Ashmead-Bartlett – The first report in Australia of the landing at Gallipoli
Reprinted from – Hobart Mercury 12 May 1915
BATTLE OF GABA TEPE
AUSTRALIANS COVER THEMSELVES WITH GLORY
AT THE TURKS WITH COLD STEEL
AN ACHIEVEMENT TO COMPARE WITH MONS
A BRILLIANT DESCRIPTION
TASMANIAN PRESS ASSOCIATIONALL CABLES COPYRIGHT
- Detail from a coded telegram sent by Ashmead-Bartlett (In the collection of the State Library of NSW)
We publish today a brilliant description of the landingof the Australians and New Zealanders on Gallipoli Peninsula by that experienced war correspondent, Mr Ashmead Bartlett. It is a thrilling story, a story that will make us all feel proud of our soldiers. They have shown that, though transplanted to these southern skies, the breed is still the same as that of the men of Mons and Waterloo, and a hundred other great battles. They were in a desperate position when they landed on the narrow beach in the dawn, but they did not hesitate. They carried the Turkish trenches on the beach and on the cliffs, and, without the support of artillery, held on all day of Sunday, April 25. Their dash and courage saved the situation, and no troops that ever marched have done better.
The battle, or, rather, series of battles, continues to rage, but there must be now large force on the small strip of country from Gaba Tepe to the point of the peninsula. We now hear of Indian troops being there as well as French and British. The latest news is that a great battle is proceeding, to prevent a division of Turkish reinforcements from joining the main forces. It is probable that it is the Australians and New Zealanders that are engaged in this operation.
There has been further fighting in the Woevre district of France, east of Verdun.
The Austrians claim a great victory in West Galicia, but they could never force the Russians from any position they wished to keep. What has happened is that the Austro-Germans, by a great concentration on the Donigetz River to the east and south-east of Cracow, and with the help of heavy guns have caused the Russians to fall back in that region from the Donigetz and Binla rivers to Jazlo and Biecz on the Wistoka River which is the line they held six weeks ago. Here, doubtless, the advantage of the heavy guns is lost. The Russians made a strategic movement, which does not weaken, but probably strengthens their line, and does not affect the general situation.
General Botha has had further successes in South-West Africa. He is gradually cutting off and drawing round Windheck.
THE LANDING OF THE TROOPS.
WONDERFUL GRIT AND DASH.
A GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION.
- A coded telegram sent by Ashmead-Bartlett (In the collection of theState Library of NSW)
Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett, the war correspondent of the Daily Telegraph who was on board a warship with 500 Australians forming part of the covering troops for the landing at Gaba Tepe on the Aegean side of the Gallipoli Peninsula, states:
"It required splendid skill, organisation, and leadership. The huge armada got under way from Mudros Bay, on the Island of Lemnos, without accident. The warships and transports were divided into five divisions. Never before has an attempt been made to land so large a force in the face of a well-prepared enemy.
"At 2 oclock on April 24 the flagship of the division conveying the Australians and New Zealanders passed down the long line of slowly-moving transports, amid tremendous cheering, and was played out of the bay by the French warship.
A PRAYER FOR VICTORY.
"At 4 oclock the ships company and the troops on board assembled to hear the admirals proclamation to the combined force. This was followed by the last service before the battle, in which the chaplain uttered a prayer for victory, and besought the Divine blessing for the expedition, all the men standing with uncovered, bowed heads.
STEAMING TO THE RENDEZVOUS.
"At dark all the lights were put out, and the troops rested for their ordeal at dawn. It was a beautiful calm night, with a bright, half-moon.
THE LAST HOT MEAL.
"By 1 oclock in the morning the ships had reached their rendezvous, five miles from the intended landing place. The soldiers were aroused, and served with their last hot meal before landing. The Australians, who were about to go into action for the first time under trying circumstances, were cheerful, quiet, and confident, and there was no sign of nerves or excitement.
THE FIRST LANDING.
"As the moon waned, the boats were swung out. The Australians received their last instructions, and these men, who only six months ago were living peaceful, civilian lives, began to disembark on a strange, unknown shore, and in a strange land to attack an enemy of a different race.
"Each boat, which was in charge of a midshipman, was loaded with a great rapidity in absolute silence, and without a hitch, and the covering force towed ashore by the ships' pinnaces. More of the Australian brigade were carried aboard torpedo-boat destroyers, which were to go close inshore as soon as the covering force had landed.
"At 3 oclock it was quite dark, and a start was made towards the shore with suppressed excitement. Would the enemy be surprised, or be on the alert?
"At 4 oclock, three battleships, line abreast and four cables apart, arrived 2,500 yards from the shore, with their guns manned and their searchlights in readiness. Very slowly, the boats in tow, like twelve great snakes, moved towards the shore. Each edged towards each other in order to reach the beach four cables apart. The battleships moved in after them until the water shallowed. Every eye was fixed on the grim line of hills in front, menacing in the gloom, and the mysteries of which those in the boats were about to solve.
"Not a sound was heard, not a light seen, and it appeared as if the enemy had been surprised. In our nervy state the stars were often mistaken for lights ashore.
- Portrait of Ashmead-Bartlett from Despatches from the Dardanelles (In the collection of the State Library of NSW)
THE ENEMYS FIRST ALARM.
"The progress of the boats was slow, and dawn was rapidly breaking at 4.50 when the enemy showed alarm for a light which had flashed for ten minutes then disappeared. The boats appeared almost like one on the beach. Seven torpedo-boat destroyers then glided noiselessly towards the shore.
"At 4.53 came a sharp burst of rifle fire from the beach. The sound relieved the prolonged suspense which had become almost intolerable. The rifle fire lasted a few minutes, and a faint British cheer came over the waters, telling us that the first position was won.
"At three minutes past 5 the fire was intensified. By the sound of the reports we could tell that our men were in action. The firing lasted for 23 minutes, and then died down somewhat.
A TERRIBLE FUSILLADE.
"The boats returned, and a pinnace came alongside with two recumbent figures on deck, and a small midshipman, who cheerfully waving his hand said, "With shot through the stomach." The three had been wounded in the first burst of musketry. The boats had almost reached the beach when a party of Turks, who were entrenched on shore opened a terrible fusillade from rifles and Maxim guns. Fortunately, most of the bullets went high.
RUSH FOR THE TRENCHES.
"The Australians rose to the occasion. They did not wait for orders, or for the boats to reach the beach, but sprang into the sea, formed a sort of rough line, and rushed at the enemys trenches. Their magazines were not charged, so they just went in with the cold steel, and it was over in a minute for the Turks in the first trench had been either bayoneted or had run away, and the Maxim guns were captured.
A CRITICAL MOMENT.
"Then the Australians found themselves facing an almost perpendicular cliff of loose sandstone covered with thick shrubbery. Somewhere half-way up the enemy had a second trench strongly held, from which there poured a terrible fire on the troops below and on those pulling back to the torpedo-boat destroyers for a second landing party.
SCALING THE CLIFFS.
"Here was a tough proposition to tackle in the darkness, but these Colonials are practical above all else, and went about it in a practical way. They stopped for a few minutes to pull themselves together, got rid of their packs and charged the magazines of their rifles. Then this race of athletes proceeded to scale the cliffs, without responding to the enemys fire. They lost some men, but did not worry. In less than a quarter of an hour the Turks had been hurled out of their second position, all either bayoneted or fled.
THE WRONG LANDING POINT.
"As daylight came it was seen that a landing had been effected rather further north of Gaba Tepe than had originally been intended, and at a point where the cliffs rise very sheer. The error was a blessing in disguise, for there were no places down which the enemy could fire, and the broken ground afforded good cover once the Australians had passed the forty yards of the flat beach.
A RUGGED COAST LINE.
"The country in the vicinity of the landing looked formidable and forbidding. To the sea it presents a steep front, broken into innumerable ridges, bluffs, valleys, and sandspits, rising to a height of several hundred feet. The surface is bare, crumbly sandstone, covered with shrubbery about six feet in height.
SNIPERS AT WORK.
"It is an ideal place for snipers, as the Australians and New Zealanders soon found to their cost. On the other hand, the Colonials proved themselves adept at this kind of warfare.
"In the early part of the day heavy casualties were suffered in the boats conveying the troops from the torpedo-boat destroyers, tugs, and transports. The enemys sharpshooters, who were hidden everywhere, concentrated their fire on the boats.
"When close in, at least three boats broke away from their tow, and drifted down the coast without control, and were sniped at the whole way, and were steadily losing men.
"The work of disembarking proceeded mechanically under point blank fire, but the moment the boats touched the beach the troops jumped ashore and doubled for cover. From hundreds of points this went on during the landing of troops, ammunition, and stores.
"When it was daylight the warships endeavoured to support the landing by heavy fire from their secondary armaments, but, not knowing the enemys position, the support had more of a moral than a real effect.
- The central logo design on the "Alexandria Station" telegram sent by Ashmead-Bartlett on the 30 June 1915. (In the collection of the State Library of NSW)
"When the sun had fully risen we could see that the Australians and New Zealanders had actually established themselves on the ridge, and were trying to work their way to the northward along it. The fighting was so confused, and occurred on such broken ground that it was difficult to follow exactly what had happened on the 25th April, but the task of the covering forces had been so splendidly carried out that the Turks allowed the disembarkation of the remainder to proceed uninterruptedly, except for the never-ceasing sniping. But then the Australians, whose blood was up, instead of entrenching, rushed to the northwards and to the eastwards searching for fresh enemies to bayonet. It was very difficult country in which to entrench, and they therefore preferred to advance.
THE COVERING FORCE CHECKED.
"The Turks only had a weak force actually holding the beach, and relied on the difficult ground and the snipers to delay the advance until reinforcement came. Some of the Australians and New Zealanders who pushed inland were counter-attacked and almost outflanked by oncoming reserves, and had to fall back after suffering heavy losses.
"The Turks continued to counter-attack the whole of the afternoon, but the Colonials did not yield a foot on the main ridge.
"Reinforcements poured up from the beach, but the Turks enfiladed the beach with two field guns from Gaba Tepe. This shrapnel fire was incessant and deadly, and the warships vainly for some hours tried to silence it.
"The majority of the heavy casualties received during the day were from shrapnel, which swept the beach and ridge where the Australians had established themselves. Later in the day the Turkish guns were silenced, or forced to withdraw, and a cruiser, moving close in shore, plastered Gaba Tepe with a hail of shell.
- Date stamp and signature on one of the telegrams sent by Ashmead-Bartlett on the 30 June 1915. (In the collection of the State Library of NSW)
HOLDING THE GROUND.
"Towards dark the attacks became more vigorous. The enemy were supported by powerful artillery inland which the ships' guns were powerless to deal with. The pressure on the Australians became heavier, and their lines had been contracted.
"General Birdwood and his staff landed in the afternoon, and devoted their energies to securing the position, so as to hold it firmly until the next morning when it was hoped to get the field guns into position.
"Some idea of the difficulties in the way can be gathered when it is remembered that every round of ammunition and all the water and stores had to be landed on a narrow beach, and carried up pathless hills and valleys several hundred feet high to the firing line. The whole of the troops were concentrated upon a very small area, and were unable to reply, though exposed to a relentless and incessant shrapnel fire which swept every yard of ground. Fortunately, much of it was badly aimed or burst too high.
"The most serious problem was the getting of the wounded to the shore for all those unable to hobble had to be carried from the hills on stretchers; then their wounds were hastily dressed, and they were carried to the boats.
NOT FOUND WANTING.
"The boat parties worked unceasingly the entire day and night.
"The courage displayed by these wounded Australians and New Zealanders will never be forgotten. Hastily placed in trawlers, lighters, or boats, they were towed to the ships, and, in spite of their sufferings, they cheered the ship from which they had set out in the morning.
"In fact, I have never seen anything like these wounded Colonials in war before. Though many were shot to bits, and without hope of recovery, their cheers resounded throughout the night and you could see in the midst of a mass of suffering humanity arms waving in greeting to the crews of the warships. They were happy because they knew they had been tried for the first time, and had not been found wanting.
A STAND AS WORTHY AS MONS.
"For 15 mortal hours the Australians and New Zealanders occupied the heights under an incessant shell fire, and without the moral and material support of a single gun from the shore. They were subjected the whole time to violent counter-attacks from a brave enemy, skillfully led, and with snipers deliberately picking off every officer who endeavoured to give the command or to lead his men. No finer feat has happened in this war than this sudden landing in the dark, and the storming of the heights, and, above all, the holding on whilst the reinforcements were landing. These raw colonial troops, in these desperate hours, proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of the battles of Mons, the Aisne, Ypres, and Neuve-Chapelle.
THE NEXT MORNING.
"Early on the morning of April 26 the Turks repeatedly tried to drive the Colonials from their position. The latter made local counter-attacks, and drove off the enemy with the bayonet, which the Turks will never face.
"The Turks had been largely reinforced over night, and had prepared a big assault from the north-east, and the movement began at half-past nine. From the ships we could see the enemy creeping along the hilltops, endeavouring to approach under cover. The enemy also brought up more guns, and plastered the position with shrapnel, while their rifle and machine-gun fire became unceasing.
THE WARSHIPS JOIN IN.
"Seven warships crept close in, with the Queen Elizabeth further out as a kind of chaperone. Each warship covered a section, and opened a terrific bombardment on the heights and valley beyond.
"As the Turkish infantry advanced they were met by every kind of shell our warships carry from "Lizzies" (18-inch shrapnel) to 12-pounders. Their shooting was excellent, yet, owing to the splendid cover they had, the Turks advanced gallantly, while their artillery not only shelled our positions, but tried to drive off the ships.
AS SEEN FROM THE DECK.
"The scene at the heights of the engagement was sombre and magnificent. It was a unique day, and perfectly clear. We could see down the coast as far as Seddul Bahr. There the warships were blazing away, and on shore the rifle and machine-gun rattle was incessant. The hills before us were ablaze with shells, while masses of troops were on the beaches waiting their turn to take their places in the trenches.
THE TURKS REPULSED.
- One of the telegrams sent by Ashmead-Bartlett to the Daily Telegraph in London reporting on the Gallipoli campaign. It shows the heavy military censorship that the War correspondents text was subjected to. (In the collection of the State Library of NSW)
"The great attack lasted for two hours. We received messages that the fire of the ships was inflicting awful losses on the enemy, and then there came the flash of the bayonet in a sudden charge of the Colonials, before which the Turks broke and fled, amidst a perfect tornado of shells from the ships. They fell back sullen and checked, but they kept up an incessant fire throughout the day. The Colonials, however, were now dug in.
"Some prisoners were captured, including officers, who said the Turks were becoming demoralised by the gunfire, and the Germans had had difficulty in getting them to attack."
A WEEK'S WORK
BOMBARDING THE FORTS
THE AUSTRALIANS PUSHING ON
LONDON, May 6
The "Daily Chronicle" has received the following additional message regarding the fighting at the Dardanelles, dated "Before Gallipoli, Sunday," from its special corespondent:
"The most prominent feature since my last message has been the great damage done to the forts at the Narrows by the guns of the fleet and the artillery of the land forces. Maidos is still on fire.
"On Friday afternoon the Queen Elizabeth was getting most destructive shots in at Boghali Kalesai, opposite Nagara, until the place caught fire. Chanak was on fire by midday on Saturday. It is evident that the fleet is making considerable progress.
- Detail from of the above telegram showing the blue pencil used by the military censor together with the censor's stamp of approval. (In the collection of the State Library of NSW)
"The Australians and New Zealanders are pushing on towards the coast between Maidos and Boghali. The pitter-patter of the machine-guns on the hills can be clearly heard from Aegean Sea.
"The battleships at the entrance to the Dardanelles late on Saturday shelled the positions inland to facilitate the progress of the French at Kum Kale, on the Asiatic side.
"The weeks progress is amply satisfactory in every way."
THE BRITISH FORCES.
"UNSURPASSED COURAGE AND SKILL."
THE ATTACK BEING PRESSED.
LONDON, May 6
"In reply to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bonar Law), in the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith) gave a detailed account of the landing of the British and French forces at the Dardanelles.
"He said it commenced at three important points simultaneously on April 25, in the face of much opposition from entrenched infantry and artillery. By the nightfall 29,000 men had been landed. The Indians were held up for the whole day, but eventually succeeded by a fine attack, in taking up a position which enable them to cover the disembarkation of the remainder of their forces.
"The landing of the Australians and New Zealanders was opposed by a heavy fire at point-blank range, but the troops carried the Turkish position with a rush. The attack was pushed forward with the greatest dash.
"The French landed on the Asiatic side, and advanced with great gallantry.
"The whole landing was magnificently supported by the naval forces. The losses during the operation were heavy.
"The disembarkation continued the next day (April 26). Every Turkish attack was repulsed, and the troops were, by April 27, firmly established across the peninsula. The New Zealanders and Australians defeated every counter-attack.
"By May 2 the position had everywhere been consolidated. The successful performance of this difficult operation in the face of determined opposition displayed unsurpassed courage and skill on the part of the troops. Operations are now being continually pressed on under highly satisfactory conditions."
Reprinted from – The Town and Country Journal 12 May 1915
THE AUSTRALIANS SPLENDID BEGINNING.
Mr. Ashmead Bartletts graphic account of the glorious deeds of Australians in the Gallipoli Peninsula has sent a thrill of pride throughout the whole Commonwealth. It was a great achievement to land in the dark on a coast where the enemys strength was unknown, and, having driven the Turks back, to hold the country firmly, while reinforcements followed. Every one of those who are taking part in the action against the Turks will appreciate the words of General Birdwood, who said he could not sufficiently praise their courage, endurance, and soldierly qualities. Though the list of casualties has brought grief to many homes, there is consolation in the thought that all our men at the front are fighting gloriously for the defence of the Empire. Many more thousands of young men are giving their services, and in course of time will join their comrades in the battle line. And in the coming years the memory of all those who fought in the greatest war the world has ever seen, and in the severest crisis through which the Empire has ever passed, will be handed down from generation to generation with pardonable pride.