The time on my computer reads 1.00am. It is Wednesday the 25th of April, 2012. On this day, back in 1915, the ANZAC legend was created.
The clip above was from the Peter Weir movie, Gallipoli. (Unfortunately it was a bit buggy to embed properly, so I apologise if it doesn’t play for you. The link is at the bottom.) Below is a written account.
The ANZAC landing area was a broad, six kilometre stretch of beach from about a mile north of Gaba Tepe to a point near Fisherman’s Hut, north of Anzac Cove. It was officially designated “Z Beach”. (The five landing beaches at Helles were designated “S”, “V”, “W”, “X” and “Y Beach”). To attain surprise the landing would commence following moonset, about one hour before dawn.
The landing would begin with the arrival of a “covering” force to swiftly capture the area surrounding the landing zone and make it secure for the main force. The Australian 3rd Brigade was selected as the covering force. Three battalions were to seize the third ridge line as well as Gaba Tepe while the fourth battalion remained in reserve. Following the covering force, the Australian 2nd Brigade would land and move to the north, climbing to the summit of the main range at Hill 971 and protecting the left flank of the landing. The original plan called for the capture of Mal Tepe, halfway across the peninsula, on the first day but only if the landing was successful would this objective be pursued by the main force; the Australian 1st Brigade and the two brigades of the New Zealand and Australian Division.
The first wave of the covering force would come ashore from the cutters of three battleships which were to approach within five kilometres of the shore. The remaining waves of the covering force would be landed from seven destroyers which were to approach close in to the beach. The main force would land from transports.
What actually happened:
As the armada of Allied ships draw nearer, by 2.00 am it was spotted by various Ottoman observers who passed the information on to Maidos HQ. The 2nd Battalion of the 27th Infantry Regiment was ordered to be on the alert prepare for action to repel any troops landing on the shores.
The first troops to land were two companies of each of the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions of the Australian 3rd Brigade. The companies embarked from three battleships. Each battleship dispatched four steamboats towing three row boats (launches and pinnaces)—a total of 48 boats.
The moon set at 3am and the battleships released the tows at 3.30am. Given the night was pitch dark, the tows headed due east and so relied on the battleships having been in the correct position when they were released. The journey of the tows became a shambles and numerous theories have been proposed to explain what went amiss. The southern-most tow kept a good course and was aimed correctly just north of Gaba Tepe but its commander found the neighbouring tows were heading northwards, leaving him isolated. He altered course to bring his tow closer and this may have caused a ripple effect as the other tows responded with a similar correction. As the shore was sighted, the headland of Ari Burnu became visible and some tows mistook this for Gaba Tepe and hence veered even further north.
For whatever reason, these first boats which were meant to land on a six kilometre front between Hell Spit and Gaba Tepe ended up concentrated about Ari Burnu, almost two and a half kilometres north of their intended landing area—in fact, in the landing area of the 2nd Brigade which was to follow. The area about Ari Burnu was defended by a single company of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment, Ottoman 9th Division. The Australians began to come ashore at 4.30am. The first man to land was Cpl. Joseph Stratford #1179. 9th Btn. According to eyewitness reports, when he was waist deep in water, he disposed of most of his heavy equipment and charged towards the enemy, which cut him down in a hail of bullets.
The first troops to land were met by sporadic rifle and machine gun fire but casualties were relatively light. The 11th Battalion, which had landed just north of Ari Burnu, suffered the worst. The main enemy was confusion. The erratic course of the tows meant that the units had become intermingled. Officers were unsure where their units were or indeed where they themselves were; some thought that they had landed at Gaba Tepe. The geography was utterly unfamiliar and no objective could be identified.
Most of the troops of the 9th and 10th Battalions began to climb the first hill that confronted them, which unfortunately turned out to be the dead-end Plugge’s Plateau.
The time on my computer now reads 1.30am. It is Wednesday the 25th of April, 2012. On this day, back in 1915, the ANZAC legend was created. At this time on that fateful day, the men would have been looking out at the shoreline, using the last of the moonlight to memorise the distant shoreline. Fearing the moon setting, and impatient as well, so that the landing could be over. How many of them knew the circumstances that were turning against them? How many had any idea of just how bad it would be?
I am a proud Australian. Today is a very special day for me. I shall be posting this at 4.30am, the time that Corporal Joseph Stratford, the first Australian to land, was cut down while still waist deep in water, having not even made it to the sand. The first to die of 4,931 Australian casualties. It is my hope today that you, dear readers, may pause with me, and remember those who gave their lives for the liberties we enjoy today.
Lest We Forget.
‘Written account’ abbreviated from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landing_at_Anzac_Cove
CC Image courtesy louisemakesstuff at http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisemakesstuff/1185971424/