Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
Fred Waite Account, Part 1
Early days at Anzac Cove
[From: Waite, p. 83.]
In 1919, Fred Waite, a Gallipoli veteran and hero with a DSO [Citation: "For gallantry and devotion to duty in connection with the operations at the Darddanelles (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force). On the night of 2-3 May 1915 during the operations in the neighbourhood of Gape Tepe for gallantry and resource in rallying his men, and leading them forward at critical moments."] finished his work on the Gallipoli Campaign called The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, which was published by Whitcombe and Tombs Limited in Christchurch. This forms part of the New Zealand Official War history series. It is from this work this extract derives.
Fred Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, Christchurch , 1919, pp. 74 - 85
The Anzac Landing.
Early on Sunday morning the intention of Army Headquarters was made clear by the issue of orders for the attack. A study of the map revealed three dominating land features. In the south, overlooking Cape Helles, was the great hump of Achi Baba. Inland from Suvla Bay was the tangled mass of cliffs, valleys and hills culminating in the peak of the Sari Bair system, which, from its height marked in feet, was after wards known as “Hill 971.” Lying further over near the Straits and protecting the fortress on the European side, was the mountain system known as the “Pasha Dagh” or Kilid Bahr Plateau. Both Achi Baba and Hill 971 had to be captured before attempting the plateau, which latter having fallen, we could take possession of the great fortresses of Kilid Bahr, and Chanak on the opposite shore. These two places is our hands, the passage of the fleet would be largely a matter of careful mine sweeping.
In order to mystify the enemy and to encourage him to disperse his forces, two subsidiary attacks were undertaken. Away up at Bulair a fleet of empty transports, accompanied by a few men-of-war, were to make a demonstration. Down on the Asiatic coast the French were to land, reduce Kum Kale and the forts in the neighbourhood, and then withdraw The 29th and Royal Naval Divisions were to land on several beaches at the extremity of the Peninsula and push on towards Krithia and Achi Baba, being reinforced by the French Division after its withdrawal from Kum Kale. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was ordered to force a landing on the beach between Gaba Tepe and Fishremen's Hut. Hill 971 itself was to be avoided, the troops endeavouring to pass over its southern under-features to the road running from Boghali and Maidos. Mal Tepe was a hill specifically mentioned. “The capture of this position would threaten and perhaps cut the line of retreat of the enemy's troops on Kilid Bahr plateau, and have far-reaching results,” said the operation order.
Passing Cape Helles.
When morning fully broke the New Zealand transports were nearing Cape Helles. The big guns of the fleet were pounding the forts until the horizon seemed a mass of smoke and flame. Over against Kum Kale the French ships were hotly engaged; off Cape Helles the British stood close into the forts. Again we saw our old friend the “Askold”—now christened the “Packet of Woodbines,” because of her five long funnels. The noise of the naval bombardment was truly extraordinary—the sharp crack of the lighter guns; the ear-splitting roar of the 12-inchers; and booming clearly above them all, the tremendous reports from the 15-inch guns of the “Queen Elizabeth.” Watching from the rail, the soldiers were very sorry for the Turk. It seemed impossible that anything could live through such a bombardment. At the morning service, with the reverberation of the incessant gunfire assailing our ears, we found it difficult to hear the padre reading “In the midst of life we are in death.” From across the water the bark of the 6-inch guns struck harshly on the singing of the soldiers' favourite hymns.
Just opposite Gaba Tepe the transports slowed down. Like children kept inside on a wet day, we were very impatient. A desire to be doing something possessed all ranks. The men broke up cases and split the wood for kindling fires ashore. Every man pushed seven or eight pieces through the straps on the back of his pack. Many seized the opportunity to write the letter that most thoughtful soldiers write at the beginning of a campaign—a letter to be carried in the breast pocket and only to be forwarded by the comrade that buries him—tender farewells, simply and beautifully written, as men always do write when they are face to face with the things that really matter.
In groups of four the transports, covered by the battleships, moved up to about a mile off shore, disembarked the troops of the first echelon, and then moved to the rear, letting the next four continue the manoeuvre. On our port side the old twin-funnelled “Majestic” belched a stream of 12-inch shells on the ridges; away to starboard, the four long funnels of the “Bacchante” were dimly discernible through a tremendous column of smoke. Southwards, as far as the eye could see, were transports innumerable, and closer in-shore, the angry, barking battleships.
The destroyers were taking their human freights as far in as they dared—and the average t.b.d. commander will dare a good deal. Over the side and down the swaying rope ladders we went for the last time. This was not a Mudros Harbour practice. We felt uncommonly clumsy and three times our ordinary size. With our hob-nailed boots we clattered about the iron deck, until it was so crowded we had perforce to stand still.
Now the picket boat zone was reached. Off the destroyer and into a barge. Six barges made a tow. The little steamboat puffed and tugged, and off we swerved like a sinuous snake.
The 3rd Australian Brigade made the first landing about 5 in the morning, and had cleared the first ridges. New Zealand Headquarters landed at 10 a.m.; then there was a strange hitch, and the precious hours between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. were wasted. By this time the Turk had in some measure made up his mind about the real attack and had concentrated his guns on the beach. He only had to fire at the water's edge, consequently he had no difficulty in ranging by the map. He knew that the Landing must be in a very circumscribed area, and his ranging was good. Shells plopped in the water all round as the tows set a course for the beach.
Boat after boat of wounded passed us going back to the transports they had left only a few hours before. They waved their blood-stained arms and cheered with feeble cheers. The encouragement was certainly welcome.
We were now well within range. Rifle and shrapnel fire was whipping the water round the boats. About 300 yards from the shore the barges were cast loose, and each, with a naval rating as coxswain, pulled vigorously for the beach. Casualties were frequent. As the boats grounded, the men tumbled out; many were hit in the water and were drowned a major, jumping from the bows—the water was about 2 feet deep—was hit in the knee. He fell into the surf, but was hauled on board again, and the picket boat towed him back to the transport he had just left. The survivors fell in and adjusted their heavy equipment under the protection of the sandy cliff.
Straight into the Battle.
Up in the maze of gullies our men were struggling with the Turks. As each company or platoon came ashore it was rushed up to the firing line. Casualties and the broken country made control very difficult, and up where the tide ebbed and flowed, the natural leaders of men, whether they happened to be officers or privates, led their little groups to the attack or stood stubbornly at bay among the scrub-clad hills.
The orders given to our Division on disembarkation were for the New Zealand Infantry Brigade to prolong the line to the left of the 1st Australian Division, and particularly to support the left of the Third Brigade, which had landed as the covering force to the Army Corps; the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade was to be held in reserve. The landing of the Auckland Battalion was completed at 12 noon. Walker's Ridge was given as its objective. By 12.30 p.m., two companies of the Canterbury Battalion were ashore, and were directed to support the Auckland Battalion.
At 1 p.m., the Auckland Battalion was recalled from Walker's Ridge and brought more to the right, to occupy Plugge's Plateau, in order more directly to connect with the left of the covering brigade. The two Canterbury companies prolonged the left flank of the Auckland Battalion, in the direction of Walker's Ridge. Between 12.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. the Otago Battalion arrived and was sent up to Plugge's Plateau in support of the Auckland Battalion. When the remaining two companies of the Canterbury Battalion arrived they were sent to Walker's Ridge to prolong and reinforce the left flank.
Owing to the accuracy of the enemy big-gun fire, the transports with our field guns aboard were temporarily forced to retire. The Turkish gunners were punishing us severely, and we realized to the full the bitterness of not being able to effectively retaliate. But the Indian Mountain Batteries endeared themselves to all by their sacrificing efforts. Gallantly led, these matchless gunners, with their patient mules, wheedled their guns up to seemingly inaccessible vantage points; unlimbering, they would get in a dozen effective shots and be down in the gully and up to an alternate position before their opponents could sense the situation.
All along the beach, under the scanty shelter of the cliff, the wounded lay—some on stretchers, some on blankets, others on the shingle. The surgeons worked as they never had before. Wounded poured down from the hills incessantly. The picket boats towed their barges, crammed with troops, to the beach, and seemed to take away almost as many wounded.
The sun went down and the ships stood over against Samothrace silhouetted in the sunset. But with the night came no peace. The Turks attacked with renewed vigour—reinforcements had arrived for them. Blowing trumpets and shouting “Allah!” they surged forward. Our fellows ran to meet them, cursing in good round English and very bad Arabic. Up there in the tangled gullies many a strange duel was fought that night. When not actually fighting, men dug for their lives. Then on would come the Turks again, shovels would be dropped, and the attack repelled. One desperate rush was stemmed by a gallant band headed by a corporal with nothing more effective than a pick-handle.
A Desperate Night.
As the evening wore on, the beach became one long lane of suffering soldiers. The doctors could only attend to the most severe cases. Many a man, when asked if he was badly hurt, said, bravely enough, “Oh, no!” and died quietly in the night.
The stretcher bearers were magnificent. From the order, “Stretcher squads fall in” at the moment of landing, these men slaved on the ridges and in those valleys of torment. A man without a load can dash from cover to cover, but the stretcher bearers, with their limp and white-faced burdens, must walk steadily on, ignoring sniper and hostile gunner. From the front line it took about two and a half hours to get a patient to the hospital on the beach. Hour after hour the work went on, until after twenty hours' stretcher bearing these unheeded heroes fell in their tracks from sheer exhaustion. Volunteers took up the work, but after a few hours' rest, the gallant souls were out again — medical officers, stretcher bearers and hospital orderlies literally working themselves to death in an endeavour to mitigate the awful anguish of the wounded men of Anzac. “I shall never forget that night,” said a sergeant of the N.Z.M.C., “A twelve-stone weight on the stretcher, a dark night, a little drizzling rain, groping our way down a steep incline through prickly scrub, our wounded man crying with pain and begging for a drink every few yards, incessant rifle fire, and bullets whizzing all round us.” Except those who lay so very quietly up in the scrub or on the shell-swept beach, no one rested that night. The firing line was gradually becoming a little defined as the tired soldiers on both sides became exhausted.
The units were inextricably mixed—Australian and New Zealand infantry clung doggedly to the hardly-won crest line. Approximately, the Australian 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Brigades held the right flank; the centre was in a state of flux, but the 4th Australian Brigade held the ridges at the head of Monash Gully; the Otago trenches grew up overlooking Monash Gully; the Aucklanders dug in along Plugge's Plateau; the Canterbury Battalion were desperately engaged on Walker's Ridge, where their gallant commander (Lieut.-Colonel Stewart) fell at the head of his men. The Wellingtons landed in the dark and went straight up to Plugge's Plateau. The gunners laboured all through the night preparing for the eagerly expected howitzers; while the sappers hastily improvized a second line of defence along Plugge's Plateau down Maclagan's Ridge to the sea. Here the last stand would be made if the worst came, but the morning broke and the outer line was still intact; picks were laid aside and the indomitable men of Anzac again took up their rifles to face the trials of the day.
Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, Fred Waite Account, Part 1