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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Evolution of the Anzac Line

The Evolution of the Anzac Line

The evolution of the Anzac front line was most interesting. Military text books lay down principles and often suggest their application to different situations. It is considered most necessary to get a good field of fire, so that the maximum loss may be inflicted on the enemy, and good communications assured for the passage of troops and the carriage of ammunition and food.

Consider for a moment what really does take place. The tide of battle sways backwards and forwards until at the end of a desperate day, those of the troops left alive on both sides sink exhausted behind any natural cover—it may be a clay bank, a bush, a big stone, a natural or artificial depression in the ground. Because these men have some protection while they are firing they often escape becoming casualties. These are the men who have really established the line. Other men have got into depressions and behind crests from which they cannot fire at the enemy at all. The energetic soldiers who have gone forward to exposed places have undoubtedly performed great service, but generally at the price of death. So it happens that when night comes, the men left alive increase the cover they have by digging in; thus the front line grows up—little “possies,” as the soldier calls them, deepened and connected up with those on the right and left. page 111
Black and white map.

Map of the Anzac Area.
Showing the inner and outer lines.

page 112 By daybreak a line has been constructed—not sited according to the book—it is probably in the main based on tactical strong points, but many portions of it are incorporated because of their safety—field of fire hardly being considered. Here it is that the tactical knowledge of ground is valuable, and trained officers and men are not slow to take advantage of it, thus avoiding much dangerous and laborious work later in sapping and tunnelling.

At the head of Monash Gully the valley forked into three steep gullies. The one to the left ran up behind Pope's Hill; the second between Pope's and Dead Man's Ridge; the third branched slightly to the right and culminated in the little ravine separating Dead Man's Ridge from Quinn's Post. Courtney's Post was just to the right of Quinn's, and was perched upon the side of a steep hill, in many places really a cliff. On this general line the fighting ebbed and flowed, and on the second day the troops began really to dig in. Harassed by snipers and bombers, the troops clung to the ground they had so pluckily won.

The Anzac area now consisted roughly of two lines. Taking the sea as a base, the inner line resembled a V, starting from Hell Spit, running up Maclagan's Ridge, around to Plugge's Plateau, and then down the face of the cliff to Ari Burnu, the northern limit of Anzac Cove. This was the inner line of defence, and was never really manned, except by field guns and a howitzer or two.

The outer line was shaped like a boomerang, with Quinn's Post as the apex. The fire trench started from a point about 1000 yards south of Hell Spit and ran up the crest of low ridges, thence to the hills overlooking Monash Gully to Steel's Post, Courtney's and Quinn's; next came Dead Man's Ridge and the post called Pope's Hill. Here the impassable ravine intervened, on the other side of which was the section later known as Russell's Top, whence the line took a right-angled bend down Walker's Ridge to the sea. There probably never existed a more tangled and confused line, consisting as it did of posts perched perilously on the brink of steep cliffs, often not even connected one to the other.