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At the fork

At the fork

‘Men passing the fork in Monash Valley used to glance at the place (as one of them said) as a man looks at a haunted house.’ – Charles Bean.

Quinn’s Post came under repeated attacks for a month. On May 29 Major Quinn was among 33 Australians killed when the Turks temporarily broke in, rushing into the trenches after exploding a mine from a tunnel beneath the post. After desperate fighting in dark trenches, a determined Australian assault drove back the enemy and captured 17 prisoners. Among the dead Australians were 11 smothered in the initial Turkish explosion.

Captain C. F Corser on leave in August described to the Chronicle how the 15th Battalion was sent to occupy a position at the head of a gully at Quinn’s Post. ‘A terrible place to hold, because we were not only subjected to shrapnel fire but were enfiladed and sniped at as well, for owing to the contour of the country the Turks had a more commanding position than we had. To poke ahead out of the trench was to draw a stream of bullets, but our fellows oftentimes showed a callousness in this respect which was truly remarkable. Death had no terror for them and they constantly exposed themselves.’

(The Chronicle noted that Quinn’s Post was where the 15th and the 16th ‘got so frightfully cut up. The 15th were mentioned three times in dispatches.’)

We were very hard pressed here, owing to lack of reinforcements. Sleep was out of the question and even when some of our men did get relieved it was only to go on fatigue duty. The days were very warm but the nights were extremely cold. The fury of the fighting was amply demonstrated in the large number of dead that lay between the two trenches which at this time were only some 10 yards apart. You can understand the difficulties under which we were fighting during these 10 days when I tell you we had no overhead cover for our trenches – no galvanized iron or timber.

The snipers around here were very troublesome and our men sometimes called out that they were being fired on by their own fellows. The snipers resorted to all sorts of ruses. Many of them were found with their uniforms painted a greenish hue and their faces were sometimes similarly covered. Often in front of our trenches, we saw green bushes slowly moving forward and found they concealed a party of Turks making a hand grenade attack. They always got a warm reception.
– M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.

The Chronicle report said that about a week after the 15th occupied Quinn’s Post, Capt. Corser was wounded by a sniper as he ducked a grenade in one of the T-shaped trenches in front of the main trench.

‘Capt. Corser spoke very highly of the late Cpl George Stupart (“a plucky soldier and a popular comrade with his men, who keenly felt his loss”) and referred in almost eulogistic teams to Sgt Bob Hunter, who was wounded, and Pt Henry Byrne, who had been reported missing: “A trio of plucky and popular soldiers.”’

Henry Byrne was killed in action on May 9 at Quinn’s Post and has no known grave. Bob Hunter was a popular leader who survived Gallipoli to fight for three years on the Western Front, returning to Maryborough in December 1918. He was elected Mayor of Maryborough from 1956 to 1965, being awarded an MBE for his services.