18 December 1915

ANZAC - On 18 December the Turks caused an unpleasant frisson of extra excitement at Suvla when their artillery opened up on Lala Baba, firing what was presumed to be some of the new ammunition supply from Germany as, instead of the usual proportion of duds, every shell exploded. The last of the British guns which had not yet been evacuated responded in kind and successfully fooled the Turks who really do seem to have been unaware that the evacuation was actually underway during these last few hours.

Left: Colonel Hans Kannengiesser near Little Anarfarta

At this point the German officer, Colonel Hans Kannengiesser, was commanding the Turkish forces in the Suvla Bay area.

"Opposite us there was peace with the exception of the usual fire from the enemy. About 11 o'clock in the morning our howitzer battery on Ismailtepe, with a field battery, had shelled Lala Baba, as a result of which Ismailtepe was immediately shelled by several enemy batteries. The usual picture. That evening Major Senftelben, commander of the heavy artillery of the Army Corps, visited me to report. I asked him whether he had noticed any diminution in the enemy artillery fire. He immediately produced his fire records and proved to me that the enemy land batteries had maintained their accustomed rate of fire on our positions throughout the 18th and 19th December. In addition the infantry fire from the trenches was as usual. The enemy, during the last few days, had worked hard to improve his position ... That appeared to indicate the intention of a stubborn resistance." (Colonel Hans Kannengiesser, Headquarters, XVIII Corps, Fifth Army)

As the British preparations intensified during that last long day, the men took a particular pleasure in setting up various forms of booby traps for any unwary Turks as Lieutenant Norman King-Wilson of the 88th Field Ambulance, RAMC recalled.

"The men in the trenches spent the last day in turning every dugout into a death trap and the most innocent looking things into infernal machines. The fireplace in General Cayley’s dugout was set, but thirty pounds of TNT was fixed to go off whenever the fire had burned down to a fuse. Other dugouts would blow up when the doors were opened. The CRA’s drafting table had several memorandum books lying on it, each with electrical connections to an explosive charge sufficient to destroy a platoon. A gramophone, wound up and with record on, ready to be started, was left in one dugout - so contrived that the end of the tune meant the death of the listeners. Piles of bully beef tins turned into diabolical engines of destruction lay scattered about. In front of the trenches lay miles of trip mines. Really, I never thought the British Tommy possessed such diabolical ingenuity. They entered into it with the greatest zest and enjoyed it - a little practical joke on Johnny Turk!" (Lieutenant Norman King-Wilson of the 88th Field Ambulance, RAMC)

What they couldn’t destroy, ruin or pollute, they tried hard to bury and there was considerable ingenuity employed to disguise their actions. One memorable ruse was employed by Company Sergeant Major William Burrows of the 16th (Southern and Western Australian) Battalion who were occupying the Warwick Castle post at the head of Aghyl Dere.

"Before the last of us left all available ammunition and bombs were collected. These were buried and on a cross stuck into the ground was the following inscription: ‘To the Memory of Private Bullet. RIP’. That was to prevent the Turks from becoming inquisitive and digging up the ammunition and bombs!" (Company Sergeant Major William Burrows, 16th (Southern and Western Australian) Battalion, 4th Brigade, New Zealand & Australian Division, AIF)

SOURCES:
H. Kannengiesser, "The Campaign in Gallipoli", p245-246
IWM DOCS: N. King-Wilson, Typescript account, ‘Jottings of a MO’, pp.38-39
W. H. Burrows, 'Private Bullet: 16th Battalion’s Last Grave' (Reveille, 1/12/1932), p.17

SOURCE:
H. Kannengiesser, "The Campaign in Gallipoli", p245-246