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"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre site holds over 12,000 entries and is growing daily.

Contact: Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

Let us hear your story: You can tell your story, make a comment or ask for help on our Australian Light Horse Studies Centre Forum called:

Desert Column Forum

WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Sunday, 4 April 2010
The First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, France, 4 April 1918, Outline
Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front

First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux

France, 4 April 1918

Outline

 

First Villers-Bretonneux, a major action fought on 4 April 1918, after the Germans renewed their March offensive aiming for the road and rail junction centre of Amiens. An important gain won in the initial drive had been the advancement of the front-line to within a few kilometres of Villers-Bretonneux, a point on the plateau south of the Somme River from which it was possible to overlook the flats of the Somme, Avre and Noye and from where there was the prospect of bringing Amiens itself-barely sixteen kilometres away-under artillery fire. When the Germans struck again with fifteen divisions along a front of 34 kilometres, this sector of the line was accordingly a particular focus of attention.

In response to the previous perilous position at this point, the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division (under Brig.-General Charles Rosenthal) had been sent here on 29 March to prevent the Germans driving a wedge between the remnants of the British Fifth Army - now no more than a corps - and the French First Army to the south. An enemy thrust the next day against Hamel only five kilometres north-east of Villers-Bretonneux, had been repulsed, but valuable gains were made four kilometres south about Hangard village on the River Luce. A battalion of the 9th Brigade (the 33rd) had become involved in the fighting here, in conjunction with the British 12th Lancer Regiment, in what became known as ‘Lancer Wood'.

At the moment that the new German blow fell five days later, only one widely extended battalion (the 35th) of the Australian brigade was protecting the front of Villers-Bretonneux; the other three battalions lay in support behind the village. Two British divisions protected the flanks north and south, towards Hamel and Lancer Wood respectively, but both were tired after being engaged further south until recently relieved by the French. When the 18th Division on the south was attacked it held at first, but the 14th Division at Hamel did not; the Germans broke through here and captured the town. The Australian 35th Battalion was forced to swing back its left flank to avoid being enveloped. The situation on the northern edges of Villers-Bretonneux was restored by the 33rd Battalion acting in conjunction with British cavalry.

On the northern edge of the 14th Division's area, the situation was stabilised by the 15th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division under Brig.-General Harold Elliott. This was guarding the bridges across the Somme in rear of 3rd Australian Division and, as soon as fleeing British troops arrived in its lines, began organising a stopgap force west of Hamel. Later that afternoon, the brigade's two reserve battalions were sent across the Somme and took over the defence of vital high ground west of Hamel, thereby ensuring that the German advance got no further in that direction.

Meanwhile, a new German thrust an midafternoon drove hack part of' the 18th Division in the south and brought the enemy to the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux. The fall of the village appeared certain at this juncture until the 9th Brigade's 36th Battalion, lying in wait just south of the township, launched an unexpected and spectacular bayonet charge at 5 p.m. Joined by a company of the 35th Battalion on its left and about 180 men from the British 7th Battalion of the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on the right, and supported by the 6th London Battalion as a second wave, this assault line was first sighted by the Germans-themselves advancing in five waves from the Monument Wood-at a distance of about 400 metres as it crested a rise at a jog-trot. The enemy at first hesitated, then backed into the cover of the wood. Although the attackers lost heavily, they succeeded in driving the enemy back more than a kilometre to a line just north of Lancer Wood.

Shortly after the counter-attack ended, movement by British cavalry squadrons on the township's northern outskirts (in which the Australian 33rd and 34th battalions joined) helped advance that part of the line and the crisis was past. Villers-Bretonneux had been held, but at a cost to the 9th Brigade of 665 casualties.

 

Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 139-141.

 

Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:

C.E.W. Bean (1937) The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Main German Offensive, 1918, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.

 

Further Reading:

The First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, France, 4 April 1918, Contents

The First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, France, 4 April 1918, Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, France, 4 April 1918, Outline

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 8 April 2011 2:41 PM EADT
AIF & MEF & EEF, Contents
Topic: AIF & MEF & EEF

AIF & MEF & EEF

Contents 

 

Items

Glossaries 

Officers and Honours

Glossary of Australian Graduation Staff List and Honours

 Gallipoli

Glossary of Gallipoli Terms

Sinai, Palestine and Syria

Glossary of Sinai, Palestine and Syrian Terms

 Australian Military Terms - Bean

Glossary of Australian Military Terms 

The B103 - Tracking all the Servicemen

B103, Index to Common Terms

 

Army Unit Numbering 

The Australian Military, Army Unit Numbering

 

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

Aspinall-Oglander, CF, Military Operations, Gallipoli

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Order Of Battle, August 1915

 
Egyptian Expeditionary Force
Becke's outline on the EEF
Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Formation 
Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Personnel 
Egyptian Expeditionary Force, Battles and Engagements 
 
MacMunn, G. & Falls, C., Military operations: Egypt and Palestine, (London 1930)
EEF Order of Battle, April 1916.
Part 1, General Headquarters
Part 2, Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division
Part 3, IX Corps
Part 4, 42nd (East Lancashire) Division
Part 5, 54th (East Anglian) Division
Part 6, II Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
Part 7, 4th Australian Division
Part 8, 5th Australian Division
Part 9, 11th Division
Part 10, No. 3 Section Canal Defences
Part 11, Western Frontier Force
Part 12, North-Western Section
Part 13, South-Western Section
Part 14, General Headquarters Troops
Part 15, Lines of Communication Defence Troops

 

EEF Order of Battle, April 1917.

Part 1, General Headquarters

Part 2, Eastern Force

Part 3, 52nd (Lowland) Division

Part 4, 53rd (Welsh) Division

Part 5, 54th (East Anglian) Division

Part 6, 74th (Yeomanry) Division

Part 7, Desert Column

Part 8, Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division

Part 9, Imperial Mounted Division

Part 10, Northern Canal Section

Part 11, Delta and Western Force

Part 12, Alexandria District

Part 13, General Headquarters Troops

Part 14, Southern Canal Section

Part 15, Lines of Communication Units

 

Falls, C, Military Operations Egypt and Palestine from June 1917 to the end of the war, Part II

EEF Order of Battle, October 1917. 

Part 1, General Headquarters

Part 2, Desert Mounted Corps

Part 3, XX CORPS

Part 4, XXI CORPS

Part 5, General Headquarters Troops

 

EEF Order of Battle, September 1918.  

Part 1, General Headquarters 

Part 2,  Desert Mounted Corps

Part 3,  XX CORPS

Part 4,  XXI CORPS

Part 5, Chaytor's Force

Part 6, General Headquarters Troops

 

 Australian Imperial Force

To view an outline of the history regarding this formation, its emergence and composition is detailed in the section on the Australian Light Horse Order of Battle. The full Order of Battle can be viewed at the following link:

Australian Light Horse Order of Battle

 

Individual Units

The individual formations that comprised the Desert Mounted Corps were many. Put together at any one time and there was about 14,000 mounted men in the Desert Mounted Corps. Below is a guide to the individual units.

Divisions

Anzac Mounted Division

Australian Mounted Division

Brigades

New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade

1st Australian Light Horse Brigade

2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade

3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade

4th Australian Light Horse Brigade, 1917-19

5th Australian Light Horse Brigade

Imperial Camel Corps - units

Regiments

1st Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

4th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

5th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

6th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

7th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

8th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

10th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

11th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

12th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

The Second 14th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

15th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, History

Auckland Mounted Rifles, NZMRB, History

Wellington Mounted Rifles, NZMRB, History

Canterbury Mounted Rifles, NZMRB, History

 

Further Reading:

AIF, MEF and the EEF

Desert Mounted Corps (DMC)

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: AIF & MEF & EEF, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 4 April 2010 11:32 AM EADT
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Fred Waite Account, Part 1
Topic: BatzG - Anzac

The Battle of Anzac Cove

Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

Fred Waite Account, Part 1 

 

Early days at Anzac Cove

[From: Waite, p. 83.]

 

In 1919, Fred Waite, a Gallipoli  veteran and hero with a DSO [Citation: "For gallantry and devotion to duty in connection with the operations at the Darddanelles (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force). On the night of 2-3 May 1915 during the operations in the neighbourhood of Gape Tepe for gallantry and resource in rallying his men, and leading them forward at critical moments."] finished his work on the Gallipoli Campaign called The New Zealanders at Gallipoli,  which was published by Whitcombe and Tombs Limited in Christchurch. This forms part of the New Zealand Official War history series. It is from this work this extract derives.

 

Fred Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, Christchurch , 1919, pp. 74 - 85

 

Chapter VI

The Anzac Landing.

 

Early on Sunday morning the intention of Army Headquarters was made clear by the issue of orders for the attack. A study of the map revealed three dominating land features. In the south, overlooking Cape Helles, was the great hump of Achi Baba. Inland from Suvla Bay was the tangled mass of cliffs, valleys and hills culminating in the peak of the Sari Bair system, which, from its height marked in feet, was after wards known as “Hill 971.” Lying further over near the Straits and protecting the fortress on the European side, was the mountain system known as the “Pasha Dagh” or Kilid Bahr Plateau. Both Achi Baba and Hill 971 had to be captured before attempting the plateau, which latter having fallen, we could take possession of the great fortresses of Kilid Bahr, and Chanak on the opposite shore. These two places is our hands, the passage of the fleet would be largely a matter of careful mine sweeping.

In order to mystify the enemy and to encourage him to disperse his forces, two subsidiary attacks were undertaken. Away up at Bulair a fleet of empty transports, accompanied by a few men-of-war, were to make a demonstration. Down on the Asiatic coast the French were to land, reduce Kum Kale and the forts in the neighbourhood, and then withdraw The 29th and Royal Naval Divisions were to land on several beaches at the extremity of the Peninsula and push on towards Krithia and Achi Baba, being reinforced by the French Division after its withdrawal from Kum Kale. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was ordered to force a landing on the beach between Gaba Tepe and Fishremen's Hut. Hill 971 itself was to be avoided, the troops endeavouring to pass over its southern under-features to the road running from Boghali and Maidos. Mal Tepe was a hill specifically mentioned. “The capture of this position would threaten and perhaps cut the line of retreat of the enemy's troops on Kilid Bahr plateau, and have far-reaching results,” said the operation order.

Passing Cape Helles.

When morning fully broke the New Zealand transports were nearing Cape Helles. The big guns of the fleet were pounding the forts until the horizon seemed a mass of smoke and flame. Over against Kum Kale the French ships were hotly engaged; off Cape Helles the British stood close into the forts. Again we saw our old friend the “Askold”—now christened the “Packet of Woodbines,” because of her five long funnels. The noise of the naval bombardment was truly extraordinary—the sharp crack of the lighter guns; the ear-splitting roar of the 12-inchers; and booming clearly above them all, the tremendous reports from the 15-inch guns of the “Queen Elizabeth.” Watching from the rail, the soldiers were very sorry for the Turk. It seemed impossible that anything could live through such a bombardment. At the morning service, with the reverberation of the incessant gunfire assailing our ears, we found it difficult to hear the padre reading “In the midst of life we are in death.” From across the water the bark of the 6-inch guns struck harshly on the singing of the soldiers' favourite hymns.

Just opposite Gaba Tepe the transports slowed down. Like children kept inside on a wet day, we were very impatient. A desire to be doing something possessed all ranks. The men broke up cases and split the wood for kindling fires ashore. Every man pushed seven or eight pieces through the straps on the back of his pack. Many seized the opportunity to write the letter that most thoughtful soldiers write at the beginning of a campaign—a letter to be carried in the breast pocket and only to be forwarded by the comrade that buries him—tender farewells, simply and beautifully written, as men always do write when they are face to face with the things that really matter.

In groups of four the transports, covered by the battleships, moved up to about a mile off shore, disembarked the troops of the first echelon, and then moved to the rear, letting the next four continue the manoeuvre. On our port side the old twin-funnelled “Majestic” belched a stream of 12-inch shells on the ridges; away to starboard, the four long funnels of the “Bacchante” were dimly discernible through a tremendous column of smoke. Southwards, as far as the eye could see, were transports innumerable, and closer in-shore, the angry, barking battleships.

 

Going Ashore.

The destroyers were taking their human freights as far in as they dared—and the average t.b.d. commander will dare a good deal. Over the side and down the swaying rope ladders we went for the last time. This was not a Mudros Harbour practice. We felt uncommonly clumsy and three times our ordinary size. With our hob-nailed boots we clattered about the iron deck, until it was so crowded we had perforce to stand still.

Now the picket boat zone was reached. Off the destroyer and into a barge. Six barges made a tow. The little steamboat puffed and tugged, and off we swerved like a sinuous snake.

The 3rd Australian Brigade made the first landing about 5 in the morning, and had cleared the first ridges. New Zealand Headquarters landed at 10 a.m.; then there was a strange hitch, and the precious hours between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. were wasted. By this time the Turk had in some measure made up his mind about the real attack and had concentrated his guns on the beach. He only had to fire at the water's edge, consequently he had no difficulty in ranging by the map. He knew that the Landing must be in a very circumscribed area, and his ranging was good. Shells plopped in the water all round as the tows set a course for the beach.

Boat after boat of wounded passed us going back to the transports they had left only a few hours before. They waved their blood-stained arms and cheered with feeble cheers. The encouragement was certainly welcome.

We were now well within range. Rifle and shrapnel fire was whipping the water round the boats. About 300 yards from the shore the barges were cast loose, and each, with a naval rating as coxswain, pulled vigorously for the beach. Casualties were frequent. As the boats grounded, the men tumbled out; many were hit in the water and were drowned a major, jumping from the bows—the water was about 2 feet deep—was hit in the knee. He fell into the surf, but was hauled on board again, and the picket boat towed him back to the transport he had just left. The survivors fell in and adjusted their heavy equipment under the protection of the sandy cliff.

 

Straight into the Battle.

Up in the maze of gullies our men were struggling with the Turks. As each company or platoon came ashore it was rushed up to the firing line. Casualties and the broken country made control very difficult, and up where the tide ebbed and flowed, the natural leaders of men, whether they happened to be officers or privates, led their little groups to the attack or stood stubbornly at bay among the scrub-clad hills.

The orders given to our Division on disembarkation were for the New Zealand Infantry Brigade to prolong the line to the left of the 1st Australian Division, and particularly to support the left of the Third Brigade, which had landed as the covering force to the Army Corps; the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade was to be held in reserve. The landing of the Auckland Battalion was completed at 12 noon. Walker's Ridge was given as its objective. By 12.30 p.m., two companies of the Canterbury Battalion were ashore, and were directed to support the Auckland Battalion.

At 1 p.m., the Auckland Battalion was recalled from Walker's Ridge and brought more to the right, to occupy Plugge's Plateau, in order more directly to connect with the left of the covering brigade. The two Canterbury companies prolonged the left flank of the Auckland Battalion, in the direction of Walker's Ridge. Between 12.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. the Otago Battalion arrived and was sent up to Plugge's Plateau in support of the Auckland Battalion. When the remaining two companies of the Canterbury Battalion arrived they were sent to Walker's Ridge to prolong and reinforce the left flank.

Owing to the accuracy of the enemy big-gun fire, the transports with our field guns aboard were temporarily forced to retire. The Turkish gunners were punishing us severely, and we realized to the full the bitterness of not being able to effectively retaliate. But the Indian Mountain Batteries endeared themselves to all by their sacrificing efforts. Gallantly led, these matchless gunners, with their patient mules, wheedled their guns up to seemingly inaccessible vantage points; unlimbering, they would get in a dozen effective shots and be down in the gully and up to an alternate position before their opponents could sense the situation.

All along the beach, under the scanty shelter of the cliff, the wounded lay—some on stretchers, some on blankets, others on the shingle. The surgeons worked as they never had before. Wounded poured down from the hills incessantly. The picket boats towed their barges, crammed with troops, to the beach, and seemed to take away almost as many wounded.

The sun went down and the ships stood over against Samothrace silhouetted in the sunset. But with the night came no peace. The Turks attacked with renewed vigour—reinforcements had arrived for them. Blowing trumpets and shouting “Allah!” they surged forward. Our fellows ran to meet them, cursing in good round English and very bad Arabic. Up there in the tangled gullies many a strange duel was fought that night. When not actually fighting, men dug for their lives. Then on would come the Turks again, shovels would be dropped, and the attack repelled. One desperate rush was stemmed by a gallant band headed by a corporal with nothing more effective than a pick-handle.

A Desperate Night.

As the evening wore on, the beach became one long lane of suffering soldiers. The doctors could only attend to the most severe cases. Many a man, when asked if he was badly hurt, said, bravely enough, “Oh, no!” and died quietly in the night.

The stretcher bearers were magnificent. From the order, “Stretcher squads fall in” at the moment of landing, these men slaved on the ridges and in those valleys of torment. A man without a load can dash from cover to cover, but the stretcher bearers, with their limp and white-faced burdens, must walk steadily on, ignoring sniper and hostile gunner. From the front line it took about two and a half hours to get a patient to the hospital on the beach. Hour after hour the work went on, until after twenty hours' stretcher bearing these unheeded heroes fell in their tracks from sheer exhaustion. Volunteers took up the work, but after a few hours' rest, the gallant souls were out again — medical officers, stretcher bearers and hospital orderlies literally working themselves to death in an endeavour to mitigate the awful anguish of the wounded men of Anzac. “I shall never forget that night,” said a sergeant of the N.Z.M.C., “A twelve-stone weight on the stretcher, a dark night, a little drizzling rain, groping our way down a steep incline through prickly scrub, our wounded man crying with pain and begging for a drink every few yards, incessant rifle fire, and bullets whizzing all round us.” Except those who lay so very quietly up in the scrub or on the shell-swept beach, no one rested that night. The firing line was gradually becoming a little defined as the tired soldiers on both sides became exhausted.

The units were inextricably mixed—Australian and New Zealand infantry clung doggedly to the hardly-won crest line. Approximately, the Australian 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigades held the right flank; the centre was in a state of flux, but the 4th Australian Brigade held the ridges at the head of Monash Gully; the Otago trenches grew up overlooking Monash Gully; the Aucklanders dug in along Plugge's Plateau; the Canterbury Battalion were desperately engaged on Walker's Ridge, where their gallant commander (Lieut.-Colonel Stewart) fell at the head of his men. The Wellingtons landed in the dark and went straight up to Plugge's Plateau. The gunners laboured all through the night preparing for the eagerly expected howitzers; while the sappers hastily improvized a second line of defence along Plugge's Plateau down Maclagan's Ridge to the sea. Here the last stand would be made if the worst came, but the morning broke and the outer line was still intact; picks were laid aside and the indomitable men of Anzac again took up their rifles to face the trials of the day.

 

Further Reading:

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, AIF, Roll of Honour 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Fred Waite Account, Part 1

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 15 April 2010 9:20 PM EADT
Saturday, 3 April 2010
Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915, Contents
Topic: Tk - Bks - 1/33IR

The Battle of Anzac Cove

Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915,

Contents

 

 

Items

Outline

Officers commanding in the 33rd Infantry Regiment

 

Maps

Map detailing the placement of 1/33 IR, 25 April 1915

Map detailing the placement of 1/33 IR, 25 April 1915 - Part 2  

Map of attack at Anzac involving 33rd IR, 27 April 1915  

The situation at Anzac, 1 May 1915

 

 

Diary

Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915

Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915, Part 2 

Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915, Part 3 

Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915, Part 4

Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915, Part 5 

 

Roll of Honour

1/33rd IR Roll of Honour, April 1915 

Lest We Forget

 

Further Reading:

Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

1/33rd IR Roll of Honour, April 1915  

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Turkish Roll of Honour

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Turkish OC of 1/33 IR diary up until his death, 30 April 1915, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 5 April 2010 1:17 PM EADT
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Fred Waite Account, Part 2
Topic: BatzG - Anzac

The Battle of Anzac Cove

Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

Fred Waite Account, Part 2 

 

New Zealand  and Australian Division Headquarters

[From: Waite, p. 90.]

 

In 1919, Fred Waite, a Gallipoli  veteran and hero with a DSO [Citation: "For gallantry and devotion to duty in connection with the operations at the Darddanelles (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force). On the night of 2-3 May 1915 during the operations in the neighbourhood of Gape Tepe for gallantry and resource in rallying his men, and leading them forward at critical moments."] finished his work on the Gallipoli Campaign called The New Zealanders at Gallipoli,  which was published by Whitcombe and Tombs Limited in Christchurch. This forms part of the New Zealand Official War history series. It is from this work this extract derives.

 

Fred Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, Christchurch , 1919, pp. 86 - 101

 

Chapter VII.

The First Week.



No one had slept during the night. Re-embarkation was suggested, but a conference was held and the Generals decided to hold on. The men made strenuous efforts. Those not actually fighting were employed making roads up Maclagan's Ridge in the centre, and up Walker's Ridge on the left, in order that the guns might be man-handled up to the positions selected by the artillery commanders.

The stern of the horse boats dropped in the water makes an inclined plane down which the gun is manhandled. The country was too rough for horses, but fifty men on a rope can overcome most obstacles.

About midnight, three companies of the 15th Battalion, 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, arrived and were sent up to reinforce the 1st Australian Division away on the right. They had been hardly pressed just before sunset, and orders were given that all available troops were to support the covering force (the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade) as they arrived, and to connect up with the New Zealand Infantry Brigade on the left. During the remainder of the night, platoons and companies of the Wellington Battalion of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, and of the 13th, 15th, and 16th Battalions of the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, were brought ashore.

The troops arrived in very irregular order—some from one ship and some from another. As each platoon or company came ashore, it was immediately despatched, under the senior officer present, to support the right flank, where the 1st Australian Division was most hotly engaged. The result was that units of both divisions became hopelessly mixed up, and it was several days before they could be disentangled.

By 3 a.m., the whole of the Australian 13th Battalion had arrived. The bulk of it was held temporarily in reserve. One and a half more companies of the Wellington Battalion now occupied Plugge's Plateau, above the beach, and half a company had been sent off to join the 1st Australian Division on the right. By 5 a.m., the remaining company of the Wellington Battalion had arrived, and by 6 a.m., a section of the New Zealand Howitzer Battery was brought ashore, and gladdened the heart of every infantryman as it came into action at the foot of Howitzer Gully. “Boom!” went the howitzer. “The guns, thank God! the guns!” murmured the tired soldiers.

 

Shrapnel Gully.

The Turk quickly realized that the valley running from behind Hell Spit deep into the centre of Anzac must be the channel of communication. His gunners were so assiduous that it was quickly christened Shrapnel Valley. The top of this valley was afterwards known as Monash Gully.

The glory of the spring was still on the Peninsula. Birds sang in the bushes and the fragrance of crushed wild thyme perfumed the morning air. Patches of red poppies glowed in the sheltered open places. Draped around the prickly scrub were festoons of wild honeysuckle. But down in the bottom of Shrapnel Valley was a dreadful sight. The moist earth in the old creek bed had been ploughed into mud by thousands of hurrying feet. Soldiers, in their eagerness to get forward, had thrown off their kits and equipment, and there the debris lay, punched and trampled into the mess. Dead mules were scattered about in helpless attitudes. Every few yards one met soldiers—their clothes torn by rock and scrub, their bodies mangled by bullet and bomb—stumbling down that Valley of Death to have their wounds dressed at the casualty clearing stations. A steady stream of stretcher bearers carried back limp forms; shrapnel burst high in the air; machine guns spluttered; mountain guns barked; the crash and rattle of musketry never ceased as the echoes rolled round the myriad hillsides. High over all, black specks up in the sky, but watchful as of old, the vultures gathered together, knowing full well that blood was being spilt.

The drumfire down at Helles boomed all day. The old battleships, with their big guns, raked the Turkish positions, while the big 15-inchers of the “Queen Elizabeth” roared loudly above the great roll of gunfire. The moral support afforded by this ship was incalculable. “Good old Lizzie,” the soldiers shouted, as her great guns spoke. Optimistic always, the men looked continually for signs of the British and French advancing from Cape Helles. When the second day's battle was at its height, the cry was raised, “Cease fire! the English troops are here,” but it was only a ruse of the Turks—and the musketry battle resumed its violence. Cries of “Cease fire” and “Retreat” shouted in English, caused at first a momentary wavering, but soon the Colonial soldiers realized the deceptions, and the would-be deceivers shouted commands in vain.

 

The End of the Second Day.

The second day crept to a close, and our lines were hourly being made secure. Units were inextricably mixed, but, roughly, the Australian Division held the line south of Courtney's Post, while the N.Z. and A. Division held Courtney's and all northwards of it.

No man thought of rest: to work was salvation.

On top of a big yellow mound at the head of Monash Gully there was a rough cross, inscribed, “Here lie buried twenty-nine soldiers of the King.” Two of these men—one an Australian of the 14th Infantry Battalion, the other a sapper of the New Zealand Engineers—had been found just below the fatal crest of Courtney's Post, with their arms still clasped around each other's waists. As they lay among the scrub, those poor lifeless bodies seemed symbolical of the new spirit that had grown up on the Peninsula. While in Egypt, the Commonwealth and Dominion soldiers had their little differences; but the first two days on the Peninsula swept away all the little jealousies and the petty meannesses. Every man helped his neighbour. There was no question of corps, or rank, or colour. By common trials, a common suffering, and a common interest, Australian, Indian, and New Zealander realized they were brothers in fact, as in arms. These first two days made great things possible within the Empire. The experience of those sweet sensations of brotherhood will be cherished and handed down as one of the priceless gifts of Anzac.

The New Zealand machine gun sections experienced a particularly trying time. They were attached to individual battalions and were not fought as a unit. The Auckland guns were pushed forward with their battalion, and somewhere at the head of Monash Gully were so hard pressed that they had to abandon one gun, which was retrieved from its hiding place two days after. The Otagos also came under a very hot fire. They, too, abandoned a gun, but never regained it, as an Australian party found it and consistently refused to give it up! Right through the campaign the Otago Regiment were one gun short, fighting only three guns.

The Wellington gunners were heavily punished on April 27. They evidently pushed too far forward in their eagerness to get at the Turks, but snipers picked them off one by one, until the officer was killed and the whole of the personnel disabled, except one lad who was acting as ammunition carrier.

Gradually the field artillery got their guns from the barges, and with long ropes manhandled them to their almost inaccessible positions. Tracks were cut on the hillsides, rough jetties were improvised, and dugouts were constructed. Mostly these were holes in the ground big enough for a man and his mate to get nearly into. A waterproof sheet served as roof, and when it rained, as it did nearly every night, the waterproof sheet collected and deposited on the occupants whatever water had fallen in the catchment area.

Washing became a lost art. Mirrors were converted into periscopes. The previously spic-and-span New Zealand Army grew dirty-faced, unshaven, and ragged looking.

The rum ration was a boon at this time, as it engendered a little warmth, and enabled one, if off duty, to get a little sleep. “Stand-to” was at 4 o'clock, half an hour before dawn, when the entire force in the trenches and on the beach stood to arms in readiness for an attack.

 

The First Landing at Suvla.

The front line having been made fairly secure, attention had to be turned to the flanks. A glance at the map will show Nibrunesi Point, near Suvla Bay, about four miles to the north of Ari Burnu, and Gaba Tepe about two miles south. On both these promontories the Turks had look-outs, from which their observers spotted the effect of artillery fire. As with glasses they could see all that occurred in Anzac Cove, it was considered necessary to destroy both look-outs.

For the Gaba Tepe cutting-out expedition Australians were detailed. Nibrunesi Point was assigned to the New Zealanders. Three officers and fifty men of the Canterbury Battalion (13th Westland Company) and an officer and two N.C.O.'s of the N.Z.E. were employed.

The party left Anzac Cove in the dark early one morning and steamed up the coast in a torpedo-boat destroyer. The plan was to land on the northern side of the Peninsula and work upwards to the highest point—Lala Baba. Two destroyers came close in and commanded each side of the Peninsula, whilst the old “Canopus” stood further out to sea and supported the whole. If the Turks at Anafarta behaved badly they would receive chastisement by the guns of His Majesty's Navy.

The observation post itself had some attention from the big ship the day before; but it was not known whether opposition would now be met with. The instructions were to destroy the station, get any prisoners for the Intelligence Officers, and to seek for and destroy a gun that the naval airmen had reason to suspect was being placed there.

The party got ashore without mishap. Day had now broken, and in three groups the attackers crept up the gullies towards the crest. It was a dewy morning, and the fresh, clean smell of the Turkish meadow flowers mingled with the scent of the wild thyme crushed with the soldiers' hobnailed boots.

The place seemed deserted. There was a traversed trench just below the crest. Most of the troops had jumped it, when—crack! crack! crack! broke on the morning silence. Down dropped the Westlanders; then rushed back to the trench, and there, in the sunlight, was the picture—the trench full of squirming Turks, and standing over them with threatening bayonets the gallant boys from Greymouth. Johnny Turk had been caught napping, and the initiative of the New Zealand private soldier had sealed his fate. It was then realized that the few Turkish phrases laboriously learned did not convey much to the terrified prisoners. They quickly decided that the proper thing to do was to throw all their arms out of the trench—and out they came, rifles, knives, and even safety razors. The poor Turkish wounded lay groaning in the bottom of the trench, while the unwounded, on their knees, murmured “Allah! Allah!” and passed their hands mechanically from their foreheads to their breasts and back again. A few men were left to get the wounded and prisoners down to the boat; the remainder scoured the Suvla flats in full view of the Turks on the Anafarta hills.

Three small houses proved to be empty, but in them were found the kits of the guard; in one, the cells of a telephone instrument, with which the garrison communicated with their headquarters at Anafarta. The wire was cut, and a slab of guncotton placed in each of the houses to demolish them.

The gun position was located, but there was no gun mounted. The dead Turks were covered over in their own trench, the charges in the houses were fired, and the party, with captured papers and prisoners, re-embarked without mishap and returned at noon to Anzac.

Thus was the first landing at Suvla carried out successfully by New Zealanders without a single casualty.

The Australian attempt on Gaba Tepe was most unfortunate. The Turks at this place were not caught napping. As at Helles, barbed wire ran down into the water and machine guns enfiladed the landing place. After sustaining many casualties, the party withdrew, and the Turkish post on Gaba Tepe remained a thorn in the side of Anzac until the evacuation.

 

The Nerve-Centre of Anzac.

A walk along Anzac Cove was full of interest and incident. The little landing beach—a shelving strip of shingle, only twenty-five yards wide—was never safe, but in a measure it was protected from shrapnel by the height of Plugge's Plateau and the two ridges running down towards Hell Spit and Ari Burnu. The Cove became the nerve-centre of Anzac: nestling under the low cliffs on the beach were the Headquarters of the Army Corps, the hospital of the Field Ambulance, the Ordnance and Supply Depots.

General Birdwood had located his Army Corps Headquarters in the little gully debouching on to the centre of the beach. Close by were the naval shore parties with their wireless plant for maintaining communication with the fleet; the Headquarters of the Australian Division were tucked away a little further up the gully.

The southern extremity of Anzac Cove was christened Hell Spit. Jutting out into the water, this point got the benefit of fire from both of the flanks. Here were situated the engineers' stores of explosives and materials; working parties sent for wire, sandbags or timber, did not dwell too long in the vicinity. Close by, under the sandy cliff, the mule drivers of the Indian Supply and Transport had made their little dugouts—the waves of the Ægean lapping their very thresholds. At the foot of the track leading over the spur to Shrapnel Valley were the dressing stations of the Australian Ambulance, with their little Red Cross wharf from which the wounded were evacuated. Just opposite Army Headquarters some of the many stranded barges were made to serve as landing stages for great quantities of bully beef, jam and biscuits, which, placed in high stacks, gave some protection from the shells constantly arriving from the Olive Grove and Anafarta. Hereabout the water barge was also moored; the water being pumped ashore into tanks.

 

The New Zealand Sector.

The beach north of these stores was allotted to our Division. A little gully running up to the foot of Plugge's Plateau gave excellent cover for the New Zealand battery of 4.5 howitzers—the first New Zealand guns to get ashore, and the only howitzers at that time on the Peninsula. In those early days, infantry carrying parties were constrained to rest awhile in order to observe the shell pursue its lobbing course over Maclagan's Ridge towards the distant target.

At the foot of Howitzer Gully were the New Zealand Ordnance Stores—for a time the most frequented place in Anzac. Fresh water was unobtainable for washing purposes. Continual washing of clothes in salt water made all undergarments very hard, so down to the Ordnance would the soldier go to procure new shirts and socks. Here, also, were piles of captured rifles and ammunition, and a pathetic heap of kits which had been thrown away during the first advance and since collected. A one-time famous old wrestler stood guard over these kits, and one had to establish an undeniable claim before the property was handed over. Very many of the kits were never claimed, being stained with the life-blood of those impetuous spirits who had established the Anzac line.

The mule lines of the Indian Transport Corps ran along the beach in front of Divisional Headquarters. Close by, the dressing station of the New Zealand No. 1 Field Ambulance caught the streams of wounded that flowed down Howitzer Gully and from Walker's Ridge. Out in front of the hospital squatted an Indian mule driver, who spent most of his time clipping mules. Between his bursts of singing in a minor key he would cry, “Hair cut, sixpence!” The soldier, who by this time realized that more than snipers took advantage of cover, would sit on the sandy bank and have his hair cut short by the mule clippers.

The northern extremity of Anzac Cove never received an English name, but was always known as Ari Burnu. The beach north of this point was unsafe for traffic in the daytime, as it was within easy range of Turkish snipers. A few hundred yards along this stretch of white sand were two or three stranded boats—boats that had run in there on the day of the landing, but were stove in and their crews killed by hostile fire. There they lay, a pitiful sight, out in the glare of the noonday sun. To avoid this piece of dangerous beach by day, a communication trench commenced in Anzac Cove along by the wireless station near Ari Burnu. This trench doubled back across the point, running out towards Mule Gully and Walker's Ridge, eventually becoming part of the “Big Sap” that led towards the extreme left flank.

Land was valuable at Anzac, particularly land that was safe. The parts that were exposed could not be used for dugouts or stores, so were set apart as cemeteries. Here, on the point of Ari Burnu, between the Big Sap and the sea, New Zealanders who were killed near Anzac Cove were carefully carried after dark and buried by loving comrades.

 

The Tragic Lack of Hospital Ships.

If there was one thing that showed our unpreparedness for war on a large scale, it was the neglect to anticipate accommodation for wounded. This did not apply only to the New Zealanders—British, French, Colonial and Indian suffered alike. The regimental medical officers and stretcher bearers did more than mortal men could be expected to do. But a man hit up on Walker's Ridge or at the head of Monash Gully, after receiving his field dressing at a sheltered corner of a trench or in the regimental aid post, had to be carried in the heat, down bullet-swept valleys and along the dangerous beach. Here the surgeons and orderlies of the Field Ambulances redressed the wounds, gave the men something to eat and drink, and placed them out of the sun, away from the torturing flies. Even in these Field Ambulance dressing stations men were not immune from the shrapnel which swept the beach. The Turk could not be blamed for this, as we had, of necessity, to place our hospitals wherever there was room. Streams of men constantly arrived, some walking, many on stretchers—Zionists with tears streaming down their faces, determined Colonials and pathetic-looking Indians—wounded in our cause, now separated from their fellows, and miserable because they could not understand the sahibs' language.

When night came, the picket boats would move into the little Red Cross wharves, and the wounded men were carried to the barges. When a tow was ready, the picket boat started on its journey for the hospital ship or transport. The high ground surrounding Anzac Cove ensured that bullets clearing the crest went many hundred yards out to sea. Some days, when Turkish firing was brisk, the sea was whipped into a white foaming line where the bullets splashed angrily into the water. Through this barrage of singing bullets the Red Cross barge must go. Picket boats or trawlers could not dodge from place to place like soldiers in Monash Gully, so they had to risk it, and take it in their course.

Outside the range of these “overs” were the waiting ships. The hospital ships proper had good appliances for handling wounded. A long box would be lowered over the side, the man and the stretcher placed bodily into it, and hauled up on to the deck, where he was seized by waiting orderlies and whisked away to wards for a diagnosis, a hot bath, some very necessary insecticide, and a meal to suit his particular needs. But the hospital ships soon became overcrowded. Hundreds of men were accommodated on the decks without cots. They did not complain. They came to the war voluntarily, and took what was coming to them as a matter of course. Ask a sorely wounded man if he wanted anything, and if it was not a drink of water, it would be a laconic “Have you got a green?” He seemed more annoyed with the ration cigarettes than he was with the Turk.

Presently the cry would be, “Ship full!” and the next load would be taken to an ordinary transport, dirty, full of vermin, and entirely unsuited for handling wounded. But it had to be. Nothing better was offering. So the wounded men—tossing about on the barge, seasick, with their clothes stiff with blood and their heads burning with the fever resulting from wounds—were hauled up with the improvised tackle to the dirty decks of the transport. There were few medical officers. Some came from the overworked and understaffed field ambulances ashore, and laboured like galley slaves against the tremendous inrush of broken men. Naval surgeons and dressers left their battleships and toiled heroically among the wounded Colonials. But there were not enough doctors to do a tenth of the work. In the old British way, we were paying for unpreparedness with the flesh and blood of our willing young men. On one ship, the only man with any knowledge of medicine was the veterinary officer, who, assisted by clerks and grooms of the waiting Echelon B, saved dozens of lives by prompt and careful attention. So, with a score of men dying on each ship every night, the transports crept with their cargoes of human wreckage to the port of Alexandria—the hospital ships going on to Malta, Gibraltar, or even England. In Egypt, great emergency hospitals were opened, and everything possible was done to alleviate the dreadful suffering of the heroic and uncomplaining soldiers of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

 

Further Reading:

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915

The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, AIF, Roll of Honour 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Fred Waite Account, Part 2

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 15 April 2010 9:30 PM EADT

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