Today begins the major summer offensive on Gallipoli. Very politely, there are no major actions, or at least no major developments, anywhere else. (The Battle in the Eleskirt Valley intensifies; that’s about it.)
This one time, at band prank…
The following morning, I saw through my periscope that the Germans had put up a notice on their front line. It read: “We Have Taken Warsaw And Captured 100,000 Prisoners”.
So neener-neener-neener to you, Tommy. And this leads us rather nicely back to Gallipoli!
Battle of Lone Pine
A few hours later at Lone Pine, the Ottomans have put up a similar notice. Latrine rumours breed particularly well at ANZAC Cove, and this is quickly dismissed as a furphy. The Australians have been planning well. This may well only be a diversion from the main show, but that’s no reason not to do things properly. They’ve been the beneficiaries of a leisurely three-day prepatory bombardment. (Of course, as a diversion, they want the enemy to know that they’re coming.)
They’ve also included all the lessons they’ve learned over the last few months in their preparation. They haven’t just dug jumping-off trenches. They’ve had the sappers dig jumping-out tunnels, with their mouths camouflaged about 30 yards from the Ottoman trenches. If the attack succeds, they can collapse the tunnel roofs and have instant communication trenches. If it fails, they can collapse the mouths on their way back out.
They’re also an example of the ridiculous amount of shit that everyone is supposed to carry into battle now. Everyone has a pick and a shovel in addition to his rifle, so they can turn the trench round for defence as soon as possible. Platoon commanders have large signalling flags to put up on the captured trenches, and a large bomb each.
Despite all this unnecessary crap (by all means, load down the second wave, but let the first wave travel light so they can have a little manoeuverability!), they get well across No Man’s Land and in four hours of harsh hand-to-hand fighting they’ve secured the Ottoman first line. The inevitable counter-attack pounds in, and I’d love to spend more time on Lone Pine, but there’s other stuff to deal with today. Suffice it to stay that the fighting continues through the night.
There is one other important thing to make note of. As night falls, there’s an attack from Quinn’s Post and Steele’s Post into German Officer’s Trench, which among many other things is the home of a large number of machine-gun emplacements capable of firing at the Nek. Artillery support is impossible with the Ottoman trenches being only twenty yards or so from the Australians’, and the attempt ends in failure. They’d attempted to compensate by detonating mines, but the mines were too weak and too far underground to be of any use.
Battle of Krithia Vineyard
The reaction of General Davies, newly-arrived from the Western Front, to the prepatory “bombardment” is said to be one of complete horror. When the men go over the top, at about the same time as at Lone Pine, they mostly go straight down again. A few make it to the Ottoman trenches, and never return. The attack is such a complete failure that not only does it fail to distract any Ottoman reinforcements, but a few hours later, several battalions are taken away from Cape Helles and sent to reinforce ANZAC Cove instead.
Night march to Sari Bair
Once news is received of the counter-attacks at Lone Pine, off go the merry ramblers to attack Sari Bair. There’s about 20,000 men split into a Left and a Right Assaulting Column.
The journey inevitably goes wrong. Units march into each other, take wrong turns, get tangled up. Many of the men, particularly the Australians and New Zealanders, are already at less than peak fitness after three months in dystentery-ridden surroundings. Now they’re marching for miles, scrambling up and down ridges, getting lost, waiting to be shot at at any moment. Eventually they run into unexpected opposition, and are delayed again and again. One New Zealand battalion gets so badly lost, exhausted, and confused that its colonel turns it right around and takes it back to the beach.
The practical upshot of all this is that the two assaulting columns are nowhere near where they’re supposed to be as the sun begins to rise again. We’ll consider the details tomorrow; we’ve still got to get up to Suvla Bay.
Landings at Suvla
At half past nine in the evening, the landings at Suvla begin. The first boats land on the southern side of Nibrunesi Point, at B Beach and C Beach. The men are unopposed and push quickly inland to take Lala Baba, snapping the Ottoman tripwire. And then they stop and wait for further orders.
Meanwhile, the men trying to land inside Suvla Bay itself, against the advice of the Navy, have run into their own problems. Their boats have drifted off course, away from A Beach. The vast majority of them have run aground on uncharted shoals and reefs. The water is still far too deep for them to jump out and try to wade for it. For most of them, it’s well into the early hours of tomorrow morning before they’ve been rescued and shoved up to the beaches. A few more enterprising sorts do manage to make their own way in, of whom more tomorrow.
And, shortly after waving the men off, General Stopford has made the decision that surely cements his reputation. The commander of the landings, floating on board HMS Jonquil, cut off entirely from his men, takes himself off to his cabin and goes to sleep. This one can’t be explained away by inexperience or logical but flawed reasoning. This is where he proves himself unfit to organise a piss-up in a brewery.
That’s enough for today. More tomorrow.
Actions in Progress
(If you find the olde-tyme style difficult to get along with, have a look at this reading guide.)