continued from Part 2….

The Landing……continued
Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt (pages 44-60).

Opposite MacLaurin’s Hill on Sunday afternoon a file of men was seen proceeding along the front at a range of about 150 yards. Immediately they came into view the cry passed along the line, “Don’t shoot; they are Indians.” Fire was withheld for a few minutes, but Major Brown decided to renew the attack. It was known to him that there were no Indians with the Australian Troops.

Early in the night a verbal message passed along the line to the effect that British troops were now behind the Turks, and warning the Australians to refrain from firing. This message created a great deal of enthusiasm among some, but a feeling only of distrust in others, because the Turkish fire never slackened. Soon it was quite obvious that the message was false, and the belief spread in the firing line that the message was merely a ruse on the part of the enemy, who had been clever enough to make contact somewhere and cause it to be relayed. Similar messages were received in other parts of the line. At Courtney’s Post at about 9 p.m. a message was passed along purporting to come from the commanding officer, Colonel Owen. This was to the effect: “Indian scouts are going out in front. Do not fire at them.”

Sergeant Keith Martyn recalled this particular incident: “Shortly afterwards, ” he said, “a line of men in extended order rose in front if us and an order came from the left not to fire. The leader, a few paces in front of the others, happened to be directly in front of my position, and turned, to wave to the others. As he did so, the manner in which his greatcoat was fastened to his pack gave me the clue to the identity of these troops. I called on those in my vicinity for rapid fire, and this was commenced all along the line. Most of those advancing were shot down. Needless to say we kept the ground in front of us well sprayed with rifle during the remainder of the night.”

“Shortly after, I heard a commotion in the pit on our right flank. Going to investigate, I found several Turks in the pit with their arms thrown down, and about 20 or 30 just below the pit, evidently similarly intentioned. As our garrison was very small I gave the corporal in charge instructions to keep the Turks covered while I went back to battalion headquarters to get a party to take charge of the prisoners. I passed Sergeant Bob McLelland, who was among those dug in between the lines and the cliff. On my telling him what was going on he said he would go down and keep an eye on things.”

At battalion headquarters, Sergeant Martyn was directed to apply to brigade headquarters. Failing to locate brigade headquarters, he returned to his original position to find that as a result of the delay the Turks had become restive. Several of our men in the rear had opened fire on the party, whereupon the Turks had returned fire and bolted. In the confusion several Australians were hit, including Bob McLelland, who was shot through the stomach, the wound proving fatal.

At Wire Gully Lieut G. E. McDonald succeeded in capturing a Turkish officer who was endeavouring to approach his post on the pretence of being an Indian. Corporal Harry Allen, Private J. Towers, and a few others – men who had served as “regulars” in India – were of great assistance during the “Indian” scare. Able to speak Hindustani, they were in a position to challenge the bona fides of those out in front.

The fighting near Wire Gully was of a particularly desperate nature. As Lieut McDonald scambled through the bushes below MacLaurin’s Hill, he first caught sightof the Turks through his glasses from the little dip between what ultimately came to be known as Steele’s Post and Johnston’s Jolly. This officer was quick to size up the situation. Major Brown and Captain McConaghy with the men under their command were crowded on the hilltop to McDonald’s left, and, anticipating that this platoon would not be required there McDonald dived down Wire Gully, ensconced himself in a little water-course, and established a post that was destined to play one of the post important parts in the fight that was to follow.

This little post in Wire Gully was peopled throughout its short but-all-important existence by men of all brigades. Perhaps no other isolated position on the whole of the Peninsula suffered more, or put up a more heroic defence. Exhausted and isolated parties of all brigades were lying out in the scrub, and there appeared to be little hope of their hanging on. Behind, and to the left of McDonald’s Post in Wire Gully, towered the heights of Maclaurin’s Hill, packed with men of the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Brigades, all in the state of anxiety induced by the uncertainty of the immediate future. Just as twilight came to the Gallipoli scrub, there was a great movement of troops in the gullies below where McDonald with his handful of men lay hidden. As indicated previously, the spirits of the assaulting troops in places had been raised during the day by whispers of help from Indian regiments presumed to have landed with the 29th Division farther south.

Now from out of the approaching darkness came voices shouting: “For God’s sake don’t shoot: we are Indians.” It was a critical moment. All that could be seen were shadows moving  in the scrub. McDonalds and his men lay with bayonets fixed, sceptical [sic] but not not daring to fire. Crouching law, the better to get a silhouette against the now fading light, McDonald was a tall officer undoubtedly in the uniform of a Turk. Quick to realize the significance, he grabbed a rifle, and, by gentle persuasion of the bayonet, brought the Turk in, but unfortunately not before his prisoner had given some rapid monosyllable instructions to the figures moving about in the scrub behind him. Then did McDonald realize that his suspicions had been well-grounded. The Turks had planned a counter-attack through Wire Gully, in the guise of Indian Troops.

As his little company poured volley after volley into the scrub at short range, there came frantic cries from the Australian line above, exhorting him to stop firing. “You are firing on Indian troops.” Shouting back the information that the supposed Indians were Turks, the by now more slender garrison rapidly slipped and slammed the bolts in their almost red-hot rifles.

It was indeed a stroke of fortune for the precariously placed Australian invaders that this tony “battle out-post” stood in the way of the advancing pseudo-Indians. Had it not been there, and had not Lieut McDonald acted with promptitude, the odds are that some hundreds of Turks – who could guess the number – would have penetrated unobserved through Wire Gully, and by morning the Australians would have been fighting both in their front and rear. It was a cruel circumstance that, after sticking so tenaciously and bravely to his key-post until Tuesday, McDonald should have his arm badly shattered by Turkish bullets.

On the left flank, in the vicinity of the Bloody Angle, Private Markovitch relates that he went out to ascertain what the troops were to the front. Another rumour had gained currency that the French were approaching. Arriving at a spot where he could discern a semi-circle of men in a prone position, he called out in French, “Who are you?” “Troops of the Ottoman,” came the answer. Markovitch dashed back to his own lines, and the order was “rapid fire.”

Throughout the first night there was much confusion as a result of the multitude of false orders and baseless rumours of the nature that has been indicated being passed along and discussed in the line. *
[* footnote: Some men were seen out in front who said they were Indian scouts. I was told by Captain Wilson to investigate and was about to go and see who the men were when one turned and ran. At once a fusillade of bullets swept them all over. We roared “Cease fire”, but all had been shot. One man, Foley, went out and brought in a body to satisfy me that they they were Turks. There was no doubt – Extract from the diary of Lieut-Col. O. G. Howell-Price.]

The battalion machine-gunners had their share of the fighting. On the Sunday the section, consisting of two guns, operated from Plugge’s Plateau, where Lance-Corporal Thomas Wilson was shot through the head. He was carried into an enclosure, formerly used as a sheep-pen by the Turks, where he was given every aid, but his wound proved fatal.

When night fell both guns were pushed out in front of Steele’s Post, in anticipation of an attack at dawn on the Monday. As the attack did not materialize, the guns were withdrawn just before daylight.

During the process of digging in, three gunners of A section and five of B were wounded. Lieut T. H. Evans displayed great gallantry in effecting the rescue of several of these men. A score or so of bullets found a billet in the water-jacket of one of the guns, and it was rendered useless. However, repairs were speedily effected, and the gun was back in service again at 4 p.m. on the first day.

Lest We Forget

Advertisements