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Anzacs


The ANZACs



A newspaper report by
Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett


[The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZACs), as the name implies, was a military combination of Australasian soldiers. As part of a British offensive to attack the Turks, troops were to land upon the Gallipoli peninsula. Unfortunately, in the darkness, the ships delivered the ANZACs to the wrong stretch of coatline, to a cove previously considered too difficult to attack; however, the offensive was ordered to go ahead regardless of the difficulties. This landing began on the 25th of April 1915 - a day now commemorated every year as ANZAC Day.]

[Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was the war correspondent who was chosen to represent the British Press at the Dardanelles; this is his story of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops at Gaba Tepe as published in The Argus (Melbourne) on 8th May 1915:]




The Australians, who were about to go into action for the first time in trying circumstances, were cheerful, quiet, and confident. There was no sign of nerves nor of excitement.

As the moon waned, the boats were swung out, the Australians received their last instructions, and men who six months ago had been living peaceful civilian lives had begun to disembark on a strange and unknown shore in a strange land to attack an enemy of a different race... the boats had almost reached the beach, when a party of Turks, entrenched ashore, opened a terrible fusilade with rifles and a Maxim. Fortunately, the majority of the bullets went high.

The Australians rose to the occasion. Not waiting for orders, or for the boats to reach the beach, they sprang into the sea, and, forming a sort of rough line, rushed at the enemy's trenches.

Their magazines were not charged, so they just went in with cold steel.

It was over in a minute. The Turks in the first trench were either bayoneted or they ran away, and their Maxim was captured.

Then the Australians found themselves facing an almost perpendicular cliff of loose sandstone, covered with thick shrubbery. Somewhere, half-way up, the enemy had a second trench, strongly held, from which they poured a terrible fire on the troops below and the boats pulling back to the destroyers for the second landing party.

Here was a tough proposition to tackle in the darkness, but those colonials, practical above all else, went about it in a practical way...


They stopped for a few minutes to pull themselves together, got rid of their packs, and charged their magazines.

Then this race of athletes proceeded to scale the cliffs without responding to the enemy's fire. They lost some men, but did not worry.

In less than a quarter of an hour the Turks were out of their second position, either bayoneted or fleeing...

But then the Australasians, whose blood was up, instead of entrenching, rushed northwards and eastwards, searching for fresh enemies to bayonet. It was difficult country in which to entrench. Therefore they preferred to advance.

The Turks only had a weak force actually holding the beach. They relied on the difficult ground and the snipers to delay the advance until their reinforcements came up.

Some of the Australasians who pushed inland were counter-attacked, and almost outflanked by the oncoming reserves. They had to fall back after having suffered heavy losses.

These counter-attacks were continued by the Turks throughout the afternoon, but the Australasians did not yield a foot on the main ridge...

Some idea of the difficulty may be gathered when it is remembered that every round of ammunition and all water and stores had to be landed on a narrow beach and carried up pathless hills and valleys several hundred feet high to the firing line.

The whole mass of our troops was concentrated in a very small area, and was unable to reply when exposed to a relentless and incessant shrapnel fire which swept every yard of ground.

Fortunately much of the enemy's fire was badly aimed, and their shells burst too high.


A serious problem was getting the wounded from the shore. All those unable to hobble had to be carried from the hills on stretchers, and then their wounds hastily dressed and the men carried to the boats.

The boat parties worked unceasingly through the entire day and night...

The courage displayed by these wounded Australians will never be be forgotten. Hastily placed in trawlers, lighters, and boats, they were towed to the ships, and, in spite of their sufferings, cheered on reaching the ship from which they had set out in the morning.

In fact, I have never seen anything like these wounded Australians in war before.

Though many were shot to bits, without the hope of recovery, their cheers resounded throughout the night. You could see in the midst of the mass of suffering humanity arms waving in greeting to the crews of the warships.

They were happy because they knew that they had been tried for the first time and had not been found wanting.

For fifteen mortal hours our men occupied the heights under an incessant shell fire, without the moral or material support of a single gun ashore, and they were subjected the whole time to the violent counter-attack of a brave enemy, skilfully led, with snipers deliberately picking off every officer who endeavoured to give a command or lead his men...

There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and storming the heights, above all holding on whilst the reinforcements were landing.

These raw colonial troops in these desperate hours proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Aisne, Ypres, and Neuve Chapelle.

Early in the morning of April 26 the Turks repeatedly tried to drive the colonials from their position. The colonials made local counter-attacks, and drove off the enemy at the point of the bayonet, which the Turks would never face.

The Argus, Melbourne, 8 May 1915




With reinforcements being rushed in by the Turks, the advances of the ANZACs were halted and the fighting later degenerated into static warfare, with lines of trenches and bunkers being dug.

Finally it was decided by the Allies, on the basis of there being small chance of success for the Gallipoli campaign, to evacuate all allied troops.

The troops at Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay were withdrawn on the nights of the 18th and 19th of December 1915, and the men at Cape Helles were later withdrawn on the 8th of January 1916.

Whilst Australians from different states had fought in the Boer War (1899-1901), they were there as separate units from separate Australian colonies, not as a national force. Many considered that Anzac Cove was Australia's "baptism by blood", as this was the first time that Australians had fought together as one (the Commonwealth having being formed just a few years earlier, on the 1st of January 1901), and that we had proven ourselves in war as a nation.


The Association for the Advancement of Australian Culture