NZ story - Chunuk Bair
You’re at Chunuk Bair, looking at the monument that was erected to commemorate the New Zealand achievement in this battle between the 6th and the 10th of August 1915.
Though Chunuk Bair is not the highest point of the Sari Bair Range, this location is important because of the two spurs that run off it. One to your left goes down over Battleship Hill to Baby 700, this was held by the Ottomans. Beyond Baby 700 the spur becomes Second Ridge, which was the Anzac frontline. The other spur behind you is Third Ridge, which was held by the Turks.
The Turkish-held Baby 700 blocked any attempt by the Anzacs to break out from the tiny piece of ground that they had established by the end of the 25th of April. General William Birdwood, the ANZAC commander, accepted a plan for a night advance in early August from the foothills north of Anzac Cove, up these spurs and up Rhododendron Ridge.
The object of the August offensive was to capture the high ground of the Sari Bair Range. The New Zealand Infantry Brigade, under Brigadier-General Earl Johnston, was to take Chunuk Bair.
It’s only a matter of a day or two now when we will be making a big attack on the Turks. Getting very anxious. So far the orders are indefinite; but everybody is speculating as to their chances.
Corporal Rikihana Carkeek
Opening the way was Brigadier General Andrew Russell’s Mounted Rifles brigade. The New Zealand Mounteds took the foothills below Chunuk Bair, including Table Top and opened the way for the infantry to be on Rhododendron Ridge just below this crest early on the morning of the 7th of August.
However, Johnston hesitated, instead of attacking the summit he delayed below on Rhododendron Ridge. At that time, this high ground was all but undefended. There was an excellent opportunity to take Chunuk Bair.
Finally, a telephone cable was run up the hill to Rhododendron Ridge from General Godley, whose divisional headquarters was down on the beach. Godley ordered Johnston to attack at once. By now the summit had been strongly reinforced by the Turks. The Auckland Infantry Battalion attacked in broad daylight up towards where you are standing, and were torn to shreads.
The Auckland Battalion charged. It was a wonderful sight, but oh so heartbreaking! Before they could reach the crest this awful hail of lead would hit them and over they went in heaps. It was simple slaughter, but not a man hesitated and no one even thought of turning back.
Sergeant Major Saxon Foster
Nothing happened for the rest of the day. Then just before first light, at about 4.30 in the morning on the 8th of August, Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone’s Wellington Infantry Battalion swept up onto the crest, and seized this ground.
The Ottomans counterattacked from north, south and east. Two British battalions were sent up to reinforce the Wellingtons, in daylight and they came under heavy Turkish fire. They broke and ran and played little further effective part in the battle.
During the 8th of August, the 800-strong Wellington Infantry Battalion initially held the crest but Turkish counterattacks drove them back to the trenches just below the summit.
The Wellingtons seemed to rise up each time from nowhere, and the Turks were hurled back. In the first of these attacks the bayonet on Captain Malone’s rifle was twisted by a bullet, so after this he kept it with him, as he said it was lucky.
The crest became no-man’s-land. The Battle of Chunuk Bair raged on throughout the day and by late afternoon the Wellingtons held the line just below the crest but suffered heavy casualties.
The Auckland Mounted Rifles reinforced what was left of the Wellington Infantry Battalion. Brigadier Johnston’s headquarters on Rhododendron ridge tried to get a telephone line to the top of the hill.
Corporal Cyril Bassett a young signaller earned New Zealand’s only Victoria Cross in the Gallipoli Campaign by leading a party up to establish telephone communications.
At Anzac Cove two New Zealand howitzers had been firing all day supporting the New Zealand Battle. At about 5pm some of the shells landed on the New Zealand trenches.
‘Swish! swish!’ came the shrapnel and all except two in our little trench were killed or wounded. Colonel Malone was killed the other side of me, I cannot remember where he was hit.
Captain John Hastings
Malone the hero of Chunuk Bair was killed by New Zealand artillery fire. That evening the Wellington Mounted Rifles and the Otago Infantry Battalion replaced the Wellingtons. The 50 or so survivors– broken, crying, and exhausted – trudged back down the hill to the Apex.
On the 9th of August the battle continued with attack and counterattack and heavy casualties on both sides.
The only sign of life was the stump of an arm which now and then waved feebly for help and a voice called “New Zealand” to four listeners who could give or get no aid for him.
Trooper H Browne
By nightfall there were no more New Zealand battalions left and they were replaced by two British battalions. They came in and occupied the New Zealand trenches and at first light on the 10th of August they were swept away by Mustafa Kemal’s counterattack.
Chunuk Bair was an epic battle. It exhausted both New Zealand brigades those not killed or wounded had dysentery, it was their last gasp, and after the 10th of August 1915 they knew it had failed. Chunuk Bair remained in Turkish hands.
Corporal Rikihana Carkeek, Native Contingent.
Sergeant Major Saxon Foster, Wellington Infantry Battalion
Captain John Hastings. Wellington Infantry Battalion.
Trooper H Browne, Wellington Mounted Rifles