The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Preparing for the Big Bluff
Preparing for the Big Bluff.
Thursday and Friday nights came, and in the darkness, crowded barges were towed out to the transports lying out to sea. On Friday night an accident occurred that certainly invited disaster. Great piles of stores in all the depots were soaked in kerosene and petrol and made ready for firing just before leaving. By some mischance the heaps at Anzac Cove burst into flame, lighting up the scene like day—with the troops waiting on the beach; the picket boats with their loads puffing in and out; and away out to sea, the waiting transports and the destroyers, ever vigilant. So light it became that the embarkation of troops had to be discontinued. Still the Turk made no sign beyond directing a few shells towards the long tongue of flame. It transpired afterwards that he was under the impression that the valuable stores had been set ablaze by his shell-fire!
By day there was little rest. There seemed to be a thousand things to be done in the short time available. Much material had to be destroyed, rather than let it fall into the hands of the Turk. Ammunition was buried or dropped into the sea. Condensed milk that would have been invaluable earlier in the campaign was destroyed page 283 by punching holes in the tins with bayonets. Jar after jar of rum was smashed. Blankets by the thousand and piles of clothing were saturated with petrol ready to be burned. Everything of value to the Turk was made valueless.
At Suvla where there was more room than at Anzac, an inner position was prepared by the erection of a strong barbed wire fence eight feet high, with great gates across the roads. At Anzac, barricades were made in all the principal deres and communication trenches. A final covering position, manned by machine gunners, was page 284 prepared. Its left flank was on No. 1 Post, and ran by way of Walker's Ridge, across to Plugge's Plateau and so down Maclagan's Ridge to the sea, very much the lme decided on when the re-embarkation after the April landing was momentarily considered. Oh! the what-might-have-beens of those eight tragic months!
There were now only two nights to go, Saturday night and Sunday night. The 20,000 troops remaining at Anzac and Suvla were to be evacuated at the rate of 10,000 per night. The numbers from our division were 3491 on the second last night, and the final 3000 on the last night.
The line from Suvla to Chatham's Post was held as follows:
N.Z. & A. Division—from the right of Hill 60 to the Apex;
1st and 2nd Australian Divisions—from Walker's Ridge to Chatham's Post.
The Suvla Army embarked from the piers in Suvla Bay and on the Ocean Beach. The New Zealanders and Australians on the left of Anzac had to come down the three principal deres to the piers on Ocean Beach. The Australians from the centre and right of Anzac naturally moved down Shrapnel Gully and along the beach from the extreme right towards the piers at Anzac Cove.
The New Zealand Brigades were now disposed as follows:
|Hill 60||Hill 100||Cheshire Ridge||The Apex|
A divisional rendezvous was formed at No. 2 Post. Here the troops paraded according to a timetable, and were drafted into groups of 400—the capacity of those big motor lighters that the men had christened “beetles.”page 285
All through the night of that last Saturday at Anzac the little groups assembled, and were packed into the lighters. By 4.30 a.m. on December 19, the last beetle cleared from the shore leaving the “Diehards” of the Division, only 3,000 strong, to hold the line against a mighty army.
It was an anxious day, but there was much to do. Men devised all sorts of mechanism to keep rifles going mechanically after the last party had left. The favourite method was as follows: It takes a certain amount of pressure to pull the trigger of a rifle. After many experiments a device was perfected whereby an empty tin was suspended by a piece of string to the trigger of a loaded rifle. Another tin full of water, but with a small hole in it, was placed above the empty one, so that the water leaked into the bottom one, thus gradually increasing the weight until it was sufficient to pull the trigger!