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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Chapter VIII. At the Head of Monash Gully

page 102

Chapter VIII. At the Head of Monash Gully.

From the first the Turk held the high ground. Soldiers will realize what that meant. The Anzac army was as yet an untried one, and all new troops are apt to keep their heads down. This is but natural. It must not be forgotten that this was strange country to the newcomers, and that snipers lay concealed in every little dere.

The Turk as a soldier was never to be despised. Centuries of history studded with names such as Kossovo in olden times and Plevna in modern, show that the Turk is a good soldier even if he is a bad governor. The operations against Turkey in this war prove that in trenches the Turk is as good a
Black and white photograph of view from Plugge's Plateau.

Looking towards Baby 700 from Plugge's Plateau.
This very interesting picture shows the long white line, the limit of our furthest advance. The terraces of Quinn's can be seen perched on the side of the cliff.

soldier as he was of old. But the natural aptitude of the Colonial as a hunter soon asserted itself, and cunning marksmen proceeded to stalk the wily snipers. As the trench systems grew up, points of vantage, screened by branches, were occupied by the best shots, accompanied by an observer with a periscope. This gave an Australian corporal of engineers an idea that was instantly availed of—the application of a periscopic attachment to the ordinary service rifle.
The necessary glass for the mirrors was not available, but over on the horizon were a hundred transports waiting with page 103
Black and white photograph.

[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
Below Pope's Hill: A Dressing Station of the N.Z. No. 1 Field Ambulance.

page 104 stores and horses. A fleet-sweeper with a working party went out one fine morning and called on each ship. From the ornate saloons and the cabins the mirrors were removed, lowered gently to the deck of the trawler, and hurried off to Anzac Cove. There the sappers cut the mirrors into little parallelograms and slipped the pieces into the wooden frames at the requisite angles. In a few weeks the new periscopic rifle was in use all along the line, and from that time the superiority of fire was ours, and it was the Turk's turn to keep his head down.

Straightening the Line.

At the end of the first week it was obvious that our defensive line could be much improved. Between Pope's and Walker's Ridge there was a deep canyon—one of the forks at the head of Monash Gully. The Turk held the high ground looking down the canyon, so that troops who were at Pope's, if they wanted to get around to Walker's, had to go away
Black and white photograph of the shell burst.

A Shell Burst on Steel's Post.

down Monash Gully, along the beach, and up Walker's Ridge —a distance of nearly three miles, whereas the gap in the front line between Pope's and Walker's Ridge was only about 200 yards.

Again, between Pope's and Quinn's there was a ridge, so far unnamed. This ridge was practically “No Man's Land,” and, if occupied by the Turks, would be a dangerous salient page 105 to us, as it looked into the back of Quinn's Post and down the head of Monash Valley.

So it was decided that if the left flank of our line—that is, from Quinn's to Walker's—was flung forward, a continuous front line could be obtained and communication within the Anzac area would be much simplified.

It was originally decided that this pushing forward of our line would be made on May 1, but a Turkish attack was launched that evening, and was heavily repulsed by machine guns and rifle fire from Pope's and Courtney's Posts, which enfiladed the attacking infantry. Our attack was postponed until the evening of May 2.

The Canterbury Infantry were to push forward from Walker's, the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade from the head of Monash Gully, while the Otago Infantry Regiment were to attack from Pope's and link up the Australians with the Canterburys who were to advance from Walker's Ridge. Two battalions of the Royal Naval Division were to be held in reserve below Quinn's and Courtney's. To get to their appointed place by 7 p.m., the Otago Infantry had to leave Walker's Ridge on their three-mile march early in the after-noon.

Black and white diagram of the attack.

The Attack on Dead Man's Ridge.
It is obvious that the further an attack is pressed on Dead Man's Ridge, the better target is presented for the enemy gunner on the flank.

At 7 p.m. the attack was launched, but the Otago Regiment had suffered considerable checks on their march round the beach and up Monash Gully. This part of Anzac was so cut up and broken as to be almost unbelievable. The Otagos page 106 had to pull themselves up part of the way on a rope fastened on the steep slope of Pope's Hill.

The entire attack was carried out with great dash; but, owing to the darkness, our unfamiliarity with the country in front, and our misleading maps, we were brought to a standstill. The Canterburys found they could not get on from Walker's Ridge; some of our troops were beaten back, others, particularly the Otagos, hung on grimly through the long night. The Turk was plentifully supplied with cricket-ball hand-grenades, while we depended almost entirely on our rifles.

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.

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.

page 113

Quinn's Post.

Of all these posts, Quinn's became the most famous. It was the salient of the Anzac line and the nearest point to the Turk. Looking back, it is a marvel that the place ever held at all. If the enemy could have shelled it, Quinn's would not have lasted five minutes. It was first held, a ragged trench line just below the crest, by men of the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, which formed part of the N.Z. and A. Division. Those famous battalions—the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th Australian Infantry—established themselves on the night of April 25 at the head of the gully named after their well-
Black and white photograph of the headquarters.

Headquarters of Quinn's.
The three officers are Colonel Johnston, N.Z.I.B.; Lieut.-Col. Malone, Post Commander; and Major Ferguson, R.E., Engineer Staff Officer for No. 3 Defence Section.

Brigadier. The Turk seemed determined to regain possession of Quinn's—this would have imperilled the whole Anzac line, for the holding of Quinn's alone ensured the communications by way of Shrapnel Valley and Monash Gully. Because holding Quinn's meant holding Anzac, no labour was too great to be expended on it. Men in the bomb factory, having completed a long day's work, turned to again when it was made known that “Quinn's was short of bombs,” and pathetic it was to see these hard-swearing Australian and New Zealand sappers nodding their heads and dropping off to sleep with a detonator in one hand and a piece of fuse in the other, only to wake with a start and, in the small hours page 114 of the morning, carry the product of their toil up to their beloved Quinn's—a journey of over a mile in the dark with a box of high explosives!

A party of New Zealand Engineers was established in Quinn's and Pope's from the second day, and their duty was to sap forward with a deep trench through the crest, and then put T ends on the ends of the saps, thus making farther towards the Turk a new firing line which gave a better field of fire. This most dangerous work was much hindered by the enemy dropping grenades in the head of the sap. Men often had bullet holes drilled through their long-handled shovels, but despite the casualties, the work went on.

To the right of Quinn's it was necessary to dig a sap through to join up with Courtney's, and after much labour and loss this work was accomplished. To the left of Quinn's was the hotly-contested Dead Man's Ridge, which, after the morning of May 3, rested in the hands of the Turk. This vantage point almost looked into the back of Quinn's, and a work of great magnitude was the construction of a sandbag wall to protect the tracks to Quinn's from the Turkish machine guns on Dead Man's Ridge.

It was foreseen that if the enemy commenced mining in earnest, a fair-sized charge might blow the post off the hillside into Monash Gully. So counter-mining was decided on. There were no tunnelling companies then in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and the sapper field companies were too reduced by casualties to do the work. But all through the Colonial armies were miners and tunnellers—these men from Broken Hill, Coolgardie, Waihi, Westport, and other places where coal and gold are won, were formed into companies under experienced officers, and in a large measure the strenuous labours of these improvized units at Courtney's, Quinn's and Pope's saved Anzac to the British.

Right through the twenty-four hours the miners sweated at the tunnel face, interested in only one thing: how far the man just relieved had driven in his last shift. There was no talk of limiting the output or of striking in Anzac, for here there was a great community of interest—each one was prepared to labour and, if needs be, to sacrifice himself in the interests of the common weal.

page 115
Black and white photograph.

[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
Courtney's Post.
One of the best photographs taken of an Anzac trench system. The front line is just over the crest; the reserve trenches are near the top left hand corner; the white earth spilled down the cliffside is from the mines running out to the front; the zig-zag track up the steep cliff is cleary shown.

page 116


Our flying men had their headquarters in Mudros Harbour. Daily they flew up and down the Peninsula, but they were sadly overworked. Mostly they were seaplanes belonging to the Navy. This was a sad handicap to our artillery ashore, for guns without aeroplanes spotting for them are almost as ineffective as a blind pugilist.

Every day out to sea the “sausage ship” could be seen with her big captive balloon observing for the naval gunners. For the first week no enemy planes were seen, but one day this new sensation appeared. Eyes were turned skyward,
Black and white photograph of a hillside.

On the Right Flank.
Notice the deep communication trenches through the crest to the firing line, and the 25 graves in the little cemetery.

watching the machine, when someone cried out, “It's a German.” There, sure enough, were the big black crosses instead of the familiar red, white and blue circles. A rather amusing feeling of “What do we do now?” pervaded the onlookers. It seemed to be little use going into the dugout with a waterproof sheet for a roof! But this time he was only spying out the land, and sailed away without molesting anyone. Next day he was back with a sting. As necks were craned upwards, something was seen to leave the machine, and with a succession of “Whoo! whoo! whoo!” came rapidly to earth, or rather, to water, for splash it went into the sea 200 yards from Walker's Pier. “Splash!” came another, and still another, whereupon the plane wheeled back over the page 117
Black and white photograph.

[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
Looking down Monash Gully.

page 118 Peninsula and off home. Daily the machines flew over and dropped their three bombs each, but never was any material damage done.

At the head of Monash Gully showers of steel darts, about the size of a lead pencil, were sometimes dropped, and at intervals the airman wasted his energies in the distribution of leaflets intimating that “As the English are in desperate straits, you will be well treated if you surrender soon.” This was sometimes varied by a sheet on which was a picture of soldiers alleged to be Mohammedan deserters from our Indian troops, telling of the good time they were having with their co-religionists. These papers were greatly treasured by the troops as souvenirs.

One of the most beautiful sights in the campaign was witnessed when one of our seaplanes was attacked by a Turkish anti-aircraft. Standing on the hillside and looking out over the blue Ægean Sea, the eye would pick up, sailing through the azure of the Mediterranean sky, the naval planes with the sun shining on its oiled-silk wings like those of a great dragon fly. Suddenly, below it, a puff of pure white smoke would open out as a silk handkerchief does when released from a closed hand. On would sail the plane, and above it would open another puff of smoke. So, with unders and overs, the picture would be limned in, until the eye got tired of watching, and the plane climbed out of range.