Gallipoli Diaries: the Anzacs' own story, day by day

Gallipoli Diaries: the Anzacs' own story, day by day

by Jonathan King

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Gallipoli, for the average Australian, is the most famous battle that our volunteer soldiers ever fought, because it was our first entry as a nation into the war, and our people were keen to prove themselves. It would be, however, a long time before the families back home, and the nation as a whole, heard of the terrible conditions on the peninsula and the waste of life that took place there. Although Gallipoli was a crushing defeat, it was, and still is, celebrated as a victory.

In this updated commemorative edition, published 100 years after the 25 April 1915 landing, the Gallipoli story is told day by day, using the words of the diggers, drivers, soldiers, and war correspondents at the front-line. War historian Jonathan King has gathered together an unequalled series of extracts from letters and diaries, written by hundreds of Anzacs at Gallipoli, accounting for every one of the 240 days of the eight-month campaign — and even identifying the actual days of the week. Reading the men’s own words, including misspellings and mistakes, we share in the soldiers’ experiences.

These Australians, of exceptional calibre and good cheer, each wrote for different reasons, although many made light of their hardships. It is all here — the fear, the frustration, and the boredom, as they scrounged for bully beef; went mad from the flies, the lice, and the stench of the unburied dead; swapped cigarettes with enemy Turks; dodged shrapnel while swimming at the beach; celebrated birthdays; sheltered from rain and shivered in snow; and waited for action while praying for deliverance.

Although generals, historians, and war scholars have had their stories told many times, it is only now, when we read the private words of the men at the front-line, that we can glimpse what Gallipoli was really like.


‘In Jonathan King's Gallipoli Diaries we share the experiences of the diggers from day one … It is a story that is spoken in the sometimes halting words of the soldiers and therein lies its power. There is much here to enlarge our understanding of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign — not least the appalling conditions in the trenches, the daily grind of water carrying, poor food, flies and death.’ Books + Publishing

[A] comprehensive history of the whole of the Gallipoli campaign … Some notable Australian writers are among the many letter-writers and diarists and their writing skills stand out … King starts the book with some thoughts about why Australia as a nation celebrates what was, after all, a crushing defeat.' The Cooma-Monaro Express

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781925113150
Publisher: Scribe Publications Pty Ltd
Publication date: 09/29/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
File size: 11 MB
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About the Author

Award-winning historian Dr Jonathan King has been producing books and films about World War I since 1994. He leads battlefield tours to Gallipoli and the Western Front, and is a regular television and radio commentator, as well as a writer for newspapers. After lecturing at The University of Melbourne for many years, he has written more than 30 books and produced 20 documentaries. He is based in Sydney with his fellow adventurer and wife, Jane. They have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt

Gallipoli Diaries

The Anzacs' Own Story, Day By Day

By Jonathan King

Scribe Publications Pty Ltd

Copyright © 2014 Jonathan King
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-925113-15-0


The Landing


'All men are now lined up on deck and the orders issued, 'no rifles are to be loaded ... equipment to be left unbuckled ... silence to be strictly maintained in the boats. Bayonets to be fixed the moment of landing & the first line of trenches to be taken at the point of "cold steel". At precisely 3.10 a.m. countless numbers of small craft ... push off together for the unknown.'


Sunday 25 April DAY 1

As the fleet of ships transporting the soldiers approached the Turkish shore, there was a great sense of anticipation. At last the time had come. The anxious waiting was over. As journalist Charles Bean, notebook and pencil in hand, noted, 'It is still too dark to see what I am writing but the dawn is slowly growing ... it is well past four just when the men of the 3rd Brigade should be rushing out of their boats ... then at 4.38 for the first time listening eagerly ... I heard the distant echo of rifle firing the men had landed and the battle had begun.'

The first Australian soldiers to land were the 3rd Brigade (known as the 'all-Australian brigade') led by Major E.G. Sinclair-MacLagan. He had four battalions (the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th battalions) made up of about 1,000 men each to a total of 4,000 soldiers.

The second wave of soldiers were the 1st and 2nd Brigades, also of about 4,000 men each, comprising a supporting force of 8,000. The 2nd Brigade would land ahead of the 1st Brigade. In all, about 12,000 Australians landed on the first day. The ordinary soldiers who rushed ashore that day had no idea of the historic nature of their mission. Some did not even know what country they were attacking, due to official secrecy, nor who they would be shooting at.

The soldiers who landed from the 25th of April onwards discovered that their task was a difficult one. The cliffs of the rugged Turkish coastline were too steep and the terrain was defended by well-armed enemy soldiers who were continually reinforced and supported by highly skilled German officers. These Turkish soldiers were also perched on cliff tops overlooking the beaches chosen by the Allied landing forces. After all, this was the wrong beach, a mile north at Ari Burnu where the cliffs were much steeper than the flat terrain of the intended landing site, Gaba Tepe. According to Charles Bean, had the troops landed where they were meant to, at Gaba Tepe, the results could have actually been worse: 'the Turks who must have heard we intended landing there, had made that place exceedingly strong — so I doubt if we could have landed there'.

Yet the men rose to the challenge. Despite heavy enemy fire, they stormed the beach and charged up steep cliffs, driving fleeing Turks before them. Although hundreds of Australians were killed in the first 24 hours, some soldiers achieved miraculous feats of strength before the Turks brought in reinforcements and mounted massive counterattacks. Athletic climbers like Captain Arthur Seaforth Blackburn, Captain Eric Tulloch, Captain Joe Lalor, Lieutenant Ivor Margetts, Captain Alfred Shout, and Lieutenant Hedley 'Snowy' Howe not only got to the top of the cliffs overlooking the landing beach but some to the top of hills far inland. From this vantage point, they could see below them the sparkling waters of their coveted Dardanelles shipping channel. On this first day, these heroic fighters reached strategic positions on the Gallipoli peninsula that Anzacs would never reach again — Scrubby Knoll, Chunuk Bair, Battleship Hill, Baby 700, and the notorious Nek (which the Anzacs tried to capture in August but failed, losing hundreds in the attempt).

These advance soldiers could almost have run down the hill on the eastern side of the peninsula towards the Dardanelles, but this was not the battle plan. The soldiers were so far in front of the line that no supporting reinforcements could join them. Had they not turned back, they would have been cut off from their base on the beach. Once these brave soldiers retreated, no Allied soldier ever got so far inland again in the eight-month campaign. Although it had been a valiant effort, by the end of the first day, the Anzacs occupied only a square kilometre of land, their front line less than 900 metres from the sea. Some of the leaders, including Lieutenant-General Birdwood, considered evacuating the troops.

Further south along the peninsula at Cape Helles, the British-led Allied forces, which included soldiers from France and other nations, also met with fierce resistance. The Anglo-French forces were able to entrench on some beaches but, on others, aggressive counterattacks (at beaches like Y Beach) forced them to evacuate by 26 April. With the Australian and New Zealand action on Anzac Cove, the Anglo-French assault was essential to the campaign to take the peninsula and the Dardanelles.

There were other heroic deeds on that first day. Many well-known accounts of familiar personalities were written, including the records of Charles Bean, and the exploits of Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick known as 'the man with the donkey'. Private Albert Facey published his life story, A Fortunate Life, in 1981. Corporal Ted Matthews, who would become the last survivor of the 25 April landing at Gallipoli, landed on that first day and gave many interviews before he died, aged 101. Ted Matthews was given a state funeral in 1997. The New Zealanders also have their share of heroic stories. They fought bravely alongside the Australians as part of the Anzac force.

The 3rd Brigade landed first, followed by the 2nd Brigade — which came right behind — then the 1st Brigade. The diary entry of an anonymous soldier from the 3rd Brigade begins the story:

'Arrived with the rest of the Fleet, consisting of Battleships, Cruisers, torpedo-destroyers, transports etc at a quarter to three. It is now black dark, the moon having gone down, sky clear & sea calm. Everyone is in a state of eager excitement, men move around the deck noiselessly and speak in whispers. We can now see the high black peaks of the shores of the Peninsula about 5 miles distant ... transport boats are lowered and steam pinnaces and destroyers also come alongside to take the boats in tow.

'All men are now lined up on deck and the orders issued, "no rifles are to be loaded ... equipment to be left unbuckled ... silence to be strictly maintained in the boats. Bayonets to be fixed the moment of landing & the first line of trenches to be taken at the point of cold steel" ... at precisely 3.10 a.m. countless numbers of small craft ... push off together for the unknown ... the scream of a shell and the water is thrown fifty feet skywards ... three shrapnel shells burst high over our heads and the contents come down like hail in the water near by ... our battleships commence & immediately there is the roar of a hundred guns & the whole place is illuminated ... the concussion is awful, one would fancy the whole mountain-side had fallen ... we are now within a mile of the shore & the row and din has increased ... the whole side of the mountains seem to be sending forth tongues of flame and the bullets fairly rain upon us — the water is churned up from rifle-fire, machine-guns, maxims, shrapnel and common shells ... seven of the boys in our boat are killed & God knows how many in the others ... the boats bottom scratch on the rocky shore ... 50 yards from land and to wade ashore with the feeling on you that you are at least one of the first to put foot on Turkish soil ... silent forms lay scattered on the beach everywhere: some gone to their last resting place ... some writhing in their last agonies, others with their life-blood fastly oozing out.

'Now we have commenced up those steep cliffs, parts of which one has to almost pull himself branch by branch ... in many places to fall back again ... We are near them now, only 50 yards away ... then a roar and a yell ... as we are charging at them ... they are out of their trenches ... On and on, up those awful cliffs and through the dense scrub, where every few yards a Turk jumps out with his bayonet ready ... Then the second line of trenches and again the third, just as the dawn of a new but bloody day is breaking. The top of the mountain is now strongly outlined against the grey morning sky (our goal) but yet fully two miles away. We now ... form up in some sort of a line, that has been hopelessly confused ... at this moment there is a "burr" overhead and on looking up we see two of our own flying-machines hovering over the enemy and dropping smoke-bombs to direct the fire of our warships ... Now for the first time our rifles ... fire (10 rounds rapid is the order) charge magazines again and up and at them ... until at last ... we gain the mountain peaks. The goal is reached but at what a cost.

'We now take advantage of all cover and pour in volley after volley, till the rifles are red hot and the wood-work smoking ... An hour of this and then the order comes down the line, to advance at right form, so we push on and by 3 o'clock we have them driven 3 or 4 miles inland. Then the order to get down and dig in — dig in for your lives — entrenching tools out and as one man digs the next is pouring in volley after volley ... As soon as it grows dark the order is passed down to the officers to select so many men to go back to the landing place at the beach for ammunition ... after nearly two hours we get there ... But oh God the sight of the dead and wounded absolutely covering the little sandy beach ... there is an enormous staff of medical men etc. there but it is absolutely impossible to attend to all, so that many a life ... expires on the beach for want of looking after ... Each man now seizes a box of ammunition & off in feverish haste for the firing-line ... at midnight we regain the firing-line, worn-out, weary and hungry ... No chance of sleep as the enemy are ever at us, and so the night advances to the dawn of a new day and thus was the work of our first day's bloody battle.'

An unnamed private (Private No. 94) from A Company, 9th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, who was on the first boat to land, described the danger enemy machine-guns posed to the landing force: 'The firstorman ashore on the peninsula was Lieutenant Chapman of the 9th, followed closely by Colonel Lee, Major Robertson, Major Salisbury, Captain Ryder, Dr. Butler and the men of our landing boat. In the darkness before the dawn, men gathered on the beach beneath the cliff. Packs were thrown off and bayonets fixed. All this time a machine gun on the cliff above us had been pouring a hail of bullets into the landing parties.

'Dr. Butler had lost some of his stretcher-bearers in that deadly fire and this made him very angry. "Come on, Queenslanders, we must take that gun" he cried and started climbing the cliff revolver in his hand. We stormed up the cliff behind him. Sergeant Fowles and Patrick Courtney were on either side of me as we climbed the cliff and both were shot dead. But we rushed the gun, bayoneted the Turks who formed the gun crew and silenced it, smashing the gun so it could never be used again.'

Private A.R. Perry, who was in the 3rd Brigade, also landed with this first wave. He was in the 10th Battalion and was wounded, along with some of his mates, not long after coming ashore. 'Thousands of bullets began to fly around and over us, sometimes barely missing. Now and then one heard a low gurgling moan, and turning, one saw near at hand some chum, who only a few seconds before had been laughing and joking, now lying gasping, with his life blood soaking down into the red clay and sand. "Five rounds rapid at the scrub in front" comes the command of our subaltern. Then an order down the line "Fix bayonets!" Fatal order was it not, perhaps some officers of the enemy who shouted it? (For they say such things were done). Out flash a thousand bayonets, scintillating in the sunlight like a thousand mirrors, signaling our position to the batteries away on our left and front ... One wonders how anyone could live amidst such a hail of death-dealing lead and shell. "Ah, got me!" says one lad on my left, and he shakes his arms. A bullet had passed through the biceps of his left arm, missed his chest by an inch, passed though the right forearm and finally struck the lad between him and me ... a man from the 9th Battalion started to bind up his wounds as he was bleeding freely. All the time shrapnel was hailing down on us. "Oh-h" comes from directly behind me and looking around, I see a poor little Lieutenant of C Company has been badly wounded. From both hips to his ankles blood is oozing through pants and puttees, and he painfully drags himself to the rear. With every pull he moans cruelly. I raise him to his feet and at a very slow pace start to help him to shelter past a file of bleeding men some shot through the leg "using their rifles as crutches" ... Alas! I have only got him about 50 yards from the firing line when bang-swish! And we were both peppered by shrapnel and shell. My rifle butt was broken off to the trigger guard, and I received a smashing blow that laid my cheek on my shoulder. The last I remember was the poor little Lieutenant groaning again as we both sank to the ground.'

When he came around, Private Perry found himself on a troopship heading for hospital with other wounded. But he wrote that, 'I would not have missed it for all the money in the world.'

Private R.G. Hamilton was also in the 3rd Brigade landing with the first wave, as a member of the 9th Battalion. Although also wounded, he was lucky to be evacuated at the end of that first day, which he described in a letter to his family. 'Just a line to let you know that I am still numbered amongst the living ... I will try to give you an idea of our landing though I do not suppose it will interest you much but you see I have nothing else to write about ... on the twenty fourth of April we sailed away for the Dardanelles we were told that night that we were to land next morning about two o'clock, that night we transferred on to a torpedo boat destroyer which was capable of holding about 300, just before daylight we came in sight of our destination and disembarked on to small rowing boats capable of holding about 30.

'I was picked for a rower and was in the first boat, we got about 50 yards in the boats (the shore was about 300 yards away) when the Turks opened a terrific fire on us, both rifle and machine guns, however we kept on going and eventually landed with only three casualties out of our boat, about the same time as we were landing there was hundreds of small boats, from cruisers, gunboats and transports also landing. When we got ashore we fixed bayonets and charged their first line of trenches, but they would not stay but cleared back to their main body which was about two miles away and we only got a few, after a short respite of about half an hour they opened fire again also their artillery and land batteries and our gunboats, talk about an inferno, well I'm deaf yet from it, then shrapnel fell around us like hailstones, however we kept at it all day fighting against fearful odds but being continually reinforced, thereby holding the ground that we had gained during the early part of the day, but at an awful cost which you will see when the casualty list come out.

'I am glad to say ... I was in the firing line all day with the exception of half an hour while I helped one of our wounded officers back to the dressing station. It was terrible to see your comrades shot down around you, shattered to pieces with shells and shrapnel others shot or wounded with bullets. I had some very narrow escapes, once whilst digging a small embankment in front of me with my entrenching tool a machine gun turned onto me, I had the tool right in front of my head and four or five bullets hit it in less than a second, but one missed and hit my puttee leaving a hole three or four inches in length and only grazed the skin, the machine gun then shifted to the next man and shot him instantly. I finished what I was doing and started shooting.

'It was very late that evening when I did get hit, though our right flank had retired about half a mile, I was one of them, we lined the top of a ridge and was told to hold it at all cost, the hail of bullets that were fired at us was terrific, another machine gun found me but I was behind a small bush, it stripped all the leaves off the bush and one caught me in the foot smashing the bone and going right through the bottom of the boot, I had to go back then and was eventually sent on to the boat about eleven o'clock that night. Well, I wont tire you with any more news now, you will be bored before you get half through this, and there is no other news to tell you.'

Private James Suggett-Hagan was in the 2nd Brigade, in the 3rd Battalion, and so was in the second wave that landed. 'We arrived in Gulf of Saroo at 4.45 a.m. Can now see enemies fort guns and field batteries engaging our warships. We are warned to prepare to disembark onto torpedo boats. A and B Companies of 3rd Battalion disembark onto T.B.D. Rattlesnake at 5.10 a.m. Shells dropping all around our boat and bursting overhead. The roar of guns and the rattle of musketry is terrible.

'About 50 yards from shore we transfer from T.B.D. into rowing boats amid a continual shower of shrapnel. We now begin to lose our men. Whole boatloads vanish as a result of murderous artillery fire from the Turks' machine guns. About 15 yards from shore we get beached. Water too shallow for boats. We are ordered to wade ashore.

'Those who got ashore were ordered to take all possible cover. Beach was littered with dead and wounded men. Our battalion was ordered into action immediately. We got into a sort of formation, discarded our packs and charged for our lives.

'At 6.30 a.m. we were side by side with 3rd Brigade men and fighting fiercely ... Our first mountain gun spoke up at 7.30 a.m. and we cheered like one man ... The warships were giving the enemy a frightful doing. The Queen Lizzie, in particular, was bursting 5 inch lyddite right amongst them whilst they were advancing in Indian file from WALKER'S RIDGE towards QUINN'S POST. Our chaps were holding on admirably.

'At 10 a.m. the most terrible battle of the day commenced. The enemy now had his artillery in good going order and he gave us particular HADES backed up by several massed attacks. The butchery on both sides was gruesome and in places we were very hard pressed ... by noon we were well dug in. It was decided that a further advance at that time was impossible and we were told to dig in and fortify ... After noon the fire died down considerably and things were VERY SLOW until about 5.30 p.m. when the enemy made another massed assault which was the worst one of the day. It was no use and was repulsed with great loss. ... Desultory fire throughout the night ... THUS ENDED ONE OF THE WORST DAYS I HAVE EVER WITNESSED.'

One of the others landing with the 2nd Brigade in this second wave was Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Scobie of the 2nd Battalion, a veteran of the Boer war, who was also wounded. He wrote to his wife, Flora. 'We started to disembark at 6.30 a.m and when we got to the beach there were dead and wounded lying everywhere. Our men marched up to the place of formation under the cliffs, and soon we were away. It was very rough country, with a low scrub on it, very steep and rugged, going up abruptly to about 400 feet from the beach'. Despite the challenge, Scobie confirms members of 'The Third Brigade got in about two miles on to a ridge facing the Dardanelles', and he: 'took two companies up to support their left passing tents and dug-outs, dead and wounded men ... We got it from shrapnel [which] just came down in showers'.


Excerpted from Gallipoli Diaries by Jonathan King. Copyright © 2014 Jonathan King. Excerpted by permission of Scribe Publications Pty Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Preface: The Eyewitnesses Reinstate Truth — That First Casualty of War,
Introduction: Listening to the Anzacs,
Prologue: 24 April 1915 — Anzac Eve,
CHAPTER 1: The Landing — 25 April,
CHAPTER 2: The Morning After — 26–30 April,
CHAPTER 3: Burying the Dead — May,
CHAPTER 4: All Hell Breaks Loose at Helles — June,
CHAPTER 5: Talk of Mutiny — July,
CHAPTER 6: Sending Lambs to Slaughter at Lone Pine & the Nek — August,
CHAPTER 7: Murdoch Exposes the Disaster — September,
CHAPTER 8: Trading Tucker with the Turks — October,
CHAPTER 9: Lord Kitchener Calls on the Boys — November,
CHAPTER 10: Retreating with Honour — December,
Appendix 1: Army Ranks, Abbreviations, and Glossary,
Appendix 2: Gallipoli Timeline,
Appendix 3: Who Was Who,
Appendix 4: The Roll of Honour,

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