Topic: BatzG - Anzac
The Battle of Anzac Cove
Gallipoli, 25 April 1915
12th Infantry Battalion, AIF, Unit History Account
After the conclusion of the Great War, 12th Battalion Association in conjunction with Leslie Morriss Newton, felt that it was time to record the events of the battalion with the assistance of the Commonwealth book grant. Newton wrote the history of this Battalion called The story of the twelfth: a record of the 12th Battalion, A.I.F. during the Great War of 1914-1918. The book was published Hobart during 1925. The following is an extract from this book detailing the landing at Anzac in a manner that is seen from the members of the Battalion and so contains all the humour, fears, joy and sadness that is the full gamit of human emotions. As such this story fills in the gaps between the dry reports and the official histories.Newton, L.M., The story of the twelfth: a record of the 12th Battalion, A.I.F. during the Great War of 1914-1918, Hobart, 1925, pp. 41 - 53.
The Story Of The Twelfth - The Landing
We were particularly favoured as regards weather, for it was a beautiful moonlight night, with sufficient cloud to prevent the visibility being of a dangerous nature. The air was somewhat keen when the destroyers were steaming at all fast, but otherwise there was a pleasant freshness in the air. For a few hours the flotilla of destroyers steamed slowly towards the Peninsula - without lights, needless to say - and then went dead slow for some long period waiting for the moon to go down.
The morale and general bearing of the men was wonderful, and resembled that of old campaigners rather than untried troops. They loosened the belt of their equipment and sat down with their backs against the sacks of coal and other deck fixtures and conversed freely in an undertone on a variety of subjects, whilst expressions of opinions were gratuitously given as to the probable fate of various members of the Battalion within the course of the next hour or so. About 2 a.m. the crew of the destroyers came round with buckets full of hot steaming cocoa, which was liberally distributed and consumed with a relish. Even the men who had attempted to snatch a few minutes' sleep allowed themselves to be disturbed without the usual complimentary remarks, when they discovered what was awaiting them.
About 3 a.m. the moon went down and it began to get intensely dark, and we again proceeded towards our objective. As we began to get near the shore our progress was made by short spurts or rushes. We went "full speed ahead" and then slowed up whilst a sailor, detailed for that purpose, took a sounding and reported to the bridge; by continuing in this manner we were enabled to "feel" our way along in the darkness.
The various courses of the battleships and destroyers were now converging to the prearranged landing place, and in consequence we could see, at intervals, other destroyers and the hull of a huge cruiser (from which other units of the Brigade were landing) looming up black in the darkness. By this time the boats from which we had to land and which had been towed from the stern, were brought alongside and the rowers were ordered to get into them. On the "Foxhound," as the destroyers made one of those sudden spurts previously referred to, a boat on the port side was taken by surprise and crashed into the side of it and capsized. Willing hands were at once given for rescue work, and we pulled the saturated rowers, as well as a sailor, back on to the deck, when they were quickly replaced in the boat.
At last, at about 4.30 a.m., the destroyers made a final spurt and took us within 100 yards of the shore. At this moment the first shot was heard from shore, followed immediately by a veritable fusillade of bullets, which fell in the water all round us.
Whilst this was happening the first boat-loads of troops were proceeding ashore as fast as possible. Those from the "Ribble" were towed six at a time by a steam pinnace, within 50 yards of the shore, and then the crews rowed for their lives. Those from the other six destroyers had to row the whole way.
It was not long before a rousing cheer was heard coming from the left flank, and we knew that Australians had set foot on Turkish soil. On most of the destroyers the 12th Battalion Company had to allow the Battalion to which it was attached to land first, and in consequence we had to wait fully ten minutes on the destroyers before any boats were available to land us. During this time we were subjected to heavy rifle and machine-gun fire from the hills in front, and also shrapnel from the guns at Gaba Tepe. It was still dark and we could not see the shore in front of us, but the hundreds of flashes from the rifles, high up in the air, were an indication to us of the nature of the country. As the bullets passed over our heads with that distinctive "crack" which became so familiar to us in later days, a heated argument was started by the men on several of the destroyers as to whether or not the enemy was using explosive bullets, but a well-placed burst of shrapnel soon scattered them and made them seek shelter behind the sacks of coal, which now proved their usefulness. As the boats came alongside - some bringing casualties - they were quickly filled with 12th Battalion men, an officer or N.C.O. accompanying each load, with a middy steering in the stern and a sailor lending a hand with an oar ready to take the boat back again. Each boat load also carried a box of ammunition, which would be so much in demand before the day was over.
As soon as we were within a yard or so of the shore we all jumped out without ceremony - up to our waists in water - in fact, some of the men who had to jump out from the stern actually went right under and had to flounder ashore the best way they could.
During our baptism of fire the Battalion had received its fair share of casualties, either whilst awaiting to disembark from the destroyers or whilst being rowed ashore, or on the beach itself. Lieut.Colonel Hawley was badly wounded as he stood with an oar preventing his boat from drifting away from the beach as the troops jumped ashore. Sergt.-Major Bryant also received a nasty wound in the face as he was being rowed ashore, and Lieut. Northcott (Adjutant) was wounded almost as soon as he got on to the beach.
The Battalion landed approximately on a frontage of 500 to 600 yards, in order from the left, "A," "D," "B" and "C" Companies - "A" and "D" Companies on North Beach, and "B" and "C" Companies round the point in Anzac Cove.
This was not the prearranged landing place, for the spot selected by General Sir Ian Hamilton and his staff, and embodied in the operation orders received by General Birdwood, was the beach immediately north of Gaba Tepe, where the slopes were far less precipitous. However, by an act of Providence, the navy made an error of nearly a mile, due, no doubt, to the strong currents and the intensity of the darkness immediately prior to the final advance into the shore, and in consequence we were landed too far to the north and had to scale the cliffs of Sari Bair. It afterwards transpired that the Turks had prepared a network of submerged barbed wire entanglements running far out to sea, at and around the very spot where the landing was to have been made, while on shore our advance would have been checked by a garrison of troops established in well-sited trenches made of concrete. It has since been authoritatively stated that a landing at this spot under these formidable conditions would have been verging on the impossible. Hence, as I remarked before, the navy's error was nothing less than an act of Providence, for which we were profoundly grateful. It has been said of the landing "that the doings of the 12th Battalion for the first day on Gallipoli resolves itself into personal reminiscences of small bodies of troops. The nature of the country prevented any combined movement and the Battalion after landing, advanced inland in small parties led by officers for some considerable distance." This statement is so true that the only method of recording the part played by the whole Battalion is to endeavour to follow each Company APRIL, 1915
from the beach to its ultimate position in the firing line. Even so, it must be remembered that a Company did not land on the beach intact, but dribbled ashore in small boatloads, so that an officer or senior N.C.O. did not necessarily advance with his whole command, but just gathered all troops in his vicinity and rushed headlong for the cliffs on which the enemy was situated, and from which he must be dislodged.
The boats from the "Ribble" landed Battalion Headquarters and "A" Company almost on the extreme north of the Divisional front, at the foot of the well-known landmark on Russell's Top known as "The Sphinx." This portion of the beach was under direct machine-gun fire, apparently coming from the lower slopes of Walker's Ridge, or perhaps further north from the vicinity of Fisherman's Hut. Some of the men from the previous tow of boats had not yet been able to advance over the fifty to sixty yards of scrubby country between the beach and the slopes of the cliff, but Col. Clarke quickly urged them forward in spite of the fire, himself leading the way. He had with him at this time Lieuts. Margetts, Patterson and Rafferty and from fifty to sixty men, mostly "A" Company 12th Battalion. As they neared the foot of the cliff the machine-gun still worried them considerably, and the Colonel ordered Rafferty to take his platoon and endeavour to silence it. Rafferty, however, had had a specific duty allotted to him immediately on landing, namely, to utilise his platoon as an escort to the Indian Mountain Battery until in position. He therefore reminded the Colonel of this fact, butt the latter, no doubt thinking that if the machine-gun was not disposed of very quickly, the Mountain Battery might not have an opportunity to land at all, instructed Rafferty first to locate and then to dislodge the machine-gun before reporting to the Battery Commander.
In the meantime, the grey dawn had developed into broad daylight, and the strength of the party grew and diminished as they became separated and then met other parties advancing through the thick scrub, which was anything from waist to shoulder high. At last the slopes of Walker's Ridge were reached, which proved to be of a gravely formation, capable of giving a decent foothold, with good substantial bushes which were utilised in pulling oneself up from foothold to foothold. Halfway up the slope, Cpl. Laing, of "D" Company, came across the Colonel, almost out of breath, struggling up with a heavy pack, and advised him to throw it away; but this the Colonel was loath to do, so Laing took it for him. The top was eventually reached, and it was here that the party saw its first 'Irk. Margetts rushed ahead with his revolver, followed by several excited and out-of-breath Diggers yelling "Imshi, yallah, you -," but the Commanding Officer quickly called them back and told them to get into a regular formation and advance in skirmishing order, clearing the bush as they went along.
Whilst this had been happening, Major Elliott had landed close by, and, following approximately the same course, with a party of men reached the ridge much about the same time as Colonel Clarke. The whole party then moved forward and passed over a trench, from which the enemy had apparently just retired. It was well made, with the parapet carefully flattened and screened by halfdead bushes, and a quantity of ammunition and equipment had been left behind in the rapid evacuation. Without waiting to examine the trench they passed on, as the enemy could be seen retiring up the slopes of a prominent hill some 600 or 700 yards to their right front. This proved to be Hill "Baby 700," which was won and lost after much severe fighting on this first day. It was about at this moment that the Colonel took out his message book and commenced writing a report to Brigade Headquarters when he was shot through the heart. His batman rushed over to his assistance, but had barely reached him when he became the second victim of the Turkish sniper. Pvt. Moggridge, an old South African campaigner, noticed that the spot where they had fallen was on a well-worn track, and warned everyone clear of it. Major Elliott, however, who had heard of the calamity but not Moggridge's warning, came up to take over command and became the third casualty, being wounded through the shoulder and receiving a fracture of the left arm. He quickly appreciated the situation and told no one to come near him, and himself waited an opportunity before crawling away from this danger spot.
The loss of a commanding officer in the field is the heaviest blow that can befall any unit, and the 12th Battalion formed no exception in this instance. We realised that it was only during the last few weeks of training at Lemnos that we had begun to know and understand Col. Clarke, and, incidentally, to value him. Although he was stern and somewhat reserved, we knew him to be full of grit and a soldier to his finger-tips and on this memorable morning he had proved himself to be a brave and gallant gentleman, who did not know the meaning of fear. The wonderful achievements of the Battalion at Anzac and in the later years of the campaign constituted the finest monument which any unit could erect to a commanding officer, who had laid such a splendid foundation.
These casualties left. Patterson and Margetts with about fifty men. and the former officer took charge of the party. After a short conference they decided to send some scouts forward to discover if the enemy occupied any of the ground between them and the slopes of "Baby 700," and Margetts promptly selected his two best, namely, George Vaughan and Tilley. These two went forward, and after passing the "Nek" signalled back "All clear." Just as Patterson was about to advance, Capt. Burt came up with more men and advocated a proper reorganisation which was promptly done, officers taking charge of their platoons and N.C.O.'s being allotted to sections. They then commenced to advance in extended order until nearing the "Nek," when they were joined by Capt. J. P. Lalor, of "D" Company, with nearly half of his Company, and Capt. Tulloch, of the 11th Battalion, with some of his Battalion. The former officer at once assumed command, and realising that the role of the 12th Battalion was that of Reserve Battalion, he wisely decided that it was of paramount importance to establish a strong position astride the "Nek" rather than to allow his men to become absorbed in the irregular advance. In accordance with this decision, it was agreed that Capt. Tulloch, of the 11th Battalion should take his men forward, while the 12th Battalion, under Lalor, dug a semicircular trench astride the "Nek" and commanding the gully on either side, capable, if necessary, of covering a retirement of our own troops, and of repelling an enemy rush down the slopes of "Baby 700." It was now between 7 and 8 a.m.
After Tulloch and his men had gone forward the position, as far as Lalor and his party were concerned, became quiet; there was no enemy this side of "Baby 700" and all rifle fire appeared to be going well over their heads. Major Robertson, of the 9th Battalion, had by this time joined them on the "Nek," and it was then agreed that another advance should be made over the top of "Baby 700." Margetts took his men up the slope, passing many dead Turks at the position they occupied after retiring from Walker's Ridge when Colonel Clarke and his party first made their appearance earlier in the morning, and with Major Robertson, took up a position in the scrub on the northern slope of the hill where they were subjected to heavy rifle fire. In endeavouring to locate the spot from which this fire originated, Margetts freely used his field glasses and discovered a communication trench on the slopes of Battleship Hill, some 700 to 800 yards away, down which the Turks appeared to be advancing in considerable force. He at once brought concentrated fire to bear upon this trench, but it was so sited that with little difficulty the Turks were able to reach dead ground in an adjacent gully, where undoubtedly they assembled for a severe counter-attack. During this time, casualties were becoming very heavy from frontal fire, and also from a machine-gun which enfiladed them from the flank, when, to crown everything, word was passed along the line that our troops were falling back on the left. It was only too true, and the Turks could be seen advancing in force from the gullies on the flank of Battleship Hill. Margetts had no option but to withdraw his men round the slope of "Baby 700" back towards the "Nek."
Whilst this had been happening, our Brigadier had established his headquarters on McLaurin's Hill, where he had an uninterrupted view of "Baby 700," and saw the advance over the summit and the subsequent retirement. He realised the importance of holding this hill, which was of the greatest strategic importance. He urgently appealed to the Divisional Commander for reinforcements to be sent to this spot, but the 1st and 2nd Brigades had already landed and had been absorbed into the battle. One company of the 1st Battalion, however, was diverted and sent over Russell's Top to the "Nek" to reinforce Lalor, Margetts and Patterson.
These troops quickly deployed and, picking up the fragments of the 9th and 12th Battalions in their advance, gallantly rushed the hill, and for the second time established a line on the forward slope of "Baby 700" many of the men with Margetts occupying the same position as before.
The fighting on the forward slopes of this hill continued fiercely right through the morning and well into the afternoon. Again we were driven off it, and. reinforced by New Zealanders, again we re-established our position. The ammunition was beginning to become a serious question, and Margetts left the line to endeavour to find Lalor and make some arrangements as regards replenishing it. Just near the "Nek" he met Patterson, who told him that Burt had gone back some time ago to get ammunition and reinforcements and should return at any time. Margetts was absolutely exhausted, and Patterson therefore insisted on him remaining at the "Nek," whilst he himself went forward with some dozen or twenty men. This he did, and arrived in the line just as the Turks launched a heavy counter-attack, and was never seen again.
Lieut. Patterson was one of the greatest assets the Battalion possessed, for he was a born leader of men, who instinctively trusted him to the uttermost. His youth, vitality, strength and daring had endeared him to all men who had trained under him in Tasmania. Egypt and Lemnos, and who had accepted his leadership on this April morning. He was the only officer of the 12th Battalion, up to this time, who had originated from the Military College at Duntroon. and his every action reflected credit on the years of training he had received there. He had now given his life for the country that had bred and trained him - surely an ample repayment!
Margetts found Lalor in a forward position and was instructed by him to take a man and go back to get ammunition, supports and stretcher-bearers. Taking Bugler Quartile with him, Margetts left Lalor about 3.30 p.m.
Lalor then moved forward on to the seaward slope of "Baby 700," where the fighting was thickest. Although the mental strain and anxiety which he had experienced since landing early in the morning had been enormous, he nevertheless rallied his men and, waving his arms, shouted, "Come on, the 12th." The words had hardly passed his lips when he fell dead, and "the 12th" (the last words he uttered) lost one of its most gallant and capable officers.
It will readily be seen that "A" Company as a Unit had now ceased to exist, its members being either casualties or hopelessly separated along the front and absorbed into the command of officers and N.C.O.'s of various battalions. The only platoon whose exploits have yet to be recorded is that of Lieutenant R. A. Rafferty, who, soon after landing had been ordered by the Commanding Officer to locate and silence a machine gun on the extreme left flank which was inflicting numerous casualties as the troops left the boats and had crossed the beach into the scrub.
Rafferty had with him about twenty men of his own platoon and about twenty men of other units and commands whom he had collected on his way from the beach. It was now necessary for him to advance 700 to 800 yards across comparatively flat country, covered with only a low scrubby growth. They advanced in extended order until they came to a dry creek bed, about six feet deep, in which it was hoped to rest for a moment and reorganise, but as soon as they reached it a machine gun opened up from the right flank - in the vicinity of No. 1 Post - and hopelessly enfiladed them. There was nothing for it but to push on. In front lay an open field, quite devoid of any cover, which had to be crossed before a position could be taken on a sandy knoll which would give them a commanding position overlooking the country around Fisherman's Hut. Had Rafferty any doubts in his mind as to the course of action he should take, they were quickly dispelled by the fact that at this moment four boats could be seen making for the shore at this spot laden with troops. It was, therefore, of paramount importance that he should advance on to the knoll and cover their landing. He gave the signal to advance, and as they doubled across the open field a storm of bullets met them, causing heavy casualties right along the line, to such an extent that only Rafferty, Sergeant Skinner and six others reached the cover of some rising ground on the far side of the field. Lieutenant Rafferty crawled up to the crest of the hill and discovered that the boats had landed and that the men had taken up a position on the beach, but there appeared to be a strange absence of any movement, so he called for a volunteer to go over to them. Private A. H. Stubbings offered to go, and crossing the beach, took cover behind one of the boats. His worst fears were confirmed, for almost every man lying on the beach was dead and it was some time before he could find even a wounded man from whom he could gather some news. They belonged to the 7th Battalion, and their officer, Lieut. Layh, with a few survivors, lay in the grassy tussocks on the foreshore. Stubbings took this information back, and as the fire from Fisherman's Hut had ceased for some time, Rafferty decided to go back with his survivors and arrange for stretcher-bearers for Layh's party and then to carry on with his particular job of escorting the Mountain Battery. This he eventually did, picking up the Battery on the beach and escorting them to White's Valley, just to the right rear of Johnston's Jolly, where they opened fire about noon.
"B" Company were landed from the destroyers "Foxhound" and "Scourge," and reached the beach at the northern end of Anzac Cove, just near the spit, Ari Burnu, which separated the Cove from North Beach. As soon as we floundered ashore, we rushed to the cover of an overhanging cliff and dropped our packs, which were hanging loosely from our shoulders by the supporting straps. The boxes of ammunition were carried well away from the water's edge and dumped together. We then looked round for an officer to give us our direction and the first one I saw was Capt. Whitham. "Straight up the hill," he said. "You can't go wrong if you go inland." Loading our magazines as we went, we made for the hill, which we afterwards knew as MacLagan's Ridge. A very thick growth of shrub, heavy with the morning dew, covered the hill, and enabled us to pull ourselves up the slope. Many a time a man would slip back smothering those below him with a shower of debris. The top was reached and most of us were well out of breath, so we halted for a few moments before crossing the crest, and waited for the remainder to come up, utilising the time by taking out the bolts of our rifles and cleaning out the dirt and sea water with which they were soiled. Lieut. MacPherson now joined us, and with high spirits we crossed the ridge and advanced down into Shrapnel Gully, after passing an evacuated trench and some dead Turks. At the bottom of the gully was a small running stream, with a notice board near it, upon which were Turkish characters and an arrow pointing towards some tents. Some of the men wanted to explore the latter, butt received strict orders to the contrary, and so the advance was continued up to the second ridge in perfect order. The line was moving in such splendid formation, and our training and discipline of Mena and Lemnos were being carried out in such detail, that when Corporal Harry Webber inadvertently fell and his rifle went off, Lieut. MacPherson immediately roared out, "Who's that fool with his safety catch forward? Don't you know the first thing to do after loading your rifle?" The top was reached and we found ourselves on a large plateau (Johnston's Jolly) fully 300 to 400 yards across and at once came under fire. There were some troops ahead: about fifty yards in front of us, and by means of short rushes we quickly joined them and stiffened up the firing line.
Movement could be seen in some scrub about 200 yards to our right front, but we were afraid to fire as we did not know whether they were our own troops or not. As far as one could judge, it was now about 6a.m., or perhaps a little later, and we remained here for about an hour, advancing the line a few yards by making individual rushes. Then the Turkish batteries opened fire from the high ground on the extreme left flank and simply peppered the plateau with shrapnel. At first, their range was not exact, but this they soon corrected and we had to lie in the open with no possible chance of cover, with the pellets and shell cases falling all round us. One particular shell burst right over us and a shot penetrated my water bottle on my back, so quickly turning to Jack Adams on my left, I told him to undo it. This he did, and about four or five of us had a drink before the water all ran out; it was too precious to be wasted. The manner in which the men lay unflinchingly under this hail of shrapnel was a splendid example of fire discipline, but Sgt. Richardson came over to me and suggested that if we thinned the line out a bit by taking some of the men fifty yards to right and left, many of the casualties which we were receiving would be averted. This advice seemed so sound that I agreed to do so. I took some half-dozen men with me and darted off to the left when someone called me. It was Lance-Corporal Rod. McElwee, with a wound in the face, from which the blood was flowing freely. I ripped out his field dressing, quickly bound him up in an amateur way and then darted off to the left where the rest of my section had gone. A voice, which I at once recognised as Major Smith's, said, "Is that you Newton? Get hold of a half-dozen men or so and go and reinforce on the left." I got hold of "Darky" Dennis, Schwartzkopff, Tim Willis and some others. and darted off again still farther to the left and found myself next to Sgts. Hearps and Will and Cpl. Freddie Carroll. We certainly missed the shrapnel fire, but the machine-gun bullets were whizzing close over our heads, cutting off the leaves and twigs of the bushes like a sharp knife. The Turks were entrenched in a splendidly concealed position about 300 yards away and only very occasionally did a target offer itself, but the opportunity was never missed. About noon, the Indian Mountain Battery opened fire from our right rear, and a very encouraging sound it was, too. After they had been firing for some little time, a message was passed along the line, "From the Brigadier to the Commander of the Mountain Battery. That last shot was very good; keep to that range." It was the first time that we knew our Brigadier was so close to us, and the fact in itself was reassuring. Shortly after, the Brigade-Major - Major Brand himself - walked right along the line, making no effort to take cover of any kind. He was flicking his leggings with a little short cane, and kept saying, "Give it to them, boys! Give it to the -! Every shot a bull's eye!" The day seemed interminable and the afternoon particularly long, and we were all beginning to feel the effect of the nerve strain. About 5 p.m. the enemy attempted a counter-attack on our right front, but it soon crumpled away as our thin, ragged line crackled with rifle fire. The casualties were gradually mounting up, and the cry of "Stretcher-bearers wanted on the right (or left)" became more persistent. Our position, however, was so exposed out on the plateau that it was impossible for the stretcher-bearers to get out to us, and so we could only encourage the wounded to wait until dark, and make them as comfortable as possible.
Whilst this had been happening, Sgt. W. A. Connell, of No. 6. Platoon, with a few of his men, had become detached and found themselves in the middle of one of the 10th Battalion's companies situated on Johnston's Jolly. At about 10 a.m. an order was passed along the line by Major Hurcombe (10th Battalion) for that portion of the line to advance in small parties. Connell collected a few of his remaining men - certainly less than a section - together with some of the 10th Battalion in his immediate vicinity, and commenced an advance across the northern portion of Johnston's Jolly in short rushes. As they advanced, Turks were seen to jump up in front of them and retire rapidly to the far side of the plateau. Connell led his party in south-easterly direction towards Owen's Gully, on the slope of which he noticed a short trench held by a party of Turks with a machine-gun. At the moment, their attention was engaged by troops advancing across the plateau, when Connell outran the remainder of his party in their efforts to dislodge the garrison and capture the gun. They were seen at the last moment and an attempt was made to fire on the rapidly advancing troops, but only resulted in a few ill-aimed shots, after which the Turks, picked up the gun and fled. Connell and his party attempted to occupy the trench but were apparently seen by a Turkish battery, which commenced firing shrapnel at them and forced them to take cover in the thick scrub in Owen's Gully, from whence they afterwards moved into an old trench near Lone Pine. From here they had an excellent view of Gun Ridge, and on one occasion, during a counter-attack which was taking place farther north, they saw some gun teams trying to get into action, and attempted some long range rifle fire which had the effect of making the gun team limber up again and change its position. Connell was one of the few men who advanced to the far side of Johnston's Jolly, and for his bravery, leadership and initiative on this occasion was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal - the only decoration received by the 12th Battalion for the operations on 25th April.
At last the sun began to sink behind the island of Imbros, and we looked forward to a few hours of respite, in which we could dig some trenches and obtain some relief from the constant artillery and rifle fire. Our hopes were soon dashed to the ground, however, for as the darkness deepened so the machine-gun fire increased, until it was almost an act of suicide even to get on to one's knees. As a unit, "B" Company was fairly well concentrated, but was wedged into the middle of the 10th Battalion, and all night long messages were being passed backwards and forwards from Capt. Jacob to Capt. Lorenzo, of that Battalion. Attention vas paid to the ammunition, and men were detailed to scour the country, both in front and in rear, and to take all ammunition and water bottles from the men who had been killed during the day, of which there were only too many. The stretcher-bearers worked gallantly during the night, taking great risks in exposing themselves to the rifle fire, which never ceased the whole night through. We were also instructed to dig ourselves what cover we could with our entrenching tools, and very little encouragement was needed to make us do this. It was far from comfortable lying on a particularly prickly holly undergrowth, with which the plateau was covered.
At one time during the night, the message was persistently passed along the line, "Don't fire, the Indians are advancing on the right." It afterwards transpired that this same message was used on almost every section of the front during the first day and night, and since the gunners were the only Indians we had with us on that first day, there is very little doubt that the enemy had some good linguists, probably wearing similar uniform, mingling in our ranks, who passed this order along in order to withhold our fire.
There was a machine-gun in front of us during the greater part of the night, which was extremely irritating. It appeared to be one of our own guns firing about ten or fifteen yards in front of the line, and the detonation from it was deafening and nerve-racking. Every time it stopped and one's voice could be heard, the gunner was urged to come in, but the only answer was another deafening burst of fire. At last an order was passed along from an officer nearby, ordering him to come in. The only reply was another burst of fire, even more penetrating than before. At last, one of our fellows volunteered to go out and find the gun and bring it in, but although he went well out in front no trace of it could be found. A message was then passed along the line, "Take no notice of the machinegun in front; it is an electrical contrivance of the enemy." When we later on became more experienced in warfare, we knew that deafening sound to be bullets passing very close over our heads - a very familiar sound in France when the Germans used to traverse the parapet with machine-gun fire. It was probably just as well we did not know it on that first night.
Never at any time during the night did the continuous line of flashes from the enemy's rifles diminish - a good indication in itself of the strength with which he held his line. Towards dawn, the message was passed along the line, "The enemy is preparing to attack and is crawling towards us; fix bayonets!" Just as the first flush of dawn could be observed in the east, the Turk did make an attack on our front, although the full force of it was launched against a position more on the right of the plateau. He advanced, yelling "Allah! Allah!" but was greeted with rapid fire right along the line with such deadly result that, as the light strengthened, he could be seen retiring into his trench in extreme disorder, leaving many casualties behind And so the remnants of "B" Company commenced their second day on Gallipoli.
"C" Company disembarked from the destroyers "Colne" and "Beagle" and landed on the southern portion of Anzac Cove, towards Hell Spit. Their experiences on the destroyers, whilst waiting for boats to land them, were very similar to those recorded in other companies, although information afterwards collected seemed to indicate that rather more casualties were sustained whilst rowing ashore. On reaching the beach the men jumped into the water, many of them waist deep, and rushed for the shelter of the overhanging cliffs. Instructions were rapidly issued for packs to be taken off and dumped clear of the water's edge, which was quickly carried out by all ranks. A few of the men, who were of a methodical turn of mind, carefully placed their packs - containing, no doubt, many cherished belongings - in concealed positions, in the vain hope that they would afterwards recover them.
In the meantime, the Company Commander, Capt. J. L.Whitham, had reported to the Brigadier, who was already ashore, in a small nullah near the beach. He instructed Whitham first to deposit at that spot the Brigade reserve of entrenching tools, which "C" Company had been detailed to carry, and then to take his company, less one platoon, over MacLagan's Ridge (as it was afterwards called) and occupy the ridges running eastwards from Hell Spit. Lieut. A. H. Fraser, in command of No. 11 Platoon, was detailed to occupy a point some fifty yards inland, which overlooked the Brigade's temporary headquarters, and from which some sniping had apparently been directed on to the beach.
"C" Company were fortunate in the fact that the whole unit landed on an approximate frontage of sixty yards, although the operation was somewhat protracted owing to delay in return of the boats which had first landed portion of the 9th Battalion and Brigade Headquarters from the same destroyers. Lieut. G. A. Munro and No. 10 Platoon had already proceeded in a southerly direction with some of the 10th Battalion and occupied a position on McCay's Ridge. A message, however, was incorrectly delivered to him, which resulted in his temporarily withdrawing his men, but they were joined in Shrapnel Gully by Whitham, who was advancing with No. 9 Platoon (Lieut. T. Holland) and No. 121 Sgt. P. H. Weston). The three platoons, therefore, moved forward in a more or less organised formation and took up a position on McCay's Ridge with a frontage of 200 yards, almost in the same spot previously occupied by Munro. During this advance a couple of shells fell, but did not burst, near the company on the southern slope of MacLagan's Ridge, and rifle fire was encountered when crossing the crest of the ridge and other exposed positions, and appeared to come almost directly from the rear. No doubt it originated from Plugge's Plateau before the enemy was dislodged by troops on the left flank. Corporal Ring proved himself of great assistance by displaying wonderful coolness and keeping his section well under control. Several of the men who had become separated from their own command voluntarily attached themselves to his section, as by his crisp words of command and sensible advice, he quickly inspired confidence in his men.
Whilst the company were occupying the position on McCay's Ridge, shells were heard to pass overhead from the Gaba Tepe batteries, but did not worry them at all; occasional rifle fire came from the left flank and left rear, but was not of a serious nature. The company were now facing Gaba Tepe and Bolton's Ridge, and trenches could be plainly seen on the forward slopes of the latter, but appeared to be unoccupied.
Monro and No. 10 Platoon were now sent forward to reconnoitre the gully in front and to ascertain if the slopes of the ridge in front were occupied by the enemy. He was marvellously cool as he conducted the advance through the thick scrub, and resembled more an officer carrying out a peace time reconnaissance or exercise than one who was actually leading, troops in action for the first time. His whistle blasts could be distinctly heard as the platoon advanced across the bottom of the gully, whilst section commanders' reports - "No. 5 all correct," "No. 7 good-oh" - indicated his constant enquiry after their welfare.
In the meantime, Whitham was endeavouring to ascertain with accuracy his position on the map assisted by C.S.M. Claud Stubbings and a range-finder, who together took several ranges on to prominent landmarks.
Just as Monro reached the crest of the next ridge and signalled all clear, heavy firing could be heard on the left and the line could be seen advancing in the vicinity of Johnston's Jolly. Almost at the same moment, the position along M’Cay’s Ridge was reinforced by several units of the 2nd Brigade, so Whitham decided to take advantage' of the fact and co-operate with his flank in advancing the line in a south-easterly direction. Finally, he occupied the northern portion of Bolton's Ridge with Monro and No. 10 Platoon on the left (with whom was Capt. Kayser), Holland and No. 9 in the centre and Weston with No. 12 on the right. During this advance, the strength of the company, as a composite unit, was somewhat weakened and many of the men became detached in their progress through the thick scrub, and were afterwards located in isolated parties as far distant as the Daisy Patch to the north. One of these parties, consisting of Pvts. Jim Parker, Tom Dunham, Clarry Webb and some three or four others, remained out in an exposed position until well into the afternoon. An attempt was made on one occasion to return to the main line of defence, but in doing so they were fired upon by our own men and so were forced to remain in front, and to obtain additional cover they moved into one of the gullies at the head of Sniper's Ridge, where they were joined by Capt. Kayser during the latter portion of the afternoon. He told them to dig in, but the ground was so hard that very little impression could be made with entrenching tools. They remained here until after dark, when they filtered back individually and joined the main line on Johnston's Jolly.
Whitham and his company, however, occupied Bolton's Ridge some time between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., and became subjected to rifle fire at long range, the origin of which could not be located. Fire was brought to bear on some apparent trenches on the forward slope of Pine Ridge, but no enemy fire was drawn from this direction.
Additional reinforcements from the 2nd Brigade gave another opportunity for an advance, which was commenced with the object of occupying Pine Ridge, although, ultimately, an intermediate position was taken up on a subsidiary ridge about halfway, afterwards known as Knife Edge. During the descent from Bolton's Ridge, across the southern extremity of Allah Gully, heavy machine-gun fire was encountered, and by the time the Knife Edge was reached the organisation of the company was rather broken up. Just before leaving Bolton's Ridge, Lieut. Holland was wounded in the head by a rifle or machine-gun bullet, which completely parted his hair down the centre and put him out of action for the day. Munro still had No. 10 Platoon under fairly good control as he crossed Knife Edge, but the sections of Nos. 9 and 12 Platoons were weakened, separated, and hopelessly intermingled with other units.
During this period, the Turkish batteries were pouring shrapnel on to 400 Plateau, and as the troops were seen to occupy Knife Edge and adjacent ridges, the range was lengthened in order to rake the valleys on the southern slopes of the high ground; and a shrapnel bullet from one of these bursts wounded Whitham in the left arm between the elbow and shoulder, about 11 a.m. Munro, Corporal Austin and several men from their own platoon as well as other units, still continued to advance and there is every reason to believe that they reached a point on Weir Ridge, if not the western slopes of Pine Ridge itself, although the information afterwards obtained was not sufficient to locate definitely the extent of the advance. The outstanding feature of this forward movement was Munro's attitude throughout, for his dash and born leadership inspired confidence in the plucky band of men who followed him. Their advance was finally checked by encountering a well-concealed position in the scrub, which was held by a strong party of Turks. The party put up a valiant effort to dislodge the enemy, and many of the men were killed in the attempt, including Lieut. Munro, who was shot whilst firing his revolver at some Turks within twenty to thirty yards of him. At a later date, when casualties were reported and commented upon, everyone realised that the Battalion had lost a first-class officer in Munro. He was a school teacher by profession, and most thorough and unobtrusive in everything he did. He rarely expressed an opinion unless it was asked for, and, when given, it invariably proved to be well thought out, terse, and to the point. He was a strict disciplinarian and administered his platoon impartially, the two qualities combined causing him to be respected and beloved by his men.
The loss of their leader disorganised the small attacking party, who withdrew in twos and threes to various parts of the line.
Capt. Kayser also went forward from Knife Edge, and, in his endeavours to gain touch with the enemy, carried out some valuable reconnoitring work. As previously stated, he came across an isolated party of "C" Company who had been separated from their company since early morning. Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., the fire on this portion of the front increased considerably and men of the 2nd and 3rd Brigades holding advanced positions were forced back. Kayser came back with some of these men and reported that the enemy held a strong position on the western slopes of the next ridge and that it would be utterly useless for any portion of the line, with the number of men then available, to attempt to dislodge them. As soon as darkness fell, the line was straightened out and organised, and a defensive position was dug along Knife Edge and Silt Spur, thus joining up the troops on 400 Plateau. In these trenches the shattered remains of "C" Company, in most cases, occupied individual positions.
It is only necessary now to record the doings of "D" Company, which landed from the T.B.D.'s Usk" and "Chelmer."
The manner in which the boats proceeded from the destroyers to the shore differed only in detail from those already described in other companies. Commander England was an outstanding example of fearlessness on the "Chelmer" as he remained on the bridge and gave his orders with cool precision under a hail of bullets.
Casualties were sustained before any of the troops commenced disembarking, among the first being "Banjo" Reeves, and shortly afterwards L.-Cpl. Martin, whose wounds proved fatal.
As soon as the 11th Battalion were clear, the boats returned for "D" Company, and Capt. J. P Lalor (or "Little Jimmy," as he was affectionately called by his men, on account of his diminutive figure) was among the first to get in. He almost seemed to be enjoying himself, in spite of the hostile rifle and machine-gun fire, which was increasing every minute, and cheered the men as they rowed by singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." He was carrying with him a fine old sword (a family relic) bound round with hessian to prevent it glistening in the sun. It was lost during the stress of fighting and afterwards picked up by L.-Cpl. Freame, 1st Battalion, who, in his turn. lost it during the counter-attacks in the evening.
On the "Usk" a wonderful impression was made upon the men by one of the sailors whose duty it was to stand in the bows of the boats as they were being brought alongside to prevent them bumping against the ship's side. Quite oblivious of the danger he was incurring by remaining in the open the whole time, he helped the men into the boats and reassured them by constantly saying, "You'll be orlright now, me'earties, you'll be orlright now." C.Q.M.S. Jack Allen landed with this half of the company and was seriously wounded as he was in the act of jumping from the boat on to the beach, sustaining a fractured thigh. He had been an N.C.O. in the Imperial Army, with a considerable amount of service to his credit, and the fact that he became an early casualty on this first day was a great loss to his company, which appreciated him at his full value.
Lalor and Booth rallied their men as soon as they had landed and had quickly deposited their packs on the beach, to allow easier movement, and made for the scrub in the direction of Walker's Ridge. After proceeding some 150 yards, Lalor sighted a Turkish sniper concealed in a bush and quickly pulled him out by the leg. The sniper made frantic signs to indicate that he had not fired at our men, and pointed to his rifle which was clean, but one of the men near by discovered his ramrod with a piece of rag in it covered with powder. Lalor detailed one of the men to take him back to the beach, but it is very doubtful whether he reached there as the escort arrived back in very short time.
On reaching the crest of Walker's Ridge, they were met by Lieut. E. Y. Butler and half of his platoon, and almost immediately came under heavy fire from snipers. Lalor then detailed some half-a-dozen men (Pvt. J. Kitson being the only one of the party who can now be definitely traced) to locate and dislodge the Turks, who were beginning to inflict too many casualties. They crawled through the thick undergrowth, and after half-an-hour's exciting skirmishing managed to clear the slope in front, although in their effort to do so two of the party were killed.
By this time, the portion of the company acting under Lalor's orders had reached the "Nek" and joined Burt, Margetts and Patterson with a percentage of "A" Company. Lalor immediately assumed command and gave instructions for a defensive position to be dug astride the "Nek ... which was of considerable tactical importance in the event of a withdrawal. He told Butler to take his men forward to the next slope with Capt. Tulloch, of the 11th Battalion, in order to cover their consolidation. This party moved forward with great caution, picking up isolated sections in their advance, and eventually reached a spot on the eastern slope of Battleship Hill, from which the Narrows were visible, and which was the farthest point reached on the northern portion of the Anzac Corps' front. They had not advanced this long distance without striking opposition, but determination and a skilful method of advancing forced the Turks back. On their reaching the slopes of Battleship Hill, however, machine-gun fire became severe, and an enfilade gun was causing many casualties. It is believed that Sgt. Kidson was killed at or near this spot. A very heavy fire was now heard to come well from the rear, and Tulloch (who was in charge of the party) was afraid of being cut off, and therefore decided to withdraw. They were told off into four sections and withdrew two at a time the stationary sections giving covering fire to those who were moving backwards, in accordance with our training at Mena. They arrived back to find a fierce battle in progress on "Baby 700" and were soon absorbed into the fighting, in the course of which Butler was wounded in the right hand, which resulted in the amputation of his thumb.
Lalor, meanwhile, had dug his defensive position, organised the men under his command, and had voluntarily accepted the responsibility of a large sector of the line. He was essentially a man of movement, and merely occupying a position with no fighting attached to it, whilst men were being killed out in front, was not to be considered. About 8.30 a.m., therefore, he ordered an advance on to the forward slopes of "Baby 700," and the men required little or no encouragement to conform to the order, but were only too willing to follow their company commander. He was known to everyone in the Battalion as the grandson of Peter Lalor, of the Eureka Stockade fame; it was known that he at one time joined the British Navy and deserted; that he subsequently joined the French Foreign Legion, and afterwards took an active part in a South American revolution; and with such a leader they would have gone to the ends of the earth.
The progress of the Battle of "Baby 700" has already been recorded, and the fierceness of the fighting which continued throughout the morning. Lalor was the person to whom everyone looked throughout the engagement, and proved himself to be indefatigable in his efforts to save useless casualties and yet force the attack to a successful issue. The hill had been won and lost twice during the morning and early afternoon, and about 3.30 p.m. he decided to make another effort to recover it by moving across Malone's Gully and attacking round the northern shoulder. The enveloping movement was half completed when the Turkish batteries sighted them and opened up a deadly shrapnel fire. This caused so many casualties that Lalor decided to advance once again, and passed the cautionary word of command along the line. Just before 4 p.m. he commenced to lead the advance by leaping to his feet and shouting, "Come on, the 12th," but he had hardly gone a couple of yards before he was killed by a Turkish bullet. His death was a severe blow to the men with him at the time, as it was to his whole company when they afterwards reformed. Although small of stature, "Little Jimmy's" heart was large, whilst his vitality was almost inexhaustible. Coming from a fighting family as he did, and adopting a military profession, it would be difficult to discover a more appropriate resting place than that which was allotted him - a soldier's honoured grave. From this time onwards it has not been possible to trace the doings of "D" Company as a unit on this particular part of the front, and it is more than probable that they suffered a fate similar to the other battalions and became irreparably separated.
Nos. 13 and 14 Platoons, under the command of Lieuts. J. L. C. Booth and J. A. Evans respectively, landed immediately to the north of Ari Burnu, and after leaving their packs in a protected spot, they made for the steep slopes in front of them. The climb was particularly stiff, but pluck and perseverance got them to the top. Evans took the lead and advanced over the rear of Plugge's Plateau. It was somewhere about here that the party saw its first Turk, carefully concealed in a thick bush and busily employed in sniping. Digger Watson was the first to sight him, when only about two paces away, and instinctively brought his rifle and bayonet to the "on guard" position, following by a "long point," which satisfactorily accounted for the Turk. Going forward, down into a steep gully and up the other side, they eventually reached a position near to Lone Pine. Here some Turks attempted to block their progress with a machine-gun, but they were apparently only fighting a rearguard action, for on being pressed they quickly vacated their position, taking the gun with them. Evans halted his men at this spot in order to ascertain his own position and that of any flanking troops. Whilst doing this, some of the men noticed a small Turkish trench about 150 yards to the left, and almost immediately someone shouted, "Look at Bill Michie!" Together with Pvt. Griffin and one other man, he could be seen rushing the trench, and these three privates together tackled a Turkish trench, from which only two of the enemy escaped. Hostile shrapnel fire now worried the party considerably and casualties were becoming frequent, so Evans decided to make another advance, and as far as can be ascertained took up a position on the next ridge, which would probably be Sniper's Ridge. During the whole of the morning, Evans had received wonderful assistance from his N.C.O.'s, the most noticeable being Sgt. J. Williams and Cpl. Donald McLeod. The latter could always be seen doing the work of two men, keeping his men well under control, giving orders with his broad Scotch accent, and on all occasions personally leading his men with the full conviction that they were following him to a man. At this juncture, Lieut. Evans was severely wounded in the small of the back by the nose-cap of a shell, and McLeod was quickly on the spot and carried him over the crest of the ridge to a place of safety. Anxiety was now felt regarding some dead ground on the right front. Scouts were sent forward to reconnoitre, and they returned and reported that fully two companies of Turks were formed up ready to attack. It was quickly realised that the strength of the defending party on the ridge was totally inadequate to withstand such a strong attacking force, and immediate steps were taken to get as many of the wounded back as possible.
The attack eventuated and "D" Company's party was gradually forced back by force of numbers, until they met the advanced units of the 2nd Brigade, who strengthened the line and maintained a position which afterwards formed part of the main line of defence. In this withdrawal, McLeod's party became separated and attached themselves individually to officers and N.C.O.'s of various units in their immediate vicinity.
Booth's platoon kept a little to the left of Evans' party as they advanced and became more separated, Booth himself, with about half of his men, being located somewhere near Courtney's Post, whilst others were known to have joined up with Lalor's party during the morning. It was discovered that he and his party were successful in assisting to beat off a heavy counter-attack during the morning, but details were never obtained from him as he received a severe wound in the head, and afterwards died on 28th April on the Hospital Ship "Itonus." He was a man who had seen considerable war service as an artist-correspondent in the South African War, and afterwards in Bulgaria and Turkey in 1904 and 1909, being on the staff of the London "Graphic." He has been aptly described by one of his fellow officers as a "happy, genial comrade, full of quiet courage, whose presence brought comfort. His kindly insight into human nature made him the big brother of officers and men."
Pvt. Stanistreet did good work on that first day, for although wounded in the head during the early part of the morning and sent down to the beach for evacuation, he refused to go aboard the lighter. He was afterwards seen again in the firing line, brandishing a revolver he had discovered. During the afternoon many of the men were craving for water, but no one volunteered to descend the gully, which was subjected to heavy fire from secreted snipers. "Give me your bottles," said Stanistreet, and with a string of bottles over his shoulder he started for the beach, only to become a victim of the deadly snipers.
Cpl. E. W. D. Laing occupied a position almost on the extreme left of the line, near the head of Malone's Gully, with a few isolated men of "D" Company, and for a long time was the senior N.C.O. of a party of sixty men of mixed units. Very fierce fighting took place on this flank (doubtless a continuation of the struggle for "Baby 700"), and during the morning and early afternoon he and his party charged no less than five times over the scrubby slope in front of them, only to be forced back on each occasion. The men were now suffering very much from nerve strain, and after the last charge the Turks were seen to withdraw into cover. Laing immediately ran over to an officer near by and asked to be allowed to take his men forward in a bayonet charge and definitely settle the matter. Permission, however, was not granted, and when darting across a few minutes later to repeat the request he was wounded in the thigh. The line afterwards retired and he was forced to crawl back through the scrub in order to gain safety.
Other men of "D" Company who made themselves conspicuous by acts of gallantry and powers of leadership were: - Cpls. Whaley, Hale, McKiver, McLennan; Pvts. MacKenzie, Cook, Munday, Roberston, Dickson, Elliott, Rowles, Howard, Redrop, Roberts and White.
The Signalling Section spent a very tiring, and hopeless day endeavouring to establish visual signalling stations, but were unsuccessful in obtaining communication in this manner, and Lieut. S. R. Houghton ultimately employed his section as runners.
Lieut. W. H. Room handled his Vickers machine-gun Section with cool precision, and on reaching a position in the firing line he squatted behind a bush with his watch in his hand and quietly told the gun team that he had rarely seen them mount the gun more quickly during their period of training. Casualties in the section were inevitably heavy, as the gun was in action in the front line the whole time with cover from view, but not cover from fire. During the evening of the first day the last of the. gun team became a casualty: and volunteers were called for to keep the gun in action. Pvt. Geo. Tostevin, of "B" Company, came along with blood streaming down his face, and during the whole of that night and the next day he kept the gun firing in an extremely exposed position and assisted in repelling a heavy counter-attack.
The A.M.C. details worked hard all day on the beach, under the command of Major J. M.Y. Stewart (Capt. Ratten having returned to Australia from Mena), who tended to the wounded as they were brought to him, although suffering from a dislocated knee. Regimental Medical Officers and Field Ambulances worked in conjunction on this first day, with their various staffs. The beach soon became congested with stretcher cases, and as the Turks began to rake the foreshore with shrapnel it became necessary to carry as many of the men as possible into sheltered spots, or to build protective walls with the numerous packs which littered the beach.
The casualties suffered by the 3rd Brigade at the landing (April 25th-30th) were as follows: -
|Killed|| Wounded || Missing || Total |
|Off.||O.R.||Off.|| O.R. ||Off.|| O.R. ||Off.|| O.R. |
A considerable number of the "missing" were subsequently found to be wounded and evacuated on to hospital boats without notification reaching the unit. The remainder were all killed in action, for of the 4,931 casualties suffered by the First Australian Division at the landing, only one man was taken prisoner.
Citation: The Battle of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915, 12th Infantry Battalion, AIF, Unit History Account