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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Trenches on the Crest of Chunuk

The Trenches on the Crest of Chunuk.

There has been placed on record a statement that the trenches on the crest of Chunuk were badly sited. No soldier of experience would have made such a criticism if he understood the facts. Bare justice is due to Colonel Malone and those New Zealanders who took Chunuk and held it. It has been said that the trench line was the wrong side of the crest, and that there was not a good field of fire.

What would anyone else have done?

We all know that a trench should have the best field of fire. But one can easily get in a training manual what one seeks for in vain during a pitched battle! In the carefully prepared treatise, principles are laid down and their application is expounded. But the enemy is not firing bullets and hand grenades in the book. The ground in the book, too, is easy to dig.

Look for a moment at this sketch of a typical crest.

Black and white sketch of a typical crest.

It is obvious that the trenchline we have gained is the best possible one under the circumstances. No one contends that it is the best one theoretically, but at least one has a certain amount of protection. Anyone who goes forward on to the crest itself is killed by bomb or rifle fire; anyone who goes over the enemy's side of the crest to dig posts that have page 238 a good field of fire is also sure to be killed. This, however, does not deter determined soldiers from trying. The men who did try on Chunuk were buried long after by the Turks, and cannot reply to criticism—criticism which is cheap, and, in this case, futile.

The only thing to do is to dig deep zig-zag saps through the crest line, put T heads on each sap, and so get posts with a field of fire—posts that can be connected by sapping. A determined enemy—and the Turk was very determined—will not let attacking troops do exactly what they wish, otherwise war might be made safe, and the front line become more popular than it is!

The fact remains that the trenches on Chunuk Bair were the only possible ones for such a situation. Those of us who have found it necessary to entrench on a crest line in close proximity to a determined foe, know that what was done on Chunuk could not have been done any better by anybody else; and there, for the present, the matter must stand.