ANZAC LANDING - Facing the 3rd Australian Brigade was the Turkish 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment scattered in various outposts all along the 5½ miles of coastline from Aghyl Dere, north of Fisherman’s Hut to Semerely Tepe, well south of Gaba Tepe. The 4th Company was most directly involved with the 90 men of 2nd Platoon under the command of Second Lieutenant Muharrem directly facing the invaders at Anzac Cove on Ari Burnu and Plugge's Plateau. Further to the north was the 60-70 men of the 1st Platoon under Second Lieutenant Ibrahim Hayrettin based on the hills around Fisherman’ Hut.
The reserve 3rd Platoon was back on Second Ridge along with the Company Commander Captain Faik. The regimental headquarters was well dug in on Gaba Tepe, armed with two old multi-barrelled Nordenfelds with further small outposts trickled along Bolton’s Ridge looking down on Brighton Beach.
When the first reports from Gaba Tepe were received they caught Lieutenant-Colonel Mehmet Sefik commanding 27th Regiment somewhat at a disadvantage as he and his 1/27th and 3/27th Battalions had been carrying out a night exercise in the Gaba Tepe sector on the night of 24 April. His tired men had only returned to their Maidos base shortly after midnight upon which they had fallen asleep. Nevertheless when the alarm came Sefik immediately rousted them out, called an order group to brief the officers and began harassing his divisional commander for orders to send forward his two battalions and attached machine gun company to support their beleaguered comrades in the 2/27th Regiment. His superiors hesitated, unsure for the moment whether this was merely an Allied diversion, but eventually at 05.45 the orders came and they began marching across the peninsula. There greatest fear was a deluge of naval shells as they crossed the narrow plain between Maidos and Gaba Tepe.
"I knew Ari Burnu and the country behind it very well. My purpose in the march "was to occupy, before the enemy, Third Ridge which dominates the Ari Burnu Ridge and all around. Our situation on the march was precarious and dangerous for the sun had risen and was beginning to get high in the sky. Over the whole plain from Boyun we were exposed to attack by naval gunfire and bombing attacks from aircraft. One reason for the battalions being ordered to march along different roads was in order to pass quickly over the dangerous area. Another reason was to reduce the depth of columns, since the enemy was not far away, and to deploy quickly if necessary for battle."(Lieutenant Colonel Mehmet Aker, Headquarters, 27th Regiment, 9th Division)
Sefik then marched his men up onto Third Ridge behind Scrubby Knoll arriving some time after 08.00.
"We guessed that the enemy was advancing slowly and cautiously in order to capture the ridge where we were which dominated all sides – namely Chunuk Bair to Gaba Tepe. We set about our task of throwing the enemy and we felt a moral force in ourselves for performing this task. All the signs indicated that opposing our 2,000 armed men was a force of at least four or five times that size – or even bigger. We had to prevent the enemy from reaching and occupying the dominating line of Chunuk Bair – Gaba Tepe and had to gain time until 19th Division arrived." (Lieutenant Colonel Mehmet Aker)
Over the next few hours the 1/27th and 3/27th battalions would slowly develop their attack on a wide front across Legge Valley towards Second Ridge covered by the fire from Scrubby Knoll of not only the four guns of his machine gun company but eventually of the battery of guns which had been sent to reinforce them. Through his binoculars Lieutenant-Colonel Mehmet Sefik had brief glimpses of the deadly combat including one at the north-east corner of what would later become known as the Lone Pine.
"All of a sudden among the thickets, a closely packed line of soldiers were seen to rise to their feet. This line moved through the thickets in front of them and rushed upon our riflemen in a bayonets attack. When our riflemen saw this attack of the Australians, they immediately jumped to their feet, all together, and rushed in retaliation at the Australians. Most of the Australians who saw the counter-attack of our men suddenly stopped. While a few of them engaged in a bayonet and rifle duel with our men the others ran away and got lost among the high brushwood. Our men pursued them with rifle fire." (Lieutenant Colonel Mehmet Aker)
The 25 April would be a long and terrible day for the Turks as well as the Australians and New Zealanders. Lieutenant Colonel Mehmet Aker played a crucial role alongside the rather better known Colonel Mustafa Kemal in keeping the ANZAC Corps penned into such a small bridgehead. Today surely we should remember and commemorate this brave officer's courage and determination.
"Almost all parts of this plateau were bombarded with high explosive shells and shrapnel. This bombardment proclaimed that a bitter hard fought wrestling match was about to begin. Between the brave stubborn Australian soldiers and the warlike sons of Turkey who were filling the pages of world history." (Lieutenant Colonel Mehmet Aker)
ANZAC LANDING - The moon finally disappeared at around 03.00 and almost immediately the line of battleships, trailing the strings of boats, proceeded at 5 knots towards the land. As they did so the last of the steamboats moved alongside to pick up their tows. When Midshipman J Savill Metcalf approached HMS Queen to pick up No.2 Tow he found No.1 Tow still in position and, after being told to lie off and wait, was not called back until 03.20.
Here are two accounts of the landing from Midshipman J. Savill Metcalf and Lieutenant Commander John Waterlow,
Midshipman J Savill Metcalf:
"It was very dark by this time. My sternsheetmen secured the towing rope of the pulling boats to our towing slip, and I eased the boats away from the Queen's side. Queen was moving slowly eastwards all this time, and my engines were going slow ahead to keep abreast of her. I took station, with the troop-filled boats in tow, about fifty yards south of Queen's bridge, and could just see No.1 Tow about fifty yards south of me, on the beam."
Almost immediately things started to go wrong. Due to the darkness instead of being 150 yards apart, the strings of tows were just 50 yards apart and even then iit was only the possible to maintain that distance by following the phosphorescent bow waves made by the steam boats at the head of each tow. From an expected length of over 1,600 yards, the line of tows shrank to less than 600 yards, instantly throwing out the calculations on which the landing had been based. But worse was to follow as Midshipman Metcalf decided to use his initiative.
"About 3.40 a.m. the order was called from Queen's bridge "Go ahead picket boat." I warned my engine room "Stand by for full speed", and watched No.1 Tow for the first sign of her increase in speed but could not see any. An angry hail came from Queen's bridge, "Will you go ahead, picket boat." Realizing that it was imperative, and I might be accused of cowardice if I did not comply, I rang full speed ahead on the engine room bell, and away we went. A few minutes later I looked astern and could just see No.1 Tow off my starboard quarter. I was too occupied looking ahead to look astern again, as it was very dark and I had no idea how far we were from rocks or sand. About a quarter of an hour later I realized we were heading very close to the north side of Gaba Tepe which, because of its height, is very conspicuous. Knowing that there were Turkish troops there, and we would get an enfilading fire all along the starboard side as well as from ahead, I was confident that we must be heading for a wrong place. There was no one to consult and I felt the lives of the men I was towing were my responsibility. Without any delay I altered course two points to port to get away from Gaba Tepe. After a quarter of an hour, finding the tows to port had conformed, I again altered course a point and a half to port."
Metcalf's first change of course of two points, equivalent to twenty two and a half degrees, was made when the tows were still a considerable distance from the beach, just as the first signs of light were becoming apparent above the land. It was noted without comment in the Journals of at least two other midshipmen in the line. Yet there was no reason why the change of course would have appeared unusual, as the orders issued to the midshipmen specifically stated that `the flotilla must be prepared to alter course up to four points to port or starboard'.
Metcalf's movement isolated No.1 Tow on the southern flank which should have been acting as guide to the whole line. The Guide Officer in No.1 Tow was Lieutenant Commander John Waterlow who since the middle of March had been engaged with the minesweeping operations inside the Dardanelles and was entirely unfamiliar with the coastline around Gaba Tepe. The account of the landing which he recorded in his diary corroborated that given by Metcalf.
"All the other 11 steamboats were to keep station on me, and we started off about 2 points on the starboard bow of "Queen", trying to make Gaba Tepe. It was now so dark we could see but little, but it did seem as if a prominent headland, such as I had been given to understand Gaba Tepe was, loomed ahead of us, so we went gaily on. As we approached the shore it became clear that there was a very prominent headland to the northward of us and we began to vacillate - our faith in our course was more shaken by the fact that all other boats were steering more to the northward. At last I altered course to the northward also and steered for the high land we could clearly see. We had to assume that the Queen was in her correct billet, and working on that assumption this prominent headland could not be Gaba Tepe. So my uncertainty increased - but still the boats steered to the northward. At last I altered course and went down the line astern trying to draw them to the southward with me. This failed, and I was now convinced that my prominent headland was not Gaba Tepe. It was too high, and also on its summit there was not visible the ruined building which surmounts Gaba Tepe. I then tried to urge the boats to the northward where a good beach was visible - then again to the southward, but efforts in every direction failed. The dawn began to glow and our prominent headland loomed larger and larger against the pale saffron light, - the one place on the whole coast on which we should have decided not to land. However, we were approaching the shore and the dawn was growing so fast that at last in despair I dashed straight for the frowning cliffs now straight ahead."
HELLES LANDING - One of the beaches at Cape Helles designated for the landing of the 29th Division was called ‘V’ Beach. For the immediate landing of as many troops as possible a collier named the River Clyde, under the command of Commander Edward Unwin RN, was converted into a floating ‘Trojan Horse’. Filled with over 2,000 troops the ship was to be run aground under the walls of the Sedd-el-Bahr fort in the early hours of the morning of 25 April 1915.
An account of the V Beach Landing, 25 April 1915, by Sub Lieutenant Douglas Illingworth, Royal Naval Armoured Car Division.
Leaving their Rolls Royce armoured cars behind, but taking twelve motor cycles in order to transport their Maxims and help carry ammunition to the front, a detachment from No.3 Squadron RNACD under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Josiah Wedgwood boarded the River Clyde. When the ship hit the beach, the squadron was set the task to provide covering maxim fire from the River Clyde to aid the landing of the troops. Wedgwood and four other officers, Sub-Lieutenants Coke, Parkes and Illingworth (McLaren was to join after the landing) and fifty men volunteered to join him in this ‘exciting enterprise’.
In a letter dated 21 April 1915, Sub-Lieut. Douglas Illingworth writes:
"… One can say nothing of ones doings and there is no other news to write. However, we have done nothing yet and there is no means of using us in our normal capacity at the moment. So some of us here volunteered in an exciting enterprise in the meantime."
Attached to Hunter-Weston’s 29th Division, work was carried out by these men to protect the collier. Steel casements were built to take the Maxim guns, with the bridge being lined with steel plates and the bulwarks with sandbags. The casements on the bow were manned by Sub-Lieut. Coke who commented:
“This is to be my seat in the stalls, and many a man now in England would give £1,000 for it”. Soon after the landing Coke was to pay for this with his life.
The River Clyde left Tenedos on the evening of 24 April 1915 for the southern shores of Gallipoli. At 6.25 a.m. the following morning the ship was run ashore, after a heavy naval bombardment. Within seconds though all hell was let loose from the Turkish positions. In command of his machine gun crew on the bridge of the River Clyde, Sub-Lieut. Illingworth, in a letter dated 6 May, describes what happens on that fateful day:
"As there are no immediate possibilities of using us in our nominal capacity I volunteered with about half the squadron to work on maxim guns on a ship called the River Clyde – a large tramp, which was to run ashore with a full load of troops. This was affected on Sunday 25th April about 7 a.m. after the fleet bombarded heavily. The idea was bad and the scheme a failure and but for extraordinary good luck there would not have been a single survivor to tell the tale. One gun and a few shells and we were finished. However fortune favored us. The Turks had no guns to speak of and what they had were very bad – bad range on bad shells, for not a single shell burst which hit the ship. We ran ashore all right but the barges we towed alongside did everything but what was intended – of course no sane man would ever expect otherwise. But that was not the real trouble – our naval guns did not cover the landing well and so we lost heavily while the men were going from our wreck to the shore. Battleships as artillery are a failure – they are difficult to communicate with and not familiar with land operations. The hillsides leading up from the little bay were covered with trenches which were comparatively little damaged. So we had to keep on firing hard to protect our handful of men on shore from being rushed and then land the rest under the cover of darkness. The struggle was terrible for about 48 hours but eventually some great Irish heroes took the hills and dug the enemy out. I know little of the landings at other points, but I fancy this one at Sedd-el-Bahr was by far the most violently opposed and difficult. Our old boat was riddled with bullets and hit a good many times by shells from the Asiatic side. It is a ghastly thing to be in a ship stranded and unprotected in any way. Both bullets and shells went right through. I had a gun on the bridge and had put up plates which kept the bullets out, but several officers were killed beside me who would persist in standing up too much. We stayed on the wreck until a landing had been secured to protect any possible rush of the ship and then went ashore…"
The River Clyde, although firmly driven aground, was not beached far enough inland for the disembarkation of the 2,000 troops on board. The steam hopper Argyle and the three lighters that were to help bridge the gap had swung widely out of position caused by the wash when the River Clyde hit the beach. The immediate need to bring these alongside in line with the gangplanks was realised by Unwin who, with other officers and men, dived overboard to pull and tie the barges into a bridged position. Without this the troops could not disembark. Waist-deep in the bullet-riddled water Unwin and his men did their best to pull them into position. Once this was done, Unwin gave the command for the disembarkation of troops through purposely cut doors in the hull, known as ‘Sallyports’, which led wooden gangplanks down to the lighters. One of the men who dived overboard with Unwin was Petty Officer John H. Russell of the RNACD, who was almost immediately wounded, being shot through the stomach as he helped Unwin load a wounded soldier into a boat. Unwin and Russell both lay in the water until a lull in the fighting allowed them to be pulled back onto the River Clyde. Sub-Lieutenant Arthur Tisdall, RNVR ‘Anson’ battalion, who upon seeing the distress of soldiers lying wounded in the boats dived into the water, still under heavy fire. Along with him came Petty Officer Mechanic Geoffrey Rummings, another member of the RNACD. In the evening Rummings went ashore again, this time accompanied by Lieut-Commander Wedgwood to help the wounded on the eastern side of the beach along the spit of rocks beneath the Sedd-el-Bahr fort. Whilst this was happening Sub-Lieutenant Parkes, C.P.O. J. Little and P.O’s Barton, Tailyour and Murray went out to help the wounded in the boats drifting off to the west of the River Clyde. There were six Victoria Crosses, all Naval, awarded for the V Beach landing; Commander Edward Unwin RN, Sub-lieutenant. Arthur Tisdall RNVR, Seaman George Samson RNR, Able Seaman William Williams RN, Midshipman George Drewry RNR and Midshipman Wilfred Malleson RN. Wedgwood recommended both Russell and Rummings for the Victoria Cross, but they were instead awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal. Wedgwood was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, all for recognition of their brave work done on V beach that day.
The River Clyde was under heavy fire throughout the day, and had even been hit a couple of times by shells from the Asiatic side, luckily causing little damage. With the situation becoming more critical the armoured car detachment helped in the building of barricades on the deck. This was to inconvenience any Turkish attack if they tried to storm the ship, with the reinforced bridge acting as the ‘keep of the castle’. The RNACD kept up a continuous and concentrated fire from their Maxim’s throughout the day and night. With ammunition levels running dangerously low, but with the fire sustained, the remaining troops on board were eventually landed and beach secured by the evening of 25/26 April.
This gallant little band of volunteers had won the highest respect of the infantry so that “the landing at V was probably only saved from complete disaster by the machine guns in the River Clyde”, these being the guns of the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division.
As the SS River Clyde, the Trojan Horse of Gallipoli, began to disembark its cargo of troops, Private William Flynn, 1st Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers, 29th Division recalled what happened next.
"I had a big periscope what I was carrying for him. We had double ammunition, double rations, double everything I think, but he had the sense to tell us to throw our coats off before we made the landing. I followed Captain Geddes [Captain Guy Geddes, 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers, 86th Brigade, 29th Division] down the gangway, along the gunwale of the lighter, lay down in the bow, just enough cover to hide us and he looked back and called for the company, the remainder to come. They couldn't. They must have stopped it. He said, "Well come on, over we go!" We fall into the sea, of course I lost him! I come up once or twice for fresh air and I drifted to my right and I came up by this strip of rock. It was piled high with dead. Some of the other company instead of running across the gangway which they saw was useless, they must have jumped into the water and managed to get to this rock but eventually got killed - the majority of them. I managed to just crawl onto the rock - I was exhausted - I thought that my knees had bullet holes in them all over where they'd been on the bottom like! They were still pumping lead into all the bodies, any movement. We managed to scramble on to the shore, we had about 8 or 9 feet to go and we got behind a bank about 5 foot high and we were quite safe there." (Private William Flynn, 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers).
IWM Documents: S. Aker, The Dardanelles: The Ari Burnu Battles and 27 Regiment in the Rayfield Papers Collection, Savill Metcalf IWM DOCUMENTS Transcript account of landing, Waterlow IWM Documents extracts from Waterlow's diary in Longley Cook papers, William Flynn IWM Sound Archive AC 4103 BBC Great War recordings