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Tuesday, 30 June 2009
El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917, Darley, 9th Light Horse Account
Topic: AIF - 3B - 9 LHR

El Burj

Palestine, 1 December 1917

9th LHR, AIF, Unit History Account


9th LH troopers on El Burj Ridge after the battle.
[Schramm picture.]


Major Thomas Henry Darley produced a unit history of the 9th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, called With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, in which included a section specifically related to the Battle of El Burj and is extracted below.

Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924, pp. 111 - 112.


At 4 p.m. orders were received to the effect that the 4th Light Horse Brigade would take over a portion of the line, and these troops relieved the 8th Regiment which in turn took over the position occupied by the Regiment.

As soon as these moves were effected "A" Squadron relieved the Gloucester Yeomanry and "B" took up a new position 800 yards to the north-west. The new position was splendidly placed, as in the event of attack both these posts could direct their fire right across the front of the central position occupied by the 8th Regiment.

All these posts were quickly joined up by duplicate telephone lines with Regimental Headquarters and from there to the 54th Division. A section of the Machine Gun Squadron was attached to both "A" and "B" Squadrons. During the night enemy shelling was intense, the telephone wires being repeatedly cut, but owing to the foresight of Lieut. A. Burns, Signalling Officer, in duplicating the wires communication was never lost, whilst the 8th Regiment, using single wires, were often compelled to send their messages through our lines. As the night advanced the shell fire of the enemy increased, and by midnight had reached a stage which clearly indicated that an infantry attack was pending.

Our men had made the most of the short time they had occupied these positions by building stone sangars and getting a good knowledge of the nature of the ground in their immediate front, especially with reference to points of concentration for enemy attacks.

On the 1st December, at 1.20 a.m., an enemy force of approximately 1,000 made a most determined attack. The night was very dark and strong gusty winds were blowing, thereby greatly assisting them in concealing their advance. On getting to close quarters, a sudden rush was made against the small hill held by a flank post of the 8th Regiment, who were compelled to fall back to a position about 300 yards in rear. The enemy immediately occupied the position and opened a heavy rifle, bomb, and machine gun fire on the 8th Light Horse Regiment.

"A" Squadron of the 9th were ordered to put down as heavy a barrage as possible across the front of the position held by the 8th Regiment. Fire was immediately opened and inflicted severe casualties on the enemy and also prevented reinforcements moving up in support. It also prevented the enemy advanced troops from withdrawing. Lying behind the stone sangars which had been erected across the tops of the hills held by the Regiment, the squadrons poured a destructive fire on the enemy who had advanced bravely across the open and had actually taken up positions on the small hills held by our troops. Lying as low as possible they contented themselves with throwing stick bombs, of which an enormous number had been carried forward.

Frequent calls were made on the Regiment by the 8th Light Horse for supplies of ammunition as their reserves were not at hand, and RSM Aikman, who had his supplies well organised, was able to meet all demands.

A party of the 4th Royal Scots closed up to the support of the Brigade and did excellent work, their bombers being exceptionally good. Gradually the fire of the enemy died down, and all movement in front seemed to have ceased, but in spite of this all ranks remained at their posts until daybreak. At dawn the 8th Regiment moved forward and took the surrender of 150 unwounded Turks amongst whom was their Commanding Officer. A large number of automatic rifles and bombs were also collected.

The determination of the Turkish attack was established by the fact that large numbers of dead were lying within 30 yards of our sangars, where they had taken cover to throw their bombs. The liberal use they made of their stick bombs, which have a cap on the handle that must be taken off before the cord which sets the mechanism in motion can be pulled, was shown by the fact that one dead Turk, who was seen to be a wearer of the famous Iron Cross, had 60 caps lying in a heap by his side. The enemy dead numbered 200 whilst 300 wounded were stated to have passed back to their dressing station.

Information was gained from an officer prisoner to the effect that their commander was determined to drive the Brigade from its position at all costs, and with this end in view had sent forward a body of picked troops, recent arrivals from the Galician Front. Then were certainly a fine body of men, their physique being the best we had seen amongst the enemy forces. They were well dressed and wore the new pattern German steel helmet. Their equipment appeared to be a recent issue, and all carried the latest pattern Mauser rifle.

The enemy maintained a heavy shell fire throughout the day, whilst the Regiment cleared up the position and buried the dead. Towards evening the fire slackened and died away, the following day was spent in peace and quietness. Our casualties had been slight but the 8th Light Horse suffered severely through being compelled to fall back, but this was unavoidable under the circumstances.


Further Reading:

9th Light Horse Regiment, AIF

9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, Roll of Honour 

The Battle of El Burj, 1 December 1917

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917, Darley, 9th Light Horse Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Saturday, 10 October 2009 12:16 AM EADT
Détachement Français de Palestine et Syrie, Contents
Topic: AIF - DMC - French

Détachement Français de Palestine et Syrie




Détachement Français de Palestine et Syrie, Order of Battle, September 1918 

1er Regiment Mixte de Cavalerie Du Levant



Further Reading:

AIF, MEF and the EEF

Détachement Français de Palestine et Syrie


Citation: Détachement Français de Palestine et Syrie, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 20 July 2009 11:30 AM EADT
The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Gallipoli
Topic: BatzG - Gallipoli

Gallipoli Campaign - 1915-16

Gallipoli Summary



The scene of action at Gallipoli


The following is an extract is an excellent summary detailing the history of the Australian light horse movement. It comes from Dennis, P., et al, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, 2nd Ed, OUP 2008, pp. 223 - 232.


The commitment of troops from Australia and New Zealand to the Gallipoli Peninsular arose out of the deliberations of the War Council in London and the desire of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to seek a more offensive role for the RN. The War Council was a committee of the British Cabinet, formed to advise the Prime Minister (Herbert Asquith) on matters concerning the War. It consisted of Asquith himself, Field Marsha Lord Kitchener (Secretary of State for War), Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty), David Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Sir Edward Grey (Foreign Secretary), Arthur Balfour (former Conservative prime minister) and a floating group of other ministers and service advisers.

In December 1914 various members of this body had expressed concern about the lack of progress of military operations against the Germans on the Western Front. The French counter-attack after the Marne had stalled; Britain's original six divisions had suffered heavy casualties around Ypres; trench lines had now been dug from the channel to the Swiss border; and no Allied military figure seemed to have a clear plan of how the war was to be won. Into this strategic vacuum stepped the politicians. Lloyd George suggested that Germany could best be defeated by attacks on her weaker allies-Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Maurice Hankey, who was a Royal Marines Colonel and Secretary of the War Council, also suggested an attack upon Turkey in combination with such Balkan states as could be rallied to the Allied cause.

The most prolific source of ideas was Churchill. Since the outbreak of war he had been dissatisfied with what he determined to be the passive role played by the RN. Even before the Western Front had solidified he had put forward schemes to capture an island off the German coast, thus forcing the German Fleet to sally forth to retake it. The consequent great naval battle would see the Germans crushed, and the British Fleet enter the Baltic where in combination with Russian forces it would dominate the north German coast and force the German High Command to divert troops from the Western Front. That scheme had met with stiff resistance from Churchill's naval advisers. It would risk the Grand Fleet in shallow waters dominated by mines and submarines; the Germans might not come out and get sunk; and Russia had no troops to spare nor the expertise to carry out combined operations against the German north coast. Churchill then suggested using the Navy to blockade Holland into the war, or using the firepower of the battleships to assist the British and French armies with operations along the Belgian coast.

He also suggested using some of the older battleships to attack Turkey on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The first two schemes soon collapsed for much the same reason as the German island scheme they risked the Grand Fleet in mine and submarine dominated waters. The Gallipoli scheme, however, received some impetus from an outside source. On 2 January the Russians asked the British to mount a diversionary operation against the Turks who were pressing them hard in the Caucasus. Churchill seized on this message to ask the Commander of the British squadron in the Aegean, Admiral Carden, if the Dardanelles could be forced and Constantinople dominated by ships alone.

Churchill later stated in his memoirs that he detected a remarkable convergence of opinion at this time in favour of operations against Turkey. Lloyd George, Hankey, the Russians, Kitchener (who had passed on the Russian request to Churchill) and himself, he wrote, all favoured such action.

In fact there was no such major convergence. The scheme put forward by Lloyd George was mainly concerned with operations against Austria-Hungary. Hankey's plan involved large-scale military operations carried out by a coalition of Balkan states with minor Allied assistance. The Russian request soon vanished in the mists, as the Tsar's armies pushed back the Turks in the Caucasus. Only Churchill had suggested a purely naval operation centred on forcing the Dardanelles and overawing Constantinople.

Nevertheless, for reasons that are not hard to identify, it was the latter scheme that recommended itself to the War Council. It promised the defeat of a significant enemy for very little cost. It would not require many British troops, the vast majority of which were committed to the Western Front as reinforcements for the shattered remains of the British Expeditionary Force. The only troops required would be occupation forces needed to garrison the Gallipoli Peninsula and Constantinople following the success of the fleet. It would not risk the Grand Fleet, as Churchill had assured the War Council that only Britain's old, surplus battleships would be used. The operation was also said to have the advantages of opening a supply route to Russia and galvanising the Balkan states into action on the Allied side. This last action could see a mighty army of Allied states advancing up the Danube and attacking the Central Powers from the rear.

On 3 January 1915 the War Council heard from Churchill that Admiral Carden was also in favour of the plan. In fact Carden had placed many reservations on the practicality of the plan. But these reservations that a great many ships would be needed, that the minefields in the straits would prove difficult to sweep, that the whole affair could be a protracted one were not passed on to the War Council by Churchill. So the War Council sanctioned the naval attack on the Dardanelles. Operations commenced on 19 February.

By mid-March it had failed decisively. The fleet proved incapable of overcoming the combination of minefields and mobile howitzers that protected the forts at the narrows. On 18 March a concerted attack on the defences by 18 battle ships resulted in one-third of them being sunk or disabled.

While naval operations were in progress, a debate had sprung up in the War Council concerning the role of troops in the campaign. This debate was instigated by Churchill who, immediately the naval attack commenced, started calling for troops to ‘reap the fruits' of the fleet's operations. It will be recalled that Churchill had sold the Gallipoli idea to the War Council largely on the fact that no troops would be needed.

What had changed his mind? This can never be known with any certainty. But it is possible that Churchill, who had some knowledge of military matters, had attempted to convert the government to a major operation in stages first the naval attack which would appeal because of its limited liability.

Then, when the fleet was engaged, call for troops of which were always going to be needed even if the fleet succeeded but which might also be required to help the fleet through the straits and to convert the whole operation into a real alternative to the Western Front.

If this was Churchill's motivation he can certainly be accused of involving the government by stealth in a much larger undertaking than they originally contemplated.

And it would be an operation to some extent under his own control and for which he would get the credit if it succeeded. To this extent his policy in initiating the Gallipoli campaign can be said to be self-serving. However, there is little doubt that his motives were more complex than this.

He had been one of the few members of the War Council to visit the Western Front, and to have witnessed firsthand the carnage that resulted from operations there. He had also been mightily unimpressed by the plans of the generals to break the deadlock. So Gallipoli seemed to him a way of waging war without the frightful toll of the Western Front.

Sea power and a few troops and Britain's (alleged) traditional way of warfare could be restored. Gradually the War Council became convinced that troops would have to be landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula to eliminate the forts and mobile howitzers. This would enable the minefields to be swept and the fleet to proceed to Constantinople whereupon the Turks would no doubt surrender.

What troops were to be used for these purposes and who would command them? Churchill insisted that the 29th Division (the only British Regular Army division not committed to the Western. Front) be an integral part of the force. Kitchener at first refused to release this division. Eventually, under pressure from other members of the War Council, he agreed that it should go. In addition Churchill promised the Royal Naval Division (a miscellaneous collection of surplus officers and men from the RN). The French (wary of British post-war aims in the Middle East) also offered a division. These forces were still deemed insufficient however. The only other troops on offer were the Australian and New Zealand troops in Egypt. These men (approximately two divisions), under the command of General Birdwood, were training in Egypt (because of lack of suitable facilities in Britain) before being sent to the Western Front.

In all the forces to be arrayed against the Turks amounted to approximately 70,000 men. The fact that at an earlier War Council meeting Kitchener had considered 150,000 men insufficient to defeat Turkey had apparently been forgotten.

Seventy thousand were available and 70,000 were therefore deemed to be enough. As Birdwood was considered too junior to command even a force of this size, Sir Ian Hamilton, a retired general then in command of home forces in Britain, was despatched on the rather inappropriately named HMS Foresight to take charge.

Hamilton's main problem was how to dispose his forces on the narrow confines of the Gallipoli Peninsula, the southern section of which was just over 20 miles long and five miles across at its widest point. In selecting areas to land Hamilton was very circumscribed. Much of the coastline consisted of rugged cliffs with few beaches or paths through the cliffs which could provide exit routes for large bodies of troops. He finally decided to make his main landing with the 29th Division on five beaches at the toe of the peninsula around Cape Helles. Once a landing had been established they would be assisted by the gunfire of the fleet to advance on the Narrows forts. To the north, the Anzac forces would make a secondary landing. A covering force would first seize the rugged Sari Bair Ridge. Then the remaining troops (protected by the troops on the heights from Turkish intervention to the north) would dash across the peninsula to Maidos. This would prevent reinforcements from being sent to the Turks at Helles, cut off any troops being driven back by the British, and assist the attack on the Narrows. Meanwhile the Royal Naval Division would attempt to deceive the Turks by a feint landing at Bulair (an obvious place to land at the narrow neck of the peninsula but because of that heavily defended). Meanwhile the French would land on the Asiatic coast at Kum Kale to destroy some heavy batteries which might interfere with the British landings at Helles.

This was an imaginative plan possibly the best that could have been devised in the circumstances. However, little thought was given as to whether 70,000 men were sufficient to defeat the Turkish Army or whether such forces as the Anzacs had provided enough men to occupy a long, precipitous ridge and advance across the peninsula.

Hamilton, who had been Kitchener's Chief of Staff in the South African War, never questioned his chief about the sufficiency of his force. Nor did anyone else in authority. It was merely assumed that the force at hand would defeat the incompetent Turks.

Because the troops for the assault had to be tactically loaded on the transports in the order in which they were to disembark, the landings could not take place until the end of April. Much has been made of this. It is claimed that the Turks greatly strengthened their defences in the five-week interval. In fact the Turks were remarkably supine in this period - a few extra troops were placed on the peninsula, and some extra defences constructed. However, rough weather in March and April would have almost certainly delayed the landings anyway. Troops could not have been landed or reinforced and supplied in a gale.

Meanwhile Birdwood was given the task of developing the Australian plan in detail. He had at his disposal one Australian division (Bridges) and the New Zealand and Australian Division (Godley), about 25,000 men in all.

Birdwood decided that to achieve surprise the forces must be assembled at night and landed at dawn. The 3rd Brigade (Sinclair-MacLagan) would land first as the covering force, push inland and establish positions on Gun Ridge.

The 2nd Brigade (McCay) would then land and seize the higher points on the Sari Bair Ridge (including the highest, Hill 971). The 1st Brigade (MacLaurin) would land immediately after the 2nd and act as a divisional reserve. Finally the New Zealand and Australian Division would be landed and a force assembled for the advance across the peninsula.

The Anzac forces began leaving Egypt in early April to join the 3rd Brigade on the Island of Lemnos, where it had been since 4 March. On the 12th they arrived and carried out some rudimentary practice landings. But there was little time for much training. The operation was to commence on the 23rd. In the event bad weather delayed it until the 25th.

On the eve of battle the 3rd Brigade was loaded on battle ships and destroyers the remaining brigades on conventional transports. From these ships the troops would first be loaded in ships' boats and then towed by steamboats until they were close to the coast. They would then be rowed ashore and landed on a 3000-yard front, the left of which was located just south of Ari Burnu Point.

At 3.30 a.m. on the morning of 25 April the battleships anchored about 3,500 yards off the coast of the Gallipoli Peninsula. It was pitch dark; not even the outline of the coast was visible. The order was given to land and the steamboats set off. At 4.00 a.m. the tows were cast off and the naval ratings began to row towards the beaches. As the troops approached it became obvious that the tows had bunched together and that the landing was about to take place about a mile to the north of the designated beaches, in a small bay to the south of Ari Burnu later known as Anzac Cove.

The reason for this mistake has given rise to endless speculation. It was suggested that the tides had carried the tows to the north, then it was found that in this area there were no tides of any significance. The battleship commanders were blamed for anchoring in the wrong spot. Naval charts show this was not the case; their navigation was correct. It has even been. suggested that Birdwood unilaterally changed the plan at the last moment to avoid under water obstructions protecting the original landing beaches.

The evidence for this is weak. The best explanation seems to be that the naval ratings guiding the tows lost direction in the dark and veered to the left. The result was that the whole force was landed on a narrow front with units bunched and intermixed from the start. The troops were also confronted by steeply rising ground instead of the more open country to the south.

In the event the covering forces failed to achieve their original purpose the capture of Gun Ridge. In the first instance this was not because of strong Turkish opposition.

Confronting the Anzacs were just two companies of enemy troops armed only with rifles. (Because of their commanding position, however, these men managed to inflict many casualties before they were driven back.) What prevented a coherent drive inland was the country rather than the enemy. The area the Anzacs found themselves in was unfamiliar. The maps available were so inaccurate as to be useless. So tangled and tortuous were the ravines and spurs in front of them that the groups that began to advance inland were soon split into small sections which lost contact with each other almost immediately. A few parties did manage to advance to the second ridge and a smaller number still reached their objective. But they were isolated and scattered and could provide no nucleus for any follow-up force.

Back on the beaches chaos reigned. The 2nd and 1st Brigades and later the formations of the New Zealand and Australian divisions had all landed around Ari Burnu. Most of the efforts of the officers were expended, not in organising a force for a drive inland as intended, but in trying to sort out the men into their original units. When some semblance of order was established, groups of men were sent forward to where the firing line was thought to be.

From mid-morning, however, the whole force was confronted by Turks in much increased numbers. On the morning of the landing the local Turkish commander, Mustapha Kemal (later, as Kemal Ataturk, to become President of Turkey), had been intending to exercise his force near Hill 971. He now redistributed his units for counter-attack.

At 10.30 a.m. the right of the small Anzac perimeter was driven in and most of 400 Plateau lost. In the afternoon and evening the left of the position was assaulted and the line driven back from Baby 700 and the Nek.

By evening the situation seemed serious. Bridges and his brigadiers had only a hazy idea of the exact position of the troops inland. Counter-attacks by the enemy were obviously under way. Many men, separated from their units and unclear of the situation, began to drift back towards the beach. Under these conditions Bridges recommended evacuation. Bird wood, who had landed in the afternoon, agreed. Hamilton, offshore on the battleship Queen Elizabeth, under naval advice that an evacuation would be impossible to organise, overruled his commanders and ordered the troops to dig in

This the men were already doing. They had driven off the Turks and were holding a position from Walker's Ridge in the north starting between the first and second ridges to around Shell Green in the south. All told the first day had secured the Anzacs 2.25 square miles of Turkish territory at a cost of around 2000 killed and wounded.

The tenacity of the Anzac troops, fighting in unfamiliar and difficult country, split up into a confusion of units, subjected to counter-attack and overlooked almost every where by the enemy, was certainly worthy of praise. However, this should not disguise the fact that the whole northern plan had failed. Before an advance could be organised the Turks had arrived in force and were occupying the high ground.

Nevertheless, it may be doubted if Birdwood and Hamilton's plan ever had a chance of success. It was absurdly ambitious to expect a force of two divisions to capture a succession of difficult positions along a ridge four or five miles long, advance four miles across the peninsula, capture more difficult positions and beat off counter-attacks after this had been done. Walking over the ground after the war C. E. W. Bean found the objectives almost impossible to attain in reason able time, even with the help of a Turkish guide.

While the Anzac landing was stalled the 29th Division was faring no better at Helles. They had suffered heavy casualties on the 25th and while the Turks had proved incapable of driving them into the sea, the regulars had proved just as incapable as the Anzacs of mounting a major advance. For the moment, however, Hamilton decided to concentrate his efforts in the south. A mixed force of Australian and New Zealand troops was sent to Helles to spearhead a new attack on 8 May. The result was a fiasco. Under the incompetent control of General Hunter-Weston (GOC 29 Division) the troops were thrown in without proper orders and with little notice. Many had no idea as to where the Turkish front line was situated. After the war it became clear that the main advance did not even reach the enemy trenches but had been stopped by a line of skirmishers. The Anzac brigades suffered 1800 casualties for no result.

In the days after the landing little progress was made at Anzac. Some ground was regained near 400 Plateau and in general the perimeter trenches were strengthened. There was never any chance, however, of a significant advance being made. In fact the initiative now lay with the Turks. Before they could exercise this initiative, the Anzac force suffered a considerable loss. On 15 May Bridges was wounded in the leg by a Turkish sniper. He was immediately placed on a hospital ship and evacuated to Egypt. Before the ship arrived, Bridges had died. His body was brought to Australia and buried on a hill overlooking RMC Duntroon.

With the Anzac advance successfully stalled, the Turks began building up forces around the perimeter to throw the invaders into the sea. By 18 May they had accumulated four and a half divisions, about 42,000 men. Next day they attacked. The result was the greatest disaster for Turkish arms in the course of the whole campaign. The Anzacs had been given time to consolidate their position. They had brought machine guns to the front line and had coordinated fire support with the fleet. By these means the Turks were beaten back with great slaughter. At the end of the day 10,000 of their troops lay dead and wounded on the battlefield.

So bad was the stench that a truce was arranged to bury the dead. Never again would the Turks mount a general counter-attack against the Anzacs.

For the next 10 weeks the campaign in the north was characterised by small-scale operations designed to capture a trench here and there or generally improve the line. It was not these small-scale operations, however, that proved most trying for the troops. As the heat increased in June and July so did the rate of sickness. By the end of July, the force was losing through illness about the same number every fort night as were lost in the initial assault. The major problem was dysentery. Sanitary conditions were poor; flies gathered in millions around latrines and rotting corpses. The medical services were overwhelmed by the number of cases and because the entire peninsula could be brought under enemy fire, had difficulty in setting up substantial hospital facilities. Nor was the food provided appropriate. The main fare was salty stew, hard biscuit and jam. Under these conditions the physical condition of the troops (superb at the landing) began gradually to deteriorate. This would have some effect on the next series of operations which were being planned.

Hamilton had decided as early as May that the growth of trench lines in front of the 29th Division and the French made large-scale operations at Helles prohibitive. The problem was essentially one of artillery. As had been discovered on the Western Front, entrenched defenders could only be blasted from their positions by a deluge of heavy artillery shells. At Gallipoli, there was never enough artillery to mount a considerable bombardment. The guns of the fleet, which were supposed to make up for this deficiency, could not fire shells with the plunging trajectory necessary to destroy trenches. Nor were their armour-piercing shells the optimum type to fire against earthen defences. So Hamilton's attention turned towards Anzac. Here, in the centre and the south there were trenches aplenty. But to the north the flank was open no defences barred the way to Hill 971. If columns could outflank the Turkish defences by stealth, there would be no need to bombard their trenches. The short age of artillery might be overcome. The next attack therefore would be launched from Anzac.

Reluctantly the War Council (now known as the Dardanelles Committee after the reconstitution of the Asquith Government in May) agreed. As a result of much debate it was decided to reinforce Hamilton by no less than five divisions (three from the Kitchener armies and two Territorial divisions). They would arrive in time to commence the attack in early August.

The main attack would be made from Anzac and was planned by Birdwood. His principal aim was to seize the high ground between Hill 971 and Chunuk Bair. Once this ridge was secure a drive across to the straits would be made and the Narrows forts captured. For the operation Birdwood was reinforced by the 13th Division and a brigade from 10th Division (both New Army formations raised by Kitchener from 1914) and one Indian brigade.

At the same time Hamilton made preparations for the continued supply of the northern forces through the winter.

Anzac Cove was very small and most supplies had to be landed at one pier. With rough weather in prospect and additional troops to supply, Hamilton proposed a second landing of two divisions on the flatter ground around Suvla Bay.

This area could then be used to accommodate stores to supply the Anzacs to the south. To the confusion of almost all historians since, who have not appreciated that the primary aim of the operation was to establish a base at Suvla Bay, Hamilton specified that when it had secured Suvla Bay as a base, this force should, if circumstances permitted, aid Bird wood's attack in any way possible.

The main attack was launched from Anzac on the night of 6 August. The plan was for two columns of troops to seize the foothills that commanded the routes to the summit of the ridge. Then two more columns would pass through them and capture the three major heights (from north to south, Hill 971, Hill Q and Chunuk Bair). Once these summits had been taken a force would move along the crest line down towards the Old Anzac perimeter. At the same time troops from Old Anzac would attack towards the main ridge. In this way the formidable positions of Baby 700, Battleship Hill and the Nek would come under simultaneous assault from two directions. When these attacks joined hands all of the main ridge would be in Allied hands and a drive towards the Narrows could be organised.

A diversion at Lone Pine by the 1st Brigade began on the 6th. It was designed to draw Turkish reserves away from the main battle. In every way it was a debacle. The attack was costly (over 2000 men killed) and by the time the Turkish reserves arrived it was clear that they were only facing a diversion. The Turkish troops attracted to Lone Pine were eventually used to help thwart the main advance. As for the main attack, the covering force succeeded in clearing the foothills, but the incredibly rugged nature of the country, the lack of good maps and the sheer confusion caused by a night attack ensured that the operation was well behind schedule when the main columns began their approach march. The left column, which was to capture Hill 971 and which had the furthest to go, never had a chance. The leading troops (4th Australian Brigade, commanded by Monash) were soon lost in the unmapped gullies and by dawn were nowhere near their objective. The right column (29th Indian Brigade and a New Zealand brigade) eventually got within a few yards of Chunuk Bair but was too weak to advance further. The first attempt on the ridge had failed.

After resting the exhausted troops on the 7th, a new assault on the summit was organised for the 8th. Some success was obtained with a New Zealand force actually occupying Chunuk Bair. On the 9th a further attempt saw Hill Q fall to a contingent of Gurkhas. Two summits of the ridge were now in Birdwood's hands. Neither was to remain so for long. The Gurkhas were shelled off the ridge by the Navy who in attempting to support the troops dropped a salvo of shells short. Then the Turks counter-attacked in strength and drove the New Zealanders from Chunuk Bair.

The main ridge was now completely in Turkish hands and was to remain so.

One further action of the August attack has burnt itself into Australian consciousness. This was the attack on the Nek. In the early morning of 7 August the 10th and 8th Light Horse, who acted as infantry, assembled for the attack.

A bombardment of the Turkish positions commenced. Then seven minutes before the attack was to go in the bombardment stopped. The operation was ordered by the local command to go ahead anyway, despite the lack of protecting shellfire and the absence of the New Zealand infantry who were supposed to assault simultaneously down the ridge.

Three lines of light horsemen went over the top only to be shot down immediately by the unhampered Turks. At the end of the day 375 of the 600 attackers had become casual ties. Of these 234 were dead. Their sacrifice was useless. The New Zealanders, as, we have seen, were not in any position to attack down the ridge to support them.

On the August operation as a whole there has been much debate. Some authorities have claimed that the August attack came within a narrow margin of success. While it is true that for short intervals troops did hold two of the key summits of the Sari Bair Range, these troops were very few in number.

In no sense can it be said that these forces ‘occupied the ridge'. After the machine guns of the New Zealanders on Chunuk Bair had been knocked out, they had nothing more than rifles with which to defend themselves. There was of course no artillery support. In these circumstances it was only a matter of time before these positions were lost to Turkish counter-attacks. To hold the positions in strength almost the entire force at Anzac would have been needed on the crest of the ridge, and given the nature of the country this would have taken many more days to organise than Birdwood had at his disposal. Turkish reinforcements could always reach the high ground faster from their side of the range than the Anzacs could from theirs.

The point also needs to be considered that it would have taken a very large force to occupy the entire range from Hill 971 to Battleship Hill. Even if this had been accomplished, supplying such a force with food and ammunition across the rugged and twisted ravines might have proved impossible.

The small number of men above the Apex on Chunuk Bair had received little food, less water, a negligible amount of rifle ammunition and no bombs. In any case, capturing the ridge and supplying the troops would not have marked the end of the battle. Birdwood's original plan saw this only as the first stage. The second stage involved pushing reinforcements across the peninsula under the cover of the force on Sari Bair. In August no reinforcements were available for that task, but it is doubtful if they could have been supplied with water had Hamilton been able to offer Birdwood an extra division. Finally, pushing forward from Sari Bair would not have been a simple matter. Although Sari Bair Ridge was the highest on that sector of the peninsula, there were still many difficult ridges to traverse before the Narrows were reached.

And the Anzac troops had proved that an enemy in control of the high ground did not necessarily mean that the troops lower down the slopes were automatically doomed.

The other debate concerns the role of the British forces landed at Suvla Bay. The troops landed on the night of 7 August. They suffered heavy casualties in the initial phase, especially among junior officers, and this factor, along with lack of water and clear instructions, delayed their advance on the hills overlooking the bay. By the time an organised advance was attempted the Turks were in control of the heights. Any further British advance was blocked. The fail ure of this force has often been said to have denied the Anzacs the support they needed to succeed. This scenario misunderstands both operations. As has been shown, the Anzac attack had not even come close to success. In addition, it was the main task of the Suvla force to establish a base for the winter. Then they were to secure the overlooking ridge. Only when they had accomplished these tasks were they to turn their attention to Anzac. In fact there was never any chance even if these objectives had been taken with expedition that troops in sufficient strength would have been available to negotiate the tortuous country between Suvla and Hill 971 and make a material contribution to Birdwood's operations.

The attempt to capture the Sari Bair Ridge in early August was really the last hurrah of the Gallipoli expedition-There was a great deal of confused fighting around Hill ,60 at the end of August badly handled and causing high casualties for a feature of dubious tactical value. But there ere to be no more large attacks.

Back in London the Dardanelles Committee debated the possibility of evacuation. In October they replaced Hamilton with General Sir Charles Monro who recommended that the whole force be removed. Hesitation in the face of this resolute advice led to Kitchener being sent out to confirm that Monro was correct. After further hesitation he did. Once more the politicians baulked this time because of a naval opinion that after all they could force the straits unaided.

This was rejected for the nonsense it was and it was finally decided in December to withdraw the troops. The wisdom of this decision had already been confirmed by a great storm which struck Anzac in November. Gales, sleet and finally snow caused over 3,000 cases of frostbite and trench foot, washing away some of the trenches and causing a great deal of discomfort and misery.

The evacuation, which was largely planned by Bird wood's Chief of Staff, Brigadier-General C. B. B. White, has been hailed as the best-executed operation of the campaign.

It was certainly a masterpiece of planning. The troops were removed over a period of several weeks, various ruses being employed to convince the Turks that the line was still solidly held. Eventually, on 19 and 20 December, the evacuation of Anzac and Suvla was complete. There was hardly a casualty. Whether the success of the operation was due to the planning or whether the Turks, remembering their experience of 19 May, were reluctant to attack in the open an enemy that was in any case departing, cannot be stated for certain.

Whatever the reason, the Gallipoli experiment was at an end.

The Gallipoli operation cost 26,111 Australian casualties of whom 8,141 were killed. In addition New Zealand lost 7,571 men of whom 2,431 were killed. (Britain lost a total of 120,000 casualties at Gallipoli and the French 27,000. The Turkish total is very speculative probably about 220,000 with a much higher percentage killed.) To what end did these men die? It has to be said that Gallipoli had no influence on the course of the war as a whole. More depressing still, even if the expedition had succeeded in its aims, it is doubtful if the war would have been shortened by a single day. The problem was that the premises upon which the operation was based were very dubious. The planners never doubted that if the fleet got through to Constantinople the Turks would surrender. There seems to be no evidence for this. The Turkish government was certainly making every sign of defending its capital.

What would have happened had the fleet arrived and the Turks fought on? Could the fleet have been supplied? Would the British have reduced Constantinople to rubble? Even had the city fallen little need have followed. The Turkish government might have decamped into the interior of Anatolia and fought on. In this scenario would the Balkan states have been so impressed by the fall of Constantinople that they would have rallied to the Allied side? It seems unlikely. It is far more likely that they would have been impressed by the series of mighty defeats inflicted on the Russian armies to their near north by the Germans in this period.

Even had the Balkan states joined the Allies, their accession would have been a dubious advantage. Their peasant armies were under-equipped (and the Allies had no surplus equipment with which to supply them), ill-trained, poorly led and fractious to a degree that must have placed any long-term cooperation between them in doubt. Nor were communications along the Danube sufficient to sustain large armies for considerable periods of time. In any case the Austrians had the line of the Alps to sustain them in the unlikely event of these peasant levies driving them back.

Finally, none of this had any implications for the German Army on the Western Front. This Army was the main engine of the war for the central powers and the Western Front was the main theatre. The Germans would have to be defeated in north-western Europe before the war could end.

As far as the Anzac troops were concerned, the only thing to be said for the Gallipoli operation was that it kept them away from the Western Front for at least a year. Had they arrived in France in early 1915 their casualty list (as operations around Pozieres would subsequently prove) would certainly have been much higher than it was at Gallipoli.



Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

Light Horse Battles

Gallipoli Campaign


Citation: The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Gallipoli

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 26 July 2012 5:12 PM EADT
AIF & MEF & EEF, Glossary of Australian Military Terms
Topic: AIF & MEF & EEF


Glossary of Australian Military Terms


The following Glossary is extracted from the First World War Official Histories, a specific volume written by CEW Bean called, Volume I - The Story of Anzac: the first phase, (11th edition, 1941),  at pp. 609 - 618:



The strength and composition of formations and units varied considerably during the War. Those given below are based mainly on the establishments of 1914-16.


Comprise belts, pouches, bandoliers, slings, mess tins, haversacks, water-bottles and similar articles (other than arm) carried by a soldier outside his clothing.


The assistant to the commander of certain units - practically his staff officer, who issues orders, keeps records, etc.


The branch dealing mainly with personnel.


The staff dealing with personnel, supplies, transport. etc.


A mechanical transport unit on the Lines of Communication; also the space occupied by the motor-lorries, ammunition, ordnance stores, etc., under the control of, or for distribution by, that unit.


A field gun or light cannon placed in a forward position in order to fire direct upon tanks.


(1) Originally, code name for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps;
(2) Name given to the beach where the A. & N Z. Army Corps landed on Gallipoli;
(3) Official name of the two A. & N.Z. Army Corps in France (1st Anzac Corps,
2nd Anzac Corps);
(4) Term universally applied by British troops in France to the Australians and New Zealanders of the two Anzac Corps (the Anzacs);
(5) In Palestine, often used to denote men of the Anzac Mounted Division as distinguished from those of the Australian Mounted Division;
(6) In Australia (and eventually in the A.I.F.), used to denote Australians and New Zealanders who served on Gallipoli. The generally accepted uses of the term are (1), (2). (3), and (6).


The march of troops to the positions from which they are to attack. In France this generally took place during the night before the attack.


The officer responsible for training and administration within any one of the “areas” into which the Australian districts were subdivided under the Kitchener Defence Scheme.


A formation containing two or more Army Corps, usually commanded by a general.


A formation containing two or more divisions, usually commanded by a lieutenant-general.


The corps whose duty is to supply and transport the army.


A formation of infantry (or mounted troops) used when passing through a zone subject to shell-fire. The troops advance in small groups, extended in line and depth (i.e., with wide spaces between the groups).



BAIR (Turkish):

Slope or spur.


A place where the main stores for an army in the field are situated, organised, and controlled, and from which lines of communication lead.


A wall of shell-fire, thrown either to assist or to prevent the advance of troops; loosely applied to any bombardment thrown against troops. See CREEPING BARRAGE.


The chief unit of infantry (full strength with transport. etc, 1,017; full fighting strength, 895; normal fighting strength probably about 550) ; Australian battalions from Jan. 1915, consisted of four companies and a headquarters; usually commanded by a lieutenant-colonel.


The unit of combat of field artillery; during the war generally consisted of four or six guns: usually commanded by a major. Full strength, 4 gun battery, 18 men, fighting strength, 138.


A large cruiser of great speed, lightly armoured and usually armed with eight or more heavy guns, all of the same calibre.


The most powerful type of warship, intended to lie in the line of battle.


A section between two traverses of a fire trench; length usually about eight yards.


Usually a belt by which ammunition is fed to a machine-gun

BIR (Arabic):

A well.


An encampment without tents or huts.


A gas shell used by the Germans, filled with a chemical compound which caused sneezing, and often known as a “sneezing gas shell.” Less harmful than other gas shells.


Strictly speaking, explosive missiles thrown from a trench mortar or an aeroplane; loosely used for explosive missiles thrown by hand. See GRENADE


A barrier (usually of earth or sandbags) built across a trench.


(British, Australian, etc.), four (or three) batteries of field guns and field howitzers, usually commanded by a lieutenant-colonel.


(British, Australian, etc.), until 1918, a formation of four infantry battalions (full strength with transport, etc.. 4,080: full fighting strength, 3,584: normal fighting strength, probably about 2,500). usually under a brigadier-general. In 1918 British brigades, and some Australian brigades, were reduced to three battalions. In the field a British brigade corresponds roughly to a foreign “regiment”.


Comprises three regiments; full strength, with brigade headquarters and signallers, about 1,700 men.


In infantry, the chief staff-officer of a brigade.


Usually the chief general staff officer of an army corps.


Usually the commander of the artillery of an army corps. In the earlier years of the war this officer was merely a staff -officer who advised the corps-commander in regard to the artillery.

BURNU (Turkish):

Cape or point


A litter in which sick or wounded are carried upon mules or camels.


The diameter of the bore of a firearm.


Screening or painting objects to render them invisible, or to deceive as to their nature.


A small mine, intended not to break the surface of the ground, but to blow in the enemy’s underground galleries.


The hospital (generally at railhead) charged with clearing the wounded to the base.


A country residence in France.


A straight line which forms the base of a salient; a trench or other line affording a further position of defence in the event of the salient being lost.


Gas emitted from cylinders and carried by the wind (as opposed to gas fired in shells).


A trench leading from the rear to the fire- trenches (or fighting trenches).


A body of men about 200-250 strong, usually commanded by a captain, who is responsible for the training and discipline of his officers and men. 111 the infantry a company is a portion of a battalion (full strength, 127; normal fighting strength, from 100-150; four companies in each battalion; four platoons in each company); in the engineers, signal service, army service corps, etc., it is a separate unit usually commanded by a major.

CONVOY (of ships):

A number of ships sailing together under escort for protection.


Fire delivered by troops from the rear or flanks in order to keep the enemy suppressed while other troops advance or retire.


A barrage which gradually advances, usually to cover the advance of troops who follow immediately behind it. See BARRAGE.


Ground which, though within range, cannot be seen or reached by direct fire.


A light railway in ready-made lengths of rails and sleepers

DERE (Turkish):


DESTROYER (Short for Torpedo-boat Destroyer):

Long, light, swift craft, usually of from 500 to 1,000 tons displacement and 25 to 30 knots speed.


The slang term for an Australian or New Zealand private soldier. This word (said to have been used originally among gum- diggers, especially in New Zealand) became common among New Zealand and Australian soldiers in 1917 It displaced “cobber” (comrade) and “mate” as a form of address. During the third battle of Ypres it came to denote an Australian private, much as “Tommy” denoted a British soldier


Aiming a gun by looking over or through the sights, when the target is actually within view from the gun position.


The smallest formation of army organisation which contains all the essential branches of the military service. Infantry Division - British, three infantry brigades (till 1918 twelve battalions) with two, three, or four brigades of artillery (about 70 guns), etc, under a major-general; until the last of the war 18,000 men ; French, three infantry regiments (nine battalions), about 40 guns, 16,000 men; American, two brigades, each of two regiments, 72 guns, 260 machine-guns, 28,000 men; German, three infantry regiments (nine battalions), artillery (about 70 guns), etc., 15,000 men; Turkish, three infantry regiments (usually nine battalions), 40 guns, about 11,000 men. Division of Cavalry or Light Horse-three brigades; full strength, with divisional headquarters, two brigades of horse artillery, engineers, ambulances, etc., about 80,000 men.


The horse-drawn supply organisation of a division.


A metal pot in which food is cooked.


A centre behind the lines to which the wounded are sent from the regimental aid posts to have their wounds dressed before being carried to the casualty clearing station.

DRUM (of Lewis gun):

The disc on which ammunition was fed to the gun.


A section of wooden pathway (built ladder like) for use in muddy areas.


A cave or roofed shelter dug under the soil for protection from fire; its ceiling may be anything from a few inches to 20 feet underground; even raised bomb-proof shelters are often known as dugouts.


Generally a formation in which troops are disposed to the left or right rear of the leading troops, but facing in the same direction.


A small German grenade which could be thrown by hand farther than most grenades.


The ordinary British field gun of 3.3-inch bore, throwing an 18½lb. shell.


A position in a trench or fortification prepared for a gun.


Fire bearing upon a line from its flank, so as to play along its length.


A side-work (e.g., mound of earth) to afford cover, usually to a gun position, from flanking fire.


An inn.


Bullets containing an explosive. These were never used by or against Australian infantry; expanding bullets (i.e., those so manufactured or tampered with as to expand upon impact) were sometimes loosely spoken of as "explosive."


Usually a formation in which men (and often successive lines of men) are separated by wide intervals.


A flat tank used for the carriage of water on camel-back.


The first medical unit behind the regimental medical detachments - in the case of infantry, about 250 strong, under a lieutenant-colonel; provided with stretcher-bearers, horse ambulances, and tents


The main unit of engineers with an infantry division, for ordinary military work (bridge-building, trench-siting, etc.), as opposed to railway companies, signal companies, tunnelling companies, etc. Usually about 220 strong, under a major. The corresponding unit with a cavalry division is a FIELD SQUADRON (subdivided into four FIELD TROOPS) of Engineers.


The ordinary mobile gun used on the battlefield (for low-trajectory, high-velocity fire).


The step in a fire-trench on which men stand in order to fire over the parapet.


A trench from which men fire (as opposed to communication trenches); if properly made, consists of a series of short fire-bays with traverses between them.


The small packet containing bandage, dressing, etc, which each soldier carries inside his tunic.


Usually the 5.9-inch (15 cm.) howitzer, considered by many the most effective German weapon.


Flame-thrower, a German weapon consisting of a cylinder carried on the back, containing inflammable oil, which is projected by compressed gas and ignites in the air.


A force is in the air when its flanks are ex- posed and unsupported by any friendly force.


A light generally used for illuminating the ground in front of the firing-line; usually a firework; sometimes tow dipped in petroleum. Very Lights throwing one white star, like that from a ’’Roman candle,” were chiefly used by the British. Coloured flares were largely used by German artillery observers and infantry, as signals to their artillery.


An artillery officer sent forward (with telephone and other signals) to a position from which he can observe and direct the fire of his battery.


A closed and insulated can in which food is carried hot to front-line troops


The ordinary British 4.5in. field howitzer, which throws a 35-lb. projectile.


The ordinary German 4.2in. (10.5 cm.) field howitzer.


A camp rumour.


The device for detonating a shell. A “percussion fuse” detonates the shell when it strikes a target; a “time fuse” detonates it (generally in the air) a certain time after leaving the gun: an “instantaneous fuse” or “sensitive fuse” (first used in 1917) is a percussion fuse which detonates a shell more swiftly than previous percussion fuses, so that it bursts before penetrating the ground (or other target): a “delayed-action” fuse allows time for the shell to penetrate deeply before detonation.


A primitive trench mortar by which a “jam-tin” bomb was fired from a short piece of piping.


The means employed to warn troops of a gas attack.


An impregnated woollen hood with eye and mouth pieces to protect the wearer against poison gas. The first protection invented was a gas-respirator to be tied over the mouth; improvements were the gas-helmet, and later the gas-mask attached by a tube to a box-respirator slung on the chest.


Shell containing substances producing poison-gases or other injurious chemicals, which are released when the shell explodes.


The main headquarters of an expeditionary force; usually referred to by the initial letters - G.H.Q.


The main hospital to which sick and wounded are brought for final treatment.


The branch of the Staff dealing chiefly with operations (also with information about the enemy and with training)


A type of German gas-shell mainly containing phosgene.


A hand-thrown bomb. See also RIFLE GRENADE.




The pit usually dug as an emplacement for a gun.


Nitro-glycerine compounds with powerful explosive properties.


Shell filled with a high explosive.


A gun as distinguished from a howitzer; it throws its projectile swiftly with a comparatively low trajectory.

HOD (Arabic):

Depression in desert containing palm trees and water


A light air-cooled machine-gun used by cavalry and tanks, fed by strips containing 30, 14 or 9 rounds. Not to be confused with the light Hotchkiss field gun, e.g, those temporarily captured on April 25 at Anzac.


A short-barrelled cannon which ‘‘lobs’’ its projectile slowly with a high trajectory.


Fire at a target which cannot be seen from the gun position.


The emergency ration; normally issued in small bags to troops going into battle, to be opened only if other rations fail to reach them.


Bombs made by filling jam-tins with explosive and fragments of iron, etc


A small well-designed trench mortar throwing a large high-explosive bomb.

JUMPING-OFF TRENCH (or Jumping-off Tapes):

A trench or line of tapes, usually sited in advance of the front line, to serve as a starting-point in an attack.


The army raised by Great Britain on Lord Kitchener’s appeal in 1914-15 for special service in the War, as distinguished from the Regular and Territorial armies.


Term often loosely used of any horn sounded to warn troops of a gas attack.

KUVU (Turkish):

A well.




A magazine gun fed with cartridges in discs or drums containing 47 rounds - the light machine-gun of the British infantry, carried by one man. The “team” of each Lewis Gun is normally from three to five men.


Communication between units or arms; liaison officer, an officer sent to another unit to keep touch with it.


Usually the light German machine-gun, a water- cooled, belt-fed weapon, heavier than a Lewis Gun, but also carried by one man.


The systems of communication by rail, road, and navigable waterways between an army and its base or bases inclusive, together with the district through which they pass. Usually referred to as L. of C.


Administrative units of the L. of C. (dealing with records and transport of men and supplies; hospitals, repairs, butcheries, bakeries, railways, reinforcements, remounts, postal services etc.).


A signaller sent out to repair field-telegraph lines.


A gun constructed to discharge continuously, by action of the recoil, ammunition fed to it on a belt or by other mechanism. See VICKERS GUN, LEWIS GUN, LIGHT MACHINE-GUN, and HOTCHKISS MACHINE-GUN.


A small two-wheeled cart, part of the medical equipment of a battalion.


Motor-driven vehicles of transport ; also the branch of the service connected with them.


A small metal pan carried by each soldier, in which food can be cooked; consists of two parts serving for both plate and dish.


An oval cast-iron grenade serrated so as to split into numerous small fragments on bursting; the lever that holds back the striking-pin is itself secured by a safety pin, which is removed immediately before throwing.


German for “trench mortar".


The process by which an armed force passes from a peace to a war footing.


A warship of shallow draft and low freeboard, intended for use in coastal defence or attack.


A small cannon constructed for transport, along with its carriage, in several pieces upon pack animals.


Largely used in camps instead of tents, or for offices, etc.; constructed of semicircular sheets of galvanised iron, which thus form both walls and roof.


The space between the two opposing front trenches or front lines.


An early type of machine-gun firing a 1-inch projectile.


A gully or dried up stream-bed.


A position commanding some desired view of the enemy’s positions; occupied by observers for artillery, etc.


One sent out to observe the enemy’s line or movements, the fire of guns upon targets, etc.


A statement or list of the composition and organisation of the parts and units of an army; sometimes including their position in the fighting line.

ORDNANCE (Department):

The department which supplies great and small arms, equipment, clothing, etc..


A knapsack (carried on the back).


The earth thrown up at the back of a trench.


The earth (loose or in bags) thrown up along the front of a trench.


A body of men sent out to reconnoitre, or to guard against surprise.


A poisonous gas, affecting the heart, used by the Germans, especially in Green Cross shells.


A small covered shelter of concrete, mainly used by the Germans in Flanders, where deep dugouts were impossible.


A serrated bomb, not unlike a pineapple, thrown from a small German bomb-thrower.


The quarter of a company of infantry (full strength, 60; normal fighting strength, from 25-40), under a lieutenant; itself subdivided into four sections, each under a sergeant.


The officer commanding the corps of military police attached to British armies abroad. An assistant provost marshal commands the police of each division.


The branch of the staff responsible for supplies and the transport of troops and material.


A locality on the railway (usually at the nearest point to the force which is to be served) where ammunition and supplies are transferred to ammunition parks and supply columns.


A work entirely enclosed by a defensible parapet, which gives rifle-fire all round.


Usually a concave curve in the line of battle; the reverse of a salient. Also, a valley or Indentation receding into higher ground.


The unit of cavalry (or light horse) corresponding to a battalion of infantry; full strength of a light horse regiment, 546; full fighting strength, 510; normal strength about 340; normal rifle strength, dismounted, excluding horse- holders, 250.


A corps of men usually raised in the same locality or by the same organisation. An infantry regiment generally consists of several battalions. Under the British system the battalions as a rule fight separately in diverse brigades; under the system of the French, Americans, Germans, Turks, etc. three battalions compose a regiment and these fight together under a colonel, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd battalions of a regiment thus corresponding roughly to the four (in 1918 three) battalions of a British brigade under its brigadier-general.


The post in or close behind the line where the regimental surgeon and details give first treatment.


A buttress of wood, sandbags, or other material to hold up the steep side of trenches or open works.


A grenade or bomb fired from a rifle by special contrivances-sometimes by the insertion of a rod into the rifle- barrel ; sometimes operated by the firing of an ordinary cartridge.


Shallow pits dug by soldiers, usually under fire in battle, from which they can fire their rifles; the first stage of a trench.


A curve in the line of battle, projecting towards or into the enemy’s line.


A single discharge of the guns of a battery in succession.


A wall of loose stones piled so as to form a small breastwork.


A work similar to a trench, but dug forward from an existing trench or cavity by men working below the level of the surface.

SECTION (of infantry):

Full strength, 16 men; normal strength, 8 to 12, under a sergeant.

SECTION (of a battery of artillery):

Two guns.


The 75-millimetre field gun of the French army.


The 77-millimetre field gun of the German army - in soldier’s slang the “whizz-bang.”


A shell containing a number of pellets, which are usually set free from the shell case by a slight timed-burst in the air, and thrown forward upon the ground by the speed of the shell.


The “heavy” field gun of the British army, a long-barrelled gun of 5 inch bore.


Ammunition for rifles, machine-guns, and revolvers.


One who shoots at individual enemies, usually from cover and as a rule at long range.


A sally by body of besieged troops upon their besiegers.


The third part of a regiment; full strength, 158; normal rifle strength, dismounted, excluding horse-holders, 80; it consists of four troops.

STAFF-CAPTAIN (of an infantry brigade):

The junior of the two chief staff-officers of a brigade. In battle he deals largely with the provision of supplies to the troops of the brigade in the firing line.


An order given in the trenches to man the fire-step at the hour when an attack may usually be expected.


A shell which bursts into brilliant stars, and is sometimes used to illumine an enemy’s position at night.


A hospital originally intended to be intermediate between the casualty clearing-station and the general hospital.


A grenade used by the Germans, consisting of a small canister filled with high explosive and fitted with a wooden handle to facilitate throwing.


A British trench mortar, consisting of a tube into the muzzle of which a high-explosive bomb is inserted. The cartridge which projects the bomb forms part of the bomb itself, and is detonated by the impact resulting from the fall of the bomb to the bottom of the tube.

STORMTROOPS (German, Stürmtruppen):

Troops specially trained and maintained by the Germans to lead attacks.


Troops maintained immediately behind the firing-line for the purpose of immediate reinforcement in attack or defence.


A trench immediately behind the front fire-trench.


Armoured motor-cars propelled by a caterpillar tractor system.


Usually the tapes laid down to give alignment or direction to troops moving to or forming for an attack.


A shell filled with a sweet-smelling compound, causing the eyes to water profusely; largely used by Germans in 1916 for shelling observation posts, etc.






The curve described by a projectile while in the air.


The buttresses interposed between successive bays of a trench as a harrier against enfilading fire.


A defensive work dug into the ground by troops working from the surface.


A light form of artillery of short range, usually moved on the field by manpower; firing a light, medium or heavy thin-walled bomb which contains explosive in high proportion to its weight.


The fourth part of a squadron. Normal mounted strength, 27, dismounted, excluding horse-holders, 20.


A bright white firework fired from a pistol, generally used at night to illumine the ground in front of the line.

VICKERS MACHINE-GUN (commonly known as Vickers Gun):

The British “heavy” water-cooled machine-gun, which superseded the “Maxim” used early in the war; its belt contains 250 rounds. The “team” of a Vickers Gun is normally six men.

WADI (Arabic):

A watercourse only temporarily containing water.


A light form of “tank.”


Usually barbed-wire entanglement of which one or more belts are, where possible, constructed in front of the fire-trenches.


A German “gas” shell containing an oil of which the usual effect is to blister the eyes, mouth, armpits, crutch, and other delicate surfaces. The most effective of Ger- man “gas” shells: first used in 1917. Often known as “mustard gas” shell.

YERE (Turkish):


YILDIRIM (Group, Headquarters, Troops, etc.):

Name given by the Turks to the striking force, formed on 15th July 1917 commanded by General von Falkenhayn and intended for the recapture of Baghdad. Its headquarters, however, and some of its troops were almost immediately diverted to Palestine where, on 1st March, 1918, Marshal Liman von Sanders took over command in succession to von Falkenhayn. Yildirim was the name applied to the Sultan Bayazid in the 14th century, and means “lightning.”


The hour fixed for the launching of troops in an attack. Time, in battle, is sometimes calculated by reference to this moment; e g., if “zero” is 3.20 a.m., 3.05 a m. may be known as “zero minus 15.” or 5 a.m. as “zero plus 100 often shortened to “plus 100”.


Further Reading:

B103, Index to Common Terms

Battles where Australians Fought

AIF, MEF and the EEF


Citation: AIF & MEF & EEF, Glossary of Australian Military Terms

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 9 July 2009 7:28 PM EADT
El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917, 8th Light Horse Regiment War Diary Account
Topic: AIF - 3B - 8 LHR

El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917

8th Light Horse Regiment War Diary Account


8th Light Horse Regiment War Diary, Saturday, 1 December 1917, page 1.


War Diary of the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF

The War Diary provides an excellent reference to the day to day activities of note that occurred within a particular unit. They were never designed to be histories in themselves but aids to future historians who wish to write about their deeds. The War Diary was often written up at the end of the day when most men were weary and seen as just another useless activity demanded by "the Heads" in far off places. It was only years later when unit histories were produced that the value of the War Diaries became to be realised by the men. The result is that the War Diary is usually light on detail. These details can be supplemented by Routine Orders and signals where these may exist.


The entry for Saturday, 1 December 1917 is transcribed below.

War Diary Entry

Saturday, 1 December 1917

8th Light Horse Regiment Location -

El Burj.

8th Light Horse Regiment War Diary -

Line was all quiet until 0030 on 1 December 1917 when Captain Walker, MC, "B" Squadron, reported enemy concentration on his immediate front. Brigade Headquarters were wired immediately, priority, for reinforcements.

The enemy attacked about 250 strong with many bombs at 0045 and after half an hour's heavy fighting at very close quarters, "B" Squadron were compelled to fall back to (Major Crawford's) "C" Squadron's position. Here a fresh line was made, every available man being in the firing line.

48 men of the Gloucester Yeomanry, under Lieutenant Colonel Palmer, arrived at 0200 and the enemy just then made a fresh assault. One company of the 4th Royal Scottish Fusiliers under Captain Henry arrived at 0230 and all were immediately sent into the line.

The enemy made two distinct rushes with about 500 men, and were each time held off with a very heavy close range fire.

The fighting gradually diminished and the enemy position was rendered absolutely safe by the arrival at 0430 of another Royal Scottish Fusiliers company who were kept in supports. "B" Squadron took possession of their original position and touch was again made with 4th Light Horse Brigade on right flank.


8th Light Horse Regiment War Diary, Saturday, 1 December 1917, page 2.


Throughout the hours of fighting there was much heavy bombing, especially on the part of the enemy who were evidently well supplied. Our Mills Grenades were very superior and effective. The 9th Light Horse Regiment had managed to get a rearguard machine gun fire and this partly had the effect of cutting the enemy off from Shilta Village.

At daybreak the survivors surrendered amounting approximately to:-

6 Officers (including the Battalion Commander), and 112 Other Ranks, and about 20 wounded.
The enemy dead amounted to approximately 100. (20 on "B" Squadron's ridge and 80 on "C" Squadron's ridge.) 
The Royal Scottish Fusiliers and Yeomanry did splendid work and had it not been for their very quick arrival after the alarm, the Regiment would have received a very severe handling.
Our casualties were (approximately) 2 Officers - Captain Fay and Lieutenant SK Moore killed and 5 Other Ranks and 2 Officers and 35 Other Ranks wounded (one of them since died). All ranks displayed great intrepidity and dash throughout.
Major General Hodgson visited the Regiment next morning and personally expressed his pleasure and congratulations. The two attached telegrams are copies of those received from Desert Corps and 20th Army Corps.
During the morning the Royal Scottish Fusiliers were withdrawn and the Regiment continued to hold the line with the Gloucester Yeomanry in supports. Much booty was collected throughout the day included in which were 8 new type automatic rifles.

The 6th Nottinghamshire Battalion (2 Companies) reported to Regimental Headquarters as reserves at 2030 and retired at 0500 on 2 December 1917.

During the day a wire was received containing the following awards:

405 Lance Corporal J Kerr, Military Medal
1176 Trooper ES Ackland, Military Medal
3103 Trooper L Taylor, Military Medal

Regiment held firing line as taken over on night of 30 November / 1 December, with Gloucester Yeomanry in supports. At 0230, 1 Company South Nottinghamshires reported at Reserve Troops and remained in vicinity of Regimental Headquarters until 0500, 2 December 1917.


Roll of Honour

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, Ernest Bell

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, James Egan

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, George Fay

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, Charles John Grachan

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, Thomas Lister Grove

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, Alexander McKinnon

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, Samuel Vincent Moore

8th LHR, AIF, Roll of Honour, Stanley John Turner

Lest we forget


Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

The Battle of El Burj, 1 December 1917

8th Light Horse Regiment, AIF


The War Diary of the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF is held by the Australian War Memorial and available online at no cost.


Citation: El Burj, Palestine, 1 December 1917, 8th Light Horse Regiment War Diary Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 13 July 2009 10:54 PM EADT

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