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The first week

The first week

‘They pinked me nicely – it was fun while it lasted’

Unable to achieve their objectives on the heights of Chunuk Bair and Achi Baba, the Anzacs and the British dug in. Gallipoli, like the Western Front, turned into a war of attrition. The German commander, Liman von Saunders, was clear about the reasons for the outcome. He wrote that ‘on the Turkish side the situation was saved by the immediate and independent action of the 19th Division’. The division commander, Kemal, became noted as ‘the most imaginative, most successful officer to fight on either side’ during the campaign. ‘As a commander, he was able to get the most out of his troops.’

Capt. C. F.Corser: The Australian soldier is an admirable fighter, and an officer only has to ask him to do a thing once and he does it. If you want volunteers for anything, they come forward immediately. Impetuous too is the colonial fighter, particularly emphasised in the first few day’s day of fighting. Some of them, unfortunately, went too far forward, without waiting for reinforcements. A party of them almost reached Maidos and are by now, I suppose, prisoners in the hands of the Turks, that is if they didn’t go under. The Australian soldier has plenty of initiative, due to no doubt to his environments in the land of his birth and it is a pleasure to lead him. He exhibits all the qualities of a born fighter and in a bayonet attack, he’s in his element. Neither does he stop to receive the impact of a charge from the Turk but goes forth to meet it for the man with the greatest impetus generally carries the day. M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.

Spr Herbert Henry Marshall: On the Monday morning our lads had 100 prisoners making a road for the artillery to get up. I was hit about 6.30 pm after a real hard day’s work. We were all too soft, being on board for weeks. Here I am ‘wanged out’ pure and simple with shrapnel. I have been in hospital almost a fortnight suffering from my left thigh. They pinked me nicely… the pellet entered about 4 inches above the knee. I was operated on at sea and the pellet taken out about 5 inches below the hip bone. It was fine fun while it lasted, just like shooting kangaroos. M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.

Allan Nicol Robinson: We had by Monday night firmly established a footing and although they have had several tries they cannot shift us but we will make them sit up for that. Yes, the ‘six bob a day Cook’s tourists’ as J. Norton calls us proved that they were not mugs. Everyone has done his bit. If you had seen us go up the hill you would have thought we were homeward bound instead of advancing. M.C., Maryborough WBB Historical Society, Letters from the Front Line.

Duncan Chapman (late June): Our battalion, the 9th, which formed the covering party, lost heavily, especially among the officers, who were spotted mostly by the snipers. The close shaves I had were remarkable and if I am spared to get back I have a few curious of interest to show. I was promoted to Captain on 26th April and put in charge of a full company of about 263 men. The responsibility is certainly great, especially as the lives of these men are practically given into one’s keeping.

Scotty Spiers: I did not see Lieutenant Chapman till four days later when what was left of the 9th mustered on the beach. (Of the 1100 men in the 9th Battalion who landed, only 420 answered that call.)

Fierce Turkish attacks tried to dislodge the invaders. On April 27, behind the Sphinx outcrop, the 2nd Battalion fought furiously as they were driven back to hold a line across Russell’s Top, losing half their number to casualties: 16 officers and 434 men killed and wounded.

Historian Charles Bean: Day and night Australians and New Zealanders had fought on that hilltop. In this fierce test, each saw in the other a brother’s qualities. As brothers they died, their bodies mingled in the same narrow trenches; as brothers, they were buried. It was noticeable that small jealousies that had existed between Australians and New Zealanders in Cairo vanished completely from this hour. Three days of genuine trial had established a friendship that centuries will not destroy.