The 25th April 1915 is a significant date in New Zealand history. On that day New Zealand and Australian troops landed at Gallipoli in Turkey. The day is observed as ANZAC Day and is reserved as a remembrance day for the war dead who have given their lives in New Zealand's wars. ANZAC Day is also observed by New Zealand's neighbour Australia, who fought and died alongside New Zealand and other British allies who made this ill planned invasion of the Turkish mainland of the Gallipoli peninsular in World War One.
That the Gallipoli landings were a military disaster is not questioned. The folly of the English in planning and carrying out this invasion to enter Germany by way of "The back door", was a direct response to the bogged down trench warfare that the Allied and German forces were engaged in on the fields of France and Belgium. The whim of the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, to open another front on Turkish soil became a deadly series of poor decisions made by him and his equally inadequate military advisors that he assembled about him.
The decision by Churchill to attack Turkey first through the Dardenelles was no more than political jostling by him to gain more power in London. His planned attack on the Turkish homeland no more than an attempt to raise moral of the English public through the press. A public that where quickly loosing heart with the many deaths of her young fighting men in the stalemated war that was strangling the lifeblood out of Europe.
The disaster of the Gallipoli landings can be traced back to Churchill's early maneuvering to dismiss the First Sea Lord, Prinz Louis Battenburg, and place his own man in charge of naval command. Unfortunately in placing the old and previously retired John Fisher to head the navy, Churchill then hurriedly had to remove all reference to Battenburg's ability.
In doing so he scrapped Battenburg's detailed plans made with Greek and Bulgarian politicians and military advisors to open a second front through Turkish occupied Greece.
Left: The "Sphinx" outcrop of rock highlights the impossible topography that met the soldiers when they landed at ANZAC. Inland from the Sphinx and higher still sits Russell's Top, where the NZMR met the Turkish charge in May 1915.
The merits of his plan were many, as such a front would guarantee Greek and Bulgarian nationalist support as both these nations were under the heel of Turkish rule, and more importantly Battenburg understood that Turkish soldiers would be less ardent in the defense of foreign soil than they would be if an army attacked their homeland directly. He reasoned that a foothold in Greece would allow the build up of essential supplies and ammunition before a final push into far away Turkey.
John Fisher's first task was to promote Churchill's substituted plan to attack Turkey direct. But when reservations were introduced by French military experts Fisher began to realise the plan had many weaknesses, but he was coerced by Churchill to keep quiet, and he held his tongue before a crucial war cabinet meeting. Without this critical information the Churchill plan was put into action. This plan involved a naval action which ended in disaster with many warships and sailors lost from either mines or shelling from Turkish Forts dotted along the Dardenells Straits. With no plan to cover this eventuality Churchills team refused to accept there would be a supply and manpower problem and committed both the Australian and New Zealand Infantry forces waiting in Egypt and the mainly young untested English territorials. This combined force was ordered to land on Gallipoli and take out the Turkish guns and render the forts inoperable. This suggested Churchill, would then leave the waterway open to the Navy to sail on into Constantinople and victory in the East.
Churchill and Fisher.
A disasterous cocktail.
Major General Godley; (in a letter to the NZ Minster of Interior, Ronald Graham, July 1915, Boyack p. 59)
"I hear that Winston [Churchill] has arrived, and suppose we shall see him within the next few days. He certainly is a plucky fellow, and I think he ought to be given a V.C. and then taken out and shot. I wonder what sort of reception he will get if he comes among the troops, whether they will cheer, or shoot him. I think the former."
The landings on the Gallipoli Peninsular took place at three separate locations. In April 1915 at Helles in the south, and Ari Burnu in the central peninsular, and much later in August at Suvla Bay in the North. The central landing on the 25th April at Ari Burnu was two kilometers north of the intended landing site and contained members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps that would soon be be known by its abbreviation, ANZAC, and the beach head renamed in history as ANZAC Cove. The beach most unfit for a military attack, narrow and rocky, the foothills to the interior high and craggy. The first days plan to gain a foothold well inland never eventuated. The troops became quickly bogged down by enemy fire. They dug in and precariously fought for survival. Their numbers dwindling every day.
18 days later Colonel Fred Waite of the New Zealand Infantry writes:
"...But if the Turks knew so much, why did they not attack Walker's Ridge that anxious week in May? Any attack must have succeeded, and the thin line of single trenches once broken, Anzac must have crumpled.
The enemy did nothing serious, and on May 12 the joy at Anzac was unbounded. The Mounteds had arrived! Every face on the beach was wreathed in smiles. Here they all were—without their horses, but keen, and spoiling for a fight—the Australian Light Horse; the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, consisting of the Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury Regiments; the field troop to reinforce the overworked 1st Field Company in its sapping and mining; the signal troop, to help with the telephone and buzzers; and the mounted field ambulance, to assist their overworked confreces with the wounded.
Whatever the trudging infantry men had thought in Egypt as the mounted men swept by, to-day there was nothing but the good humoured banter of “Where's your horses?” As the eager troopers climbed the goat tracks of Walker's Ridge a great sigh of relief was heaved by the sorely tried garrison of Anzac. Never were troops more welcome..."
And so began the brotherhood at arms, the Mounteds who many men among the ranks felt they would never see action, arrived at Gallipoli in support of an ill-planned venture and their fellow countrymen of the Infantry. Left: A New Zealand Mounted Rifleman stands at ease in front of Parliment Buildings in this Players Cigarette card.
Below: In this previously unpublished account, Major Charles Mackesy of the Auckland Mounted Rifles, gives a clue as to the intensity and dangers faced by men of the NZMR at Gallipoli. Major Mackesy is stationed in the front line with his father, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mackesy and one of his brothers, Sergeant Harry Mackesy (promoted in the field to Lieutenant before his death three months later at "old Outpost number3" on the 7th August).
Major Charles Mackesy
"...There was no mistaking their intent as we could hear cries of "Allah! Allah!" and the firing of rifles machine guns and the bursting of bombs made a deafening roar. The attack came right along the line. On our right were the Australians who called for assistance from the navy. We were in the reserve trenches and went forward to the firing trenches just ahead of us. After awhile ammunition was getting short and I went back with a couple of men to the reserve trench for more.
We arrived back as the order was given to attack the Turks in the open ground. I grabbed a rifle off the floor of the trench, but the bolt was shot out of it. Just then a man on my right was shot and fell back into the trench so I grabbed his rifle and went over the top with the forward rush of troops. This all happened in much less time than it has taken to write it down. We kept as close to the ground as possible as both our machine guns and the Turkish ones were firing about three feet above our backs. Then it was poor Logan that was hit. He was about three feet from me. I checked him out and found that he was dead. I had to leave him there as we had our hands full with the attacking Turks. As daylight broke we could see along the line to Quinns Post and Courtneys Post et cetera.
The shooting done by the navy was excellent they dropped shell after shell right in the Turkish trenches. Dad was running about all through the firing line giving orders and seeing how things were going. He had got a rifle from somewhere and was getting a shot in now and again. On his way to the 3rd squadron he noticed some Turks sneaking along to the 3rd sap. He emptied his magazine at them and the shots warned the squadron but it was to late for some of them as some Turks got into the end of the sap and shot six men down. This was the time when one of the men saw Dad standing up on the parapet shooting away and called out “Come down you bloody fool, or you will get hit!” not knowing it was their Colonel. Harry was slightly wounded in the head. A bullet grazing along four inches of his scalp. He was with Captain Smedley between 4 and 5 saps..."
A month later Major Mackesy makes another entry:
"...General Godley came up and addressed us. He had previously given orders that no man was to leave the peninsular unless he was a stretcher case and now he came and said that he thought the Mounted Brigade was a thing of the past, but that when he looked about and saw such a fine body of men he thought he still had an army. The brigade now numbered about five hundred and forty men with the 4th reinforcements and half of these were wearing bandages or were sick. Godley said that after the advance he thought he could promise us a rest. My men remarked in undertones “Yes most of us will have a rest for ever”.
The scheme was to take our place in the firing trench at 4pm and then the bombardment would start. They would shell the position for thirty minutes then stop for five minutes and then shell for twenty-five minutes. On the stoke of 5pm the artillery would cease and we would rush forward. At 3.30pm we fell in the A.M.R. leading. As we went past HQ General Russell called out good luck Mackesy for which I thanked him. When we got to the communication trench we found it full of Connaught Rangers. I did some tall talking and got them out of the way. They were supposed to come in on our right, but Major White who was in charge of the Brigade said he had no faith in them and to keep my own flanks protected. They had no business to get into the trench and halt there, and this delayed the rest of the force. When we reached the firing trench I sent Lieutenant Palmer up to the right with the 3rd Squadron while I took the 4th and the 11th to the left. We had only just got into position when the artillery started and for noise it beat anything I had ever heard. They put a high explosive shell for every square yard of Turkish ground we were to take, and at the same time poured in shrapnel to get the Turkish reserves. The strain of sitting round for an hour while this took place was terrible, and to break it I passed word to the men every few minutes to oil bolts, or something similar. Those who smoked took it all right, as were those to whom I could speak, but two men one of them a Sargent went out of their minds. When the artillery stopped the Turks opened fire and started to rush their supports in. We opened up and their losses were enormous. I had split the 11th into three parties, one under Sargent Otter was to keep on the left of the Turkish trench as we advanced. The second under Corporal Delaney was to follow the trench itself. The remainder were to follow me along the right of the trench, while the 4th would extend to the right and connect with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. Lieutenant Kettle was in charge of the 4th squadron. When the order was given as the last shells were still exploding, on the tick of 5pm, we bounded out of the trenches and away. I was right up at the sandbags on the left and therefore was about twenty-five yards in front of the men who were following me. I ran till I found I had passed the Turkish barricades and I was along way in front of the party led by Corporal Delaney who had to climb over the barricades. I was in danger of being potted in the flank by the first Turk in the trench. There was nothing for it but to jump down into trench until Delaney came up. The first Turk fired at me but missed and I was into the trench and on top of him before he could fire again. I emptied my magazine into the Turks who were all huddled up. Those nearest trying to get away, and those behind trying to push forward. Delaney then joined me and opened fire over my shoulder. He had six men with him and the Turks began to run, so it was a slaughter as we fired into a mass of men. We were yelling like demons and I suppose we looked like demons, and the Turks were not waiting for an introduction. In one narrow traverse my bayonet caught in a root and on trying to free it I slipped and fell backwards. The trench was just wide enough for me to reach bottom and there I stuck. I shouted to the boys to push on and after three or four had scrambled over me one of them got me by the shoulders and pulled me up. l lost my cap there and it had a good badge on it. We pushed on to where I knew there was a Turkish machine gun which I was intent on capturing and had told the boys about it. When we reached it we found that a high explosive shell had been there first and all that was left was a crater. Just beyond this the Turks made a bit of a rally and pulled us up with a bit of a turn.
It was a bit of a traverse. We were advancing from the left and the Turks held the traverse. They were shooting round the corner and over the top and this was where I got my first graze. The Turk fired round the corner at me and the shot grazed my ribs. I then, by throwing my rifle out, shot round the corner and he fell on his face. My rifle then jammed and while I was trying to clear it I pushed round the corner and came face to face with another Turk waiting. He could have bayoneted me but he tried to shoot and only having a single loading rifle he had apparently forgotten to reload it, as nothing happened. He then turned to run and I bayoneted him. I got my rifle working but had all the woodwork and bayonet shot off going round the next traverse. The rifle jammed again, and I had to use the butt on the next Turks. After this I was buggered and I staggered against the wall of the trench. One of the boys gave me a pull at his water bottle which had a shot of rum in it, and I was all right again..."
Gallipoli Casualties Compiled from various sources.
Britain & Ireland
Jewish Zion Mule Corps
Greek Labour Corps
Maltese Labour Corps
The above are additional nationals killed on the allied side. It is uncertain whether these men where included within the "British" casuality figures of 21,255 or not.
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives .... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... you, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well. " The words of Mustafa Kemal 'Ataturk' written on the Turkish Memorial at Ari Burnu, renamed by the Turks to Anzac Koyu, Anzac Cove to honour the ANZACs.
In 1915 the Ottoman Empire extended from Europe to Asia and was populated by many different races of people. Although many ethnic groups were being persercuted by their Turkish masters, namely Jews, Armenians and Kurds - each section of the Empire's population volunteered troops for the struggle against the invaders from the west.
On the right: A German postcard depicting Kurdish Cavalry parading before their deployment to the battlefields of Gallipoli.
HERO OF WALKER'S RIDGE
Ernest William Chater
First Known Rank:
Next of Kin:
Mrs W. Chater, Elmscote, Guildford, Surrey,
Body on Embarkation:
Auckland Mounted Rifles
16 October 1914
Place of Embarkation:
Star of India or
Computer colourised 1914 photograph of
Sergeant Ernest W. Chater
Trooper Chater left with the Main Body for Egypt in 1914. He was a member of 4th Troop, 4th Waikato Mounted Rifles under the command of Lieutenant Morris Milliken. Records show Ernest had been promoted sergeant at the time he was wounded in action on Walker's Ridge, Gallipoli on the 6th August 1915 - one day before the Aucklanders began their attack to the heights of Chunuk Bair. Many of 4th Troop were killed and wounded on the 6th, 7th and 8th August.
A further photograph including Ernest and records of the 4th Troop 4th Waikato are shown HERE Any further information on Sergeant Chater would be appreciated by the Association.
Such is the power of the Internet: a letter arrived July 09 from Canada.
Sir, I understand that you might like further information about my late uncle Ernest William Chater.
I have been looking for some months for detail of his life about which my father left no notes. However, fortuitously, thanks to a Military Museum in British Columbia. I have come upon and downloaded the website of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles.
I am the son of Alleyne Frank Chater, youngest of six sons whose eldest brother was Ernest William Chater, 13/305 Trooper and later Sergeant of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, 4th Troop of the 4th Waikato Mounted Rifles. I was very moved to read of his part in the New Zealand forces’ assaults in Gallipoli in August 1915.
Yours Sincerley, Jimmy Chater. (enclosed photograph reproduced below.)
William and Fanny (nee Kentish) Chater with their sons, about 1901.
Left to Right: Noel (Merchant seaman,; later emigrated to New Zealand 1883 - 1960); Vernon (Stockbroker, London 1881 - ?); Ernest William (Rancher (?) 1872 - 1937); Harold John (Royal Naval Surgeon Rear Admiral, 1874 -1942); Maitland (Accountant 1878 - 1953); Alleyne Frank (Regular Royal Engineer officer, India 1887 - 1969)
Above: A copy of a hand drawn map of "Russell's Top" relating to August 1915.
This was the highest point within the ANZAC perimeter and commanded views along most of the Turkish line to the south of Baby 700. It was named after Brigadier Andrew Russell, commander of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, who established his headquarters on it in May 1915.
A brief history on this map: It was sketched by Lieutenant Colonel Noel Brazier of the 10th ALH at the request of historian C.E.W. Bean. The map appears to have been forgotten in the Austaralian War Memorial Museum for a number of years until John Hamilton, author of "Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You", found this sketch in amongst a pile of maps in a little used store room when he was researching his book. Past over it at first, but said something about it drew him back to taking a closer look, and just as well he did, otherwise it might still be lying there unrecognized.
Note: To view this map full screen on your computer CLICK HERE.