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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Christening of Dead Man's Ridge

The Christening of Dead Man's Ridge.

As dawn approached, a message came back that the wounded were lying up in a gully between Pope's and Quinn's, and a party of New Zealand Engineers started to cut a track up an old watercourse to get the wounded out. They pushed on past the two battalions of the Naval Division, and asked them to use their entrenching tools on improving the track. The men, glad to do something to relieve the strain of waiting, set to work with a good will, knocking off the corners and hooking in the sides, until there was quite a passable track to get the wounded men away.

The scene at the top of that gully will never be obliterated from the minds of the survivors. Men were lying all over the place, in every depression and behind every bush. These men had landed on April 25, had fought unceasingly for over a week on scanty rations and with very little sleep. Little wonder that they were exhausted, but it must be said that, apart from the men who were delirious, there was little murmuring. Hollow-eyed and with pinched faces, these Australians and New Zealanders waited doggedly. There were no wild cries of “Stretcher bearer,” or “Water,” or “Reinforcements.” These men realized that every available man was fighting; that the doctors and orderlies were overwhelmed with casualties; that water was scarce, and no one was available to carry it; and that reinforcements would come when they could be spared.

page 107
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by the Author
Dead Man's Ridge and Pope's Hill.
Taken before the scrub was cut away. Dead Man's Ridge is on the right. The first trenches can be seen growing up along the crest of Pope's.

page 108

As grey dawn crept in, isolated parties—wild-eyed, clothes torn, and with blood-smeared bayonets—dashed back from No Man's Land to the security of the crest, where the Turk must be held should he counter-attack. One man, demented by suffering and loss of sleep, went mad and danced on the crest, cursing the Turk, defying him to come on, and then, in his madness, cursing his comrades taking cover in the improvized position of defence. One man was crying bitterly because he had lost his bayonet!

The Turk eventually did attack, but thanks to the defensive line hastily prepared and the imperturbable Anzac soldiery, only one Turk got through—an officer, who tumbled into our line with a revolver bullet in his forehead.

All this took place in No Man's Land, in that little gully to the left of Quinn's Post, and from that morning it was known as “Bloody Angle.”

The units of the Naval Division were then directed to go up the ridge between Quinn's and Pope's, and their casualties were so heavy that the name, “Dead Man's Ridge,” was instinctively applied to it by association.

The sorely tried Colonials could not but admit the bravery of the Royal Marine officers as they led their men up those scrub-covered slopes. They pressed straight up the goat track, and lined the ridge. As the ridge was a salient, the Turkish machine gunners from the trenches opposite our right flank opened fire, and caught the entire line of men in the back of the head. As fast as the men fell, others pressed forward to take their places. The officers suffered excessively as they encouraged their men. On occasions such as these, one realizes the devilish ingenuity of modern war—bullets streaming as from a hose, and cutting down everything in the line of fire—men and shrubs indiscriminately, until the clay slopes of Dead Man's Ridge were stained with British blood.

The troops holding the safe crestline just a little to the right were fascinated by the scene—the red and yellow of the hillside, the brave men steadily climbing up to the fatal crest, the burst of machine-gun fire as it caught the soldiers on the ridge; then the awful tumble down the slope until the page 109
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by the Author
The First Trenches at Quinn's Post.
This picture was taken at the end of April, before the scrub was whittled into matchwood by the hail of bullets.

page 110 maimed body came to rest at the foot of the gully among the sweet wild thyme.

The machine-gun fire was too deadly. The survivors reluctantly came back to the old line, leaving Dead Man's Ridge covered with dead—our own and the Turks'. Every night for weeks comrades risked their lives to get the bodies away, but the Turk gradually established himself on the ridge, and not until Armistice Day were the burials completed.

A party of the Otago Infantry had a most trying time. They did not fall back with their comrades during the darkness, and suffered severely all next day. They were hard pressed and given up for lost, but next evening managed to cut their way out through the exultant Turks.