Monday, 20 April 2015

The ANZAC Plan

A century ago the ANZACs were preparing to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula, north of Gaba Tepe, while the British and French were planning to land at the mouth of the Dardenelles at Cape Helles and Kum Kale.
The British 29th Division was to land at the beaches code named S, V, W, X and Y.

They were planning to land on the 23rd of April 1915, as this would give the Covering Force more time to land safely in the darkness between moon set and dawn. The threat of enfilading fire on the landing beach from Gaba Tepe concerned General Birdwood, so this would be mitigated by landing in darkness.
Then on the 20th of April, a strong storm blew in and kicked up the water in Mudros Harbour. It became too dangerous for the the required transfers between the troopships, so the landing was put off.
Now they waited for the wind to die down. With each succeeding day the moon set later and reduced the time of darkness for the landing of the Covering Force. If they waited too long the moon would set after dawn and there would be no chance of surprising the waiting Turks. Birdwood's plan would be ruined. He waited anxiously.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Preparations for the Anzac Landing

100 years ago - the Allied forces (British and French) gathered in Mudros harbour, Lemnos Island and prepared for the upcoming invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula.

This drawing shows the beach  with low ridges behind, where the Anzac Covering Force was supposed to land. It also shows Gaba Tepe on the right like a fort covered with steep grassy slopes, topped by trenches and barbed wire. The position of Gaba Tepe made the planners anxious because of its potential to expose the landing force to Ottoman enfilade fire.

Friday, 3 April 2015

4th April 1915

In Egypt one hundred years ago, on the 4th of April 1915, the 1st Australian Division and the units of New Zealand Expeditionary Force who combined to make the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were at this commencing to sail northwards across the Mediterranean Sea from Alexandria. Their destination was Lemnos Island. (Much of this is covered on page 15 of my book.)

NZ's and Australian's confront the Redcaps at "The Battle of the Wozza"
The long awaited orders to move to the Front had finally arrived on the 1st of April. After the “Battle of the Wozzer” described in an earlier post (herethe soldiers got on with the task of dismantling their tents and organising their gear for transport to Alexandria. Piles of kit bags, etc grew beside the road at Mena and Zeitoun. The once busy areas occupied by these units were now deserted. Arab shopkeepers who had set up their shops outside the camps (an occurrence still happening today outside our camps overseas) looked on bewildered, as the respective areas were tidied, emu bobbed and the rubbish burnt in big pits.  The members of the Australian Light Horse and NZ Mounted Rifles asked enthusiastically when they would be going as well. But all they got was a shake of the head; for, at this moment, only the infantry brigades were moving. Men who had been using excuses to exempt themselves from certain duties (malingering) were seen to be lining up in front of their unit RAP’s in the hope of being found fit to go with their units. Nobody wanted to miss out on the adventure, and get away from Egypt.

Troops embarking at Alexandria.
Throughout the night and morning of the 3rd of April as the time for the first few units to move arrived, the men formed up and marched off to the Cairo train station. It took four days to move the entire 1st Division from Mena Camp, leaving only the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, the 4th Light Horse Regiment, and a few other small units.

The news was splashed across the Cairo newspapers. Security was out the door. The whole world, including the enemy, soon new that ANZAC was moving. The men crammed onto troop trains at Cairo and were soon enroute to Alexandria. The British and French navies so dominated the Mediterranean that the ships sailed without an escort.

This proved to be sufficient, for there were not many instances where the Allied troop movements were threatened. On one occasion however on the 17 April, as the SS Manitou, carrying British 29th Division artillery units, was a day out from Lemnos, a Turkish torpedo boat, the Timur Hissar, slipped through the “net” and drew alongside. It was a time when chivalry still existed; a Turkish voice shouted “I’ll give you ten minutes to leave the ship, then I will sink you.” With that the troops aboard began to hastily man the life boats.
One boat with sixty men aboard crashed heavily into the sea smashing itself to pieces and 53 men drowned. As it turned out the Turkish torpedo boat fired three torpedoes and they all missed, then some British destroyers arrived and chased it off.

Thus it was that ANZAC was taking the last steps towards its ultimate fate.