Sunday, April 21, 2013

Countdown To ANZAC 21 April 1915

Charles Bean's History again, " The orders (Operation Order No.1) of the Army Corps were issued on April 18th, and those of the 1st Australian Division on the 19th.  In the interval the harbour had filled with transports.  Accurate information as to the expedition and its composition had, of course, reached the Turks who had made speedy and carefully organised preparations to meet it.

The first definite expectation of a military attack forced itself upon the Turkish Staff after the failure of the naval assault on March 18th.....(yet) the same time (they) had no inside
General Otto Liman von Sanders,
German commander
of turkish forces.
information whatever as to where the landing would take place, nor as to the date of it.

The Turks met the now obvious danger by forming, on March 24th, a special army - the 5th Turkish - for the defence of the Dardanelles.....Its fighting strength is given by Turkish documents as 62077 all told....

...Orders were (given) to build the bridges and improve the roads, especially the then impassable track between Gallipoli and Maidos.  A landing stage was begun at Nagara, in order to render easier the line of communication across the straits.  Field bakeries were built. Arrangements were made for dumps of ammunition, clothes and material....The training of troops in hand grenade work and sniping was commenced, and a defence scheme was drawn up with one objective - that of having the troops so placed that they could hurry to meet the blow upon either side of the straights, wherever it might fall.  The movements of the troops to their new positions were to be made at night, so that the Allied airmen might gain no hint of the new plans.

Commander of Turkish 19th Division
 Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk)
inspecting preparations
Both on the Peninsular and on the Asiatic side the Turks strengthened their positions every night, the engineer companies putting wire upon or above beaches where they expected a landing and the infantry digging trenches.

The Turks were thus well prepared on the Peninsular."

The 1st Battalion History relates their feelings at this time, "We received a General Order containing the famous address from Sir Ian Hamilton, which began, 'Soldiers of France and of the King,' and described the proposed attack on the Peninsular as 'an adventure unprecedented in modern war.'  That didn't trouble us much at the time; we were more concerned with the desire to be doing something.  We were heartily sick of training and being cooped up on a troopship."

The following is the entry for this day in the diary of Sir Ian Hamilton.  It includes the address referred to above:

21st April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Blowing big guns. The event with which old mother time is in labour is so big that her pains are prodigious and prolonged out of all nature. So near are we now to our opening that the storm means a twenty four hours' delay.
Have issued my orders to the troops. Yesterday our plans were but plans. To-day the irrevocable steps out on to the stage.

General Headquarters,
21st April, 1915.

Soldiers of France and of the King.

Before us lies an adventure unprecedented in modern war. Together with our comrades of the Fleet, we are about to force a landing upon an open beach in face of positions which have been vaunted by our enemies as impregnable.

The landing will be made good, by the help of God and the Navy; the positions will be stormed, and the War brought one step nearer to a glorious close. "Remember," said Lord Kitchener when bidding adieu to your Commander, "Remember, once you set foot upon the Gallipoli Peninsula, you must fight the thing through to a finish."

The whole world will be watching your progress. Let us prove ourselves worthy of the great feat of arms entrusted to us.

Ian Hamilton, General.

(Editor's note: Readers may be interested in reading a newspaper article from 1916.  The article appeared in "The Queenslander" - a weekly summary and literary edition of the 'Brisbane Courier' - on April 15 1916.  Headed Lemnos, March, 1915, it tells the story of the 9th Battalion - part of the 3rd Brigade, the covering force and the first to land at Gallipoli - during its period at Lemnos.  The author is unknown, although, from the style of writing, I suspect Charles Bean who was, after all, a newspaperman. The link is here 

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