NEW ZEALAND MOUNTED RIFLES

BETWEEN THE LINES Part 2

Continuation of the letters and Diary from Corporal Roderick McCandlish.

Compiled by Great Nephew ROSS McCANDLISH.


SITE MAP

 

BACK TO PART ONE

 

 



In the darkness of that night, the troops transferred to destroyers that came alongside. They struggled with their heavy equipment down the gangways to board, and were then whisked away closer to the distant shoreline.
As they neared, the staccato became a ceaseless rattle and even before they began to transfer to the lighters for the final part of the journey, bullets were plopping into the water around them. The intensity of the noise increased as they approached the stranded barge, used as a temporary jetty, at Anzac Cove. Miraculously only a few men were hit, before they were able to form up on the beach. The 1500 men of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles had arrived at last. (The Wellington Mounted Rifles contingent was comprised of 25 Officers and 451 other ranks.)

They stood silent or spoke in subdued murmurs, as the roar of rifle fire by now had made ordinary conversation impossible. The intensity of the firing from the hills above illuminated the beachhead. Great piles of stores, munitions, water carts, mules and men covered the narrow beach. Many began to wonder what  they had got themselves into.

Finally the brigade was marched northwards around the end of Ari Burnu and into Reserve Gully. Like most of the Gallipoli countryside, Reserve Gully was a steep sided; clay ravine covered by low scrub. As best they could, they chose a spot to rest on the slopes, and despite the din, managed to get some sleep.

Gallipoli here we come.

 

(Thur 13th May) - Fine day. Orders cam for us to go into the trenches. Marched up a very steep hill onto Walkers Ridge. Was put into the trenches. Saw snipers at work. Enemy trenches 50 yards away. Australians in between. Very difficult to know what to fire at.
By the light of the rising sun, the newcomers awoke to take in the newfound scenery.  A long sweeping beach was lapped by beautiful clear water. On the narrow coastal plain, patches of green trees led off into the scrub of the steep cliffs and ravines inland. Littered at their feet though were pieces of shrapnel and shell casings, a sign that the place was indeed dangerous territory. The Turkish artillery gave them a “welcome” after breakfast, with a few salvos of shrapnel, which quickly shattered any illusions.
Roderick's section was the first to move that morning and they scaled the steep face of Walkers Ridge in the heat of the blistering sun, carrying their arms and provisions, The climb up to the plateau of Russells Top was taxing but they finally reached the entrance to the trenches and moved along them to their position, which they occupied by midday. As they passed other troopers on their journey they were given light hearted banter  -“where’s your spurs?” or” lend us a curry comb” were not uncommon remarks.


The entrance to the trenches Russell's Top.
They were placed in No 4 Section   at the right hand side of Russell’s Top. This part of the trench system was separated from the enemy by a deep ravine on their right to a promontory called ‘Popes’. Beyond this, along the crest line at the head of Monash Valley could be seen the frontline fighting positions of Quinn’s Post, Courtney’s Post and Steele’s Post. To their rear was a precipitous 700-foot cliff.  Sight seeing though would have drawn accurate sniper fire, as the Turks occupied sections of Dead Mans Ridge not far away.

Anzac Cove  - 1915

   Looking North.

 

 

 

The headland of Aru Burnu in the distance.

 

Troops having a swim around one of the jetties.

They were later to view the area using periscopes made from pieces of looking glasses on sticks about 18 inches long That was until accurate sniper fire shattered their view. Any large attacks were going to come from the direction of the Nek, which was to Roderick’s left, and the Auckland Mounted Rifles regiment was currently holding this position.

They settled themselves in for their stay, sheltering from the blazing sun with blankets and oil-sheets. Many stripped down to the bare essentials because of the heat. Despite the atrocious smell and army of flies, they bunkered down to await any action. Between the odd shot, they wrote letters or played cards.

The trenches were anything but clean, and flies swarmed everywhere, preying on the bodies lying out in no-mans land. Enemy snipers were active, and care had to be taken, as the Regiment strengthened and repaired the trenches and dugouts for the inevitable attack. The Turks were in considerable strength opposite Russell's Top, and they had made a resolve to drive the Anzacs into the sea. Their machineguns and rifles poured a continuous hail of bullets into the sandbag parapets, both day and night.

On this day back in Whangaehu, Roderick’s sister Jean was celebrating her 20th birthday.
(Fri 14 May) – Fine day. Came out of the fire trench into the reserve ones. Had a very easy day resting most of the time.

The regiment continued to improve the trench system and worked day and night. The stench from many dead bodies in advanced stages of decomposition on no-mans-land rendered the work most disagreeable however. One of the fatigue duties entailed going down to the Cove and carrying back the much-needed water in heavy kerosene tins.  Initially all the water (a half gallon being available for each man per day) was brought by barge from Malta and Alexandria.
The rations (bully beef, biscuits, cheese, jam and tea) were brought to the men on the backs of mules. Unfortunately the burning heat, accompanied by nauseating smells and plagues of flies meant that the meat was almost entirely discarded, owing to the thirst it caused, and the cheese melted. Biscuits and jam with a tin of tea comprised the usual meal, and even these could not be relished, as most often flies followed them into the men's mouths.

(Sat 15 May) - Fine day. Went into the fire trench had a good time. Helped to improve the trenches, which were full of officers most of the time. Our artillery got in a lot of good work. Saw trenches and Turks blown to blazes.

From his position at Russell’s Top, Roderick had a clear view over Monash Valley. It was up this valley that the Anzac troops moved from the Cove to the forward trenches of Quinn’s Post, Courtney’s, and Steels Post, dodging behind sandbagged protection as they went. The closest to him would have been the steep ridge position of Quinn’s Post.

The view Roderick would have seen from the right of Russells Top –(taken in 1997)

Deadmans           Steels &

       Popes      Waterfall Gully                                                    Quinns Post        Ridge          Coutneys Post

                   Monash Valley


 

It was said that men passing below in Monash Valley looked up at Quinn’s Post as a man looks at a haunted house. No rest, no sleep, flies, lice and rats. The Turks constantly lobbed bombs down onto the Anzacs below in their sandbag living area. There was no rest from the din of battle.
He would have been able to see Turkish snipers making there way down the slope of Dead Man’s Ridge, as they positioned themselves to fire into the flank of Quinn’s Post

(Sun 16 May) - Fine. Came out of the fire trench this morning. Was on water fatigue. Was sitting down in a road when several shells burst near and buried Scotty McMinn sitting alongside- was a very narrow escape.

Scotty was Archibald Huie McMinn 23, who had enlisted in Wellington, but whose parents lived in Campbelltown Argyll, Scotland. The McCandlish / Telfer’s had emigrated to New Zealand from Ayrshire in Scotland, just a short distance from where Scotty was born.
The water carried in Kerosene tins, often left the taste of the previous ingredient in the water. A kerosene tin of water seemed to weigh about a ton by the time they got to the top as the climb was up a hill 800 feet high.

A proud kiwi sits in front of his dugout. The name

 of his home town above the door –‘Whangamomona’.

Nightly some 720 gallons were moved in this way from the 30 wells that had been sunk near the beaches. Eventually these wells were unable to supply enough water for the 25,000 troops and 100s of mules, and so water barges were towed from Alexandria and Malta. Later a steam pump was set up at the beach, which pumped water through pipes to holding tanks closer to the front lines. The daily ration was so small that a wash or a shave was out of the question. Cleaning teeth, and a drink was the limit.

(Mon 17 May) – Fine day. Was moved out into the reserve trenches. Was one of a party put into an observation post. Could get a good view of the Australian position. Just before I went on duty at midnight, a Turk fired a shot into the post from a few yards distant. About an hour after, when I was standing up, a shot was fired over the bank but missed. Caused some excitement. Went down to the beach for a bathe. There was an unsuccessful attack on the Australian position .

Bathing was by far the greatest pleasure available. It gave relief from the flies, heat and dust, and the men took the opportunity to place their clothes in the shallows under a stone to help get rid of the lice. Even though there were plenty more back at “home” awaiting their return. Lice made one feel itchy all over the body and a lot of time was spent hunting for them in the seams and corners of ones clothing. Taking a dip was always dangerous, as they often encouraged the odd Turk shell. It was when the Turk snipers got to work on the swimmers though; it was time to make a quick withdrawal. There were casualties over time, but the Command wisely decided that the benefits justified them.

(Tue 18 May) –Fine day. Was shifted out of the post. Had the whole day off. Scotty and I went down to the beach, had a bathe and strolled around the HQ’s and had a look around generally. Warships were blowing up a village – they did put the shots into some. Reported that reinforcements for Turks were there.

The battleship ‘Lord Nelson’ delighted all beholders by turning her big guns on to approaching enemy reinforcements near the village of Kuchuk Anafarta. All along the coast line the ships joined in, until every village behind the line, and every road running towards Helles and Anzac, was swathed in dust and flame. The Turk retaliated with guns blazing, and their shooting was good.  One Australian 18-pr. was put out of action by a direct hit. The approach was delayed, but with the darkness, on they came again.

(Wed 19 May) – Fine. Slept in the trench in all gear – in early morning was hurried off to reinforce the Auckland position, but the Turks gave up the ghost to fight. Saw a number of wounded men coming down the trench. 400 Turks came up a valley, Aucklander’s let them go, Canterbury’s opened fire, they turned, and Aucklander’s killed every man. Prepared to make an attack on Turk trenches. Was ordered out of sap and lay under heavy fire. Hell to pay over it.

The monotony of the week was broken when shortly after midnight; 42,000 Turks mounted a strong attack against the 12,500 Anzacs. Near Roderick they charged across the area known as the Nek, in an effort to drive the infidels into the sea. Behind his position were sheer 700 feet cliffs, so retreat was nigh impossible. It was “ either hold the line or die”. As the rifle, bomb, and machine gun fire echoed across the terrain, the Wellington Mounteds were called out to support the main position on their left, as wave after wave of Turkish troops threw themselves against the Canterbury and Auckland positions. The Mounteds were totally outnumbered by the charge, but by the careful placement of their Machine guns, the brave Turks were mowed down by the thousands.

Due to the flanking position that Roderick was in, his section was not directly attacked, even though the men were looking for a chance to prove their might. The attack of this night was a turning point in the way the Anzacs viewed the Turkish soldier. He was now seen as a bold, brave and capable fighter They had come at the entire Anzac lines 42,000 strong but only a few hours later some 3000 lay dead in no mans land. At Courtney’s Post they had gained control of some forward trenches, but after some bitter hand-to-hand fighting the Australians had regained their position. It was during this fighting that the Australian Albert Jacka was to receive his VC.

The day of battle was not yet over for the Wellington’s though. Acting on orders from General Godley, 100 officers and men from Roderick's squadron were instructed to counter attack two lines of trenches at the Nek about 100 yards distant It was considered by all occupants of the trenches, that the order was an impossible one. The ground that had to be crossed was devoid of cover, and the enemy could rake it with machinegun fire. Heavy losses were inevitable, if not a total annihilation .

Life in the trenches, Australians at Russell's Top.

Even so the troops were ordered to prepare to engage the enemy and were ordered out of the trench and lay under heavy fire for sometime. The intensity of the incoming fire was so great that a senior officer telephoned General Godley and informed him of the circumstances. Fortunately this time the order was countermanded, and Roderick lived to see another day.

The men of the Australian Light Horse were not so lucky though, when they charged this same position a few months later.
On this day the British submarine E11 passes unnoticed through the Dardanelle Straits into the Sea of Marama.

(Thur 20 May) – Fine. Lay out on the road ready to reinforce any point attacked. Mules carrying ammunition were walking over us. At one o’clock we were marched off to relieve some Auckland troops in No 4 sap. In the evening an enemy under white flag approached. After some parleying, they were given two minutes to clear out as the enemy were massing troops, and the white flag people were dragging rifles with their feet.  The sap was reinforced and supplied with more ammunition, but no more action came. While the parleying was going on a machine gun was put in to enfilade our trench, but we put it out of action.

.(Fri. 21 May) – Fine day. Was up all night on account of an attack on our position, but our trench was not attacked possibly because we did not give the armistice the others did. Enemy massed troops and instead of burying the dead, stripped them of arms and ammunition. On fatigue carrying water – came out of trench at 2. Had a feed and went to sleep. Our infantry joined us today. Our guns did a lot of firing last night. Had usual dose of shelling.
Down on the beach there was a bit of excitement as a Turkish General was brought in under a white flag of truce. He was blindfolded during his journey, and came for an interview with the Allied Commanders regarding an armistice to bury their dead.
A ‘usual dose of shelling’ was up to 600 shells a day falling out of the sky somewhere among the troops defending the position. This could be onto the frontlines, the dugouts where they slept, the latrines and the supply depots. Very few places were safe.
(Sat 22 May) – Raining in morning. All the ships moved away from Anchorage- submarines about. Things very quiet, two or three hit with shrapnel. Made up for lost sleep in spite of rain making things uncomfortable. Went into fire trench at 7 o’clock. Turks position altered since last here. Australians have taken a lot of trenches.
At night, men huddled together in the bottom of trenches among the dust and the lice, and relied on the sentries to warn of attacks. Occasionally a Turkish sniper would creep forward, in order to get into such a position as to fire along the trench line (to enfilade). This often caused casualties, quite a commotion and many expletives from the fellows. Most of the time however, the thousands of bullets that passed overhead or hit the parapet were completely ignored. There was so much lead flying around that the troops became fairly blasé to it singing through the air. Away from the front line, spent bullets in all parts of the battlefield area hit and wounded men.
Sun 23 May) – Fine day. Very heavy cannonading by warships, they surprised a Turkish Camp. Enemy submarine sank today – one warship went aground while firing at Turks. Two miners are putting in a sap to enfilade the trench. Living on bully beef and biscuits now. Plenty of everything to eat now.
During the night as HMS Albion was shelling Turkish positions, she beached on a sandbank off Gaba Tepe, and came under heavy fire from Turkish shore batteries. About 200 fragmentation shells hit her, but they were unable to penetrate her armour and did no serious
damage.
Efforts were made to free her by reducing her weight, and by using the recoil of firing her main guns simultaneously. Finally her sister ship HMS Canopus towed her to safety. Although there were only 12 casualties, the Albion left the area for repairs and a refit at Malta.

Food was abundant but monotonous. Bully beef was salty and stringy; and the cheese smelt and ran like yellow lava in the heat.  Bacon was the same as the beef, although it made an excellent “slush” fuel for the lamps in the bivvy’s. Biscuits were so hard that they could break teeth, and the marmalade could not be spread on them because the flies covered the food before it reached the mouth. Those same flies that moments before spent half their time on rotten leftover food and human excrement, and the other half of their time on open wounds and decaying corpses. If you were lucky this could all be washed down with a mug of dirty water.
(Mon 24 May) –Very dull, small showers. Armistice from 7am to 4pm to bury dead – estimated ten dead Turks to one of ours. The boundary was marked by white flags, and each ones dead was taken to the line. Lots of Turks inclined to surrender. Firing started again in the evening.
The armistice was granted at the request of the Turkish Command, whose dead lay in their thousands between the lines of opposing trenches The day started with fifty Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers from each side marking out a demarcation line in the centre of no-mans-land with small white calico flags. At 10 o’clock, demarcation was complete and the soldiers from both sides cautiously at first scrambled out of their trenches and sat up on the parapet.

For a brief period they experienced the uncanny sensation of safety. It also gave the troops a chance to see where they were, and how their trenches were located with respect to the enemy.

They started to realise the limited extent of their gains since the landing. In the drizzle, the burying parties struggled with their stretchers and shovels over the greasy clay tracks trying to carry the enemies dead to the centre line. “They were lying as thick as sheep in a yard” said a trooper.
On a small area of land in front of Roderick’s fire trench lay 3000 Turkish dead, all of who had been lying out in the hot sun for five days. The smell from decaying bodies was horrific.  It was soon realised that proper burial was out of the question and that there were too many of the enemy dead to carry to the centreline. The Anzac chaplains were busy searching for identity discs and reading the burial services for those bodies they could find.  In some parts of the line, men mingled with Johnny Turk and exchanges were made with biscuits, bread and cigarettes. By 4pm all participants had returned to their trenches, and for a half hour, deathly silence reigned.
Sharp at 4.30pm it all ended, and a tremendous volley from both sides marked the return to normality. Thus ended one of the strangest days in the history of the campaign.
(Tue 25 May) – Fine. In fire trench until after 1 o’clock. - Relieved by Australian Light Horse. Rained like blazes. Came down a slippery hill then climbed up a slope and made dugouts. Was on fatigue. Warship off the landing torpedoed at 11pm. All ships cleared out then.
The battleship HMS Triumph was bombarding Turkish positions around Gaba Tepe, when despite the use of protective nets and watertight doors; she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-21 under the command of Lieutenant Hersing. The Anzac troops looking down onto this scene from the hills above were dismayed to see the large vessel list to one side and sink within thirty minutes. Fortunately the order to abandon ship was given early and only 73 of her crew of 600 were lost.
This was one of a series of sinkings by U-boats, and it forced the Navy to pull its battleships out of the danger zone. The whole scene had a demoralizing effect on the embattled troops and the disaster cast a gloom over Anzac. Men sat up in their trenches that night and cursed the Hun and his allies.  The support destroyers in the area quickly tried to hunt down the sub but it escaped to sink the HMS Majestic off Cape Helles two days later.
After the war it was learnt that Captain Hersing had placed his sub under the Triumph before she sunk, thus avoiding detection. The skill of her captain made the U-21 one of the most successful German submarines of WW 1 with 36 ships sunk. She survived the war and after the Armistice was being escorted from Germany to England when Hersing ordered that the boats sea valves be opened and she was scuttled in the North Sea.
The British also had active submarines in the area. The E11 on this day torpedoed a Turkish transport vessel in the Bhosphorus Sea, which caused a panic in Constantinople.
(Wed 26 May) – Fine day. Called up at 6am to go on fatigue, helping to improve the road up the hill. Was relieved at 1pm, came home and helped improve dugout. Had a bathe in the sea, and a washing day. Snipers got about thirty Light Horse and some NZ boys. The Turks put a lot of shrapnel into our camp in the evening, killing and wounding 5 of ours, and 2 of 2nd Squadron. Lots of Australians landed, some hit. Reported submarine sunk.
During the shelling by the Turks in the evening a friend of Roderick’s was killed. He was Trooper Neil Campion 11/32, aged 22yr; a son of Alexander and Margaret Campion of Longburn, near Palmerston North. He is buried at Ari Burnu Point Cemetery, at Anzac Cove.

In the late afternoon, Turkish snipers opened fire down Monash Valley from a new trench near the Nek. They wounded or killed over 50 men until a field gun was able to locate their position and knock out the trench. Four destroyers came into Anzac Cove and off-loaded reinforcements. The Turkish guns found their mark, and many men were lost before making it ashore. As a result of this, all daytime landings were ceased, and man and beast had to come ashore at night.
(Thur 27 May) – Fine day. Slept in until seven, no fatigues today, had two bathes, helped improve dugout. Patrol brought in five refugees from Turks. They had been made work fifteen hours a day digging trenches. Got rifle repaired.
The battleship HMS Majestic, while stationed off Cape Helles, was sunk by the German submarine U-21. A single torpedo, fired through the defensive screen of destroyers and anti-torpedo nets, hit its mark. There was a huge explosion, and within nine minutes, the ship had capsized in 54 feet of water killing 49 men.

Her masts hit the sea bottom and her upturned hull remained visible for many months, until it finally submerged during a storm in November.

HMS Triumph going under.
Fri 28 May – Fine. Had an easy day, two bathes and nothing to do. Fell in at 7.30 - 200 rounds and 24 hrs rations. Canterbury’s took Turk trench and we dug in under fire. Chamberlain hit. Fast and furious work, and very bad digging. Very bad position, fired on from all sides. Turks bolted from trench, Canterbury lost, killed and five wounded, including Dr Guthrie.
Inland from No 2 Outpost, along the end of a ridge, was a small Turkish outpost where snipers had been active, causing severe casualties among the Anzacs. During the evening a squadron of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles crept up a dry watercourse, and at the point of the bayonet, captured the Turkish high ground position.
Following up behind at 10pm, Roderick’s company, then had the job of holding the position and improving the existing trenches, whilst under fire from the hills around. The sandbags they had been given were found to be unsuitable for the job, and were useless for defensive purposes. They however dug through the night and hunkered down for the inevitable attack at dawn.
(Sat 29 May) – Fine. Occupied newly made trenches until late at night. Under rifle fire all day, position heavily shelled in afternoon. Relieved by ninth who were split up. Searchlight turned on us, and post had a shot at us. 2nd Squad were called out to help the ninth, were attacked. The2nd were cut up, and ninth had trenches blown in on them. Telephone cut. Big fight at Quinn’s Post.
Over night at Quinn’s Post, the muffled sounds of Turks mining had been detected beneath the Australian forward trenches.  The Turks blew the mine early in the morning, and rushed forward to occupy the area, only to be repulsed shortly afterwards by a determined Australian effort. Quinn’s Post was in a precarious position on the front line, where an advance of only 50 feet by the Turks, would have forced the evacuation of the Anzac’s from Gallipoli. Major Hugh Quinn, after whom the Post was named, was killed in this battle.
At 3.30am, as daylight approached, Roderick and the 6th found that further digging was impossible, as their newly won position was exposed to artillery, rifle and machine gun fire from three sides. The whole day was spent defending the position from attacks by an ever-increasing number of Turkish forces. One trooper commented “ it was regular hell for the time we were there,” Due to the number of casualties, and the lack of water and ammunition, the 6th were relieved from the position at 9pm by ninety-eight men of the 9th Squadron under the leadership of Major Chambers.

The new force had only a short time to entrench when one hour later a 1000 strong Turkish force surrounded the post and attacked, cutting the telephone communications in the process. Withering rifle fire and showers of bombs continued in the David and Goliath battle to hold the territory now being called No 3 Outpost Bombs were being caught and thrown back at the enemy at a furious rate.  At midnight the men of the WMR 2nd Squadron under Major Elmslie relieved the post, and allowed the 9th to retire with their dead and wounded.

(Sun 30 May) – Fine day. Called up at six to go and help other two squadrons. Got rations and marched out to the fight. Brickland got hit running the gauntlet. After a spell, marched up ravine to where 2nd Squad were. They had a number of casualties. Tried to get around to post, but fire to hot in clearing. Ordered to lie down, then rolled into watercourse. Lay there, joined by Mr Lagan under machine and shellfire. Lay in creek all day. Took up position at nightfall.


Looking south from the top of No2 Outpost.

Note the Big Sap heading towards Anzac Cove.

The Turks were determined to retake this vital outpost back, and at daybreak came on in force at the 2nd Squadron defending it. At 6.30 am flag communication was established and artillery was directed with great effect onto the Turkish positions. But still they came, and as the day progressed the defenders were running short of ammunition and with no help for the many wounded men, the situation was once again looking desperate. They needed reinforcements, and so at 6am Roderick and the 6th were ordered to proceed to the embattled post. They moved out from No 2 Outpost along the ridge, but because of heavy enemy fire they were forced down into the Sazli Beit Dere, and were eventually pinned down in a dry watercourse. Trooper George Brickland WMR 11/5 from Mataroa, Taihape, was hit and badly wounded but survived the war.
Meanwhile at No 3, the Turks had increased their force to over 3000 men, and the defenders, who had no bombs, were forced to gamble with their lives and return the enemies before they exploded. All day the fighting continued, but they were not to be relieved by Roderick’s Squadron, as these troopers were lying low and constantly being machine gunned and shelled by artillery. As darkness approached the 6th and 2nd were able to withdraw from this perilous position, and the Canterbury Squadron were able to relieve the embattled 9th at the Out post.  It was in vain though, as the Turks came again in large numbers, and managed to blow in a trench, which caused casualties. They began to think that the end was nigh. At midnight it was decided to abandon No 3 Outpost and remove the wounded.
(Mon 31 May) – Fine day. In position on ridge, ordered to retire. Sixth made a stand – stopped Turks. I emptied magazine at ten yards. Then retired to fisherman’s hut. After contradicting order: finally ordered to stand. Turks did not come to us, but there was a good deal of bayonet fighting. Helped to bury Dickenson, then gathered up gear and came home. Canterbury broke badly. Ninth were badly cut up, but got wounded out.
Under cover of darkness the Canterbury squadron fought a defensive retreat, carrying their wounded back down the Sazli Beit Dere, while the excited and victorious Turks continued to harass their departure.  At the entrance to the Dere were Roderick and the 6th on the ridge at No 2 Outpost, and across the valley floor at Fisherman’s Hut were men of the Auckland MR.
They were all in position to make a determined stand as the Turks advanced towards them.
Finally the 9th and their wounded were able to gain access to the Big Sap and safety. They had been fighting for 48 hours without a break. The Turks came on with much yelling of Allah Allah, but after a few bayonet charges and rounds of ammunition, they withdrew to their newly won position that the Anzacs now called Old No 3 Outpost   The next day, to the horror of the troops viewing Old No 3, they saw that the bodies of the dead New Zealanders had been stripped and thrown over the parapet.
*Trooper Alfred Dickenson WMR 11/417, from Ford Hill in Wanganui (Enlisted at Hawera) was buried by his friends beside Fishermans Hut.

In his memory, a carefully engraved stone was placed at the site.

(Tue 1 June) – Fine day. Got up 6.30, had good breakfast. Lots of shells this morning. Sgt Overton killed, Scotty went to help dig grave, but snipers onto them, so buried him at night. Gathered sandbags and improved dugout against shellfire. Had a bathe then tea. Stand to. WMR casualties - 105. Charlie had narrow escape from shell.
The casualties for the WMR over the three days fighting for Old No 3 were: - 7 Officers killed and 4 wounded, with 34 other ranks killed and 96 wounded. . It was only luck that one survived.One of the unfortunate casualties was Sergeant “Tassy” Smith, a fine horseman and the brigades’ champion heavyweight boxer.
(Wed 2 June) – Fine day. Stand to 3.30am. Had to report 6.30 for fatigue – after a lot of delay was started on digging out road and making parapet for protection of road. Finished 1 o’clock came home and had spell. Bad cold. Snipers got seven men today.  Lots of men are hauling a gun up on the ridge. -.  Turks shelled ships, no damage.
The road that Roderick was working on would have been the widening of the track up Walkers Ridge. Once this was completed it allowed the movement of heavy artillery pieces and large water tanks to be hauled up to the plateau.
Around this time, down at Anzac Cove, a factory was set up to make periscope rifles.  This device allowed a soldier to aim and fire at the enemy without showing himself from the trench. The weapon consisted of a standard rifle along with a board and mirror periscope, which looked along the sights of the rifle, fitted to it with a string based trigger pull allowing actuation of the trigger from beneath the line of sight of the firearm.
It saved many lives.

(Thur 3 June) – Fine day. Shifted into new and more sheltered position. Gen Godley ordered it on account of our drawing shellfire onto headquarters. We lost fifty men, the others dug out a place on hillside. Helped to haul a big Howitzer up hill. Hope she smashed our tormentor. Turks shelled boats in harbour. HMS Talbot came up and fired broadside at enemy. Fired three volleys for Kings birthday, and Turk fired all day and all night.

Due to accurate shelling by the Turks, and casualties inflicted on their rest position in Shrapnel Gully, the Regiment selected a new bivouac area between Walkers Ridge and below the cliffs of the Sphinx. It proved to be one of the safest spots on Gallipoli. Terraces and dugouts were excavated, and the position became known as ‘Wellington Terrace’.



King George V, the king of England at the time, was born on this day in 1865.

The WMR dugouts atWellington Terrace’- This photo was taken when Roderick lived there. The owners needed to be part mountain goat!

(Fri 4 June) – Fine. Went on fatigue on road, finished three o’clock, came home after a feed, went down for a swim, coming home had to run for it at end of sap, one man shot in the mouth while arguing with sentry. Big bombardment on.
So called “rest-days” were always taken up with work fatigues. Around this time the WMR troopers were put to work digging saps forward from the firing trenches. A very hazardous job, as Johnnie Turk was always looking out for a chance to shoot. Sometimes the Turks and the lookouts engaged in shots at each side’s shovels as they appeared above the parapets, and a bit of a game developed. At night though, when the bombs were being lobbed, it was a more serious matter.
The big bombardment would have been the beginning of the third battle to take the village of Krithia .The first and second attempts had been costly failures, so a less ambitious plan was developed for this attempt. But it ended in failure all the same, with only small gains in ground, and a casualty count of 6500 men.

Towards the end of this battle, the Turks launched a counter attack against a British Division, which came close to breaking. A Second Lieutenant of the Hampshire Regiment was awarded the Victoria Cross for stemming the retreat of his battalion, by shooting four of his own men.
(Sat 5 June) – Fine day. Nothing doing. Infantry charged some trenches capturing machine guns and some prisoners. Went down to headquarters and had a bathe. Fatigue party shifted gun barrel up hill a bit. No 1 troop put a headstone to Sgt Overton’s grave.

*Sergent Frederick William Ellesmere Overton, WMR 11/112, was a popular man with the troop. He was 21 years of age and came from Taihape. He is now buried at the Ari Burnu Cemetery, Anzac Cove

(Sun 6 June) – Fine. Church service this morning. Went along and had a bathe and had a washing day. Finished getting gun up hill and laying piquet. Slept on road.

Down on the beach, men filled up to 400 jam tins a day with nails, stones and pieces of barbed wire. They sent out teams to the frontline trenches to collect the thousands of spent cartridges that lay around, and added these to the ‘mixture’. These ‘bombs” were unpredictable, but better than nothing. Other work parties built periscope rifles from scraps of timber and pieces of mirror.
Trooper Joe Chamberlain was wounded on this day and sent off to Pont de Koubeh Hospital in Cairo for surgery. He returned to fight again alongside Roderick on the 4th July.

(Mon 7 June) – Fine. Went back to dugout at five. - Had breakfast and turned in. Packed up and climbed up hill to relieve Light Horse in trenches, after a lot of messing around finally put in reserve trenches – was on sentry at night.

The NZMR relieved the Australian Light Horse in the front line at Russell’s Top. The 2nd and 9th Squadrons in the forward trenches, with Roderick and the others from the 6th in the reserve trench behind.
Dugouts were makeshift holes cut into the ground usually along a terrace on a hillside. The troops tried to make them as comfortable as possible and at the same time bullet, and shrapnel proof by using sandbags. A direct hit was fatal, as was sitting outside when a shell came over.
They improvised by using old grain bags for lining the walls; wood collected from wreckage of boats was used as rafters, with spare oilcloth stretched over the top. This was covered with as much soil as required to stop a bullet. Furniture consisted of shelves and cupboards of biscuit boxes with a large bully-beef box as a table. Where possible the opening faced out to the coast with its beautiful views.
(Tue 8 June) – Fine day. Was on fatigue carrying water up hill - two and half gallons to five men. - 2 o’clock on fatigue in afternoon carrying water for disinfecting purposes to trenches left in bad state by Australian Light Horse. Had a bathe in evening, helped to carry sandbags up hill. At stand too, troops shifted into fire trenches, was on sentry duty. Got a letter from home. Saw a Monitor fist time.

A Monitor was a class of ship designed to give close support to troops ashore. They had minimal exposure above the waterline, making it harder to hit. They had extra armour plating, revolving gun platforms and were protected from torpedo attack by chain mesh around the hull.

Troops hauling large gun up to Walkers Ridge.
(Wed 9 June) – Very windy. Nothing doing; saw six inch Howitzers fired; could see shell travelling. Reported shooting at a traction engine shifting a Turk gun. Monitor firing over our field guns, all putting it in. We shifted into fire trench, no place to lie down too sleep. Robbie shot.

*Sergeant Louis Somerville Robertson
from the King-country was known for his exploits as a sniper in no-mans-land, as well as an excellent wrestler. He was 30yr old, and is buried at Walkers Ridge Cemetery.

(Thu 10 June) -Fine day. Australian officer came along trench and shook things up all the way. I was asleep with bayonet fixed. He asked D how long this man had been asleep and he fixed him. Busy putting accommodation sap in. Turks put shell into Machine Gun parapet, one man hit. Turk trenches to be seen in all directions from here.


(Fri 11 June) – Very windy day, seas a bit choppy. Went down for a bathe. A few shells flying. Went into the fire trench. Our section was put on to guard a sap. Australian Captain crawled over between the two saps. Early this morning there was a great slather up. Turks and Australians got to it with bombs and rifle fire. They got us ready to turn out but nothing came of it. Sent letters.

The exchange of fire continued through out each night, sometimes reaching a crescendo as the sentries of either side mistakenly saw something approaching. A Maori haka was often the cause of an excess expenditure of enemy bullets.

11 June - 1915.

 

Dear Mother,

                     I received yours of the 6th April the other day. I am very pleased to hear that the place is going on so well, and I can tell you I look forward to going back to a nice little farm by and by. But there is a lot to be done here yet, and of course there are risks to be taken. I am pleased to hear that Mrs Hood is well and that she is enquiring about me. I intended sending her a present from Egypt, but of course one does not get over burdened with money on two shillings a day in such a lot of company, and in a big place like Cairo. I think I did pretty well to hang onto three pounds, which made up my mind to (covered by the CENSOR)

               If you could really do with a few pounds, I would send a cable if there is any chance of organising it to England. You could send it through the Bank, but if you have not plenty I can get along as before. I do not know wether the Censors will block this, but as I am not writing anything about military matters, I hope it will go through.

It must be a pleasure to have a good man like Robson looking after things, for with good land to work and the good prices they obtain now, the old swamp is not to be sneezed at. You do not say wether you received those photos of Charlie and I. I haven’t got the cake yet, but I live in hope. I think this is all at present. Hoping this reaches you in the good health as it leaves me.

                                                                                              I remain Your Affectionate Son.

                                                                                                                    Roderick


An extract from Roderick’s diary. He wrote in pencil
(Sat 12 June) – Fine. Was relieved from sap, and went into fire trench. Did a far bit of shooting and some navying?  Turks put a good few shells in today.
In the afternoon a plane flew over the enemies trenches and dropped three bombs, which went off with loud explosions. The Turks came close to shooting it down, but it got away safely.

Waiting for the Attack.
(Sun 13 June) – Fine. Turks got a captured French gun onto us. They hit our mountain gun. Washing day. Went into fire trench in the evening.

(Mon 14 June) – Fine. Not much doing. Helped improve dugout, struck some dead men when digging, did a bit of shooting.

The track to the front fighting line on Russell’s Top was cut into the cliffs, up the northern side of Walkers Ridge. The view from the top of Walkers Ridge to the north was magnificent. The hills were of yellow clay and covered in patches with green scrub and prickly undergrowth. On the flats were dotted areas of red poppies and purple rock- roses. The beautiful beach went sweeping up towards the salt encrusted Suvla Flats, and the Aegean Sea that broke on its shores was generally as calm as a millpond.
Dotted all over it were ships of various sizes and colours. There were small barges, large grey destroyers, ominously camouflaged battleships and white hospital ships with their green bands and red crosses.

On the distant horizon could be seen the outline of the islands of Imbros and Samothrace, where at night many a setting sun was admired for its beauty.
To the men of the Wellington Regiments it reminded them of the view looking northwards from Paekakariki Hill, just out of Wellington.

(Tue. 15 June) – Fine. In support trenches, went for a bathe, sea a bit rough. Saw aeroplane with four men crossing over the Gulf, another over Turkish lines. Monitor bombarding shore battery. Very heavy bombardment of hill at night, big fight on, continuous roar of gun and rifle fire. Sniper had a shot at me in sap.
(Wed 16 June) – Cold day, light rain. Was on sentry in No 10 sap. Relieved at 8am, had an easy time in fire trench all day. Good bit of artillery fire. Turks using French 75mm guns.

One of the Turkish gun batteries had found the range of the beach at the Cove and every day they would lob in shrapnel shells. Not a day would go by without there being casualties. On this day four were wounded, one severely. A Captain in the Australian Light Horse had both his legs blown off at the knees.
He survived to return to his hometown in Tasmania.

Troops hauling water tank up Walkers Ridge.

(Thu 17 June) – Fine. On Quarter-Masters-Store fatigue. Had a bathe. Went into fire trench in the evening. Turks were throwing bombs into our trench. Bombs going all night.

Working parties were required each day for about 4 hour shifts.  Work carried out included, repair of roads, sinking wells, constructing miles of bombproof cuttings, building piers, shafts and tunnels and numerous other constructions that “would be an education to many a building civil engineer”.

(Fri 18 June) – Fine. Very slow day in trench. Turks are not taking any risks now. Came out of trench in the evening, issue of rum tonight.
The issue of rum was in commemoration of Wellingtons Victory over Napoleon at Waterloo on 18th June 1815.

(Sat 19 June) – Fine.  Nothing doing today. Lot of fire down on the point. Going into fire trench tonight. Mail today.


During the day several large Turkish shells landed near the Head Quarters in Monash Valley behind Roderick’s position. One exploded among the stores and sent cheeses, biscuits and meat tins flying in all directions. A second shot did likewise scattering a pile of shovels and picks. No men were hit.
At Anzac Cove, Watson’s Pier was finally completed for the landing of stores and equipment.


(Sun 20 June) – Fine.  On guard in No 10 sap. Squadron relieved by the Australian Light Horse in afternoon. Shifted down to old rest posy and fixed things up there.  Later had to climb up hill again.  Turks put in a big burst of fire but no attack followed.

Turkish snipers had for sometime been killing and wounding many men coming up Monash Valley, even though sandbag protection had been placed at intervals along the route. The New Zealanders decided to set-up a position of “crack shots” to reduce this casualty list. Two men, an observer and the other firing would, over the next few weeks, improve the situation tremendously and keep the Turkish snipers heads down.


(Mon 21 June) – Fine. Came back after stand too. Turned in and slept until breakfast. Suffering from effects of chill. Struck a fatigue gathering tools in first trench. Saw a destroyer land some shells on Turks on hill. Heard of British success at Cape. Turks said to be retiring.
This day had the longest daylight hours. Though Roderick’s diary only mentions” Fine day” the weather at this time of the year was of sweltering high temperatures and shade was essential under the blazing sun. During summer the sun shone for over twelve hours of the day.

(Tue 22 June) – Fine. Things very quiet. QMS fatigue. Mail today. Success maintained at Cape Helles. Cold better today.

(Wed 23 June)  - Fine day.  Whole troop on fatigue in saps. Dangerous job carting out earth in shallow sap about fifteen yards from Turks. Relieved at 3.30. The previous night some Aust bomb throwers threw five bombs into an Aust sap. Three dead Turks on edge of sap made things pretty high.

Down at Anzac Cove, eight bathers were hit by Turkish shellfire. One man came out of the water with an arm almost severed.

(Thu 24 June) – Fine. Not feeling to fit. Struck off fatigue. Turkish soldier got into the middle of the position before he was held up. He was a Greek deserter. He was in great glee at being taken prisoner.

(Fri 25 June) – Fine. Reported sick.

It was not surprising that sooner or later Roderick would become ill. Living in trenches of stagnant water and inadequate sanitation. Being immersed in flies, lice, mosquitos and rats, as well as the rotting empty food tins and countless dead bodies piled across the area between the trenches meant that it was inevitable. Dysentery flourished among men who were already weakened by weeks of inadequate food. In the words of a trooper –“I was running all the time. I couldn’t enjoy my food. We were down to skin and bone. Dysentery just ate away our intestines”.

(Sat 26 June) – Fine. Reported sick today.

(Sun 27 June) – Fine. Reported to Dr today.

Everyday the rising sun brought with it a plague of flies beyond all belief. Men ate and drank flies. The filthy insects were everywhere. The ground in places was so dark with them, that one could not be sure whether the patches were ground or flies. The camps and trenches were kept clean; and well-scavenged daily; but only a few yards away the Turk trenches, were invariably filthy, and there the flies bred undisturbed.

Making bombs- Bully Beef and Jam tins filled with scrap iron.

(Mon 28 June) – Fine day. Big bombardment on at Cape. Our troops advanced a thousand yards. Not feeling so bad today.

On this day to the south, the Battle of Gully Ravine commenced.  After two days of heavy bombardment, battle began at 10.45 am with a preliminary raid to capture a Redoubt on Gully Spur. The general advance commenced shortly afterwards.
Turkish commanders were very concerned about this advance near the Western coast of Gallipoli, which threatened to encircle their right wing. Gully Ravine became the scene of vicious and bloody fighting as the Turks commenced a series of counter-attacks over the following days and nights.
The Turks made six Australians of the 9th Battalion prisoners-of-war after a failed diversionary attack in the southern sector of Anzac from Holly Ridge. Three of these men survived captivity.

(Tues. 29 June) - Fine. Had a bathe and easy time early today. Just about time the squadron was ordered up the hill, and I was sent on a working party. At about ten, the Turks stirred things up a bit, and we were ordered to stand too. After awhile things quietened down. Helping to make bombproof shelters. From between trenches could see lights of shells at Baba Achi.

Every night hundreds of wounded and sick men were placed onto barges, which was towed by steam- pinnace out to a waiting ship or hospital ship anchored off shore. Due to the ever-increasing heat and flies, there were more sick men being evacuated from the peninsular than wounded men.

(Wed 30 June) – Fine. Turks made an attack on our left. Just on my way out of the trench when word came that Turks were up to trenches. They were shelling us too. Wounded men came down trench. Went to join our troop asleep on terrace. Shells coming very thick. Sat on road and then the 6th were ordered up. Australians easily settled Turks, and we did not see any fight. 350 Turks were killed. And 7 of us killed and 20 wounded.

The Turks suffered 800 casualties during this attack, compared to the Anzacs twenty-six. An Australian Sergeant said later, that the dead and dying in No Man’s Land reminded him of poisoned rabbits. The Turkish commanders finally came to the conclusion that frontal attacks at the Anzacs didn’t work.

(Thur 1 July) – Fine day. Thunderstorm and heavy rain last night. Reinforcements arrived last night. Our section struck fatigue. Went up to where the fighting was and saw a number of Turks brought in. They were a very poor looking lot. Our guns were stirring things up a bit.

Some thunderstorms were severe enough to drown men in their trenches. The rush of water flowing from the high ground would often take with it equipment and personal belongings unless they were tied down.  Days later, the sea would be brown from the soil washed into it.
The seas during thunderstorms often became very rough which made it difficult to load or unload men and equipment from the wharves.


(Fri 2 July) – Fine day. Reported sick. Nothing doing.


The noise from the battle at Gully Ravine to the south could be heard from the trenches at Russell’s Top. When battleships and destroyers came across from Imbros harbour to bombard the Turkish positions in the Ravine, the shells could be seen bursting over the enemy’s heads.


DIARY CONTINUES...CLICK HERE