Letters capture chaos of Gallipoli landing

Written by admin on 30/07/2019 Categories: 佛山桑拿

The chaos, carnage and confusion of the Gallipoli landings is vividly described in letters to home by the Australian soldiers who were there.


They were often reproduced in their local newspapers, which would ask families to send in soldiers’ letters.

“Hot” is a word that crops up often as the men describe the fire they came under as they were towed to shore in open boats and dashed towards the steep, scrubby hills on Sunday April 25, 1915.

“When the boats touched shore we immediately jumped out, and, running about 150 yards, took up a position, where we lay, subjected a very heavy fire from the Turks. There was no going back – we simply had to push on,” Lieutenant Harold Holmes Walker, of the 11th Battalion, told his mother in Perth.

“I was only half an hour in the firing line when I was shot.”

Captain Ernest Hilmer Smith, a Tasmanian in the 12th Battalion, described his “warm welcome”:

“There was no time or opportunity of organising, we just had to climb up hills – something like those round the Cataract Gorge, only much steeper, and covered with prickly scrub, which tore our clothes and hands.

“On landing we were raked with shrapnel from Gaba Tepe, a fort about one mile to our right, and from machine guns about 600 yards on our left.

“Our casualties during the first hour were very heavy.”

According to Corporal Elmer Laing, a Perth man in the 12th Battalion, the shots from the enemy as his group waited off-shore “sounded like hailstones on a tin roof as they rattled against the destroyer”.

He added: “We hopped into the rowing boats as quickly as possiblfe; the pinnace took us in tow; and off we went towards the shore under a perfect hail of bullets and shrapnel. Before we reached the shore we had six casualties in our boat, and before we could get landed two more. So you see that it was pretty hot.”

Laing and his section took off their packs and moved towards the left flank with some of the 11th Battalion men.

The Turks “did not wait for us”, he added, and the cliffs were “unclimbable in places”.

Halfway up Laing met his battalion’s 57-year-old commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Lancelot Fox Clarke, and offered to carry his pack.

“We advanced about one mile and a half due east of our landing place, and found the Turks holding a ridge in great strength. So we lay down, and opened fire. I was alongside the colonel, and had just given him his pack and got down again, when, `zipp’ a bullet got him in the body; he was dead in a minute.

“Major Elliott was sent for. He had been there only two seconds when he was hit. Another officer came up – and he was hit. The adjutant was hit, and also the man on the other side of the colonel.

“I was only half an hour in the firing line when I was shot.”

Private Harold Rockliffe, of the 11th Battalion, claimed he’d been in the first boat to land. Before long he’d copped “a shot across the back”.

He wrote: “I was unlucky to get hit, because the Turks are awful shots. Captain Annear was killed while landing. Don’t mind my being wounded, because I am really enjoying myself in Malta.”

According to Private Ernest Higham, of the 11th Battalion, “a perfect hail of bullets” rained down as his boat neared shore and the cliffs were “very slippery”.

His group “fixed bayonets and crept forward through the bushes and up the few available cracks and crevices in the cliffs”.

He added: “We advanced about two miles and a half, but afterwards had to retire a bit, so as to get into proper formation. The fire was terrific. They used explosive, as well as ordinary bullets, dumdums, and 1in pom-poms and threw in shrapnel in tons…

“Outside the shrapnel our greatest trouble was snipers, who hid in the bushes even after we had passed where they were, and shot at us from behind. You would be watching a bush when all of a sudden you would see it start to crawl away; of course, you had a pot at it then. They had bushes tied to them.”

Private James Kannane, a South Australia in the 12th Battalion, said his group got to the ridge, then “had to be there flat, our heads buried in the ground, with the bullets thick as rain pouring in on us. Our casualties were very heavy. Nearly all our officers and non-coms were killed or wounded. However, I came out alive, only getting a bullet in the heel of my boot. It is still there.”

Private John Scott of the 7th Battalion, told his family in Yarraville, Victoria he had landed at 4.30am.

“I can tell you it was hell upon earth… When we got close to land we had to jump over the side with a pick and shovel in one hand and our rifle in the other and scramble ashore, and I can tell you it was something terrible.

“Out of nearly every boat load that got to shore, fully one third were sent back in the same boats, wounded.”

But he ended on a cheerful note: “Tell the girls at Yarraville I’ll show them a new Turkey Trot when I get back.”

Records indicate that Pte Scott did indeed return home in July 1917, however he had suffered a hernia so it is unclear whether he was able to return to the dance floor.

But there was sadness amid all the boys-own description.

Private Jack Powley, also in the 7th Battalion, told his parents of the death of his brother Charles:

“He was shot when we were landing on the beach, and I was by his side. No words can tell how broken-hearted I am. He was shot through the head, and I knelt down beside him to say ‘Goodbye,’ but Charlie did not answer me. He died without pain. You must try to bear this awful blow for the sake of me, his lonely brother.”

Comments Off on Letters capture chaos of Gallipoli landing