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Sunday, 25 April 2010
Australian Society, 1899 - 1920, General Items, Contents Topic: Gen - Australia
Australian Society, 1899 - 1920
This thread deals with general topical items that concerned Australians during the period 1899 to 1920. The items are too eclectic and individual to be listed under their own threads, and so they end up here.
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Outline Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Towing the landing boats to Anzac by steam pinnace, 25 April 1915.
Anzac Cove, the name given to the stretch of Turkish coastline on the west coast of' the Gallipoli Peninsula upon which the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) made an invasion landing on 25 April 1915. The landing, and others by British and French forces further south, marked the start of an eight-month campaign aimed at seizing control of the Dardanelles, the 60-kilometre long strait connecting the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara. Since this waterway was strategically of utmost importance as a naval route between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, and also for the defence of the Turkish capital at Constantinople, the Allied incursion was fiercely (and ultimately successfully) resisted by the Turks.
While the concept of the operation was sound, the Allies made the mistake of signalling their intention by using solely naval units to bombard the Turkish forts on the peninsula during February, then attempting to force the strait a month later. The latter effort failed disastrously, thus necessitating a military expedition. At the time of the preliminary bombardment the Dardanelles were only lightly held by two Turkish divisions, but by the time the landing forces arrived this number had risen to six compared to the five divisions of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force commanded by General Sir Ian Hamilton. Added to the loss of surprise, planning and other arrangements for the landings were mostly inept and inadequate.
The northern landing was assigned to the Anzacs under Lieut.-General Sir William Birdwood, whose force comprised the 1st Australian Division (Major-General William Bridges) and the New Zealand & Australian Division (Major-General Sir Alexander Godley). Once ashore, Birdwood's task was to press inland and sever the Turks' lines of communication with their forces further south. Bridges' division was ordered to land first, its objective being a sandy beach north of Gaba Tepe. When the flotilla of lighters and rowing boats began taking ashore the first wave of troops from the transport ships shortly after 4 a.m., however, unsuspected currents swept these craft nearly two kilometres northwards. The covering force was accordingly deposited on more difficult terrain on either side of the headland of Ari Burnu. While this greatly increased the difficulties of the landing, it actually meant the invaders encountered lighter resistance at first than would have been the case had they reached their designated beach.
The location of Ottoman forces opposing the landings at Anzac, 25 April 1915.
[From: AWM G7432.a1s65 Gallipoli XXVI.9]
Four hours after the initial landing, a significant portion of the Australian division was safely ashore and the leading elements were pushing inland through dense scrub amid a maze of steep ridges and narrow gullies. Their advance was cut short when the local Turkish commander, Mustafa Kemal (later known as Kemal Attaturk), rallied his troops in time to seize the crucially important Chunuk Bair and Sari Bair ridges. The Australian failure to take these dominating heights on the first day meant that the beach-head gained was successfully contained by the enemy to a triangular area of about 160 hectares within a perimeter of less than two kilometres; a similar fate met the British landings at Cape Helles. Although both Bridges and Godley argued for the Anzac troops to be immediately re-embarked, this advice was refused. A prolonged siege followed, during which both sides struggled to gain advantage (see Baby 700). A general Turkish assault on 19 May, undertaken by four divisions totalling 42,000 men, resulted in 10,000 enemy casualties-roughly 3,000 of whom were killed.
Notwithstanding a second British landing aimed at expanding the original beach-head, undertaken in august at Suvla Bay six kilometres north of Anzac (see Lone Pine, The Nek and Hill 971), the stale mate continued. On 19-20 December the Allied garrison of Anzac and Suvla was evacuated without loss in a brilliantly executed secret operation, followed by that at Helles on 8 January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign had been a costly failure, claiming 180,000 casualties out of the 480,000 Allied troops committed to the fighting; no precise figure is available for the Turks, but their losses were probably about 220,000. Some 50,000 Australians served at Anzac, and of these more than 26,000 became casualties (some sources say 27,500) including nearly 8,000 killed or died of wounds or disease. In Australia, the experience of Anzac took on a powerful nationalist meaning from 1916, embodied ever since in annual commemoration of the landing anniversary as 'Anzac Day'.
4th Battalion and mules of 26th (Jacob's) Indian Mountain Battery landing at Anzac, 8 am, 25 April 1915.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 101-103.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol. I (1921) & Vol. 2 (1924), Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
John Robertson, (1990), Anzac and Empire, Melbourne: Hamlyn Australia.
The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Aspinall-Oglander's Account, Part 1 Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Aspinall-Oglander's Account, Part 1
Aspinall-Oglander Sketch 5, p. 157
The following is an extract from CF Aspinall-Oglander, Military Operations, Gallipoli, Volume 1, 1929, pp. 162 - 180.
CHAPTER IX THE LANDING AT ANZAC
THE NEWS AT TURKISH HEADQUARTERS
(See Sketch 5 above.) From six o'clock onwards on the morning of the 25th April a flood of urgent messages came pouring in to Turkish headquarters at Gallipoli, reporting that several hostile landings had already begun, and that others were imminent.
At Gaba Tepe British warships and transports were disembarking troops in dangerous proximity to Maidos, and the cliffs at Ari Burnu were already in the hands of the invaders. At several points near Sedd el Bahr strong British forces were reported to be at grips with the outposts of the 9th Division, and the whole of the southern end of the peninsula was being lacerated by heavy naval guns. Across the Straits, at Kum Kale, the 3rd Division was said to be heavily engaged with French troops, whose landing had been supported by a galling fire from attendant men-of-war. Further south, where the 11th Division was watching the coast, a considerable fleet of French warships and transports was entering Besika Bay. Finally, close at hand, in the Gulf of Saros, a number of British warships and a dozen large liners were approaching the shore. From that direction, too, there soon was heard the boom of naval guns. "I could tell," writes General Liman von Sanders, "by the pallor of the " officers who brought me the reports, that the long-awaited " landing was surprising them, and filling them with un easiness,, by the fact of its taking place at so many points " at once. [Sanders, Fünf Jahre Türkei, p. 84.]
Convinced though the German general was that all these landings could not be serious, it was for the moment impossible to tell at which of them the invaders were seeking a decision. But it was the safety of the isthmus that caused him the greatest anxiety, and the measure of that anxiety can be gauged by the fact that here one-third of his whole force had been concentrated, and here he had kept his headquarters and the headquarters of the III Corps in order to be as near as possible to what he considered the most likely point of attack. Nor was Liman von Sanders alone in expecting the Allied troops to land near Bulair. Everywhere critics of the campaign were sharing the same view, and Sir Ian Hamilton has placed on record that, apart from other weighty reasons, one of the influences that persuaded him to try elsewhere was a reluctance to throw his troops against just that point where it was probable that the greatest preparations had been made to receive them. But, to play upon the Turkish commander's fears, he had decided on a demonstration in that neighbourhood, and well was his ruse to succeed.
Serious as were the reports from the centre and south of the peninsula, and from the Asiatic shore, it was the isthmus that now claimed Liman's personal attention. Mounting his horse, and accompanied by two German orderly officers, he galloped to a position on the heights of Bulair, and there he remained till the events of the next day persuaded him of the real state of affairs. Despite the urgent calls for help from other sectors, it was not until the evening of the 25th that he would allow the Bulair garrison to be weakened even to the extent of five battalions; and though further units of the two northern divisions were permitted to embark for Maidos on the night of the 26th, another twenty-four hours were to elapse before the isthmus was denuded of troops. For more than forty-eight hours, indeed, the Turkish units at the main points of attack were denied reinforcements, which, had they arrived earlier, might well have turned the scale against the British in the hotly contested battle for the beaches.
THE DEMONSTRATION OFF BULAIR
Eleven transports of the Royal Naval Division, escorted by the warships Canopus, Dartmouth, and Doris, with two destroyers and some trawlers, sailed from Trebuki Bay on the evening of the 24th April for a rendezvous in the Gulf of Saros. Major-General A. Paris was on board the Canopus, while the commanders of the 2nd Royal Naval and Royal Marine brigades were in the Dartmouth and Doris respectively.
Arriving at the rendezvous soon after daybreak on the 25th, the warships began a slow bombardment of the Bulair lines which was to continue throughout the day, and shortly afterwards the divisional Staff carried out a close reconnaissance of three landing places on the northern side of the gulf from the deck of the destroyer Kennet. Later in the day ships' boats were ostentatiously swung out from the transports, and strings of tows, each consisting of eight cutters and a trawler, were got ready as if for a landing. Towards evening the boats were filled with men, and, shortly before darkness fell, the tows headed for the shore-to return to the transports as soon as their movements were shrouded by the dusk.
Up to this hour the demonstration had called for little effort on the part of the Royal Naval Division. But for the night of the 25th a more realistic enterprise had been planned, which, through the initiative of a junior officer, was to resolve itself into an individual exploit as gallant as it was picturesque. It had been arranged that towards midnight a platoon of the Hood Battalion should be thrown ashore on the westernmost of the three northern beaches to light flares and to simulate the landing of a large body of troops. During the afternoon, however, it was suggested by Lieut.-Commander B. C. Freyberg, the leader of the selected platoon, that, after the day's happenings, the approach of boats would certainly be noticed, and the attempt to land a small party frustrated with useless loss of life. This young officer pleaded that, as he was a strong swimmer, the actual landing should be entrusted to him alone, a ship's boat being used only to take him within a mile of the shore, whence he would complete the journey by swimming, light flares along the coast, and swim back to the boat. This change of plan was sanctioned, and the story of the adventure can best be told in the words of Freyberg's official report:
At 9 pm, last night (25th April), as ordered we left H.M. Transport Grantully Castle for the western landing place to light flares. We were taken in tow by the steam pinnace of H.M.S. Dartmouth, and towed to within three miles of the shore, when we slipped and rowed in another mile. It now became evident that to proceed further without being seen from the shore would be 26 April impossible. At 12 40 this morning, therefore, I started swimming to cover the remaining distance towing a waterproof canvas bag containing three oil flares and five calcium lights, a knife, signalling light, and a revolver. After an hour and a quarter's hard swimming in bitterly cold water I reached the shore and lighted my first flare, and again took to the water and swam towards the east, and landed about 300 yards away, where I lighted my second flare and hid among some bushes to await developments. Nothing happening, I crawled up a slope to where some trenches were located the morning before. I discovered they were only dummies, consisting only of a pile of earth about two feet high and 100 yards long, and looked to be quite newly made. I crawled in about 350 yards and listened for some time, but could discover nothing. I now went to the beach, where I lighted my last flare, and left on a bearing due south. After swimming for a considerable distance I was picked up by Lieut. Nelson in our cutter some time after 3 A.M. Our cutter, in company with the pinnace and the destroyer Kennet, searched the shore with 12-pdr. and machinegun fire, but could get no answer from the shore.
It is my opinion that the shore was not occupied, but from the appearance and lights on the tops of the hills during the early hours of the morning, I feel sure that numbers of the enemy were there, but owing to chance of being captured, and as I had cramp badly, I could not get further.
Early on the 26th, the Royal Naval Division and its escorting squadron were ordered south to take part in the main operations; but not till many hours after the last ship had sunk below the horizon were Turkish fears for the safety of the isthmus allayed.
Aspinall-Oglander Sketch 5A, p. 159
THE ANZAC PLAN
(See Sketch 5 above.) The task allotted to the Australian and New Zealand Army 25 Apr. Corps was to effect a landing north of Gaba Tepe, and, after securing its left flank, to push eastwards towards Maidos with sketch a view to severing the Turkish north and south communications.
Available information at British headquarters pointed to the Gaba Tepe promontory being strongly held, but to the north of it, apart from some unconnected trenches on the spurs overlooking the shore, and a few gun emplacements, no other defences were known to exist, [The defences reported to G.H.Q. before the landing were: 7 emplacements and 3 occupied trenches, on Gaba Tepe; 4 emplacements half a mile inland; some disconnected trenches on the crest and forward slopes of the spurs overlooking " Brighton Beach "; and two gun emplacements on " 400 Plateau ", south-east of Ari Burnu. No guns were visible and the emplacements were reported as " empty or roofed over ".] and it was hoped from this lack of preparation that the covering force would encounter little opposition on the beach. Further inland resistance was expected to be severe, for the Anafarta villages and Maidos were reported to be crowded with soldiery, and the probable number of troops in the neighbourhood was placed at two complete divisions, or, roughly, 20,000 men. [In point of fact, the Turks in this area now appear to have numbered about 13,000 men. They consisted of the 27th Regiment, which had one battalion on outpost duty along the coast on a five-mile front, and two battalions in local reserve near Maidos, and the 19th Division at Boghali. The 19th Division was the general reserve for the whole Dardanelles zone. The Turkish artillery in position guarding the coast consisted of one mountain battery on 400 Plateau, and two 12-cm. guns at Gaba Tepe. There were, in addition, two 15-cm. guns a little inland from Gaba Tepe.]
The Anzac covering force consisted of the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade, the 1st Field Company, and the bearer subdivisions of the 3rd Field Ambulance, the whole under command of Colonel E. G. Sinclair-Maclagan. [Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan’s substantive rank at this time was that of major (Yorkshire Regiment). The infantry brigade commanders of the Australian and New Zealand Corps were graded as colonels until July 1915, when they were granted the rank of brigadier-general, in accordance with the custom in vogue in the British service.] These were the troops who had been sent to Mudros from Egypt at the beginning of March, and for the last few weeks they had undergone a special course of training in landing operations.
A serious difficulty connected with an opposed landing on the coast of a little-known country is the impossibility of effecting any adequate reconnaissance of the ground over which the first battle must be fought. In the case of the Australian landing this difficulty was enhanced by the incredibly broken nature of the Sari Bair range, on the left flank of the intended landing place. Most of the senior officers concerned in the operation were given a view of the coast from the deck of a warship ten days before the landing, and one of the corps Staff flew over the area on the 14th April; [The paucity of aircraft and trained observers has been referred to.] but, apart from these inadequate reconnaissances, reliance had to be placed on the only available map of the peninsula, and this was subsequently to prove inaccurate in many important particulars. [The map was particularly misleading as regards the Anzac neighbourhood, and gave no idea of the extreme difficulties of the country.]
The main Sari Bair range extends south-westwards in an unbroken chain from the Anafarta villages to a point about three-quarters of a mile north-east of Ari Burnu. There it divides into three long and tortuous spurs or ridges, which are in their turn split up by countless gullies and depressions and eventually reach the sea coast between Ari Burnu and Gaba Tepe. About its centre the range is crowned by three rounded hills of nearly identical height, namely-reading from north to south - Koja Chemen Tepe, [On the first map issued to the troops this hill was marked 97i (feet) and throughout this history it will be referred to as Hill 971. The Turkish map subsequently brought into use described it as Koja Chemen Tepe, and gave its height as 305 metres.] Hill Q, [Hill Q is actually crowned by twin summits, but this is not apparent from the south.] and Chunuk Bair, all three of which command an extensive view of the Narrows above Chanak. These heights are guarded on the Aegean side by a maze of indescribably difficult underfeatures, but on their inland flank the slopes are more gradual, and there are fewer obstacles to the movement of troops. All three hills were destined to play an important part in the later stages of the campaign, but this present chapter is more particularly concerned with two lower eminences south of Chunuk Bair, and with the three long ridges, already alluded to, which extend south-west towards Gaba Tepe. None of these features were named in the original map (a point which added to the difficulty of writing orders for the troops); but so great was their influence on the operations that it is essential to study their general outline, and their relation to each other, before attempting to understand either the orders for the covering force or the subsequent course of events.
The two eminences at the southern end of the main ridge were soon to be known as "Battleship Hill" and "Baby 700", [In the original map issued to the troops both these heights were ringed with a 700 foot contour; hence the name Baby 700 for the smaller one. In reality, Baby 700 was merely the southern shoulder of the main ridge, and was 50-100 feet lower than Battleship Hill, which overlooked it.] and at this stage it will suffice to notice that both are overlooked by Chunuk Bair, that Battleship Hill affords a good though somewhat restricted view of the Narrows, and that Baby 700 cannot be approached under cover from the south. [A small portion of the Narrows is also visible from Baby 700, but not enough to make the hill of value for that reason.]
The three long ridges which extend from Battleship Hill towards Gaba Tepe were on the day of the landing referred to as "First", "Second", and "Third" Ridges. Of these, "First", the westernmost ridge, was the scene of incessant fighting, and many of its features now bear immortal names. Starting immediately south-west of Baby 700 it consists at first of a narrow saddle-back known as "The Nek". Continuing south-west the ground rises to a commanding plateau, long and narrow, known as "Russell's Top", on the western side of which two steep and tortuous underfeatures give access to the seashore between Ari Burnu and Fisherman's Hut. South of "Walker's Ridge" (the southernmost of these two spurs) the seaward face of Russell's Top is practically unclimbable, and here is located the gravel-faced cliff some 300 feet high, called by the New Zealanders and Australians "The Sphinx". At the southern end of Russell's Top the ridge suddenly con tracts for 200 yards into a veritable razor edge, impassable even by infantry, with a deep chasm on either side. It then opens out again to "Plugge's Plateau ", with an underfeature, Ari Burnu, jutting out to the sea below it. Thence the ridge turns south, and its steep scrub-covered slopes fringe the coast of Anzac Cove, the southern arm of which is formed by another and smaller underfeature, subsequently known as "Hell Spit", This southern portion of First Ridge, which ends at the mouth of a deep ravine called "Shrapnel Gully", [The upper half of this ravine was called "Monash Gully".] was called "Maclagan’s Ridge".
It is important to notice that whereas the original map indicated that troops could advance straight up First Ridge from its southern extremity to Baby 700, in point of fact the "Razor Edge" made this impossible, and to get from Plugge's Plateau to Russell's Top it was necessary to climb down into the gully and up the steep slope on the other side.
Second Ridge forms the eastern wall of Monash and Shrapnel Gullies, and then continues south to a point about one mile north-east of Gaba Tepe. This ridge, too, was for many months the scene of desperate fighting. It embraces such immortal names as "Quinn's", "Steele's", "Courtney's", and "Lone Pine"; and every yard of its length has been hallowed by brave deeds. For a thousand yards, from its starting-point on the southern slopes of Baby 700, it consists of a narrow crest-line, with a steep and sometimes precipitous fall towards Monash Gully and a less abrupt descent to "Mule Valley" on its eastern flank. It then widens into an important and conspicuous plateau, some 400 feet high, known as "400 Plateau", with an extreme length and breadth of about half a mile. It was on the eastern slopes of this plateau that two Turkish gun positions were reported before the landing. [2 At the landing two or three positions for mountain guns, consisting of roughly made pits were found on the east and south-east edges of the plateau, one of them containing three mountain guns. Owing to the vigour of the Australian advance, these guns were overrun before they could open fire, but the Turks succeeded in withdrawing them to Third Ridge later in the morning.] From the southern end of the plateau five minor spurs fall south-westward towards the sea.
The easternmost of the three ridges, called Third Ridge on the day of the landing, was subsequently known throughout the campaign as "Gun Ridge", and to avoid confusion this name will be used for it from the outset. The longest and biggest of the three ridges, it starts due south of Chunuk Bair, and merges into the Maidos plain a little to the east of Gaba Tepe, to which it is joined by a low and narrow spur which conceals the plain from the sea. Two important features to be noticed on Gun Ridge are "Scrubby Knoll" in the north, and "Anderson's Knoll" towards the southern end.
All reports agreed that the Sari Bair country was for the most part covered with low scrub. This, indeed, could be seen from the sea, but the resisting nature of that scrub was never suspected before the operations began. Standing some three feet high and interspersed with prickly dwarf oak, its stubborn bushes are often so close together, and so thorny, that even a strong man has difficulty in forcing his way through. In the attack, therefore, it is a serious obstacle to movement; while it has the further disadvantage that men lying down in it are unable to see their neighbours on either flank. But for snipers, or for infantry delaying a hostile advance, the cover that it affords is almost ideal.
It will be noticed that 1,000 yards south of Anzac Cove the high ground recedes from the shore, and that troops landing between that point and Gaba Tepe would find a stretch of more or less level ground between themselves and the nearest hill. Also, if troops were advancing direct on Maidos from the beach north of Gaba Tepe, the nearer they had landed to that promontory the fewer and less abrupt would be the obstacles blocking their way. On the other hand, a few machine guns on Gaba Tepe could forbid a landing in its immediate vicinity.
The locality finally chosen for the landing of the covering force was the sandy beach between Gaba Tepe and Anzac Cove. The force was to land on a front of 1,600 yards, its right resting on a point one mile north of Gaba Tepe, and its left near the southern extremity of First Ridge. In his orders to Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan, General Bridges, commanding the 1st Australian Division, instructed him to push forward across Second Ridge as rapidly as possible, and to take up a covering position on Gun Ridge. The troops were to advance on a broad front, so that if one portion of the line was held up by a hostile post, the portions on each flank would help it forward by threatening the enemy's flanks and rear. The left of the line was to establish itself on Chunuk Bair, while on the right a party was to be detached to clear Gaba Tepe and to disable any guns found there. It was also important that the guns reported on 400 Plateau should be quickly captured and disabled. Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan was informed that the 2nd Brigade, which was to land immediately after the covering force, would extend the front northwards to the summit of Hill 971, and protect the left flank by holding a line from that point to Fisherman's Hut; the 1st Brigade would in the first instance be held in reserve just clear of the beach. The 7th Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade would be landed as early as possible in the morning, and would be attached to the covering force on arrival.
In accordance with these orders, Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan detailed the 9th Battalion to land on the right, the 10th in the centre, and the 11th on the left. Two companies of the 9th were to clear Gaba Tepe as soon as they landed, while the remaining two companies were to make straight for Anderson's Knoll on Gun Ridge, a mile east of their landing place. The 10th Battalion, on their left, after capturing the guns on 400 Plateau, was to occupy Scrubby Knoll on Gun Ridge, while the r 11th Battalion was to seize the northern end of the ridge and Chunuk Bair. The 12th Battalion would, in the first instance, form the reserve. The mountain guns, on arrival, were to proceed to 400 Plateau.
The first point to be noticed about the naval arrangements for the landing is that the exact time at which the leading troops were to reach the shore was eventually governed by the hour of the moon's setting. General Birdwood was convinced that his best chance of success lay in a night landing, and it was his wish that the covering force should be landed in time to reach its first positions before daybreak. But the selected beach faced due west; the moon was not due to set till 2.57 A.M. on the 25th April; and it was feared that, if ships, were to approach within five miles of the shore before that hour, they would be seen by the enemy outposts and that all hopes of surprise would disappear. This was held to be the governing factor; and working from the basis that there must be no movement within five miles of the shore till 2.57 A.M., it was found that the first tows could not be beached till 4.30 A.M., or half an hour after the first streak of dawn. The hope of establishing the covering force ashore before daylight was therefore frustrated; but the corps commander agreed that this departure from the original intention was the lesser of two evils. [Had the landing taken place on 23rd April, as originally arranged, the first troops were timed to arrive on the beach at 4 A.M., for the moon set half an hour earlier on that day. But even this was somewhat later than General Birdwood's original suggestion.]
As regards the actual plans for landing the troops, the aim of the navy was to meet the army's wishes by landing as many of the covering force as possible simultaneously, to reinforce them with the utmost possible speed, and to be ready to disembark the main body as soon afterwards as the military commander asked for this to be done. As the result of frequent conferences between General Birdwood, Admiral Thursby, and their respective Staffs, it was decided that the 4,000 men composing the covering force should be thrown ashore in three echelons. The first echelon of 1,500 would be taken to within two miles of the shore on board three battleships, whence they would be landed simultaneously in I z tows. The second and third echelons, each of 1,250 men, would land immediately afterwards from seven destroyers, which would pass through the line of battleships and approach to within 100 yards of the shore, each towing a number of ships' lifeboats behind them. By this means, 2,750 men would be landed within a few minutes of each other, and the remaining 1,250 as quickly as the destroyers' boats could make a second journey to the shore.
The main body of the 1st Australian Division, if the situation ashore permitted, was to follow close on the heels of the covering force. With this object, eight transports carrying the 1st and 2nd Australian Infantry Brigades and a portion of the 7th Indian Mountain Artillery Brigade were to approach the shore at 5 A.M. Four of these transports were to anchor in allotted berths close to the beach, where they would be met by the battleships' twelve tows. The remaining four, while still under way, were to transfer their infantry to the seven destroyers as soon as the latter had disembarked their complement of the covering force. By this means, and with the aid of the horse-boats carried in one of the transports, it was calculated that all three infantry brigades and the mountain artillery would be ashore by 9 am. The landing of the remainder of the corps would follow as quickly as possible, and transports carrying freights not wanted in the first instance were to be called up from Mudros as required. The order in which these ships were to approach the anchorage was not laid down beforehand, and was to depend on the tactical necessities of the moment. In every case only a specified minimum of animals and vehicles was to be landed with the fighting troops in the first instance, and as soon as this had been done each transport was to proceed out of range of hostile artillery, and to wait in the offing until called upon to disembark the remainder of her complement.
Such, in brief, were the arrangements for the Anzac landing, but the foregoing summary does little more than touch the hem of the very elaborate details which had to be dealt with in the naval and military instructions. The naval orders alone, with their various tables and appendices, amounted to no less than twenty-seven typed pages of foolscap. Enough, however, has been said to explain the main intentions of the scheme, and to enable the reader to appreciate the many variations from it imposed by the course of events.
On the 23rd April General Birdwood and the principal officers of his corps headquarters moved from the transport Minnewaska to H.M.S. Queen, in order to be in close touch with Admiral Thursby in naval command of their landing. The headquarters of the 1st Australian Division transhipped to H.M.S. Prince of Wales. During the forenoon of the 24th April the 1,500 men who were to be the first to land were transferred in destroyers to the attendant battleships, about 500 of the 9th Battalion going to the Queen, 500 of the 10th to the Prince of Wales, and 500 of the 11th to the London. A detachment of the 1st Field Company Australian Engineers was included in the numbers sent to each battleship.
Later in the day these three battleships, accompanied by the Triumph, Majestic, and Bacchante, left Mudros for a sea rendezvous five miles west of Gaba Tepe, where the 1,500 men were to be transferred to the tows of boats in which they were to land. The transfer of the remainder of the covering force into seven destroyers was to take place at Imbros; and shortly after the battleships had sailed the four transports of the covering force left Mudros for that destination.
Steering on a light shown by the Triumph, which had gone forward to mark the sea rendezvous, the ships of Admiral Thursby's squadron crept noiselessly into their stations at z A.m. Dead astern, the moon was sinking to the western horizon. To the east the sombre mass of Gallipoli was faintly visible, its rugged summits now and again thrown into black relief by an upward sweep of the searchlights in the Dardanelles. The boats were lowered, and tows formed, and half an hour later, in absolute silence, the heavily laden troops [Every man, in addition to rifle and pack, was carrying 200 rounds of ammunition and three days' food - a total weight of 88 lbs.] began to climb down the sides of the battleships and fill the waiting boats. By 2.35 A.M, all the tows were ready. Twenty minutes later, as the moon sank behind Imbros, the three battleships, followed by the twelve tows, and, further astern, by the seven destroyers which at that moment arrived from Imbros with the rest of the covering force, steamed slowly towards the peninsula.
THE LANDING OF THE COVERING FORCE
Sunrise at the Dardanelles on that unforgettable Sunday 25 Apr. morning-the first Anzac Day-was due at a quarter-past five, and the first streak of dawn at five minutes past four. During the hour of inky darkness that preceded the dawn the faint night breeze died suddenly, and the surface of the Aegean grew smooth and still as glass. In face of the coming drama, the very elements appeared to hold their breath.
At half-past three, when two and a half miles from the shore, now completely invisible, the three battleships again came to rest. The signal "land armed parties" was made, and the twelve tows moved slowly forward in line abreast. The 9th Battalion's boats were on the right, those of the 10th Battalion in the centre, and the 11th Battalion's on the left.
It is difficult to appreciate the intense strain of being towed in an open boat to a hostile beach that is likely to be defended by machine guns. But it is essential, in studying the problem of the Gallipoli landings, to try to gauge the feelings of the private soldier - on whose bearing so much depended-as he slowly approached the shore. For the Australians the ordeal was a particularly long one. It prefaced, moreover, not only their own but their army's baptism of fire. The loading of the boats had begun at r .30 A.M. Thenceforward for three hours, till half-past four, the men sat motionless and silent, so tightly wedged together that they could scarcely move their limbs, heading towards the unknown. Whether the landing would be a surprise, or whether an army was awaiting them, was a question none could answer. But to the men in the tows, as the dark mass of the shore drew ever nearer, the hope of a surprise was dwindling, for the throb of their steamboats' engines seemed loud enough to wake the dead. Every breathless second a roar of Turkish fire was expected. Yet, till the shore was reached, they must remain motionless and silent - a helpless mark for the enemy.
The naval officer responsible for guiding the line of tows was Lieut. J. B. Waterlow, R.N., in No. 1 (the starboard) steamboat, and he steered by a compass bearing which was to land his own tow on the extreme right of the selected beach. To maintain their direction, and to cover the whole frontage correctly, the remaining eleven steamboats were to keep a lateral interval of 150 yards from, and to steer their course by, the tow on their immediate right. Commander C. Dix, in naval charge of the flotilla, was on the extreme left, in steamboat No. 112. There was a midshipman with every tow, and each boat carried five seamen to row it ashore when the ropes were cast off. In addition there was a commissioned naval officer in steamboats Nos. 3, 5, and 9.
In the black darkness it was so difficult for the tows to see each other that they insensibly bunched together, some of them even getting into their wrong positions in the line; and there now occurred one of those mischances, the fear of which had inclined the navy to favour a daylight landing. The northerly current that sets along the Gallipoli coast was stronger than the sailors had realized; the tows were imperceptibly carried a full mile to the north of the selected landing place; and when, shortly after 4 A.M., the shore became faintly visible, Lieut. Waterlow catching sight of Ari Burnu on his port bow, mistook it for Gaba Tepe. Jumping to the erroneous conclusion that he was a mile south of his course, he at once starboarded his helm, and made for a point actually north of Anzac Cove. Commander Dix, in No. 12 steamboat, at the same moment realized the true state of affairs, and saw that unless instant action was taken the covering force would be landed at least two miles to the north of the intended beach, with perhaps fatal results to the whole military plan. It was too late for the mistake to be entirely remedied, for the boats were nearing the shore. It might, however, be partially retrieved. With this object, Commander Dix instantly put his helm hard over, and, passing close under the stern of the tows that were now crossing his bows, he placed himself on the extreme starboard (right) flank, and headed for Ari Burnu. Seeing this manoeuvre, the remaining steamboats steadied on a roughly parallel course, and all twelve tows made for the shore at a point approximately one mile to the north of the intended landing place.
Day was just breaking when at 4.25 A.M. while fifty yards from the beach, the tows were cast off. As yet no sign of life had come from the shore; but suddenly a warning light flared up from a neighbouring spur, and a scattered fire rang out from Ari Burnu.
The three left-hand tows, carrying men of the 11th Battalion, had fetched up some two hundred yards north of Ari Burnu. The remaining nine, including Dix's 11th Battalion tow, were clustered round the headland. Spattered by an erratic fire, all 48 boats were now rowed ashore by the bluejackets. There was little thought of maintaining their relative positions. Each boat landed where it could. [The result was a serious intermixing of units from the very start. Added to this, the very small frontage on which the landing had taken place was a great disadvantage.] Some of the larger ones grounded and their inmates, scrambling over the sides, found themselves immersed to their waists. But in a few minutes every boat was emptied and the first echelon was ashore with very little loss.
The surprise had been complete. The battleships had not been seen, or had at least aroused no suspicion. The tows had escaped notice till within fifty yards of the shore. There had been no time for the Turkish outposts in the vicinity to call for assistance; and the only troops available to oppose the landing were a strong sentry group on Ari Burnu and a few small posts on the ridge overlooking the beach. [None of these positions were wired, and no wire was seen by the Australians throughout the day. Gaba Tepe was strongly wired; but the beach to the north of it was considered so unlikely a landing place, that its protection had been neglected.] For the moment, therefore, the Australians were in a superiority of more than ten to one; but the Turks had the priceless advantage of concealment, and a thorough knowledge of the extraordinarily difficult ground.
The unfortunate swing of the tows, however, was to bear disastrous consequences. Though Commander Dix's prompt action had halved the error, and had saved the troops from landing at a still more unfavourable beach, the rugged hills immediately in front of them, especially those to the north of Ari Burnu, were to prove a bigger obstacle than any words can describe. Even in time of peace the precipitous ridges and tortuous ravines which formed the first Australian and New Zealand battlefield are an arduous climb for an active and unarmed man, while the steep, scrub-covered gullies are so confusing that it is easy to lose one's way. To preserve the cohesion of an attack across such country, immediately after an opposed landing in the dark, and without previous reconnaissance, would be an impossible task for the best - trained troops in the world. [Had the landing taken place where originally planned, the task, though still difficult, would have been far less severe. The defences in that locality were no stronger than at Ari Burnu, and the natural obstacles, approached from that direction, are much easier to surmount. On the other hand, it is fair to remember that the chance which brought the Australians to Anzac Cove landed them at the only spot on that part of the coast in any way suitable as a permanent landing place. If they had in any case failed to gain their objectives, and had not extended their left to include that tiny bay, their whole position might well have proved untenable. The beach at Anzac Cove was throughout the campaign one of the most constantly shelled areas on the peninsula; but, unlike the coast on either side of it, it had at least the advantage of being almost entirely screened from direct observation by the Turks. Even so, the southern half of the cove could be seen from Nibrunesi Point, 4½ miles away, while the tip of Ari Burnu was visible from Gaba Tepe.] This was the ordeal that faced Australian troops at the first moment of their baptism of fire.
For the Australians the forbidding slopes immediately in front of them were not only unknown, but entirely unexpected. The men had been told that they would find a low sandy bank skirting the beach, under cover of which they were to form up by companies before rushing across two hundred yards of level ground to the first low hill. The mistake in the landing place, coupled with the unfortunate intermixing of units as the boats approached the shore, caused, therefore, a certain confusion. But the necessity of pushing straight inland at all costs had been so impressed upon the men that in a remarkably short time eager parties of all three battalions, without waiting to sort themselves, had scrambled to the summit of Plugge's Plateau just in time to see some thirty or forty Turks disappear down the precipitous slopes of a vast scrub-covered ravine on the further side.
Up to this moment the casualties had been almost negligible, and the troops on the plateau were in high spirits. To many of them the campaign already seemed half over, and none can have dreamed of the bitter fighting that was to follow later in the day. The ease of their landing may, indeed, have been a positive disadvantage, by tending to create a false sense of security.
Day was now dawning rapidly, and from the top of Plugge's Plateau the full error of the landing was at last visible, for the easily recognized 400 Plateau, the first objective of the left and centre battalions, could be seen a thousand yards away to the right. Mixed groups of men belonging to all three battalions, flushed with success and thinking only of closing with the enemy, had already charged headlong down the almost precipitous face of Shrapnel Gully; but for the most part a halt was now wisely called, in an endeavour to collect units under their own leaders, and to wait for the men still coming up from the beach, before making a further advance. [This reorganization caused delay, the dislocation of units on landing had been so complete that it as imperatively necessary. Even a longer delay than actually took place would probably have been well repaid, for the wide separation of the men from their accustomed leaders was one of the chief causes of subsequent confusion.]
Shortly after 5 am both companies of the 10th Battalion, now more or less complete, were moved down into Shrapnel Gully, heading for the steep path at the northern end of 400 Plateau, up which the Turks had retreated. The men of the 9th Battalion were already widely scattered, and one small party, regardless of its allotted role, had dashed off to the extreme left in pursuit of a handful of Turks; but Major AG Salisbury collected about a hundred men on the right of Plugge’s, and these he now led across the gully in the direction of Lone Pine. Of the 11th Battalion contingent, those who had reached the top of Plugge's were directed by Major EA Drake Brockman to the shelter of Rest Gully to reorganize. Another party, advancing from north of Ari Burnu, had meanwhile reached the same gully by climbing over the cliff-like sides of the Razor Edge. [In addition to the 11th Battalion, numbers of men belonging to other battalions of the brigade continued to filter into Rest Gully about this time, and were organized into a composite company. Owing to lack of officers, three of its platoons were commanded by non-commissioned officers. It is a clear indication of the difficulties which had faced the troops that so drastic a reorganization should have been necessary thus early in the day, before any serious fighting had taken place.] Others were still on the northern beach, pinned to their position by newly opened machine-gun fire from the direction of Fisherman's Hut. Stray men of all three battalions, separated from their leaders and with no one to give them orders, were collecting in considerable numbers in Anzac Cove and in the small gullies which run down to it from the top of the ridge above.
Meanwhile the seven destroyers, carrying the second echelon of the covering force, with Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan and his Staff, had followed the battleship tows to Anzac Cove, and by 4.40 am had begun to disembark their men on a somewhat broader front than that of the leading troops. The two right-hand destroyers, one of which was lying off Hell Spit any the other five hundred yards to the south of it, carried two companies of the 9th Battalion, one company of the 12th, and brigade headquarters. The three centre vessels, opposite Anzac Cove, held two companies of the 10th and two of the 12th. The two left-hand vessels carried two companies of the 11th, one of the 12th, and the field ambulance, and lay to the north of Ari Burnu. The 12th Battalion was supposed to concentrate after landing, and to remain in reserve on the western slopes of 400 Plateau; but its dispersion amongst all seven destroyers proved fatal to that plan. Landing under fire, amid great confusion and excitement, on a front of over a mile, its scattered companies were not unnaturally caught up in the advance of the units nearest to them, and the battalion was never able to fulfil its proper function, or to fight as a complete unit, throughout the 25th.
The troops from the starboard destroyers were ashore by 5 am. Heading straight up the comparatively easy slopes in front of them, they made short work of a small Turkish piquet guarding this part of the coast, and reached 400 Plateau in front of the battleship detachments who had landed twenty minutes earlier. One small party, dashing boldly across the plateau, surprised and temporarily captured three mountain guns on its eastern slopes. Another pushed down Pine Ridge and away across Legge Valley towards its final objective. Two of the companies landed on this flank had been ordered to capture Gaba Tepe, but the mistake in the landing made this task impossible from the first. Not only were they a mile further north than intended, but the Turks on the promontory were now wide awake, and the rattle of machine guns could be heard from that direction. Nevertheless, on reaching 400 Plateau, the two companies detailed for this task wheeled to the right, only to find themselves opposed by a party of Turks entrenched at the head of Bolton's Ridge. Several officers, including both company commanders, were wounded in the course of the fighting that ensued, and, though the enemy trench was captured, the troops were too scattered to make further organized progress. They succeeded, however, in occupying posts on Bolton's Ridge to guard the right flank of the landing.
In the centre, the four companies landing at Anzac Cove were somewhat badly shelled from Gaba Tepe at 4.45 A.M.
But the leading troops pressed forward and one small party of the 10th, under Lieut. NM Loutit, advancing over the southern end of Maclagan’s Ridge, outdistanced the first echelon and reached Owen's Gully slightly in front of the party that captured the guns.
North of Ari Burnu the troops landing on the left of the line were less fortunate, and it was here that the heaviest casualties occurred. By the time the destroyers neared the land, more Turks had assembled at Fisherman's Hut; the incoming boats were met by a hail of lead; and a large number of men were killed and wounded before they reached the shore. A few yards from the water's edge a stretch of broken ground afforded some little cover from this flanking fire, and here were still assembled a few of the 11th, who had landed twenty minutes earlier. But fifty yards beyond the broken ground the troops were confronted by a wall of almost precipitous cliff, some three hundred feet high, the central crag of which-later to be called the Sphinx-has already been referred to. Sending a small party to the north to tackle the post at Fisherman's Hut - a point they never succeeded in reaching - Colonel LF Clarke of the 12th Battalion now ordered an advance of all the troops near him to the top of the ridge, and he himself, accompanied by about fifty men, actually succeeded in climbing the steep side of the cliff to the north of the Sphinx. For a few minutes a Turkish post on Russell's Top continued to fire on the advancing troops, and several casualties were incurred; but, seeing their retreat threatened by another body of Australians advancing up Walker's Ridge, [Captain E. W. Tulloch, 11th Battalion, with a mixed party of 11th and 12th.] they soon fled north across the Nek to Baby 700. Between 5.30 and 6 am the whole of First Ridge was cleared of the enemy. [Colonel Clarke was killed in the act of writing a report.]
Arriving off Hell Spit about 4.40 am Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan quickly realized that his first echelon had landed too far north, and that there were no Australians ashore between Anzac Cove and Gaba Tepe. On reaching the beach some twenty minutes later he sent his brigade-major southwards to look after the right flank, and then climbed to the top of Maclagan’s Ridge to gain a first-hand knowledge of the situation. His main anxiety at this moment was for his right, for it was to the east of Gaba Tepe that large Turkish concentrations had been reported before the landing, and it was from that direction that he expected the inevitable counter-attack. At the summit of the ridge, however, he realized for the first time the extreme difficulty of the country to which the swing of the tows had committed him.
The tactical situation was unexpectedly obscure. The deep scrub-covered ravine in front, with its succession of rugged spurs, had swallowed up the troops who had moved inland. Even the men who had only just gone forward were out of sight, and the intervening crest of Russell's Top was concealing the fortunes of Clarke's and Tulloch's parties at the northern end of First Ridge, though heavy fire could be heard from that direction. Brockman reported that a number of the 11th Battalion and a composite company of all units were organizing in Rest Gully, but with this exception the only reinforcements available were a company of the 12th Battalion that had just reached the plateau. Nevertheless there was at the moment little cause for serious misgiving. The whole of the covering force was at least ashore, and some of its advanced elements were already on the crest of Second Ridge. The Turks had evidently been surprised and were in no great strength; the volume of their fire was negligible; and there was no immediate sign of enemy reinforcements. These facts were all to the good; and though there was plainly a lot of disorganization amongst the units which had first landed, the transports of the 2nd Brigade were steaming in to the anchorage, and four more battalions would shortly be disembarking. It was clear, however, to Colonel Sinclair-Maclagan that owing to the mistake in the landing place, the role of the 2nd Brigade would have to be reversed; and that, instead of prolonging the left, it must be employed on the right to carry out the task originally allotted to the right of the covering force.
Meanwhile Sinclair-Maclagan set himself to strengthen the position on his left front at the head of Second Ridge, and particularly to safeguard his left flank by ensuring the occupation of Baby boo. With this object he despatched the company of the 12th Battalion straight across to Second Ridge, and ordered Major Brockman to send part of his detachment up Monash Gully to occupy the indentations on its eastern slopes, afterwards known as Quinn's, Courtney's, and Steele's Posts, and to proceed with the remainder to reinforce the advance on Baby 700. [The importance of Baby 700 was self-evident. It commanded Monash Gully throughout its length, and Monash Gully formed the only line of communication between the upper portion of Second Ridge and the coast. It was plain, too, that unless the head of First Ridge was firmly held, a Turkish force moving south from Baby 700 to Russell's Top could outflank a position on Second Ridge and take it in reverse.]
About this time Sir Ian Hamilton arrived off Anzac Cove in the Queen Elizabeth, and received the welcome news that the covering force had landed without serious opposition and was already a mile inland. The muffled sound of continuous rifle fire came floating out to sea, but, apart from some light shelling of the anchorage with shrapnel from Gaba Tepe, there seemed to be no hostile artillery in action; and it was with a feeling of hopeful confidence in the success of this portion of his plan that, soon after 6 am, the Commander-in-Chief headed south for the toe of the peninsula.
The Jifjafa Raid, Sinai, April 10 to 14, 1916, Outline Topic: BatzS - Jifjafa
The Jifjafa Raid
Sinai, 10 - 14 April 1916
9th Light Horse Regiment leaving the Roadhead for Jifjafa, 10 April 1916.
The collapse of the Gallipoli operations by the allied forces freed up large numbers of Turkish soldiers for other theatres of war. The Turks were now planning to re-engage the British at the Suez Canal. This was a smart political move. To the west of the Nile lay the restive tribes ready for open rebellion, led by the Senussi. While they may have been suppressed only a few months ago, this was only momentary, as the Senussi rebellion was far from a spent force. Turkish assistance exposed the ongoing weaknesses in the western flank of the British presence in Egypt.
Within Egypt itself, there was tremendous resentment towards the British, especially their declaration of the Protectorate in 1914. Beneath the calm exterior of the British Protectorate there were seething undercurrents of anti-British sentiment. The Turks knew this and were keen to exploit the dissension through their contacts with Egypt. However, to encourage rebellion, the Egyptians had to be shown by example that the British could be defeated. Quickly, the Turks put together a force from grab bag of units which added up to some 20,000 men in the projected Egyptian invasion force with 12,000 enemy troops at Jerusalem and 13,000 at Beersheba, with evidence that the Beersheba formation was pressing towards Katia.. By April a formation called the 'Desert Force' under the command of Colonel Friedrich Freiherr Kress von Kressenstein, commonly known as Kress, began to deploy near the Canal Zone. All over the Sinai Peninsular, parties of the Turkish vanguard were finding water sources and preparing wells, the most essential element for a successful campaign in the Sinai.
Aerial reconnaissance by the British exposed the works by the Turks in anticipation of a Suez campaign. New earthworks in the photographs showed that the Turks had already constructed an extensive outpost line west of the Maghara Hills down to the south-east of Nekhl. The locus of these positions was sited at Bir el Jifjafa, a fortified and natural defensive position supplied by an abundance of water, which flowed freely from the latest German pumps at the newly developed wells. All the new wells at Jifjafa were drilled with the latest German boring equipment at the site. Located on a caravan route some 85 kilometres east of Serapeum Bir el Jifjafa was fortified by three posts in an oblique line from north to south. Manning the Jifjafa perimeter was a garrison of 50 soldiers. Nearby at Bir Barthel Hegaiib, a well some five kilometres north of Jifjafa, at Rodh Salem north of Bir Barthel Hegaiib and at Bir el Hama to the south were a number of engineers, technicians and labourers whose primary task was to open up as many water sources as possible. The idea at this place was to provide an ideal point of concentration for a large force in preparation to strike quickly at the Canal. The news panicked the EEF command since they saw only too clearly the implications of these new works.
Traditional Egyptian invasion routes across the Sinai
Bir el Jifjafa was too far away for the infantry to tackle so it was clearly a cavalry job. The Yeomanry Brigades were already committed to holding the Romani and Katia. The quality of the Australian Light Horse was unknown but they were the only troops available. The Generals needed to test out the ability of the Australians and so establish if they were up to the difficult task of cross-country raids. It basically meant travelling over waterless and featureless plains with the use of a compass and good bushcraft.
In late March the 8th LHR was selected to provide and lead a long range expedition into the Sinai with the objective of discovering problems and techniques required for such an action. The reason for the 8th LHR’s selection lay with one man, the leader of the Brigade Scouts, Captain Albert Ernest Wearne. He was considered to be the best Scout Officer in the Light Horse and so was a natural choice.
Wadi um Muksheib
The aim of the expedition was to mount a reconnaissance overland to Wadi um Muksheib where earlier on in the year, the Turks were reported employing work parties to improve the water cisterns in the wadi’s catchment area. In addition they were ordered to inspect the water supply at Moiya Harab and El Hassif. Finally they were to report on their impressions of the land regarding distances and time required for travel, water supplies and other preparations necessary to move a large body of men across arid plains.
Two novelties were to be employed. The first was air support. An aircraft was allocated to fly in advance of the column. The pilot was given specific instructions to report on the countryside ahead of the column with a careful eye out for Turkish troops. This reduced the need for the column to send out advanced guards which then allowed the column greater speed and flexibility. The other novelty was the use of wireless. A radio transmitter was to be carried for the specific purposes of maintaining constant communication with the Anzac Mounted Division at the Canal.
By use of both technologies, it was hoped that mounted men could move so quickly because their need for supplies would be kept to a minimum. Such long-range reconnaissances then would have the ability to strike the Turks hard and disappear before the Turks were able to respond in any effective manner. Since they would have speed on their side, they could make their getaway in relative safety, always knowing the location of any pursuing enemy. If this could be achieved, a long-range raid could sever communication link over the Darb el Maghaza, the new route the Turks were developing, which ran through Bir el Jifjafa. Cutting off this route would restrict any further Turkish advances to the more established Darb el Sultani that followed the coast by way of Katia. The impact on British strategy would be huge, allowing the British to concentrate their defence of Egypt on a confined front.
At 2pm, Tuesday, 21 March 1916, Wearne led off his column from Serapeum. All up, the column consisted of 109 men mainly from the 8th LHR. Trailing on behind was another group of Egyptian camel drivers following on foot. Their job was to carry enough water for the horses.
After a long march, they arrived at Wadi um Muksheib. The cisterns were well stocked with water. They surveyed all the Turkish works and found them to have been abandoned some time ago without any evidence of fresh works. Once all the wells had been fully examined and mapped, the column turned around for the march back to Serapeum. At the end of their journey of 37 hours, the column travelled over 128km through difficult desert conditions. News of the successful mission was passed onto the Anzac Mounted Division along with the valuable lessons learned during the journey.
The EEF Command gained confidence in the professional ability of the Australians, especially the 3rd LH Bde after the Wearne Reconnaissance, and wanted to implement their tactical scheme to remove the ability of the Turks to attack Egypt through the centre of the Sinai Peninsular. The Commanders requested that the 3rd Light Horse Brigade conduct the new mission: to send out a column to Jifjafa to destroy the pumps and wells.
Map detailing the route taken to undertake the Jifjafa Raid.
Antill had no difficulty in appointing Scott, now 2IC of the 9th LHR to lead the expedition. Since the beginning of the Brigade, Antill was very familiar with Scott’s work, especially as ‘C’ Squadron leader at Gallipoli and the temporary Regimental commander during the training period at Heliopolis. Scott was an austere man who said little but possessed a keen intelligence and an ability to lead men through strength of character. His capacity to prepare for an action was legendary. Scott left nothing to chance.
Scott put together a force mainly comprised of ‘C’ Squadron from the 9th LHR although other units were represented, mainly from the 8th LHR with 12 men, including Wearne himself as the chief scout. The key criterion for acceptance on the raid, after excellent horsemanship, was weight. Lighter men were preferred. The reason for this was to minimise the weight upon the horses and allow them to travel far and fast without any heavy load stress. In addition to the light horsemen were the supports, the key being a Bikanir Camel Corps troop under the command of Lieutenant Bhir Singh. This formation was raised in India, which moulded the men into a tough and highly skilled desert-fighting group. This unit on detachment comprised 25 men with 12 camels for rations and forage. In addition there was a need for 95 Egyptian camel drivers who were delegated to move supplies packed on some 195 camels. To ensure they moved at the pace of the fighting men, a group of light horsemen were delegated to supervise the Egyptians and so ensure their speed was in line with the movement of the column.
The column was divided into two sections. The first being the supply column under the protection of the Bikanirs and the second being the fighting column. Because the camels moved at a slower rate than the horses they were to leave earlier than the fighting column. The supply column moved off from the Road head on Monday, 10 April 1916 for the wells at the western end of Wadi um Muksheib near the El Ashubi mountain range, a journey towards the east of about 65km. The cisterns around this area had been surveyed by Wearne and found to have sufficient water for the number of camels and horses that would gather at that place. Here the supply column was ordered to await the arrival of the fighting column due on the following day.
The camel transport column.
At 2pm, Tuesday, 11 April 1916, the fighting column set off from the Road Head. To preserve the energy of the animals, the march rate was a normal walk for the horse with a break of 10 minutes every half hour. This translated into a speed of about 10 kilometres per hour.
As they marched on the surface began to move from sand to a solid surface, which allowed the horses to increase their speed. While this was good for the light Horsemen, for those in the wagons of the Field Ambulance unit, they found it difficult to maintain contact with the column. The result was that the men had to keep their horses on a steady trot to catch up with the light horsemen. This tired the horses quickly. Scott was informed about this problem and the column slowed down to keep pace with the Field Ambulance unit.
During this time, the column moved south-east keeping the sandhills on their left. At 5.30pm, the fighting column reached the north western section of Wadi um Muksheib where it began. Here the men rested for two hours. At 7.30pm, they men set off for El Ashubi, their rendezvous point with the Bikanir Camel Corps. It was dark so the progress was slower. A few hours later they could see the camp lights of the supply column. At 10.30pm, the exhausted fighting column finally met up with the supply column. After taking care of the horses, the wearied men fell under their bivvy sheets and slept soundly.
Reveille blew early and all the men of the column were on the march by 7.30am following the course of Wadi um Muksheib as it meandered its way in a south-easterly direction. By 11.20am, the fighting column reached Moiya Harab, the furthermost point reached by Wearne’s expedition a fortnight before. The supply column arrived two hours later.
While waiting at the well, the aerial reconnaissance reports arrived from the signallers. Basically, the British observation aircraft assigned to the column flew over the area surrounding the camp. Once they completed their survey the observations were recorded in a notepad. One can only guess at the difficulty of doing this in an open aeroplane with a clipboard, paper and pencil. The paper was placed in a metal tube and dropped to the ground near a cross marker laid out by the signallers who then recovered the message.
This day’s message indicated that there was a group of Bedouin in the area. Scott sent out patrols to find the Bedouins but as the squads returned they had disappeared without trace. In their place, three miserable desert dwellers were captured and brought back to Major Scott for interrogation. There was little benefit or information to be obtained from the men and so they were then released.
In addition to finding Bedouin, the patrols found nine wells in different stages of construction and content. Some were empty while others contained large amounts of water. These were handy back-up storage areas, which ensured the horses would be adequately cared for if adverse conditions occurred. This gave Scott even more options in case of trouble.
At this point the column was again divided between one group required for reaching Jifjafa and the other to provide support on retiring from Jifjafa. One officer and twenty men were left behind to supervise the supply column left behind at Moiya Harab.
After all the arrangements and orders had been given by Scott, the fighting column moved off at 7pm, Tuesday 12 April 1916, for a flying march to Bir el Jifjafa. They marched all night until 4.30am, Wednesday, 13 April 1916, stopping every 40 minutes to allow the camel transport to catch up. When they reached the point for the final bivouac, the men slept for the rest of what remained of the night.
Jifjaffa outline of attack.
At 5.30am the men moved off leaving the Bikanir Camel Corps, Wireless Section and the Transport column at the bivouac supervised by Captain Ragless. They marched to a pre arranged meeting place known as Hill 1082 where the column halted at 7.30am and waited. Scott was observing the Turkish positions at Jifjafa. Intelligence was already known that the men evacuated Jifjafa at night and arrived in the morning to undertake their duties. Scott was waiting for the Turks to arrive at their work stations. The attack was planned for 9am.
Half an hour later a British observer aeroplane flew over and dropped a package. The signallers grabbed the package and brought it to Scott. The message read: "All was clear". To acknowledge the receipt of the message in a time without radio in the aircraft required a physical display by the troops on the ground. If the message were unclear or illegible, a group of about ten men would form themselves into a large cross formation, which would be visible from the sky by the loitering aeroplane. In this case, the message was clear and understood, so Scott ordered his men to form a circle so the pilot could see that the message was received and clearly understood. When they did this, the aeroplane dipped its wings in acknowledgment and flew over the Turkish positions.
The psychological impact of a British aeroplane on the Turks was now used to Scott’s advantage. When an aeroplane flew over the Turkish positions it was observed that the Turks always scattered to avoid heavy casualties, standard responses to a potential air raid. After carefully examining the Turkish positions through his binoculars, Scott made the decision to attack Jifjafa immediately while the Turks were in a state of confusion.
John Malcolm McDonald
The column was divided into four troops with each allocated a specific task. Lt McDonald was ordered to take his troop to within 2 kilometres north west of the Turkish camp. Lt William Stanhope Pender, a farmer from Minyip in Victoria, moved his troop to a position north east of the Turks while Lt Frederick John Linacre, a police officer from Melbourne, was to make a frontal assault on the position when all the troops were in position.
McDonald’s troops found the going tough so were late in getting to their designated position. Scott needed to alter the plan. Linacre was sent to a ridge slightly north of the Turks while the men remaining with Scott were to undertake a frontal assault.
The Turks saw them coming and began to make for a safer place. Pender saw the Turks running and by a quick movement, outflanked them cutting off their retreat. Out of desperation, the Turks ran to some nearby trenches, jumped in and opened fire on the attacking Australians.
The firefight that ensued was brisk and deadly. No one was quite sure of the exact location of the trenches or where the Turks were hiding or firing at the Australians. Cpl Paul Teesdale Smith, an articled law clerk from Arthur's Seat, a house at Mount Lofty just outside Adelaide, led his section from ‘B’ Squadron forward in an attempt to flush our the Turks. Helping him out was Pte William Andrews, a bushman from Kadina, Pte Hector George Gillis, a former farmer who was living with his brother at Birkenhead, while the fourth man of the section acting as horse holder away from the battle. His section was part of McDonald’s Troop which was pushed forward in advance of the balance of McDonalds men. As the section moved forward, Smith found his men being vigorously fired on by the Turks from all sides. After returning fire, Smith saw a Turk fall and assumed he was wounded. The men began to move towards the Turk to capture and seek shelter. The position Smith’s section was now in turned out to be pivotal for bottling up the Turks. While he held this part of the Turkish trenches, there was no ability for the Turks to escape the trap. Scott saw this and walked over to Smith and ordered him to hold the position until the troops of McDonald and Linacre could fully deploy. Shortly L/Cpl Alfred Vernon Hancock, a farmer from Moonta and later to become an Air Force pilot, moved forward to join his mates. The four men held the position resolutely while inflicting the majority of casualties amongst the Turks.
For a quarter hour or so, while the shooting was intense, some six Turks were killed while suffering five wounded. The Australians also suffered casualties. While attacking the trenches with his section from the 8th LHR, Corporal Stephen Frederick Monaghan was shot and killed outright. The firefight ended when surviving Turks realised they were outnumbered and unable to fight their way out of the situation. This proved to be more than enough resistance by the Turks and the remaining 30 Turks surrendered. Amongst their company was an Austrian engineer.
In the distance two mounted men were observed coming towards Jifjafa but once the firefight began, they turned and rode away towards the north-east. As there were no mounted men at the post it was assumed that these men were about to visit Jifjafa post when they rode off.
Dismantling the well drilling equipment.
Once the post was in Australian hands, Scott ordered his men to set about the work of destroying the wells and drilling equipment. Scott expresses a great deal of sadness at destroying the artesian boring plant. They were well-crafted German machines and destroying them seemed a total waste.
According to the statement made by the captured Austrian officer, the post was occupied by a total of 41 men. After completing the count, it appeared that the whole of the enemy force had been accounted for among the dead and prisoners. The two mounted men were seen to gallop away were from another unit altogether. Evidently these men were just on the point of visiting the post when the attack started. However, other Turkish units in the region were now alerted to the presence of a substantial force of Australians. No one knew the dispositions of these forces or their numbers so they knew they had probably a day’s grace before any substantial unit could arrive to threaten the column.
After the Australians completed the destruction of the Turkish structures at Bir el Jifjafa, the column was ready to move back to the support camp. Beginning at 11am the column was forced march to their camp in some of the most difficult conditions as a kamseen began blowing at the time. As the dust whipped up, visibility was down to a bare 20 metres. They wearily trudged to their destination and finally arrived after 12 hours hard riding. The horses were watered and an attempt was made to radio back to Brigade headquarters. The heavy winds and sandstorm of the kamseen caused this endeavour to fail.
Guarding the Ottoman prisoners at Jifjafa.
While the fighting column was moving off to Jifjafa the previous night of 12 April 1916, the supplies camp had their own adventure. A section patrol of cavalry from the Middlesex Yeomanry wandered into the camp and asked Lt Alexander Harold Horatio Nelson, an orchardist from Modbury, if they could get shelter. Nelson agreed and the men settled down for the night. It was not a good night’s sleep. A couple hours after the arrival of the Yeomanry, there was some sniping. The shooting was desultory and generally off target convincing the men that the snipers were the Bedouin who were seen the previous day. They had now double backed to the camp, taken up positions around the camp and began sniping. Nelson and his men returned fire. This lasted all night. The following day was quiet until the kamseen began to blow. While it was an evil thing to walk through, it did provide cover for Scott and his party to return to Nelson’s camp without injury.
At some time during the night, the kamseen died down. The next morning, Friday, 14 April 1916, radio communication was made between Scott’s formation and the 3rd LH Bde Headquarters. With great excitement, Scott gave a full report of the action detailing the destruction of equipment and capture of prisoners. At the Road Head, Antill could hardly contain himself. His good fortune had taken a turn for the better. The evacuation of Gallipoli had given him some sort of status as a man who can lead the retreat, but this proved that he was able make sound decisions regarding appointments and battle strategy. After receiving Scott’s report, Antill made sure the information was widely circulated around the camp and all the way up to the most senior echelons of the EEF. When the news broke, there was wild jubilation at the Road Head camp with many men in all units celebrating this victory.
When breakfast was finished the men set off on their return march and halted at 1pm for lunch. Various troops established themselves as comfortably as possible given the circumstances. One troop even set up its lines in a wadi bed, something the Bedouin would never contemplate. While lunch was being prepared, radio contact was established and various messages of congratulation were received
Scott called the men in for the reading of messages. They came from a swathe of military commanders all the way up to the GOC of the EEF. One from Chauvel to Antill encapsulated the sentiment: “Hearty congratulations to self, Scott, all concerned. Brilliant success.” With each message, the men cheered.
Halfway through a message from General Godley, the Canal defence Section 2 Leader, Scott saw a man from the outlying piquet riding towards the camp at breakneck speed. Everyone turned towards him. In seconds they saw the reason for the haste. A wall of water with the appearance and thickness of white paint was coming down the wadi and heading straight for the troop in the wadi. They were quickly alerted to the danger. It took seconds for the men in the wadi to respond and ride onto the safety offered by the banks.
The effect of the flood was to divide the column. When to column moved off to head for home, both groups kept in visual contact with each other. As the men were to discover a year later that all during their time in the Sinai, this was the only time ever that any Light Horse unit saw flowing water in a creek bed. Such water was never seen again by the men.
By early morning of Saturday, 14 April 1916, the column reached the Road Head. The men of the 9th LHR had completed a remarkable feat of travelling 260km through hostile territory in a bit over three and a half days, engaging the enemy and suffering only one casualty while returning with 34 captives. The 9th LHR had proven the worth of the Australian light horse as desert fighters. They had also fulfilled everything that the EEF required of them, that is, to close off the Darb el Maghaza as a credible attacking path to Egypt. The EEF only had to defend the north route without diffusing scarce defence resources.
Murray gave Scott a DSO and sang his praises. All the commanders in Egypt fell over themselves to offer congratulations to Scott and the men from the 9th LHR for producing a tactical and propaganda victory. It was also this action that urged Murray to do anything everything to keep the Light Horse in Egypt despite the urging of Kitchener to send more men to the Western Front.
For the 9th LHR, the celebrations of Scott’s exploits reverberated throughout their camp. The men felt very chuffed and ready to face anything the Turks could hand out. The cheering didn’t last for long. The next week, Kress made his presence felt to the British.
Prisoners marched back to the Roadhead under guard of the 9th LHR.
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