Topic: Tk - Bks - 27th IR
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Lt-Col. Sefik Aker Account - Part 1
In 1935, Lieutenant Colonel Sefik Aker, erstwhile commander of the 27th Infantry Regiment, produced a small book called: Canakkale - Ariburnu savaslari ve 27 alay (The Dardanelles - The Ariburnu Battles and the 27th Regiment). This book was an account of his regiment which was the first to confront the Australians as they landed at Anzac Cove. This is a very moving account from the other side of the trench. The book was published in Ankara in 1935. There is no official translation of the book into English. This translation is from the Rayfield Papers.
Lieut Col Sefik Aker, Canakkale - Ariburnu savaslari ve 27 alay, (Ankara), 1935, pp. 20 - 28:
The Turkish Force which Engaged the British Landing Forces
34. The measures which the Battalion concerned took in order to watch and protect their long coast are shown on Map No. 2. According to this plan, Ariburnu and a post of the Anafartalar coast extending for 4 kilometres from the mouth of the Azmakdere in the north as far as Cakaldere to the west of the Kanlisirt, was allocated to No. 4 Company. The coast from Cakaldere as far as the mouth of the Azmakdere, due south of the Kabatepe headland, was allocated to No. 3 Company. One platoon from this Company was stationed at Keltepe south west of the Kanli range. The coast bordering the Palamutlu range, stretching south as far as Camtepe was allocated to No. 2 Company. No. 1 Company was placed as a reserve behind the ridges to the east of the Kabatepe headland. Detachments from two reserve Companies, each comprising half a platoon (i.e., two sections) were posted on the Hain north of Kabatepe and on the Azmakdere to the south. The Battalion Commanding Officer, Major Ismet, stayed with the reserve Company. This point was connected by telephone to an exchange in Divisional Headquarters at Maidos.
Let us turn to No. 4 Company which had the good fortune to defend the Ariburnu area, of Reservist Second Lieutenant Ibradili Ibrahim Hayrettin, of the Fisherman's Hut (Balikci Damlaci). Since this platoon was to be entrusted with the defence of the coast from the north of the Azmakdere to the north as far as North Ariburnu, two observation sections were detached, one to the north and the other to the south. The coast was given the name "Agildere Area".
No. 2 Platoon, under the command of Second Lieutenant Muharrem, was in the trenches at Haintepe (Plugge's Plateau) adjoining North Ariburnu. this platoon was entrusted with the defence of the piece of coast between north and south Aribunu which the British named Anzac, together with the two sides of these headlands as far as Caraldere to the south. Observation forces, each consisting of one section from this platoon were detached to North Ariburnu, South Ariburnu and to the adjoining high ground.
No. 3 Platoon, under the command of Gallipoli Sergeant Major Suleyman, was stationed at Boyun and formed the Company's reserve. One section from this Platoon was detached to Cakaldere.
The Company Commanding Officer, Captain Faik, was with the reserve platoon at Boyun. This point was linked by telephone to Battalion Headquarters at Kabatepe.
35. The Companies were made up of three platoons, the platoons each had nine sections and these were nine riflemen in each section. Thus the strength of a Company was 250 men. At that time there was only one Machine Gun Company having four machine guns, in each regiment. Thus in a Battalion there were neither light nor heavy machine guns.
How did the Turkish Detachments engage the enemy landing forces?
36. Operations of the 3rd Platoon which was in reserve and with which the Company Commanding Officer was stationed and the statement of Captain Faik:
We have learned from the British themselves how they came ashore. Now let us hear from Captain Faik of No. 4 Company, which occupied the landing are, how the Turkish detachments engaged them."At about 0200 hours that night the moon was still shining. The patrols on duty from my reserve platoon were Idris from Biga and Cemil from Gallipoli. They reported having sighted many enemy ships in the open sea. O got up and looked through the binoculars. I saw, straight in front of us, but rather a long way off, a large number of ships the size of which could not be distinguished. It was not clear whether or north they were moving.
I reported immediately to the Battalion Commanding Officer, Major Ismet, first by telephone and then by a written report. He said to me 'There is no cause for alarm. At worst, the landing will be at Kabatepe' and told me to continue watching these ships. I went to a new observation point and kept watch. This time I saw them as a great mass, which, I decided, seemed to be moving straight towards us. In the customary manner, I went to the telephone to inform Divisional Headquarters. That was about 0230 hours.
I got through to Second Lieutenant Nuri at Divisional Headquarters and told him about it.
He replied, 'Hold the line. I will inform the Chief of Staff.' He came back a little later and said, 'Of these ships, how many are transports and how many warships?' I replied, 'It is impossible to distinguish them in the dark but the quantity of ships is very large.' With that our conversation closed. A little while later the moon sank below the horizon and the ships became invisible in the dark. The reserve Platoon was alerted and ordered to stand by. I watched and waited. In a little while the sound of gun fire broke out. I saw in front of north Ariburnu a machine gun firing from a small boat which I thought was probably a torpedo boat and some of the shots were passing over us. I immediately ordered the platoon to take action to occupy the trenches on the high ridge which dominates north Ariburnu. I sent only two sections under the command of Sergeant Ahmed, to the trenches on the central hill overlooking the beach. At the same time I wrote a report to the Battalion Commanding Officer stating that the enemy was about to begin landing at Ariburnu and that I was going with the reserve platoon to a position on the far side. I ordered the withdrawal by telephone and set off immediately with the platoon. On the way, we came under fire from the ships. We arrived at Yuksek Sirt and occupied the trenches opposite the northern beach of Ariburnu. I ordered firing to opened from 1300 metres. The two Battalions in the Haintepe trenches a little way in front of us had been drawn into the fighting from the start. Torpedo boats towed the enemy craft which they had been towing. The torpedo boats then withdrew, firing continuously. The craft at which we were firing remained from the shore because the coastal waters were shallow. Some of the enemy troops were hit and stayed in the craft. Those who were not hit jumped into the sea and only five or ten men escaped by getting into our dead area. A little while later news was received that the enemy was coming up from Korkudere [Shrapnel Valley] in our rear. I sent two bombardiers under Sergeant Lapsekili Muharrem. They threw grenades from one of the trenches overlooking the valley. At that moment we came under fire from the enemy who was climbing up to the ridge where we were from a slope 100 metres to our left. We began to escape him on this side. In this fighting, the Platoon Officer Commanding Gallipoli Sergeant Suleyman was wounded. Some of our private soldiers were also hit. I too received a severe wound in the groin and was reduced to a state where I could no longer command the platoon. I handed over command to Sergeant Lapsekili Muharrem and withdrew. Dawn had not yet broken. The platoon continued to fight for some further time and after Sergeant Muharrem had also been hit, the few privates who remained, realising that their retreat was being cut off, joined up with No. 1 Platoon at the Fisherman's Hut (Balikei Damlari) from between the steep slopes. When I reached the village of Kocadere I heard sounds such as "Halt, Mehmed!" being shouted at us from Kanlisirt. We realised this was the British and they had occupied the Kanlisirt (Lone Pine).
37. The operation of No. 2 Platoon at Haintepe (Ani Burnu)
Whilst Captain Faik was being treated at Biga hospital, he says he heard the following account from Second Lieutenant Muharrem, Officer Commanding No. 2 Platoon which occupied the Haintepe trenches to the rear of and immediately adjoining Ariburnu."He stated that on first sighting the enemy ships a long way off, they occupied the trenches and awaited the enemy. On seeing the craft approaching they opened fire and the enemy replied with fire from the sea. In this battle, the Platoon Officer Commanding Second Lieutenant Muharrem was wounded in both shoulders from shots fired from the sea and as he was withdrawing on account of his injury he was wounded again, this time in the arm making three wounds in all."
The Company Commander Captain Faik learnt from enquiries he made on rejoining the Regiment that this platoon had encountered firing both from sea and land and that only three or four men had escaped.
In addition to the above statement which Second Lieutenant Muharrem made to Captain Faik the Commanding Officer of No. 3 Company, Lieutenant Asim, which was at Kabatepe also made the following observations."We saw in the distance the enemy ships and some lights. We kept a close watch on them and got ready. Only when the craft were quite close to Ariburnu did our troops there open fire on them. There was reciprocal fire with machine guns from the landing craft as we opened up with the Mantelli Gun."
38. According to these statements:-a. Although it is certain that the platoon at Ariburnu was not taken by surprise, it is clear that the platoon did not open fire until the landing craft were about to put the troops ashore. Only when the craft drew near did they open fire. This was a mistake. If this platoon at Ariburnu had engaged the landing craft with fire at a distance of 100 metres there is no doubt that getting the Australians ashore would have been a very costly operation. But the firing that was opened from afar off on the close landing craft that first approached came from not more than 60 rifles at Haintepe (Ariburnu) and it is most unlikely that of this fire power, dispersed among the twelve landing craft in the darkness, could have been effective in preventing all these boats from approaching land. It is clear that the cause of the Australian forces getting ashore with so few losses were withholding fire until the craft got near to the beach, the fact that the motor boats towing the craft fired back with machine guns and the dispersal of the fire power weakly among the twelve craft.
b. It is clear that the craft laden with troops, after unloading, were not towed back but were left on their own. It may be that the craft that the craft that tried to approach to the north of Ariburnu were abandoned because they came under fire both the Fisherman's Hut (Balikci Damlari) and from the 3rd Reserve Platoon on Yuksek Sirt.
c. It is also clear that the troops in the craft which tried to approach north of Ariburnu suffered very heavy losses and so the British refrained from making landings on that side.
d. It is clear that the incident in which the British were quoted as saying "When No.'s 11 and 12 Companies who had landed to the left climbed a steep slope they encountered a Turkish position and suffered heavy losses ... etc" this was the incident in which Captain Faik was wounded.
e. Before the battle in which the landing and defence forces came face to face, No. 2 Platoon at Haintepe and later No. 3 Platoon which was in reserve had already entered the struggle. The losses of both these platoons showed a splendid example of self sacrifice to the point of annihilation.
39. No. 1 Platoon at the Fisherman's Huts (Balikci Damlari)
The strength of the platoon was 60 to 70 men. When, by the light of the moon, they saw the enemy approaching, they occupied the trenches and waited. After the moon had set they saw the landing craft carrying the first landing forces coming straight towards them. They waited for them to approach before opening fire but the craft veered off in the direction of Ariburnu. They saw that as they approached Ariburnu both sides began firing in the dark and they, too, began firing despite the darkness. When dawn began to break, as stated in the British documents and quoted verbatim in paragraphs 2 and 6, they kept under fire with accurate shooting, the landing forces who tried to approach north of Ariburnu and later the forces who were trying to come straight towards them. As they drew near they continued to fire at a number of enemy troops who were desperately trying to get ashore and compelled them to flee under cover in the direction of Ariburnu. [Although the British account states that their troops who were able to get ashore occupied the Turkish trenches without difficulty (see paragraph 6), in fact they did no such thing. Perhaps British troops may have taken cover in one of the many trenches which had previously been prepared there and the above statement may have been based on this.] Where upon they inflicted further losses upon them. [The British account states that out of 140 men, in six rowing boats, who tried to land against this platoon, only 18 were able to escape.]
They saw that the enemy was no longer putting his plan into effect but they [the Turks] had run out of ammunition. Realising that the enemy had occupied Yukseksirt (Russell's Top) and that they intended to advance to Kocacimen, they handed over the duties of vigilance and area security to pickets at the mouth of the Azmakdere and proceeded towards Duztepe following the Sazlidere track. The object of the platoon Officer Commanding was to bar the way to the enemy at this point and using every single round of ammunition which he had left he made his presence known to the enemy and kept a close watch. At the same time he saw that a battle was raging in the South [the attack of the 27th Regiment]. He sent two patrols to ask for ammunition and to enquire about the situation. When they returned a little later, without ammunition, they were accompanied by General Officer Commanding 19th Division (Attaturk) and his personal staff followed by the Advance Guard of the 57th Regiment. They joined up with that Regiment.
This platoon carried out its duties with success. They prevented the enemy from approaching their area of fire. It is confirmed from British sources, quoted in paragraphs 2 and 6, that those who tried to approach suffered heavy losses.
This platoon, which represented the losses of its Company which no longer existed, took part, under the command of the 57th Regiment in the battle of 25 April 1915. The platoon carried out its duties in this battle and suffered losses and Ibrahim Hayreddin amongst others, was wounded and sent to hospital.
40. Thus No. 4 Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment, which was made the nation's doorkeeper against the enemy at Ariburnu, sacrificed itself fully in the execution of its duties. In spite of this both the Company Commanding Officer and the Officers Commanding all Platoons involved in this sacrifice returned to their regiments after recovering from the severe wounds they received, took over the duties of commanding distinguished companies which had been re-formed and took part in the subsequent fighting.
41. Operations of the Platoon commanded by Second Lieutenant Ismail Hakki of No. 3 company which was positioned at Keltepe to the south west of Kanlisirt.
This platoon, as soon as they saw the approach of the landing craft occupied the trenches overlooking the beach. They opened horizontal fire in a southerly direction (Ariburnu), halted, with rifle fire, the enemy troops who were trying to advance straight towards them and forced them to Buyukdere (Korkudere - Shrapnel Gully). They tried to get news from the Company at Ariburnu. They knew that the enemy was advancing. At that time they were kept under fire from the right and from the rear. They suffered one dead and two wounded but they fought back and in order to prevent their retreat being cut off they held the more dominating ridge to the rear, and from there held the enemy advance with rifle fire. After the start of 27th Regiment's offensive this Platoon established communication with the Regiment and secured the Regiment's left flank south of Kanlisirt (Lone Pine).
In paragraph 4 it was stated, quoting British documents,
"Two companies of Australians who had occupied Kanlisirt moved on and were sent for mopping up operations in the direction of Kabatepe, These two companies encountered fire from a Turkish detachment and the Commanding Officers of both Companies as well as several officers, were wounded. Since the Companies became very dispersed they could not reach Kabatepe."
The platoon confirmed this incident.
42. Let us now turn to the operations, and its consequences, of the quick firing mountain battery positioned on Kanlisirt opposite Kabatepe and shown on the maps.
It was mentioned in Captain Faik's battle report that this battery went to Kocacimen and the Battery Commander, Captain Sadik, was asked by the Commanding Officer of No.4 Company to open fire on the enemy landing forces. The fact that the Battery Commander did not accept this proposal may have been due to their desire to engage a landing force that was expected on the Kabatepe beaches which was their basic area. This battery was under the command of Battalion Headquarters. The Battalion Commanding Officer had stated that, in case of necessity, the Battery could open fire only when he gave the order by telephone to Captain Faik. There is documentary evidence to prove this. But since the Battery Commander had not received orders directly from the Battalion Commanding Officer, he was in a position of doubt and stuck to his prescribed duties in the Kabatepe direction failing to take on his own initiative, the action which the occasion demanded. Finally he learnt that the enemy was getting close and although he tried to hide the guns, three of these famous guns, whose horses had been struck down, fell into the enemy's hands as a result of a surprise attack. One other gun and the battery's spare parts were saved. This single gun was attached to 27th Regiment which had come on the scene. The British statement about how they captured these three guns was quoted in paragraph 3. But the British account made no reference to how these guns were re-captured by 27th Regiment in their offensive the same day.
43. The operations of the Battalion Commanding Officer at Kabatepe and the firing of a single Mantelli gun and a Nordanfeld.
The Battalion Commanding Officer Major Ismet, mentions that he received news, by telephone, of the first landing from Officer Commanding No. 4 Company at Ariburnu in the following terms: "A number of enemy troops have landed at Ariburnu." He replied [to Captain Faik] with orders to launch an immediate attack on the enemy and that if necessary the quick firing mountain battery should also be used. [There is a discrepancy here with the statement of Captain Faik reported in paragraph 36 above.] The Battalion Commanding Officer said that he immediately passed this information on, in the same form, to Divisional Headquarters at Maydos and gave instructions for the Mantelli gun at the Kabatepe headland to open fire.
It was after 0500 hours when the Battalion Commanding Officer learnt that the landing was on a considerable scale and he reported to Divisional Headquarters at 0520 hours in the following terms, "Although Captain Faik has stated that a number of enemy troops have landed, it is clear that the enemy operations are on a considerable scale. Reinforcements are urgently needed.
44. Because the Battalion Commanding Officer Major Ismet, had received no news about how No. 4 company was fairing at Ariburnu, at about 0600 hours he sent a reserve platoon from No. 1 Company under the command of Second Lieutenant Mustufa to the rear of Ariburnu. This platoon went to the ridges to the west of the village of Kocadere, learnt about the situation from Captain Faik who had been wounded and then pressed on to Artillery Ranger further forward. They made plans to halt the enemy advance north of Kemalyeri. They came under the command of 3rd Battalion 27th Regiment which arrived there a little later and took part in the counter-attack.
45. The Mantelli gun at Kabatepe although slow firing, caused trouble to the enemy landing forces and inflicted heavy losses on them. Other slow firing Howitzers behind Palamutlusirt were also effective in keeping the transport ships away from the shore and thus delaying the landing. The Mantelli gun alone fired 114 shrapnel and 37 shells. A ship which infiltrated between Ariburnu and Kabatepe was able to silence this gun. In the British account, quoted in paragraphs 2 and 6, it is seen that the effect of the fire power of this Mantelli gun is mentioned with respect.
The first phase of the Ariburnu landing battle was completed. Documents of both sides show that this phase involved the following:
It shows that the burden of stopping the landing of the first 4,000 men fell on not more than 160 men comprising only the 1st and 2nd Platoon of No. 4 Company. Although the 1st Platoon of this Company, from the Fisherman's Hut (Balikci Damlari) and a platoon of No. 4 Company, also did their duty by joining the battle on the south western slopes of the Kanlisirt, their positions were comparatively remote from the pint where the basic struggle was raging. But the 2nd and 3rd Platoons fought with the aggressors from headland to headland under fire from sea and land until they were annihilated. Their conduct, which was worthy of the highest praise, consisted in having fought to the bitter end, proving that there was no reserve force in the neighbourhood which could come to their aid. Thus did they strive to do their duty. This being so, it would be a grave injustice to seek among our handful of defenders the causes for the enemy's having succeeded in landing at Ariburnu. On the contrary, we read in the newspapers that in En gland the Anzac landing was considered a success and at every anniversary it is commemorated with a ceremony. Does not this mean that even the attackers value highly and pay tribute to the resistance of this company of ours in this operation? In that case, the duty of bowing in veneration before all the dead and wounded of our Company falls on us. This zealous defence on the part of this Company in all probability confused the aggressors so that they hesitated to advance quickly to carry out their main task which was to capture, before sunrise, the high line of Artillery Range which stretched down from Conkbayiri to Kagatepe. It was as a result of this that our reserve forces, coming up from far in the rear, held off the aggressors from this important and dominating line.
Next: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Lt-Col. Sefik Aker Account - Part 2
Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Lt-Col. Sefik Aker Account - Part 1