The Anzac walk

9. The Ridge – Johnston’s Jolly

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Directions:

Go back out of Lone Pine Cemetery and walk down to the main road heading along up the ridge. Turn left and walk to Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery a few hundred metres along the road and to your right. If you had stood here on the morning of 19 May 1915 you would have been surrounded by death. To the Turks this place was Kirmizi Sirt, Crimson Slope.

As if God had breathed in their faces

One of three views of the scene in front of the Australian lines at Johnston’s Jolly and along Second Ridge
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photo: see caption below
See caption above.
[Sydney Mail 6 October 1915]

By the first week in May 1915, the Anzac line along this ridge had been fairly well established. The Battle of the Landing had temporarily exhausted both sides. Moreover, the landing had failed, for neither the Anzacs nor the British force at Helles had been able to capture the southern part of the Gallipoli peninsula. That had been the whole point of the invasion – to get through to the Dardanelles and silence the Turkish batteries guarding that waterway. Then the Royal Navy, the theory went, could steam on up to Istanbul and terrify Turkey out of the war.

As the Anzacs worked to consolidate their positions, the Turkish commanders planned to drive them from the ridge and back to the sea. They considered the position along Second Ridge as the most vulnerable to attack for here their enemies clung precariously to positions just off the steep slopes of Monash Valley just on the other side of the road opposite Johnston's Jolly. One mighty rush of infantry could send them reeling back down into the valley and once the Turks commanded the whole ridge evacuation would be inevitable. So, on 18 May approximately 42,000 Turkish soldiers were massed in the valleys to the east. But aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service, flying out of Imroz Island as observation planes for Royal Navy warships, spotted them. At 3.00 am on 19 May, well before dawn, the Anzac trenches well fully manned and awake all along the line in the expectation of a Turkish attack.

Shortly after 3.00 am, the glinting bayonets of Turkish soldiers were observed in the clear night moving in the valley between where you are standing at the Jolly and the next ridge to the north, German Officer’s Ridge. The Australians began firing and by mid-morning had poured 948,000 rifle and machine gun bullets into waves of attacking Turks all along the Anzac line but especially here at 400 Plateau, at German Officer’s and on up the ridge towards Quinn’s Post. One Australian likened the whole event to a ‘wallaby drive’ where the enemy were ‘shot down in droves’ while another talked of how they had stood virtually on top of their trenches ‘shooting as fast as they could’ until gun barrels became too hot to touch. Bean’s words capture the scene in this area by mid-morning 19 May 1915:

One of three views of the scene in front of the Australian lines at Johnston’s Jolly and along Second Ridge
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photo: see caption below
See caption above.
[AWM P01815.010]

… the dead and wounded lay everywhere in hundreds. Many of those nearest to the Anzac line had been shattered by the terrible wounds inflicted by modern bullets at short ranges. No sound came from that terrible space; but here and there some wounded or dying man, silently lying without help or any hope of it under the sun which glared from a cloudless sky, turned painfully from one side to the other, or slowly raised an arm towards heaven.

[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 2, p 161]

Approximately 3,000 Turks had been killed and another 7,000 wounded. The Anzacs, by comparison, lost 160 killed and 468 wounded. While the Anzacs had been unable to push forward against the Turks, the failure of this attack indicated that the Anzac line would not fall to a rush of infantry against rifles and machine guns. After 19 May the Anzac soldiers began to see the Turks as fellow sufferers and respect for their courage and prowess grew.

Within days of the attack the air was heavy with the smell of rotting corpses. A truce was arranged between 7.00 am and 4.30 pm on 24 May to allow both sides to bury their dead. Prominent in the organisation of the truce was a British officer, Captain Aubrey Herbert, attached to the staff of the Australian and New Zealand Division. On the morning of 24 May, Herbert met and accompanied Turkish officers up the ridge from the beach to 400 Plateau. He found the sight between the trenches and in the gullies ‘indescribable’. So awful was the stench that a Turkish ‘Red Crescent’ official gave him antiseptic wool with scent to put over his nose. The scent was ‘renewed frequently’. A Turkish officer said to Herbert:

At this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage, and the most savage must weep.

Continuing on up the ridge, Herbert saw for himself the full effect of the Anzac bullets: 

They [Turkish dead] fill the myrtle-grown gullies. One saw the result of machine-gun fire very clearly: entire companies annihilated – not wounded, but killed, their heads doubled under them with the impetus of their rush and both hands clasping their bayonets. It was as if God had breathed in their faces …

[Aubrey Herbert, Mons, Anzac and Kut, Hutchinson & Co, 1930]

Click here to go to the internet edition, Housed at the University of Kansas' Electronic Library (link leaves this website)

Nauseating work
Sergeant Harry Freame, peering out from a sniper’s hole
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painting: see caption below
Sergeant Harry Freame, 1st Battalion, NSW, of Kentucky, NSW, peering out from a sniper’s hole on 8 June 1915. Charles Bean, who took this photograph, wrote: ‘There are sniper’s holes looking down the valley to the north of J.Jolly. I took a couple of photos through the loopholes, and two of Freame sitting inside them’. By 8 June it was possible to walk from the Jolly through a continuous trench system along Second Ridge as far as Quinn’s Post at the end of the line. Harry Freame was a noted scout capable of creeping out ‘flat like a snake on the inside of your knees’ in to no-man’s land. [AWM G01029A]

I will never forget the armistice – it was a day of hard, smelly, nauseating work. Those of us assigned to pick up the bodies had to pair up and bring the bodies in on stretchers to where the graves were being dug. First we had to cut the cord of the identification disks and record the details on a sheet of paper we were provided with. Some of the bodies were rotted so much that there were only bones and part of the uniform left. The bodies of the men killed on the nineteenth ( it had now been five days ) were awful. Most of us had to work in short spells as we felt very ill. We found a few of our men who had been killed in the first days of the landing.

This whole operation was a strange experience – here we were, mixing with our enemies, exchanging smiles and cigarettes, when the day before we had been tearing each other to pieces. Apart from the noise of the grave-diggers and the padres reading the burial services, it was mostly silent. There was no shelling, no rifle-fire. Everything seemed so quiet and strange. Away to our left there were high table-topped hills and on these were what looked like thousands of people. Turkish civilians had taken advantage of the cease-fire to come out and watch the burial. Although they were several miles from us they could be clearly seen.

The burial job was over by mid-afternoon and we retired back to our trenches. Then, sometime between four and five o’clock, rifle-fire started again and then the shelling. We were at it once more.

[Albert Facey, A Fortunate Life, Ringwood, 1984, p.268]

As if God had breathed in their faces
One of three views of the scene in front of the Australian lines at Johnston’s Jolly and along Second Ridge
Enlarge
photo: see caption below
Three views of the scene in front of the Australian lines at Johnston’s Jolly and along Second Ridge on the morning of 24 May 1915, the day of the truce to bury the dead of the failed Turkish attack of 19 May. The picture that appeared in the Sydney Mail of 6 October 1915, a fair while after the event, was taken, according to the paper, by a ‘Private Meek … with a small pocket camera’. He was not the only Australian recording the event. The wider shot of the same view shows it was taken by an Ernest Ross of the 2nd Battalion, NSW, and that he sought to copyright the image. An important effect of the 19 May attack and the 24 May truce was that the Australians realised that their bullets did as much damage to Turkish bodies as vice versa and that the Turkish soldiers were human like themselves. Sergeant Apear de Vine, 4th Battalion, NSW, of Maroubra, NSW, wrote:

The time was taken up by making friends with the Turks, who do not seem to be a very bad sort of chap after all. After today most of our opinions on the Turks were changed …

[De Vine, quoted in Bill Gammage, The Broken Years, Ringwood, 1990, p 104]

[AWM H16397, P01815.010, Sydney Mail 6 October 1915]

We were at the rendezvous on the beach at 6.30. Heavy rain soaked us to the skin. At 7.30 we met the Turks, Miralai Izzedin, a pleasant, rather sharp, little man; Arif, the son of Achmet Pasha, who gave me a card, “Sculpteur et Peintre,” and “Etudiant de Poesie.” I saw Sahib and had a few words with him but he did not come with us. Fahreddin Bey came later. We walked from the sea and passed immediately up the hill, through a field of tall corn filled with poppies, then another cornfield; then the fearful smell of death began as we came upon scattered bodies. We mounted over a plateau and down through gullies filled with thyme, where there lay about 4000 Turkish dead. It was indescribable. One was grateful for the rain and the grey sky. A Turkish Red Crescent man came and gave me some antiseptic wool with scent on it, and this they renewed frequently. There were two wounded crying in that multitude of silence. The Turks were distressed, and Skeen strained a point to let them send water to the first wounded man, who must have been a sniper crawling home. I walked over to the second, who lay with a high circle of dead that made a mound round him, and gave him a drink from my water-bottle, but Skeen called me to come on and I had to leave the bottle. Later a Turk gave it back to me. The Turkish captain with me said: “At this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage, and the most savage must weep.” The dead fill acres of ground , mostly killed in the one big attack, bit some recently. They fill the myrtle-grown gullies. One saw the result of machine-gun fire very clearly; entire companies annihilated - - not wounded, but killed, their heads doubled under them with the impetus of their rush and both hands clasping their bayonets, It was as if God had breathed in their faces, as “the Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold.”

The burying was finished some time before the end. There were certain tricks to both sides. Our men and the Turks began fraternizing, exchanging badges, etc. I had to keep them apart. At 4 o’clock the Turks came to me for orders. I do not believe this could have happened anywhere else. I retired their troops and ours, walking along the line. At 4.17 I retired the white-flag men, making them shake hands with our men. Then I came to the upper end. About a dozen Turks came out. I chaffed them, and said that they would shoot me the next day. They said, in a horrified chorus: “God forbid!” The Albanians laughed and cheered, and said: “We will never shoot you.” Then the Australians began coming up, and said: “Good-bye old chap; good luck!”  And the Turks said: “Oghur Ola gule gule gedejekseniz, gule gule gelejekseniz” (“Smiling may you go and smiling come again”). Then I told them all to get into their trenches, and unthinkingly went up to the Turkish trench and got a deep salaam from it. I told them that neither side would fire for twenty-five minutes after they had got into the trenches. One Turk was seen out away on our left, but there was nothing to be done, and I think he was all right. A couple of the rifles had gone off about twenty minutes before the end but Potts and I went hurriedly to and fro seeing it was all right. At last we dropped into our trenches, glad that the strain was over. I walked back with Temperley. I got some raw whisky for the infection in my throat, and iodine for where the barbed wire had torn my feet. There was a hush over the Peninsular.

[Aubrey Herbert, Mons, Anzac and Kut, internet edition, University of Kansas, electronic library, p.58]

Click here to go to the internet edition, Housed at the University of Kansas' Electronic Library (link leaves this website)