Topic: BatzG - Hill 971
Turkey, 8 August 1915
[From the CEW Bean Collection.]
Hill 971, known to the Turks as Koja Chemen Tepe, was the chief objective of a British offensive launched at Gallipoli in August 1915 in conjunction with a second landing of troops at Suvla Bay, six kilometres north of Anzac (q.v.). The aim of the offensive was to seize the three main heights of the ridgeline (wrongly called 'Sari Bair' by the British) running north-east from the hill known as Baby 700 (q.v.), which formed the apex of Anzac itself-these being Chunuk Bair, Hill Q and Hill 971. Once these dominating peaks of the main range of the Gallipoli Peninsula had been captured, the British expected to be able to march directly to the Narrows of the Dardanelles waterway and achieve a decisive breakthrough in the campaign.
The plan devised required that two columns of troops sally from the northern end of the Anzac beach-head on the night of 6 August and seize foothills which commanded routes to the summit of the range. Another two forces would then move through these and take the summits, before co-operating with attacks to be made from the old Anzac perimeter against Baby 700. A feint was ordered for 6 August at the southern end of the Anzac perimeter (see Lone Pine), to tie up Turkish reserves and keep them away from both the northern movements and the landing at Suvla. The British troops involved in the latter operation, undertaken primarily to secure a base at which stores could he laid down to provide for the Anzac positions needs during the coming winter, were also ordered to aid the main attack in any way possible.
Despite the high hopes held for this plan, its execution came apart in the incredibly rugged country to be traversed, due to inadequate maps and the confusion involved in moving at night through such terrain. While the covering force succeeded in clearing the foothills, delays put the march of the attacking columns behind schedule. The leading elements of the Australian 4th Brigade under Brigadier-General John Monash, which had furthest to go before getting into position to form the left attacking force to take Hill 971, were harried by constant contacts with small groups of the enemy. The arrival of dawn found Monash unsure of his position in a valley called Arghyl Dere, his men exhausted and the brigade still nowhere near its objective.
The right column, comprising the 29th Indian Brigade and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, had more luck and got almost to the top of Chunuk Bair. After both columns rested up on 7 August, a renewed push was made the next day. This saw the New Zealanders actually attain their objective, but Monash's troops-ordered to seize a northern spur line known as Adbel Rahman Bair then move south along it to Hill 971 - were caught in the open by well-sited Turkish machine-guns and driven back with great slaughter. On 9 August Ghurkhas from the 29th Brigade had seized Hill Q as well.
This was, however, as close as the plan came to success. The Ghurkhas were shelled off their position by British warships which accidentally dropped a salvo short, and soon after the New Zealanders were relieved by British troops on 10 August a massive Turkish counter-attack wrested back control of Chunuk Bair. This was, effectively, the climax of the Gallipoli campaign, since once this vital ground was retaken by the Turks the Allies' last and best chance of winning at Gallipoli was gone.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 109-110.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, (1924), The Story of Anzac, Vol. 2 , Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Hill 971, Turkey, August 8, 1915Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: Hill 971, Turkey, August 8, 1915, Outline