29 April 1915

GALLIPOLI - The manifold problems facing his expeditionary force were already very clear to General Sir Ian Hamilton, the commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, as he pondered his fast-diminishing prospects aboard the flagship Queen Elizabeth.

"A biggish sea running, subsiding as the day went on - and my mind grew calmer with the waves. For we are living hand-to-mouth now in every sense. Two days' storm would go very near starving us. Until we work up some weeks' reserve of water, food and cartridges, I shan't sleep sound. Have lent Birdwood four Battalions of the Royal Naval Division and two more Battalions are landing at Helles to form my own reserve. Two weak Battalions; that is the exact measure of my executive power to shape the course of events; all the power I have to help either d'Amade or Hunter-Weston. Water is a worry; weather is a worry; the shelling from Asia is a thorn in my side. The sailors had hoped they would be able to shield the southern point of the Peninsula by interposing their ships but they can't. Their gunnery won't run to it - was never meant to run to it - and with five going aeroplanes we can't do the spotting. Our Regiments, too, will not be their superb selves again - won't be anything like themselves - not until they get their terrible losses made good. There is no other way but fresh blood for it is sheer human nature to feel flat after an effort. Any violent struggle for life always lowers the will to fight even of the most cut-and-come-again: - don't I remember well when Sir George asked me if the Elandslaagte Brigade had it in them to storm Pepworth? I had to tell him they were still the same Brigade but not the same men. No use smashing in the impregnable sea front if we don't get a fresh dose of energy to help us to push into the, as yet, very pregnable hinterland. Since yesterday morning, when I saw our men scatter right and left before an enemy they would have gone for with a cheer on the 25th or 26th, - ever since then I have cursed with special bitterness the lack of vision which leaves us without that 10 per cent margin above strength which we could, and should, have had with us. The most fatal heresy in war, and, with us, the most rank, is the heresy that battles can be won without heavy loss - I don't care whether it is in men or in ships. The next most fatal heresy is to think that, having won the battle, decimated troops can go on defeating fresh enemies without getting their 10 per cent renewed "

Notice that Hamilton is still underestimating the seriousness of the situation and blaming relatively trivial matters like the fact that the ten per cent reinforcements were not sent out with the original units. What he misses is that perhaps if his plans had concentrated the resources they had instead of dissipating them, then they might have achieved a little more.

After Hamilton had paid a visit ashore in the Helles sector, HMS Queen Elizabeth then steamed off up to Anzac where the old warrior obviously wanted to get closer to the action. There is much to admire as well as criticise about Hamilton.

"After watching our big guns shooting at the enemy's field pieces for some time I could stand it no longer - the sightseeing I mean - and boarded the destroyer _Colne_ which took me towards the beach. Commodore Keyes came along, also Pollen, Dawnay and Jack Churchill. Our destroyer got within a 100 yards or so of the shore when we had to tranship into a picquet boat owing to the shallow water. Quite a good lot of bullets were plopping into the water, so the Commodore ordered the _Colne_ to lie further out. At this distance from the beach, withdrawn a little from the combat, (there was a hottish scrimmage going on), and yet so close that friends could be recognised, the picture we saw was astonishing. No one has ever seen so strange a spectacle and I very much doubt if any one will ever see it again. The Australians and New Zealanders had fixed themselves into the crests of a series of high sandy cliffs, covered, wherever they were not quite sheer, with box scrub. These cliffs were not in the least like what they had seemed to be through our glasses when we reconnoitred them at a distance of a mile or more from the shore. Still less were they like what I had originally imagined them to be from the map. Their features were tumbled, twisted, scarred - unclimbable, one would have said, were it not that their faces were now pock-marked with caves like large sand-martin holes, wherein the men were resting or taking refuge from the sniping. From the trenches that ran along the crest a hot fire was being kept up, and swarms of bullets sang through the air, far overhead for the most part, to drop into the sea that lay around us. Yet all the time there were full five hundred men fooling about stark naked on the water's edge or swimming, shouting and enjoying themselves as it might be at Margate. Not a sign to show that they possess the things called nerves. While we were looking, there was an alarm, and long, lean figures darted out of the caves on the face of the cliffs and scooted into the firing line, stooping low as they ran along the crest. The clatter of the musketry was redoubled by the echoing cliffs, and I thought we had dropped in for a scrap of some dimensions as we disembarked upon a fragile little floating pier and were met by Birdie and Admiral Thursby. A full General landing to inspect overseas is entitled to a salute of seventeen guns - well, I got my dues. But there is no crisis; things are quieter than they have been since the landing, Birdie says, and the Turks for the time being have been beat. He tells me several men have already been shot whilst bathing but there is no use trying to stop it: they take the off chance. So together we made our way up a steep spur, and in two hours had traversed the first line trenches and taken in the lie of the land. Half way we met Generals Bridges and Godley, and had a talk with them, my first, with Bridges, since Duntroon days in Australia. From the heights we could look down on to the strip of sand running northwards from Ari Burnu towards Suvla Bay. There were machine guns here which wiped out the landing parties whenever they tried to get ashore North of the present line. The New Zealanders took these with the bayonet, and we held five or six hundred yards more coast line until we were forced back by Turkish counter-attacks in the afternoon and evening of the 25th. The whole stretch is now dominated by Turkish fire from the ridges, and along it lie the bodies of those killed at the first onset, and afterwards in the New Zealand bayonet charge. Several boats are stranded along this no man's land; so far all attempts to get out at night and bury the dead have only led to fresh losses. No one ever landed out of these boats - so they say. Towards evening we re-embarked on the Colne and at the very moment of transhipment from the picquet boat the enemy opened a real hot shrapnel fire, plastering with impartiality and liberality our trenches, our beaches and the sea. The Colne was in strangely troubled water, but, although the shot fell all about her, neither she nor the picquet boat was touched. Five minutes later we should have caught it properly! The Turkish guns are very well hidden now, and the Queen Elizabeth can do nothing against them without the balloon to spot; we can't often spare one of our five aeroplanes for Gaba Tepe. Going back we had some long range shots with the 15-inch guns at batteries in rear of Achi Baba."

SOURCE:
I. Hamilton, "Gallipoli Diary", Vol. I, (London; Edward Arnold, 1920) 175-176 & 178-179