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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Our First Battle

Our First Battle.

At last, on the night of February 2/3, it was obvious that the great attack had commenced. At Kantara the enemy page 53 made an early morning attack on the outposts, which was easily repulsed. Then their main body came down the deceiving telegraph line. To the intense delight of the Indians the enemy walked straight into the trap, and were scattered to the four winds of the desert by carefully posted machine guns. It was quite evident that Kantara would not fall. But the enemy maintained a certain measure of activity, advancing and digging in just out of range. He showed no anxiety for a closer acquaintance, but appeared content to throw a few shells at the posts and occasionally at the shipping on Lake Timsah. This continued all day, until he was evidently ordered to the attack. It was a miserably feeble effort which rapidly converted itself into a hasty retirement.

Some of the Canterburys were at El Ferdan, upon which post four small enemy field guns opened a desultory fire, but were quickly put out of action by a few well directed rounds from H.M.S. “Clio.”

Down at Kubri the troops were on the alert. H.M.S. “Himalaya” used her searchlights all night, flinging her ghostly beams of light far over the desert and preventing any surprise attack. A few shots were fired by the outposts but well-directed fire from the “Himalaya” deterred the Turk from making any organized advance.

The only place at which a comparatively serious attack was pressed home was in the neighbourhood of Toussoum and Serapeum. On the evening of February 2, the 12th Nelson Company of the Canterbury Battalion was holding a section of 800 yards. On their left the line was taken up by the 62nd Punjabis. At about 3.25 next morning the enemy opened fire with machine guns, and at 3.30 it was evident that
Black and white photograph of the Suez Canal where the pontoons were launched from.

[Lent by Cant. Saunders. 12th Nel. Reg
Where the Attack came.
This is the part of the Canal where the pontoons were launched. The 12th Nelson Company was holding a line near the fir trees.

page 54 he was making an attack a few hundred yards on our left. Thirty men of the Nelsons were at once doubled over to assist the Indians, but were surprised to find no troops there! The enemy, in five pontoons, was already crossing the Canal! The handful of New Zealanders opened fire and drove back the boats. The other platoons of the Nelsons kept up a steady long-range fire. Soon both banks of the Canal were ablaze with the spluttering of rifles fired by soldiers undergoing their baptism of fire. The rival artilleries now came into action, and by dawn the battle raged over the two and a half miles
Black and white photograph of the pontoons being lifted out of the Suez Canal.

Lifting the Pontoons.
The fir trees on our side of the Canal are discernible. The pontoons were sunk by rifle fire. The large holes were made with axes to render the boats unserviceable.

of Canal in the neighbourhood of Toussoum and Serapeum. The Turk made attempt after attempt, but our infantry easily accounted for the men in the pontoons; the field artillery scattered the bridge-making squads; and when it was fully light, the ships' guns caused such consternation in the enemy's reserves that gradually the attack melted away. page 55 Everywhere in front of the line between Toussoum and Serapeum lay dozens of enemy dead.
At noon the Punjabis
Black and white photograph of the grave of the first man killed in action.

The First Man Killed in Action.
The last resting place of 6/246 Private William Arthur Ham, 12th (Nelson) Company of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion.

counter-attacked with considerable effect, took many prisoners, and cleared a large area of the enemy. In the afternoon the New Zealanders were ordered to close on the 22nd Indian Brigade Headquarters, and during this movement we suffered our first New Zealand casualties—one sergeant being wounded and a private of the 12th Nelson Company died as the result of wounds received in action—the first soldier of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to be killed on the field of battle. The troops spent an expectant night, but nothing further materialized.