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A few days ago we finally got the bank to release an envelope that Mum had lodged with her bank.


It had some cash in it and also some old documents pertaining to family.


My grandfather, Mum's dad was a Gallipoli veteran and it held his Army discharge papers. I knew he was a reinforcement there but not the details of his unit and that has allowed me to access Army records and do some reading. Now this document is 101 years old and is getting pretty flimsy and that rams home how long ago we were involved in a war, our first time as "Australia" a federated country. (Fed. 1901)


A friend sent me some links he thought I might be interested in, and one of them is for the daily unit reports of Pop's unit. Many of them are handwritten from the trenches in pencil. Some are too faint to read and others are plain hard to read, in fact I gave myself a bad case of vertigo struggling to read them yesterday. But it's fascinating!


Pop was in the 3rd Light-horse, mounted troops like cavalry, and we had some good horse riders in Australia at that time! They also had camels. However in Gallipoli they fought on the ground just like regular infantry.


One of the reports prior to Pop being sent to fight was very disturbing and whilst it sheds light on the conditions there and the futility of sending men out at the same time every day facing massed machine guns, it also speaks of the incredible bravery of the Australian, British and NZ men stepping out to face certain death.


I might post it in this piece for those of you that are interested enough to read. It was a nation forging time and through incredible loss for a young country our troops forged a reputation that in turn forged a nation. ANZAC is in our ethos!


Even if you read the first paragraph or two you will get my drift.


However the Gallipoli campaign was a loss for the allies stemming from the initial landings on the wrong beach overlooked by steep cliffs and well prepared defensive positions. We didn't have a chance!


Australian Light Horse Studies Centre


"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess


The Nek, Gallipoli, 7 August 1915, Bean's Account

Topic: BatzG - Nek

The Nek


Gallipoli, 7 August 1915


Part of report:

Consequently, the instant the light horse appeared, there burst upon them a fusillade that rose within a few seconds from a fierce crackle into a continuous roar, in which it was Impossible to distinguish the report of rifle or machine-gun. Watchers on Pope's Hill saw the Australian line start forward across the sky-line and then on a sudden grow limp and sink to the earth "as though," said one eye-witness,” the men's limbs had become string." As a matter of fact many had fallen back into the trench, wounded before clearing the parapet. Others, being hit when just beyond it, managed at once to crawl back and tumble over the parapet, thus avoiding trenches - the certainty of being hit a second and a third time and killed. Practically all the rest lay dead five or six yards from the parapet. Colonel White had gone ten paces, and the two scaling-ladders lay at about the same distance. Every officer was killed, but on the right, near the edge of the valley, Private McGarvie and two others survived between the bullets as if by a miracle, reached the enemy's parapet, and, since they could effect nothing single-handed against two or three tiers of crowded trench-lines, flung themselves down outside the Turkish parapet and waited, throwing bombs, of which they had a bag full, into the enemy's trench. They eventually crawled on to the slope of Monash Valley, where they were in partial shelter. On the other flank, near the seaward cliff, Lieutenant Wilson of the 8th also reached the enemy's trench and was seen sitting with his back to the parapet, beckoning to others to come on to him. Shortly afterwards he was killed by a bomb from the Turkish line. Here and there other individual soldiers had come near enough to the enemy's trench to throw a grenade, for the sound of the explosions could be distinguished for half-a-minute amid the uproar. But most of those who heard that fire realised that no attack could survive in it. The sound of bombing almost at once ceased. The first line, which had started so confidently, had been annihilated in half-a-minute; and the others having seen it mown down, realised fully that when they attempted to follow they would be instantly destroyed. Yet as soon as the first line had cleared the parapet, the second took its place, each man with his hand on the starting-peg and his foot on the step. The fire which roared undiminished overhead made it impossible to hear spoken orders. But exactly two minutes after the first had gone, the sight of leaders scrambling from the trench showed that the sign had been given for the further attack Without hesitation every man in the second line leapt forward into the tempest.


A few survivors of that line afterwards remembered passing most of the first, all apparently dead, lying six yards in front of its own parapet. The second got a little farther, since, after the fight, its dead lay a few yards beyond those of the first line. Captain Hore, who was leading on the right, where No-Man's Land was widest, by running as fast as he could reached a point fifteen yards from the Turkish trenches. There, glancing over his shoulder, he perceived that he was the only man moving across the bare surface, the rest appearing all to have been killed. He flung himself down at the point which he reached. None in that part of the line passed him.


Yet about this time observing officers stationed int eh trenches on Russell's Top undoubtedly saw, through the haze of dust raised trenches by machine-gun bullets, a small red and yellow flag put up in the enemy's front line. It was on the south-eastern corner of the trench. Who placed it there will never be known, but there were almost certainly a few men of the first line who had managed to get into the extreme right of the Turkish trench. For ten minutes the flag fluttered behind the parapet, and then some unseen agency tore it down. The fight in that corner was over; it could only have one ending. The Australian staff was subsequently told by a Turkish soldier, who had been in the front Turkish trench at the time and who was afterwards captured, that he knew nothing of any Australians having entered it alive. "They came on very well," he said, "and three men succeeded in reaching the Turkish trenches, falling dead over the parapet into the bottom of the trench."


These faint evidences are probably all that will ever be obtained concerning the incident. But its effects were important. After the second line had started, the men of the 10th Light Horse (Western Australia), forming the two lines which were next to attack, filed into the trenches which their predecessors had just left. In addition to the fire which had previously swept the parapet, two Turkish 75-mm. field-guns were now bursting their shrapnel low over No-Man's Land as fast as they could be loaded and fired. The saps were crowded with dead and wounded Victorians who had been shot back straight from the parapet and were being carried or helped to the rear. Among the Western Australians, who occasionally halted to let them pass, every man assumed that death was certain, and each in the secret places of his mind debated how he should go to it. Many seem to have silently determined that they would run forward as swiftly as possible, since that course was the simplest and most honourable besides offering a far-off chance that, if everyone did the same, some might at least reach and create some effect upon the enemy. Mate having said good-bye to mate, the third line took up its position on the fire-step.


The apparent uselessness of continuing the effort did not engender a second's hesitation in the light horsemen. They knew that their operation was a small part of the crucial struggle in the campaign, and, whatever their doubts, they could not feel sure that the whole structure of the plan might not depend upon their role in it. That they should falter, and "let down" their mates in the other columns at a critical moment, was unthinkable. Certain efforts, however, were made by the regimental leaders to discover whether the sacrifice was necessary. Major who commanded the third line, reported to the regimental commander, Colonel Brazier, that success would be impossible. Brazier, who during a slight relaxation in the Turkish fire had been able to raise a periscope, had himself seen the 8th Regiment lying prone in front of the trenches, either waiting for a lull in the fire or killed. About this time a staff officer from brigade headquarters came to him and asked why the third line had not gone forward. But Brazier, doubting whether the annihilation of additional troops could serve any interest except that of the enemy, determined to raise the question, as he had full right to do, before allowing that line to start. He accordingly at 4.40 went to brigade headquarters, which was slightly in rear, and finding there only the brigade-major, Colonel Antill, told him what he had seen, and informed him that, in view of the strength of the enemy's fire, the task laid upon his regiment was beyond achievement. But Antill, who was the main influence in the command of the brigade; had already received the news that one of the red and yellow flags had been seen in the enemy's trench. It seemed an urgent matter to support any troops who might have seized part of the Turkish line. He replied, therefore, that the 10th Regiment must push on at once.


It was then about 4.45. The roar of small-arms which had been called forth by the lines of the 8th had subsided to almost complete silence before the third line, formed by the 10th, went out. But as the men rose above the parapet it instantly swelled until its volume was tremendous. The 10th went forward to meet death instantly, as the 8th had done, the men running as swiftly and as straight as they could at the Turkish rifles. With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia, sons of the old pioneering families, youngsters - in some cases two and three from the same home - who had flocked to Perth at the outbreak of war with their own horses and saddlery in order to secure enlistment in a mounted regiment of the A.I.F. Men known and popular, the best loved leaders in sport and work in the West, then rushed straight to their death. Gresley Harpers and Wilfred, his younger brother, the latter of whom was last seen running forward like a schoolboy in a foot-race, with all the speed he could compass; the gallant Piesse, who had struggled ashore from the hospital ship; two others, who had just received their commissions, Roskams and Turnbull - the latter a Rhodes scholar. Sergeant Gollan, who had begged the doctor's leave to take part, was mortally wounded. Captain Hore of the 8th, still crouched far out on the summit, waiting to go on with any supporting line, did not realise that any such lines started. But as he lay he saw two brave men, first one and later another, run swiftly past him each quite alone, making straight for the Turkish rifles. Each, after continuing past him for a dozen yards, seemed to trip and fall headlong. They were undoubtedly the remnant of the two lines of the 10th Light Horse.


After the third line had gone, Colonel Brazier had again determined to prevent, if possible, further sacrifice of men. Major Scott, commanding the fourth line, had reported as Todd had done - that the task could not be achieved - and Brazier had therefore again referred to Colonel Antill, but was ordered to advance. "As the fire was murderous," wrote Brazier afterwards, "I again referred the matter personally to the brigadier (General Hughes), who said to get what men I could and go round by Bully Beef Sap and Monash Gully." While the question of stopping further charges over The Nek and attacking instead from a new direction was thus being debated, the fourth line had assembled on the fire-step The roar of musketry had again died down; but, as commands could not safely be given by word of mouth, the leaders had arranged that the sign to advance should be a wave of the hand. Major Scott was to give the signal to his troop leaders, and they would pass it to their subordinates. It was known to the troop leaders, but not to the men, that the stoppage of the assault was under discussion, when about 5.15 a.m. there appears to have come to the right of the line some officer who had possibly heard of the first decision of brigade head- quarters, and who asked the men why they had not gone forward. The incident is obscure, but the impression was somehow created that the charge had been ordered. The troops on the right at once leapt out. Instantly there burst forth the same tempest of machine-gun fire. As this uproar started, Major Scott, waiting near the centre, exclaimed: "By God, I believe the right has gone!" The nearest N.C.O's looked at Captain Rowan, their troop leader, who signed to them to go, at the same time rising himself and waving his hand, only to fall back dead from the parapet. His troop sergeant, Sanderson," repeated the signal, and the men in the centre sprang out. Sanderson's experience in this fourth rush has been recorded.


The rhododendron bushes had been cut off with machine-gun fire and were all spiky. The Turks were two-deep in the trench ahead. There was at least one machine-gun on the left and any number in the various trenches on the Chessboard. The men who were going out were absolutely certain that they were going to be killed, and they expected to be killed right away. The thing that struck a man most was if he wasn't knocked in the first three yards. Tpr. Weston, on Sanderson's right, fell beside him as they got out of the trench, knocked hack into the trench. Tpr. Biggs also fell next to him. Sanderson went all he could for the Turkish trench. Tpr. H. G. Hill, running beside him was shot through the stomach, spun round and fell. Sanderson saw the Turks (close) in front and looked over his shoulder. Four men were running about ten yards behind, and they all dropped at the same moment. He tripped over a rhododendron bush and fell over a dead Turk right on the Turkish parapet. The Turks were then throwing round cricket-ball bombs - you could see the brown arms coming up over the trenches. The bombs were going well over - only one blew back and hit him slightly in the leg. There were two dead men to the right towards the top of the hill, lying on the Turkish parapet - they looked like the Harper brothers. Sanderson knew how badly the show had gone. ... He managed to get his rifle beside him and clean it, and got the first cartridge from the full magazine into the barrel. He expected the Turks to counter-attack, and decided to get in a few shots if they did. After about half-an-hour, looking back, he saw Capt. Fry (of his regiment) kneeling up outside the " secret sap." Sanderson waved to him, and Fry saw him. ... The Turks were not up (i.e., lining their parapet) at this moment, because the navy had begun to bombard, and lyddite shells were whizzing low over the parapet and exploding on the back of the trench, so close that they seemed to lift Sanderson off the ground every time - he was sure the first short would finish him. Major Todd (who had survived from the third line) came along beside Fry and presently shouted something which seemed to be: "Retire the fourth line first." Sanderson looked round. There was none beside him except the dead. He crawled towards the secret sap ... about half-way there was an 8th L.H. man lying on his back, smoking. ... He said: “Have a cigarette; it's too _ hot.” Sanderson told him to get back and keep low, as machine-guns were firing from across the Chessboard and cutting the bushes pretty low. There was a lieutenant of the 8th L.H. there who had had some bombs in his haversack. These had been set off and the whole of his hip blown away. He was alive and they tried to take him in. He begged them to let him stay. I can't bloody well stand it," he said. They got him into the secret sap, and he died there as they got him in. In front of the secret sap were any number of the 8th L.H. The sap itself was full of dead. There were very few wounded - the ground in front of the trenches was simply covered. Sanderson went along the secret sap into the front line and there saw (dead) Cpt. Rowan, Weston, and another Hill and Lieut. Turnbull just dying then. ... About fifty yards of the line had not a man in it except the dead and wounded - no one was manning it.


It was at this stage that there were recovered a certain number of those who had gone out on the left and fallen wounded into ground which was partly sheltered. Lance-Corporal Hampshire, making five journeys, brought in Lieutenant Craig and others, the neighbouring Turks (according to one account) apparently refraining from firing at him. Most of the stricken, however, were on the exposed summit where no man could venture and live.

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It's crazy how they fought wars... the weaponry always out-paced the tactics.


In the American Civil War, they were still lining up in rows and facing off 50 yards away, or less... because that was the most recent way—"Napoleonic" tactics. Unfortunately, they were now using rifled muskets as opposed to the much-less accurate smooth bores. They paid dearly for this "overlap".


At the beginning of the 1st World War, as you noted, they were still engaging in Cavalry charges against machine gunners. Insanity.


Anyway, it's great to have that family history in your possession. I've got my family history from the American Civil War, as well.

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That's pretty compelling. There's something really cool about how people used to write back then. [thumbup]



The unit reports from the trenches are handwritten in pencil but even those are well constructed. NO spelling mistakes at all. There was more emphasis on literacy in those days...well for the educated that is. I guess that changed after time as with field promotions the lesser educated were promoted to officer status` regularly to fill the gaps for those that were killed. I see instances of lance corporals being elevated to 2nd Lieutenant in field promotions. That means that all the warrant officers, sergeants, and corporals were already dead!


I hope the peace will continue though doubt it will as we are seeing the battlefields opening up in our own backyards. At some stage there will be a big push back.

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As always, Digger, you give us all a great deal to think about and a wonderful, historic and quite possibly unique, batch of material to assimilate which deserves a great deal of time for full comprehension. This story of your family and it's actions MUST be recorded in the name of posterity.


Without wishing to draw the thread away from the extreme bravery and selfless duty of the various ANZAC regiments...


My maternal grandfather was invalided out after the first battle of Ypres.

He had several lumps of shell shrapnel in his body - ranging from his lower spinal column to skull (x3) - until the day he died aged 79. The shrapnel was too close to the body's vital areas - primarily spinal chord and brain membrane - for the doctors of the time (this was 100 years ago!) to remove them safely. Subsequent 'specialists' decided that it was best to leave them be so as not to 'possibly' trigger an unpleasant reaction.

Several times as a young child I asked him about 'the War' and he always changed the subject instantly to something more 'interesting' for a grandson to discuss.


In some ways, as an adult, I would dearly have loved to have heard his own narrative of events but equally I know that, as a child, I couldn't have heard them - nor, of course, understood them - at the time.


Which brings me back to the last sentence in my first paragraph.



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Thanks fellas, yes it is fascinating as would be such material from any war front, though certainly not a subject for discussion with kids. They dont need that much reality!



Yes I will continue to research this fascinating subject and yes I too am blown away with dealing with stuff 100 years old. Just a few years after we became a federated country in fact.


My what changes in that time~

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