SUVLA LANDING - Lieutenant Edmund Priestman, 6th York & Lancs, 32nd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division, IX Corps - The night landing was set for 10.00 pm on 6 August. The whole division were preparing themselves for the grand adventure that lay ahead; for most this would be their first taste of action. Just before sunset, on a crowded Imbros shore, Priestman described the scene in a letter home.
Photograph: The crowded landing stage at Imbros loading up with men of 11th (Northern) Division, 6th August.
"Lying by the temporary landing-stage were half a dozen steam-driven ‘lighters’, long black barges capable of carrying two hundred or more men and, in the open blue water beyond, more of these lighters were plying backwards and forwards between the shore and the small fleet of torpedo destroyers lying half a mile away. As soon as one of the lighters was packed with khaki from the thick masses of men on the shore, it steamed away and its place was taken by a new one, on to which fresh lines of troops filed till it too was packed to its full capacity. Then out it would puff, carrying a dense freight of singing Tommies, whose legs swung hazardously over the bulwarks and whose heels kicked time to their favourite song, ‘Are we downhearted? No, not while Britannia rules the waves (not likely!!)’. With the night came an army of clouds like a legion of angels to guard us from the eyes of our enemies. Then, as silently as their protecting wings were slowly spread over the deepening blue, so silently we began to move out of the harbour into the unknown. Over the packed decks there hung a tense atmosphere of suppressed excitement, too full for spoken or musical comment, officers and men alike rearranging their respective outlooks upon life to suit the new conditions and the great adventures looming among the shadows ahead."
It was not until the early morning of 6th August that the units of 11th Division were first informed of the landing. Men quickly got busy preparing and were instructed to sew on white bands to each arm and a white patch on the back, and in some battalions these were supplemented by pieces of shaped tin or even a polished mess tin. The aim was to provide identification in the dark and later for artillery to distinguish friend from foe when it got light. Unfortunately the Turks also found these markings just as useful! There was a great excitement but also a slight apprehension as to what the day would bring. For many this was going to be their first taste of action. Some of the men were also not fighting fit; a few had already come down with dysentery at Imbros, whilst others were feeling the after affects of a last minute cholera inoculation received just before embarkation. Later that day was the first chance for senior infantry officers to study maps of Suvla. 4.00 pm, with the battalions embarking onto the crowded beetles, was the first time that the majority of junior officers and NCOs were told of their task ahead.
"And now came a thrill. The sealed orders containing our programme for the coming landing were to be opened. Crowded round a map, we traced the proposed movements of the various regiments to be engaged, while our Adjutant read from the official memo. So now we knew our part in the game."
SOURCES: War Diary: 32 Infantry Brigade Headquarters (National Archives: WO95/4299).
Priestman, E. Y., With a B-P. Scout in Gallipoli, (London: Routledge & Son, 1917), pp.161-162.
S. Chambers, Suvla: August Offensive (Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2011) pp.28-31.
SUVLA LANDING - Captain Marmion Ferrers-Guy, 9th Lancashire Fusiliers, 34th Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division - Waiting until it got dark, at 7.45 pm, the flotilla, a rag tag band of destroyers, motor-lighters, picket-boats, North Sea trawlers, sloops and many small boats, left Imbros and began their night journey towards Suvla Bay. Hot tea and rum was issued, and many of the men were in high spirits, singing merrily, until an order was issued for silence about two miles from Suvla
Lala Baba photographed in 2010 from Nibrunesi Point.This was one of the initial objectives to be captured by 11th Division during the night of 6 August 1915.
Captain Marmion Ferrers-Guy, 9th Lancashire Fusiliers recounted:
"All lights were out and no noise allowed when once we started; but there was a sight and a noise which all that saw and heard will not easily forget, and that was the battle being fought at Cape Helles and Anzac. The battleships and cruisers were firing at the Turkish positions, as were also our batteries on land. There was a terrific rifle fire and one could see the flashes from the rifles all along the trenches; truly a magnificent sight and one imagined and hoped that every Turk would be drawn towards that quarter."
Whilst the British at Helles were in the throes of their diversionary attacks and the Australians were capturing Lone Pine, ten thousand men of Kitchener’s New Army (10th and 11th Divisions), the first to be taken to the field in war, were nearing their baptism of fire.
"At last, straining our eyes, we thought we could see right ahead a mass which we hoped was Lala Baba. If it were, we were in the right position. We kept on slowly, and suddenly came on a destroyer; she told us that she hoped she was opposite C Beach. We replied with great fervour that we also hoped she was."
With the destroyers 500 yards from the shore,
"… anchors were eased down; and, with every man’s pulse beating a wild tattoo, the lighters made for the beach. Not a sound came from the land. Fleecy clouds hid the stars. A slight breeze ruffled the quiet sea."
The first waves were ashore successfully without a shot being fired. This was the surprised landing that the British hoped for, but was it to last.
In the first action fought by any unit of the New Army, the two companies from 6th Yorks attacked the small hillock of Lala Baba, believed to be defended by a Turkish company. As the round topped hill, just visible against the northern sky, was neared, a flare was suddenly fired; the element of surprise was gone. The rifle fire that had been sporadic until now soon increased and casualties quickly began to mount. As it was still dark the Yorkshires were ordered to attack with the bayonet only, but this discipline did not last long. Major Shannon, on his return from clearing two Turkish posts near Nibrunesi Point, joined the attack, ordering C Company to charge the hill:
"On arriving at the base of Lala Baba I ordered a charge and we ran up the hill. About three-quarters of the way up we came upon a Turkish trench, very narrow and flush with the ground. We ran over this and the enemy fired into our rear, firing going on at this time from several directions. I shouted out that the Yorkshire Regiment was coming, in order to avoid running into our own people. We ran on and about twelve paces further on, as far as I can judge, came to another trench; this we also crossed and again were fired into from the rear. I ordered the company to jump back into the second trench, and we got into this, which was so narrow that it was quite impossible for one man to pass another, or even to walk up it unless he moved sideways; another difficulty was that if there were any wounded or dead men in the bottom of the trench it was impossible to avoid treading on them in passing. There was a little communication trench running from right to left behind me, and whenever I shouted an order a Turk, who appeared to be in the trench, fired at me from a distance of apparently five or ten yards. I had some difficulty in getting anybody to fire down the communication trench in order to quiet the enterprising Turk, who was endeavouring to pot me with great regularity, but I eventually got him shot."
Shannon took his men over the hill and met up with the survivors from the other companies on the reverse slope. Gathering these men he swept the hill of any further resistance. Lala Baba was captured. But elsewhere the landing was not going successfully. 34 Brigade, landing inside Suvla bay itself, had numerous delays getting ashore due to lighters grounding on reef well out to sea. Some men managed to wade ashore in the pitch dark.
"K2 came to an abrupt stop and the sailor down by the gangway told us to get off. The Adjutants of the 9th Lancashire Fusiliers and the 11th Manchester Regiment went down the gangway and reported that there was at least 4ft. 6 ins. of water. The sailor disputed this, saying it was only 2ft. 3 ins., but being ordered to get the pole to sound it, found it was 4ft. 7 ins. The O.C. Manchester Regiment, who was senior officer on the lighter, asked the sailor at the wheel to work the lighter nearer the shore, but he said it was stuck and he could not move. At that moment the Turks opened a frontal fire on us from the beach and right flank fire from Hill 40 at Lala Baba, wounding three in the lighter. All dropped down and the Officer Commanding 11th Manchesters gave the order to get off and go ashore."
Ferrers-Guy, M.C., The Lancashire Fusiliers Annual, (Dublin: Sackville Press, 1916), p.225.
The Naval Review, Vol.II, 1916, Dardanelles Notes – HMS Prince George, p.251.
Aspinall-Oglander, Brig-Gen C.F., Military Operations Gallipoli, Vol.I, (London: Heinemann, 1929), p.235.
Wylly, Col. H.C., The Green Howards in the Great War 1914-1919, (Richmond: Butler & Tanner, 1926).
S.Chambers, Suvla: August Offensive (Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 2011) pp.32-33.
ANZAC - ATTACK ON LONE PINE - Photograph: AWM A04029 Australian dead in captured Turkish trenches at Lone Pine.
As part of the diversionary operations to distract attention from the night attack on 6 August Hamilton planned a head-on assault on the Turkish trenches in the Lone Pine sector of 400 Plateau. The Turks had greatly strengthened their original positions and by this time they were roofed over with solid timber. The Australians intended to use the underground trench system which their miners had laboured to construct under No Man's Land during the summer. Linked tunnels ran to within 30 yards of the Turkish front line from which the troops would be able to break out and launch a surprise attack. The actual assault was assigned to the 1st Australian Brigade and was timed for the afternoon of 6 August.
Private Charles Duke of the 4th Battalion experienced the nerve-searing tension of the final moments before they went over the top.
"The tension of those last few minutes awaiting the blowing of whistles at 5.30, Zero Hour, cannot be imagined by anyone who has not had the experience. One almost felt that it would be preferable if the earth were to open up and swallow us. It was a relief indeed when at the sound of the shrill whistles we scrambled out. I think we had some 70 or 80 yards to go and the first thing I saw was Major Macnaghten blowing his whistle and going for his life across No Man’s Land – he literally led that charge and we weren’t far behind him. Machine gun and rifle fire greeted us and it grew thicker and heavier, we might have been doubling over thick straw, bullets were crackling so thick it gave just that impression."
Sergeant Major Paul Goldenstedt went over the top with the second wave of the 3rd Battalion at 05.30
"As several of us were about to jump into one of the uncovered Turk communication trenches, two men dropped beside us with that faint little cough that spells a fatal shot through the heart. Once in the trench there was a rush to find the garrisons which, by now, had retired further back. There were a few scattered fights between isolated parties and the Australian line, true to the training the men had received, soon sought to consolidate itself. Major McConaghy and myself went on a little exploring expedition of our own, following a communication trench until it kind of petered out in the open into Owen's Gully, and behold - not 10 yards from us was the stump of the old tree from which the Pine took its name. Our amazement was cut short in a twinkling, for we immediately received the undivided attention of every Turkish machine gun and rifle in the locality. We both managed to make cover, however - a fact that could hardly be called a tribute to the efficiency of the Turkish shooting."
Second Lieutenant Charles Lecky, 2nd Battalion came across an affecting - yet for him - inspirational scene in one of the trenches.
"Coming to a communication trench, I felt tempted to sneak down a little way and have a rest. However an undaunted chaplain was there administering to the wounded and dying. He looked at me. One look was enough, and I went round to the new position with the survivors, without any more inclination to quit the job."
The fighting in the Lone Pine trenches was savage beyond belief. Private Charles Duke remembered one terrifying incident
"A dark head appeared round the traverse. I immediately let fly with my rifle from my hip and missed. In reply came two cricket ball bombs. One was kicked by one of my mates round a corner, but the other was behind us. I had a moment or two of uncontrollable paralysing fear – to be utterly helpless with that thing sizzling within a few feet of me. I flattened myself in the side of the trench, clawing at it with my fingers and certainly thought my last moment had come. By some miracle none of us was seriously hurt."
The Turks threw their local reserves into the battle with a grim determination to retake every last inch from the Australians. By this time Private Charles Duke had been forced back and found Lieutenant Giles who was organising the defence.
"From the trench less than 30 yards away I saw the Turks emerging and gave the warning to Giles who ordered us to line the parapet to shoot at them. We did so but almost before we could get our rifles into position our appearance above the parapet was greeted with an appalling burst of Turkish supporting rifle fire. There was an almighty crash right in front of my face which knocked me reeling back into the trench. I knew I was hit as blood was streaming from my forehead into my eyes and over my glasses. I was not knocked out and took my glasses off so that I could wipe them and my eyes sufficiently to look round. Imagine my horror to see every one of those lads who had lined the parapet with me lying still and dead in the bottom of the trench – six of them all hit clean in the head – which left Giles and I the only survivors. It had all happened in less than one minute. Fortunately for us the attacking Turks had been wiped out by rifle fire from our chaps further up the trench."
It was obvious that the 1st Brigade could not hold out for long under this kind of pressure and more Australian battalions were moved forward to reinforce the line. The fighting was carried out in dreadful conditions. Major Denis Lane of the 12th Battalion describes the state of the trenches on his arrival.
"The elaborate overhead cover prepared by the Turks was in many places intact and gave one the impression of passing through a tortuous tunnel, the gloom being accentuated by leaving the bright sunshine. The Turkish dead had not yet been removed and so thickly carpeted the ground that there was no alternative but to tread along a line of bodies. On arrival in the firing line, the Company moved along to the left of this sector, where the Turks during the morning had counter-attacked and effected a lodgement. The trenches here were extremely narrow and not well traversed. Our own and Turkish dead lay anywhere and everywhere, and in some instances our own wounded were still lying at the bottom of the trench."
The fighting would continue for four days.
Brotherton Special Collections Library, Leeds University, Liddle Collection: C. R. Duke, Typescript account, p.99
D. A. Lane, Holding On: 12th Battalion at Lone Pine (Reveille, 1/8/1932), p.43
P. Goldenstedt, Attack and Defence: 3rd at Lone Pine (Reveille, 1/8/1932), p.10
C. S. Lecky, Inferno of Death : 2nd. Battalion Losses (Reveille, 1/8/1932), p.70