The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Preparing for the Attack
Preparing for the Attack.
Day by day the soldiers in Echelon A assembled on the troop deck for disembarkation practice. The men with their loads seemed bulky enough, but the officers looked even worse. When trussed up with bulging haversacks, two full water bottles, a heavy Webley and ammunition, a big mapcase, field glasses, prismatic compass, a note book and message forms—not to mention the dozen and one small articles that they, in their innocence, considered necessary—is it any wonder that they stepped gingerly? For, once having fallen, they would have found it difficult, as did the knights of old, to rise again.
About four times a day the soldier crept into his Webb equipment, struggled over the side, swayed violently on the frail rope ladder, tumbled into the waiting boat, and pulled slowly to the shore.
[Photo by the Author
The “Queen Elizabeth.”
The warships and transports leaving Mudros Harbour for the attack on the Peninsula.
The days passed all too quickly. Conference upon conference was held on the flagship; much interest was awakened by the issue of maps; and the thrill of intense anticipation was quickened by Sir Ian Hamilton's famous Force Order:—
“Soldiers of France and the King— Before us lies an adventure unprecedented in modern war. Together with our comrades of the fleet we are about to force a landing upon an open beach in face of positions vaunted by our enemy as impregnable.page 73
The landing will be made good by the help of God and the Navy, the positions will be stormed, and the war brought one step nearer to a glorious close.
‘Remember,’ said Lord Kitchener, when bidding adieu to your commander, ‘remember, once you set foot upon the Gallipoli Peninsula, you must fight the thing through to a finish.’ The whole world will be watching your progress. Let us prove ourselves worthy of the great feat of arms entrusted to us.”
Ian Hamilton, General.
Let it never be said that the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force held its opponent cheaply. The seriousness of the situation was obvious, but the troops were imbued with the fact that with proper backing they could not fail, and whatever sacrifice should be demanded, that sacrifice would be gladly made.
At 2 o'clock on the afternoon of April 24, there steamed from Mudros Harbour that great armada, led by the “Queen Elizabeth,” with Sir Ian Hamilton on board. As the New Zealand transports rode at anchor near the entrance, ship after ship passed out at a few cable lengths' distance. The destroyers fussed and fumed about, while the battleships steamed steadily on to take up their position for the early morning bombardment. As each battleship, cruiser, transport and trawler slipped past, great cheers were exchanged; then night came quietly on; lights blinked and twinkled over the expanse of the great harbour; and a great hush fell on the place until about midnight, when the New Zealand ships lifted their anchors and picked their way through the minefields towards the open sea.