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And let us not forget the Infantry!

Date: 1/24/2002
Time: 10:47:06 PM
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HEROIC FEAT. First Brigade's Work. Gaba Tepe, August 18, 1915. An inspection of the Turkish trenches captured at Lonesome Pine has shown what an extraordinary formidable obstacle the First Australian Infantry Brigade was up against when ordered to take this position. For month upon month we had seen the Turks piling up colossal parapets, and could see that the place was a labyrinth. It was because it was so strong and important, and because we desired to give the Turks a really heavy blow at the southern end of the line, that these trenches were chosen for attack. The Third Brigade had made a famous assault on the landing; the Second made a wonderful charge at Helles. The First Brigade was therefore chosen to assault Lonesome Pine. It was a tremendous job to put before any brigade, but these Australasian infantry never from first to last showed the least concern about it. I was with them five minutes before the start behind the parapet over which five minutes hence they knew they would have to scramble in face of rifle fire, machine guns, and shrapnel. They did not know what might be awaiting them in the deadly space between the trenches, but not one man showed the slightest sign of uneasiness. A man would pass along the trench to find his platoon just as a belated spectator might hurry to a seat before the curtain rises. Passing he would recognise some friend. "Good bye, Bill," he would say; " meet you over there." "So long, Tom," was the reply. "See you again in half an hour." "Are you going to get a photograph of us?" they would ask me. " How do you work it - on sandbags or through a periscope? What sort of camera is it? My word. A great chance for a photographer." And then conversation was suddenly cut short by the voice of a little officer crouching just below the parapet:- "Get ready to go over the parapet." He glanced down at a wrist watch, and so did I, 5.27. The men crouched up a little higher on the recess, preparing to spring. Those in the trench below got a firmer foothold. The little officer unstrapped a whistle from his wrist, and held it between his teeth. He looked down at his watch again. The man next to me asked "What time is it?" I looked down. "Well, I make it 5.30," I answered. The bombardment had apparently stopped. A few minutes' breathless silence, then a whistle sounded. Within a second the little officer had blown his whistle, too. There was a scramble of feet over the parapet, the sound of falling earth, the knocking of accoutrements, also the peck, peck of Mauser rifles from the trench opposite had already begun, and gradually swelled into a rattle. A man fell past me into the trench, bleeding from a wound in the mouth. Out in the scrub a line of our old pea-soup Australian khaki was racing, jumping low bushes and wire, straight for the enemy's trench. When they got there they experienced what in military phraseology is known as a check. That is to say, instead of an open trench into which they could jump, and bayonet Turks, they found themselves looking down on a solid roof of pine logs, covered with earth on which the bombardment had not made any perceptible impression. This surprise might well enough upset the nerves of some troops, but the behaviour of the First Brigade did not give the onlookers the least cause for anxiety. The men were clearly puzzled what to do, but did not show the least sign of everthinking of retreat. Some ran on to the second and third trench till they found open trenches where they could fire down and jump in. Others strung out along the first trench, firing into loopholes, from which the Turks were still shooting. Others jumped down into a few gaps left without head cover; others noticed small manholes every here and there in the solid roof of the trench, and began to lower themselves into the trench feet foremost through these, a feat of daring which, if it had been a solitary example, would certainly have won the Victoria Cross in any previous war. Those who could not get in simply lay down outside on the parapet, firing down the communication trenches until they could think of something else to do. The First Australian Infantry Brigade has made itself a wonderful name at Gallipoli. Certainly no finer feat has been accomplished here than this taking of Lonesome Pine and holding it against a counter attack lasting six solid days. New South Wales cannot be too proud of her men. LEST WE FORGET.

Last changed: January 24, 2002