The August offensive
The landings in April provided the allies with only a tenuous grip on the Gallipoli peninsula. In August there were attempts to break the stalemate with a series of fresh attacks, but gains were few and losses severe. People at home avidly read accounts of their countrymen’s heroism and achievements, but these rarely revealed the terrible waste, the constant stress, and the squalor of the trenches.
Coordinated breakout attempts were made at Lone Pine, German Officers’ Trench, Quinn’s Post, Pope’s Hill, and The Nek. Despite the somewhat successful assault at Lone Pine, where fighting went on for days, other attacks were beaten down before any gains could be made. At Pope’s, Quinn’s, and The Nek, light horsemen charged into a storm of machine-gun and rifle fire. The casualties were devastating.
Over the following months the troops carried on, holding the trenches and facing the prospect of a harsh winter. Disease and illness were rife and the tempo of the fighting fell away; so too did the men’s spirits. They were now fighting for each other rather than for any hope of a victory.
The battle of Line Pine took place on the afternoon of 6 August 1915, as part of the allied August Offensive, when troops made one last attempt to break through the stalemate on Gallipoli that had persisted since the landings on 25 April. Lone Pine was designed to be a diversion for another assault further to the north, which was intended to seize the high ground of the Sari Bair Range.
At 4.30 pm artillery bombardment shelled the Turkish positions, and an hour later the Australians began their attack. They crossed no man’s land through heavy fire from rifles, machine-guns, and artillery, but on reaching the Turkish trenches the infantry came across something unexpected: some trenches had been covered with pine logs, and the Australians had to break through the roofs to engage the enemy.
Despite this, the Lone Pine trenches were taken after 20 minutes of fighting, but there followed four days of intense hand-to-hand fighting at a cost of 2,000 Australian and almost 7,000 Turkish casualties. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions that day.
Several days later the Turks succeeded in driving the Australians back from the trenches, but the battle of Lone Pine remains one of the few allied successes of the Gallipoli campaign.
Quinn’s Post was the most advanced position held by the allied troops at Anzac and saw some of the heaviest fighting of the entire Gallipoli campaign. Along with Pope’s Hill, Quinn’s was one of the keys to the Monash and Shrapnel Valleys. If it had fallen the Turkish troops could have broken through to the Australian and New Zealand positions at Anzac Cove.
Pope’s Hill was a position between Walker’s Ridge and Quinn’s Post which was occupied by Australian soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign. It had a narrow ridge and steep slopes, and much of the hill was visible to the Turkish soldiers stationed on nearby ridges, making it vulnerable to rifle fire, particularly from snipers. It was named after Lieutenant Colonel Harold Pope, commander of the 16th Battalion, who took control of the hill in the early evening of 25 April 1915 and held it under intense enemy fire for the next five days. In the confusion of the first night, Pope and a small party of men went to speak to a group of men nearby they thought were Indian troops, only to discover at the last moment that they were enemy soldiers. Pope jumped over a ridge and escaped back to his battalion, while three of his men were taken prisoner.
Later in the year Pope was transferred to another unit. He wrote the following farewell to the men of the 16th Battalion:
And so my dear old comrades all of Gallipoli, I wish you all farewell. No one could have hoped to have seen greater bravery and endurance in human nature than I have seen in the officers and men of the 16th, and many times that bravery saved us and many others from disaster.
C. Longmore, The old sixteenth, Hesperian Press, Perth, 1929, p. 109
The Nek was a vitally important allied position on the northern end of the Anzac front line and the scene of a tragic assault by the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at dawn on 7 August 1915. This narrow bridge of land stretched between the landmarks of Russell’s Top and Baby 700 across the top of Monash Valley. The Turkish trenches on the slopes of Baby 700 allowed them to dominate the Australian positions below.
The attack commenced with the bombardment of Turkish positions by a British destroyer steaming offshore, but the bulk of the shells fell beyond their target. The bombardment was intended to provide cover for the
Australians, but it ended seven minutes early, and the officers of the light horse held their men back until the appointed time for the attack arrived, giving the Turkish troops ample time to re-man their positions.
The first wave of light horsemen was immediately shot down by a barrage of Turkish rifle and machine-gun fire. The second line, scrambling over the dead and wounded to make its attack, suffered the same fate. Cancellation of the attack was proposed, but the Australian officer in charge of the operation refused to accept defeat, and the third wave was sent over.
Again, cancellation was suggested, but before a decision could be made the right flank of the fourth line charged as a result of a misunderstanding, and the rest of the line followed. The casualties were devastating: of the 600 Australian troops involved 234 were killed and 138 were wounded.
Activities for research and classroom discussion
1. Use the following links to research the battle of Lone Pine, then draw a map and construct a timeline of the battle.
- Battle of Lone Pine
- Trench whistle from the attack on Lone Pine
- Lone Pine diorama
- Photograph from Lone Pine
- Victoria Cross of Captain A.J. Shout
2. What does the following diary entry reveal about the battle of Lone Pine?
How worn out and dead beat everyone is. Some men are so shaken they will never be any use to us again and may just as well go home, but it is enough to shake the stoutest. I reckon I have no nerves but last night and tonight I dreamt of miles of dead and me burying them. It is only exhaustion and will come alright with a bit of rest.
Chaplain Walter Ernest Dexter, 5th Battalion War Diary, AWM PR00248
3. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions during the battle of Lone Pine. Investigate the story of one of the following recipients:
- Leonard Keysor
- Alfred Shout
- William Symons
- John Hamilton
- Frederick Tubb
- William Dunstan
- Alexander Burton
1. How does a periscope work? Why do you think periscope rifles were so useful?
2. With your teacher’s assistance, use this helpful guide to make a periscope of your own.
3. Indian soldiers fought alongside the Anzacs on Gallipoli. Why did India become involved in the First World War?
4. Turkish soldiers threw this cigarette case over to the Australian trenches. What does this tell you about the proximity of the Turkish and Australian trenches?
2. What does the below photograph tell you about the conditions medical staff worked under while on Gallipoli? What might have been some of the challenges?
1. Trooper Charles Livingstone collected this belt buckle from a Turkish soldier during an armistice on 24 May 1915. Why do you think soldiers from each side wanted to meet and swap souvenirs?
2. There was nowhere to buy supplies on Gallipoli, and food had to be sent by ship, which could take many weeks. What types of food could last for a long time without going bad?
3. Examine this painting by George Lambert. How has he attempted to capture the actions and emotions of the battle?
4. Hugo Throssell was the first Western Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. Research his story and the account of the action in which he received the Victoria Cross, then write an account of The Nek from Throssell’s perspective.
5. Hugo gave his men the option to swap units before their doomed charge at The Nek, but they all declined. Why do you think they chose not to leave?