The Great Landing at Gaba Tepe, Gallopoli
ON April 25. 1915, the mighty Battle of the Landing was fought at the Dardanelles. Undercover of darkness, and under the protection of the Fleet, a great army converged towards the rocky and desolate shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula. In the dim light of dawn, landings were made at half a dozen points (says "The Times History and Encyclopaedia of the War"), and by nightfall, the exploit which the Turks and their German mentors had deemed impossible was actually accomplished. The army was ashore, and, by desperate valour, had made good its position. Its foothold was scanty, its peril still seemed great, its losses had been heavy; but it had landed, and the heroism of its assault had added fresh glories to the military annals of the British Empire. APRIL 25th (ANZAC DAY) Is worthy to be engraved on the memory of every Austrralian. It was on that date, in 1915 that Australian and New Zealand troops effected in magnificent manner a landing at Gallipoli. The amazing gallantry of the troops rang throughout the world, and, for a time, eclipsed all thought of the possible ultimate dangers and difficulties of the enterprise. It seemed to those watching from afar that further and complete success could not be denied to the men who had dared and done so much already. Throughout all the subsequent tragic episodes of the Dardanelles campaign, the glowing triumph of the Battle of the Landing still shone with a light which was never dimmed. The memory of its glory remained a powerful influence when, months afterwards, men began to ask whether the attack upon the Dardanelles could ever be carried to a successful conclusion. No one cared even to suggest that the dogged bravery of the immortal 29th Division and the undaunted devotion of the indomitable Australian and New Zealand Corps might have been in vain. But their sacrifices were never made in vain. The good Australian and New Zealand bloodshed at Gallipoli sealed and glorified forever the patriotism of the Commonwealth and the Dominion, just as surely as if the impetuous heroes had died on Sydney Heads or on the shores of the Hauraki Gulf. At the gateway to Constantinople, the men of the younger nations were fighting for the safety of their own fair lands, and from their graves sprang imperishable ideals, which inspired their sorrowing kinsmen with renewed determination. Upon Englishmen, the stubborn resistance encountered at the Dardanelles had a like effect, for it deepened the national resolve to pursue the war unflinchingly until Germany and her subordinate allies were overthrown. The Battle of the Landing was in certain respects unlike any other battle of modern
times, by reason of the peculiar disabilities imposed upon the soldier who directed it,
General Sir Ian Hamilton. He was in an extraordinary position. He had not planned the
campaign. He had no intimate local knowledge of the scene of the operations. He was told to undertake a task for which the number of troops supposed to be required had been prescribed by others with even less knowledge than himself. He had no chance of effecting a
real surprise attack. Sir Ian Hamilton's final plan for the Battle of the Landing can be very simply stated. He resolved to effect his principal landings at the very tip of the peninsula, upon either side of Cape Helles. The troops were, to advance against the village of Krithia, and afterwards to carry the height of Achi Baba. A second main landing was to be made by the Australians and New Zealanders a little to the north of Gaba Tepe. They were to advance over the divide between Sari Bair and the Kilid Bahr plateau (Pasha Dagh) in the direction of the town of Maidos. It was hoped that the force advancing by way of Krithia and Achi Baba would get into touch with the Australians and that positions would be won from which the Narrows could be dominated. So greatly was the strength of the enemy's defences underestimated that it was seriously expected by many officers that Achi Baba would be crowned by nightfall on the first day. Six months later the expedition was still contemplating the slopes of Achi Baba from afar, while no union had been affected by land between the southern force and the Australians. "Their first boat was close to the beach beyond Gaba Tepe, when it was greeted with a
sharp outburst of rifle fire at 4.53 a.m., the light being still dim. The next moment the boat was grating on the sand, and a special correspondent with the Australians afterwards
wrote that the first Ottoman Turk to receive Anglo-Saxon steel since the Crusade was bayoneted at 5.50 am." The original Beach Z, near Gaba Tepe, the point selected as the landing place for the Australians, was not, attacked owing to a fortunate mistake. It was described as a rugged and difficult part of the coast, so rugged that it was not expected to be defended. Sir Ian Hamilton, in describing the landing of the Australians and New Zealanders, stated: Owing to the tows having failed to maintain their exact direction, the actual point
of disembarkation was rather more than a mile north of that which I had selected and was more closely overhung by steeper cliffs. Although this accident increased the initial difficulty of driving the enemy off the heights inland, it has since proved it- self to have been a blessing in disguise, inasmuch as the actual base of the force of occupation has been much better defiladed from shell fire. The beach on which the landing was actually effected is a very narrow strip of sand, about 1000 yards in length, bounded on the north and the south by two small promontories. At its southern extremity a deep ravine, with exceedingly steep, scrub-clad sides runs inland in a north-easterly direction. Near the northern end of the beach, a small but steep gully runs up into the hills at right angles to the shore. Between the ravine and the gully, the whole of the beach is backed by the seaward face of the spur which forms the north-western side of the ravine. From the top of the spur, the ground falls almost sheer except near the southern limit of the beach, where gentler slopes give access to the mouth of the ravine behind. Father inland lie in a tangled knot the under-features of Sari Bair, separated by deep ravines, which take a most confusing diversity of direction. Sharp spurs, covered with dense scrub, and falling away in many places in precipitous sandy cliffs, radiate from the principal mass of the mountain, from which they run north-west, west, south-west, and south, to the coast. It implies no slight on the brave English soldiers and sailors who fought at the end of the Peninsula to say that the chief preliminary interest of the whole Empire in the Battle of the Landing lay in the great attack delivered north of Gaba Tepe by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Stirring accounts of the fighting qualities of the Divisions from the Antipodes had al- ready reached England (says "The Times' History"). Much had been written about their fine physique, their intense and, their happy adaptability and their anxious desire to show to the world the stuff of which they were made. For the Great Commonwealth and for the distant Dominion the moment was specially historic. Their sons were fighting in the greatest of all wars for the first time, and they were fighting not only for the Empire as a whole but still more for the great heritage they had acquired and developed across the seas. Upon the Australians and New Zealanders, a very special responsibility rested that day. It rested with them to prove that they were worthy to hold and to keep their own vast lands. More was at stake than a battle with the Turks on the rugged heights which lay before them. The future of the world was at stake, and they were striking their first great blows in the mighty struggle into which all mankind was gradually being drawn. The Empire was watching eagerly to see how they acquitted themselves. Right nobly did they respond to the call. No one who knew them had ever doubted the valour of the Australians and New Zealanders. When night fell upon the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, the impression was confirmed that, as fighting men, the Australians and New Zealanders were second to none in the Empire. Throughout all the weary months which followed that impression was strengthened. The attack delivered by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was by far the greatest of all the assaults made at the Battle of the Landing. The force immediately sent ashore numbered over 4000, and by 2 p.m. this number had been increased to 12,000. The landing was under the direction of Rear-Admiral C. P. Thursby, C.M.G., whose squadron consisted of the following ships: Battleships: Queen, London, Prince of
Wales, Triumph, and Majestic. Cruiser: - Bacchante. Destroyers: Beagle, Bulldog, Foxhound,
Scourge, Colne, Usk, Chelmer, and Ribble. Seaplane Carrier: Ark Royal.
Balloon Ship: Manica.
Fifteen Trawlers. There were also a number of transports. About 1500 of the troops were placed on the Queen, the London, and the Prince of Wales before leaving Mudros Bay and these were to land first. The whole squadron left Mudros Bay on the afternoon on April 24 and steamed slowly through the night with all lights extinguished towards its destination. The appointed rendezvous was five miles from the landing-place, and it was reached at 1 a.m. The moonlight was very brilliant, and as the moon did not set until 3 am. it was afterwards thought that the watchers on the hillsides may have become early aware of the nearness of the flotilla. The soldiers on the battleships, who were mostly sleeping calmly, were aroused and served with a hot meal. A visitor to the mess decks wrote that "the Australians, the majority of whom were about to go into action for the first time under the most trying circumstances, possessed at 1 o'clock in the morning courage to be cheerful, quiet, and confident. There was no sign of nerves or undue excitement, such as one might reasonably have expected." At 1.20 a.m. H.M.S. Queen, the flagship, gave the order to lower the boats. The picket-boats were also lowered to take them in tow. The troops fell in on the quarter- decks of the battleships, and at 2.50 a.m. the signal was made for the 1500 men to embark. As at the other landings, each picket-boat towed four cutters. Another 2500 men were transferred from the transports to destroyers, which were to stand in as close to the shore as possible. The cutters, after landing their first loads, were to make for the destroyers and bring the rest of the men ashore. The transfer of the troops to the small craft was effected very rapidly and in complete
silence. The decks of the battleships were cleared for action, the crews went to general
quarters, and at 2.58 a.m. the squadron approached the shore at a speed of five knots.
The intention was to make the first landing just before daybreak. At 4.10 the picket boats were ordered to go ahead, and steamed slowly past the battleships, towing the heavily-laden boats. At 4.50 the enemy showed a light onshore, and three minutes later a strong fusillade broke out from rifles and machine-guns, wounding a number of men in the boats. - The blood of the Australians was up. They saw a battalion of Turks running forward.
The moment the keels touched the beach they leaped into the water. They waited for no
orders. They fired no shots. Before the astonished Turks quite realised what was happening they were into them with the cold steel. The first Turk was bayoneted, as has been already noted, exactly at five minutes past five. The Turks broke and fled, though some of them had no chance to escape, and were slain
in their trenches. The first entrenchment were taken and with them a machine-gun. Then the Australians found themselves confronted with the steep cliff covered with thick scrub. The enemy had another trench half-way up, and were pouring in a galling fire. They had sharpshooters behind every bush, and were harassing not only the men on the
beach, but still more the fresh boat-loads coming ashore from the destroyers. Three
boats broke away from their tows, and drifted along the coast, helpless under a rain of
bullets. The determined men at the base of the cliffs only paused to charge their
magazines, and to throw aside their packs. Then they clambered with desperate haste up
the cliff-side, cleared the second trench within a quarter of an hour, and pursued the startled
Ottomans to the top. There was no semblance of order in that first wild rush, for there
was no chance of keeping rank. Every man fought for himself, but the one universal object
was to get forward.
The units of the first attack formed the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade, and they were commanded by Colonel E.G. Sinclair Maclagan, D.S.O. Both Sir Ian Hamilton and Admiral de Robeck afterwards testified to the extraordinary gallantry and devotion of the brigade,and of its admirable commander. The 1st and 2nd Brigades were rapidly following, and as they neared the beach they saw "a glass-flat area covered with a shallow mist, and beyond, the tops of green hills peering through the vapour, dim shafts of warships and transports, and a fleeting glimpse of a seaplane as it winged its' way over the Turkish position." Nearer in they could hear the continuous crackle of rifle fire, which developed into a roar as they leaped into the water up to their armpits, and waded ashore, to be immediately hurried forward up the cliff to reinforce the 3rd Brigade. The Turks by this time were bringing field-guns and howitzers into position at a respectful distance. They had even summoned warships to the Narrows and were emulating the exploits of Queen Elizabeth by firing shells right across the peninsula at the Australian landing-place. It became necessary to order the transhipment from the transports to be effected farther out, and this caused considerable delay. Captain E. K. Loring, R.N., was in charge of the naval transport arrangements. while Captain A. A. Vyvyan, R.N., and Commander C. C. Dix, R.N., acted as beach master and assistant beach master respectively. The beach was very narrow and was constantly under shell-fire. The landing, as has been mentioned, was made a mile north of the point originally selected. In the end the mistake proved a boon to Anzac, but on the first day it eventually brought about much confusion, owing to the small space available. The beach was crowded with fighting men and wounded, and the units became very mixed. The covering warships were strenuously bombarding the enemy, but they could distinguish few definite targets: No better men than the Australians and New Zealanders could be found for extricating order out of such chaos. The attack had got out of hand, chiefly by reason of the head-
long pursuit undertaken by the forces early ashore. They had broken into groups and were ardently chasing the Turks without much regard for concerted operations. The ground
was very broken and diversified, and the undergrowth made it difficult for the detachments
to keep in touch with each other. Some small bodies of Australians pressed a very long
way indeed. It was even said, though the statement was never fully established, that
some of them almost crossed the peninsula, and came in sight of Maidos and the Narrows. What is certain is that many were killed, others overpowered, and that the breaks in
the ground hid the remains of some who had to be written down as missing. The Turks
at this period were fighting in equally irregular order. They had become very numerous,
and had recovered their balance, but presented small resemblance to military array.
What they did with great effect was to keep up a constant fire, which wrought considerable
execution. It was afterwards acknowledged to be practically impossible to give a consecutive account of these stages of the battle.
Isolated episodes can only be selected and strung together. Thus it was found that the
Turks were enfilading the beach with shrapnel from guns, some of which were posted
on Gaba Tepe, and others far to the north. The worst casualties of the day were due to this shrapnel fire. Parties of the 9th and 10th Battalions daringly charged three Krupp guns and put them out of action. One Australian fell over a cliff 100 feet high and was picked up little the worse. A New Zealander was slipping down a stone gully and was warned that there was a land mine at the bottom. "Catch me when I come up!" was his nonchalant response. A wounded man had his mouth shattered. "Got it where the chicken got the axe," he gasped with a contorted smile, and then he fainted as the stretcher-bearers arrived.
The battle on the heights and ridges was really pulled into a more coherent form by the
steady arrival of strong reinforcements on both sides. At 2 p.m. about 12,000 Australians
had landed, and more were coming ashore. Two batteries of Indian Mountain Artillery
had also been landed. The enemy had already reached considerably greater numbers. Troops from Maidos were pouring across the peninsula through Eski-keui, and it was estimated that before noon there must have been 20,000 Turks in or near the firing-line. They checked the tendency to make isolated dashes, and they also compelled the formation of a more definite line. The Anzacs eventually found themselves posted in good strength on a semi-circular front, of which the left was on the high ground over Fisherman's Hut. while the right touched the cliffs about a mile north of Gaba Tepe. They knew then full well that what they held they could keep. They had "made good."
A special correspondent who witnessed the first day's conflict afterwards wrote:
Some idea of the difficulty to be faced may be gathered when it is remembered that every
round of ammunition, all water, and all supplies had to be landed on a narrow beach and then carried up pathless hills, valleys, and bluffs several hundred feet high, to the firing line. The whole of this mass of troops concentrated on a very small area, and unable to reply, was exposed to a relentless and incessant shrapnel fire, which swept every yard of the ground, although fortunately a great deal of it was badly aimed or burst too high. The reserves were engaged in road making and carrying supplies to the crests, and in answering the calls for more ammunition.
A serious problem was getting away the wounded from the shore, where it was impossible to keep them. All those who were unable to hobble to the beach had to be carried down from the hills on stretchers, then hastily dressed and carried to the boats. The boat and beach parties never stopped working throughout the entire day and night.
The courage displayed by these wounded Australians will never be forgotten. Hastily
dressed and placed in trawlers, lighters, and ships' boats, they were towed to the ships. I saw some lighters full of bad cases. As they passed the battleship, some of those on board
recognised her as the ship they had left that morning, whereupon, in spite of their sufferings and discomforts, they set up a cheer, which was answered by a deafening shout of
encouragement from out crew.
I have, in fact, never seen the like of these wounded Australians in war before, for as they were towed amongst the ships, whilst accommodation was being found for them, al-
though many were shot to bits and without hope of recovery, their cheers resounded
through the night, and you could just see, amidst a mass of suffering humanity, arms
being waved in greeting to the crews of the warships. They were happy because they knew they had been tried for the first time in the war and had not been found wanting. They had been told to occupy the heights and hold on, and this they had done for 15 mortal
hours under an incessant shell fire, without the moral and material support of a single
gun ashore, and subjected the whole time to the violent counter-attacks of a brave enemy,
led by skilled leaders, whilst his snipers, hidden in caves and thickets and amongst the
dense scrub, made a deliberate practice of picking off every officer who endeavored to
give a word of command or to lead his men forward.
No finer feat of arms has been performed during the war than this sudden landing in the dark, this storming of the heights, and, above all, the holding on to the position
thus won whilst reinforcements were being poured from the transports.
During the night the Turks continued to attack, and on one occasion even charged the
8th Battalion with the bayonet. The Australians were equally good with the bayonet by
night and by day. They responded in kind, and there were no more Turkish bayonet
charges that night. When dawn broke the Anzacs had firmly held a good square mile of
the Gallipoli Peninsula, and it was clear they meant to go on holding it.
And all the world knows how they did go on holding it and how once they came very near to
driving the Turk off the Peninsula and opening the road to Constantinople. But the God of
Battles decided otherwise, and, despite the bravery of the men, it was decided to evacuate
the Peninsula. This was done on the night of December 19-20, and was in its way as memorable a war event as the world has ever known. By 5.30 on the morning of December 20, the whole of the Allied troops were steaming away, and in that wonderful withdrawal,
only one man had been wounded.
It was a side-track ending to a great and glorious expedition. But Gallipoli will ever
stand as a monument of the amazing valor and tenacity of the Anzacs. And they need
no other - although every front bears witness to their sublime courage and wonderful endurance.
Here's to the Anzacs! #anzacs #april #25thapril #gallopoli #anzacday