Saturday, 25 April 2015

25th April 1915

Water pillars thrown up near two transports (top left), from large artillery shells
being fired at the fleet by the German battle cruiser Goeben, 25th April 1915.

Sunday 25 April

A day of great things

I woke about 1 am just as we were moving off I turned over & had a few more hours sleep & about 4 am I was up again & the distant rolling of the boom of guns filled the air as we proceeded it became more marked & boom boom boom etc till we could see the flash of the guns from the warships. We stood off the Peninsular while a perfect hell of fire was poured ashore on to the Turkish Forts. It was certainly a sight that we will never forget. We were to land in the Beros or Samos Gulf side & the British Inf & artillery were to attack inside & the French on the Asia Minor coast about Kum Kale vicinity. With planes we could view the land which looked cultivated in places.

It was a most favourable morning for operations & we are all longing to know how the Infantry fared on landing etc.

As we came nearer in shells from the Forts fell about 100 yds off us and our chaps were inclined to treat the enemy's [illegible] with contempt but it was not long before the shells fell all around us. The Howitzers shrieked over us - just at the stern of our ships and a few yards ahead dashing the spray feet into the air. The position proved too warm for us and we had to shift out also the Cruiser Queen and several other ships. One shell fell at the side of a Torpedo near us but luckily no one was hit. The H.M.S. Bacchante & Triumph appeared to be doing most of the attacking of the forts & we had several aeroplanes overhead & a captive balloon. We were still waiting for orders at lunch time amid the rolling & booming of the guns. My baptism of fire was an experience & it is wondered how instinctive we ducked as if to escape the hissing screaming monsters of death. We went in closer in the afternoon & we witnessed one of the most murderous fires possible shrapnel was rained on our chaps persistently. We could only look on & see all the manoeuvres. It was a huge cliff of sand & rock a few yards from the shore & from here our men had to land & scale the heights driving the Turks before them. We were told by the sailors who took the men ashore that it was a wonderful charge. No doubt details are well known by this [illegible] At 4PM we were preparing for shore etc but we ordered to 'stand fast' after 2 Pontoons had been loaded just at sundown our airship had located 2 Turkish Batteries & several of the warships opened an incessant fire. The din was dreadful & our ship shivered from stem to stern. We were close in & one fort again opened fire on us showering shrapnel all round us but no one was hit. One could only hope that the sun would set on such an awful day to rise again with the calmness of nature as we know her. I was on Picquet & had very little sleep. We had a visit from the Naval officers & all hands ordered to have boats at stand bye.

April 24th Lemnos Is 

Left LEMNOS ISLAND during night 24th/25th + arrived off KAPA TEPE + anchored close to HMS QUEEN.  Fire was opened on us from “GOEBEN” or one of the DARDENELLES forts with shell probably about 12 inch.  We were ordered out by the QUEEN but owing to difficulty in raising anchor there were about 12 shells dropped all round our ship some missing only by yards.  The CARDIGANSHIRE steamed out of range + came in again farther NORTH about 10am + started to disembark horses + guns when ordered by the “QUEEN” to re-embark.  In the meanwhile Lt Col C Rosenthal O/C 3D FA Bde had gone ashore with Bde Hd Qrs Staff. Major KING O/C 3D Batty was left in command as O/C Troops.  Our Infantry continued to land during the day.  The firing on shore was continuous + the H.M.S.S. Bacchante + Triumph + other ships supported with their fire.  About 6pm the “Queen” opened with shrapnel from 6 in. broadsides on enemy in front of left of our position on shore where our troops were under heavy rifle + shrapnel fire from enemy.  Our ship was fired on with shrapnel about 6pm + we were ordered out about 2 miles + anchored.  At sunset our warships bombarded the enemy’s position violently for ½ hour.  During the night an order came from the Navy to lower all ships + stand by to put off to shore if ordered.

A party of 1st Division Headquarters Officers, going ashore at Anzac Cove
with whatever kit they could carry. Included in the party are, (left to right):
Colonel Marshall, Colonel Hobbs, Major Nicholson, & Lieutenant Ramsay.

Sunday 25th April

Went up on Captain’s Bridge at 1.15AM, left Mudros at 1.25 AM. I turned out at 5.15AM and heard the heavy booming of guns. The much looked for attack on Gallipoli Peninsula had at last commenced and our turn to fight has come. We watched the Bombardment at Cape Helles till 8.30, and what an Inferno it seemed. Ships belching out flame and loud report, and shell bursting on land with a terrific detonation. Then we steamed into our allotted position beside HMS "Queen" for anchorage opposite Gaba Tepe point. We could see our fellows scaling the hill sides, and at intervals saw groups doubling through a Wheat Field on the extreme right flank, and getting up on to the sky line of the ridges. Shrapnel was bursting over them, but these particular men seemed to have a charmed life and all seemed to escape bullets. The stretch of water between the ships and the shore, through which all boats carrying troops had to pass, and also boats bringing wounded back to the Hospital ships was literally bespattered with Shrapnel, apparently from guns located at Gaba Tepe, from which position they could enfilade the beaches.

At 9.30, 6" guns opened fire on the Transports which were anchored. The first four shells, apparently ranging rounds, fell about 500 yards from our ship. Our fellows let out a derisive cheer, but soon became subdued and a little more concerned. Three single rounds were next fired, falling much nearer to us, then two salvos of three each. On shell fell under our bow, 20 yards away, while two groups of three fell about 10 yards on either side of the ship, and one shell fell 5 yards from a Torpedo boat. Our men now began to realise that being shelled while the ship was stationery, and being unable to answer back, was no joke. Luckily no damage was done but we "upanchored" and steamed out at 10.15 keeping under weigh till 12 noon. All the time we were impatiently waiting a signal from the "Queen" to take up our Anchorage again. Mean while HMS "Triumph" and "Bacchante" carried on a rigorous bombardment of Gaba Tepe in an endeavour to stop the guns that were shelling the beach and landing parties. A little before 1 Pm we received the Signal to move into our allotted Anchorage. I did not wait for the naval boats to come alongside, but after issuing the necessary instructions to the battery 

Commander concerning the landing of their guns, I disembarked in a ship’s boat manned by a volunteer crew from our 3rd Brigade Ammunition Column, who were for the present to remain on the Ship. I took 18 men of my Head Quarters staff, my medical Officer (Capt Marks) and my orderly officer (Lieut Richards). The Adjutant had gone ashore earlier with Col Hobbs. Shrapnel fell round us on the journey to the shore, but no one was hit. One of the boat party however on returning to the ship was caught by a shrapnel bullet, hitting him in the mouth and passing down his chest. The wound is not considered very serious.

Immediately on landing I instructed my party to secure a sheltered position under the cliffs, while I reported to Col Hobbs, and was informed the General had decided no Artillery was to land during the day. I was very much upset over this decision for I was hoping to get our guns into position today. Col White then commandeered me, gave me an officer as Adjutant, and instructed me to collect all Infantry stragglers, (many of whom were coming back to the beach from the firing line assisting wounded comrades) form them up and get them to the Right Flank. I met Colonel Lee of the 9th Battalion, who was in a terrible state of mind and assured me his Battalion had been practically wiped out. I gathered together all the Infantry I could find who were unwounded, and used them to unload ammunition for use of firing line and to carry same up. The Indian mountain guns just above me on the hills were pounding away in great style, but I hear have suffered many casualties.

In view of the Generals’ decision that no guns should come ashore today instructions were sent to Col Johnstone of 2nd Bde, and Major Hughes of my Brigade to defer disembarkation. Col Johnstone was however under weigh with one gun, so he was allowed to land, and got his gun into action close to the beach, against guns at Gaba Tepe, and he undoubtedly temporarily silenced them.

At 5 PM I informed Col White I had carried out the task allotted to me in gathering up Infantry, and then proceeded to thoroughly reconnoitre the Right Flank position which seemed a naturally strong position, and one which I had carefully studied from the Ship while waiting to disembark. At this time there was plenty of shrapnel and rifle bullets flying round and also, many dead men. It was generally a very hot time. I shall never forget the sight of hundreds of wounded, in all sorts of conditions, lying on stretchers on the beach, awaiting to be taken off to the Hospital Ships. The actual details of the landing of the 3rd Brigade Covering Force I know little about, but the information concerning that will doubtless be made public in detail.

The first reconnaissance was a weird and fascinating experience. My trusty Bligh accompanied me all round. We traversed deep ravines, and climbed steep cliffs, carrying nothing but a Sam Browne belt, and a stick, yet I had a hard job to negotiate the hills. How our fellows ever fought their way over these ravines and cliffs will ever remain a mystery to me. Their tracks were marked by discarded packs, picks, shovels and equipment generally. They found it necessary to travel "light", with their rifle and bayonet only. Their tracks too were sadly marked by dead and wounded casualties. The Stretcher bearers did marvellous and glorious work. The Beaches at the time were a mass of Staff officers, stores, wounded, fresh troops etc. I wish I had a photograph of this scene as I saw it.

I returned to Head Quarters just before dark, and told Col Hobbs what I had done, and that I could find suitable places for batteries. Both the Col and Major Anderson questioned the possibility of doing what I said I could do, they having according to their own statement previously been over the ground. In discussing the matter fully I ascertained they had not been within a mile of the line I had reconnoitred. I again carefully tramped over the ground, Bligh accompanying me, and later reported to Col Hobbs and General Bridges that I could use Artillery effectively on extreme Right Flank. The General agreed to let me have two Batteries but afterwards altered to 2 guns, and then cancelled altogether. I had in my reconnaissance conferred with Col Onslow Thompson, Colonel Garside and Col Bolton as to enemy’s position, and they were delighted when I informed them I was to bring up Artillery. We had waited on the beach all night for the two guns to be landed and did not know till 5.30AM that arrangements had been cancelled. No sleep the first night. If I had had a chance I am sure I could not have slept under the conditions.

My Head Quarters men worked like Trojans making a roadway up to the Green [wheat] Field I have previously referred to, and very excellent work they did. Towards morning drizzling rain began to fall, and in addition the air was very cold, so our first night at Gallipoli was not too pleasant.

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