Sunday, 17 November 2013

Gallant Australians - Charge of the Light Horse - part 2

But from that man we know all that will probably ever be known of what those Light Horsemen found facing them as they ran through the dust haze. The nearer trenches were crammed with troops. The bayonets of the front row of Turks could   be seen just over the parapet-and behind them there appeared to be two rows of Turks standing waist-high above the parapet emptying their rifles as fast as they could fire them. This is confirmed by the accounts of officers in other parts of the line who had a view of the Turks in their trenches. There is no question that the charge of the Light Horse pinned down to that position during its continuance and for hours afterwards every available Turkish soldier within call. Our own machine-guns were able to get in some work amongst those crowded Turks, and those who know say that their losses must have been an ample set off to our own.

So much for the charge of the Third Light Horse Brigade. The First Light Horse Brigade attacked partly from Quinn's Post, on the opposite side of the gully, and partly from the hill in the gully between the two. The Second Regiment was to attack from Quinn's in four lines of 50 each. The first line led by Major T T Logan scrambled from the trench the instant the signal was given, but more than half were actually knocked back killed or wounded into the trench before they were clear of the parapet. The first few out managed to reach a few yards before they were killed. They left their trenches at two points, and there were only from 15 to 25 yards to go. Major Logan is said actually to have reached the Turkish parapet and fallen on to it. Lieutenant Bourne, who led the other party, fell about 10 yards from our trench. The boy who fell beside him had his leg practically severed by machine gun bullets. The Turkish machine guns drew a line across that narrow space that none could pass, and a man who was hit once by them was often hit again half a dozen times as he fell. As the whole of the first line was either killed or wounded within a few seconds, the attack was stopped and the other lines did not start. The First Regiment attacked from the hill in   the gully. In front of that hill is a small   branch of the main valley, very steep on both sides, and only about 40 yards from one side to the other. On the northern slope of this gully the Turks have three   lines of trenches, the farthest up being on the edge of the gully with many other lines of trenches across the gentler slope above it. Two squadrons of the First Light Horse went out, one working up the gully, and the other going straight over the parapet as soon as the first was in position.

The lower trench is never held by the Turks by day, and the Light Horse by using stick bombs drove the Turks clean out of the other two. One party rushed the second trench and from there began to bomb the trench ahead of it. Suddenly a white hand appeared over the parapet of the trench in front furiously waving. The colonel of the regiment, who had come out with his men, recognised it for the hand of a subaltern who had led his men right over into the third trench, and immediately leapt over the parapet and joined the party in the third trench, which had previously been in the most un   comfortable position of being bombed by its friends from behind and by the enemy from in front. There for two hours this party remained fighting the Turks in the trenches farther uphill, as best they could with the slender supply of bombs that came over to them. Even to supply those   bombs men had to imperil their lives by running over the top from their own trench in full view of the Turks. But the Turk in his trenches up the hill had it all his own way in this bomb battle. His higher trenches were connected with the trench which we held by frequent narrow manhole tunnels. At the same time as the Turks pitched a bomb through the air towards the lower trench he would bowl a second bomb down the tunnel in the same direction and our men intent upon dodging the bomb that was coming through the air, would find a bomb bursting underneath their feet.  

The first regiment saw the third line melt out us the Third Light Horse Brigade charged across the ridge to their left. The Welsh Fusiliers in the valley on their left advanced through the dust haze until their first two lines fell almost in a heap at the foot of a cliff, down which the Turks rolled bombs upon them, when the attack was stopped. The Turks at once-good soldiers that they are- swooped down this cliff face until some of the Light Horse saw what   they were at, and detached two or three   snipers, who shot 20 of these Turks in quick time. In the meantime all the other at tacks having ended, the whole of the Turkish machine-guns that could bear upon the spot were turned upon the three trenches still held by the First Light Horse, and   after two hours of furious fighting the commander of the regiment ordered a retire ment. They managed to get most of their wounded back into their trenches-they even managed to steal up the gully side and rescue one or two of their comrades of the Third Brigade whom they could see still living. Of the First Regiment only about one in six of the men who went out came back unwounded. And by some miracle the one officer who returned without a scratch, in spite of the fact that he had been through the thickest of that two hours turmoil, was the commander himself.  
So ended the attack of the two Light Horse Brigades. The one man who carne   back from the parapet of the Turkish trenches reported that the Turks there had their packs on and were in full marching order-evidently part of a battalion that had been hurried up from the reserves, or   else which was being hurried off to rein force farther north when this attack in the centre delayed it. The Australian Light Horse in the richest and fullest manner achieved the object for which their help had become necessary at a critical period of a great movement.

And as for the boys-the single minded, loyal, Australian country lads-who left   their trenches in the grey light of that morning to bivouac in the scrub that evening - the shades of evening found them lying in the scrub with the wide sky above them. The green arbutus, and the holly of the peninsula not unlike their native bush, will some day again claim this neck in those wild ranges for its own. But the place will always be sacred as the scene of two very brave deeds-the first the desperate attack made by the Turk across that same neck on the dawn of June 30; the second the charge of the Australian Light Horse into certain death at the call of their comrades' need during a crisis in the greatest battle that has ever been fought on Turkish soil.
The Argus Tuesday 28 September, 1915 page 5

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