualties, while close on one hundred Turks lay dead within the Post and in its neighbourhood. The Auckland Mounted Rifles had signally avenged the Mounted Brigade losses at the end of May.

The Capture of Table Top.

Following on the heels of the Auckland Mounted Rifles up the Sazli Beit Dere, the Wellington Regiment silently cleaned up Destroyer Hill. As the Auckland Mounted men were stealing on Old No. 3, their comrades of the Wellington Mounteds were creeping up the Chailak Dere towards Table Top. Silently up the gully went the mounted men, the 6th Squadron leading. The 2nd Squadron was to take Table Top itself, and the 9th was to hold it afterwards. The first objective was Destroyer Hill.

It was quite dark, and difficult to see the way, but these gullies had been well reconnoitred by the scouts, and the column pressed on, dragging their telephone wire with them. After resting for a minute, the front line crept round a corner and came under heavy rifle fire. The leaders dashed straight at the flashes of rifle fire twenty yards away. Major Dick at the head of his men cried out “Come on, boys” when down he fell. But enough surged forward to overwhelm the party of Turks guarding the communication trench.

page 209

This was really a very strenuous piece of work, for from Table Top on one side, and Baby 700 on the other, communications ran down to Destroyer Hill. As fast as the enemy here was overpowered, more Turks crowded down to be dealt with.

The troopers took up a position above a well-defined track and picked off the enemy as they came along it.
Black and white photograph of a mountain.

[Lent by Capt. Janson. W.M.R.
The Path to Victory.
The Wellington Mounteds crept up this dere and advanced up the spur from where the cross is shown.

Presently a line of men came in single file down the ridge. They were to pass just above the anxious little group of mounted riflemen who were painfully conscious of their bright white patches. Were they our men, or were they page 210 Turks? By their chattering it was discovered they were a party of a hundred Turks on surrender bent. To the relief of the 6th Squadron, they filed past to our rear talking and laughing.

Meanwhile the squadron told off to assault Table Top stole quietly up to the head of the gully. With rifles spluttering in the scrub and bullets moaning on their flight out to sea, the Wellingtons scaled the steep clay sides of Table Top and went straight for the Turks. The fight did not last long. Up came the 9th and made the position secure. By his boldness and impetuosity the New Zealand Mounted man had again outclassed the enemy.

The path taken was the secret of success. The 6th Squadron who had taken the first trench came at Table Top from the front, and it took them over half an hour's hard climbing—cutting steps in the clay with bayonets—to reach the top. Foresight and ingenuity, boldness and determination were alike combined in these first successful captures.

A platoon of Maoris led by a Wellington officer also crept quietly up the Chailak Dere in order to get round the back of Table Top to co-operate with the Wellingtons. In the gully between Bauchop's Hill and Old No. 3 a party of Turks fired on the Maoris, who saw red and slew the Turks to a man. Chasing the enemy up the gully, the Maoris never stopped until they were round the back of Table Top, and were only with great difficulty restrained from tackling Sari Bair by themselves.

Bauchop's Hill.

The Otago and the Canterbury Mounted Regiments were to move off from No. 3 Post, traverse the flat ground to the northward, wheel to the right, and work up towards the high ground of Bauchop's Hill.

Lying in the low ground from about 9 o'clock, the South Islanders saw the white beam of the searchlight on the scrub and heard the scream of the destroyer's shells. At 9.30 the searchlight went black out. The men rose quietly—this was the signal for which they had been waiting. The page 211 Otagos wheeled to the right toward the trenches on Wilson's Knob—trenches they had lain opposite and observed with periscopes the last two months of waiting. Spurts of rifle fire ran round the scrub above Taylor's Hollow and on Walden's Point. Pushing up the Chailak Dere, the other squadrons of the Otagos came to the heavy barbed-wire entanglements stretching right across the dere and enfiladed by fire trenches on the spur. There was nothing to be done but tear the obstruction away. A section of the Field Troop of New Zealand Engineers, gallantly led by their subaltern, attacked the wire with great determination and, after sustaining many casualties, succeeded in opening the dere to the Otagos and Maoris who pressed on up the gully towards their objective.

Black and white photograph of Little Table Top.

Little Table Top.
Little Table Top was of little military importance, but its water-scored cliffs are typical of the surrounding country.

The Canterburys with some Maoris in support, advanced in short rushes across the flat ground towards the trenches on the foothills. Not a shot was wasted. Bayonets alone were used. A Turkish machine gun on the spur leading to Walden's Point was responsible for many casualties, and this section of the attack was momentarily held up. “Tap, tap, tap” went the gun, exacting a heavy toll; but a subaltern, named Davidson, who gained the ridge higher up, collected a few ardent spirits, and with fixed bayonets. page 212 charged straight down the slope. The dirt thrown up by the angry bullets flicked in their faces as they ran straight for the gun. Down tumbled the subaltern, killed leading his men, but the remnants of the party fell upon the gun crew. The keen bayonets did their silent work, and the gun ceased its death-dealing tapping.

Methodically and irresistibly the Otagos and Canterburys pushed up the spurs until the greater part of Bauchop's Hill was in our hands. Many a duel between surprised Turk and desperate New Zealander was fought that night in the tangled scrub. The ground was so broken, the twists in the gullies so confusing, that all cohesion was lost. But the troopers knew that their duty was to press on up the hill, so up the hill they went. Trench after trench was taken at the bayonet point by Pakeha and Maori. Presently three great cheers announced the final capture of the hill. But the losses were severe. Many officers were shot down, including gallant Colonel Bauchop, who fell mortally wounded, and Captain Bruce Hay who had taken charge of a hesitating line, was killed shortly after he had bravely rallied them and led them on.

By now the Sazli Beit Dere, the Chailak Dere, and part of the Aghyl Dere was opened; the N.Z.M.R. Brigade had decisively smashed the Turkish line.

The Left Covering Force.

When the attack on the lower slopes of Bauchop's Hill was well under way the Left Covering Column moved out over the flat ground towards the mouth of the Aghyl Dere. Having rounded Walden's Point they at once cameunder the fire of the enemy. But pressing on, the advance guard of the 4th South Wales Borderers cleared all before them. The New Army men, resolutely led, were capable of great things. An hour after midnight they saw through the gloom the dark mass of the Damakjelik Bair, and quickly put the Turks to flight.

The lower reaches of the Aghyl Dere were now held by us on both sides; our left flank was secure; the army landing at Suvla had a definite point to reach out to.

page 213

The Right Assaulting Column.

By midnight the four battalions of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade were on their way up the deres to the assault of Chunuk Bair. There had been some delay at the start, as the overs from the high ground fell among the units as they marched along to the foot of the deres. The Canterburys went by way of the Sazli Beit, and the Otagos, Aucklands and Wellingtons proceeded up the Chailak.

The night was so dark and the country so rough and unreconnoitred that the leading files often crept up little branches of the main dere, and retracing their steps, caused a certain amount of confusion among the troops behind. So
Black and white photograph of Major Frank Statham with two dogs.

[Photo by Guy.
Major Frank Statham, Otago Infantry Battalion.
Who with his brother, was killed in action on Chunuk Bair.

it happened on one of these occasions that part of the Canterburys struggled in the inky blackness of the night into a nullah that led them away from the objective. This caused a certain amount of delay, enemy rifle fire was very insistent, but clearing trench after trench, the men pushed slowly up the gullies. Stumbling over the boulders of the page 214 dry watercourse, charging each clump of scrub that spat out tongues of fire, the men of the infantry brigade pushed doggedly on.

Going up the Chailak, some of the Otago Infantry lost their way and “took Table Top” only to be gruffly ordered away by the Wellington Mounteds who had taken it some hours before! Part of the other two companies of the Otago Infantry—the 8th Southland and the 10th North Otago—passed Table Top at dawn and resolutely pressed up the dere, led by Major Frank Statham, a dauntless-spirited soldier and a born leader. About an hour after dawn this small band of heroes entered the Turkish communication trench running across the lower slopes of Rhododendron Spur from the Chailak Dere. They met with little resistance—indeed on reaching a point where they could overlook the Sazli Beit Dere, they were astonished to see the valley crowded with scared Turks streaming back towards Battleship Hill. Some of the bolder spirits of the Otagos went right on to the Apex and Chunuk Bair! If there had been a dozen leaders of the Statham type—men who understood country and men of resolution—the whole of Chunuk might have been ours by nine o'clock. The enemy was certainly demoralized and on the run.

A signalling officer of the Ghurkas now arrived and sent a message back to his brigade slowly proceeding up the Aghyl Dere.

The broken country delayed the rest of our brigade. The Canterburys proceeding up the Sazli Beit had some trouble at Destroyer Hill because, as we know, the Turkish communication trenches all led in that direction and fresh fugitive Turks were constantly arriving. It was well light before the Canterburys reached the lower slopes of Rhododendron. These slopes were for some time called Canterbury Ridge, but the older name of Rhododendron survived.

As it was now light, and the attack undoubtedly late, Chunuk could not be taken by surprise. But looking down towards the Suvla Flats, we were heartened by the great flotilla of ships and barges in Suvla Bay. Hope page 215 again ran high, for help seemed close at hand. With another effort the brigade pressed forward and reached the small depression now known as the Apex, but then christened the Mustard Plaster.

Orders came that an effort must be made to take Chunuk. The machine guns of the Otago Battalion established themselves along the front, thus securing the right flank, and doing great execution to the Turks who were being driven up the gully and were seemingly not aware that we had a footing on Rhododendron. The Wellington guns were then dug in on the left of the Otagos, but lined so as to face north and thus command Chunuk Bair which our infantry must assault. The Auckland guns were just a few yards behind; those of the Canterburys had not yet arrived. The order came for the advance with only half the guns posted. There was a little hesitancy, but Major S. A. Grant gallantly rushed forward and led the Aucklands over the crest. A thousand yards of the heights, thick with Turkish rifles, carried out rapid fire on that small band of heroes. Nothing could live in it and with the exception of a few survivors who gained a deserted Turk trench 120 yards in front, the whole were either killed or wounded. The gallant Major Grant was mortally wounded, dying from his wounds that evening. At this point, if the Turks had pushed out a counter attack, they could have cleared the Apex; but the machine guns were invaluable; they cut up the crest between them and undoubtedly saved the sadly harassed line.

The troops were now very tired. An advance of a little more than a mile over most difficult country had been achieved. Taking advantage of what little cover was available, the left flank threw out little parties to get in touch with the Left Assaulting Column, which, as we know, consisted of the 4th Australian Brigade and the 29th Indian Brigade.

This column in pushing up the Aghyl Dere had met very strenuous opposition, but had surprised many Turks and driven them up the gully. The Aghyl Dere forks about 2000 page 216 yards from the sea; the Australians went up the northern one so that the Suvla army, after getting in touch with the New Army troops on Damakjelik Bair could push on and prolong General Monash's left. By dawn, this brigade had reached the ridge overlooking the head of the Asma Dere. The Indian Brigade,
Black and white photograph of the grave.

Major Overton's Grave.

guided by Major Overton, of the Cantterbury Mounted Rifles, proceeded up the southern fork of the Aghyl Dere towards The Farm, which lay beneath the crest of Chunuk Bair. Poor Overton and his companion scout were killed while leading up the dere. After receiving the message from their signalling officer the right flank of the Indians felt out towards Rhododendron, and succeeded in coming into touch with the New Zealand Infantry Brigade; the 14th Sikhs felt out towards their left and came into touch with the 4th Australians.

The exhausted line made repeated efforts to get on, but the Turks were now thoroughly alive to the threatened turning movement and hastily flung fresh troops on to Abdel Rahman spur to impede the Australians, who were standing at bay in truly awful country—standing at bay with their left flank in the air—in touch with no one. The Suvla Bay was full of ships, but there seemed no movement towards the vital hills.

All that day the troops lay out on the hot hillside exhausted with their heavy night march. True the ambitious programme of the operation order had not been achieved in its entirety, but a marked and valuable advance had been made. The Anzac troops felt that at last they page 217 had room to breathe, for Anzac had been very cramped. Here, after four months of waiting and watching, we were standing on new ground. There was a certain thrill and a little pardonable pride in the realization that these strongly entrenched and defended hill-sides had been taken by a citizen soldiery from the flower of the Turkish Army.

There was one disagreeable disadvantage in holding these steep hills—that was the supply of water, ammunition and food. But the Indian Supply and Transport Corps was equal to the emergency. As soon as it was dark the drabis of the supply columns started with their pack mules, and though they paid a heavy toll in men and animals, undeterred they gallantly soldiered on.

The Canterbury machine guns arrived at the Apex that evening. The gunners, dead beat, had carried their guns, tripods, spare parts, their own rifles and equpiment, with one hundred and twenty rounds of ammunition in their pouches, and a box of ammunition between every two men. They had marched and fought the clock round. Now they had to stand by and hold the line. There was no time for sleep. It was dig, dig, dig, and bury the dead.

The survivors of the Aucklands stayed out in their bomb-swept trench. The Otagos were withdrawn to the Rhododendron for reorganization.

So the night passed with the Auckland Battalion in front of the Apex; the Ghurkas and the Sikhs on the ridge overlooking The Farm; the 4th Australian Brigade on the Asma Dere. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles dug in and improved their line from Destroyer Hill to Table Top and Bauchop's Hill. General Travers's force was secure on Damakjelik Bair. But the Anzac Army was not yet in touch with the troops at Suvla.