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Geregistreerd op: 11-6-2007
|Geplaatst: 04 Okt 2007 21:25 Onderwerp: The Gallipoli campaign
|THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN
by Professor W D Maxwell-Mahon
If I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I'd live with scarlet majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death...
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I'd toddle safely home and die - in bed.
(Siegfried Sassoon: Base Details)
Constantinople stands at the southern extremity of the Bosphorus, with the Sea of Marmora on its eastern side and the Black Sea on its western side. Today, the city is called Istanbul. It is still the capital of Turkey.
During the first six months of 1914, Constantinople was a hotbed of espionage, intrigue, and diplomatic manoeuvring. The government was in a turmoil, the country was bankrupt, and the army completely demoralised after a long succession of defeats in the Balkan wars. A power struggle was going on between the ruling Sultan's party and the so-called Young Turks, a collection of revolutionaries and opportunists. Among the Young Turks was Mustafa Kemal or Ataturk, a military commander who was to mastermind the defence of Gallipoli when Turkey entered the war against Britain and her allies.
As Alan Moorehead points out in his definitive study Gallipoli to which the present writer is heavily indebted, neither Germany nor Britain at first wanted Turkey involved in the hostilities following the outbreak of World War I. The Turks, however, needed an ally to get them out of the domestic and military mess that they were in. That ally would need to be a winning one. So the diplomatic wheeling and dealing got under way in Constantinople while several million men dug themselves into the mud and blood in France.
The crucial moment for the Constantinople situation had been the arrival there in January, 1914, of the German Military Mission headed by General Liman von Sanders. The Turks had asked for this Mission. German officers, technicians and instructors arrived in hundreds. They set about re-organizing the Turkish army, took over the munitions factory at Constantinople, and manned the gun emplacements along the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. It was a case (as Moorehead puts it) of 'Deutschland Uber Allah'.
The British presence at Constantinople was evidenced by their Naval Mission and by Sir Louis Mallet, the ambassador. He was later to exercise considerable influence on Winston Churchill, then Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty. Some hanky-panky went on during June 1914, concerning two battleships that Churchill had ordered to be built for Turkey but wanted manned by British seamen. The Turks collected the money to pay for these ships by way of subscriptions from the populace. Churchill suddenly decided that they should not be delivered. And they were not. The Turks were furious. The Germans were sympathetic. The upshot was that Germany delivered two of her own battleships to replace those that the Turks had lost. Significantly, Turkey and Germany signed a secret alliance on 2 August, two days before Britain went to war with Germany. The alliance was aimed at blocking Russia's export channel through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and thus neutralizing any attempt by her to join with her allies, England and France.
The presence of the two German replacement warships manned by Germans thoroughly alarmed the British. Turkey seemed to be moving towards the German camp. But for the moment the Germans did not want to be saddled with Turkey. She would be more useful to them by remaining neutral since then the British would have to keep a naval squadron tied up at the mouth of the Dardanelles on a watching brief.
On 5 September 1914, the German army crossed the Maine River on the Western front. They were then outflanked by the French. In a series of engagements more appropriate to a comic opera than a battle zone, the British advanced in the centre with great bewilderment. There were no Germans to be seen. So the British wandered around wondering what had happened to the enemy. What had happened was that the Germans had begun a full scale retreat back over the river and started to dig themselves in. When the British finally caught up with the Germans they were confronted by rolls of barbed wire and miles of dugouts. The stalemate of trench warfare had begun. The 'show' would not be over by Christmas as the armchair pundits had confidently predicted. Germany now needed allies. Turkey would have to be brought into the war.
During September 1914, the Germans took it upon themselves to close the Dardanelles and to mine the channel. Thus, Russia's lifeline was finally severed. Then a Turkish squadron largely manned by Germans entered the Black Sea and without warning opened fire on the Russian fortress at Sevastopol and on the Odessa harbour fortifications. On 30 October, the Russian, French and British ambassadors delivered a twelve-hour ultimatum to the Turkish government. The ultimatum was unanswered. War broke out between the allies and Turkey on the following day. The stage was now set for the Gallipoli campaign. Back in the European theatre of war, things went from bad to worse. By the end of November 1914, barely three months after the outbreak of hostilities, Britain had suffered nearly one million casualties. Lt-Col Hankey, Secretary to the British War Council, came up with a suggestion that to break the impasse on the Western front an attempt should be made to outflank the German lines. He proposed an attack through Turkey into the Balkans. Churchill liked the idea. Backdoor business was something of a mania with him. Earlier in the war, he had sent 8 000 marines to Antwerp offering himself as their commander. The offer was gratefully declined by the War Office. In any event, this outflanking manoeuvre was a dismal failure. He was later to try the backdoor plan during World War II when the attempt by the Royal Navy to dislodge the Germans from Crete and advance up through the so-called 'soft under-belly' of Europe also came to nothing. Truth to tell, the only backdoor through which Churchill ever got was that of the Staatsmodel School in Skinner Street, Pretoria, during the Anglo-Boer War.
Historians in general tend to blame Churchill for what happened during the Gallipoli campaign. Nevertheless, we must remember that support for the campaign came from the Prime Minister, Lloyd George; Lord Fisher, the First Sea Lord; Sir Louis Mallet, the British Ambassador to Constantinople; and Lord Kitchener. Several years after Gallipoli, Churchill wrote with heavy sarcasm about the charges of incompetence brought against him:
'The popular view inculcated in thousands of newspaper articles and recorded in many so-called histories is simple. Mr Churchill, having seen the German heavy howitzers smash the Antwerp forts, being ignorant of the distinction between a howitzer and a gun, and overlooking the difference between firing ashore and afloat, thought that the naval guns would simply smash the Dardanelles forts. Although the highly competent Admiralty experts pointed out these obvious facts, this politician so bewitched them that they were reduced to supine or servile acquiescence in a scheme which they knew was based on a series of monstrous technical fallacies.'
(Churchill: The World Crisis)
The Gallipoli campaign falls into two distinct stages. The first stage was a naval attack. Admiral Fisher, the First Sea Lord, was one of Churchill's closest friends. Initially Fisher supported the plan for a naval attack. Then he got cold feet. He argued that sending ships to the Dardanelles would seriously weaken the North Sea Fleet. Superiority over the Germans would be lost. Eventually, Churchill had his way. The greatest concentration of naval strength ever seen in the Mediterranean was assembled: eighteen battleships, two dreadnoughts, and various destroyers and minesweepers. For reasons still not clear, the minesweepers were unarmed. Furthermore, they were not manned by Navy personnel but by recruits from the North Sea fishing fleets. This latter arrangement was to prove significant when the attack got under way.
As may be seen from the map of the area, the Dardanelles straits are extremely narrow. The section appropriately called 'The Narrows' flanked on the left by Kilid Bahr and on the right by Chanak, is not more than 1,6 km wide. The Turks laid nine lines of mines in the straits. These mines had to be cleared ahead of British naval forces. At 09:15 on 19 February 1915, the naval attack began. British ships bombarded Turkish land emplacements but drew no answering fire. Night fell. The ships hove to. The next day the British flotilla moved inshore and landed marines and bluejackets who blew up guns, smashed searchlights, and wrecked whatever forts they came across. The Turks, who were led by German officers, fired at the landing party and then disappeared into the surrounding scrub and foothills. The British naval attack seemed successful. Admiral Carden, naval commanding officer, cabled London that he would be in Constantinople in twelve days. Churchill offered to lead the British forces into the city. His offer was declined - again gratefully.
Then the reality of the situation became apparent. The British forces dared not stray too far from their ships; the Turks had the whole of Asia Minor to retreat into and then to emerge suddenly in Boer commando style with guns blazing only to disappear once more. The weather in the straits worsened. A gale blew up. The minesweeper crews blew up a storm of their own. As they put it to Admiral Keyes, Carden's chief-of-staff, they didn't mind being sent skyhigh by a stray mine, but objected strongly to being fired upon by Turkish shore batteries. Keyes was furious. He became even more so after sending in the minesweepers on the evening of 10 March to clear the straits in preparation for a surprise attack. Moorehead gives the text of what Keyes wrote later about the fiasco:
'The less said about that night the better. To put it briefly, the minesweepers turned tail and fled directly they were fired upon. I was furious and told the officers in charge that they had their opportunity, there were many others only too keen to try. It did not matter if we lost all seven sweepers, there were twenty-eight more, and the mines had got to be swept up. How could they talk about being stopped by heavy fire if they were not hit? The Admiralty were prepared for losses, but we had chucked our hat in and started squealing before we had any.'
Admiral Carden then had a nervous collapse. He was sent home to England. His successor launched another naval attack on the morning of 18 March. Despite heavy losses, the British were able to silence the Turkish guns. Constantinople started to evacuate its populace. It seemed that the naval attack had brought victory, but the British did not know what was going on among the Turks. They also did not spot a new line of mines laid in the straits. Their minesweepers again turned tail and sailed out of the Narrows. The British naval commander couldn't find several of his warships so he sent other ships to look for them. The searchers struck mines and sank. The weather worsened. The British, in World War II parlance, had got themselves into a typical SNAFU mess.
Back in London it began to be felt that the British navy could not defeat the Turks alone; they needed the help of the army. As Fisher put it, 'Somebody will have to land at Gallipoli some time or another'. But where were the commanders to get their men? Kitchener, with his manic stare and pointing forefinger, at first said that none could be spared from the Western Front. He then changed his mind and said that some could, then said that none could, then finally agreed to send the 29th Army Division. This division was to assemble with Australian and New Zealand forces in Egypt for briefing and training. General Birdwood, an Indian Army officer who had served in the Anglo-Boer War, was placed in charge of the Anzacs (as the combined Australian and New Zealand forces were dubbed); Sir Ian Hamilton, who was chief-of-staff for Kitchener during the same war, was made allied Commander-in-Chief. The assembling of Hamilton's men, like his appointment, had the air of a charade about it. Kitchener stuck his head around the door of Hamilton's office to mention casually that there was going to be a Dardanelles campaign and that Hamilton would lead it. Some of the officers on Hamilton's staff were regular soldiers; others had hastily put on uniform for the first time. As Moorehead recounts, Hamilton later wrote in his diary, 'Leggings awry, spurs upside down, belts over shoulder straps! I haven't a notion who they are.' To make matters worse, he had been given an inaccurate map of the forthcoming battle area and a handbook on the Turkish army that was three years out of date.
On arrival in Egypt, Hamilton found himself in command of a very mixed bunch of men indeed. There were regular French soldiers plus Foreign Legionnaires and Zouaves from North Africa, Sikhs and Gurkhas from India, sailors of the French and British navies, Scottish, English and Irish troops. And there were the Australians and the New Zealanders. Particularly the Australians. Moorehead remarks in his study of the campaign that the Australians were something of an unknown quantity. They were all volunteers, they were paid more than any of the other troops, and they exhibited a spirit unlike anything seen on an European battlefield before. They had a distinctive accent and their command (as Moorehead says) of 'the more elementary oaths and blasphemies, even judged by the most liberal army standards, was appalling. Such military forms as the salute did not come very easily to these men, especially in the presence of British officers... each evening the Australians accompanied by the New Zealanders came riding in their thousands into Cairo from their camps near the pyramids - and the city shuddered a little.'
Apart from their unconventional language and behaviour, the Australians exhibited a laconic and sardonic sense of humour that took some getting used to. For example, a certain British colonel had the habit of asking each of his men if he were happy. Questioned, one of the Australians grudgingly admitted that he was rather happy. 'And what', beamed the colonel, 'were you before you joined the army?' 'A bloody sight happier', replied the Australian.
The recruitment of Australian troops, who were to bear the brunt of the Gallipoli campaign, took place during a Federal election, Political differences were put aside as recruitment began on 11 August 1914.
My late father, who was not an Australian, enlisted at Broadmeadows, Victoria, on 15 August. He had just married his fourth wife. Perhaps the army looked a safe place of refuge. After finishing training at Broadmeadows, the first Australian Contingent together with several New Zealand recruits set sail across the Indian Ocean on 1 November 1914. The transport fleet was the largest ever to have sailed those waters. On the 36 transports were some 29 000 men 12 000 horses, and several pet kangeroos. On the way to Aden, the Australian cruiser Sydney destroyed the German Pacific Fleet's cruiser Emden off the Cocos Island south of Ceylon. On arrival at their destination, the Anzacs were put under canvas at Mena, just outside Cairo. For the moment, the immediate task was to put the army in Egypt on a war footing as soon as possible. To quote from Shakespeare's play Macbeth, 'If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly'. It wasn't. Delay followed delay; foul-up piled on foul-up. I have mentioned the Australian characteristic of using strong language. Well, the air around the pyramids became blue when they discovered what they had been let in for. The British High Command was going in blind. The simplest of questions about the landing at Gallipoli had been left unanswered. I quote Moorehead:
'Was there water on the shore or not? What roads existed? What casualties were to be expected? How were the wounded men to be got off to the hospital ship? Were they to fight in trenches or in the open? What sort of weapons were required? What was the depth of water off the beaches? What sort of boats were needed to get the men, the guns and the stores ashore? Would the Turks resist, or would they break as they had done in the Balkans? If they broke, how were the landing forces to pursue them without transport or supplies?'
It was quite unbelievable. Hamilton sent men into the bazaars of Cairo and Alexandria to buy skins, calabashes, oildrums, camel bladders - anything that would hold water. Any donkeys and native drivers unlucky enough to wander into sight were rounded up and put into the British army. Instant recruitment. As the British had no hand-grenades, no trench mortars, and no gun carriages they had to set up workshops in the desert quickly and start making this equipment. Hamilton cabled Kitchener asking for more guns, more ammunition, and some aircraft. His repeated requests were met with refusal or no answer at all. The air around the pyramids became bluer and bluer.
The preparations for landing at Gallipoli required assembling the task force at Lemnos Island, south of the Dardanelles. When the ships arrived there during March every sort of equipment from guns to landing craft was missing. To quote Moorehead again:
'Moreover, the transports coming out from England had been stowed in the wildest confusion: horses in one ship, harness in another: guns had been packed without their limbers and isolated from their ammunition. Nobody in England had been able to make up their minds as to whether or not there were roads on the Gallipoli peninsula, and so a number of useless lorries were put on board.'
So back the task force went to Alexandria to re-assemble and re-group before setting off again. During April, men and ships again arrived at Lemnos having given the Turks jointly led by Mustafa Kemal and General von Sanders ample time to prepare for the assault. The allies were ignorant of what lay in store for them. The Australians, for instance, were in festive mood and displayed a large banner on which were the words, 'To Constantinople and the harems'.
Since my late father was with the Australian contingent I shall place emphasis on what happened to him and his comrades-in-arms. But let me briefly chart in broad outline the fate of specifically British contingents. When the landings began on that fatal Sunday of 25 April 1913, the British decided to disembark some 2 000 men at Cape Helles, the southernmost point of the peninsula. The men aboard the S.S. River Clyde were told to keep out of sight below decks. This was supposed to fool the Turks. It didn't. As the British began streaming ashore through a hole cut in the side of the ship they were met by withering fire from concealed Turkish guns. Only 200 ever made it to the beach. Further up the coast on the western side of the peninsula another 2 000 men were landed on 'Y' beach. Surprisingly, they met with no resistance, so proceeded inland to get themselves lost in the scrub and gulleys. Jack Churchill, brother of Sir Winston, was among those lost souls who had landed on a strip of shingle and then faced sheer rock face. He penned these lines quoted by Moorehead:
"Y Beach", the Scottish Borderer cried,
While panting up the steep hillside,
To call this thing a beach is stiff,
It's nothing but a bloody cliff.
The landing of the Australian and New Zealand forces took place at Anzac Cove. The Australians were made up of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Infantry Brigades and divisions of the Field Artillery Brigades. My father was with the 2nd Field Artillery. The landing boats reached the shore at 04:29, as the first flush of dawn appeared. Things began to go wrong immediately. Moorehead writes:
'The men had been told that they would find level ground and fairly easy going for the first few hundred yards inland from the beach. Instead of this an unknown cliff reached up before them, and as they hauled themselves upward, clutching at roots and boulders, kicking footholds into the rocks a heavy fire came down on them from the heights above... Men kept losing their grip and tumbling down into ravines and gullies. Those who gained the first heights went charging off after the enemy and were quickly lost... Units became hopelessly mixed up and signals failed altogether.'
The plan had been to land on the coast between Gaba Tepe beach and Fisherman's Hut. The Anzacs were then supposed to capture the high ground at Mal Tepe overlooking the Narrows, thus getting behind the Turkish forces. But when daylight came, it was apparent that the landing party was nowhere near Gaba Tepe. In the darkness an uncharted current had swept the boats some five miles north of the planned landing space. In this confused situation, there was no front line. Advancing up a ravine, the Australians would suddenly find themselves in the midst of Turks and fierce hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets began. The Turks showed themselves to be most courageous foes and seldom surrendered.
Meanwhile Hamilton cruised up and down the coast in the battleship Queen Elizabeth poetically entering thoughts in his dairy. On the night of 25 April he wrote:
'Should the Fates so decree, the whole brave Army may disappear during the night more dreadfully than that of Sennacherib; but assuredly they will not surrender, where so much is dark, where many are discouraged, in this knowledge I feel both light and joy. Here I write - think - have my being. Tomorrow night where shall we be? Well; what then; what of the worst? At least we shall have lived, acted, dared. We are half way through - we shall not look back.'
Just before midnight, Hamilton was awakened by his chief-of-staff. He was wanted urgently in the ship's dining room. When he got there he found the rest of his commanding officers waiting. They handed him a message from General Birdwood asking that the whole Anzac position near Gaba Tepe be abandoned, that the 15 000 men taken off the beaches immediately. Already all available boats had been ordered to stand by for the evacuation. The final decision now lay with Hamilton safely aboard the Queen Elizabeth, far from his troops. He sat down. In a general silence he dictated his reply to Birdwood:
'Your news is indeed serious. But there is nothing for it but to dig yourselves right in and stick it out... make a personal appeal to your men.., to hold their ground. You have got through the difficult business. Now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe.'
And that is what the Anzacs had to do. The seaward slopes that they occupied began to resemble a vast mining camp. It was not long after this that the Australian soldiers were nicknamed 'Diggers' and that designation has remained to the present day.
Heroic desperation best describes the remainder of the Gallipoli campaign. Mustafa Kemal proved a brilliant strategist. He anticipated every allied move; his men fought like tigers. The digging-in process that Hamilton ordered resulted, as it had done on the Westem Front, in a stalemate. The allies needed more men. Sir John Maxwell, the commander of the Egyptian garrison, was eventually asked by Kitehener to contact Hamilton regarding the need for reinforcements. Maxwell's telegram never reached Hamilton. Indeed, very little news was entering or coming out of the Dardanelles. There were two British war correspondents there. One of them kept getting arrested, released, and re-arrested by various British officers as a suspected spy; the other correspondent had bad eyesight and could see nothing further than 100 yards.
I have the Anzac war medal issued to my late father. It is most unusual. On one side appears a map of Australia and New Zealand. On the obverse side are engraved the figures of a man and a donkey. This engraving pictures a stretcher-bearer named John Simpson. For three weeks he and the donkey toiled up the mountain side of Anzac Cove to the so-called front line carrying wounded men back to the dressing stations on the beach. The Turks called him Bahadur meaning 'the bravest of the brave'. During the third week of May 1915, Simpson was shot dead.
On 8 December 1915, the retreat from Gallipoli began. One of the Australian soldiers has left us his impressions of the last hours on the beach:
'We had a roaring fire in a big dugout. We laughed and yarned and jested, waiting for God knows what, but for something to break the silence that oppressed that vast empty graveyard, not only the graveyard of thousands of good men, but of our hope in the Dardane]les. The hills seemed to tower in silent might in the pale, misty moonlight, and the few lights upon them flickered like the ghosts of the army that had gone.'
Set these words against the remarks of Rupert Brooke, the golden boy of English society and epitome of poetical patriotism when he first heard that he was being posted to the Constantinople Expedition:
'It's too wonderful for belief. I had not imagined that Fate could be so kind ... Will Hero's Tower crumble under the 15-inch guns? Will the sea be wine-dark? Shall I loot mosaics from St Sophie and Turkish Delight and carpets? Should we be a turning point in history? Oh God! I've never been quite so happy in my life... I suddenly realize the ambition of my life has been - since I was two - to go on a military expedition against Constantinople.'
Pulsating with jingoism, Brooke had sunstroke on one of the Greek islands, developed blood poisoning and died two days before the Gallipoli landings.
The consolidated allied list of the Gallipoli campaign was more than 213 000 men killed, wounded and missing. Hamilton was recalled just before the campaign was abandoned. He was never given a military command again. He lived to be 94. Churchill lasted to 91. Some 33 000 Australians were not so lucky. They lie buried in the scrub and ravines of the Gallipoli peninsula.
"Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae"
"Van hen(de Galliërs) allemaal zijn de Belgen de dappersten"
Julius Caesar(100 VC - 44 VC)
Geregistreerd op: 11-6-2007
|Geplaatst: 20 Nov 2007 22:33 Onderwerp:
|The Landing at Gallipoli
The following series of dispatches sent by a special correspondent of The London Times at the Dardanelles describes the first phase of the operations resulting in the landing of the allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula:
Dardanelles, April 24.
The great venture has at last been launched, and the entire fleet of warships and transports is now steaming toward the shores of Gallipoli.
Yesterday the weather showed signs of moderating, and about 5 o'clock in the afternoon the first of the transports slowly made its way through the maze of shipping toward the entrance of Mudros Bay. Immediately the patent apathy which has gradually overwhelmed every one changed to the utmost enthusiasm, and as the huge liners steamed through the fleet, their decks yellow with khaki, the crews of the warships cheered them on to victory, while the bands played them out with an unending variety of popular airs. The soldiers in the transports answered this last salutation from the navy with deafening cheers, and no more inspiring spectacle has ever been seen than this great expedition setting forth for better or for worse.
It required splendid organization and skilled leadership to get this huge fleet clear of the bay without confusion or accidents, but not one has occurred, and the majority are now safely on the high seas steaming toward their respective destinations.
The whole of the fleet and the transports have been divided up into five divisions and there will be three main landings. The Twenty-ninth Division will disembark off the point of the Gallipoli Peninsula near Sedd-el-Bahr, where its operations can be covered both from the Gulf of Saros and from the Dardanelles by the fire of the covering warships. The Australian and New Zealand contingent will disembark north of Gaba Tepe. Further north the Naval Division will make a demonstration.
The difficulties and dangers of the enterprise are enormous and are recognized by all.
Never before has the attempt been made to land so large a force in the face of an enemy who has innumerable guns, many thousands of trained infantry, and who has had months of warning in which to prepare his positions. Nevertheless, there is a great feeling of confidence throughout all ranks, and the men are delighted that at length the delays are over and the real work is about to begin.
Last night the transports were merely taking up their positions, and the real exit of the armada from Mudros commenced this afternoon at about 2 o'clock. The weather, which was threatening at an early hour, has now become perfectly calm, and if it only lasts the conditions will be ideal for a rapid disembarkation.
Throughout the morning transports steamed out to take up their respective positions in the open sea. The same enthusiastic scenes were witnessed as yesterday. The covering forces will be put ashore from certain battleships, while others will sweep the enemy's positions with their guns and endeavor to prevent them from shelling the troops while disembarking. It is generally considered that the critical period of the operations will be the first twenty-four hours, and the success or failure of the whole enterprise will depend on whether these covering parties are able to obtain a firm foothold and seize the positions which have been assigned to them. Every detail has been worked out and rehearsed, and every officer and man should now know the peculiar rôle which has been assigned to him.
The navy will have entire charge of the landing of these thousands of men. Beach parties will go ashore with the first of the troops, and officers from the ships will direct the movements of all the boats as they bring the troops ashore.
This battleship belongs to a division which will consist of the Australians, who are to land near Gaba Tepe. We are one of the landing ships, and this afternoon received on board 500 officers and men of the Australian contingent who are to form part of the covering force. They are a magnificent body of men, and full of enthusiasm for the honorable and dangerous rôle given to them.
At 2 o'clock the flagship of this division took up her position at the head of the line. We passed down through the long line of slowly moving transports amid tremendous cheering, and were played out of the bay by the French warships. No sight could have been finer than this spectacle of long lines of warships and transports, each making for its special rendezvous without any delay or confusion.
At 4 o'clock this afternoon the ship's company and the troops were assembled on the quarterdeck to hear the Captain read out Admiral de Robeck's proclamation to the combined forces. This was followed by a last service before battle, in which the chaplain uttered a prayer for victory and called for the Divine blessing on the expedition, while the whole of the ship's company and troops on board stood with uncovered and bowed heads. We are steaming slowly through this momentous night toward the coast and are due at our rendezvous at 3 A.M. tomorrow, (Sunday,) a day which has so often brought victory to the British flag.
THE SECOND DISPATCH.
Dardanelles, April 25.
Slowly through the night of April 24 our squadron, which was to land the covering force of the Australian contingent just north of Gaba Tepe, steamed toward its destination. The troops on board were the guests of the crews, and our generous sailors entertained them royally. At dusk all lights were extinguished, and very shortly afterward the troops retired for a last rest before their ordeal at dawn.
At 1 A.M. the ships arrived off their appointed rendezvous, five miles from the landing place, and stopped. The soldiers were aroused from their slumbers and were served with a last hot meal. A visit to the mess decks showed these Australians, the majority of whom were about to go into action for the first time under the most trying circumstances, possessed at 1 o'clock in the morning courage to be cheerful, quiet, and confident. There was no sign of nerves or undue excitement such as one might very reasonably have expected.
At 1:20 A.M. the signal was given from the flagship to lower the boats, which had been left swinging from the davits throughout the night. Our steam pinnaces were also lowered to take them in tow. The troops fell in in their assigned places on the quarterdeck, and the last rays of the waning moon lit up a scene which will ever be memorable in our history.
On the quarterdeck, backed by the great 12-inch guns, this splendid body of colonial troops were drawn up in serried ranks, fully equipped, and receiving their last instructions from their officers who, six months ago, like their men, were leading a peaceful civilian life in Australia and New Zealand 5,000 miles away. Now at the call of the empire they were about to disembark on a strange unknown shore, in a strange land, and attack an enemy of a different race. By the side of the soldiers the beach parties of our splendid bluejackets and marines were marshaled, arrayed in old white uniforms dyed khaki color and carrying the old rifle and old equipment.
These men were to take charge of the boats, steer them ashore, and row them to the beach when they were finally cast off by the towing pinnaces. Each boat was in charge of a young midshipman, many of whom have come straight from Dartmouth after a couple of terms and now found themselves called upon to play a most difficult and dangerous rôle like men. Commanders, Lieutenants, and special beach officers had charge of the whole of the towing parties and went ashore with the troops.
At 2:05 A.M. the signal was given for the troops to embark in the boats which were lying alongside, and this was carried out with great rapidity, in absolute silence, and without a hitch or an accident of any kind. Each one of the three ships which had embarked troops transferred them to four small boats apiece towed by a steam pinnace, and in this manner the men of the covering force were conveyed to the shore. More of the Australian Brigade were carried in destroyers, which were to go close in shore and land them from boats as soon as those towed by the pinnaces had reached the beach.
At 3 A.M. it was quite dark and all was ready for the start. The tows were cast off by the battleships and the ladders taken in and the decks cleared for action, the crews going to general quarters. Then we steamed slowly toward the shore, each of the battleships being closely followed by her tows, which looked exactly like huge snakes gliding relentlessly after their prey. I do not suppose the suppressed excitement of this last half hour will ever be forgotten by those who were present. No one could tell at the last minute what would happen. Would the enemy be surprised or would he be ready on the alert to pour a terrible fire on the boats as they approached the beach?
The whole operation had been timed to allow the pinnaces and boats to reach the beach just before daybreak so that the Turks, if they had been forewarned, would not be able to see to fire before the Australians had obtained a firm footing and, it was hoped, good cover on the foreshore.
Exactly at 4:10 A.M. the three battleships in line abreast four cables apart arrived about 2,500 yards from the shore, which was just discernible in the gloom. The engines were stopped, guns were manned, and the powerful searchlights made ready for use if required. The tows, which up to this time had followed astern, were ordered to advance to the shore. The battleships took up positions somewhat further out on either flank, for to them was assigned the duty of supporting the attack with their guns as soon as light allowed.
Very slowly the snakes of boats steamed past the battleships, the gunwales almost flush with the water, so crowded were they with khaki figures. Then each lot edged in toward one another so as to reach the beach four cables apart. So anxious were we on board the battleships that it seemed as if the loads were too heavy for the pinnaces, or that some mysterious power was holding them back, and that they would never reach the shore before daybreak and thus lose the chance of a surprise.
The distance between the battleships and the boats did not seem to diminish, but only for the reason that we steamed very slowly in after them until the water gradually shallowed. Every eye and every glass was fixed on that grim-looking line of hills in our front, so shapeless, yet so menacing, in the gloom.
At 4:50 A.M. the enemy suddenly showed an alarm light, which flashed for ten minutes and then disappeared. The next three minutes after its first appearance passed in breathless anxiety. We could just discern the dull outline of the boats which appeared to be almost on the beach. Just previously to this seven destroyers conveying the other men of the brigade glided noiselessly through the intervals between the battleships and followed the boats in shore.
At 4:53 A.M. there suddenly came a very sharp burst of rifle fire from the beach, and we knew our men were at last at grips with the enemy. This fire lasted only for a few minutes and then was drowned by a faint British cheer wafted to us over the waters. How comforting and inspiring was the sound at such a moment! It seemed like a message sent to tell us that the first position had been won and a firm hold obtained on the beach.
At 5:03 A.M. the fire intensified, and we could tell from the sound that our men were firing. It lasted until 5:28 and then died down somewhat. No one on board knew what was happening, although dawn was gradually breaking, because we were looking due east into the sun slowly rising behind the hills, which are almost flush with the foreshore, and there was also a haze. Astern at 5:26 we saw the outline of some of the transports, gradually growing bigger and bigger as they approached the coast. They were bringing up the remainder of the Austrians and New Zealanders.
The first authentic news we received came with the return of our boats. A steam pinnace came alongside with two recumbent forms on her deck and a small figure, pale but cheerful, and waving his hand astern. They were one of our midshipmen, just 16 years of age, shot through the stomach, but regarding his injury more as a fitting consummation to a glorious holiday ashore than a wound, and a chief stoker and petty officer, all three wounded by that first burst of musketry which caused many casualties in the boats just as they reached the beach.
From them we learned what had happened in those first wild moments. All the tows had almost reached the beach, when a party of Turks intrenched almost on the shore opened up a terrible fusillade from rifles and also from a Maxim. Fortunately most of the bullets went high, but, nevertheless, many men were hit as they sat huddled together 40 or 50 in a boat.
It was a trying moment, but the Australian volunteers rose as a man to the occasion. They waited neither for orders nor for the boats to reach the beach, but, springing out into the sea, they waded ashore and, forming some sort of a rough line, rushed straight on the flashes of the enemy's rifles. Their magazines were not even charged. So they just went in with cold steel, and I believe I am right in saying that the first Ottoman Turk since the last Crusade received an Anglo-Saxon bayonet in him at five minutes after 5 A.M. on April 25. It was over in a minute. The Turks in this first trench were bayoneted or ran away, and a Maxim gun was captured.
Then the Australians found themselves facing an almost perpendicular cliff of loose sandstone, covered with thick shrubbery, and 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 these colonials are practical above all else, and they went about it in a practical way. They stopped a few moments to pull themselves together and to get rid of their packs, which no troops should carry in an attack, and then 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, and in less than a quarter of an hour the Turks were out of their second position, either bayoneted or in full flight.
THE THIRD DISPATCH.
Dardanelles, April 26.
After the events I have previously described, the light gradually became better and we could see from the London what was happening on the beach. It was then discovered that the boats had landed rather further north of Gaba Tepe than was originally intended, at a point where the sandstone cliffs rise very sharply from the water's edge. As a matter of fact, this error probably turned out a blessing in disguise, because there was no glacis down which the enemy's infantry could fire, and the numerous bluffs, ridges, and broken ground afford good cover to troops once they have passed the forty or fifty yards of flat, sandy beach.
This ridge, under which the landing was made, stretches due north from Gaba Tepe and culminates in the height of Coja Chemen, which rises 950 feet above the sea level. The whole forms part of a confused triangle of hills, valleys, ridges, and bluffs which stretches right across the Gallipoli Peninsula to the Bay of Bassi Liman above the Narrows. The triangle is cut in two by the valley through which flows the stream known as Bokali Deresi.
It is indeed a formidable and forbidding land. To the sea it presents a steep front, broken up into innumerable ridges, bluffs, valleys, and sand pits, which rise to a height of several hundred feet. The surface is either a kind of bare and very soft yellow sandstone, which crumbles when you tread on it, or else it is covered with very thick shrubbery about six feet in height.
It is, in fact, an ideal country for irregular warfare, such as the Australians and New Zealanders were soon to find to their cost. You cannot see a yard in front of you, and so broken is the ground that the enemy's snipers were able to lie concealed within a few yards of the lines of infantry without it being possible to locate them. On the other hand, the Australians and New Zealanders have proved themselves adepts at this form of warfare, which requires the display of great endurance in climbing over the cliffs and offers scope for a display of that individuality which you find highly developed in these colonial volunteers. To organize anything like a regular attack on such ground is almost impossible, as the officers cannot see their men, who, the moment they move forward in open order, are lost among the thick scrub.
In the early part of the day very heavy casualties were suffered in the boats which conveyed the troops from the destroyers, tugs, and transports to the beach. As soon as it became light, the enemy's sharpshooters, hidden everywhere, simply concentrated their fire on the boats. Then they got close in. At least three boats, having broken away from their tows, drifted down the coast, under no control, and were sniped at the whole way, steadily losing men.
All praise is due to the splendid conduct of the officers, midshipmen, and men who formed the beach parties and whose duty it was to pass backward and forward under a terrible fusillade which it was impossible to check in the early part of the day.
The work of disembarking went on mechanically under this fire at almost point-blank range. You saw the crowded boats cast off from the pinnaces, tugs, and destroyers, and laboriously pulled ashore by six or eight seamen. The moment it reached the beach the troops jumped out and doubled for cover to the foot of the bluffs, over some forty yards of beach. But the gallant crews of the boats had then to pull them out under a dropping fire from a hundred points where the enemy's marksmen lay hidden amid the sand and shrubs.
Throughout the whole of April 25 the landing of troops, stores, and munitions had to be carried out under these conditions, but the gallant sailors never failed their equally gallant comrades ashore. Every one, from the youngest midshipman, straight from Dartmouth and under fire for the first time, to the senior officers in charge, did their duty nobly.
When it became light the covering warships endeavored to support the troops on shore by a heavy fire from their secondary armament, but at this time, the positions of the enemy being unknown, the support was necessarily more moral than real. When the sun was fully risen and the haze had disappeared we could see that the Australians had actually established themselves on the top of the ridge and were evidently trying to work their way northward along it. At 8:45 the fire from the hills became intense and lasted for about half an hour, when it gradually died down, but only for a short time. Then it reopened and lasted without cessation throughout the remainder of the day. The fighting was so confused and took place among such broken ground that it is extremely difficult to follow exactly what did happen throughout the morning and afternoon of April 25. The rôle assigned to the covering force was splendidly carried out up to a certain point, and a firm footing was obtained on the crest of the ridge which allowed the disembarkation of the remainder of the force to go on uninterruptedly, except for the never-ceasing sniping.
But then the Australians, whose blood was up, instead of intrenching themselves and waiting developments, pushed northward and eastward inland in search of fresh enemies to tackle with the bayonet. The ground is so broken and ill-defined that it was very difficult to select a position to intrench, especially as, after the troops imagined they had cleared a section, they were continually being sniped from all sides. Therefore, they preferred to continue the advance.
It is impossible for any army to defend a long beach in any force, especially when you do not know exactly where an attack will be made, and when your troops will come under the fire of the guns of warships. The Turks, therefore, only had a comparatively weak force actually holding the beach, and they seemed to have relied on the difficult nature of the ground and their scattered snipers to delay the advance until they would bring up reinforcements from the interior. Some of the Australians who had pushed inland were counter-attacked and almost outflanked by these on-coming reserves and had to fall back after suffering very heavy casualties.
It was then the turn of the Turks to counter-attack, and this they continued to do throughout the afternoon, but the Australians never yielded a foot of ground on the main ridge, and reinforcements were continually poured up from the beach as fresh troops were disembarked from the transports. The enemy's artillery fire, however, presented a very difficult problem. As soon as the light became good the Turks enfiladed the beach with two field guns from Gaba Tepe and with two others from the north. This shrapnel fire was incessant and deadly. In vain did the warships endeavor to put them out of action with their secondary armament. For some hours they could not be accurately located, or else were so well protected that our shells failed to do them any harm. The majority of the heavy casualties suffered during the day were from shrapnel, which swept the beach and the ridge on which the Australians and New Zealanders had established themselves.
Later in the day the two guns to the north were silenced or forced to withdraw to a fresh position, from which they could no longer enfilade the beach, and a cruiser, moving in close to the shore, so plastered Gaba Tepe with a hail of shell that the guns there were also silenced and have not attempted to reply since.
As the enemy brought up reinforcements toward dusk his attacks became more and more vigorous, and he was supported by a powerful artillery inland which the ships' guns were powerless to deal with. The pressure on the Australians and New Zealanders became heavier, and the line they were occupying had to be contracted for the night. General Birwood and his staff went ashore in the afternoon and devoted all their energies to securing the position, so as to hold firmly to it until the following morning, when it was hoped to get some field guns in position to deal with the enemy's artillery.
Some idea of the difficulty to be faced may be gathered when it is remembered that every round of ammunition, all water, and all supplies had to be landed on a narrow beach and then carried up pathless hills, valleys, and bluffs, several hundred feet high, to the firing line. The whole of this mass of troops, concentrated on a very small area, and unable to reply, were exposed to a relentless and incessant shrapnel fire, which swept every yard of the ground, although fortunately a great deal of it was badly aimed or burst too high. The reserves were engaged in road making and carrying supplies to the crests and in answering the calls for more ammunition.
A serious problem was getting away the wounded from the shore, where it was impossible to keep them. All those who were unable to hobble to the beach had to be carried down from the hills on stretchers, then hastily dressed, and carried to the boats. The boat and beach parties never stopped working throughout the entire day and night.
The courage displayed by these wounded Australians will never be forgotten. Hastily dressed and placed in trawlers, lighters, and ships' boats, they were towed to the ships. I saw some lighters full of bad cases. As they passed the battleship, some of those on board recognized her as the ship they had left that morning, whereupon, in spite of their sufferings and discomforts, they set up a cheer, which was answered by a deafening shout of encouragement from our crew.
I have, in fact, never seen the like of these wounded Australians in war before, for as they were towed among the ships, while accommodation was being found for them, although many were shot to bits and without hope of recovery, their cheers resounded through the night, and you could just see, amid a mass of suffering humanity, arms being waved in greeting to the crews of the warships. They were happy, because they knew they had been tried for the first time in the war and had not been found wanting. They had been told to occupy the heights and hold on, and this they had done for fifteen mortal hours under an incessant shell fire, without the moral and material support of a single gun ashore, and subjected the whole time to the violent counter-attacks of a brave enemy, led by skilled leaders, while his snipers, hidden in caves and thickets and among the dense scrub, made a deliberate practice of picking off every officer who endeavored to give a word of command or to lead his men forward.
No finer feat of arms has been performed during the war than this sudden landing in the dark, this storming of the heights, and, above all, the holding on to the position thus won while reinforcements were being poured from the transports. These raw colonial troops, in those desperate hours, proved themselves worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons and the Aisne, Ypres, and Neuve Chapelle.
THE FOURTH DISPATCH.
Dardanelles, April 27.
Throughout the night of the 25th and the early morning of the 26th there was continual fighting, as the Turks made repeated attacks to endeavor to drive the Australians and New Zealanders from their positions. On several occasions parties of the colonials made local counter-attacks and drove the enemy off with the bayonet, which the Turks will never face.
On the morning of the 26th it became known that the enemy had been very largely reinforced during the night and was preparing for a big assault from the northeast. This movement began about 9:30 A.M. From the ships we could see large numbers of the enemy creeping along the top of the hills endeavoring to approach our positions under cover and then to annoy our troops with their incessant sniping. He had also brought up more guns during the night, and plastered the whole position once again with shrapnel.
The rifle and machine-gun fire became heavy and unceasing. But the enemy were not going to be allowed to have matters all their own way with their artillery. Seven warships had moved in close to the shore, while the Queen Elizabeth, further out, acted as a kind of chaperone to the lot. Each covered a section of the line, and when the signal was given opened up a bombardment of the heights and valleys beyond which can only be described as terrific.
Turkish infantry moved forward to the attack. They were met by every kind of shell which our warships carry, from 15-inch shrapnel from the Queen Elizabeth, each one of which contains 20,000 bullets, to 12-inch, 6-inch, and 12-pounders.
The noise, smoke, and concussion produced was unlike anything you can even imagine until you have seen it. The hills in front looked as if they had suddenly been transformed into smoking volcanoes, the common shell throwing up great chunks of ground and masses of black smoke, while the shrapnel formed a white canopy above. Sections of ground were covered by each ship all around our front trenches, and, the ranges being known, the shooting was excellent. Nevertheless, a great deal of the fire was, of necessity, indirect, and the ground affords such splendid cover that the Turks continued their advance in a most gallant manner, while their artillery not only plastered our positions on shore with shrapnel, but actually tried to drive the ships off the coast by firing at them, and their desperate snipers, in place of a better target, tried to pick off officers and men on the decks and bridges. We picked up many bullets on the deck afterward.
Some Turkish warship started to fire over the peninsula. The Triumph dropped two 10-inch shells within a few yards of her, whereupon she retired up the strait to a safer position, from which she occasionally dropped a few shells into space, but so far has done no damage.
The scene at the height of this engagement was sombre, magnificent, and unique. The day was perfectly clear, and you could see right down the coast as far as Sedd-ul-Bahr. There the warships of the first division were blazing away at Aki Baba and the hills around it, covering their summits with a great white cloud of bursting shells. Further out the giant forms of the transports which accompanied that division loomed up through the slight mist. Almost opposite Gaba Tepe a cruiser close in shore was covering the low ground with her guns and occasionally dropping shells right over into the straight on the far side. Opposite the hills in possession of the Australian and New Zealand troops an incessant fire was kept up from the ships. Beyond lay our transports which had moved further out to avoid the Turkish warships' shells and those of some battery which fires persistently.
Beyond all, the Queen Elizabeth, with her eight huge, monstrous 15-inch guns, all pointed shoreward, seemed to threaten immediate annihilation to any enemy who dared even to aim at the squadron under her charge.
On shore the rifle and machine-gun fire was incessant, and at times rose into a perfect storm as the Turks pressed forward their attack. The hills were ablaze with shells from the ships and the enemy's shrapnel, while on the beach masses of troops were waiting to take their places in the trenches, and the beach parties worked incessantly at landing stores, material, and ammunition.
This great attack lasted some two hours, and during this time we received encouraging messages from the beach. "Thanks for your assistance. Your guns are inflicting awful losses on the enemy." The Turks must, in fact, have suffered terribly from this concentrated fire from so many guns and from the infantry in the trenches.
The end came amid a flash of bayonets and a sudden charge of the colonials, before which the Turks broke and fled amid a perfect tornado of shells from the ships. They fell back sullen and checked, but not yet defeated, but for the remainder of the day no big attack was pressed home, and the colonials gained some ground by local counter-attacks, which enlarged and consolidated the position they were holding.
The Turks kept up their incessant shrapnel fire throughout the day, but the colonials were now dug in and could not be shaken by it in their trenches, while the reserves had also prepared shelter trenches and dug-outs on the slopes.
Some prisoners were captured, including an officer, who said that the Turks were becoming demoralized by the fire of the guns, and that the Germans now had difficulty in getting them forward to the attack. We are well intrenched and they will probably do likewise, and we shall see a repetition of the siege warfare out here.
THE FIFTH DISPATCH.
Dardanelles, April 30.
While Australians and New Zealanders were fighting so gallantly against heavy odds north of Gaba Tepe, British troops crowned themselves with equal laurels at the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula. A firm footing now has been obtained. The line stretches across the southern end of the entire peninsula, with both flanks secured by the fire of warships. The army holds many convenient landing places immune from the enemy's guns.
The problems British landing parties faced differed from those the Australians solved further north. Here the cliffs are not high and irregular, but rise about fifty feet from the water's edge, with stretches of beach at intervals. Five of these beaches were selected for disembarkation under the cover of warships. It was hoped the Turkish trenches would be rendered untenable and the barbed wire entanglements cut by the fire of the ships, but these expectations were not realized.
For example, the landing place between Gaba Tepe and Cape Helles was the scene of a desperate struggle which raged all day. The Turks held barbed wire protected trenches in force and their snipers covered the foreshore. After hours of bombardment the troops were taken ashore at daybreak. Part of the force scaled the cliffs and obtained a precarious footing on the edge of the cliffs, but boats which landed along the beach were confronted with a solid hedge of barbed wire and exposed to a terrible cross-fire. Every effort was made to cut the wire, but almost all those who landed here were shot down. Later the troops on the cliffs succeeded in driving back the Turks and clearing the beach.
The most terrible of all landings, however, was on the beach between Cape Helles and the Seddul Bahr. Here the broken valley runs inland enfiladed by hills on either flank, on which were built strong forts, which defended the entrance to the strait until they were knocked out by our guns. Although the guns and emplacements were shattered the bombproofs and ammunition chambers remained intact, and, running back, formed a perfect network of trenches and entanglements right around the semicircular valley. The Turks had mounted pompoms on the Cape Helles side and had the usual snipers concealed everywhere. The foreshore and valley also were protected by trenches and wire, rendering the position most formidable.
One novel expedient was running a liner full of troops deliberately ashore, thus allowing them to approach close in under cover without being exposed in open boats. Great doors had been cut in her sides to permit rapid disembarkation, and she was well provided with Maxims to sweep the shore while the troops were landing. Owing to her going ashore further east than was intended, however, it became necessary to bring up a lighter to facilitate the landing. The Turks directed a perfect tornado of rifle, Maxim, and pompom fire on 200 men who made a dash down the gangway. Only a few survived to gain shelter. All the others were killed on the gangway. Disembarkation, therefore, which meant almost certain death, was postponed until later in the morning, when another attempt also failed.
Then, while the liner, carrying 2,000 men, packed in like sardines, with the officers huddled on the protected bridge, lay all day on shore, with a hail of bullets rattling against her protected sides, the battleships Albion, Cornwallis, and Queen Elizabeth furiously bombarded Seddul Bahr and the encircling hills. Meanwhile the Turks on the Asiatic side tried to destroy the liner by howitzer fire, which was kept under only by the bombardment from covering ships in the strait. In spite of this covering fire, the vessel was pierced by four big shells, and it was decided to postpone any further movement until night, when the troops got ashore almost without the Turks firing a shot, as a result, perhaps, of troops landed on other beaches having pushed along and destroyed some Turkish positions.
END OF THE THIRD WEEK.
[Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.]
IMBROS, (via Dedeaghatch, Turkey,) May 15, (Dispatch to The London Daily Chronicle.)—Operations in the Dardanelles have now been in full swing for just three weeks, and a glance from the mountaintop here at the far-spread region over which the war has been and is being waged shows instantly the material progress which has been made in that time.
When I first looked down on the fascinating and unique vision presented to my eyes from this point of vantage it was a sight truly marvelous. A fleet of transports stood at the entrance to the strait, and to the north of Gaba Tepe the warships were hammering away at the mouth of the Dardanelles, and at several points along the western coast of the peninsula one could see at different points on the land that severe battles were being fought. The heavy clouds of war hung over all, lit up grimly by the vivid flashes of the guns. At times the din was tremendous and went on night and day without cessation. Column after column of dense smoke betokened the falling of forts, and gradually the white puffs from our guns like long rollers on a broken coast advanced up the peninsula from the south and inland from the Gaba Tepe region.
Aeroplanes and dirigibles were always busy. Destroyers and huge transports churned up foam, and submarines left their faint trace on the wide extent of bluest ocean. The scene was one of war in all its picturesqueness and horror, for one could easily imagine awful scenes taking place under the far cloud of smoke and dust. It was war in all its force seen so for the first time.
Today the scene is strangely altered. Nearly all the transports have gone up the western coast of the peninsula, but a few battleships stand on sentry-go, as it were. All resistance in the region directly opposite has been fought down. The smoke coming from over the ridge in front shows that our warships have advanced far up to Kilid Bahr, while comparatively few ships stand at the entrance of the strait. From the inside the Asiatic coast is being bombarded, but the picturesque features of the scene have gone. It is a change which marks triumphant progress. The Turk is being slowly but surely pushed back, dying gamely.
Two days of thick mist were followed by a forty-eight hours' armistice granted to the Turks on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was impossible to see anything of the operations. Behind the veil of mist the fighting went sternly on and the big guns boomed incessantly. Wednesday night they were particularly active. Seldom in the past three weeks has the night sky been so brilliantly illuminated by the flashes of cannon. Serious work is evidently being done or completed. It was not until Thursday afternoon that the weather conditions made it possible to see the result of the warfare behind the screen of mist, and, as I have said, the whole aspect of the now familiar scene appears greatly changed when the coast of the peninsula is deserted by vessels, save for the few transports standing further out to sea than usual and half a dozen ships of war.
The peninsula beyond Gaba Tepe had apparently been cleared of the enemy. The tide of the struggle had passed away. On Thursday, too, I could see our guns flashing from a hill, firing probably at points northward or across the strait. Further north our artillery also appeared to be placed on a high ridge this side of Maidos. What a magic sight the southern part of the peninsula must present, where even at this distance the evidence of the havoc of three weeks' daily shell and lead is not hidden!
The point of the peninsula has become brown under the trampling of men and guns. Krithia lies a complete and pathetic ruin, and Tree Hill is scarred with trench and shell holes as far as I can see.
On Thursday the point of greatest activity was in the strait opposite the conquered portion of the peninsula. It stood out somewhat dim in the haze of battle, but the smoke and flash of the Allies' guns and the Turks' answering could be picked out without great difficulty. Added to this the air was still; the dull thud of the field guns at work there was different from the resounding boom of the naval guns, and the whirr of the machine guns could be plainly heard.
Hard work by land and water is going on along the front stretching away to the left from Erenkeui on the Asiatic side, and the difficulties of obtaining a substantial footing in that mountainous region had evidently been overcome. It was apparent that the enemy was putting up a stiff fight, and at times he must have run his batteries close to the water's edge.
Early in the afternoon the Turkish gunners managed to explode several shells on the land near Morto Bay on the European side. A little later they made the earth and stones of Tree Hill fly up in the air by a few well-placed shells, but such advances on the part of the enemy were brief. The warships in the strait instantly turned their guns on the daring batteries, and such diversions by the enemy were only of brief duration. Toward sunset a battleship was seen to send two shells against the cliff edge south of Suvla Bay.
Yesterday the thick smoke of battle still hung over all activities on the Asiatic side of the waterway. Nearly all the transports had gone, and most of the warships were engaged in the entrance and further up to near Kilid Bahr. Only one battleship that I could see was firing from off the western coast of the peninsula, standing well out off shore near Krithia. It was evidently firing long-range shells against the foe on the further side of the Dardanelles.
The land actions had another point of interest yesterday. In the afternoon very heavy fighting could be noticed far along the Sari Bair, (about sixteen miles north of the tip of the peninsula,) where the Australians are. Every now and again waves of smoke blotted out that part of the landscape. It would clear occasionally to show the hillsides dotted over with puffs of white. Often against the gray background spurts of flame would herald the thunder of heavily engaged artillery. Rifle fire at times, too, could be heard.
The supposition is that our forces in that region, who are forcing their way across the peninsula, must be near the completion of their task.
From what I have said it will be gathered, I think, that very substantial progress has been made since operations began three weeks ago. As one looks at the mountainous and rugged nature of the country beyond the strait it is evident that the enemy has there favorable ground for defensive fighting. That region now appears to be the main point of his struggle.
I learn that the Turkish losses amount to over 80,000 and that 50,000 wounded have been sent to Constantinople.
"Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae"
"Van hen(de Galliërs) allemaal zijn de Belgen de dappersten"
Julius Caesar(100 VC - 44 VC)
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