ANZAC Gallipoli (World War 1, 25 April 1915 to 19 December 1915)

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About This Campaign

 ANZAC / Gallipoli

The Gallipoli Campaign was mounted by the British and French largely at the instigation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Winston Churchill. By seizing the Dardanelles and threatening Istanbul / Constantinople, it was intended that Russia (an ally of Britain's) would gain access to the Mediterranean for its Black Sea fleet.  Turkey was an ally of Germany's and numbers of military advisers and significant quantities of arms and ammunition had been provided to Turkey by Germany, including two modern Dreadnought warships.  The latter occurred after Britain had cancelled an order placed by Turkey with British shipyards.

Because of the emphasis on the Dardanelles, the campaign is also known by that name.  The Turks refer to it as the Battle of Çanakkale after the nearby town on the Asian side of the Dardanelles.

 

 Gallipoli Peninsula

 

Preliminary Operations

A joint British and French naval operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul) and secure a sea route to Russia. Turkish fortifications and sea mines stopped the attempt at forcing the Dardanelles by sea power alone with the British and French losing a number of capital warships.  When that failed, a rather timid Naval commander Vice Admiral John de Roebeck agreed to an offer by the land commander Sir Ian Hamilton to put a land force ashore to take the Narrows. That attempt, which involved the ANZAC Corps, a British Corps and large number of French troops,  lasted nine months but it too ultimately failed, with heavy casualties on both sides.

Ground Attack

The landing took place in three key areas;  ANZAC near Ari Burnu, the British near Cape Helles and the French on the southern side of the Dardanelles at a place called Kum Kale.  A feint was staged by the Royal Naval Division further north at an obvious and therefore well defended point near Bulair. 

The force landed successfully but was never able to break out of their disconnected beach-head positions. After successfully getting ashore the ANZACs captured and consolidated to the Second Ridge, and subsequently defended their beach head but were unable to penetrate further inland.  

The Australian commander, General Bridges, was mortally wounded by a snipers bullet on the 9th May and on the 19th, the Turks mounted a major counter attack, which the ANZACs successfully repelled, inflicting heavy casualties.

The British at Helles suffered appalling casualties on a much greater scale than the ANZACs, and the French suffered similarly on the Asian side of the Dardanelles. 

Stalemate

Thereafter it settled into a siege with both sides occupying trenches sometimes a mere 30m apart.

A lack of effective Allied artillery was a telling factor throughout the campaign.  

Although the Allies had naval gunfire support, control and coordination was rudimentary and the flat shooting guns could not reach into the dead ground (ie below line of sight) behind the ridge lines.  Secondly, high explosive / armour piercing shells while effective against defensive positions on the forward slopes of hills, was not as effective against troops, particularly if they were in dead ground. 

Fire Support

The ubiquitous airburst shrapnel fired by Howitzers and field guns could reach into dead ground.  Shrapnel shells burst in the air above enemy troops and unleashed a hail of lead ball projectiles which inflicted wounds very similar to gunshot wounds in effect.  So much so that the wound classification 'GSW" could alternatively mean 'Gun Shot Wound' or 'General Shrapnel Wound'.  The Ottoman forces were far better equipped with howitzers, whereas the Allies had very few.

In close combat,  hand thrown 'bombs' became a critical factor.  The Turks had hand grenades, the Allies did not.  Instead they had to manufacture crude 'jam tin' bombs. 

Perhaps most tellingly, throughout the campaign the Allies never achieved the 3:1 ratio of troops necessary to succeed in a sustained attack let alone a broader offensive.  

The August Offensive (described in detail in a related feature)

By late summer the Allies attempted a breakout from their beach-head positions; the so-called August Offensive.   An entire British Corps of three Divisions landed at Suvla Bay to the north of ANZAC, and a major British attack was mounted at Cape Helles to the south. 

In the centre, on the northern fringe of ANZAC, the real objective was to be sought - control of the Sari Bair range.  The attack on the 'vital ground' was to be carried out by the ANZAC Division which included the Australian 4th Brigade, the 1st Light Horse Brigade, the NZ Brigade the NZ Mounted Brigade along with an Indian Brigade and attached British troops. 

On the eastern edge of ANZAC, the Australian 1st Division conducted a 'major demonstration' at a place called Lone Pine, during the course of which seven Victoria Crosses were won.  Lone Pine was intended to draw the Turkish defenders away from the main effort - the capture of the high ground on the Sari Bair range.  

The British attack at Helles on 6th August was a costly fiasco.  On the evening of the 6th August it was the Australians’ turn when the 1st Division attacked at Lone Pine as a diversionary attack while the British landed at Suvla Bay.  The Australians had to break their way in to a heavily fortified position suffering hundreds of casualties in the process but after ferocious close quarter fighting and bombing,  they captured and held the position.

The Suvla landing stalled mainly through command failure.

The attack on the Sari Bair Range failed because the plan was compromised by the terrain and a subsequent breakdown in coordination and timetable, exacerbated by the failure of the Suvla attacks to outflank the Ottoman forces.

Another costly failure took place late in August when an attack on Hill 60 near the juntion between the Suvla forces and the ANZAC Division was ordered.  The 9th Light Horse (the only effective unit left in the 3rd Light Horse Brigade after the Nek), suffered heavily losing their Commanding Officer as well (their second CO killed in less than three weeks).

By this time, disease and casualties had taken their toll and the disembarked Force's offensive capacity had been bled out.  From late August, the Second Division began arriving.  The campaign played out towards winter when it was decided to evacuate the force.  This was ironically the most technically difficult but successful part of the campaign.    To conduct a withdrawal from a beach head in contact with the enemy is fraught with danger.  Such an operation can easily turn into a rout.  Good planning and execution saw the withdrawal conducted at night under the very noses of the Turks who didn't realise what had happened until the following morning. 

The Australians suffered over 8,000 killed and more than 13,000 wounded.  It was a victory for the Turks and a defeat for the Allies. 

The Gallipoli campaign resonated profoundly among all nations involved. In Turkey, the battle is perceived as a defining moment in the history of the Turkish nation—a final surge in the defence of the motherland as the aging Ottoman Empire was crumbling. The campaign was considered one of the greatest victories of the Turks and was reflected on as a major failure by the Allies.  The struggle laid the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the successful Turkish commander at Gallipoli.

The campaign was the first major battle undertaken in the war by Australia and New Zealand, and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in both countries.  The term ANZAC was derived from the title bestwoed on these Dominion forces - the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.  The ANZACs forged a reputation of sometimes reckless courage, reflecting the fact that they were far from a professional Army at the outset, but peopled by men who adapted easily to the privations and danger of 20th century soldiering, beginning their evolution into a modern highly skilled, technically proficient and well led professional Army by the War's end.

ANZAC Day, 25 April, remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in Australia and New Zealand, surpassing Armistice Day/Remembrance Day.

 

Steve Larkins July 2013

 

See this link to the Department of Veterans Affairs Page on Gallipoli (www.anzacsite.gov.au)

 

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Stories

'ANZAC Cove' by Leon Gellert, 10th Battalion - Soldier Poet

ANZAC Cove..........

There’s a lonely stretch of hillocks:
There’s a beach asleep and drear:
There’s a battered broken fort beside the sea.
There are sunken trampled graves:
And a little rotting pier:
And winding paths that wind unceasingly.
There’s a torn and silent valley:
There’s a tiny rivulet
With some blood upon the stones beside its mouth.
There are lines of buried bones:
There’s an unpaid waiting debt :
There’s a sound of gentle sobbing in the South.

Poems of Leon Gellert

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The Charge of the 10th

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA: 1895 - 1954) Saturday 3 July 1915

THE CHARGE OF THE TENTH.

Bugler T. S. Gordon, of the 10th Battalion, writing from the Luna Park Hospital, Heliopolis, to a friend in Adelaide, states: —

"We landed on the peninsula on April 25, and I had the bad luck to get wounded on the same day — shot through my foot. I really thought I had lost my foot. It felt as though the whole thing was smashed to pulp. When the bullet enters it feels as if somebody had given you a heavy blow with a big hammer, and after that all is numb for about an hour; then the pain commences, and one realises what has happened.

They had to give me morphia to deaden the pain, but now I am quite O.K. The doctor says it will be another month before I can walk, so I don't know when I am going to get back again. I want to be with the boys when they enter Constantinople, but I am afraid it will be all over within a month.

When we were about 40 yards from the shore the Turks opened fire on us from a hill. As soon as the boat touched, over the side we went, nearly up to the chest in water, and rushed for cover, but there was none.

The hill where the Turks were looked impregnable. The old 10th fixed bayonets and charged. It looked certain death, but on we went, and, my word, South Australia has something to be proud of.

I got hit about half-way up the hill, but watched the boys plod on, and when they neared the top the Turks turned tail and off, and you can take it from me there wasn't one of them running stiff. In the meantime their forts were pouring shrapnel and lyddite shells into us like hailstones, and this did the damage. I saw whole boatloads (34 men in a boat) wiped out with a single shell.

Then the navy got busy, and there was something doing. The first 15-in. shell from the Queen Elizabeth blew one of their batteries kite-high, and then they all started bombarding.

You talk about hell let loose; it wasn't in it. Shells screaming overhead, the deafening roar of guns, then the long drawn out boom, and another explosion; the bursting of shrapnel, followed by the regular hail of bullets—good Lord, what a nightmare it seems! It will be a long time before the sight is effaced from my memory.

The most pitiable sights were the fellows who got shot in the stomach. Good Lord, it must be a terrible thing. I saw one of our sergeants begging and praying for someone to shoot him or hand him his rifle and let him do it himself. Out of my battalion we lost over 300 killed and wounded out of 1,000, so we suffered pretty severely. In fact, all the force suffered heavily—I believe the casualties numbered nearly 5,000 killed and wounded.

One of the ministers here is speaking about some of the fellows singing 'Lead, kindly light' when they were landing. If he had been near me and heard the language from different ones he might have changed his mind. I never heard such profanity in my life. One chap got shot in the leg, and I think he swore for fully 10 minutes without repeating himself. We had the Sultan of Egypt in to see us the other day, and he is sending us 100,000 cigarettes and £100 for chocolate."

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First Ashore? - " the Flowers of the Forest"

Discussion as to who was first ashore at Gallipoli is in all likelihood narrowed to two groups of people; the Scouts - specially selected and trained men - in the 9th and 10th Battalions. The 9th 10th and 11th Battalions were scheduled to land at the same time but the 11th was delayed having straddled the point at Ari Burnu on the northern edge of ANZAC Cove.

Irrespective of who actually stepped ashore first, among the best records are the 10th Battalion War Diary and a photograph of a section of the 10th Battalion Scouts. There story is typical of men who landed in the first wave.

Their story was described by one of them; Arthur Seaforth Blackburn, VC. He and Phil Robin are credited by C.E.W. Bean with having made it farthest inland of any AIF troops that first day.

October 1914. Informal group portrait of nine members of the 10th Battalion, all of whom enlisted in 1914, and embarked from Adelaide, SA, on 20 October 1914 aboard HMAT Ascanius and served at Gallipoli. All of these men, except Private (Pte) Guy Fisher and Pte Eric Meldrum were students at St Peters Anglican College in Adelaide, and five of them died during the First World War. Identified, left to right, back row:

Sergeant (later Lieutenant) John Rutherford Gordon, invalided to Australia with slight enteric fever, after which he joined the Australian Flying Corps and served as a rear gunner/observer with 62 Squadron and later as a pilot. He was awarded a Military Cross for his courage and returned to Australia (RTA) 6 May 1919;

40 Pte Francis Herbert 'Bertie' Stokes, recorded as having been killed in action on 27 April 1915 at Gallipoli after saving many lives on the day of the landing by rescuing those who fell into the water on the beach and carrying them to the relative safety of the cliff face;

33 Pte Guy Fisher, survived the Landing but was later wounded and repatriated to the UK where he was discharged on 2 January 1916. He was subsequently commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery. He returned to Australia and became a Supreme Court judge.

41 Pte Eric Douglas Meldrum, returned to Australia on 21 December 1917. He committed suicide in 1922.

638 Lance Corporal (LCpl) Philip de Quetterville Robin, a champion State football player, killed in action at Gallipoli, on 28 April 1915.

Front row:

47 Pte Thomas Anderson Whyte, died of wounds received while rowing the boat that bore his comrades to shore. Shot through the hips he didn't even make it out of the boat. Buried at sea from the Hospital ship Gascon on 25 April 1915;

31 Pte (later Lieutenant) Arthur Seaforth Blackburn, awarded the Victoria Cross on 9 September 1916 for his actions on the night of 23 July 1916;

38 Pte (later Lieutenant) Wilfrid Oswald Jose, transferred to the 50th Battalion, and was killed in action at Noreuil, France on 3 April 1917;

286 Pte Malcolm St Aiden Teesdale Smith, reported as killed in action on 27 April 1915 at Gallipoli, while rescuing fellow soldiers who were wounded. Blackburn's account however suggests he and Francis Stokes were killed soon after the Landing.

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The Turkish Counter Attack 19th May 1915

The Turks mounted a very large-scale counter-attack on the 19th May which was aimed at dislodging the ANZACS from the ridges and driving them back into the sea.

Coincidentally, Simpson of Donkey fame was killed on the 19th during the course of the Turkish attack.

I had the Turkish assault and the aftermath described to me by a Turkish guide, Mr Kenan, at Gallipoli in 1988. He said that when Bean returned after the war they were looking to the east from the ANZAC positions and saw what was thought to be a chalk cutting in one of the ravines.

Closer inspection revealed it to be the bleached bones of hundreds of Turks whose bodies were taken there after the battle. There is a memorial nearby to one of the Turkish commanders (one of the Division Commanders) involved in that counter attack.

They put great pressure across the ANZAC line through Courtney’s, Quinns and Steele’s Posts etc. They took a fearful hammering though and did not mount another major attack for some time.

The Tenth Battalion was in the front line when the Turkish attack broke over their position. An AWM photo is posted of graves of Tenth Battalion men most of whom were killed in the attack on the 19th.

CO of the 10th Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Price Weir wrote in a letter dated 20th May about a ‘dreadful battle yesterday”.

“At half past three the Turks came over in hordes”.

“Then they rushed to within twenty or thirty yards of our position, but our lads mowed them down like grass”.

“It was a gruesome sight to see the bodies of the Turks and to see our poor lads being carried to the rear with awful wounds. It was a most anxious time for all of us, but against tremendous odds we held our own.”

“Our lads were cool as if they were shooting ducks but the game on this occasion were the Turks, and they were giants too, make excellent targets”.

“One poor chap died on his knees not thirty yards from our trenches and is still there in the same position. Captain Nott could not believe it possible until he went up there this morning and saw for himself”.

“Unfortunately we had 11 killed and 23 wounded".
( Note - it would appear that the strip of graves in the accompanying photograph comprises most of these men.).”

“The Turks lost very heavily ………………We can see hundreds of dead bodies from our trenches…….”

From Lock “The Fighting Tenth” p 46
post by Steve Larkins October 2013

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The Landing 25-29 April 1915

South Australia's Tenth Battalion was part of the 3rd Brigade, which was assigned the task of Covering Force for the landing at ANZAC. In other words, they were to be first ashore. The other Battalions of the Brigade were the 9th from Queensland, the 11th from Western Australia, and the 12th from Tasmania.

This sequence of events is outlined in Cecil Lock's book "The Fighting Tenth" (Lock C.B.L., Webb & Son Adelaide 1936.

The 9th and 10th Battalions were embarked on the 'Ionian' on 1 March 1915, bound for Lemnos in the Greek Islands. But this was to be no holiday.

The Force was assembling at Lemnos Island where they exercised during March and April.

The 9th Battalion disembarked but the 10th spent seven weeks on the 'Ionian' anchored in Mudros Harbour, disembarking to take part in exercises on the island.

Finally on the evening of the 24th April, B and C Companies of the 10th Battalion transferred from the Ionian onto the battleship HMS Prince of Wales at Mudros Harbour and A and D Companies transferred to the destroyers HMS Scourge and HMS Foxhound.

Around 7pm that evening the battalion were told they could rest until 11pm. Those that were able to sleep were woken at midnight, and they were all given a welcome cup of hot cocoa by the ships' crew.

At 1am the ships stopped so the soldiers could start climbing down rope ladders into lines of rowing boats moored alongside the battleship.

By 2.35am the rowing boats were full, and the battleship set off again with the lines of rowing boats attached to its sides.

At 3 am the moon set and the sky grew very dark. At 3.30am the boats cast off from the battleship to be towed in threes towards the distant shore by small steamboats.

It was so dark that they would probably not have been able to see the lines of boats being towed alongside. Perhaps they could have just made out the boat behind or in front. The water was smooth as satin. It was a cool peaceful night. There was still no sign of any sort that the Turks had seen them. Close to the shore, the steamboats cast off the lines of boats, and they began to row.

About 4.29am a figure appeared silhouetted on a cliff overlooking the beach and a shot rang out, whizzed overhead and plunged into the sea. Moments later, as the boats reached the stony beach, the 10th Battalion men slipped over the side and waded ashore, weighed down by their equipment.

Bullets struck sparks off the stones on the beach, and men were killed and wounded in the boats, in the water and on the beach. Those that hadn’t been hit ran across the stony beach to the cover of a sandy bank.


They started to scale the steep hill in front of them, some driving their bayonet into the dirt to give them a handhold, as the Turks kept shooting at them with rifles then machine guns, the fire getting heavier and the casualties mounting every minute.

During the course of the day that followed the Battalion's men pressed forward, but it seemed there were enemy everywhere and death was just around the next bush or fold in the ground.

The broken ground made command and control very difficult. They did gain the heights of a significant ridge line and it was there that the Australian line consolidated

Two men of the 10th Battalion's scouts, Norwood footballer Phil Robin, and Arthur Blackburn, are credited by Official Historian C.E.W. Bean (Official History Vol 1 pp xii)with having come "...nearer to the objective of the expedition than any other soldiers whose movements are known." In other words they reached a point farthest inland of any Allied troops.

"Sent forward by Capt Herbert, 10th Bn, from the Second Ridge to scout, they moved inland very fast ("a chase" Robin's diary called it), and crossed Third (Gun Ridge) at a plateau north of Scrubby Knoll. Finding few signs of Turks yet there, they moved southwards along the far slope of Third Ridge and had passed the knoll when number of Turks began to appear in a valley east of the ridge. They therefore moved back over Third Ridge, first to a point just south west of the knoll, whence they noticed a line of men (presumably Loutit's and Ryder's) somewhere in rear of them, and later to Johnston's Jolly".

The 'numbers of Turks' quickly manifest as a Division which forced the Australians to straighten their line to avoid being outflanked and to consolidate their defences as best and as quickly as they could.

Arthur Blackburn remained on the Peninsula and survived the campaign to distinguish himself in two World Wars and a prominent career in public life.

Phil Robin was killed sometime on the 28th April.

Mates of Robin and Blackburn, Francis Stokes and Malcolm Teasedale-Smith were both killed on or near the beach. Tom Whyte, another colleague, was a champion rower. He had volunteered to row one of the boats ashore. He didn't even make it out of the boat. Shot through the hips as he rowed his mates ashore, he was evacuated but died of his wounds and was buried at sea.

On 29th April at Shell Green, just 13 officers and 380 other ranks answered Roll Call, having lost more than 50% casualties.

The Battalion was heavily engaged throughout the period of the landing and later, throughout the ANZAC campaign. It withdrew to Lemnos in late October for rest and recuperation. With the withdrawal imminent, it did not return to the Peninsula.

Thanks to my RSL Board colleague Ian Smith for parts of this narrative.

Steve Larkins November 2013

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Names

Showing 8 people of interest from campaign

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HORROCKS, Stephen Henry

Service number 292
Corporal
28th Infantry Battalion
AIF WW1
Born Sep 1888

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COLEMAN, Francis

Service number 120
Driver
4th Divisional Ammunition Column
AIF WW1
Born 7 Apr 1877

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COLUMBUS, George William

Service number 1118
Private
9th Infantry Battalion
AIF WW1
Born 23 Apr 1893

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MCGHIE, James

Service number 2125
Private
1st Field Squadron
RAE
Australian Army
Born 30 Nov 1898

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BETRO, Joseph

Service number 843
Trooper
9th Light Horse Regiment
AIF WW1
Born 29 Jan 1895

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ROBERTSON, Thomas

Service number Officer
Second Lieutenant
15th Infantry Battalion
AIF WW1
Born 27 Apr 1894

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BOWEN, William

Service number 494
Private
23rd Infantry Battalion
AIF WW1
Born 3 Mar 1893

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SEARCY, John William

Service number 237
Lieutenant
10th Infantry Battalion
AIF WW1
Born 18 Aug 1892

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