Topic: BatzG - Nek
Turkey, 7 August 1915
The Nek, a narrow saddle running east-west between the ridgeline known as Russell's Top and Baby 700 - the strongest position at Anzac (q.v.) - which was the scene of a tragic assault on 7 August 1915 by Australian light horsemen fighting as infantry. Passage over this strip of ground was barred by opposing Turkish and Australian trenches, which faced each other at distances varying from 20 to 60 metres; the edges of both firing lines fell away at each side to the valley floor 150 metres below. Rebind the Turkish front-line, moreover, were right more trenches rising in tiers to the Summit of Baby 700, so that annihilating lire could be brought to bear upon any movement not just from rifles but no fewer than five groups of machine-guns.
In ordering a feint to be launched here at dawn the day after Lone Pine (q.v.), aimed at ensuring that Turkish attention continued to he focused on the main Anzac position rather than on activities underway further north (see Hill 971), British commanders were not unmindful of the futility of attacking 'unaided'. The assault was therefore planned to proceed only after supporting movements had taken place, designed to silence some of the enemy machine-guns or draw off fire while the attack went in. In the event, these other operations either failed or were delayed, so that at the time designated for the attempt the 3rd Light Horse Brigade received no relief from any of them.
To make matters worse, an intense artillery barrage that was to begin half an hour before the troops attacked at 4.30 a.m. was mistimed due to the synchronisation of watches having been overlooked. The barrage ended seven minutes earlier than expected, and the Turks were given ample opportunity to recover and re-occupy their parapets. Accordingly, when the first assault line of 150 men rose to the attack-the ground being so narrow that there was no room for more-most fell dead or wounded before they had covered ten metres under the withering fire directed at them. Three more waves were sent forward at intervals and each met the same fate. Since no-one in the later assault lines can have doubted the outcome, there were poignant scenes as men farewelled each other while they waited for the order to attack.
By 5.15 a.m. some 300 men of the 8th and 10th Light Horse regiments lay in a huddled mass within an area no larger than a tennis court. In the words of the Official History:
At first here and there a man raised his arm to the sky, or tried to drink from his water bottle. But as the sun of that burning day climbed higher, such movement ceased. Over the whole summit the figures lay still in the quivering heat.
At most, the bold display by the light horsemen at the Nek may have impeded for a few hours - but did not prevent - the transfer of Turkish reinforcements towards Chunuk Bair, where the New Zealanders were also engaged in a desperate struggle.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 108-109.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, (1924), The Story of Anzac, Vol. 2 , Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Peter Burness, (1996), The Nek, Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press
Citation: The Nek, Turkey, August 7, 1915, Outline