"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
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Monday, 5 April 2010
The Second Battle of Dernancourt, France, 5 April 1918, Outline Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
The Second Battle of Dernancourt
France, 5 April 1918
Second Dernancourt, took place on 5 April 1918 as a result of the renewed German offensive, in the same area as the first battle of this name. Following the successful defence along the River Ancre on 28 March, the British 35th Division's positions between Buire and Dernancourt had been taken over by the Australian 13th Brigade (Brig.-General William Glasgow), which came into line beside the 12th Brigade (Brig.-General John Gellibrand) holding between Dernancourt and Albert. Thus the bulk of the 4th Australian Division commanded by Major General Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan was here employed, the 4th Brigade still required to assist in the defence of Hébuterne (q.v.) fifteen kilometres to the north.
Soon after daylight, German artillery and mortar fire began falling on the 12th Brigade's forward posts along the railway line north of the river as well as supporting positions on a bare hill further back. Under cover of morning mist enemy infantry then succeeded in penetrating the Australian line, using a railway bridge just west of Dernancourt (where the fronts of the two brigades joined) to get behind the outposts lining the railway embankment. The breakthrough on the 12th Brigade's right flank extended as far as the support line and enabled the Germans, by bringing forward a field-gun, to threaten the brigade's left flank to the north. Faced with being enveloped otherwise, the 48th Battalion holding the northern part of the line pulled back shortly after noon. Although half surrounded, the unit ably and calmly extricated itself in a fighting withdrawal.
At 5.15 p.m. the reserves of both brigades launched a spirited counter-attack from behind the hill. Although the troops met intense fire as they advanced over the crest, they drove the Germans part of the way back down the hillside before being forced to halt. At this point, the action effectively ended. The under-strength 4th Division had just faced the strongest attack mounted against Australians in the war-an assault by two and a half German divisions. It had suffered 1,230 casualties, but inflicted between 1,300-1,600 upon the enemy. Arriving from Flanders on 7-8 April, the 2nd Australian Division took over the Dernancourt positions and relieved the 4th Division.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 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.
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Bean's Account, Part 2 Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Bean's Account, Part 2
On the slope of Baby 700 seen from the Australian point of view.
The following is an extract from Bean, CEW, The Story of Anzac: the first phase, (11th edition, 1941), pp. 282 - 305.
On being ordered by MacLagan to send detachments of the 11th Battalion to Baby 700 and the indentations which could be seen about the far northern end of Shrapnel Gully, Major Brockman told off companies or platoons to head for each of the points which MacLagan had indicated. He directed the two companies of the 11th under Captain Barnes and Major Denton to move along Shrapnel Gully to near its head and thence scramble up the scrub-covered indentations on its right (or inland) side. Brockman was under the impression that Hilmer Smith’s company of the 12th was proceeding to the head of the right-hand branch of the gully (afterwards known as the “Bloody Angle”).
Having thus provided for the right of the gully, he decided to take two companies, his own and Leane’s, to Baby 700. He meant to make his approach, as instructed, up the apparently continuous ridge from Russell’s Top. By this time, however, Major Roberts, second-in-command of the 11th Battalion, had arrived on the top of the plateau and had decided to keep Leane’s company there in reserve. Brockman left Plugge’s to join his company in Rest Gully below and lead it up to Baby 700. But, before doing so, he climbed across the valley on to Russell’s Top in order to see the country over which his company would have to advance. From the Top he saw - what it was impossible to realise from Plugge's Plateau or from the map (which was completely wrong in these details) - that an elbow of the left or main branch of Shrapnel Gully ate deeply into what had seemed to be the continuous ridge from Russell's Top to Baby 700. The ridge connecting the two heights was pinched between the western branch of that valley-head and a gully leading to the sea, thus forming The Nek near which Colonel Clarke had been killed. On the Top Brockman found Captain Lalor and his company of the 12th reorganising. Tulloch had already gone ahead, but with Lalor was Major S. B. Robertson of the 9th Battalion. Having arranged that Lalor should move up the high land to Baby 700 while he himself should follow Robertson up Brockman returned to his own company in Rest Gully.
Map p. 282
Landing in the dark in scattered boatloads, and having to rush the steep broken hillside above the beach, all the companies had become somewhat mixed; but in many cases and at many times during that day they were faithfully reorganised - officers and non-commissioned officers carrying out in letter and in spirit the training of Mena Camp. Brockman's company had reorganised in Rest Gully; as part of this proceeding its second-in-command, Captain R. W. Everett, had been put in charge of a provisional company composed of men of all battalions. Everett had for one of his officers Lieutenant Selby, a Duntroon cadet, but most of his platoon commanders were non-commissioned officers told off on the spot to provisional platoons. Brockman sent Everett's company to the indentations near the head of Shrapnel Gully to assist Denton and Barnes, who had already been despatched thither. His own company he divided into two. Half of it, under Lieutenants Rockliff and Macfarlane, was to climb the right of Shrapnel Gully near to Denton and Barnes, and then to work round the edge of the valley to Baby 700. Lieutenant Morgan, with the other half, was to work up the valley to the head of its left fork, and thence on to Baby 700. Having sent away these detachments, Brockman signalled across Rest Gully to Plugge’s for another platoon. Captain Leane, who received the signal, sent him a platoon of his own company under Lieutenant Cooke. When it arrived, coming down the steep zigzag path past the three tents, Brockman went off with it up Shrapnel Gully towards Baby 700.
Just above the point where Rest Gully joins it, Shrapnel Gully takes a sharp bend to the left, thence running for half a mile straight to the north-east towards the fork in which it ends. When the features of the locality came to be named during the weeks following the landing, this upper portion of Shrapnel Gully was called, after the brigadier whose headquarters were situated in it, “Monash Valley.” Monash Valley lay between Russell’s Top on its left or western side, and the steep and much-indented ridge on the right, up which Denton’s, Barnes’s, and Everett’s companies had been directed. At the top of this straight half-mile is the fork before mentioned.
The branch to the left runs for another half-mile between steep sides, gradually becoming gentler till it ends in a spoon-shaped depression at The Nek. The branch to the right is shorter, narrower, and much steeper, and ends abruptly on a part of the inland slope of Baby 700, which came later to be known (from the trenches which afterwards gridironed it) as the “Chessboard.” The head of this branch is the “Bloody Angle.” Between the two branches lies a long razor-backed hill, fitting into the jaws of the valley as a stopper fits into a bottle.
This was subsequently named (after the colonel of the 16th Battalion, which reached it towards the end of the first day) “Pope’s Hill.” As each company of the 11th went off to its objective, it descended into Shrapnel Gully and made its way up the sandy creek-bed, which, with a thin trickle of water dribbling down it, formed the bottom of Monash Valley. Denton’s company held on, finally turning to its right just before reaching the foot of Pope’s Hill, and climbed the steep scrubby recess in the gully side which afterwards became known as “Courtney’s Post.” Barnes’s company turned up the recess immediately before it-a still steeper niche, of which the top was a sheer landslide of gravel where a man could scarcely climb on hands and knees. This was afterwards named “Steele’s Post.” Everett led his composite company up to the same recess as Denton.
The side of Monash Valley facing the enemy thus became at an early hour fringed with several strong posts. But the movement of troops up through the valley to Baby 700 was far more difficult. Companies or platoons, roughly organised, would move up the narrow stream-bed in single file, their officer leading. The officer may have been shown the spot to which they were being sent, but of the long string of men toiling behind few had any knowledge of a precise destination.
A couple of men, for example, were told by some officer to carry a box of ammunition and follow Lieutenant Morgan They plodded, perspiring, at the tail of Morgan’s platoon to a point near the valley head, where heavy shrapnel fire came sweeping upon the party. The pellets swished like hail through the bushes, and in the rushes from shelter to shelter the party became split. The men with the ammunition went up the slope to the left; Lieutenant Morgan and others led up the slope to the right. When once the string was broken, the men behind had no direction to follow. Each could only push on as he thought best, until some other officer or non-commissioned officer gave him other orders. Such was the fate that day of many similar parties. Moreover as troops moved up Monash Valley, those lining its top were periodically calling for reinforcements.
Map p. 283
These orders were frequently given by senior officers in command on the valley side; and all day long troops who had been directed up the valley to Baby 700, tended, as they went, to be sucked into the fighting on the right-hand side of Monash Valley.
Of the troops originally directed to Baby 700. Leane’s company had been held back. Half of Brockman’s, under Lieutenants Rockliff and Macfarlane, after climbing, as instructed, a recess near Barnes’s and Denton’s companies, was a retained there to hold part of the edge of the valley. The other half, under Lieutenant Morgan, continued up the valley according to orders and made along its left branch towards Baby 700. Near the head of the valley it became split up by heavy shrapnel fire; part moved onto Russell’s Top on the left, while Morgan and others, following the directions, held on over the base of Pope’s Hill towards Baby 700. Close beside him went the platoon under Lieutenant Cooke, which Brockman accompanied.
Thus not all the troops directed from Plugge’s against Baby 700 were actually moving towards it. On the other hand there were already at The Nek or on Baby 700 fragments, mainly of the 12th and 11th under Lalor, Tulloch, and SB Robertson, which had gone there direct from the beach by climbing the heights near the Sphinx. Another small fragment of the 11th, under Lieutenants Jackson and Buttle of Tulloch’s company, after climbing near the Sphinx, had crossed Shrapnel Gully to some position ahead of Denton. Seeing other troops there pushed back, they retired, and met their own half-company commander, Captain Tulloch, near The Nek.
In the last chapter Captain Lalor, with his own company and several odd platoons of the 12th Battalion, was left on Russell’s Top, just where the ridge began to narrow to The Nek. Colonel Clarke was dead, Colonel Hawley and Major Elliott had been wounded, and Lalor was the senior officer with the party. The Turks whom Clarke’s men had chased from near the Sphinx had run off by the curving track over The Nek onto Baby 700, where they sank into the scrub.
Beyond The Nek, facing Lalor, rose the long back of Baby 700, a narrow ridge ascending gently for half a mile. The scrub on it was very open, part of the hill being almost bare. The retreating Turks had settled into the scrub slightly on the seaward slope, about 1,000 yards away.
Neither he nor Lalor had then any idea of what had happened to the rest of the landing force. Tulloch had tried to get into touch with Major Roberts, second-in-command of his battalion, but had failed. He knew that the 11th was to rendezvous on Battleship Hill - "Big 700" as it was then called. Big 700 and the further crests of the main ridge must be behind the long slope of Baby 700 which faced him. The orders were to push on at all costs. Tulloch had therefore decided to advance across The Nek to Big 700, where he might meet the rest of the 11th Battalion. Lalor, as has been said, remained digging a semicircular trench on the Australian side of The Nek.
The instincts of this fiery little officer were all for pushing ahead, and it was only his keen sense of the importance of the place, and the duty of the 12th as reserve battalion, that kept him there for a minute.
Tulloch decided to keep rather on the inland side of the crest of Baby 700. In order to make sure that Turks from the seaward side should not creep in behind him, he despatched Lieutenant Jackson with a party to that side of the hill to guard his left rear. At the same time, since the Turks were still firing across the head of Monash Valley, he sent forward a few men past the left of The Nek to work round and dislodge them. Presently the fire ceased, and Tulloch's party crossed The Nek.
Tulloch had about 60 men with him. They crossed The Nek in small groups, and having on the far side extended into line facing the direction in which Tulloch believed Big 700 to be (roughly north-east) , advanced through the scrub slightly inland of the crest of Baby 700. The slope was crossed by several undulations - depressions which ran down into the deep inland gullies to the right of the party as it advanced. If the men had looked over their right shoulders, they could from this the nearer hills, a triangle of shining water which was the goal of all this campaign - the Narrows.
But few of them noticed it. They were intent on the ridges ahead. The line advanced over the shoulder of Baby 700, across a depression, and onto the shoulder of the nest hill, still keeping a little on the inland side of the crest. The summit raised its head between them and the sea. Tulloch had with him Lieutenant EY Butler, of the 12th Battalion, who had been with him from the start, and also Lieutenants Mordaunt Reid and Buttle, who, with about thirty men, had been sent on across The Nek by Lalor.
The sun was bright, the sky clear. As the men pushed through the low scrub knee-deep, the fresh air of spring was full of the scent of wild thyme. On the dark, scrub-covered undulations about them there was no sign of life. The sound of firing came from the valleys on their right rear. Some bullets fired at long range lisped past them whenever they reached a crest or were on the downward slope. In the valleys not a shot came near them.
Tulloch’s line was advancing with about seven paces between the men. On the top of the second shoulder it was fired upon from a position half-way up the next rise. The Turks - of whom, judging by the fire, there were about sixty -were in the scrub some 400 yards away. From somewhere behind the enemy’s front a Turkish machine-gun opened, The Australians threw themselves down and began to fire. By this time about ten men in Tulloch’s party had been hit. His line lay in the scrub, keeping up a carefully controlled fire, as it had been taught to do in the Mena training. It beat down the Turkish fire: the shots from in front slackened; and the Turks melted. Tulloch’s line rose and advanced across the intervening dip and over the crest which the enemy had been defending.
To their left front there now rose another and still larger crest of the main ridge, its bare summit being about half a mile away. Between this and the shoulder on which Tulloch now was there lay a distinct depression. Bullets from somewhere on the opposite hillside began to “zipp” past the Australians, but the men could not see the Turks who were firing at them. The dark knuckles of the range, all covered with the same low scrub, sloped down to their right in longer and shorter ridges. Half-hidden by a knuckle ahead of them were three large sandpits, quarries, or landslides, which broke the dark flank of the hill.
The bullets chipped the hard leaves of the holly scrub and scattered them in fitful showers on the Australians lying below, the prickly fragments filtering under their tunic collars and down their backs. The men went forward for 150 or 200 yards by rushes, and then crawled another 100 yards on their bellies; raw soldiers as they were, they were making as good use of cover as the Turks. The Turkish fire grew heavier upon the place which they had just left. So long as they lay still, the fire was desultory; it was only when they made a rush, or began to scrape themselves cover with their entrenching tools, that they brought down a storm of bullets.
The sun was high in the sky, and it must have been after 9 o’clock when the line crept down the last hundred yards of its advance. The men were doing everything they had been taught. Orders were repeated along the line by word of mouth. The fire was not haphazard, but the men were shooting carefully at the targets pointed out to them from time to time by their officers. During a lull Tulloch passed along an inquiry as to how far water-bottles had been kept intact in accordance with orders, and he found that they were practically untouched.
The point which they had reached was almost certainly the south-eastern shoulder of Battleship Hill, a few hundred yards inland from its crest. The higher hill, of which the lower slopes faced them across the valley, was the shoulder of Chunuk Bair, a commanding height which, even more truly than Hill 971, was the key of the main ridge. On its skyline, which the men could see about 900 yards away on their left front as they lay in the scrub, was a solitary tree. By the tree stood a man, to and from whom went several messengers. Tulloch took him for the commander of a battalion and fired at him, but the flick of the bullets could not be seen in the scrub, and the officer did not move.
At this point the firing became very heavy.
The enemy had a machine-gun or guns firing at very long range. But few Turks could be seen ahead; they were lining the knuckle in front of the sandpits, 700 yards away: where the sharp edge of the ridge gave them perfect cover. To the south - on his right - Tulloch could see another line of the enemy lying down and firing at a line of Australians which was busily digging itself cover in a depression about half a mile in the right rear of his own party. These Turks were almost in continuation of his line, and were intent upon the Australians to their front, while Tulloch’s men were firing at them, from time to time, in direct enfilade.
The party fought here for about half an hour. Then bullets began to reach it from its left. This fire, at first at long range, became heavier and closer. Lieutenant Mordaunt Reid, who was carefully controlling the fire from the right of Tulloch’s line, was severely hit through the thigh. One of his men went to help him crawl to the rear, but Reid was never thereafter seen or heard of by his battalion. It will be remembered that Tulloch had sent Lieutenant Jackson with twenty men to guard the flank from which this enfilading fire came the seaward slope of Baby 700. Hearing the rattle of heavy fire in that direction, he assumed that this must be Jackson’s party, engaged with Turks in his left rear. He knew nothing of the bitter struggle which (as will presently be told) was in progress on the seaward slope of Baby 700.
But it was obvious that the enemy were penetrating behind his left flank, between him and the party which he imagined to be Jackson’s. An increasing fire at short range from the left showed that the Turks were collecting in the dead ground behind the crest of Battleship Hill and creeping round his flank. Tulloch’s own party could not deal with them, being pinned down by heavy fire from in front.
He accordingly gave the order to withdraw. His line was organised in four sections. Two sections held on and fired, while the alternate sections doubled back through the scrub to a position from which they could cover the retirement of the other two. Thus by stages his party withdrew to Baby 700. Here half the party was left under an officer with orders to delay the Turks, while Tulloch and the other half came back to the seaward slope of Baby 700 near where it narrowed to The Nek. By that time shrapnel, low and well burst, was sweeping like an intermittent hailstorm down the heads of the gullies which dipped steeply to the sea. Australians were clustering in the head of the gully which formed the seaward slope of The Nek (afterwards called “Malone’s Gully”), close under shelter of the next spur. On that spur could be seen Turks in numbers. On Baby 700 and on its seaward slope there had begun a struggle of whose intensity the advanced party had no conception.
When Tulloch had gone forward, the position at The Nek where Lalor was digging the horseshoe trench, was very quiet.
Except for bullets, which continually sang over at long range, and the rattle of heavy rifle fire on the ridges inland, nothing stirred. Major S. B. Robertson of the 9th Battalion came up and halted for a time. Lalor had agreed to hold The Nek and not proceed further. But this fresh clear morning was wearing on and nothing was heard of Tulloch, who had gone far forward to the right front. The slope of Baby 700 ahead, quite unoccupied, shut out Lalor’s view of the range which he knew was the objective. He was by nature the last officer in the force to sit still and do nothing in so critical a fight. The grandson of Peter Lalor, who led the only armed revolt that ever occurred in Australian history - the insurrection at the Eureka Stockade on the Victorian goldfields - and the son of a doctor, he enlisted as a boy in the British Navy; deserted from that service; joined the French Foreign Legion; fought through a South American revolution: and finally was appointed to the permanent forces in Australia. As an aide-de-camp in Western Australia he had more than one interesting meeting with naval officers, who little dreamed of his story. He carried with intense pride a family sword, from which he would not be parted. He had it with him - in spite of all regulations - on this morning at The Nek, its bright hilt wrapped in khaki cloth.
About 8.30 a.m. Robertson and Lalor ordered an advance up Baby 700. Lieutenant Margetts, with his platoon, worked his way up the middle of the ridge, making about the midpoint of the line. Where the Turkish line had been, several Turks were lying dead. Margetts moved straight over the summit of Baby 700 and some way down its further side. Far below on their left were the Gulf of Saros and the beach curving away past the crinkled foothills to Suvla Bay. Out on the blue water lay the battleship Majestic. Margetts looked at his watch. It was 9 o’clock.
In front of Margetts’s party, where it lay down in the low bushes, there rose, across a shallow depression, the rounded pate of the next summit - Battleship Hill. A sparse scrub grew from its stony surface. Around its western or seaward shoulder ran a- trench.
Behind the right shoulder of Battleship Hill, half-screened by its crest, could be seen two of the further summits of the range, from which long spurs ran down inland. It was towards the nearer of these spurs that Tulloch’s party was then working, out on the right front. But there was no sign of these men, and those on Baby 700 had no knowledge that they were there.
The line lay down in the scrub on the northern slope of Baby 700. The men did not dig, and the enemy could probably see little of them. But from the first moment bullets were coming fairly thickly from somewhere on the inland slopes to the right, clipping the leaves and twigs from the bushes.
Lalor himself, true to his decision, retained a party in a supporting position immediately in advance of The Nek. On the seaward slope the firing line was under Major SB Robertson of the 9th Battalion. From the outset the fighting on this slope was heavy. Baby 700 itself was free of Turks, but the scrub-covered spur which sloped from it towards the sea contained a Turkish trench, with two communication trenches running hack towards the valley behind the spur.
These trenches and the far edge of the spur were manned by the enemy, and there swept across them, backwards and forwards for hours, one of the most stubborn fights of the day.
Some time after the forward line in this advance had reached the summit of Baby 700 there came from its left - the seaward slope - a call for reinforcements. Margetts turned his field-glasses upon the trench which ran down the seaward shoulder of Battleship Hill. About 9.15 a.m. he began to notice Turks coming down this trench into the valley on his left front, where they became hidden from sight. He judged the range at 900 yards, and gave the order to his platoon: “Communication trench, on left slope of far hill … 900 yards ... three rounds ... fire!” The difficulty in controlling fire at this point was that the men, extended at several paces from each other in the thick low scrub, were out of sight, and the line easily lost touch. It was impossible to speak to more than a few on either side. When the fire grew heavy and each soldier was forced to keep low, a man could scarcely notice the movements of the one next to him, much less of those fifteen or twenty paces away. At the end of an hour Margetts could find very few of his own men. Therein lay one of the great difficulties of the day.
Turks were undoubtedly creeping over the shoulder of Battleship Hill by the communication trench, and down into the gully on the seaward face between Battleship Hill and Baby 700. Here they could collect in cover on their side of the spur. The Australians opposing them had similar cover in the head of Malone’s Gully. The intervening spur was curiously like a hand with four fingers. Where it left Baby 700, the steep scrub-covered slope, 300 yards wide from the northern fork of Malone’s Gully to the gully in which the Turks collected, resembled the back of a hand ; a quarter of a mile down towards the sea it suddenly ended in sheer precipices of worn gravel; from these there ran down seawards four bare razor-backed ridges, perhaps more comparable to the legs of a spider than strictly to fingers, and ending near the beach in greater and lesser knolls, all very steep.
The fingers of this spur were far too precipitous to allow of movement; the struggle was entirely on the upper part of the scrub-covered slope, where it joined Baby 700, and on the side of Baby 700 itself. The Australians - a mixture of 11th and 12th Battalions with some of the 9th - crossed the head of Malone’s Gully and the flank of Baby 700 above it, and rushed the Turkish trench on the scrubby spur beyond the gully.
Shortly after they reached it, a machine-gun was turned upon them from a position higher up Baby 700 and almost directly to their right, from which it played down the length of the trench. The party was thus driven out, and withdrew to the edge of Malone’s Gully for shelter.
The word went up the line: “The left are retiring.” It reached Margetts and his party on the summit. The Turks had manifestly been creeping down over Battleship Hill to the left.
Margetts and his men withdrew for about 150 yards down the back of Baby 700, and there pulled up. They could see the line on their left retiring. The crest and slopes of Baby 700 were again open to the enemy. Turks filtered back into the trenches on the scrubby spur: it was their movement round the seaward side of Battleship Hill which forced Tulloch to withdraw.
By this time the reinforcing detachments which had been sent by Brockman towards Baby 700 had arrived. Lalor was with the supporting line some distance behind Margetts on that hill. Brockman met Lalor there, and Lalor agreed to hold the hill and attempt no further forward movement.
Losses had been heavy, and the Australian line was pitiably thin. The Turks had followed its withdrawal, and were reaching Baby 700.
Fortunately the driving in of the line on Baby 700 had been observed from another part of the front. Between 9 and 10 o’clock Colonel MacLagan, returning from his visit to the 400 Plateau, had seen in the distance the retirement of the Australians and the pressure of the Turks. He had just given up hope of further advance from the 400 Plateau against the objective ridge. He now realised that the Australians would have all that they could do to hold a defensive position where they were. Baby 700, looking straight down the valley which the Australians were lining, was clearly the key of the position.
Having placed his headquarters at the southern end of Monash Valley on the high shoulder of MacLaurin’s Hill, he could see every movement of the line on Baby 700. From that hour onwards he endeavoured to send all reinforcements up to the struggle which he saw in progress there.
By the time MacLagan came to this decision, the 2nd Brigade and part of the 1st had already gone into the fighting on his other flank. Troops were being rushed into action as soon as they landed, and of the 1st Brigade there were still to come one company of the 1st Battalion, two of the 3rd, and the whole of the 2nd and 4th.
MacLagan now made urgent requests for reinforcements for his left, and was at once given the two remaining companies of the 3rd Battalion, sent off by Colonel Owen, who was at this time on Plugge’s. How they were drawn into the fight at the head of Monash Valley will be told in another chapter. On their way up Plugge’s these two companies became sandwiched into a long file of the 1st Battalion, which had shortly before landed from the Minnewaska. The last company of the 1st. under Major Swannell, delayed by dumping its packs on the way up the hill, followed after the 3rd Battalion. The second-in-command of the 1st Battalion, Major Kindon, was, according to practice, at the tail of its last company. As he was passing through the 3rd Battalion on Plugge’s, Colonel Owen told him that MacLagan was asking for reinforcements to be sent in the direction of Baby 700, and asked him to divert Swannell’s company thither.
Kindon accordingly led Swannell’s company of the 1st Battalion into Rest Gully and up Russell’s Top, so as to reach Baby 700 by the shortest route. Swannell had with him Lieutenants Shout and Street and Captain Jacobs. It was after 10 o’clock when this company moved up Russell’s Top. In the meantime MacLagan could see the remnant of Lalor’s line being driven back almost to The Nek. The untried signallers of the 1st Australian Division had, nearly two hours before, completed the laying of wires from the divisional headquarters to both the advanced brigades, and MacLagan telegraphed to Bridges that the far end of Russell’s Top was “seriously threatened.” At 10.15 MacLagan told Glasfurd that it was doubtful if he could hold on.
If the Turks had reached Russell’s Top, they would have been actually in rear of Denton and of the rest of MacLagan’s line in Monash Valley. Bridges therefore ordered MacLaurin, commanding the 1st Brigade - his sole reserve - to despatch two companies of the 2nd Battalion to the threatened point.
Major Scobie, second-in-command of the 2nd Battalion, was instructed to take Gordon’s and Richardson’s companies. Gordon led on immediately after Kindon.
It was nearly 11 when Kindon, with Swannell’s company of the 1st Battalion, wound over The Nek, and, at the foot of Baby 700, ran upon the remnants of Robertson’s and Lalor’s line, which had been driven in from the forward slopes of that hill. There were probably about seventy of the 3rd Brigade at this place, but only a handful of ten or twelve was visible from the point at which Kindon and Swannell joined them.
Swannell’s company at once deployed, and, together with the remnant of the 3rd Brigade, charged the Turks who were on the seaward slope in front of them. The Turks ran, one of them lumbering back over the shoulder of the hill with a machine-gun packed upon a mule. For the second time the line swept at the double over the summit of Baby 700, and Margetts reached the same point, on the same path, which he had been occupying before. On this line the men of the 1st Battalion began to dig as quickly as they could.
But on reaching the inland slope of the hill they came under heavy fire. The Turks had run off to a trench which showed as a brown line through the scrub ahead. Bullets whipped in among the Australians from the front and from the right flank. The only way to escape them was to lie still; and it was difficult, while so doing, to keep up an effective fire. On the right, where Swannell now was, the line looked into a gully beyond the Bloody Angle, and in this there were several Turkish tents and an abandoned bivouac. It was near this spot that some of Swannell’s men were under a Turkish fire to which it was difficult to reply. Swannell had felt sure that he would be killed, and had said so on the Minnewaska before he landed, for he realised that he would play this game as he had played Rugby football - with his whole heart. Now, while kneeling in order to show his men how to take better aim at a Turk, he was shot dead.
The two companies of the end Battalion, which followed immediately after Kindon and his portion of the 1st, moved partly through Monash Valley. Gordon led his company up the head of that valley on to The Nek. He took out his map, settled his position on it, and began to organise his troops for the advance. He was a fine, tall, square-shouldered man and without fear. He was speaking to his men, when he fell shot through the head. Most of his company attached itself to the left of Swannell’s when it doubled over Baby 700. During the whole afternoon it was involved in the heavy fighting near the position of Margetts on the crest.
Richardson’s company of the end got upon the seaward slope of Baby 700 - left flank of the line. On climbing from Monash Valley, Richardson had crossed Russell’s Top to its seaward side near The Nek. As the company emerged, it saw Kindon’s and Gordon’s men doubling up the Richardson long summit of Baby 700 to its right. At the same time about sixty Turks near the head of Malone’s Gully, on the seaward slope of Baby 700 and the scrubby spur beneath it, were apparently beginning to retire. Richardson gave his men the order to fix bayonets, and charged across the head of Malone’s Gully. The Turks appeared to hesitate as the line approached; when it was within eighty yards, they bolted. The Australians, flinging themselves down, shot a score of them before the rest disappeared into the further gully.
The line on the left of Baby 700, whenever it went forward, was exposed to the fire, not only of the Turks behind the nearer spurs, but of others who were now filtering back upon the lower ends of those spurs, not far above the beach. Officers and men lying in the scrub were caught, one after another, by the scattered bullets. Major SB Robertson, thrice wounded, raised himself to look forward and was shot. “Carry on, Rigby,” he said to a junior beside him, and died. Lieutenant WJ Rigby “carried on” till he too was killed. Under this fire the left tended to withdraw to Malone’s Gully, and the troops on Baby 700 fell back with it. Indeed, with the seaward slope open to the enemy, there was nothing else for them to do.
The strain on the men lying out upon the forward slope was becoming almost unbearable. Some of the original line which had charged so gaily with Margetts and Patterson and old Colonel Clarke in the morning, and had gone up the hill so light-heartedly when the day was young, were still there.
“Close shaves” were so numerous that men ceased to reckon them. Thus Private R. L. Donkin, of the 1st Battalion, had two bullets in his left leg; a third pierced the top of his hat and cut his hair; one ripped his left sleeve; three hit his ammunition pouches and exploded the bullets; another struck his entrenching tool. Most of the men of the 3rd Brigade who had fought there were dead or wounded. Yet Margetts and a few others hung on with these newer arrivals of the 1st Brigade. The blue sky and the bright sunlight on the sleeping hills, the fresh mountain air which they had drawn into their lungs after that first onrush, still surrounded them as with the evil treachery of a beautiful mirage. The sweet smell of the crushed thyme was never remembered in after days except with a shudder. As with most of the others, it was Margetts’s first experience of war. So far as he knew, there was no one supporting him. He could only see two of his own men, but he knew that he had about twenty, because he could pass the word along the line: to them. Major SB Robertson, of the 9th, was supposed to be on his left, but he was probably at this time dead. So far as Margetts knew, there was no one else; no one to assume authority; no one to inform him what had happened elsewhere.
As hours went by the lines were greatly thinned and the torture of the fire increased. Further to the left, near the summit of the hill, where Gordon’s company of the 2nd Battalion was mixed with remnants of the 11th and 12th, the line swept backwards and forwards over the summit of Baby 700 no less than five times. Each time, after holding for a while, it was driven back. Almost every officer was killed or wounded, but Margetts still remained.
On the right, down the inland slope of the hill where Kindon was engaged, the strain was becoming at least as great. The fire from the right continually increased. The line on Baby 700 was isolated, with both flanks in the air, and Turks were filtering in and accumulating somewhere on either side. Through this increasing torture Major Kindon lay in the line with his men, steadily puffing an old pipe. Beside him on his left a man of the 12th Battalion lay in the scrub firing. Presently a bullet zipped past from the right. The man’s head fell forward on his rifle-butt; his spinal column had been severed. From the direction of the shot Kindon knew that the Turks must have outflanked him on his right. By the strength of their determination, and by that alone, officers and men were clinging to Baby 700.
Reinforcements for Baby 700 were asked for again and again, and although similar demands were received from every other part of the line, and especially from the right, it was realised by divisional headquarters on the beach that the position on the left was critical. General Bridges had suspected this immediately on landing, when he noticed the storm of rifle bullets still sweeping down Shrapnel Gully at 8 o’clock. This suggested a doubt as to whether the Turks had not worked in from the north along the sea border behind his left flank. After a hurried visit to the right, he strode directly back, with Colonel White and Lieutenant Casey, his aide-de-camp, to the top of Ari Burnu knoll, from which he could survey the long sweep of the beach as far as Suvla and the seaward foothills. Brigadier-General HB Walker, Chief of General Birdwood’s Staff, was on Ari Burnu. From the parapet of the Turkish machine-gun position on the knoll they scanned the foothills to the north. Australians were moving on the beach north of Ari Burnu - the 3rd Field Ambulance was there at work. There was evidently no immediate danger in the foothills. The group of Staff Officers on Ari Burnu was probably seen by the Turks from some point near Baby 700, for bullets flicked the parapet close to Bridges. White suggested that his chief should move, but Bridges took no notice of the suggestion until it was further urged by Walker. He then moved to a safer position. Although there was no present pressure in the foothills, Bridges saw that troops would have to be sent to hold Walker’s Ridge later in the day. For the present he despatched two platoons of the 2nd Battalion to form an outpost along the beach.
MacLagan’s telegram that Russell’s Top was in danger, and his anxious requests that all reinforcements for the left should go to that point, showed Bridges where lay the threat to his left flank. But the 1st Australian Division had been almost entirely used up. The 1st Brigade, which was the sole divisional reserve, had only the 4th Battalion and two companies of the 2nd now left in it. Bridges would have used them if necessary, but only as a last resort.
As soon, however, as the position was made good, the New Zealand and Australian Division was expected to land. Walker represented General Birdwood on the beach, and he and Bridges had already decided that the N.Z. & A. Division could best be used on Bridges’ left, and had informed its Chief of Staff (Lieutenant-Colonel W. G. Braithwaite) to this effect, when, at 10.45, General Birdwood signalled from the Queen that he was continuing the landing by disembarking the New Zealanders.
It was then that General Walker obtained his dearest wish - a transfer from Staff work to a fighting command in the field. Colonel Johnston, the British officer commanding the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, had fallen ill. Birdwood signalled that the brigade was to come under Bridges’ orders on landing, and that Walker was to command it. Walker at once went off to the foot of the ridge, which from then onwards bore his name, in order to survey the country in which his troops were to be employed.
The first part of the Auckland Battalion had already landed at g a.m., immediately after the last of the Australian Division, and had at once been directed to reinforce the left of the Australians on Russell’s Top, where Walker’s Ridge ran into it near The Nek. The Waikato and Hauraki companies had been sent northward along the beach with orders to reach this position by climbing up Walker’s Ridge, and their leading men were already far up this steep spur. But Walker, on reaching the foot of that ridge, near the beach, and seeing how bare and razor-edged the spur was, became convinced that battalions which were sent up it would be split and disorganised. They could only climb its precipitous goat-tracks in single file, and therefore must enter the battle in driblets, whereas he desired that they should operate as whole units, well-organised. He, like others, inferred from the maps that there was a continuous broad ridge from Plugge’s to Baby 700. The Auckland Battalion was therefore recalled; and later, as battalion after battalion was sent to him at Walker’s Ridge, he ordered them back on their tracks, with instructions to climb the path, now prepared, to Plugge’s, and move to the left up this supposed hill-slope to Baby 700.
MacLagan, on the other hand, from his headquarters on the far side of Shrapnel Gully opposite to Plugge’s Plateau, could see exactly what happened on the narrow summit of Plugge’s whenever reinforcements filed over it. Again and again he saw how, meeting shrapnel and rifle-fire there, they tended to lead on into Shrapnel Gully. The file being broken, and junior officers and men not having instructions as to the position, they were too often sucked into other parts of the line than those to which they were directed. MacLagan, for exactly the same reason which actuated Walker - to prevent disorganisation in impossible country - advised that all reinforcements should avoid the precipitous climb over Plugge’s, and should come into Shrapnel Gully by a detour southwards along the beach. But Walker, far up at his own front near Walker’s Ridge, did not know this. Battalion after battalion of New Zealanders was turned back with orders to go in over Plugge’s. Some of the earliest of the New Zealand reinforcements were disorganised by the turning of Turkish fire upon Plugge’s; and all of them, attempting to follow their instructions, became split up in the tangle of Rest Gully and Monash Valley.
It was past noon when the Waikato Company of the Auckland Battalion, reaching the bottom of the zigzag path, found a string of Australian troops - the tail of the 2nd or 3rd Battalions - filing up the valley past them. The New Zealanders waited till it cleared their head, and then followed it round the valley bed. On reaching the turn into Monash Valley, they began to climb the hill in front of them towards the firing line. But they saw men waving to them from the top to go on up the gully. The figures on the hill-top were those of MacLagan and his staff. The New Zealanders turned and filed up to the head of Monash Valley and so to the just beyond The Nek. They re-formed in this depression, advanced, and, 200 yards further on, came upon Major Kindon.
When the New Zealanders arrived, Kindon seemed to have only four or five effective men left with him. The others who could be seen were dead or wounded. Not another man was visible on either flank. To the left was the summit of Baby 700. It seemed a long endless slope, always gradually rising with little tracks running through it. The New Zealanders asked who was on the left, and were told that part of the 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion was there. Far behind, in the right rear on the distant 400 Plateau, could be seen Australian infantry with a battery of Indian mountain guns.
The Waikato Company reinforced Kindon’s line, and lay facing Battleship Hill under the same unceasing fire. The line was still over the crest, out of sight of the sea. Before it were the further summits and inland slopes; the three sandpits on the lower slopes of Chunuk Bair could be discerned peeping over some of the further spurs. Through the scrub on the nearer side of the sandpits ran a streak of brown. It was a Turkish trench, and Turks could be seen in it.
The captain of the Waikato Company, after lying on the crest for half an hour, made his way back to Kindon on his right and advised him to retire and dig in by The Nek. But Kindon would not hear of leaving his wounded. Accordingly the line stayed on. As long as the troops were lying down, the fire was steady and sustained; whenever they got up to advance, it became intense.
This fire gradually increased. The Australians and New Zealanders, lying in the scrub, could not see the Turks reinforcing in front and to the right of them. But reinforcing they certainly were, and pushing in on Kindon’s right.
At some time between 2.30 and 4 pm. a Turkish battery suddenly opened from the direction of the further crests of the main ridge in front of Kindon’s line. First one gun opened, and then a series of four. The first shell went singing over towards the beach; then the gunners gradually shortened their range, till the salvoes fell upon the slope of Baby 700 near The Nek and upon the heads of the two valleys between which The Nek ran - Malone’s Gully on the side nearer the sea, and Monash Valley inland. Any movement on the forward slope of Raby 700 brought upon itself this shrapnel.
At the same time the fire upon Kindon’s line grew. “We were faced with a machine-gun on the flank,” he said afterwards “and with shrapnel in front and rifle fire. We were up against a trench and couldn’t shoot much. We could simply lie there, and they couldn’t come on while we were lying there.” The fire from Kindon’s right showed that the Turks were penetrating past it towards Monash Valley. The struggle which was occurring in the Australian centre, on the folds east of the Bloody Angle, will be told in detail later. But inasmuch as it vitally affected the position on Baby 700, reference must be made to it here.
The eastern rim of Monash Valley was well-fringed with troops. But there was never any continuous line from the eastern head of the valley (the Bloody Angle) to Baby 700.
A spur of that hill, known as the Chessboard, connected the two positions. But although parties under Captain Jacobs of the 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Campbell and Sergeant-Major Jones of the 2nd, and others moved over the Chessboard, it was not continuously held. There was no unbroken line of defence north of Captain Leer’s company of the 3rd Battalion, near the Bloody Angle, until the right of Kindon’s position was reached. A few isolated parties between the two had to bear, with Kindon and Leer, the full force of the Turkish counter-attack.
On Kindon’s right, helping to fill this gap, lay Lieutenant Baddeley of the Waikato Company, with his platoon. Baddeley was never seen or heard of again. Further down towards Leer was a party of Kindon’s own battalion under Captain Jacobs. Before Kindon had arrived at Baby 700, two small parties of the 1st Battalion which were with him, under Jacobs and Lieutenant Shout respectively, were despatched to the flanks. Kindon sent Shout to guard his left rear. Jacobs, with a fragment of the battalion, had branched through the right fork of Monash Valley, up the steep scrubby recess of the Bloody Angle, and out upon the Chessboard-the spur which ran down from the inland side of Baby 700, and against which this branch of the valley ended. Crossing that spur, he found himself looking down into a steep valley, about 100 yards across, which ran down to the right just over the crest from the Bloody Angle. In this gully were the tents and huts which had been seen by Swannell. Jacobs led his men through this and another minor gully and over the crest of the next spur (the upper shoulder of Mortar Ridge). Here they occupied a line some distance down the forward slope. Ahead of them, to their left front, were Australians. The latter were the line on Baby 700.
Jacobs was thus echeloned to the right rear of Kindon’s line, and, as long as he was there, its right flank was fairly safe. His party was firing at Turks on a spur 600 yards in front. To the right Mortar Ridge ran down to the flats at the upper end of what were afterwards known as “Mule” and “Legge” Valleys.
As the party lay in that position, Turks began to be noticed crossing these distant flats. Jacobs, like Leer and all other officers who saw it, prayed for a chance that a machine-gun might arrive to check this movement. But no machine-gun was near. Lower down the Turks were driving through to the ridges and gullies behind Jacobs’s party; there was an increase in the fire from the right; and at some time between 3 and 4 p.m. he, like Campbell of the and others, was driven in and was compelled to withdraw in the first instance to the shelter of the Bloody Angle and of the recesses on either side of it.
It was about 2.30 pm., when the Turks were beginning to press Jacobs and penetrate to his right, that Kindon noticed that two New Zealand machine-guns had come up about seventy yards in his rear. In order to escape the heavy enfilade fire from his right, he withdrew his men upon these This part of the line was now largely held by New Zealanders, of whom Major Grant: who was killed at this spot, was either then or shortly afterwards in command. Kindon handed over the line to them and went to report the position to MacLagan.
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Bean's Account, Part 3 Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Bean's Account, Part 3
On the slope of Baby 700 seen from the Australian point of view.
The following is an extract from Bean, CEW, The Story of Anzac: the first phase, (11th edition, 1941), pp. 306 - 321.
THE LOSS OF BABY 700
The line on Baby 700 was subjected to an even greater danger than that of being outflanked upon its right. There was the constant risk that, while it lay upon the inland slope of the hill, the enemy might creep round its left, along the seaward spurs which were hidden from it, and appear behind it.
When the Turks began to push past his right flank toward Monash Valley, Kindon had at least been aware of the fact.
But the seaward slope in his left rear was hidden from him by the crest of Baby 700; and all day long the men holding the inland slope of that hill could only trust that the parties which had undertaken to hold the seaward slope were doing their work.
It has been already mentioned that the officer who, through most of this endless day, had the responsibility of seeing that the Turks did not penetrate behind the left of the landing force was Captain Lalor. His duty was to hold The Nek and the seaward side of the hill while others fought inland. But while Kindon had been doggedly holding the inland slope, the fighting on the summit and seaward slope had continued extremely bitter and critical.
All that the men and even the officers knew was that the great effort of the expedition had been launched, and that it was their duty to see that it did not fail. The attack had manifestly not gone as was intended. The high hopes of the morning advance had long faded. They were up against the fire of some Turkish force, a comparatively scattered fire at first, but no\v incessant and always growing. Each man could only keep touch with one or two others on either side of him in the scrub, and, as one after another was hit, the line was thinned to breaking point. But they knew that all the other parts of the line must be depending upon them to hold the flank. If the line gave, it meant failure. With an unknown and increasing force ahead of them-with the long hours passing, and the enemy showing no signs of exhaustion-yet the determination of each individual man and officer still held them to that hill.
The ebb and flow of the struggle on the scrubby spur and the seaward Hank of the hill caused, as has been said, several retirements. But whenever reinforcements came up, the line would sweep again over the summit of Baby 700. On the occasion of the third retirement from the hilltop, Margetts had been told by some senior officer to line the edge of Russell’s Top in front of Walker’s Ridge, in case the Turks came round that way. But presently he was sent up to the front line again. He gathered all the men he could-about ten ii; all-and for the third time went up Baby 700. He found that a line had been re-established there and was being held by an officer of the 2nd Battalion and a few men. So far as Margetts and this officer knew, they were the only officers on the hill. The ammunition of the small party was running out. Margetts ran down the hill to find Lalor or the company sergeant-major or some other who could communicate with headquarters and obtain ammunition. At The Nek he came across a platoon. They were in the little horseshoe system of coffin-shaped rifle pits which Lalor’s men had begun to dig after the dawn. With them was Lieutenant Patterson, who had climbed near the Sphinx with Margetts. The Turks had just opened with their battery from the hills ahead, and were feeling for the range of The Nek. Patterson, being a Duntroon boy, was greatly interested in their practice Margetts found that Lieutenant Burt had gone back for ammunition and support. He himself returned to the line with this news. He was nearly exhausted; his clothes were still heavy with the morning’s soaking; again and again he stumbled and fell in the scrub. When he reached the line he found the officer of the 2nd Battalion and some of its men still there. His own men were gone. Margetts stumbled down the hill again to find them, and again reached Patterson.
The fire from the seaward spur of Baby 700 was now very severe, and shrapnel was increasing. Patterson and Margetts could see men moving on the seaward spur ahead of them, across Malone’s Gully, but were prevented from firing by a message which had just arrived from the left and had reached them by word of mouth shouted along the line.
“Don’t shoot if you see men on the left,” it said. “They’re Indians.” It seemed to them possible that this was true. An Indian brigade might be landing on the left, and the men on the spur seemed to be dark men. That message had strange results at a later time in other parts of the line. No Indians had landed or were landing on the left. The men whom they saw may have been Turks. though Australians were seen on the same slope afterwards.
The position on Baby 700 was obviously critical. Margetts had told Patterson that he was nearly “done up.’’ Patterson therefore went off with about thirty of his own men to reinforce the 2nd Battalion there. He made for a point on the seaward side to the left of where Margetts had been.
Margetts watched him cross the head of Malone’s Gully with his men.
In a support position on the seaward slope Margetts met Lalor. Lalor gave him a drink from his whiskey-flask-the drink of a lifetime-and let him lie down. Beside him was E. Y. Butler, who had been with Tulloch’s party, worn out and fast asleep. A moderate fire whipped over them, and the cry often went up for stretcher-bearers, but though bearers were at work further down the firing line, they had not reached this particular slope. Presently word came again that the line of the 2nd Battalion on the seaward slope needed reinforcements. Lalor turned to Margetts: I’ll go.
“You take your bugler and go down and see if you can bring some support and stretcher-bearers.” Patterson was never seen again.
“Take your men up,” he said - and then: “No.
“I’ll go forward, sir,” said Margetts.
“You’ll do as you’re told.” was the reply.
Lalor led his men off round the head of Malone’s Gully towards the scrub-covered spur, where the fight was thickening fast. Margetts descended the deep gutter of Malone’s Gully, putties trailing in the mud, to the flat far down at the bottom.
Here were some stray wounded from the fight above, and some stretcher-bearers. He sent the latter towards the crest, while he himself went to Major Glasfurd, at Divisional Headquarters on the beach, with the news that Lalor on the left was in urgent need of reinforcements. But by that time the need which was pressing upon headquarters was for reinforcements for the right. It was about 3.15 p.m. when Margetts left Lalor. Lalor had moved across Malone’s Gully onto the spur at the farther side. Here he took up a line under the fierce fire from the far edge of the spur and from the lower hills on the left.
He was presently joined by a party of the 2nd Battalion under Captain Morshead, who had kept further to the left than most of the platoons of the 2nd Battalion. The responsibility of that long day had rested as heavily upon Lalor as upon any officer in the force and, as the hours drew on, the difficulties were becoming heavier.
“It’s a __!” he said, as Morshead came up to him. “Will you come in on my left?” Lalor had by this time dropped his sword-hours later it was found back at The Nek by Lance-Corporal Harry Freame, of the 1st Battalion, who in his turn dropped it in the stress of the fighting at dusk. Lalor was excited and showing the strain. “The poor Colonel,” he said to Morshead. “He was killed - dropped just like that! I don’t know where Whitham is - hope he’s all right. He and I were pals…. Oh, it’s a __!” he reiterated.
Morshead made his platoon left form and move across to Lalor’s left. Lalor waved his hand, and moved his own line to join Morshead’s. Fire was coming from the lower knolls down by the beach. Lalor stood up to see, and resolved to charge forward.
“Now then, 12th Battalion,” he cried; and, as he said the words, a Turkish bullet killed him.
Most of the officers had fallen. The shrapnel fire on the head of Malone’s Gully and The Nek was exceedingly heavy.
The shells were burst well, ten or fifteen feet above the ground. The pellets swished through the low scrub and down the valley head like hail. At the head of Malone’s Gully one shell burst over Lieutenant G. W. Brown, of the 2nd Battalion, wounding six men, but leaving Brown unharmed.
Captain Tulloch, sheltering with some men under the edge of the same gully. had crept up onto the spur to reconnoitre, when he was wounded. Lieutenant Butler was wounded about the same time. Major Scobie, of the 2nd, walking along the line in the morning, had been hit on the bridge of the nose. Morgan of the 11th, Fogden of the 1st, and Richardson of the 2nd, had been wounded. Cooke of the 11th, Lalor and Patterson of the 12th. Gordon of the 2nd. S. B. Robertson of the 9th, Grant of the Canterburys, and many other officers, were dead.
On the left of the line there were now practically no officers surviving. A remnant of the 12th, on the seaward slope near the head of Malone’s Gully, was being led by a corporal, E. W. D. Laing. the senior among about sixty men of all units who were around him. Five times between 730 a.m. and 3 p.m. the line on this flank had charged over the 400 yards of scrubby slope in front of it, and each time it had been driven back. Towards the end it was difficult to prevent the exhausted nerve-racked men from retiring too far, but their leaders held them. In the last two advances there was only one officer within reach. When the fifth charge was made and the Turks withdrew into cover, Laing ran three times to this officer and begged to be allowed to take his men further and “get at the beggars with the bayonet.” He had just run across the third time and dropped beside the officer, when he was hit through the thigh. The word was given to retire, and the line withdrew. Laing crawled after it and reached shelter.
On the extreme left, sheltering in the head of Malone’s Gully were now about fifty men of all units without any officer at all. Possibly they came under Laing’s command, but they had been fighting mainly without leaders. In the scrubby slope, a short distance in front of the bank under which they lay, was the Turkish trench - the one with communication trenches running back from either end-which had been taken and lost earlier in the day.
At some time during the morning this party, without officers, had decided to rush the Turkish trench a second time. They waved to a few Australians, whom they could see firing from The Nek, to cross Malone's Gully and join them. This they did, mostly in search of their battalions. Here as elsewhere in this bewildering fight, most of the men, and many officers, supposed that the firing line of their battalion was somewhere ahead, and they had come forward looking for it.
Having thus added to its number, the party in Malone's Gully, by a sort of general consent, jumped over the edge of the gully, began to double across the spur, and ran suddenly into the trench. The Turks in it defended themselves. Some were shot, others bayoneted. Twelve lay dead in the trench.
Map, p. 311.
The trench was almost straight, and no sooner had the Australians jumped into it, than a Turkish machine-gun somewhere on the slope of Baby 700 above to their right began to fire directly along it. The men took shelter by getting into the two communication trenches which ran from either end towards the gully beyond. From these trenches they could look out over the crest of the 0 spur towards the summit of Battleship Hill and the shoulder of Chunuk Bair. Part of the seaward slope between these heights was gentle, and across it, about 500 yards away, there were Turks advancing.
The position in the communication trenches seemed useless.
Australians had been there before, and their dead lay thickly in the scrub around. In order better to discuss what to do, the party withdrew to the head of Malone's Gully from which it started. It was decided to remain under the edge of the gully and wait for something to be done. On the far side of the gully Turkish shrapnel was raining, well burst and low, but the side against which the party lay was sheltered.
Later in the afternoon there came up the steep gutter of Malone's Gully from the sea a company of New Zealand infantry. It climbed to the men sheltering at the valley head, and its officer asked what the position was. Lance- Corporal Howe and others told him that the Turks were by this time back in their trench on the spur; that the trench was enfiladed and could not be held when taken; and that an advance would be useless. But from men under so great a strain such reasons for doing nothing could scarcely be trusted.
Like a brave man, the New Zealand officer decided that he must attack the trench again. He ordered the whole party to charge it.
When for the third time the trench was rushed, the Turks did not defend it, but ran back. The men who had been in the place before passed the word to get into the communication trenches and so avoid the machine-gun; those who knew made straight for these trenches. As the party reached the trench, the same machine-gun opened from the right. The first to fall was the New Zealand officer. The gun killed or wounded most of the men in the straight trench. Those in the communication trenches held on until the gust of rifle fire which the charge had aroused should subside.
This time, waiting in the communication trenches, the survivors perceived that there were Turks advancing not only over the seaward slopes of Battleship Hill, where they had seen them before, but also from the depression between Battleship Hill and Baby 700. This betokened no mere filtering back of isolated groups, but an attack on some considerable scale. The Australians and New Zealanders began to lose heavily under their rifle fire, and, with an attack of this character advancing, there was no small chance of their being cut off. Before, when they had sheltered in Malone’s Gully, a few wounded Australians had come in to them from some party out in the direction of Baby 700 on their right front; but the only Australians they now saw were in a line which they noticed to their right rear where the hill narrowed towards The Nek. They decided to join these.
As a matter of fact, shortly after Major Kindon had handed over the control of his line on the inland slope of Baby 700 to the New Zealanders, and after Lalor had made his last gallant advance and had fallen, a further reinforcement of New Zealand infantry had arrived. This consisted of a company of the Canterbury Battalion under Lieutenant- Colonel Stewart. After the two companies of Auckland (Waikato and Hauraki) had moved up Monash Valley. the two of Canterbury then ashore had climbed over Plugge’s and one, Major Grant’s, had gone on to Russell’s Top near The Nek. Lieutenant Morshead, of the 2nd Battalion, still holding on to the position where Lalor had been killed, received a message from his rear to say that a line of New Zealanders had been established there. Colonel Stewart seems to have placed his men at about 4 p.m. on a line across Russell’s Top a little short of The Nek. On his left front, beyond Malone’s Gully, there were the remnants of Morshead’s and Lalor’s men. On the summit and seaward slope of Baby 700 were still a few of the 2nd Battalion and 3rd Brigade. On its inland slope, on Stewart’s right front, was the remainder of Kindon’s line, composed of Aucklanders and of remnants mainly of the 1st, 2nd, 11th, and 12th Battalions.
Stewart evidently saw the line of Morshead’s men near Malone’s Gully. for Morshead received from him three messages at short intervals. The first was an order to retire upon the Canterbury line; the next-“Stay where you are.
We will come up to you.” A little later came a message to retire. In the interval between the last two the shrapnel fire upon The Nek had been tremendously heavy. A few minutes later Stewart was killed.
All parts of the Australian and New Zealand line on the left realised that a heavy attack was at this moment coming down upon Baby 700 and the slopes round it. Turks were moving in rough formations of attack from the direction of the main ridge. Even on the 400 Plateau, a mile to the south, where another heavy struggle was in progress, some found time to notice the great numbers of troops who came in company column to the main ridge, deployed into line as they topped the summit, disappeared for a time behind Baby 700, and then at about 4 p.m. attacked. The attack advanced across the slope and spurs of the range both on the seaward and inland side.
The only thing which could have saved Baby 700 was the support of guns and fresh troops. But, except for the 4th Battalion, which Bridges was keeping for use in the last resort and which he presently had to throw in on the right, the last reserve had been used. Colonel Braund, with the two remaining companies of the 2nd Battalion, had been despatched at about 1.30 p.m. with orders to reach the top of Walker’s Ridge by working up from the beach. MacLaurin, his brigadier, had reconnoitred the route and decided to send him that way and not by Plugge’s. Braund climbed up the steep goat-tracks under a harassing fire, and about 4 p.m. reached the junction of Walker’s Ridge with Russell’s Top. He pushed a short distance into the scrub, and lay where his orders directed. Not far to his right front must have been Colonel Stewart and his two companies of the Canterbury Battalion.
There were no other troops to send. The transports of the N.Z. and A. Division had not yet come up. The New Zealanders who had so far been landed were those from General Godley’s transport, the Lutzow, which arrived about dawn. The rest of the division-half of the Canterbury Battalion. the Wellington and Otago Battalions, and the whole of the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade-was still in its ships.
The transports of the New Zealand infantry were due to arrive at midday, but were not brought to their anchorage until late in the afternoon. The 4th Australian Brigade was not due to reach the anchorage until the evening. During the hours of the afternoon lighters and steamboats were used in clearing from the shore to the transports the great accumulation of wounded. From 12.30 to about 4 p.m. not an infantryman arrived on the beach.
Nor was any additional artillery brought into action during these hours. The 2Ist (Kohat) Mountain Battery, which should have landed at 8.30 am, waited in its transport through the long day for lighters to arrive and land its guns But till 3 p.m. none came, and no steam tug till 5.30 p.m.
No position for field-guns could at first be found in this precipitous country, and when two guns of the 4th Australian Battery were eventually brought to the beach, they were temporarily ordered away again. The naval artillery, being of little use against such targets as that day offered, could not support the troops, and almost ceased to fire. The battery of Indian mountain guns, which had been landed early and at whose mere sound the spirits of the tired men began to rise, had been driven out of action by a hail of shellfire. The bark of the supporting artillery had ceased. The enemy’s salvoes alone could now be heard. Such were the conditions under which Baby 700 and its flanks were held by a worn remnant of the landing force when the Turks swarmed down to the attack.
It was about 4.30 p.m. when the brave line which had held Baby 700 through the long day finally broke. Lieutenants Shout of the 1st and Morshead of the 2nd Battalion were two of the few officers still surviving on the seaward side.
On the centre and inland slope Aucklanders, with a few of Major Grant’s Canterburys and stray Australians, were lying in a scattered line about a hundred yards behind the front line. which still consisted mainly of Australian remnants.
Suddenly the front line came running back on them.
“The Turks are coming on thousands of them!” The Aucklanders rose with them, and the whole line trekked back down the hill which it had fought all day to keep. The slopes of Baby 700 were left bare. The remnants from Malone’s Gully were some of the last to retire. The Turks were very close upon this party, and it could hear them shouting on the other side of the spur. Its leaders, now two corporals-Howe of the 11th and a New Zealander - waited to see who were the men to whom these voices belonged.
Presently several figures came over the skyline 150 yards away. One of them, a Turkish officer, stood out at full height and looked through his glasses. Howe rested his rifle on a bush, took steady aim, and shot him. Then the two, having lost their party, ran across the narrow head of Malone’s Gully, looking for the line of men whom they had seen near the foot of Baby 700.
The slope was empty. The line had gone. Fragments of it, and of the other troops on Baby 700, had drawn back to each branch of Monash Valley. At this moment they were lining its edges at Pope’s Hill on the western branch, and at the Bloody Angle and the next recess south of it on the eastern branch. A few from Baby 700 wandered down a valley leading southward, which they thought they had passed that morning. Bugler Ashton, of the 11th, was one of these.
He had been in the act of bandaging a New Zealander on Baby 700, when the man was hit again and terribly wounded.
He cried to Ashton to kill him. Ashton rose to go for a stretcher, and then realised that the line had retired without his remarking it; he was alone. Making for a gully which he thought was Monash Valley, he found there a wounded mail of the 1st Brigade, whom he helped till the man could go no further.
Then Ashton went on. The valley was in reality Mule Valley, at the head of which Jacobs of the 1st and Leer of the 3rd had been fighting.
It opened into a green flat. As Ashton was crossing this, he heard a shout, and found himself covered by the rifles of ten Turks. Major Scobie of the 2nd, when wounded in the fight on Baby 700, wandered down the same valley. Although it was by then behind the Turkish front, he somehow reached the Australian line. But Ashton was seen by the Turks, who hit him on the head with a rifle-butt and captured him. Beyond doubt a few other Australians lost themselves in the same way, and in some places many of the wounded had to be left behind. Except for two officers and a private, who later mistook the Turks for Indians and were captured, Ashton was the only Australian who survived this battle after being in the hands of the Turks. Other fragments from Baby 700, that with Morshead for example, withdrew down some gully or other to the beach; others retired onto the upper end of Walker’s Ridge.
It will be remembered that Kindon had placed Lieutenant Shout to watch the slopes in his left rear. Shout had with him Lance-Corporal Harry Freame, a skilled scout, half Japanese by birth, who had fought in the Mexican Wars.
Shout had placed Freame by The Nek with fourteen men to hold it at all costs. Freame numbered his party off at intervals.
At the second numbering there were nine. At the last only one replied. Shout had been with Lalor and held on till the line retired. Then, taking Freame with him as he passed, he withdrew towards the beach.
Probably the last party to leave Baby 700 was that of Howe and the New Zealand corporal from Malone’s Gully.
Map, p. 317.
When they found that the line was gone, they made across The Nek. Their party had been scattered and had suffered heavily; only five were together. As they passed over The Nek they stumbled, before seeing them, into two or three shallow scratched rifle pits with three machine-guns set up in them. These were two guns of the Auckland Battalion and one of the Canterburys, in shallow shelters within a distance of ten yards from one another-part of a semicircular system of rifle pits which crossed The Nek and overlooked the gullies on either side. This was the line which Lalor had been digging in the early morning.
A voice in the scrub cried “Snowy Howe!” It came from a man named Ferguson, of the 11th, who had been with the party in Malone’s Gully and had been heavily hit as he crossed The Nek.
No officer was there; the New Zealanders were under a sergeant. But it was a good position. They had sixteen belts of ammunition for the machine-guns and plenty for the rifles.
The crews of the machine-guns had all been killed or wounded, and the sergeant wanted men who knew how to work them.
Howe’s party stayed with the New Zealanders, and helped them to dig in as the evening closed. There were about fifty stragglers of all battalions in this last party on The Nek.
Solitary men who had been left on Baby 700 still occasionally strayed back to them. But the Turks in front had machineguns, and were sniping fairly heavily from tile trench on the spur beyond Malone’s Gully.
Those same Turkish machine-guns were noticed by Colonel Braund, whose two companies of the 2nd Battalion, unknown to the party on The Nek. were lying out in the scrub some way to their left rear near the head of Walker’s Ridge.
Braund knew that there were troops ahead of his line, and he held on blindly in the scrub against a heavy fire mainly in order to protect them. Lieutenant Shout of the 1st, on his retirement across The Nek, found Braund near the top of Walker’s, and at 5 p.m. Braund sent him to the beach with a message for MacLaurin: “Am holding rear left flank.
Against us are two concealed machine-guns-cannot locate them. In our front are New Zealand troops (and) portions of 3rd Battalion (probably he meant Brigade). Have held position (in order to) prevent machine-guns swinging upon troops in front. If reinforced can advance.” Urgent messages reaching Bridges about the same hour told him that the position on the left was critical: “Heavily attacked on left” - from MacLagan at 5.37; “3rd Brigade being driven back” - from the 3rd Battalion at 6.1 5; “4th Brigade urgently required” - from MacLagan at 7.15. Shout was sent back to Braund with 200 stray men of all battalions who had been collected on the beach, and, as the New Zealanders and 4th Brigade were now landing, the divisional staff sent Braund a message by Shout that he would be reinforced by two battalions, so that he might dig in where he was that night.
But the small party on The Nek itself was never reinforced. Dusk fell at about 7 o’clock. The New Zealand sergeant commanding the party had been wounded, and limped back with a message for reinforcements. Howe and the New Zealand corporal were now in charge of the trench.
Howe, with a stretcher-bearer, went back for reinforcements along the white track down Russell’s Top, and presently came upon a party of New Zealanders in a trench which had been partly finished across the track. They were probably what remained of Colonel Stewart’s companies, but a sergeant major now commanded them. Howe brought some of them back, with their picks and shovels, to the horseshoe trench at The Nek.
By dark the horseshoe trench was about two feet deep.
There had been a steady run of casualties in it all the afternoon.
As the dusk fell and the trench deepened the party began to feel comfortable. They knew of no one on their left, but at least in Monash Valley there were Australians, and what remained of Stewart’s line was close behind them.
As darkness fell, the Turks crossed The Nek and also the head of Malone’s Gully and attempted to occupy Russell’s Top. The men in the horseshoe trench could hear them, long before they came, shouting “Allah! Mohammed!” They let them come close, and then opened fire and drove them back.
This sort of fighting was easy after the strain of the day.
The moment darkness fell, the Turkish fire because inaccurate, and though plenty of bullets flew past, few men were hit. They drove the enemy back and went on digging.
The whole party signed a note asking for reinforcements and sent it to the rear. They said that the bearer of the note would guide the reinforcements up. No one, so far as they knew, was near them except the line of New Zealanders close behind. A note came back to them: “Hang on at all costs,” it said. “Reinforcements are on their way.”
But the reinforcements never arrived. At 8 p.m. a New Zealander who had been to the rear returned to the trench.
“Hey, Corp!” he said, “That mob behind us has gone.” Howe and the New Zealand corporal went back and found that it was so. Someone had come up and ordered the supporting line back. The trench was empty. But on either side of them - on the side of Monash Valley and in the scrubby slope towards the beach-they could hear voices.
At first they thought these were Australians, until a clamour of “Allah! Mohammed!” began. These Turks were well behind the horseshoe trench. Some of them came at it, and were shot at close range.
The party in the horseshoe trench, after holding a discussion, decided that the only course was to retire and get in touch with their own side. Some of the men knew that the white track along the Top led to the heart of the Australian position. They had no fear; they knew where they were, and how to get touch.
They picked up the three machine-guns, the belts of ammunition. and a dozen badly wounded men. One man would not allow them to lift him. He and three others were too badly wounded to be moved. As no one knew how to dismantle the machine-guns, they picked them up, tripods and all, as they stood, and retired along the path. When they had gone 200 yards, the Turks, who perceived the retirement, caught them up and attacked. It was an anxious moment.
The party set down its machine-guns and opened fire with them. Then it retired again. Near the Sphinx it tumbled over the trench which Clarke’s party had first charged that morning. Near by still lay the pack which Laing had carried for the old Colonel. The party held on down the white path and presently reached an old Turkish communication trench running into the top of Rest Gully.
Here they stopped. Rest Gully and Plugge’s Plateau were in sight of them. They knew where they were. The Turks followed them up and tried to dig in about 150 yards in front of them. The party on the edge of Rest Gully opened a heavy fire. The Turks replied, and the fire was kept up all night.
Map, p. 320.
Small parties of Turks had thus penetrated far into the Australian position on Russell’s Top-but only on its inland side. Colonel Braund, with half the 2nd Battalion and New Zealanders, lay out in the scrub at the top of Walker’s Ridge; and, on the inland side, the fork of Monash Valley and a small length of each of its branches were held by remnants of the men who had been fighting all day on Baby 700. A few men of the 1st and 3rd Brigades lined Pope’s Hill and Dead Man’s Ridge. Captain Jacobs and some of his men, who from supporting Kin don’s right had fallen back on the Bloody Angle, now joined them. The Bloody Angle never at any time afforded cover against an enemy who held the Nek. Its rear lay completely open in that direction. About dusk Jacobs had ordered his party, worn-out with the interminable strain, to withdraw further down the gully. As it began to drop down the slope, a figure appeared on the skyline behind. “Set of cowardly bastards,” it said.
‘I never thought Australians were such a lot of curs!” It was a youngster of the 3rd Battalion. He was sobbing, half-crying with rage.
“What’s the matter, son?” asked Jacobs.
“My officer’s out there wounded, and you are leaving him,” he said.
Jacobs with several men went out where the youngster led them, and found an officer badly wounded. The boy had been carrying him over his shoulder. They brought him in.
Jacobs’s party, as has been mentioned, withdrew from the Bloody Angle to a recess on the opposite side of the gully. This indentation, which lay in front of Pope’s Hill, was steep at its foot, but a climb up the dry bed of a cataract - which gave it the name of Waterfall Gully - led to a shallow spoon-shaped depression at its upper end. Jacobs’s party lined the forward shoulder above this valley, between it and the Bloody Angle (later, “Dead Man’s Ridge”). There they lay, at dusk, facing the Chessboard, with Pope’s Hill just behind them. Others who had retired towards the Bloody Angle found their way into the next recess south of it. This indentation, although it was on the same side of Monash Valley as the Bloody Angle and had its back turned almost directly towards The Nek, was nevertheless partly protected by the shoulder which formed its extreme left. The 3rd Battalion had used the place as a track for men and ammunition to reach the fighting on Mortar Ridge. Here, in the afternoon, as the fight ebbed, fragments of the troops had eddied-Aucklanders, who were the last to move through Monash Valley, and stray men from the front made it their stopping place. At nightfall there remained in the green arbutus scrub on top of the recess 150 Australians and New Zealanders under Major Dawson of the Auckland Battalion. Probably a few men also stayed in the Bloody Angle till next morning, when, with the Turks directly behind them, they were either killed or driven out.
But the post in the southern recess of the two was not withdrawn. From that day until the evacuation, with its rear open to The Nek and its flank completely in the air, it remained, the most critical position in Gallipoli. The Australians and New Zealanders under Dawson who, with a New Zealand machine-gun which came up during the night, held the green scrub on its lip became the original garrison of Quinn’s Post.
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Bean's Account, Part 4 Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Bean's Account, Part 4
Looking north to Fisherman's Hut from Anzac Cove.
The following is an extract from Bean, CEW, The Story of Anzac: the first phase, (11th edition, 1941), pp. 322 - 335.
THE EXTREME LEFT
The northernmost tows from the battleships had landed only a few hundred yards north of Ari Burnu Knoll. A few minutes later the northernmost destroyer had sent her men ashore about a quarter of a mile still further to the left. The most northerly landing party was Tulloch’s, which had climbed up Walker’s Ridge. Any Turkish outposts, therefore, further north than Walker’s Ridge had been left intact by the first landing.
The country north of Walker’s Ridge consists entirely of other steep ridges, similar to Walker’s, which descend from the main ridge to the sea. These ridges follow one another like the bones which spread from the spine of a fish, each one being longer and steeper than the last. The scrub-covered valleys between them-scored out by four small mountain streams are almost impenetrable even in peace time. Before reaching the shore, these valleys open into small comparatively level flats, some of which had been cultivated with patches of poppy or cotton or used as pasture. In several instances the spurs end in a knoll rather higher than the portion of the spur immediately inland of them, their appearance thus being that of a dragon’s foreleg ending in a heavy claw. The knolls in question rise above the small flats in curious isolated hills. The southern side of most of the ridges has by some natural agency been worn and scored into precipices of gravel. The northern slope, which is not actually precipitous, is generally covered with low scrub.
Immediately north of Walker’s Ridge is one such knoll, 150 feet in height, which, when it was afterwards held by the New Zealanders as an outpost, became known as “No. 1 Post.’’ It is in reality the end of the first spur which leaves the main ridge beyond The Nek - the very spur on the higher part of which, far up against the skyline, Lalor, Patterson, and the parties upon the seaward slope of Baby 700 began during the morning their bitter struggle. Detached from No. 1 Post, 300 yards north of it, is an isolated hillock only sixty feet high, a miniature of the other knolls. but standing by itself from the level which fringes the beach. On its sea- ward side was a long low hut of rough stones cemented with mud-a shelter for fishermen who at some time had worked upon this beach. This was known as “Fisherman’s Hut.” On the inland slope of the same knoll was a smaller hut, facing upon a narrow flat interposed between the mountains and two enclosing spurs. Not many of those who fought at Anzac were aware of the existence of this second hut. As it looked out over a small paddock, and was on the in- land side of the knoll, it was eventually named the “Shepherd’s Hut.” Between these knolls and the beach –which gradually receded from the foothills as it swept northward – there were small rectangular patches of open pasture or cultivation.
Map, p. 323.
When the battleship tows landed, they were fired on from the direction of No. 1 Post and Fisherman’s Hut. But the darkness, the surprise, and the fact that the tows landed half a mile distant from the Turkish posts, diminished the effect of this fire. The northernmost destroyer tows, coming in to land only 500 yards away, with the light growing and the Turkish outposts thoroughly awakened, had suffered more heavily. More southerly tows, moving in at the same time, had watched the 12th Battalion, as they said, “getting a hell of a time of it.” One of the first steps taken by Colonel Clarke of the 12th, when he landed under that fire, was to send Lieutenant Rafferty and his platoon straight to the north with orders to do his best to subdue it. Lieutenant Strickland with a platoon of the 11th worked along the beach itself; Rafferty made his way across the flats beside the beach.
Rafferty had with him twenty-three men of his own platoon and twenty stray men from other tows. His party opened into extended order and moved northwards through the scrub until they struck the mouth of a creek which had scored its channel about six feet deep through the sand to the beach. In front of them was a patch of pasture with a solitary olive tree. To their right front rose the high knoll of No. I Post. Ahead, about 300 yards distant across the open, was the smaller sandy knoll, with the Fisherman’s Hut low down on its seaward slope.
It was impossible to remain in the creek. Bullets whipped down it from some height on the inland side, and men began to fall. Rafferty, scrambling up the creek side, endeavoured to use his field-glasses and find the enemy against whom he had been sent. But the glasses had been drenched in the landing, and both his handkerchief and his shirt were soaked. He scanned the beach, but could see no one. The fire which swept the creek was probably coming from the top of No. 1 Post high on the right front, where, as daylight grew, trenches could be discerned. Ahead there were certainly Turks in trenches on the small knoll above Fisherman’s Hut. Rafferty was wondering what he ought to do next, when he noticed four white boats full of troops rowing across the sea on his left. They were coming directly towards Fisherman’s Hut. He decided to push on to the next rise-the foot of No. 1 Post-in order to assist their landing.
To do this he had to cross the field before mentioned. His men, and also Strickland’s from the beach, began to double over the level. A very heavy fire was opened on them. Of Rafferty’s party twenty fell in crossing it; twelve lay there dead. But Rafferty, Sergeant Skinner, and six others reached the low rise on the far side. Here they were fairly sheltered. If any Turks remained in the trenches on top of No. 1 Post, the hill was too steep for them to see this party at its foot. The rise obscured the boats from Rafferty, and he moved to the crest in order to obtain a view of them.
On climbing the rise, he found that the boats had reached the shore, and were aground on the beach. In front of them, lying down on the sand in a rough line, were the men who had landed in them. But not one of these moved. Anxious to know what they were doing and what were their intentions, Rafferty sought to attract their attention, but could get no response.
A Hobart man, Private Stubbings who was beside him, said: “I’ll go, sir.” He put down his rifle and equipment and ran across the open to the nearest boat. He discovered that all the men round him were either dead or so grievously wounded that they made no reply. Eventually he found, sheltering behind the boat, four who were able to speak to him. These could tell him no more than he could see for himself - that most of the men from the boats were dead. He ran back to Rafferty with his information.
What had happened was this. As dawn was breaking, the four transports carrying the greater part of the 2nd Brigade had crept in abreast of one another between the battleships to their berths opposite the landing-place. The plan was for the 2nd Brigade to land immediately after the 3rd Brigade, and to extend the line along the main ridge for two miles northwards to the summit of Hill 971. It had also to fling back a left flank from that point to the sea.
As the 2nd Brigade was to move to the left of the 3rd, its point of landing was to be immediately north of that of the latter; and its troops were therefore carried on the two northernmost transports of the four which moved inside the battleships and anchored at 4.45 a.m.
In the northernmost ship, the Galeka, were the 6th and 7th Battalions. The commander of the Galeka, Captain Bernard Burt, was typical of the merchant-captains whom Great Britain has continually produced since the days of Drake. His appearance and speech were those of the “Captain Kettle” of current romance. His one desire in the war was to strike a blow at the Germans. The irony of circumstance afterwards placed him in charge of the hospital ship Glenart Castle, in which he was sunk and drowned by a German submarine. On the morning of the landing his ship was to have been met at dawn by tows which, after setting ashore the 3rd Brigade, were to return and take the infantry from the transports of the 2nd.
The officers in these boats would know where the 3rd had landed, and would transport the 2nd to a suitable landing place presumably to the north of it. As they came ashore, the battalions were to be met by Staff officers and guided to a rendezvous.
The Galeka arrived punctually. There being no sign of the tows, Captain Burt held on his course and took the ship close in to the shore, 600 yards ahead of any other. There he anchored. Still no boats approached. The Gaba Tepe guns opened, and five minutes later shrapnel began to burst very close to the Galeka. It appeared dangerous for the ship to stay in that position indefinitely: one of her boats was hit by a shell as it lay beside her. The 6th and 7th Battalions of infantry were crowded on her decks, and Commander Sommerville, the naval officer on board responsible for the safety of the men and the ship, decided that the troops must land themselves at once, as best they could, in the ship’s own boats. Colonel Elliott of the 7th, who commanded the troops, was strongly opposed to this course, inasmuch as his men had been told off in numbers suitable for the tows. If they used the ship’s boats, which were smaller, the arrangements would be disorganised from the start. Moreover the landing-place was to have been communicated to them by the tows returning from the shore. Elliott and Sommerville could only tell the companies to land “on the left of the 3rd Brigade.” Neither they nor anyone else knew where the left of the 3rd Brigade was. Commander Sommerville, however, decided that a start must be made. Accordingly, at 5 a.m., Elliott told off three platoons of the leading company of the 7th Battalion. These were sent off in four of the ship’s boats under their company commander, Major Jackson, and were told to land about a mile north of the 3rd Brigade. As they moved away in the dim light, they could see the flashes of shells or rifles on their left front, apparently about half-way along the skyline of the mountain. This was the only sign of “the left of the 3rd Brigade” by which Jackson and the officers in the other boats could at first guide themselves.
The four boats moved together, carrying 140 men. Captain Layh, second-in-command of Jackson's company, was with them. As they neared the land, they saw ahead of them, immediately north of Ari Burnu Knoll, the Red Cross flag of the ambulance which had landed with the 3rd Brigade. They therefore headed to the north of this. The officers knew from the written orders that the 7th Battalion was to guard the flank about the Fisherman's Hut. Before them as they came in was a low sandy knoll, towards which they made, since it appeared likely to give thein cover. They did not know that at the foot of it stood the Fisherman's Hut itself. Approaching the shore, the men in the boats caught the sound of rifle firing. Away on their right were other boats, bringing troops of their battalion to land, and over these they could see shrapnel bursting. Jackson's own boats were not advancing into shrapnel but into rifle fire. They saw it cutting up the water ahead. There appeared to be two machine-guns and many rifles at work. After what seemed an endless time in approaching it, they gradually rowed into the field of fire. In the boat with Captain Layh were Lieutenant Heighway and part of his platoon. Five out of six of their rowers were shot, but others took the oars, and the boat did not stop. Layh was in the bows trying to cheer the men, Heighway at the tiller. The boat was scraping on the shingle when Heighway slid forward, wounded. The boat grounded, and, as Layh threw himself into the water beside it, he was shot through the hip. He turned to see if the men had landed, and was again shot through the leg. With the survivors he scrambled towards the little grass-tufted sand hummocks which here fringed the beach, and lay low behind them.
From where he crouched Layh could see others of his men lying under cover. He called to them. Only six answered. Heavy fire was sweeping over their heads. They guessed that it came from the Fisherman's Hut, which they had seen as they landed. They answered it with as heavy a fusillade as they could, Layh believing that the Turks would almost certainly come down and attack them. He ordered his men to fix bayonets, and to show them above the sand hummocks as if they were about to charge. Hardly was this done when the fire ceased, and at last they were able to move freely. It was found that, of the 140 souls in the boats, there were left Major Jackson, Captain Layh, Lieutenant Scanlan, and about thirty-five unhurt or lightly-wounded men. The rest lay in the boats or on the beach dead, dying, or grievously wounded.
Immediately before landing they had seen a line of men trying to advance towards them across a large open patch of green grass. They had seen these men shot down, and never realised that any had crossed the green. It was Rafferty's and Strickland's party coming to help them.
When Private Stubbings returned to him, Rafferty noticed that the fire from the knoll in front suddenly died away. Rafferty had by this time received three messages from the rear ordering him to retire. These messages had been shouted and signalled to him. He could not tell who sent them, and acting on a sound rule which all officers had been warned to observe, he had stayed where he was. Now, looking to the skyline of the main ridge far above him on the right, he saw Australians advancing there. Some slipped or lay down or were shot-it was impossible to say which. But at any rate they were there. and others could be seen on Walker's Ridge and the spurs to his right rear. There thus appeared to be plenty of troops now on the left of the landing. Rafferty therefore decided to go off with the survivors of his party and carry out the work which had been allotted to them in the plan of the landing-to escort the Indian Mountain Battery. About the same time at which the survivors with Jackson mustered below Fisherman's Hut, Rafferty with his remnant withdrew. Neither knew that the other party had survived.
Major Jackson proceeded towards the ambulance which he had seen when approaching the land. Layh and Scanlan, with their party, moved up past the Fisherman's Hut onto the small knoll behind the hut. Overlooking the beach, on top of the knoll, was a deserted trench. Probably it had been dug there in the Balkan Wars, for bushes had since sprung up on its parapet. The party occupied this trench, and also a trench which they found at the inland end of the knoll overlooking the Shepherd’s Hut and the small cultivation between that and the mountains.
Meanwhile Jackson had reached the 3rd Field Ambulance, and asked it to send stretcher-bearers to carry the wounded from the boats and the beach.
This was done. The ambulance asked that the party on the knoll should hold the position until the wounded were cleared. Layh and Scanlan promised to do so. In order to let Colonel Elliott know why this part of his battalion did not join him, Layh scribbled a message:
7th Battalion, 2 officers and 30 men are holding knoll above landing-place until wounded removed. Will then join battalion.
H. T. C. Layh, Captain,
This message eventually reached his battalion.
For most of the day the party held on. Two of the boats being able to float, wounded were put into them, and a trawler came in and towed them away. Meanwhile the Turks had been strangely quiet in the foothills. About 2.30 p.m., however, before the work of removing the wounded was completed, Turkish troops began to reappear in the spurs northward and inland of the knoll, and a formidable attack was developing from the spurs between the main ridge and the beach.
There is some evidence that fragments of Tulloch’s and other companies, which had been fighting on Baby 700, found their way from The Nek down Malone’s Gully to the beach ; and that some of these men, or possibly of Rafferty’s party, at one time held No. 1 Post. If that be so, when this Turkish counter-attack developed towards the end of the afternoon, these parties were driven back to the lower slopes of Walker’s Ridge.
It was this advance of the Turks from the north-cast which was beginning to be felt all over the northern half of the battlefield at this juncture. Here, on the extreme left, Layh and Scanlan and the thirty survivors above Fisherman’s Hut found that the enemy was driving towards the sea between them and Walker’s Ridge, threatening to cut them off. Since the Turks were in the rear of him, Layh withdrew his men to the beach through the gully bed - the mouth of the Sazli Beit-north of his position. A Turkish machine-gun kept them pinned down among the sand hummocks as they endeavoured to slip back along the shore; but the Turks could never by day come to the shore itself on account of the guns of the warships, and the party gradually crept along the beach. By dark it reached the dressing station, and thence reported to General Bridges’ headquarters. It was now eighteen strong. At once it was sent up to another part of the line by Major Glasfurd as reinforcement for the 3rd Brigade.
Watchers on the warships could see three boats lying upon the beach where Jackson’s party had landed. Two of these were boats of the 7th Battalion, and a third had landed part of the 12th a certain distance to the south. They lay there idly, as if some fishermen had beached them at their work. Men had been moving near them for most of the day, and to all appearance this beach was as much part of the Australian position as the Ari Burnu Knoll itself. In the ships nothing was known of the real position. But here the Navy witnessed a brave deed of which much has been written. On Monday, April 26th. when the landing was well established, and when, so far as those in the ships knew, the beach was firmly occupied, two men carrying a stretcher were seen to start out from the left of the Australian lines. They went along the beach to the boats. Here they picked up a man and began to carry him back. Presently they started to run. Fire had evidently been opened on them. They were observed to put down the stretcher, change ends, and start to run again. Suddenly both fell. They were not seen to move again. Men and officers of the Canopus, watching at intervals through the day, saw another party, which they took to be a burial party, go out armed to the figures which lay bunched in front of the boats. Behind the party rose the white sandy knoll and the Fisherman’s Hut, with its three empty silent windows staring at them. In front of them were the boats with their freight of dead, the naval coxswain still sitting at the tiller. The rest of the dead lay grouped upon the beach. No sooner had the burial party begun to work than fire was opened upon it, not from the hut, but apparently from the top of the knoll. Two men with a stretcher managed to return along the shore.
Exactly how many efforts were made to save these wounded will never be known. Such tasks, undertaken as a matter of course all over the Australian and New Zealand line, were never recorded. Only a few disconnected details have been preserved. Of the rescue of these men from the boats, where they had lain for thirty hours, the following details only are clear.
On the afternoon of the landing a party of New Zealanders and Australians was holding a trench on the edge of Walker's Ridge looking out over the long sweep of the beach far below. One of the party, Lance-Corporal Noel Ross, a son of the Official War Correspondent for New Zealand, had a range-finder which contained a powerful telescope. He was watching the deserted boats. In the nearer one a dead man sat with an arm thrown over the gunwale. In the other boat, half a mile from Ross, were a number of men-Australians. Ross counted about thirty. One man, a sailor, was lying in a lifelike attitude, his chin on his hand, gazing up at Walker’s Ridge. Ross thought no more of it until about 3 p.m. the following day, when lie happened to look at them again. Then he noticed that the sailor had changed his position, and was lying with his white cap still on his head but with his face turned up to the sky. As Ross watched, he was astonished to see a figure detach itself from the dreadful heap and begin to hobble along the beach. After a few yards it collapsed. A Turkish sniper had opened. The splash of his bullets could be seen in the water just beyond the man.
Ross went out with four men along the beach to bring him in. When they had gone a hundred yards, the sand and stones about them began to be whipped by Turkish bullets. They dropped behind the bank of the beach, and, dodging from shelter to shelter, reached a point within hail of the wounded man. He was lying out in the open. But, little by little, crawled to cover. He had been shot through both legs and nearly collapsed, but his spirit was high, and they brought him back. There were four others in the heap, he said, still alive. There had been eight, but four had died before the dawn.
The remaining survivors appear to have been rescued by stretcher-bearers of the 2nd Battalion. From his position on Walker’s Ridge Lieutenant Westbrook of this battalion had noticed, like Ross, some movement of one of the figures lying before Fisherman’s Hut. He asked two stretcher- bearers of his battalion, by name Carpenter and Roberts, if they would try to bring this man in. The two men went at once, taking their stretcher. As they neared the boats, fire was opened upon them. They found several of the men still alive, and made the journey four times, each time bringing in a wounded man. Some New Zealanders then went out with an improvised stretcher and picked up a fifth, but the task of carrying him on the makeshift bed was almost impossible. The two Australians with their stretcher therefore went out again and helped them to finish the journey. So far as is known, the last of the wounded from the boats were removed on Monday evening after dark. It is said that nine were saved who had lain there since the dawn of Sunday.
About 3 o’clock on the afternoon of April 25th the Turks who forced Layh to leave the Fisherman’s Hut began to work over or around the four seaward fingers of Baby 700 towards Walker’s Ridge itself. General Bridges was aware of the importance of this Ridge-the only possible position for his left flank-and he had decided to reinforce it with the remaining New Zealand battalions. But the landing of the New Zealanders had been interrupted, and the Turkish attack which developed against Walker’s Ridge about nightfall \vas faced by a few scattered handfuls of men.
The slender garrison may be thus enumerated. The beach at the foot of the ridge was empty until Lieutenant Shout of the 1st Battalion, after taking reinforcements up to Braund on the Top, garrisoned it with a few men collected by himself and Lance-Corporal Freame. Above them the razorback crest of the spur was occupied by a party of Australians and New Zealanders under Captain Critchley-Salmonson of the Canterbury Battalion. Salmonson, with some of the Canterburys, had been in reserve on Plugge’s at about 2 p.m., when a note reached him from Major Stuckey of the Auckland Battalion, who was near The Nek, to the effect that the Turks were moving round the left and that ammunition was running out. Salmonson took his platoon of New Zealanders and reached a point about half-way up Walker’s Ridge, below the knoll and the gap, which were then its chief features. He had with him here a few men of the 9th, 11th, and 12th Australian Battalions, who had retired towards the beach from the fighting on Baby 700. His party did not amount to fifty.
It has been related how, during the earlier hours of the afternoon, Colonel Braund-taking with him Burke’s and Concanon’s companies of the 2nd Battalion-climbed up Walker’s Ridge past the gap onto Russell’s Top. The gap, which was then passable at the cost of many casualties, became almost impassable at a later stage. When the remnants of the two companies of the Auckland Battalion which had been holding the support line on Baby 700 retired over Russell’s Top to the head of Walker’s Ridge, they found the Turkish fire upon this gap so heavy that they were checked. Two scouts were sent ahead to find the way, but they never returned. The party therefore stayed on Walker’s Ridge above the gap. With the Aucklanders were some survivors of the 1st and 3rd Australian Brigades under Lieutenant Jackson of the 11th and other officers. During the night there reached these Australians a message - based on a countermanded order - stating that the 3rd Australian Brigade was to be relieved, and that its men were to concentrate on the beach. But so heavy was the tire at this point in the ridge, that Jackson’s party remained on the spot all night with the Aucklanders.
In the expanse of scrub beyond the head of Walker’s Ridge, on Russell’s Top, was Colonel Braund with his two companies of the 2nd Battalion. Near him in the scrub lay the remnants of Colonel Stewart’s two companies of the Canterburys. Lieutenant Shout had brought to him from the beach some 200 stray men of all battalions. And with Braund, weary to death, was also a handful of the mixed remnants of the Australian and New Zealand companies which had been fighting on Baby 700.
Map, p. 334.
Such was the position at nightfall on Walker’s Ridge and the part of Russell’s Top immediately above it. Braund’s right ended in the scrub on the Top, and of what troops or country were beyond it, or of what was passing there, he had no idea. The scrub in which his right lay was swept by Turkish machine-guns. Braund knew that Australians and New Zealanders had been holding ground on his right front before dusk. But they had retired-some upon his line, others else- where. Never at any time was he in touch with troops on his right. Neither friend or enemy held the head of Monash Valley and Pope’s Hill, was unknown to him. There was a gap to his right, and no one could stir upon Russell’s Top to find how wide that gap was. The line along Walker‘s Ridge was thus an isolated flank, disconnected from the main front of the Australian position which faced inland along the other side of Monash Valley. Actually, whether Braund knew it or not, a party of Turks, following Howe, had penetrated far along the inland edge of Russell’s Top, between the two sections of the Australian and New Zealand line.
In headquarters, on the beach, Braund’s difficulties were well realised. Notions as to the nature of the gap between the head of Monash Valley and Walker's Ridge were very vague. But it was known that the left of the line had been driven in, and that the main danger was that the Turks would penetrate from Baby 700 behind the back of the line which was holding the edge of Monash Valley. As has been related, a promise was sent to Braund that he would he strengthened with two battalions of New Zealanders to help him dig in and hold his position. Into the other side of the gap, at the head of Monash Valley, were hurried the first troops, now landing, of the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade.
The First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, France, 4 April 1918, Outline Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux
France, 4 April 1918
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.
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