Thursday, April 25, 2013

Countdown To ANZAC 25 April 1915

One of the landing craft
(with bullet holes)
now resting in the
Australian War Memorial
Jack Reilly's Diary:  Landed on Gallipoli about 7am under fire & got a hot time.  We had to advance & reinforce the 3rd Brigade.  When we got to the top of the hill it was like hell.  Shrapnel & explosive bullets rained on us like hail.  A great many of our chaps were killed & wounded.  Two of my best mates, Jim Adams & Bob Burns were severely wounded & I heard since that Bob had died.

1st Battalion War Diary: Arrived - commenced disembarkation - landed without loss - received orders to send a company forward - B Company moved out but was halted - received orders to reinforce Colonel MacLagan and the 3rd Brigade - the whole battalion was thrown into the firing line and worked independently of Battalion HQ.
(There are no further entries in this battalion's war diary until April 29)

Sir Ian Hamilton's recollections give a commander's view: 

25th April, 1915. H.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth." Our Queen chose the cold grey hour of 4 a.m. to make her war toilette. By 4.15 she had sunk the lady and put on the man of war. Gone were the gay companions; closed the tight compartments and stowed away under armour were all her furbelows and frills. In plain English, our mighty battleship was cleared for action, and—my mind—that also has now been cleared of its everyday lumber: and I am ready.
If this is a queer start for me, so it is also for de Robeck. In sea warfare, the Fleet lies in the grip of its Admiral like a platoon in the hands of a Subaltern. The Admiral sees; speaks the executive word and the whole Fleet moves; not, as with us, each Commander carrying out the order in his own way, but each Captain steaming, firing, retiring to the letter of the signal. In the Navy the man at the gun, the man at the helm, the man sending up shells in the hoist has no discretion unless indeed the gear goes wrong, and he has to use his wits to put it right again. With us the infantry scout, a boy in his teens perhaps, may have to decide whether to open fire, to lie low or to fall back; whether to bring on a battle or avoid it. But the Fleet to-day is working like an army; the ships are widely scattered each one on its own, except in so far as wireless may serve, and that is why I say de Robeck is working under conditions just as unusual to him as mine are to me.

My station is up in the conning tower with de Robeck. The conning tower is a circular metal chamber, like a big cooking pot. Here we are, all eyes, like potatoes in the cooking pot aforesaid, trying to peep through a slit where the lid is raised a few inches, ad hoc, as these blasted politicians like to say. My Staff are not with me in this holy of holies, but are stowed away in steel towers or jammed into 6-inch batteries.

So we kept moving along and at 4.30 a.m. were off Sedd-el-Bahr. All quiet and grey. Thence we steamed for Gaba Tepe and midway, about 5 o'clock, heard a very heavy fire from Helles behind us. The Turks are putting up some fight. Now we are off Gaba Tepe! (Anzac landing, ed)

The day was just breaking over the jagged hills; the sea was glassy smooth; the landing of the lads from the South was in full swing; the shrapnel was bursting over the water; the patter of musketry came creeping out to sea; we are in for it now; the machine guns muttered as through chattering teeth—up to our necks in it now. But would we be out of it? No; not one of us; not for five hundred years stuffed full of dullness and routine.

By 5.35 the rattle of small arms quieted down; we heard that about 4,000  fighting men had been landed (probably the 3rd Brigade,ed); we could see boat-loads making for the land; swarms trying to straighten themselves out along the shore; other groups digging and hacking down the brushwood. Even with our glasses they did not look much bigger than ants. God, one would think, cannot see them at all or He would put a stop to this sort of panorama altogether. And yet, it would be a pity if He missed it; for these fellows have been worth the making. They are not charging up into this Sari Bair range for money or by compulsion. They fight for love—all the way from the Southern Cross for love of the old country and of liberty. Wave after wave of the little ants press up and disappear. We lose sight of them the moment they lie down. Bravo! every man on our great ship longs to be with them. But the main battle called. The Admiral was keen to take me when and where the need might most arise. So we turned South and steamed slowly back along the coast to Cape Helles (where the British and French forces have landed, ed).

For a full description of these events I would recommend the reader to Chapter 12 of Bean's Official History.  It is quite easy to follow and you will find the link here

You may also wish to watch this from The Anzac's, the mini series. It is the ill fated landing by the 8th Battalion at Anzac Cove on the 25th.  The link is here

The ABC has also prepared an excellent interactive site covering the landing at ANZAC.  You find the link here

The 1st Battalion and Jack Reilly were very busy for the next few days until withdrawn from the line on April 29.  There were no entries in their diaries until then.  Our next post will be on the 29th to give the battalion and Jack time to get on with their business.  It will also give the reader time to absorb some of the material above.  On the 29th we will also discuss the fate of Jack and his mates.

This project is dedicated to the memory of all who served in war.  Lest we forget!

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