Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
13th Infantry Battalion, AIF, Unit History Account
After the conclusion of the Great War, 13th Battalion, A.I.F. Committee in conjunction with Thomas Alexander White, felt that it was time to record the events of the battalion with the assistance of the Commonwealth book grant. White wrote the history of this Battalion called The history of the Thirteenth Battalion, A.I.F.. The book was published Sydney during 1924. The following is an extract from this book detailing the landing at Anzac in a manner that is seen from the members of the Battalion and so contains all the humour, fears, joy and sadness that is the full gamit of human emotions. As such this story fills in the gaps between the dry reports and the official histories.White, TA, The history of the Thirteenth Battalion, A.I.F., Sydney, 1924, pp. 27 - 31.
Dawn, 25th April, 1915. Ominous and thrilling sounds in the distance. All knew that their First Division mates were in it, and became impatient to join them. It seemed an age until 10.40 when the 13th steered for the open sea and the sound of guns. "A" Coy. had sailed on the "Seang bee" at 6. Passing Cape Helles the battle in progress there was plainly visible, as also was the shelling of the village of Sedd-el-Bahr. At 4.80 p.m, anchor was cast off Anzac Cove and all strained eyes shorewards until nightfall. On all sides were battleships bombarding the distant hills; nearer in towards the shore were transports discharging their troops into destroyers, which then darted towards the shore to discharge the men into rowing-boats. Shells were bursting around and over the vessels and boats, while the crackling of machine-guns and rifles could be plainly heard.
At 9.30 p.m. destroyers came alongside to take off "B" and "C" Coys, "D" and "A" landing early next morning. In the dark loaded men climbed down the gangways and unsteady ladders, feeling uncomfortable in spite of their practice, until they felt their legs gripped by the strong and friendly hands of the sailors. As each destroyer received its complement it rasped shorewards and soon came within range of the enemy bullets. Nearer the beach the men climbed into the boats and were towed by launches or rowed to the shore, several being wounded and a few killed both on the destroyers and in the boats. The wonderfully cool and business-like way in which these youthful British sailors went to and fro between the destroyers and the beach instantly won the never-to-be-forgotten admiration of the Australians.
The rendezvous of the Battalion was on the slope of Ari Burnu, whence, at daybreak next morning, loaded up with extras, and wet with dismal rain that had been falling since midnight, they moved in file on Monash Valley. Gen. MacLagan pointed out the position and asked Burnage to fill the gaps between him and Russell's Top. The 13th was now in the thick of the fight, passing scores of dead and wounded Australians and New Zealanders and encountering plenty of shrapnel and bullets. Part of "B" was detailed early to go to the right to the assistance of a hard-pressed post-Sgt. G. Knox doing magnificent work-and Lt. Perry and a platoon to go as escort to a Mountain Battery out on the right, but the Battery had disappeared; so Perry reported back immediately. Perry's fine leadership qualities-especially his care for his men-had already marked him as one for rapid promotion, which his consistent gallantry and untiring energy hastened. Bn. Headquarters were established at Pope's Hill, that commanding bulwark at the head of Monash Valley, the defence and fortifying of which we shared with the 16th Battalion. Burnage himself placed the men in their firing positions here. Forsythe took his Company, as ordered by the Colonel, into what became Quinn's Post, scaling the cliffs and advancing as far as possible, which was, indeed, but a few yards after the top was reached. Herring was also sent there, but, not being urgently required at the time he was ordered on to Russell's Top, leaving Marks of his Coy. with part of his platoon with Forsythe. There was a serious gap in the line between the remnants of Col. Braund's troops on Walker's Ridge and Russell's Top, and the 16th Bn., under Col. Pope on Pope's Hill, and from this gap the enemy were shooting the troops at and on the right of Quinn's Post in the back. Herring was ordered to fill this gap by connecting Braund's right with Pope's left. "D" thereupon climbed the steep, exposed sides of Russell's opposite Pope's under a desultory fire, losing a dozen men, including the well-known and popular Sgt. Morrison (an ex-Major of the Imperial Army, who had enlisted as a private in our A.I.F., and a veteran of the South African war), who died of his wounds received while placing his men in greater safety. On the top of Russell's "D" found themselves in a thick, stunted prickly scrub, but could see no Turks, although under a heavy fire. They advanced under a lead shower from front and right, losing heavily but seeing no New Zealanders to connect up with. Herring's information was very vague, and his map, like all early Gallipoli maps, of little use. Spreading out and lying down in the scrub his men found bullets coming from all directions and increasing in volume each minute, especially when machine guns from Baby 700 began to bark into their front as well, and others to enfilade them from the Chessboard. Bullets reached even those hugging the ground. "D" was well and truly in the air. Herring's gallant Signaller, Simpson, in spite of the tremendous fusillade he drew on himself waved his flags to send back their position, and read the orders repeated by a second Signaller, also under fire, to retire, which Herring did, after seeing his wounded safe, although there was no need to do so for every wounded man had mates who would never dream of leaving him behind.
Situation at 27 April 1915
After retiring over a furlong, "D" came in touch with Braund's troops at the junction of Russell's Top and Walker's Ridge, where they had had, and were soon again to have, a most desperate time, the Turks constantly sending reinforcements to their positions on the Nek end the Chessboard. It was a miracle that any of "D," who had advanced right on to the Nek, ever got back, especially as, when retiring, shrapnel showers were added to the bullets. They now began to dig in line with Braund's 2nd Bn. and New Zealanders, and dug and fought all day long without remembering that they had had nothing to eat.
During the morning the swarms of Turks coming down Baby 700 were shelled by our warships, including "Queen Elizabeth" and "Queen," which caused them to break up into small parties of threes and fours at wide intervals, and to advance these driblets down in short rushes to minimise losses. In this way, in spite of heavy casualties they soon became overwhelming on the Nek and Chessboard. Then several of our own shells fell among "D," upon which being signalled to the "Queen" she ceased shelling altogether, in spite of repeated requests for aid, there being a misunderstanding about the signals. A few hours later the Turks commenced a tremendous rush down Baby 700. A single shell from one of "Big Lizzie's" 15in. guns broke the rush up into driblets as before, which delayed them somewhat, but soon they were so overwhelming in the scrub in "D" Coy's. front that Braund sent some of his tired 2nd. Bn. to support us. He was also sending a Coy. of New Zealanders, but, before they reached the position they met the thinned platoons of the 2nd retiring from the exposed Top where no one could live long in such a murderous fire as was then churning the ground. To conform with them the 13th were likewise retiring. When "D" reached Monash Valley it was a sadly-depleted company. Lt. F. G. Wilson who, with part of "B," had accompanied Herring, had been killed while setting a glorious' example. "B" and "C" had had as severe a time as "D," although not so strenuous perhaps. All day long men were losing cobbers they had learnt to love so much since those seemingly far-off days at Rosehill and Liverpool. Stretcher-bearers were kept busy, and, without exception, proved themselves magnificent. At times the noise was deafening. Orders of the most contradictory nature came along from both flanks and worried officers and men alike. One officer of the First Brigade, utterly worn out and unnerved by thirty hours' close contact with the enemy, continually stood upon a conspicuous point near "C" Coy., and, waving two revolvers shouted, "Five rounds rapid, and charge!" For hours he led a charmed life. During the day Lt. Legge and his machine-gunners greatly distinguished themselves, especially from their position on the top of Pope's, Legge himself being the first to get there. This gallant young officer had as splendid a body of machine-gunners as ever possessed by the A.LF.- N.C.Os. and men who were a constant source of admiration and inspiration to all near them. The stories of Legge's gunners on Gallipoli would make an inspiring volume in themselves. Lackenby, Eccles, Palin, A. and W. Walsh, Chapman, Maiden, Veness, Pontin, Clasper, Markillie, Wilson, Brinsmead, Lynch, Kirkland, James, Williams, Maher, Cox, Henwood, Olsen, Harris and J. Murray were all heroes. Many paid the full price, many gained highs distinctions; all did their duty gallantly. Legge and Harry Murray were in their right place as officers of such a renowned section.
Situation at 2 May 1915
Night brought no respite, for every now sand again the digging was interrupted to "Stand to!" Officers and men alike dug and used rifles. All preferred digging because of the intense cold-cold that was felt the more after the desert of Egypt, and in their scanty attire, for all packs and greatcoats had been left near the Beach. All through the night hosts of sniper, crept close, and there was no moment when a bullet would not ping from some unexpected quarter. Turks were even captured in our trenches, fighting until overcome, expecting a brutal death if captured. Two brothers, E. and Hugo Cullen, were conspicuously splendid that day. Both are buried on Gallipoli.
The arrival of "A" Coy. on the right of Pope's next morning was a welcome strengthening to the wearied troops there. All the 13th were now face to face with the enemy and their strenuous training being tested.
During the night the firing became not only intenser, but closer, both sides striving to entrench within forty yards of one another on the same narrow ridge; and our positions were so precarious that the enemy needed only to drive our thin line back a few yards - "C" only five - in order to hurl us over into the valley. But our men were so solid, and our officers of the stamp of most of the Originals, so splendid, that every Turkish attempt was heavily repulsed.
So steep were the cliffs behind us that in places men had to use ropes to climb them and the Valley was so commanded by them that the loss of even one post would have been disaster to all the troops in it. Before daybreak Turks behind us, whither they had crept in the dark, sent messages to cease fire, as the British and French from Cape Helles were in our front. Then orders came that the troops on our left front were Indians and we were not to fire on them. Thus many a Turk from his picked position got his shot in first and fatally. Burnage, however, saw that they were Turks, and kept his men firing.
From dawn on the 27th until long after dark the Turks continued their heavy fire and their massing in the dead ground in our front, and, in addition to a few determined assaults, continually threatened attack. Early in the morning half of No. 3 Platoon reinforced the extreme left of Pope's, the now critical apex of the whole front line of Anzac, and an extremely unhealthy position; and here they acquitted themselves gloriously.
All day the 13th also, like the Turks, threatened and charged, most of our charges being organised and carried out on the spot by Company and Platoon Commanders, and even by Sergeants and Corporals, all ranks showing the greatest initiative and daring in clearing our front of the enemy with the bayonet. Our casualties were unfortunately again heavy. Lt. Watkins ("Poor Old Watkins," as he is popularly referred to by his surviving officer friends and men) was killed gallantly leading a glorious charge. His O.C. wrote: "I feel the loss of Watkins very keenly. He was a most reliable officer, loved by all and simply worshipped by his men." The Turks were driven back in confusion, but their machine-gunners from well protected positions suddenly opened with terrible effect against the heroic Watkins and his gallant men, now close up to them. All through the afternoon charge after charge was made. Sgt. Shapley, just promised his commission for splendid work, would jump oil his parapet, followed by his platoon, charge into the scrub with fixed bayonets, yelling "Imshi! Imshi!" and, after each successful charge, would stand and cheer regardless of the enemy.
Especially did the Turks worry us from Deadman's Ridge, and they got into the Valley behind Pope's, whence they sniped unceasingly. Their reinforcements must have come up, for swarms of them again appeared on every part of our front. Again the warships repeatedly smashed them up into driblets. We felt that this and the many charges we had made must have dampened their ardour; but several waves of them suddenly appeared, led by a gallant officer with his drawn sword flashing brightly. He was followed by other officers, revolvers in hand, coolly setting examples to their commands, and 300 men in ragged uniforms. The whole party was wiped out, and again Shapley rose on to the parapet and cheered. They were now quailed considerably, but further reinforcements and darkness increased their valour, and again they came on desperately determined to clear us off the Peninsula. After sounding our "Cease Fire!" they advanced to the weirdest accompaniment ever heard in battle. Bugles called eerily along the whole front advancing and retiring, blaring suddenly close up and then in the dark distance, the echoes repeating in the gullies, while crashes of rifles and machineguns occasionally drowned the efforts of the musicians. There was no tune about it; simply weird blasts, whistle-blowing and shouting, the blasts apparently being signals in Morse. If the last-named were orders to drive us into the sea they were of little avail. Our bullets mowed down line after line. Newly-landed reinforcements were hurried up from the Beach and hurled straight into the fray anywhere required, several 13th officers finding themselves in charge of New Zealanders, men of the four Australian Bdes. on Gallipoli, and A.S.C. men -all splendid and all filled with the same spirit as their own men.
When morning of the 28th dawned men looked in vain for many comrades of the 25th. In some platoons less than a dozen were left without Officer or N.C.O. There were many of our dead along our front, surrounded by masses of enemy, but none of our wounded, for ail had been gallantly carried in by heroes whose deeds became so common as to be almost unnoticed. A 16th Officer sent to ask an Officer of "B" Coy. the names of two of "B's" men who simply had to be noticed even among such heroes. He had seen them on they afternoon of the 27th carrying at least ten wounded comrades back between them, sometimes working together and sometimes independently, but always going out together. They no sooner placed the rescued in safety than they again ran out, one helping a cobber on to the other's back and then picking up his own man to stagger back with him to the trench, to reappear within a minute on a similar errand of heroic mercy. "You chaps have earned V.Cs. What are your names?" asked the 16th Officer; but the only reply he got was a smile from each and a "It's all right, sir." He tried to find out their names the next day by visiting our Coy., but he found that the Officers and N.C.Os. who could have given him the information had' been either killed or wounded, and the men themselves, whom he felt he would recognise, had disappeared -probably killed in a charge, or themselves carried out wounded. Shapley died of his wounds.
Another example to illustrate the glorious spirit of our men is seen in the story of Cpl. A. E. Eccles. Eccles took a damaged gun down to the Beach to the "Triumph's" pinnace and exchanged it for one of theirs. As there was no water on Pope's, he filled it, thus making its weight 80lbs. Then, knowing the importance of a machine-gun on Pope's, he ran all the way back with it, arriving with it under his left arm, for a bone of his right arm had been broken in a fall. He continued his work uncomplainingly and did not report to the M.O. until three weeks later, when he had wasted away to a shadow. Foolish perhaps, but typical of the Dinkum's spirit. Decorations were not awarded for such conduct in those days. Eccles gave his life in Belgium in October, 1917. Sgts. C. F. Laseron, H. Hill, J. H. Holman, E. Davies, G. L. Foote and J. A. Lackenby, and men like R. A. Harvey, W. Parsonage, J. Hussey, A. E. Hughes, J. R. Hooper, H. Aslatt, W. Gocher, R. Coombes, J. Cook, W. Cross and H. C. Dickson were among the most distinguished in those early days, although such a list is unfortunately grievously incomplete.
All now remembered that they were hungry and thirsty. They were not fastidious now, for since they had left Heliopolis on the 11th they had had nothing but iron rations (excepting "A" at Lemnos). For many the haversacks of dead comrades provided their first meal on Gallipoli. The thirst that assailed the weary men on the afternoon of the 27th was so great that they would have risked any danger to assuage the pangs. Water for machine• guns was also urgently required. "Water! God, I'm thirsty! exclaimed a sergeant as he wiped a pebble to hold in his mouth. So intense was the thirst on the 29th that several crawled out to rattle the bottles that formed part of the equipment of their dead comrades and enemy in front; but these had mostly been emptied by the evening of the 27th. Then came a desire for a change from the iron rations, where even such were still obtainable; one section of 17 men shared during a stretch of 40 hours, seven biscuits and three tins of Bully.
Great joy was felt on the evening of the 28th, when "Lizzie" shelled the Chessboard and Deadman's Ridge. The joy was increased when rain commenced to fall, but when it lasted hour after hour, although light, and saturated all except a few with greatcoats, it made all rather miserable. The periscopes that arrived that day for the first time, were welcomed, and as their numbers increased later on, they saved many lives.
It was not until May 1st that "A," "B", and "D" Coys. on Pope's, and C on Quinn's with the 15th Bn., were properly reorganised, and the rolls checked. The sorting out of the various units that had become scattered on the first two days, took a considerable time.
The 13th was now able to obtain an idea of its heavy losses. As mentioned, Lt. F. G. Wilson was dead; Lts. F. G. Granger and G. G. Gardiner were severely wounded, and Capt. S. C. E. Herring was painfully wounded in the hand, but remained on duty, being assisted by a big Russian, P. Zenewich, who pulled him up the cliffs and followed him everywhere. Wilson was not only a very sterling character, but a splendid soldier and one whose work even thus early had made him noted. He was an officer of the greatest initiative, "full of buck and go," as a fellow officer wrote of him. The keen, intelligent, determined little Granger was unable to rejoin the Bn., but the lanky George Gardiner rejoined twice, his happy-go-lucky, cheery, apparently careless, yet sincere nature making each return a very welcome one.
Situation at 3 May 1915
In all these trying times the 13th were wonderfully inspired by the example of their "Game old Colonel." He was continually in the front line, accompanied generally by his Adjutant, Capt. Durrant, moving from post to post across the open. At an "A" post he wanted three to go out on a dangerous reconnaissance and the whole post immediately volunteered. "Some of you drop out," he ordered, but all remained offering themselves for almost certain death.
The Colonel waited. Still none would drop out.
"Come on; some one will have to drop out," he repeated.
"Well, we'll cut for it," suggested a Digger, as he pulled out a pack of cards. And so the patrol was chosen.
The men of "C" were proud of their Capt. Forsythe, whose organising work on Quinn's Post was such that to this day our men who were there call it "Forsythe's Post." When he arrived there on the 26th he found a few Australians and New Zealanders gallantly holding on to the ledge. He immediately commenced and organised a system of trenches, digging and fighting unceasingly until the 4th of May. His position was swept by the Turks from The Chessboard 70 yards away, and from German Officers' Trench 200 yards away on his other flank, both higher positions. They needed only to drive him back five yards to clear the ridge here, but his example was so splendid and his men so solid, that, on each of the many assaults, they were repulsed with frightful losses. Indeed, so offensive were "C" that the mere flashing of their bayonets over the parapet stampeded the Turks on several occasions. Sgt Sewell's repeated gallantry in this Post, cost him his life on the 28th.
It can therefore be easily imagined how exceedingly disappointed Forsythe's Coy. was and how unfair they regarded the Post's being called any name but Forsythe's Post. Capt. Quinn, of the 15th, although a splendid officer, did not arrive there until the 30th. On the 1st May Monash sent for both and asked who was the senior.
"I don't know, sir," replied Forsythe. "I believe Quinn is." Monash then asked Quinn, "Who is senior, Quinn?"
"I think I am, sir," replied Quinn.
"Well, we'll call it `Quinn's Post,'" replied the Brigadier.
Even thus early our stretcher-bearers, so conscientiously trained by Capt. Shelishear, made all ranks proud of them. Especially noticeable was the work of Corps. R. Pittendrigh and J. Sorrell, two clergymen, Ptes. R. Lingard and A. D. Turnbull, although these would be the first to urge that all their comrades were at least as worthy of mention as they. These bearers had often to lie down and act as a brake while their stretchers slid downhill, and their journeys to and from the ridges for the first fortnight were continually through swept areas. The men were simply superb. They were always splendid, but their conduct was the more noticeable that first tremendous week because even they themselves had wondered how they as individuals would stand the strain of active service-and such active service as modern troops had never before seen. Day after day they remained in the firing line without relief, and little groups in several places were to be found holding on without either officer or N.C.O. After a week their faces showed the terrible strain, not only of constant battle, but of hunger, thirst and exposure under the worst conditions. Not only were they wet, but the nights of that first week were generally bitterly cold, and for at least three days-a week in many cases-they had nothing warm, not even a warm drink, and sleep had been out of the question. A few got a drink of hot tea on the morning of the 29th by making fires in small recesses of the trench, and that was an absolute God-send to the fortunate ones. Still even when offered relief, many refused, urging that they knew their part of the front and its dangers better than any relief troops could. Sgt. Wardrop was one who so remained until carried back fatally wounded.
May 1st was a glorious day. Gallipoli was really a beautiful spot in Spring. The rugged hills and narrow winding gullies were covered with shrubs, many of which were flowering and perfumed ; and stunted olive trees were scattered about, and there was the gloriously blue Aegean at our feet. But the perfect day didn't prevent the Turks attacking. They came in great waves against the right of Quinn's and Steele's. Lts. Lee and Perry and a platoon from a jutting-out portion of Quinn's did magnificent shooting at from 200 to 600 yards' range over the back of their trenches. They could not miss for they were firing along the waves and into huddled masses from which they could hear the cry of "Allah! Allah!" The next day the Turks attacked the Marines holding Steele's, and "C" Coy. had some equally excellent shooting.
Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, 13th Infantry Battalion, AIF, Unit History Account