First World War - Despatches
DESPATCH TO WAR OFFICE BY GENERAL COMMANDING, IAN HAMILTON - DESCRIBING THE ALLIED FORCES HELD AT BAY BY PREPARED DEFENCES OF TURKISH FORCES.
Source: 3rd Supplement to the London Gazette (17th September 1915).
War Office, 20th September, 1915.
The following despatch has been received from General Ian Hamilton, reporting the perilous position held by the Allies against the powerful and prepared Turkish force:-
26th August, 1915
At the close of the ten days and ten nights described in my first despatch our troops had forced their way forward for some 5,000 yards from the landing places at the point of the [Gallipoli] peninsula. Opposite them lay the Turks, who since their last repulse had fallen back about half a mile upon previously prepared redoubts and entrenchments. Both sides had drawn heavily upon their stock of energy and munitions, but it seemed clear that whichever could first summon up spirit to make another push must secure at least several hundreds of yards of the debatable ground between the two fronts. And several hundred yards, whatever it might mean to the enemy, was a matter of life or death to a force crowded together under gun fire on so narrow a tongue of land.
Such was the situation on the 5th of May, the date last mentioned in my despatch of the 20th of that month.
On that day I determined to continue my advance, feeling certain that even if my tired troops could not carry the formidable opposing lines they would at least secure the use of the intervening ground. Orders were forthwith issued for an attack. The many urgent calls for reinforcements made during the previous critical fighting had forced me to disorganise and mix together several of the formations in the southern group, to the extent even of the French on our right having a British battalion holding their own extremest right. For the purposes of the impending fight it became therefore necessary to create temporarily a Composite Division, consisting of the 2nd Australian and New Zealand Infantry Brigades (withdrawn for the purpose from the northern section), together with a Naval Brigade formed of the Plymouth and Drake battalions. The 29th Division was reconstituted into four brigades, i.e., the 88th and 87th Brigades, the Lancashire Fusilier Brigade (T.F.), and the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade. The French Corps Expeditionnaire was reinforced by the 2nd Naval Brigade, and the new Composite Division formed my General Reserve. The 29th Division, whose left rested on the coast about three miles north-east of Cape Tekke, was ordered to direct, its right moving on the south-east edge of Krithia, while the Corps Expeditionnaire with the 2nd Naval Brigade had assigned to them for their first point of attack the commanding ridge running from north to south above the Kereves Dere. A foothold upon this ridge was essential, as its capture would ensure a safe pivot on which the 29th Division could swing in making any further advance. Communication between these two sections of the attack was to be maintained by the Plymouth and Drake battalions.
During the three days (6th-8th May) our troops were destined to be very severely tried. They were about to attack a series of positions scientifically selected in advance which, although not yet joined up into one line of entrenchment, were already strengthened by works on their more important tactical features. The 29th Division led off at 11 a.m., the French Corps followed suit at 11.30 a.m.; every yard was stubbornly contested; some Brigades were able to advance, others could do no more than maintain themselves. Positions were carried and held, other positions were carried and lost; but, broadly, our gunners kept lengthening the fuzes of their shrapnel, and by 1.30 p.m. the line had been pushed forward two to three hundred yards. Here and there this advance included a Turkish trench, but generally speaking the main enemy position still lay some distance ahead of our leading companies. By 4.30 p.m. it became clear that we should make no more progress that day. The French Corps were held up by a strong field work. They had made good a point upon the crest line of the lower slope of the Kereves Dere ridge, but there they had come under a fire so galling that they were unable, as it turned out, to entrench until nightfall. The 88th Brigade could not carry a clump of fir trees to their front: company after company made the perilous essay, but the wood swept by hidden machine-guns proved a veritable deathtrap. The Lancashire Fusiliers Brigade also were only just barely holding on and were suffering heavy losses from these same concealed machine-guns. The troops were ordered to entrench themselves in line and link up their flanks on either side. At night, save for rifle fire, there was quiet along the whole British line. On the right a determined bayonet charge was made upon the French, who gave ground for the moment, but recovered it again at dawn.
Next morning (the 7th May) we opened with shrapnel upon the enemy's trenches opposite our extreme left, and at 10 a.m. the Lancashire Fusiliers Brigade began the attack. But our artillery had not been able to locate the cleverly sited German machine-gun batteries, whose fire rendered it physically impossible to cross that smooth glacis. Next to the right the 88th Brigade swept forward, and the 1/5th Royal Scots, well supported by artillery fire, carried the fir trees with a rush. This time it was discovered that not only the enfilading machine-guns had made the wood so difficult to hold. Amongst the branches of the trees Turkish snipers were perched, sometimes upon small wooden platforms. When these were brought down the surroundings became much healthier. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, of the 87th Brigade, were pushed up to support the left of the 88th, and all seemed well, when, at 1.20 p.m., a strong Turkish counter-attack drove us back out of the fir clump. As an off-set to this cheek the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers captured three Turkish trenches and a second battalion of the 87th Brigade, The King's Own Scottish Borderers, was sent forward on the left to make these good. At 3 p.m. the Lancashire Fusiliers Brigade again reported they were definitely held up by the accurate cross-fire of batteries of machine-guns concealed in the scrub on the ridge between the ravine and the sea, batteries which also enfiladed the left flank of the 88th Brigade as it endeavoured to advance in. the centre. Unless we were to acquiesce in a stalemate the moment for our effort had arrived, and a general attack was ordered for 4.45 p.m., the whole of the 87th Brigade to reinforce the 88th Brigade, and the New Zealand Brigade to support it. Despite their exhaustion and their losses the men responded with a will. The whole force, French and British, rose simultaneously and made a rush forward. All along the front we made good a certain amount of ground, excepting only on our extreme left. For the third time British bayonets carried the fir clump in our centre, and when darkness fell the whole line (excepting always the left) had gained from 200 to 300 yards, and had occupied or passed over the first line of Turkish trenches. The troops were now worn out; the new lines needed consolidating, and it was certain that fresh reinforcements were reaching the Turks. Balancing the actual state of my own troops against the probable condition of the Turks, I decided to call upon the men to make one more push before the new enemy forces could get into touch with their surroundings. Orders were therefore issued to dig in at sundown on the line gained; to maintain that line against counter-attack, and to prepare to advance again next morning. The Lancashire Fusiliers Brigade was withdrawn into reserve, and its place on the left was taken by the Brigade of New Zealanders. General Headquarters were shifted to an entrenchment on a hill in rear of the left of our line. Under my plan for the fresh attack the New Zealand Brigade was to advance through the line held during the night by the 88th Brigade and press on towards Krithia. Simultaneously, the 87th Brigade was to threaten the works on the west of the ravine, whilst endeavouring, by means of parties of scouts and volunteers, to steal patches of ground from the areas dominated by the German machine-guns. At 10.15 a.m. heavy fire from ships and batteries was opened on the whole front, and at 10.30 a.m. the New Zealand Brigade began to move, meeting with strenuous opposition from the enemy, who had received his reinforcements. Supported by the fire of the batteries and the machine-guns of the 88th Brigade, they pushed forward on the right and advanced their centre beyond the fir trees, but could make little further progress. By 1.30 p.m. about 200 yards had been gained beyond the previously most advanced trenches of the 88th Brigade. At this hour the French Corps reported they could not advance up the crest of the spur west of Kereves Dere till further progress was made by the British. At 4 p.m. I gave orders that the whole line, reinforced by the 2nd Australian Brigade, would fix bayonets, slope arms, and move on Krithia precisely at 5.30 p.m. At 5.15 p.m. the ships' guns and our heavy artillery bombarded the enemy's position for a quarter of an hour, and at 5.30 p.m. the field guns opened a hot shrapnel fire to cover the infantry advance. The co-operation of artillery and infantry in this attack was perfect, the timing of the movement being carried out with great precision. Some of the companies of the New Zealand regiments did not get their orders in time, but acting on their own initiative they pushed on as soon as the heavy howitzers ceased firing, thus making the whole advance simultaneous. The steady advance of the British could be followed by the sparkle of their bayonets until the long lines entered the smoke clouds. The French at first made no move, then, their drums beating and bugles sounding the charge, they suddenly darted forward in a swarm of skirmishers, which seemed in one moment to cover the whole southern face of the ridge of the Kereves Dere. Against these the Turkish gunners now turned their heaviest pieces, and as the leading groups stormed the first Turkish redoubt the ink-black bursts of high-explosive shells blotted out both assailants and assailed. The trial was too severe for the Senegalese tirailleurs. They recoiled. They were rallied. Another rush forward, another repulse, and then a small supporting column of French soldiers was seen silhouetted against the sky as they charged upwards along the crest of the ridge of the Kereves Dere, whilst elsewhere it grew so dark that the whole of the battlefield became a blank. Not until next morning did any reliable detail come to hand of what had happened. The New Zealanders' firing line had marched over the cunningly concealed enemy's machine-guns without seeing them, and these, re-opening on our supports as they came up, caused them heavy losses. But the first line pressed on and arrived within a few yards of the Turkish trenches which had been holding up our advance beyond the fir wood. There they dug themselves in.
The Australian Brigade had advanced through the Composite Brigade, and, in spite of heavy losses from shrapnel, machine-gun, and rifle fire, had progressed from 300 to 400 yards. The determined valour shown by these two brigades, the New Zealand Brigade, under Brigadier-General F. E. Johnston, and the 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier-General the Hon. J. W. McCay, are worthy of particular praise. Their losses were correspondingly heavy, but in spite of fierce counterattacks by numerous fresh troops they stuck to what they had won with admirable tenacity. On the extreme left the 87th Brigade, under Major-General W. R. Marshall, made a final and especially gallant effort to advance across the smooth, bullet-swept area between the ravine and the sea, but once more the enemy machine-guns thinned the ranks of the leading companies of the South Wales Borderers, and again there was nothing for it but to give ground. But when night closed in the men of the 87th Brigade of their own accord asked to be led forward, and achieved progress to the extent of just about 200 yards. During the darkness the British troops everywhere entrenched themselves on the line gained. On the right the French column, last seen as it grew dark, had stormed and still held the redoubt round which the fighting had centred until then. Both General d'Amade and General Simonin had been present in person with this detachment and had rallied the Senegalese and encouraged the white troops in their exploit. With their bayonets these brave fellows of the 8th Colonials had inflicted exceedingly heavy losses upon the enemy. The French troops whose actions have hitherto been followed belonged, all of them, to the 2nd Division. But beyond the crest of the ridge the valley of the Kereves Dere lies dead to anyone occupying my post of command. And in this area the newly arrived Brigade of the French 1st Division had been also fighting hard. Here they had advanced simultaneously with the 2nd Division and achieved a fine success in their first rush, which was jeopardised when a battalion of Zouaves was forced to give way under a heavy bombardment. But, as in the case of the 2nd Division, the other battalions of the 1st Regiment de Marche d'Afrique, under Lieutenant-Colonel Nieger, restored the situation, and in the end the Division carried and held two complete lines of Turkish redoubts and trenches. The net result of the three days' fighting had been a gain of 600 yards on the right of the British line and 400 yards on the left and centre. The French had captured all the ground in front of the Farm Zjimmerman, as well as a redoubt, for the possession of which there had been obstinate fighting during the whole of the past three days. This may not seem very much, but actually more had been won that at first meets the eye. The German leaders of the Turks were quick to realise the fact. From nightfall till dawn on the 9th-10th efforts were made everywhere to push us back. A specially heavy attack was made upon the French, supported by a hot cannonade and culminating in a violent hand-to-hand conflict in front of the Brigade Simonin. Everywhere the assailants were repulsed, and now for the first time I felt that we had planted a fairly firm foothold upon the point of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Meanwhile in the Northern Zone also, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps had strengthened their grip on Turkish soil. Whilst in the south we had been attacking and advancing they had been defending and digging themselves more and more firmly into those cliffs on which it had seemed at first that their foothold was so precarious.
On the 11th May, the first time for eighteen days and nights, it was found possible to withdraw the 29th Division from the actual firing line and to replace it by the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade and by the 42nd Division, which had completed its disembarkation two days previously. The withdrawal gave no respite from shells, but at least, the men were, most nights, enabled to sleep. The moment lent itself to reflection, and during this breathing space I was able to realise we had now nearly reached the limit of what could be attained by mingling initiative with surprise. The enemy was as much in possession of my numbers and dispositions as I was in possession of their first line of defence; the opposing fortified fronts stretched parallel from sea to straits; there was little scope left now, either at Achi Baba or at Kaba Tepe, for tactics which would fling flesh and blood battalions against lines of unbroken barbed wire. Advances must more and more tend to take the shape of concentrated attacks on small sections of the enemy's line after full artillery preparation. Siege warfare was soon bound to supersede manoeuvre battles in the open. Consolidation and fortification of our front, improvement of approaches, selection of machine-gun emplacements and scientific grouping of our artillery under a centralised control must ere long form the tactical basis of our plans.
So soon, then, as the troops had enjoyed a day or two of comparative rest I divided my front into four sections. On the left was the 29th Division, to which the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade was attached. In the left centre came the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division, on the right centre stood the Royal Naval Division, and at my right was the Corps Expeditionnaire. Thus I secured organisation in depth as well as front, enabling each division to arrange for its own reliefs, supports, and reserves, and giving strength for defence as well as attack. Hitherto the piecemeal arrival of reinforcements had forced a hand-to-mouth procedure upon headquarters; now the control became more decentralised. Already, before the new system of local efforts had come into working order, the 29th Indian Brigade had led the way towards it by a brilliant little affair on the night of the 10th/11th May. The Turkish right rested upon the steep cliff north-east of "Y" beach, where the King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Plymouth Battalion, Royal Naval Division, had made their first landing. Since those days the enemy had converted the bluff into a powerful bastion, from which the fire of machine-guns had held up the left of our attacks. Two gallant attempts by the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers to establish a footing on this cliff on the 8th and 9th May had both of them failed. During the night of the 10th/11th May the 6th Gurkhas started off to seize this bluff. Their scouts descended to the sea, worked their way for some distance through the broken ground along the shore, and crawled hands and knees up the precipitous face of the cliff. On reaching the top they were heavily fired on. As a surprise the enterprise had failed, but as a reconnaissance it proved very useful. On the following day Major-General H. V. Cox, commanding 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, submitted proposals for a concerted attack on this bluff (now called Gurkha Bluff), and arrangements were made with the Navy for co-operation. These arrangements were completed on 12th May; they included a demonstration by the Manchester Brigade of the 42nd Division and by our artillery and the support of the attack from the sea by the guns of H.M.S. "Dublin" and H.M.S. "Talbot." At 6.30 p.m. on the 12th May the Manchester Brigade and the 29th Divisional artillery opened fire on the Turkish trenches, and under cover of this fire a double company of the 1/6th Gurkhas once more crept along the shore and assembled below the bluff. Then, the attention of the Turks being taken up with the bombardment, they swiftly scaled the cliffs and carried the work with a rush. The machine-gun section of the Gurkhas was hurried forward, and at 4.30 a.m: a second double company was pushed up to join the first. An hour later these two double companies extended and began to entrench to join up their new advanced left diagonally with the right of the trenches previously held by their battalion. At 6 a.m. a third double company advanced across the open from their farmer front line of trenches under a heavy rifle and machine-gunfire, and established themselves on this diagonal line between the main ravine on their right and the newly captured redoubt. The 4th double company moved up as a support, and held the former firing line. Our left flank, which had been firmly held up against all attempts on the 6th-8th was now, by stratagem, advanced nearly 500 yards. Purchased as it was with comparatively slight losses (21 killed, 92 wounded) this success was due to careful preparation and organisation by Major-General H. V. Cox, commanding 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Hon. C. G. Bruce, commanding 1/6th Gurkhas, and Major (temporary Lieutenant-Colonel) F. A. Wynter, R.G.A., commanding the Artillery Group supporting the attack. The co-operation of the two cruisers was excellent, and affords another instance of the admirable support by the Navy to our troops. On May 14th General Gouraud arrived and took over from General d'Amade the command of the Corps Expeditionnaire. As General d'Amade quitted the shores of the peninsula he received a spontaneous ovation from the British soldiers at work upon the beaches. The second division of the Corps Expeditionnaire, commanded by General Bailloud, had now completed disembarkation.
From the time of the small local push forward made by the 6th Gurkhas on the night of the 10th/11th May until the 4th of June the troops under my command pressed against the enemy continuously by sapping, reconnaissance and local advances, whilst, to do them justice, they (the enemy) did what they could to repay us in like coin. I have given the escalade of Gurkha Bluff as a sample; no 48 hours passed without something of the sort being attempted or achieved either by the French or ourselves. Turning now to where the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps were perched upon the cliffs of Sari Bair, I must begin by explaining that their role at this stage of the operations was - first, to keep open a door leading to the vitals of the Turkish position; secondly, to hold up as large a body as possible of the enemy in front of them, so as to lessen the strain at Cape Helles. Anzac, in fact, was cast to play second fiddle to Cape Helles, a part out of harmony with the dare-devil spirit animating those warriors from the South, and so it has come about that, as your Lordship will now see, the defensive of the Australians and New Zealanders has always tended to take on the character of an attack. The line held during the period under review by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps formed a rough semi-circle inland from the beach of Anzac Cove, with a diameter of about 1,100 yards. The firing line is everywhere close to the enemy's trenches, and in all sections of the position sapping, counter-sapping and bomb attacks have been incessant. The shelling both of the trenches and beaches has been impartial and liberal. As many as 1,400 shells have fallen on Anzac within the hour, and these of all calibres, from 31 inches to field, shrapnel. Around Quinn's Post, both above and below ground, the contest has been particularly severe. This section of the line is situated on the circumference of the Anzac semi-circle at the furthest point from its diameter. Here our fire trenches are mere ledges on the brink of a sheer precipice falling 200 feet into the valley below. The enemy's trenches are only a few feet distant.
On 9th May a night assault, supported by enfilade fire, was delivered on the enemy's trenches in front of Quinn's Post. The trenches were carried at the point of the bayonet, troops established in them, and reinforcements sent up. At dawn on the 10th May a strong counterattack forced our troops to evacuate the trenches and fall back on Quinn's Post. In opposing this counter-attack our guns did great execution, as we discovered later from a Turkish officer's diary that two Turkish regiments on this date lost 600 killed and 2,000 wounded. On the night of 14th-15th May a sortie was made from Quinn's Post with the object of filling in Turkish trenches in which bomb-throwers were active. The sortie, which cost us some seventy casualties, was not successful.
On 14th May Lieutenant-General Sir W. R. Birdwood was slightly wounded, but, I am glad to say, he was not obliged to relinquish the command of his Corps. On 15th May I deeply regret to say Major-General W. T. Bridges, commanding the Australian Division, received a severe wound, which proved fatal a few days later. Sincere and single-minded in his devotion to Australia and to duty, his loss still stands out even amidst the hundreds of other brave officers who have gone.
On the 18th May Anzac was subjected to a heavy bombardment from large calibre guns and howitzers. At midnight of the 18th-19th the most violent rifle and machine-gun fire yet experienced broke out along the front. Slackening from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. it then broke out again, and a heavy Turkish column assaulted the left of No. 2 Section. This assault was beaten off with loss. Another attack was delivered before daylight on the centre of this section; it was repeated four times and repulsed each time with very serious losses to the enemy. Simultaneously a heavy attack was delivered on the north-east salient of No. 4 section, which was repulsed and followed up, but the pressing of the counterattack was prevented by shrapnel. Attacks were also delivered on Quinn's Post, Courtney's Post, and along the front of our right section. At about 5 a.m. the battle was fairly joined, and a furious cannonade was begun by a large number of enemy guns, including 12 inch and 9.2 inch, and other artillery that had not till then opened. By 9.30 a.m. the Turks were pressing hard against the left of Courtney's and the right of Quinn's Post. At 10 a.m. this attack, unable to face fire from the right, swung round to the left, where it was severely handled by our guns and the machine-guns of our left section. By 11 a.m. the enemy, who were crowded together in the trenches beyond Quinn's Post, were giving way under their heavy losses. According to prisoners' reports 30,000 troops, including five fresh regiments, were used against us. General Liman Von Sanders was himself in command. The enemy's casualties were heavy, as may be judged from the fact that over 3,000 dead were lying in the open in view of our trenches. A large proportion of these losses were due to our artillery fire. Our casualties amounted to about 100 killed and 500 wounded, including 9 officers wounded.
The next four days were chiefly remarkable for the carrying through of the negotiations for the suspension of arms, which actually took place on 24th May. About 5 p.m. on 20th May white flags and Red Crescents began to appear all along the line. In No. 2 section a Turkish staff officer, two medical officers, and a company commander came out and were met by Major-General H. B. Walker, commanding the Australian Division, half-way between the trenches. The staff officer explained that he was instructed to arrange a suspension of arms for the removal of dead and wounded. He had no written credentials, and he was informed that neither he nor the General Officer Commanding Australian Division had the power to arrange such a suspension of arms, but that at 8 p.m. an opportunity would be given of exchanging letters on the subject, and that meanwhile hostilities would recommence after 10 minutes' grace. At this time some stretcher parties on both sides were collecting wounded, and the Turkish trenches opposite ours were packed with men standing shoulder to shoulder two deep. Matters were less regular in front of other sections, where men with white flags came out to collect wounded. Meanwhile it was observed that columns were on the march in the valley up which the Turks were accustomed to bring up their reinforcements. On hearing the report of these movements, General Sir W. R. Birdwood, commanding Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, ordered his trenches to be manned against a possible attack. As the evening drew in the enemy's concentration continued, and everything pointed to their intention of making use of the last of the daylight to get their troops into position without being shelled by our artillery. A message was therefore sent across to say that no clearing of dead or wounded could be allowed during the night, and that any negotiations for such a purpose should be opened through the proper channel and initiated before noon on the following day. Stretcher and other parties fell back, and immediately fire broke out. In front of our right section masses of men advanced behind lines of unarmed men holding up their hands. Firing became general all along the line, accompanied by a heavy bombardment of the whole position, so that evidently this attack must have been prearranged. Musketry and machine-gun fire continued without interruption till after dark, and from then up to about 4 a.m. next day. Except for a half-hearted attack in front of Courtney's Post, no assault was made till 1.20 a.m., when the enemy left their trenches and advanced on Quinn's Post. Our guns drove the Turks back to their trenches, and beat back all other attempts to assault. By 4.30 a.m. on 21st May musketry fire had died down to normal dimensions. As the Turks seemed anxious to bury their dead, and as human sentiment and medical science were both of one accord in favour of such a course, I sent Major-General W. P. Braithwaite, my Chief of the General Staff, on 22nd May to assist Lieutenant-General Sir W. R. Birdwood, commanding the Army Corps, in coming to some suitable arrangements with the representative sent by Essad Pasha. The negotiations resulted in a suspension of arms from 7.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on 24th May. The procedure laid down for this suspension of arms was, I am glad to inform your Lordship, correctly observed on both sides. The burial of the dead was finished about 3 p.m. Some 3,000 Turkish dead were removed or buried in the area between the opposing lines. The whole of these were killed on or since the 18th of May. Many bodies of men killed earlier were also buried.
On the 25th May, with the assistance of two destroyers of the Royal Navy, a raid was carried out on Nibrunesi Point. A fresh telephone line was destroyed and an observing station demolished. On 28th May, at 9 p.m., a raid was made on a Turkish post overlooking the beach 1,200 yards north of Kaba Tepe, "Rattlesnake" co-operating. A party of 50 rifles rushed the post, killing or capturing the occupants. A similar raid was made against an enemy trench to the left of our line which cost the Turks 200 casualties, as was afterwards ascertained. From 28th May till 5th June the fighting seemed to concentrate itself around Quinn's Post. Three enemy galleries had been detected there, and work on them stopped by countermines, which killed 20 Turks and injured 30. One gallery had, however, been overlooked, and at 3.30 a.m. on 29th May a mine was sprung in or near the centre of Quinn's Post. The explosion was followed by a very heavy bomb attack, before which our left centre subsection fell back, letting in a storming party of Turks. This isolated one subsection on the left from the two other subsections on the right. At 5.30 a.m. our counter-attack was launched, and by 6 a.m. the position had been retaken with the bayonet by the 15th Australian Infantry Battalion, led by Major Quinn, who was unfortunately killed. All the enemy in the trench were killed or captured, and the work of restoration was begun. At 6.30 a.m. the Turks again attacked, supported by artillery, rifle and machine-gun fire and by showers of bombs from the trenches. The fine shooting of our guns and the steadiness of the Infantry enabled us to inflict upon the enemy a bloody repulse, demoralising them to such an extent that the bomb throwers of their second line flung the missiles into the middle of their own first line. At 8.15 a.m. the attack slackened, and by 8.45 a.m. the enemy's attacks had practically ceased. Our casualties in this affair amounted to 2 officers, 31 other ranks killed, 12 officers and 176 other ranks wounded. The enemy's losses must have been serious, and were probably equal to those sustained on 9th /10th May. Except for the first withdrawal in the confusion of the mine explosion, all ranks fought with the greatest tenacity and courage.
On 30th May preparations were made in Quinn's Post to attack and destroy two enemy saps, the heads of which had reached within 5 yards of our fire trench. Two storming parties of 35 men went forward at 1 p.m., cleared the sap heads and penetrated into the trenches beyond, but they were gradually driven back by Turkish counter-attacks, in spite of our heavy supporting fire, our casualties being chiefly caused by bombs, of which the enemy seem to have an unlimited supply. During 31st May close fighting continued in front of Quinn's Post. On 1st June, an hour after dark, two sappers of the New Zealand Engineers courageously crept out and laid a charge of guncotton against a timber and sandbag bomb-proof. The structure was completely demolished. After sunset on the 4th of June three separate enterprises were carried out by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. These were undertaken in compliance with an order which I had issued that the enemy's attention should be distracted during an attack I was about to deliver in the southern zone. A demonstration in the direction of Kaba Tepe the Navy co-operating by bombarding the Turkish trenches.
A sortie at 11 p.m. towards a trench 200 yards from Quinn's Post. This failed, but a second sortie by 100 men took place at 2.55 a.m. on 5th- June and penetrated to the Turkish trench; demolished a machine-gun emplacement which enfiladed Quinn's Post, and withdrew in good order.
At Quinn's Post an assault was delivered at 11 p.m. A party of 60 men, accompanied by a bomb-throwing party on either flank, stormed the enemy's trench. In the assault many Turks were bayonetted and 28 captured. A working party followed up the attack and at once set to work. Meanwhile the Turkish trenches on the left of the post were heavily assailed with machine-gun fire and grenades, which drew from them a very heavy fire. After daybreak a strong bomb attack developed on the captured trench, the enemy using a heavier type of bomb than hitherto. At 6.30 a.m. the trench had to be abandoned, and it was found necessary to retire to the original fire trench of the post and the bombproof in front of its left. Our casualties were 80; those of the enemy considerably greater. On 5th June a sortie was made from Quinn's Post by 2 officers and 100 men of the 1st Australian Infantry, the objective being the destruction of a machine-gun in a trench known as German Officer's Trench. A special party of 10 men with the officer commanding the party (Lieutenant E. E. L. Lloyd, 1st Battalion (New South Wales) Australian Imperial Force) made a dash for the machine-gun; one of the 10 men managed to fire three rounds into the gun at a range of five feet and another three at the same range through a loophole. The darkness of the trench and its overhead cover prevented the use of the bayonet, but some damage was done by shooting down over the parapet. As much of the trench as pos¬sible was dismantled. The party suffered some casualties from bombs, and was enfiladed all the time by machine-guns from either flank. The aim of this gallant assault being attained the party withdrew in good order with their wounded. Casualties in all were 36. I now return to the Southern Zane and to the battle of the 4th of June. From 25th May onwards the troops had been trying to work up within rushing distance of the enemy's front trenches.
On the 25th May the Royal Naval and 42nd Divisions crept 100 yards nearer to the Turks, and on the night of 28th/29th May the whole of the British line wade a further small advance. On that same night the French Corps Expeditionnaire was successful in capturing a small redoubt on the extreme Turkish left west of the Kereves Dere. All Turkish counter-attacks during 29th May were repulsed. On the night of 30th May two of their many assaults effected temporary lodgement. But on both occasions they were driven out again with the bayonet. On every subsequent night up to that of the 3rd/4th June assaults were made upon the redoubt and upon our line, but at the end of that period our position remained intact. This brings the narrative up to the day of the general attack upon the enemy's front line of trenches which ran from the west of the Kereves Dere in a northerly direction to the sea. Taking our line of battle from right to left the troops were deployed in the following order:- The Corps Expeditionnaire, the Royal Naval Division, the 42nd (East Lancs) Division and the 29th Division.
The length of the front, so far as the British troops were concerned, was rather over 4,000 yards, and the total infantry available amounted to 24,000 men, which permitted the General Officer Commanding 8th Army Corps to form a corps reserve of 7,000 men.
My General Headquarters for the day were at the command post on the peninsula.
At 8 a.m. on 4th June our heavy artillery opened with a deliberate bombardment which continued till 10.30 a.m. At 11 a.m. the bombardment recommenced and continued till 11.20 a.m., when a feint attack was made which successfully drew heavy fire from the enemy's guns and rifles. At 11.30 a.m. all our guns opened fire and continued with increasing intensity till noon.
On the stroke of noon the artillery increased their range and along the whole line the infantry fixed bayonets and advanced.
The assault was immediately successful. On the extreme right the French 1st Division carried a line of trench, whilst the French 2nd Division, with the greatest dash and gallantry captured a strong redoubt called the "Haricot," for which they had already had three desperate contests. Only the extreme left of the French was unable to gain any ground, a feature destined to have an unfortunate effect upon the final issue.
The 2nd Naval Brigade of the Royal Naval Division rushed forward with great dash; the "Anson" Battalion captured the southern face of a Turkish redoubt which formed a salient in the enemy's line, the "Howe" and "Hood" Battalions captured trenches fronting them, and by 12.15 p.m. the whole Turkish line forming their first objective was in their hands. Their consolidating party went forward at 12.25 p.m.
The Manchester Brigade of the 42nd Division advanced magnificently. In five minutes the first line of Turkish trenches were captured, and by 12.30 p.m. the Brigade had carried with a rush the line forming their second objective, having made an advance of 600 yards in all. The working parties got to work without incident, and the position here could not possibly have been better.
On the left the 29th Division met with more difficulty. All along the section of the 88th Brigade the troops jumped out of their trenches at noon and charged across the open at the nearest Turkish trench. In most places the enemy crossed bayonets with our men and inflicted severe loss upon us. But the 88th Brigade was not to be denied. The Worcester Regiment was the first to capture trenches, and the remainder of the 88th Brigade, though at first held up by flanking as well as fronting fire, also pushed on doggedly until they had fairly made good the whole of the Turkish first line.
Only on the extreme left did we sustain a check. Here the Turkish front trench was so sited as to have escaped damage from our artillery bombardment, and the barbed wire obstacle was intact. The result was that, though the 14th Sikhs on the right flank pushed on despite losses amounting to three-fourths of their effectives, the centre of the Brigade could make no headway. A company of the 6th Gurkhas on the left, skilfully led along the cliffs by its commander, actually forced its way into a Turkish work, but the failure of the rest of the Brigade threatened isolation, and it was as skilfully withdrawn under fire. Reinforcements were therefore sent to the left so that, if possible, a fresh attack might be organised.
Meanwhile, on the right of the line, the gains of .the morning were being compromised. A very heavy counter-attack had developed against the "Haricot." The Turks poured in masses of men through prepared communication trenches, and, under cover of accurate shell fire, were able to recapture that redoubt. The French, forced to fall back, uncovered in doing so the right flank of the Royal Naval Division. Shortly before 1 p.m. the right of the 2nd Naval Brigade had to retire with very heavy loss from the redoubt they had captured, thus exposing in their turn the "Howe" and "Hood" Battalions to enfilade, so that they, too, had nothing for it but to retreat across the open under exceedingly heavy machine gun and musketry fire.
By 1.30 p.m. the whole of the captured trenches in this section had been lost again, and the Brigade was back in its original position, the "Collingwood" Battalion, which had gone forward in support, having been practically destroyed.
The question was now whether this rolling up of the newly captured line from the right would continue until the whole of our gains were wiped out. It looked very like it, for now the enfilade fire of the Turks began to fall upon the Manchester Brigade of the 42nd Division, which was firmly consolidating the furthest distant line of trenches it had so brilliantly won. After 1.30 p.m. it became increasingly difficult for this gallant Brigade to hold its ground. Heavy casualties occurred; the Brigadier and many other officers were wounded or killed; yet it continued to hold out with the greatest tenacity and grit. Every effort was made to sustain the Brigade in its position. Its right flank was thrown back to make face against the enfilade fire and reinforcements were sent to try to fill the diagonal gap between it and the Royal Naval Division. But, ere long, it became clear that unless the right of our line could advance again it would be impossible for the Manchesters to maintain the very pronounced salient in which they now found themselves.
Orders were issued, therefore, that the Royal Naval Division should co-operate with the French Corps in a fresh attack, and reinforcements were despatched to this end. The attack, timed for 3 p.m., was twice postponed at the request of General Gouraud, who finally reported that he would be unable to advance again that day with any prospect of success. By 6.30 p.m., therefore, the 42nd Division had to be extricated with loss from the second line Turkish trenches, and had to content themselves with consolidating on the first line which they had captured within five minutes of commencing the attack. Such was the spirit displayed by this Brigade that there was great difficulty in persuading the men to fall back. Had their flanks been covered nothing would have made them loosen their grip.
No further progress had been found possible in front of the 88th Brigade and Indian Brigade. Attempts were made by their reserve battalions to advance on the right and left flanks respectively, but in both cases heavy fire drove them back.
At 4 p.m. under support of our artillery the Royal Fusiliers were able to advance beyond the first line of captured trenches, but the fact that the left flank was held back made the attempt to hold any isolated position in advance inadvisable.
As the reserves had been largely depleted by the despatch of reinforcements to various parts of the line, and information was to hand of the approach of strong reinforcements of fresh troops to the enemy, orders were issued for the consolidation of the line then held. Although we had been forced to abandon so much of the ground gained in the first rush, the net result of the day's operations was considerable - namely, an advance of 200 to 400 yards along the whole of our centre, a front of nearly 3 miles. That the enemy suffered severely was indicated, not only by subsequent information, but by the fact of his attempting no counter-attack during the night, except upon the trench captured by the French 1st Division on the extreme right. Here two counter-attacks were repulsed with loss. The prisoners taken during the day amounted to 400, including 11 officers: amongst these were 5 Germans, the remains of a volunteer machine-gun detachment from the Goeben. Their commanding officer was killed and the machine-gun destroyed. The majority of these captures were made by the 42nd Division under Major-General W. Douglas. From the date of this battle to the end of the month of June the incessant attacks and counter-attacks which have so grievously swelled our lists of casualties have been caused by the determination of the Turks to regain ground they had lost, a determination clashing against our firm resolve to continue to increase our holding. Several of these daily encounters would have been the subject of a separate despatch in the campaigns of my youth and middle age, but, with due regard to proportion, they cannot even be so much as mentioned here. Only one example each from the French, British and Australian and New Zealand spheres of action will be most briefly set down so that Your Lordship may understand the nature of the demands made upon the energies and fortitude of the troops. At 4.30 a.m. on June the 21st the French Corps Expeditionnaire attacked the formidable works that flank the Kereves Dere.
By noon their 2nd Division had stormed all the Turkish first and second line trenches to their front, and had captured the Haricot redoubt. On their right the 1st Division took the first line of trenches, but were counter-attacked and driven out. Fresh troops were brought up and launched upon another assault, but the Turks were just as obstinate and drove out the second party before they had time to consolidate. At 2.45 p.m. General Gouraud issued an order that full use must be made of the remaining five hours of daylight, and that, before dark, these trenches must be taken and held, otherwise the gains of the 2nd Division would be sacrificed. At 6 p.m. the third assault succeeded: 600 yards of trenches remained in our hands, despite all the heavy counter-attacks made through the night by the enemy. In this attack the striplings belonging to the latest French drafts specially distinguished themselves by their forwardness and contempt of danger. Fifty prisoners were taken, and the enemy's casualties (mostly incurred during counter-attacks) were estimated at 7,000. The losses of the Corps Expeditionnaire were 2,500.
The Turkish right had hitherto rooted itself with special tenacity into the coast. In the scheme of attack submitted by Lieutenant-General A. G. Hunter Weston, commanding VIIIth Army Corps, our left, pivoting upon a point in our line about one mile from the sea, was to push forward until its outer flank advanced about 1,000 yards. If the operation was successful then, at its close, we should have driven the enemy back for a thousand yards along the coast, and the trenches of this left section of our line would be facing east instead of, as previously, north-east. Obviously the ground to be gained lessened as our line drew back from the sea towards its fixed or pivotal right. Five Turkish trenches must be carried in the section nearest the sea: only two Turkish trenches in the section furthest from the sea. At 10.20 a.m. on the 28th June our bombardment began. At 10.45 a.m. a small redoubt known as the Boomerang was rushed by the Border Regiment. At 11 a.m. the 87th Brigade, under Major-General W. R. Marshall, captured three lines of Turkish trenches. On their right the 4th and 7th Royal Scots captured the two Turkish trenches allotted to them, but further to the east; near the pivotal point the remainder of the 156th Brigade were unable to get on. Precisely at 11.30 a.m. the second attack took place. The 86th Brigade, led by the 2nd Royal Fusiliers, dashed over the trenches already captured by their comrades of the 87th Brigade, and, pushing on with great steadiness, took two more .lines of trenches, thus achieving the five successive lines along the coast. This success was further improved upon by the Indian Brigade, who managed to secure, and to place into a state of defence, a spur running from the west of the furthest captured Turkish trench to the sea. Our casualties were small; 1,750 in all. The enemy suffered heavily, especially in the repeated counter-attacks, which for many days and nights afterwards they launched against the trenches they had lost.
On the night of the 29th/30th June the Turks, acting, as we afterwards ascertained, under the direct personal order of Enver Pasha, to drive us all into the sea, made a big attack on the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, principally on that portion of the line which was under the command of Major-General Sir A. J. Godley. From midnight till 1.30 a.m. a fire of musketry and guns of greatest intensity was poured upon our trenches. A heavy column then advanced to the assault, and was completely crumpled up by the musketry and machine-guns of the 7th and 8th Light Horse. An hour later another grand attack took place against our left and left centre, and was equally cut to pieces by our artillery and rifle fire. The enemy's casualties may be judged by the fact that in areas directly exposed to view between 400 and 500 were actually seen to fall.
On the evening of this day, the 30th of June, the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force suffered grievous loss owing to the wounding of General Gouraud by a shell. This calamity, for I count it nothing less, brings us down to the beginning of the month of July.
The command of the Corps Expeditionnaire Francais d'Orient was then taken over by General Bailloud, at which point I shall close my despatch. During the whole period under review the efforts and expedients whereby a great army has had its wants supplied upon a wilderness have, I believe, been breaking world records. The country is broken, mountainous, arid and void of supplies; the water found in the areas occupied by our forces is quite inadequate for their needs ; the only practicable beaches are small, cramped breaks in impracticable lines of cliffs; with the wind in certain quarters no sort of landing is possible; the wastage, by bombardment and wreckage, of lighters and small craft has led to crisis after crisis in our carrying capacity, whilst over every single beach plays fitfully throughout each day a devastating shell fire at medium ranges. Upon such a situation appeared quite suddenly the enemy submarines.
On 22nd May all transports had to be despatched to Mudros for safety. Thenceforth men, stores, guns, horses, etc., etc., had to be brought from Mudros - a distance of 40 miles - in fleet sweepers and other small and shallow craft less vulnerable to submarine attack. Every danger and every difficulty was doubled. But the Navy and the Royal Engineers were not to be thwarted in their landing operations either by nature or by the enemy, whilst the Army Service Corps, under Brigadier-General F. W. B. Koe, and the Army Ordnance Corps, under Brigadier-General R. W. M. Jackson, have made it a point of honour to feed men, animals, guns and rifles in the fighting line as regularly as if they were only out for manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain. I desire, therefore, to record my admiration for the cool courage and unfailing efficiency with which the Royal Navy, the beach personnel, the engineers and the administrative services have carried out these arduous duties. In addition to its normal duties the Signal Service, under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel M. G. E. Bowman-Manifold, Director of Army Signals, has provided the connecting link between the Royal Navy and the Army in their combined operations, and has rapidly readjusted itself to amphibious methods. All demands made on it by sudden expansion of the fighting forces or by the movements of General Headquarters have been rapidly and effectively met. The working of the telegraphs, telephones and repair of lines, often under heavy fire, has been beyond praise. Casualties have been unusually high, but the best traditions of the Corps of Royal Engineers have inspired the whole of their work. As an instance, the central telegraph office at Cape Helles (a dug-out) was recently struck by a high explosive shell. The officer on duty and twelve other ranks were killed or wounded and the office entirely demolished. But No. 72003 Corporal G. A. Walker, Royal Engineers, although much shaken, repaired the damage, collected men, and within 39 minutes reopened communication by apologising for the incident and by saying he required no assistance. The Royal Army Medical Service have had to face unusual and very trying conditions. There are no roads, and the wounded who are unable to walk must be carried from the firing line to the shore. They and their attendants may be shelled on their way to the beaches, at the beaches, on the jetties; and again, though I believe by inadvertence, on their way out in lighters to the hospital ships. Under shell fire it is not as easy as some of the critically disposed seem to imagine to keep all arrangements in apple-pie order. Here I can only express my own opinion that efficiency, method and even a certain quiet heroism have characterised the evacuations of the many thousands of our wounded. In my three Commanders of Corps I have indeed been thrice fortunate. General Gouraud brought a great reputation to our help from the battlefields of the Argonne, and in so doing he has added to its lustre. A happy mixture of daring in danger and of calm in crisis, full of energy and resource, he has worked hand in glove with his British comrades in arms, and has earned their affection and respect.
Lieutenant-General Sir W. R. Birdwood has been the soul of Anzac. Not for one single day has he ever quitted his post. Cheery and, full of human sympathy, he has spent many hours of each twenty-four inspiring the defenders of the front trenches, and if he does not know every soldier in his force, at least every soldier in the force believes he is known to his Chief.
Lieutenant-General A. G. Hunter Weston possesses a genius for war. I know no more resolute Commander. Calls for reinforcements, appeals based on exhaustion or upon imminent counter-attack are powerless to divert him from his aim. And this aim, in so far as he may be responsible for it, is worked out with insight, accuracy, and that wisdom which comes from close study in peace combined with long experience in the field. In my first despatch I tried to express my indebtedness to Major-General W. P. Braithwaite, and I must now again, however inadequately, place on record the untiring, loyal assistance he has continued to render me ever since. The thanks of every one serving in the Peninsula are due to Lieutenant-General Sir John Maxwell. All the resources of Egypt and all of his own remarkable administrative abilities have been ungrudgingly placed at our disposal. Finally, if my despatch is in any way to reflect the feelings of the force, I must refer to the shadow cast over the whole of our adventure by the loss of so many of our gallant and true-hearted comrades. Some of them we shall never see again; some have had the mark of the Dardanelles set upon them for life, but others, and, thank God, by far the greater proportion, will be back in due course at the front. I have the honour to be
Your Lordship's most obedient Servant,
General, Commanding Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.