NZ story - Holding the Line
You are standing at the edge of Quinn’s Post. 1,200 metres away – down the valley towards the sea – is Hell Spit – on the southern edge of Anzac Cove. Right of that on the high ground is Plugge’s Plateau. Ari Burnu, the Northern tip of Anzac Cove, is out of sight, behind Plugge’s Plateau. Ari Burnu is where the Anzacs landed at dawn on the 25th of April 1915.
Around noon that day, Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott climbed up on to Plugge’s Plateau, made his way down into the gully in front of you, and led his Aucklanders up to the high ground that you can see to your right, by the distinctive pyramid-shaped Turkish memorial with a flag. The New Zealanders fought there all afternoon on the 25th of April, until the Ottoman counterattack drove them back to where you’re standing.
From the front, from the right, and now from the right rear the rifle fire was coming. The last got several of us, though we did not know it at the time, for a sniper lay there just on the edge of the plateau and picked us off as we showed up, one by one.
Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott
Here the New Zealanders dug in, and Quinn’s Post became the critical point on the Anzac frontline. The road that runs from the Turkish memorial, along the front of this cemetery and then goes south all the way along the ridge roughly follows what was no-man’s-land – the area between the two front lines.
If you can imagine: on the inland side of the road were the Ottomans and on the seaward side were the Anzacs. The Anzacs were so close to the edge of the cliff that they were hanging on by their fingernails.
If you look back down that road from where you’ve come, you can see the Lone Pine memorial in the distance. From Lone Pine to here, each cemetery marks a critical point on the Anzac front line.
You have Lone Pine, Johnston’s Jolly, Steele’s Post and Courtney’s Post and here Quinn’s Post. And if you look at the dates in the cemetery, you’ll see that many of these men died between May and August 1915, while a bloody stalemate ensued.
Loaded up our gear and started off for Quinn’s Post, the ‘death trap’ of the ANZAC line. I shall never forget the sight of that place – mangled bodies of our own men and Turks everywhere – rifles twisted and misshapen by the bombs as were the bodies. The ground itself worse than after any flood or storm – to look at it made one sad – it seemed wounded and bleeding in its own way.
Sergeant Charles Saunders
Turn and face the Turkish monument, to its left, you will see along the ridge, a cemetery and another monument, in amongst the pine trees. That is the Nek and the monument marks the Ottoman front line. The Nek was a tiny piece of no-man’s-land. It is famous as the place where the troopers of the Australian Light Horse were massacred on the 7th of August 1915. It is where the final scene of Peter Weir’s famous movie Gallipoli was set.
I saw the whole thing from the Table Top and don’t want to see another sight like it. They were fairly mown down by machine guns.
Sergeant John Wilder
Where you are standing is the area of the Anzac frontline trenches. The area between the two front lines was carpeted with the bodies of the dead – both Anzac and Ottoman
We moved to Quinn’s Post at 8 o’clock this morning. In places our trenches touch the Turks and consequently all trenches are made bomb-proof. One would never credit miles of enemy divided only by a narrow bank of earth; is it a wonder men break down?
Sergeant George Bollinger
By the end of April 1915, the Anzacs had secured Anzac Cove and a small area stretching as far as Second Ridge. From early May, the Anzacs consolidated their position. A network of machine guns ensured that soldiers at one Anzac post would be protected by machine guns at another. Officers such as Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone improved the trenches and sanitation at each post.
On our part we promptly realized that there was sound commonsense in everything the ‘old man’ did. He was one of the few commanding officers who really thought about war. His ideas were original and practical – all directed either to increasing the comfort and wellbeing of the men or to improve their fighting capacity and security.
Lieutenant Hedley Howe
On the 19th of May, a Turkish counter-attack involving over 40,000 saw some 10,000 mown down by Anzac troops along Second Ridge. With bodies decaying in the hot sun and increasing the risk of disease, an armistice was agreed to, whereby each side could retrieve their dead.
There was a narrow path, absolutely blocked with dead, also a swathe of men who had fallen face down as if on parade – victims to our machine guns. The brink of the precipice was thick with bushes and every few yards we found dead.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dr Percival Fenwick
During this time, the hot climate and cramped living conditions took their toll. Water was scarce and strictly rationed and there were plagues of flies, many soldiers suffered from dysentery and other diseases. A diet mainly consisting of bully beef and biscuits provided little variety or nutrition.
These biscuits were not of the household variety, but were great big affairs four inches square and as hard as rock. The only way to eat them was to break off corners and keep them in the mouth until they were soft enough to chew.
Gunner Norman Hassell
The bloody stalemate continued until early August, when the Allied commanders decided they would launch a major offensive to take key high points of the Sari Bair range, including Chunuk Bair.
Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott, Auckland Infantry Battalion.
Sergeant Charles Saunders, New Zealand Engineers.
Sergeant John Wilder, Wellington Mounted Rifles.
Sergeant George Bollinger, Wellington Infantry Battalion.
Lieutenant Hedley Howe, 11th Australian Infantry Battalion.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dr Percival Fenwick, Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services. Norman Hassell, New Zealand Field Ambulance.