Thursday 23 April 2009 by Annette Gaykema. 5 comments
News, Personal Stories, Gallipoli, Commemoration, Anzac Day, Anzac Cove

As we ready ourselves to commemorate Anzac Day at the Australian War Memorial, we can gain a small insight what it was like at the Gallipoli landing. Personal diaries held by the Memorial describe what it was like landing at Gallipoli on Sunday, 25 April 1915 under the heavy fire of Turkish machine guns. Although the photos accompanying this blog post do not relate directly to the diary entries, they are able to illustrate the stories in a different way.

Sergeant Apcar de Vine of the 4th Battalion writes: "landed myself at ... midday under a hot shrapnell [sic] fire, all landed safely...

/collection/A02462 Soldiers landing on Anzac Cove

Was detailed to carry ammunition to the firing line all the rest of the day under heavy shrapnell [sic] fire...

/collection/J00374 The first day in the trenches above Anzac Cove

...many casualties... had several narrow escapes... had to take water to the 22nd Batt[alion] in the trenches at night ... lost myself coming back to the base was seen by the Turkish snipers & fired on, not hit, got back safely under cover of darkness, very tired, have been under shrapnell [sic] & rifle fire all day... rifle fire round me all night" (1DRL/0240)

A more detailed account comes from Acting Sergeant Adrian Wilmot Delamore of the Auckland Infantry Battalion (NZ1B): “Off at one this morning & about dawn we heard a terrific bombardment...

/collection/P01016.003 Men waiting to be transferred to rowing boats

... our battalion packed on three or four barges & a destroyer towed us towards the shore as far as she could ...

/collection/A02781 Boat being towed towards Anzac Cove

... then cast us adrift. That position was scarcely safe for bullets were flying all round hitting the boat, but we had only one casualty. Some of us waded neck high to shore... The whole trouble was we had no artillery on land & the warships with their field guns could not reach the enemy’s guns. ... our losses from their shrapnel was severe... Indeed I do believe it was touch & go whether we abandoned the attempt or not.... The country is brutal... besides being hilly & broken, the ground is covered with scrub from 4 to 6ft high & you cannot see an enemy if he does not wish it. Sometimes a shell will scatter them in a hurry & then rifles & machine guns get a picking. One other trouble is that the snipers, seem to be numerous & deadly. One of the consequences of this is that the losses in Officers is out of proportion to the men... Our battalion must have lost close on half its strength. We could not stand many days like this” (PR03442)

A different point of view is recorded by Colonel Reginald Jeffrey Millard, OBE, CMG of the Army Medical Corps who was on one of the hospital ships anchored offshore. “At 4am we could hear the guns ... About 5 we could see the flashes ... we could see the boats carrying the troops ashore. It was a glorious morning, dead calm and not a cloud in the sky ... The whole scene was intensely interesting ... Straight before us was the landing place, a narrow strip of beach already crowded with our men ... we could clearly see our men skirmishing up the steep hills among the low scrub. The covering party (3rd Brigade) had landed at 4am without very much loss and with fixed bayonets had at once captured the first trenches and 3 machine guns and then had pushed on straight up the hills... Hardly had we anchored ... when big shells began to fall among us...

/collection/C00728 Shells falling among the transports lying off Anzac Cove

... On a signal from the Naval authorities all the transports got up their anchors with remarkable celerity and moved further out from shore ... through our glasses [we] could watch the progress of the fight along the ridges where we could see our men dodging in and out among the bushes ... there was no cessation of rifle and machine gun fire.

/collection/C01677 Officers of of the 2nd Field Ambulance on board HMAT Mashobra watching the landing

... Far into the night we heard this as intense as ever. About 9pm we ... received 75 wounded many very severe... About midnight came a fearful report that the attack had failed ... But to their delight, when they got there they found no re-embarkation at all but fresh troops disembarking ... I was hard at work with the wounded and tried not to think of the horrible possibilities of that re-embarkation in the dark from a crowded beach with the enemy pouring down shrapnel and machine gun fire as they pleased.” (1DRL/499)

/collection/H15473 Looking down to the beach the day after the landing

The first Anzac Day was commemorated in numerous locations in 1916. In Moascar (Egypt) Lieutenant R W McHenry MC of the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade describes the day: “A church parade was held this morning to commemorate the landing and the lads who fell on the Peninsula. Those who were at the landing wore a red ribbon and those who had seen service on the Peninsula were entitled thereby to a blue ribbon worn above the left breast pocket. I was secretary of a sports meeting which passed off fairly satisfactorily in the afternoon...

/collection/P00851.009 Soldiers of the 5th Battalion playing Australian Rules football at Tel el Kebir camp (Egypt)

/collection/C00267 Boxing match at Tel el Kebir camp (Egypt)

/collection/C00308 Egg and spoon race at Tel el Kebir camp (Egypt)

... A concert was held in the evening”. (2DRL/0136)

In a detailed letter to his father, Private Carroll (4th Australian Infantry Brigade) relays his experiences about Anzac Day 1916 on the Suez Canal. He pays particular attention to the water carnival, mentioning that some men had spent weeks making their vessels. (3DRL/7685)

/collection/C00061 One of the boats in the water carnival on the Suez Canal

He also mentions the men that were in fancy dress.

/collection/E00460 Fancy Dress on Anzac Day at Ribemont 1917

Similar events took place in 1917: “Anzac Day [in England]. Memorial service in the morning. Sports in the afternoon. Concert and supper in evening. Supper not over until 2am next morning”. (1DRL/0240). Presumably such events happened in 1918 although Sergeant de Vine states that where he was stationed in France: there were “no sports or even a drink, everything very tame” (1DRL/0240)

These diaries highlight why we commemorate Anzac Day and what it meant to the people who fought at Gallipoli. In the words of Lieutenant Robert McHenry MC (2nd Field Artillery Brigade): “I had never imagined anything so fearsome in my life and if I get through it is a thing I will never forget”. (2DRL/0136)


Narelle Roebig

Please remember their passing Please remember their sacrifice Please remember Always remember this ANZAC day It is a special day It is our day to show our love and respect We should always remember why We should always remember where But most of all we must remember them If not for our fathers and mothers If not for their sons and daughters We would have nothing to remember They have given their lives for our freedom Those that have returned are now so few Their memories for those they left behind It is still so clear in their minds They still see the pain from yesteryear We can watch them march with pride We cannot see what they remember We can give to them just one small gift We can give to them our love and respect But most of all we must never forget

Mal Booth

Well done Annette, a great post and at an appropriate time.


My Dads father was in the war 2 so was my 2 uncle Jack Grinton and Bert Grinton so thumbs up


i like all of the pics that had been taken the the war u colud try and put some of the war grounds like the trenchers or something like that but i realy like the pics good job who ever was taking the pics. WELL DONE


my great grand father was in the war to and he sufived the war and 2 years later he past away from a hart atact. i was so upset that i nealy wanted to to go and join him up in HEAVEN but i held my anger and took it out on a punching bag that was my Great grand fathers . so thank you for reading this and i hope that your family suvived the war if they went in it to fight for there countrey and family so thankyou for READING THIS LITLE STORY OF MY GEAT GRAND FATHER. THANK YOU