The New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Chapter VIII. At the Head of Monash Gully
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.
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.
[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
Below Pope's Hill: A Dressing Station of the N.Z. No. 1 Field Ambulance.
Straightening the Line.
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.
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
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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
[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
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.
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.
On the Right Flank.
Notice the deep communication trenches through the crest to the firing line, and the 25 graves in the little cemetery.
[Lent by Sergt. P. Tite, N.Z.E.
Looking down Monash Gully.
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.