It’s another stacked day, and it’s Day 2 of the Gallipoli landings. There are developments in almost all the sectors (excepting S Beach, which remains quiet). This means that once again, we need two posts to cover everything. For Second Ypres and the Treaty of London, see here. Now, on with the show.
V Beach is a mess. Such blokes as are ashore are exhausted and crammed very firmly into very small hiding places. The flood of fresh casualties has been over for nearly twelve hours, but the sea continues to run red with the sheer weight of blood all through the morning. Nevertheless, doing nothing is not an option. They need to break out and link up with W Beach as soon as possible. Communications and planning are terrible, impeded greatly by yesterday’s bloody loss of senior officers. In particular, if only someone had asked for help from the men who had landed unopposed on S Beach, and who General Hunter-Weston had been in direct contact with…
As it is, they’re left to struggle uphill unaided. Meanwhile, the Ottoman defenders are having their own problems with communication and with getting supporting artillery fire, and after a long day of extremely confused fighting, they’ve been forced back from the beach. The MEF has a toe-hold anchored on Hill 141 and captured Sedd el Bahr village, and General Hunter-Weston considers that this is all that can be done without further reinforcement. The men set to digging in. Their casualties have, of course, been appalling. Often cited at this point is the fate of the Munster Fusiliers and the Dublin Fusiliers, whose remnants have now been combined into a single battalion of “Dubsters”, and that at far below full strength for a battalion.
Communication is eventually established with the force coming from V Beach, and a joint assault finally puts paid to Hill 141, allowing the two beaches to finally link up. According to the plan, there should be a rising British Empire tide marching up the peninsula and installing itself outside Krithia by now. After the horrible casualties of yesterday, orders and tactical thinking are in short supply. The Brains Trust is having a hard enough time just working out what’s actually going on.
By the end of the day, X Beach is linked with V Beach via the men at W Beach, and the men have shoved themselves a few hundred yards further inland. Without orders or resupply, that’s about all they can do. However, the combined situation at V, W, and X isn’t too far off the plan. If they can consolidate and push for Krithia soon, then the men at Y Beach can also break out and provide supporting enfilade fire on Krithia. They’re behind schedule, but as long as things are going okay on Y Beach, there’s still reason for cautious optimism.
The situation at Y Beach disintegrates completely. The Ottomans have been attacking all night, and the invaders have taken horrible casualties, particularly in officers. They’re also running short of ammunition, and an early-morning offshore bombardment of the Ottoman positions does very little to help. It’s at this point that tragedy turns into farce. In command, Lt-Col Matthews of the Marines has been constantly sending desperate requests up the chain of command, saying that he can’t hold on without reinforcement and resupply. (If only Sir Ian Hamilton had ordered Hunter-Weston to send reinforcements yesterday morning…) He then tours the trenches, and finds that his entire right flank has departed without orders.
Short of officers or NCOs to think tactically or enforce discipline, the men have collectively decided to leave their positions and help the wounded back to the beach. Matthews races back to take the situation in hand, and organises a hasty rearguard atop the cliffs. He then returns to the beaches to find that more men have arrived from other parts of his line, also bringing wounded back. Even better, some of them are now getting in the boats and going off with the wounded. Matthews decides that if he tries to put a stop to it, it’ll only allow the Ottomans more time to twig what’s happening and counter-attack them before they’re ready to deal with it.
This all is played out against the backdrop of a hilarious clusterfuck of signalling failures. Matthews’s message requesting reinforcement has failed to get through. Messages from General Hunter-Weston, who’s finally remembered to ask what the situation is, have also failed to get through. Nobody knows what the hell is going on at Y Beach until Sir Ian Hamilton, steaming north in Queen Elizabeth to take a look at ANZAC Cove, passes by and sees a full-scale evacuation in progress…
Both sides, in one of those curious ironies that happen all the time in war, have become extremely worried for exactly the same reason. The ANZACs’ request to be evacuated has been turned down, and they’re disoriented, disorganised, and weakened by yesterday’s heavy fighting. However, the Ottoman defenders are in much the same way. Their local reserves have been thrown in already, and they can’t expect any further help for 24 hours. With both sides making much the same assessment of the situation, the fighting today is confined to local exchanges of fire. Nobody’s in any position to order anything even remotely approaching an advance until they’ve un-fucked themselves.
Once the ANZACs are installed in proper trenches, they find that the artillery fire that yesterday was so devastating is much easier to withstand. Nevertheless, they’re still well short of their objectives. The Royal Naval Division is now heading south again from its demonstration at Bulair and will land at ANZAC Cove as reinforcements.
Meanwhile, the Ottoman commander, Esad Pasha, quickly moves to unify the local command structure under 19th Division’s commander, Mustafa Kemal. He’s also correctly identified that the main attack is the one at Cape Helles and recommended that the bulk of the general reserve should be sent towards Krithia, while detaching a few units to help at ANZAC Cove. Units are being shifted also from the opposite side of the Dardanelles. The Ottomans have extensive and robust facilities for both wired and wireless radio traffic. Their speed of communication and thought in this theatre of the war will be far faster than is usual, and often far faster than anything their opponents can manage.
Meanwhile, across the way, Sir Ian Hamilton orders the French Empire troops removed from Kum Kale, their job done, and sent to W Beach as further reinforcements. There’s a general exodus from these positions underway, with both sides withdrawing men to send onto Gallipoli.
Sir Ian Hamilton
Speaking of whom, he’s not having too good a time of it. His diary is full of fretting and worrying and panic and consternation, as men die and signals go astray. In his darkest moments he attempts to comfort himself by writing ridiculous purple prose.
So now we stand on Turkish terra firma. The price has been paid for the first step and that is the step that counts. Blood, sweat, fire; with these we have forged our master key and forced it into the lock of the Hellespont, rusty and dusty with centuries of disuse. Grant us, O Lord, tenacity to turn it; determination to turn it, till through that open door Queen Elizabeth of England sails East for the Golden Horn! When in far off ages men discuss over vintages ripened in Mars the black superstitions and bloody mindedness of the Georgian savages, still they will have to drain a glass to the memory of the soldiers and sailormen who fought here.
Perhaps they will, Sir Ian. But they will not be doing it for the reasons that you hope they will.
Here then is another attempt at maps. The situation is such that trying to draw on the general map of the peninsula would be pointless; so here’s ANZAC Cove, followed by Cape Helles.
Actions in Progress
The Daily Telegraph is republishing its archives from the war day-by-day. Worth a look. I’m reading the paper every day, and it’s where the content for Our Advertising Feature comes from.
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)