from ‘the War Illustrated Deluxe’ volume IV page 1280
'The Gloom and Glory of the Sari Bair Battles'

The Great Episodes of the War

burying dead during a truce


At the beginning of August, 1915, Enver Bey began to tire of the slow, scientific warfare being waged by the German commander on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Liman von Sanders wanted to hold on patiently in his vast system of defences until the south-west autumnal gales made it very difficult, if not impossible, for any ships to re- victua! the attacking armies clinging to the coast around Krithia and "Anzac" Cove. But the impetuous Young Turk, who had made himself master of the Ottoman Empire, desired to drive the British and French troops into the sea by an immediate, overwhelming attack. There was some sound ground of policy in the vehement method of Enver. He was much afraid that another powerful army would soon join in the Dardanelles operations, and it was his design to deliver at once so decisive a blow against the British, Australian, Indian, and French forces that the Italian plan of co-operation would collapse.


The Plan for the Decisive Thrust

With this design a fresh army was marched through the Bulair lines towards the end of the first week of August. But as the troops were swinging down towards Achi Baba and Sari Bair an unexpected event occurred. A British battle squadron appeared off the neck of land at Bulair with a large number of troopships. The British naval guns opened a furious bombardment, and a small covering British force landed on the shore to clear the place of embarkation for the new attacking army. Enver Bey quickly massed his fresh troops around the cliffs for a great battle which never occurred.

It was only a feint carried out by an Empire with such vast naval resources that it could spare a fleet simply to distract the enemy. The great new British landing was made far to the south at Suvla Bay, where a plain extends beyond a salt lake to the ridge of heights commanding the Narrows. Only a small Turkish post of some fifty men was guarding the shore, and under the fire of our naval guns a footing was won with comparative ease, and the new army disembarked. It was commanded by a brilliant general, famous for his Staff work, and chosen, it is said, by Sir Ian Hamilton to make the decisive thrust across the Gallipoli Peninsula which was designed to overthrow the Ottoman power. According to the plan of attack, admirably arranged by the Scottish Commander-in-Chief, the new army was to swing across Anafarta plain, with Burnt Hill on its left, Anafarta ridge in front of it, and Chunuk Bair, a shoulder of the commanding peak of Sari Bair, on its right. The army was to hold out on its left, and rush with its main force up the central ridge and the slopes of Chunuk Bair, where the crowning battle for the Dardanelles was to take place.

For while the new army was attacking from the north, the wild, half-naked, sun-baked sons of the Southern Cross— the Australian, New Zealand, and Maori troops, now known as the " Anzacs "—were ordered to assail Chunuk Bair from the south, with the help of the Indian troops. Then, in order to keep the enemy so fully employed on all fronts that he would be unable to concentrate against the main surprise attack, the British and French troops lined out across the tip of the peninsula near the village of Krithia were commanded to deliver an assault against the southernmost Turkish fortress height of Achi Baba, or Tree Hill.

Heroic Achievements of the Anzacs

All the veteran forces of the Dardanelles gave battle on August 6th, and carried out their part of the general plan with clockwork precision and tremendous drive. They were heartened by the knowledge that at last the grand movement was launched which would, it was hoped, release them at last from the flies, thirst, burning heat, and other discomforts of the Dardanelles campaign.

In the southern zone, where Enver Bey tried to carry out his original sweeping movement, not only were all the Turkish attacks shattered, but our men advanced two hundred yards down the Krithia road, and greatly strengthened their difficult position. But the heroes of the general

operations were the Anzacs. In this, their second great charge, they achieved the apparently impossible by eclipsing the first great drive they had made towards Maidos during their early landing battles. At ten o'clock on Friday night, August 6th, one Anzac brigade leapt from its trenches, took the first Turkish trench with the bayonet in a few minutes, and then worked up the slopes of Sari Bair in the darkness, the men guiding themselves by the stars, and stabbing their way through the ravines and the sniper-sheltering scrub. The violent hand-to-hand struggle went on all through Saturday, August 7th, when the New Zealanders especially gained a good deal of ground. Then on the left of the New Zealand advance the Australians and Indians worked forward and won Lonesome Pine Plateau. Here their first line was shattered by the enemy's shrapnel fire, but the second and third lines drove on with frenzied courage, and in one stabbing, screaming, raging charge captured four lines of Turkish trenches.

Crests Won by Bayonet Battles

Meanwhile, another Australian brigade, with an Anzac and Indian reserve, marched out in the darkness northward towards Suvla Bay to capture Chunuk Bair and connect the Anzac position with that of the new army. The men went forward with unloaded rifles to unknown and unexplored territory, over broken ridges covered with thorn-bush. Each ridge was held by the Turks, and the fighting had to be done with the bayonet alone so as not to draw the fire of the enemy's guns by rifle-flashes. Ridge after ridge was rushed with the steel, and when dawn came the Australians had thrust themselves for more than two miles across the lower slopes of Sari Bair.

By fighting of a kind so desperate as to be almost superhuman, the Anzac forces at last won to the crests of both Chunuk Bair and the dark towering Sari Bair. It needed only a comparatively light thrust from the north, by the new army, to topple over the last line of Turks and win a decisive victory. The opening of the Dardanelles and the fall of the Ottoman Empire were events that seemed suddenly about to be realised, through the heroism of men belonging to nations which did not exist when the Turk first entered Europe. Unhappily, all did not go smoothly with the new army that had been landed in Suvla Bay. The enemy was able to bring up large fresh forces, while our troops were still lying at a disadvantage on the lowland by the sea. .

Defeat of the Surprise Attack

Then, when the new army tried to advance on Anafarta ridge, on August gth, the Turks set fire to the scrub on the height known as Burnt Hill, and the flames were carried by a strong north wind across our front, compelling our infantry to abandon their advanced position. The fires continued the following day, and by this time Enver Bey was able in turn to march his new forces around Sari Bair, and check the surprise attack which Sir Ian Hamilton had planned. The heroic Anzac army, which had fought to the utmost limit of its powers, was slowly pushed back towards its former position, and though it was able to maintain along the coast connection with the Suvla Bay army, the general result of its long-sustained exertions was indecisive.

On August 21st another heroic assault against Burnt Hill was delivered by the Yeomanry Division of the new army. The dismounted cavalrymen charged across a valley and stormed the Turkish trenches in a magnificent way, but on reaching the crest of the hill they were raked by a cross-fire of enemy guns and machine-guns, and with the hostile forces surrounding them from higher ground on three sides, they had to abandon the position at night. Another attack, however, on August 27th and 28th, was more fortunate, and at last the ridge was won from which the Anarfarta valley could be commanded by our artillery. This final advance enabled us to consolidate our lines from Suvla Bay to Gaba Tepe, and to drive a wedge some three miles long through the critical point in the Turkish system of defences.


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