Signaller Silas – Introduction
- Detail from a studio portrait of Ellis Silas, London, 1919 [AWM P02801.001]
25 April – 18 May 1915
For the men of the Anzac Corps, the ‘Anzacs’ – Australians and New Zealanders assisted by Indian Army troops and the British Royal Naval Division – the Battle of the Landing at Gallipoli lasted from 25 April to 3 May. During that period, they drove back a number of strong Turkish counter-attacks aimed at driving them into the sea, as well as launching attacks to secure their own positions. By 3 May, a defensible line had been established inland from the landing beaches along what was known as ‘Second Ridge’, and this small area of Gallipoli was soon known as Anzac. According to the official historian, Charles Bean, the Battle of the Landing cost Australia and New Zealand 8000 casualties, of whom 2300 were killed. Bean summed up this loss in these words:
They were men their countries could ill afford to lose. But with their lives they purchased a tradition beyond all human power to appraise, and set for all time the standard of conduct for the Australian and New Zealand soldier. A brilliant despatch from Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, published a few days after the Landing, brought the effort of these young nations before the world in a manner that some speak of to this day as if the landings were an affair of Australasian troops alone …
[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 1, Sydney, 1941, p 605]
Among the original Australian infantry units at the Battle of the Landing from the evening of 25 April to 3 May was the 16th Battalion. Something of the battalion’s story from its raising in Western Australia in 1914 to the end of the battle was subsequently told by one of their own, the artist Signaller Ellis Silas, in his book Crusading at Anzac, A.D. 1915.
- Inside cover of Crusading at Anzac, A.D. 1915
Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood, the commander of the Anzac Corps during most of its period on Gallipoli, and General Sir Ian Hamilton, the commander in chief of the so-called Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, both provided the book with a brief foreword. Silas’ combination of words and images, extracted from the diary and sketchbook he kept during his time at Gallipoli, provides a dramatic insight into the dangers, hardships and loss which accompanied the Anzac Corps’ attempt to establish a foothold on the Gallipoli peninsula.