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Disastrous August offensive

Disastrous August offensive

Locked into entrenched stalemates with occasional costly but inconsequential forays, the Gallipoli campaign was beginning to resemble the Western Front. Three months after the landings at Cape Helles and Anzac Cove, the Allies were still contained on their beachheads.

James Kerr: The days are very quiet now, at times there being not even a shot fired, and you begin to wonder if there is really a war on. But you don’t wonder for very long, for Abdul just takes it into his head and throws over a little 11inch shell, which not only alters the landscape but somehow interferes with the geography of the place. We have nicknames for all the Turkish shells and guns. There is “Turkish Delight”, “Long Tom”, “Weary Willie”, our old friend “Jack Johnson”, and “Beachy Bill”. We are quite used to them now, and can generally tell where they are going to land by the screech of them. M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.

Anzac commander General Birdwood had won respect from the Australians and New Zealanders, the British officer understanding the free-spirited men from the colonies were much different in character from the British Tommies. He tolerated their casual ways, viewed as unacceptable indiscipline by other British officers, not flinching when occasionally a soldier would call him “Birdie” to his face.

Frustrated by the stalemate, “Birdie” developed a plan to send two columns north at night, breaking through the northern lines at Anzac and climbing through almost impassable and poorly mapped ridges and gullies to seize the heights of the Sari Bair range.

A diversionary attack was planned at Lone Pine. A frontal advance at the narrow strip of land known as The Nek would depend on the New Zealanders circling around to attack defenders from the rear.

Expedition leader General Ian Hamilton was enthusiastic, adding to the complexity with a diversionary attack at Helles and a British landing to the north at Suvla Bay.

A few hours after the diversionary Australian attack at the Lone Pine plateau began late on August 6, the New Zealand, Australian, Indian and British forces were to move out north in two columns and be in position to attack the peaks Hill 971 ( Koja Chemen Tepe) and Chunuk Bair at dawn

The plan called for the New Zealand infantry to turn right into the steep gullies and make their way to the ridgeline just below Chunuk Bair. The Australians, Indians, and British under the command of General Herbert Cox were to turn right a little further north and be in a similar position to take Hill 971, the highest point on the Sari Bair range.

Harry Browne, Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment: At 9 o’clock sharp the Mounteds and the Maoris were to charge. Some of the Maoris were to act in conjunction with the Auckland Mounteds in the attack on old No. 3 outpost. As the sunset on Friday 6th August, they gathered around their native chaplain. A brief service was held in their own tongue. To me, it was a historic scene.
After a few words, the hymn Jesu Lover of My Soul was sung in Maori. The parts blended beautifully. The contingent had 25 tenors and the chaplain in splendid voice sang solo. Is there any language more beautiful as that of our natives when set to music?

My squadron stood round silent, listening intently. There was something pathetic about the tune and scene that brought tears to my eyes and yet as we listened we felt that they and we could go through anything with that beautiful influence behind us.
The hymn ceased. There was a silence that could be felt and then Maori and Pakeha heads were bowed while the native prayer and benediction were pronounced.

A brief message was read to the Contingent, and they dispersed, we all remarking that they could not go wrong after all that grand singing. Later on we heard the fierce ‘Kamate’ from the same throats resounding from the hill they captured. The war cry mingled strangely with the cheers of the Aucklanders. Harry Browne, Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, in Gavin McLean, Ian McGibbon and Kynan Gentry (eds), The Penguin Book of New Zealanders at war, Penguin, North Shore, 2009, pp. 141–2

* Records of General Cox are in the Gallipoli Room at the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum.