NZ Story - Ari Burnu
You are on the beach at the Northern tip of Anzac Cove, on the 25th of April 1915 it was part of a combined attack which involved the British landing on your right, way down at the tip of the peninsula. This was the primary attack which was going to advance all the way up to where you are now. The job of the New Zealanders and Australians was to take the high ground in front of you all the way up to the left, to the highest point on the seaward ridge, they would then advance across the peninsula to the Straits of the Dardanelles and cut off any Turkish reinforcements trying to come and stop the main advance.
Sunday 25th of April 1915, 9.00 a.m.
We are just going to disembark. Everything has gone extraordinarily well. The sea is as calm as a duck pond, and Maclagan and his covering Australian brigade is well ashore, and has thoroughly established himself.
General Sit Alexander Godley
The landing was to be between where you are standing and the headland that you can see in the distance beyond Anzac Cove. However, all the boats gravitated onto this spot and so this became the focus of the biggest amphibious operation in history to this time.
We are going ashore now, but I do not think anyone is going to be killed today.
Major Walter Alderman
If you were here at Anzac Cove on the day of the landing, this water in front of you was a mass of transports and cruisers and battleships providing support to the landing, and coming towards you were little steam tugboats towing barges and boats full of soldiers. The tugboats did a turn released the barges and boats which came in and grounded just where you’re standing.
Had the Anzac soldiers landed where they were supposed to land they would’ve been able to go straight up the ridge, whereas many here ended up going across country, up ridge and down gully.
Where you’re standing is where the Australians landed at dawn and pushed inland. The New Zealanders landed at about 10.30 in the morning, they were not under fire and they lined up along the beach and waited for orders.
Never while I live, shall I forget the grandeur of that scene. In front was the coast, rugged and steep, with easy country to the right front and beyond. Achi Baba with huge 15-inch shells bursting on it. Right and left, were the battleships firing at the Turkish positions in crashing salvoes which went booming and echoing among the hills.
Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott
The New Zealanders on the beach were the men of the Auckland Battalion. Suddenly the word came down to “reinforce the Australian Line on the left”. Look at the coastline and see the beach going around to the North towards Suvla Bay and look at the high ground in front of you. It stretches all the way up to the high ground in the distance, which is Chunuk Bair part of the Sari Bair range. Taking the Sari Bair Range would seal off the whole southern end of the Gallipoli peninsula and trap the Ottoman forces fighting there. But there were not enough Australians to take this ground and New Zealand troops were urgently needed to reinforce the push to the top of the range.
The New Zealanders moved from where you are standing, around the headland towards the Sphinx, that very prominent feature above you –on its left you’ve got that spur coming down to the beach – that’s Walker’s Ridge.
The New Zealand soldiers headed to Walker’s Ridge. In column of fours, the 900 men of the Auckland Battalion marched off. When they got to the base of the hill it became obvious that it was going to take too long and they were going to be disorganized. They were told to turn around and come back towards where you are standing.
The regiment was very confused and bunched, owing to Dawson’s company having run into an unclimbable cliff. No parade ground formation seemed possible here. I was followed by some of my more active men and from where I was above them, helped others by taking their rifles by the muzzle and pulling them up till six men were with me, when I saw it was too steep for most of them. It was only afterwards that we learned that the landing had been made in the dark at the wrong place. No General would have dared to launch troops at those cliffs.
Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott
The New Zealanders pushed up to the top of Plugge’s Plateau, and found that there was no direct link on to Walker’s Ridge they were forced to go down into a valley that you can’t see from here. Throughout the rest of the day New Zealanders were sent the same way – up over this hill in front of you and down, they ended up fighting inland together with the Australians in a confused battle.
We were under a perfect hail of shrapnel and bullets. I would jump up, run about ten yards, and then dive under a bush or behind a small ridge. In a few seconds off I’d go again, watching where the shrapnel was bursting.
Private Robert Steele
At this critical junction, the Ottomans kept attacking and by nightfall on the 25th of April, held the high ground the Anzacs were hanging on by their fingernails to what became the key ridge.
I had not been there more than five minutes when an Australian next to me got his rifle up to fire and just as he pulled the trigger, a piece of shell struck him on the head and split his head from top to chin. I felt very sick then, this being the first man killed near me.
Sergeant Richard Ward
Back here at Anzac Cove, everything was happening. Everyone was coming in over these beaches and were being pushed inland. When the plans were made it was imagined that the Anzacs would have held much more ground so that as the wounded came back down they could have been sorted out.
On reaching the beach a surgeon came to my stretcher and asked me about myself. I told him how the sergeant had tied my arm up with twigs, in case it needed further attention. On looking at it the surgeon said: ‘It is a rough job but quite a good one.’
Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott
Once sorted out the wounded were meant to be sent out to the hospital ships. That didn’t happen. At the south end of the beach, there were about 400 wounded. At this end there were about 200. As the boats came in with new reinforcements, the wounded were put onto the boats higgledy-piggledy and sent back to the transports out at sea and the whole system broke down.
At nightfall the Anzac generals weren’t sure whether or not they could hang on the next day and they proposed evacuation, but the reality was there was no way of getting word to the soldiers inland or organizing the boats to get them off particularly in the dark and with no communications. So, the 25th of April ended with a big question mark. Could the Anzacs hold onto what they had got?
For the next nine months, Anzac Cove became the lifeline for the small area of land that the Anzacs had gained. All these little niches and gullies were crammed with men it was described as just like a gold-rush town. And if you can imagine thousands of men digging in on this piece of ground, well that was Anzac Cove, where you are now standing, in the last week of April 1915.
General Sir Alexander Godley, Commander New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Major Walter Alderman, 16th Waikato Company, Auckland Battalion
Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott, 16th Waikato Company, Auckland Battalion
Private Robert Steele, 15th North Auckland Company, Auckland Battalion
Sergeant Richard Ward, 16th Waikato Company, Auckland Battalion
Around the 25th of April 1915, the Turks knew that the landing was about to start because the number of Allied ships going along the beaches increased, as did reconnaissance flights.
The troops got orders to get enough food, water, and rations for two days and to expect an Allied landing. The Turks didn’t know exactly what time the landing would take place, but they knew it was about to happen. But how do you properly defend a peninsula that is about 90 km long, with at least 50 km of the coastline suitable for landing?
There were four main locations on the peninsula where General von Sanders, the German commander of the 5th Ottoman Army, expected the Allies to land. One was on the Asian side of the peninsula, as there was an island that could be used as a base for logistics.
Von Sanders suspected Cape Helles at the southern tip of the peninsula was another potential landing spot. Gaba Tepe, south of Anzac, also had suitable beaches for landing and the width of the peninsula at that point was less than 10 kilometres.
Von Sanders didn’t believe that the Allies would land at Suvla because it was too far from the heights. He thought the most strategic spot was Bolayir, at the neck of the peninsula, roughly 60 km from here. He sent troops to these four potential landing spots.
Von Sanders did not regard Anzac Cove as a likely landing place. When the Anzacs landed, there were only three platoons of the 27th Regiment deployed here – less than three hundred soldiers. They were vastly outnumbered.
One platoon was deployed over in the hills to the north, later known as Number 2 Outpost. The second platoon was on Hain Tepe, later named Plugge’s Plateau. The third platoon was on Second Ridge, inland from what later became known as Anzac Cove.
The Anzacs travelled from the island of Lemnos, about 100 kilometres from here, and waited in the moonlight over by the island of Imbros, now called Gokceada, which you can see offshore. The Anzacs thought that the Turks couldn’t see them but the Turkish soldiers on top of the ridges in this sector saw the silhouettes of the ships and reported this. But they thought it was impossible to land here because this terrain was so unsuitable. They told the company commander not to worry, as the landing would be further south at Gaba Tepe, as there were more suitable beaches there. No reinforcements were directed here and when the moon set, the Turks lost sight of the ships. Then the Anzac landing operation started. The Australians were the first to go ashore.
By the time the Turks saw the Australians they were only a few hundred metres from the beach. Around 4.30am, it was still dark and the Turkish platoon on Plugge’s Plateau opened fire.
Australian sources say that within half an hour the Australians were on top, and had wiped out the Turkish platoon, which was in a trench halfway up the slope. Turkish sources say three men survived from this platoon: the commander, who was wounded, and the two men who carried him back to the second line. All others in the platoon were killed.
According to the commander of a Turkish platoon near Number 2 Outpost, 2 kilometres away to the north, when the landing began they could hear the crack of rifle fire. But they couldn’t see in the dark. Then dawn broke and they could see infantry moving inland along Plugge’s Plateau. However, they couldn’t do anything about it because their rifles wouldn’t be effective at such a distance. While they were waiting, the Turkish platoon saw a boat coming towards it carrying Anzacs. They waited until the boat was in range and they opened fire.
Reports were sent back to headquarters about the Anzac invasion but the Turks couldn’t decide whether it was a real landing or a diversion. To make sure, they waited nearly two hours. Meanwhile, the Anzacs took the First and Second Ridges, and headed towards Third Ridge.
Şefik Bey, an officer in the Ottoman Army correctly estimated that about 8,000 Anzacs had landed. He reported this critical situation to headquarters in Eceabat, and asked for reinforcements, but his commander, Halil Sami Bey, commander of the Ottoman 9th Division, didn’t know what to do as the British had landed at Cape Helles as well. Halil Sami Bey finally decided to direct his only remaining regiment to Cape Helles.
Meanwhile Mustafa Kemal, later known as Atatürk, the commander of the 19th Division, was 5 kilometres inland from Anzac Cove in the village of Bigali. Since 5 o’clock in the morning he had been very worried about what was going on here. He could hear the navy bombardment but his men were in reserve. Without orders from headquarters he couldn’t move forward to reinforce the men of the 27th Regiment, who were under intense attack.
In a crucial development, Kemal moved forward at about 8 a.m. towards Chunuk Bair with the entire 57th regiment. This ensured he got there just in time to the reinforce the 27th regiment and had enough soldiers to repel the Anzacs advancing up the ridge.
On Battleship Hill and Baby 700 his soldiers reinforced and counterattacked. So by mid morning, nearly 5000 Turks were at Anzac. By then, there were about 12,000 Australians yet the Turks checked the Anzac advance. This was about when the New Zealanders arrived on the beach at Anzac Cove.