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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli


Bitter as had been the struggle at Anzac, the fight at the southern end of the peninsula was even more bloody. To the most honourable traditions of the British Army and Navy was added a further lustre. The story of the “River Clyde” and the “Lancashire Landing” are amongst the most tragic and glorious in the history of the British race.

But the advance towards Achi Baba was held up some distance from the village of Krithia, and General Sir Ian Hamilton made up his mind to undertake one big final assault before the Turks could receive their reinforcements.

Black and white photograph of "V" Beach.

Nearing “V” Beach, Cape Helles.

On the night of Wednesday, May 5, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade, were assembled on the bullet-swept Anzac beach, placed in destroyers and barges and landed just east of Cape Helles early next morning. Here was the battered “River Clyde,” and on the cliff to the right Sedd-el-Bahr fort, completely wrecked by the naval guns.

As the troops moved from the landing place, they saw deep Turkish trenches and formidable barbed-wire entanglements. The landscape was vastly different from the hungry hills of Anzac. This was fairly easy rolling country, intersected with sod walls, through which gaps had been worn by passing troops; most of the land was cultivated, and dotted here and there with clumps of fir trees, from behind which the French 75's and British 18-prs. threw their hail of shrapnel. Among the 18-prs. was the 3rd Battery of New Zealand Field Artillery that had lain off Anzac, but was not disembarked until landed here at Helles on May 4. This battery stayed at Helles until the middle of August.

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Black and white map.

Map of Cape Helles Sector.
This map shows the route taken by the New Zealand Infantry Brigade on May 6–7.
On April 25, a landing at “Y2” or Gully Beach was not attempted. The troops that landed at “Y” Beach were consequently isolated and eventually withdrawn. The landing at “X” Beach was very successful and is some times spoken of as the “Implacable Landing.” “W” Beach, afterwards called “Lancashire Landing,” and “V” Beach, made famous by the “River Clyde,” were the two most costly landings. The landing at “S” Beach in Morto Bay was successfully carried out by the 2nd South Wales Borderers, covered by the “Cornwallis” and the “Lord Nelson.”

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Having climbed the heights from the beach, the eye took in at once the great hump of Achi Baba, the crest just five miles away. Two ridges, like sprawling arms, ran down to the sea—one towards the Narrows, the other to the Gulf of Saros. From Sedd-el-Bahr a road traverses the centre of the Peninsula, running through the village of Krithia, which is four miles from Sedd-el-Bahr; it skirts the lower slopes to the left of Achi Baba, rounds the northern shoulder of the Kilid Bahr Plateau, and so to Maidos, on the shores of the Narrows, thirteen miles in a direct line from Sedd-el-Bahr. At Krithia, for which village most of the subsequent desperate fighting took place, the Peninsula is about three and a half miles across.

Let the reader take any railway guide and select two stations four miles apart. It is hard to realize that troops like the French, the 29th Division, the Australians, the New Zealanders and the Indians should be held in such narrow limits for so many months. But with the sea on the flanks and the enemy holding the high ground, the defence of a natural fortress like Achi Baba was comparatively easy.

Following on the landings of April 25, the British held the left of the line, with the French (withdrawn from Kum Kale) on the right. Coming from the cramped confines of Anzac, the New Zealanders marvelled to sec French officers in blue and red riding up and down the road, and motor cyclists dashing about with signal messages. Poor Anzac could not boast of a road on which to run even a bicycle. As a relief from our inevitable khaki, the French Senegalese with their dark blue uniforms, the Zouaves with their red baggy trousers, and the French Territorials with their light blue, imparted quite a dash of colour to the scene, On May 6, the French away on the right attacked all day, while the Royal Naval Division moved a little down both sides of the Krithia Road.

In the reconstitution of the British forces for the renewed assault on Krithia, a new composite division, to be used as a general reserve, was formed of the 2nd Australian Brigade, the New Zealand Brigade, and a Naval Brigade consisting of the Plymouth and Drake Battalions.

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Black and white photograph.

[British Official Photograph.
The “River Clyde” Ashore at “V” Beach.
This was a most daring enterprise. The old ship was specially fitted to run ashore, when troops were to pour out of the big doors cut in her sides and fill a string of lighters towed alongside, and so to the shore to form a bridge. But the 1st Munster Fusiliers, the 2nd Hamphires and a company of the Dublin Fusiliers were subjected to a murderous fire and did not get ashore till darkness intervened. Their endurances and gallantry was a fitting complement to the bravery and devotion shown by the officers and men of the Royal Navy.

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