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

(continued)

6th - 7th August, 1915

 

Throughout the evening of the 6th August the noise of bloody hand-to-hand fighting at Lone Pine rang out in the darkness.  The battle would continue for three days and losses would amount to over 2,000 Australians.  The attack on Steele’s had failed to shut down German Officers’ Trench and massed machine gun fire could enfilade the entire line from Quinn’s, Pope’s and The Nek.

 

Monash’s 4th Brigade, the 29th Indian Brigades and the British New Army Battalions had lost their way in the maze of ‘deres’ and were miles away from their objective. At 3.30am the New Zealand troops were well behind schedule and 500 yards from Chunuk Bair. The attack on Baby 700 was now unsupported from the rear and, in Birdwood’s words, “almost hopeless”2.

The Turkish lines were bristling with machine guns with the power to enfilade the attacking troops from all directions. Neither ‘pre-condition’ had been met. Unless orders were given to the contrary the assaults from Russell’s Top, Pope’s and Quinn’s were to be delivered. Birdwood and Godley conferred - they knew the situation but ordered the attacks to proceed.

Australian soldiers in the support trenches on Pope's Hill, Gallipoli Peninsula, just before the commencement of the battle on the evening of 6 August, 1915. AWM C026994 [4]

At 4am artillery fire from naval and land batteries bombarded Turkish trenches at the rate of one round every two and a half minutes. At the same time two mountain guns increased the firing rate to four - five shells per minute. In Bean’s words such bombardment had not been seen on the Gallipoli Peninsula since May 2nd: “the positions behind it became an inferno, the dark-brown dust of the shell-bursts dimly visible in the grey light, rolling in clouds across the face of the hill and shutting out all view from any distance.” [5] Whether through poor synchronization or lack of precision of time pieces, firing stopped at 4.23am, - cut short as if ‘by a knife’- seven minutes before troops were to break out. The element of surprise had been lost as precious minutes ticked by. The order was to go …

 

“At that instant there broke out such a rattle of rifle and machine-gun fire as was never heard before. Into that fusillade our men went out…” [6]

 

Lieutenant Geoffrey Harris of 1st L.H.Regiment “B” Squadron led his troop into the attack via Waterfall Gully

 

“At 3.30am … I fell in my little party of twelve bomb throwers and twelve riflemen with fixed bayonets in support. The latter had orders not to fire a shot without orders, but to use the cold steel. We marched silently down our communication trenches to the gully ...then up to the waterfall, (which we scaled), to be met by a shower of Turkish bombs before we had time to get into any sort of order. I immediately gave the order to charge and we took the two lines of trenches.... (continues)