From the memorial there is a magnificent view in all directions. To the south-west, to your right, you can see the sweep of Bolton’s Ridge leading down to the sea and beyond the promontory of Gaba Tepe. Looking south, across the flat valley, through which you most likely came to reach Anzac from Eceabat, the land rises again to the hump of Achi Baba in the middle distance. From there, the land falls away to the tip of the peninsula at Helles where the British landings took place on 25 April 1915.
At Anzac, men could hear the artillery fire from Helles. Despite terrible bloodshed on both sides, the British were unable to break through the Turkish lines and they evacuated the position on 9 January 1916. Australians and New Zealanders also fought with great loss at Helles – in the Second Battle of Krithia on 8 May 1915. The Helles cemeteries contain Australian graves and on the Helles Memorial, at the very tip of the peninsula, are recorded the names of Australian soldiers who died at Krithia and whose bodies were either never recovered or could not be identified at burial. On the Helles Memorial are also listed the units of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) that fought at Gallipoli – the only place where this information is recorded on the peninsula – for the Helles Memorial is the British Empire’s tribute to the whole campaign. Every year, thousands of Australians go to Anzac; few visit Helles.
Looking left, back to the east across the valley, you will see the long low rise of Third or Gun Ridge. Throughout the campaign this was behind the Turkish lines although a few Anzacs reached it on 25 April 1915. Looking north-east, Second and Third Ridge merge in the near distance and the slope rises up across Battleship Hill and then more steeply to Chunuk Bair. On that height is the New Zealand Memorial.
Look up to the road outside the cemetery. It bends away from here along Second Ridge past smaller cemeteries that you can pick out in this order – Johnston’s Jolly, Courtney's and Steel's Post and Quinn’s Post. The Anzac trenches ran along this narrow ridge to the left of the road while the Turkish line was just metres away on the other side. Bean described his return to Second Ridge in 1919:
Thus as we rode northwards along this road the trenches were never, except where a gully broke them, more than about fifty yards away on either hand … It gave a strange thrill to ride along this space in front of Steele’s, Courtney’s and Quinn’s where three years before men could not even crawl at night. The bones and tattered uniforms of men were scattered everywhere…
[Charles Bean, Gallipoli Mission, Sydney, 1990, p 50]
In the vicinity of the Lone Pine Memorial there stood on 25 April 1915, in Bean’s words, a ‘single dwarf pine tree’. Within days the tree had been shot away but not before it gave its name to the position, Lone Pine. Within months, Lone Pine had entered Australia’s national story as the site of one of the bloodiest and hardest fought actions of the campaign – the Battle of Lone Pine.
Bare white bones, piled or clustered
Stand on the northern end of the Lone Pine Memorial and look back over the cemetery. Beneath you in 1915 would have been Turkish trenches on the eastern side and roughly at the other end of the cemetery would have been the Anzac lines. If you had been in the Turkish trenches on the afternoon of 6 August 1915 at 5.25 pm you would have had the sun in your eyes and you would have been enduring a fierce artillery barrage from Royal Navy warships offshore and from batteries in the Anzac area.
At precisely 5.30 pm the barrage lifted and, rising from concealed trenches in no-man’s-land and the Anzac line, came the men of New South Wales, soldiers of the 1st Brigade (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions). They charged straight across the area in front of you, meeting Turkish fire. Then they paused. Instead of an enemy trench to jump down into they found much of the front line trenches were covered in sand being held up by timbers. Some men ran on over these covered areas and reached the Turkish communication trenches; others found gaps in this head cover and leapt down into the darkness beneath. The preliminary bombardment had been so fierce that Turkish soldiers holding the front line had moved back into nearby mine galleries for cover and many fled at the sudden appearance of the Australians. By nightfall, most of the enemy front line was in Australian hands and outposts had been established further ahead in former Turkish communication trenches. The Australian Engineers had also dug safe passage across no-man’s-land and reinforcements were able to come over without exposing themselves to Turkish fire. However, the real battle for Lone Pine was just beginning.
Lone Pine was a strong and important position to the Turks. They had not expected such an attack here and the order was quickly given to retake lost positions. For three days and nights Australians and Turks struggled in the trenches and dark tunnels of Lone Pine until the area was choked with the wounded, dying and dead:
The wounded bodies of both Turks and our own … were piled up 3 and 4 deep … the bombs simply poured in but as fast as our men went down another would take his place. Besides our own wounded the Turks’ wounded lying in our trench were cut to pieces with their own bombs. We had no time to think of our wounded … their pleas for mercy were not heeded … Some poor fellows lay for 30 hours waiting for help and many died still waiting.
[Private John Gammage, 1st Battalion, quoted in Les Carlyon, Gallipoli, Sydney, 2001, p 360]
Lone Pine was a battle of bombs, bullets and bayonets fought to defend sandbag walls built by both sides to block up a trench at the forward most point of the advance or counter attack. The Australians tried to hold what they had taken; the Turks fought equally determinedly to expel them from it.
The action at one spot was typical of the fighting at Lone Pine. Lieutenant Frederick Tubb, 7th Battalion, of Longwood, Victoria, defended a position with eight men against a Turkish onslaught. As the enemy bombs fell upon them, Tubb told his men to smother them with Turkish greatcoats that lay about the trench. Some Turks broke through but were shot or bayoneted; others that tried to crawl in the open around the position were also killed. Tubb was everywhere, firing his revolver and leading by example. Slowly, men who were trying to catch and return bombs were being wounded. Corporal Frederick Wright, 7th Battalion, of Melbourne, clutched at a bomb that burst in his face killing him. Corporal Harry Webb, described by Bean as ‘an orphan from Essendon’, had both hands blown off, walked back out of the action and died. Bombs continued to burst and four more men were killed or wounded.
Eventually, only Tubb, wounded in his arm and scalp, and two others, Corporals William Dunstan of Ballarat and Alexander Burton of Euroa, were left. A violent explosion blew down the Australian sandbag wall. Tubb drove the Turks back while Dunstan and Burton strove to rebuild the barrier when another bomb went off, killing Burton and blinding Dunstan. At that point reinforcements arrived, the position was saved and the Turks pulled back.
When it was all over, Burton, Tubb and Dunstan, along with four other Australians, were awarded Victoria Crosses for their outstanding courage at Lone Pine. Many more men received other bravery decorations. The battle, which raged here between 6 and 9 August, cost Australia more than 2,000 casualties and the Turks somewhere in the region of 7,000. The whole action had been mounted as a diversion to keep Turkish attention and reserves focused on Lone Pine while the main battle to the north – to capture Chunuk Bair – was being waged by New Zealand, British, Indian and Gurkha forces. While Chunuk Bair did not fall, Lone Pine was a success for the Anzacs – but a success won at great cost.
All of this occurred in the vicinity of the Lone Pine Memorial. Because of the losses incurred here between 25 April and 3 May and during the days of the Lone Pine battle, it was decided to build Australia’s principal memorial on Anzac at this spot. To the Turks, Lone Pine was Kanli Sirt – Bloody Ridge – and when, shortly after the end of the war in 1918, an unnamed British visitor came to this ridge he saw everywhere the evidence of the blood that had been spilt there:
On the tumbled soil of the trenches lay the bare white bones, piled or clustered so thickly in places that we had to tread upon them as we passed.
[Visitor to Lone Pine in December 1918, quoted in John North,Gallipoli: The Fading Vision London, 1936, p 219]