A 'duty clear before us' – North Beach and the Sari Bair Range

Chapter 2: Outposts

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The Turks were almost close enough to touch

The Anzac outposts, April–July 1915

Enlarge Map: The strategic significance of the Dardanelles.
The strategic significance of the Dardanelles.

The initial landings on 25 April 1915 on Gallipoli by British Empire forces and French forces failed. It had been intended on that day for the Australians to seize the main heights of the Sari Bair Range from Kabatepe in the south to Hill 971–Kocacimentepe–in the north. Landing after the 1st Australian Division, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade were to push eastwards across the range to Maltepe, a hill overlooking the straits of the Dardanelles. British forces, landing at the tip of the peninsula around Cape Helles, were to push north as far as a hill called Alcitepe (known to the British as Achi Baba). From these initial positions, the British and the Australians and New Zealanders–the ‘Anzacs’–would then advance to the north east and south east in a pincer movement to capture the whole of the southern Gallipoli peninsula. This would silence the Turkish defences on the western shore at the narrowest part of the Dardanelles–the Narrows–and permit ships of the Royal Navy through to threaten the Turkish capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul). However, on 25 April, on the Gallipoli peninsula, the British and the Anzacs were only able to seize a small portion of Cape Helles and a few square kilometres inland of where the Australians and New Zealanders had landed. For the rest of the campaign these areas were known respectively as ‘Helles’ and ‘Anzac’. For three days the Anzacs fought desperately to avoid being thrown back into the sea by the Turks.

Enlarge Steep ground at the head of Mule Gully and Walker's Ridge.
Steep ground at the head of Mule Gully and Walker's Ridge. [AWM G00914]

As everywhere along the line during those days, the enemy assault at Walker’s Ridge above North Beach on the left flank of the Anzac position was fierce. Lieutenant Ivor Margetts recalled the attacks of the Turkish soldiers:

On Tuesday [27 April] the Turks made a very determined attack against our left flank and we were standing to arms all day with bayonets fixed awaiting the charge which never came. At night the Turks did everything imaginable to raise their courage, blowing bugles, shouting "Allah" and shooting like Hell. We naturally expected every minute to be called upon to get to work with the bayonet. Every few minutes the cry rang out "Supports ready to charge" and up we rush, revolvers drawn and bayonets gleaming in the moonlight and one continuous rattle of musketry and machine guns. It was a nerve-wracking night, the tension broken every now and then by the orders "Stretcher-bearers wanted on the right or left" or "Another machine gun wanted". But the longest night must come to an end and every man seemed to heave a sigh of relief when the grey dawn spread over the sky and showed us that, although by a hot fire we had held our position, the still forms of Australia’s manhood and the stream of stretchers making towards the clearing hospital on the beach, our name had been made with heavy casualties.

[Captain I S Margetts, Diary, 27 April 1915, AWM 1 DRL/0478]

Enlarge Colonel Arthur Bauchop,Commanding Officer, Otago Mounted Rifles.
Colonel Arthur Bauchop, Commanding Officer, Otago Mounted Rifles, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, in front of his hut, near No 2 Outpost. Bauchop's hut was partly constructed using oars from the boats of the 7th Battalion, AIF, which were stranded near the site of the outpost on 25 April 1915, many of their occupants having been killed during the landing. Colonel Bauchop was wounded on 7 August 1915 in the August offensive and he died of his wounds the next day. He is commemorated on the Lone Pine memorial to the missing. [AWM A01829]

On 26 May, as part of the general development of their positions in the ranges north of Anzac, the Turks secretly set up their own outpost in the foothills leading to No 2 Outpost. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles, who were now garrisoning the two outposts, instantly took up this challenge to their previous dominance of the area and attacked the position, taking it from the Turks. Over the following days, sharp engagements ensued as the enemy fought hard to regain the post. Sergeant John Wilder of the Wellington East Coast Squadron recalled the intensity of the fighting:

It was regular hell for 24 hours that we were there, we hardly had a moment’s peace. We were absolutely surrounded by Turks who were just beneath us under the cliff with covering fire on the other side of the gully. The Turks were almost close enough to touch, but the covering fire kept us down and they just threw in bombs as they liked. The only thing to do was to pick them up and throw them back at the enemy.

[Wilder, quoted in C Pugsley, Gallipoli – The New Zealand Story, London, 1984, p.233]

Eventually, despite the determined resistance of the New Zealanders, the Turks regained their trench and the New Zealanders retreated to No 2 Outpost, having lost 26 killed and 65 wounded.

Enlarge Men of the 1st Light Horse Regiment taking over new dugouts.
Men of the 1st Light Horse Regiment taking over new dugouts near No 1 Outpost, below the rugged spurs of the Sari Bair Range. [AWM C02727]

So fierce had been the fighting for this small piece of the Anzac line that it had drawn in virtually the whole brigade of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. The incident impressed one of the Turkish commanders–Colonel Mustafa Kemal. Kemal reasoned that if he could send a whole regiment down the rugged spurs from the heights to contest ground with the Anzacs, then they could just as easily send men up from the beaches to contest Turkish mastery of the Sari Bair Range.

The story of these small outposts at the end of North Beach where it runs into Ocean Beach is a little known story of Anzac. But men suffered and died there as much as at any better known part of the line. Something of the sacrifice of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles in this area can be seen in a small cemetery–Canterbury Cemetery–which, as the cemetery register states, is ‘one of the central cemeteries of Anzac’. Those buried here were brought in after the war from isolated grave sites dotted throughout this area and 20 of the 26 men buried in this small cemetery fought with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles.