In the Footsteps of the First: 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment: The August Offensive Gallipoli 1915

(continued)

At 4.30am on 7th August the 3rd L.H.Brigade under Colonel Frederic Hughes would mount four successive bayonet attacks from Russell’s Top on The Nek and Baby 700 - “these trenches and convergences of communication trenches … require considerable strength to force. The narrow Nek to be crossed … makes an unaided attack in this direction almost hopeless”. [2] Support for the 3rd L.H. Brigade would come from simultaneous break-outs by the 1st L.H.Brigade at Quinn’s and Pope’s onto Deadman’s Ridge and The Chessboard. Success in all areas largely depended on the military closure of the guns at German Officer’s Trench.

The plan was complex: the Northern attacks were mounted at night and in difficult and unfamiliar terrain with razor sharp ridges and deep, winding gorges described by Cox as “the mad country and very difficult”. Unit commanders were not given their orders until the day before the offensive and were not permitted to scout the routes for fear of alerting the enemy.

 

Commanders were confused regarding the true purpose of individual attacks and, “until the approach of the actual hour – 4.30am on August 7th – for which the frontal attack on Baby 700 was provisionally ordered – it was not clear whether the operation was to form part of a main attack … or was to be merely a feint.”2

 

The Plan for the Attack on Baby 700.

 

At 4.30am on the 7th August the 8th and 10th Regiments of the 3rd L.H.Brigade would mount four successive bayonet attacks from Russell’s Top on Baby 700, supported by the New Army Infantry Brigade coming down from Chunuk Bair.  Two squadrons of the 1st L.H.Regiment and four successive lines of the  2nd L.H. Regiment would mount attack from Pope’s and Quinn’s on the Chessboard and Turkish Quinn’s Post to stop the advance of Turkish troops to the North.

 

Attacks would be preceded by a half-hour of heavy artillery bombardment from land and sea to batter enemy lines and to keep them in their trenches. Machine and rifle gun fire from the nearby German Officer’s Trench could enfilade the entire Australian front and these enemy trenches had to be shut down.

 

The Light Horsemen were ordered to use “the cold steel” [bayonets] -  Godley’s idea - reminiscent of the attacks conducted fifteen years before in the Boer War. However the Boer War attacks were conducted in open terrain and on horseback and, even then, “it took courage or madness. [3]

 

It is believed that, in conference with Light Horse Commanding Officers,  Birdwood had agreed on two ‘pre-conditions’ for the frontal attack on Baby 700: (1) the taking of German Officers’ Trench and (2) the successful assault on Chunuk Bair. The attack would be preceded by intense bombardment from land and sea batteries right up to 4.30am, the time scheduled for the attack. 

 

For the 1st L.H. Regiment ‘B’ Squadron under Captain Wallace Cox would move via Waterfall on the right to be in position at 4.30am. ‘A’ Squadron under Major James Reid would move via a shorter path on the left and take and hold trenches on the Chessboard. Although shorter the left side was open to fire from the enemy at The Chessboard and the German Officers’ Trench. ‘C’ Squadron would be in reserve and support the attack with covering machine gun and rifle fire.

 

On 6th August Major William Glasgow of the 2nd L.H. Regiment was moved to C.O. 1st L.H. Regiment to replace Major Vernon, who had been ordered away on sick leave on the 31st July.