12 December 1915

ANZAC - Colonel John Monash, Headquarters, 4th Australian Brigade, NZ&A Division, AIF - Monash was horror struck when he received official notification of the intention to abandon Anzac and wrote home to express his fears on 12 December.

"Like a thunderbolt from a clear blue sky has come the stupendous and paralysing news that, after all, the Allied War Council has decided that the best and wisest course to take is to evacuate the Peninsula, and secret orders to carry out that operation have just reached here. The secret is known so far to only a small handful of men, but there or no harm in my writing about it today, because it will be very many days before this letter can be posted, and where it be posted I do not yet quite know. Already we have stopped the further arrival of stores, mails, reinforcements, and munitions. The first thing to do is to secure as great a measure secrecy as possible. This operation of withdrawal is going to be every bit as critical and dangerous an enterprise as the first landing and if the Turks were to get the slightest inkling of what was intended, it would mean the sacrifice of at least half our men. As it is, it will mean the sacrifice of some men, and of vast quantities of munitions and stores. At a conference of the commanders it was decided to put up the bluff that, owing to the severe winter conditions, it is intended to form a winter rest camp at Imbros, and take the brigades and battalions there by turn. In this way we should be able in two or three stages to remove about two-thirds of the total army, leaving the remaining third to man the defences very lightly, and then finally to make a bolt for the beach, in the dead of night and into boats which will be in waiting. It is of course an absolutely critical scheme, which may come off quite successfully or may end in a frightful disaster. But if orders are orders. I need not say I feel very unhappy, Being bound to secrecy, I can take none of my staff or C.O.s into my confidence. I am almost frightened to contemplate the howl of rage and disappointment there will be when the men find out what is afoot, and I am wondering what Australia kill think at the desertion of her 6,000 dead and her 20,000 other casualties."

SOURCE:
J. Monash quoted by F. M. Cutlack, "War Letters of General Monash" (Australia: Angus & Robertson Ltd, 1934), pp.92-93.