Audio

Turkish Soldier Memorial

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of Turkish Soldier Memorial 1.81 MB MP3

Audio transcript

Towering over the Anzac battlefield, just up the road from Quinn’s Post, is the statue of an ordinary Turkish soldier, a ‘Mehmet’. Hans Kannengiesser, a German military adviser to the Ottoman Army, described the Mehmets as brave and trustworthy. Initially, the Allies underestimated the fighting capacity of the Turkish army and many thought it would melt away at the first show of force and the cold steel of a bayonet. As the fighting on 25 April 1915 on the slopes beyond the statue leading up towards the heights of Chunuk Bair (Conkbayiri) revealed, well-led Turkish soldiers would fight for their homeland and stand up to the invaders. And perhaps it was the Anzac’s misfortune that on 25 April they encountered one of the most able of all the Turkish commanders, Colonel Mustafa Kemal.

Kemal arrived with elements of his 19th Division at Chunuk Bair as small parties of Anzacs were making their way up the slopes. Meeting Turkish soldiers fleeing, Kemal asked them why they were running away and they pointed to the Australians saying they had no ammunition. ‘If you haven’t got any ammunition’, Kemal retorted, ‘you have your bayonets’. He made the Turks fix bayonets and lie down in a line in the scrub. The Anzacs, seeing this tactic, did likewise, their impetus up the slope temporarily halted. Kemal’s prompt appearance on the battlefield effectively prevented the Anzacs achieving their aim in this sector – the capture of Chunuk Bair. Turkish counter-attacks later in the day, even if they could not drive them into the sea, herded the invading forces into that small segment of the peninsula known as Anzac, which they defended for the rest of the campaign.

Eventually, the Anzacs developed a high regard for the ordinary Turkish soldier and his fighting qualities. They recognised in the Turk a fellow sufferer in war and acknowledged his humanity. In his poem Anzac Lieutenant Oliver Hogue wrote:

I reckon the Turk respects us, as we respect the Turk; Abdul’s a good clean fighter – we’ve fought him, and we know.

Quinn’s Post

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of Quinn’s Post 1.72 MB MP3

Audio transcript

Quinn’s Post, named after Major Hugh Quinn, 15th Battalion (Queensland) AIF, was one of the most dangerous places at Anzac. ‘Men passing the fork in Monash Valley’, wrote Charles Bean, ‘used to glance at the place (as one of them said) as a man looks at a haunted house’. Quinn’s was positioned on the northern edge of the front line along Second Ridge, and beyond was Deadman’s Ridge, from which the enemy could fire into the side of the post. Other Turkish trenches lay opposite, and the Turks had only to advance a few metres, capture Quinn’s, and the whole Anzac area could be lost.

Until the end of June 1915, the struggles at Quinn’s between Turk and Anzac were ferocious and intense. To raise one’s head above the trench was to invite death from a sniper’s bullet. The fighting was marked by bomb-throwing by both sides into the enemy trench and, early on, the Turks had the better of this as the Anzacs lacked bombs. Eventually, a ‘jam tin’ bomb factory was established and the Anzacs could hit back. Tunnels were dug out from the post to intercept and destroy Turkish tunnels, but at 3.30 am on 29 May 1915 an enemy mine exploded under a section of Quinn’s and the Turks rushed into the post. Desperate fighting took place in the dark trenches but a determined Australian assault broke through and captured 17 prisoners. Among the 33 Australians who died that morning were 11 men of the 13th Battalion who were smothered in the initial Turkish explosion.

While the fighting at Quinn’s was constant, after June its intensity lessened somewhat. On 9 June 1915, the New Zealand Wellington Battalion, led by Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone, took over at Quinn’s and transformed it for the garrison into something which, if never safe, was moderately habitable. Charles Bean reported how he took tea with Malone on a little terrace in front of his dugout and that Malone told him that ‘the art of warfare is the cultivation of the domestic virtues’.

The Ridge

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of The Ridge 1.58 MB MP3

Audio transcript

Along Second Ridge, stretching from Lone Pine to Quinn’s Post, was the heart of the Anzac position. To the left of the road, hugging the tops of the valleys, were the Anzac trenches and just metres away, on the other side of where the road runs today, were the Turks. On 18 May 1915, British planes flying over the area spotted a dense mass of troops assembling in the valleys east of the Anzac line. These reports alerted the Anzac commanders to the fact that a great Turkish attack was in the offing and, indeed, more than 4000 Turkish soldiers were being assembled for a rush on the Anzac line all the way from Quinn’s Post to Bolton’s Ridge. The centre of the attack was to be up the valley roughly between where Johnston’s Jolly and Courtney’s Post cemeteries are today.

The attack came at around 3 am on 19 May 1915. Over the next few hours thousands of Turks were shot down as Anzac rifle and machine-gun fire poured into wave after wave of Turks. Official historian Charles Bean described the attacks at Quinn’s Post as ‘exceedingly gallant’ because ‘the men who made them must have climbed out of trenches already crowded with dead and wounded’. That morning an estimated 7000 Turks were wounded, while 3000 Turkish dead covered the million rifle and machine-gun bullets fired into their midst. Although the attack failed, from then on Anzacs realised they were up against a brave and determined foe and their respect for the Turks grew.

Before long the corpses between the lines were rotting in the sun. A truce was arranged for 24 May 1915 to bury the dead, and Turk and Anzac met for the first time in no-man’s-land. Surveying the scene, a Turkish officer said to Anzac intelligence officer Captain Aubrey Herbert that ‘at this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage and the most savage must weep’.

Lone Pine

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of Lone Pine 1.82 MB MP3

Audio transcript

For three days, from the evening of 6 August until the night of 9 August 1915, the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine were the scene of some of the most desperate fighting at Gallipoli. The Lone Pine cemetery partly covers this old battlefield, the Australian positions to that point being behind the eastern edge, and the Turkish trenches roughly where the pylon of the Lone Pine Memorial now stands. The Battle of Lone Pine began at 5.30 pm on 6 August when, after a preliminary artillery bombardment and with the evening sun slanting down into Turkish eyes, Australians rose from their trenches and charged. They were endeavouring to take and hold the Turkish line and to draw in the Turkish reserves, for this was a diversionary action to avert attention from Chunuk Bair, the objective of the major attack of the August offensive. Within minutes, the Australians had seized the Turkish front line and were into the communication trenches beyond. Now the real battle began.

The Turks were determined to recapture the vital position of Lone Pine. Turkish courage here matched Australian as counter-attack after counter-attack went in along narrow trenches and dark tunnels with bomb, bayonet and rifle. ‘The wounded bodies of both Turks and Anzacs’, wrote Private John Gammage, 1st Battalion (NSW) AIF, ‘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’. One of the Turks who died was Tewfik Bey, commander of the 47th Regiment, who, held responsible for the loss of Lone Pine, led a counter-attack and was killed. But the Australians held on to Lone Pine. When it was all over 2000 Australians and 6000 Turks had been killed or wounded.

A measure of the intensity of the battle is the fact that seven Victoria Crosses, the highest British Empire bravery decoration, were awarded to Australian soldiers at Lone Pine. One of these went to Captain Alfred Shout, 1st Battalion AIF, who was evacuated with terrible wounds but who was ‘still cheerful and sat up to drink tea’. Shout soon died and his name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial.

Shrapnel Gully

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of Shrapnel Gully 1.65 MB MP3

Audio transcript

Shrapnel Gully, leading into Monash Valley, was the artery of Anzac. Here, men made their way along the valley and up the steep slopes to garrison the trench line along Second Ridge at places such as Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill. Up the gully went all the supplies essential to holding the line – food, water, engineering supplies and ammunition –while Turkish shrapnel shells exploded overhead, sending down showers of deadly pellets. Trooper Ion Idriess, 5th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland), reached Anzac in mid-May 1915 and went at once by night into Shrapnel Gully. ‘Shrapnel burst above us in an instantaneous black-grey cloud of smoke’, wrote Idriess, ‘bushes around bent as if under a hailstorm … we quickly learnt the best way of dodging shrapnel … we had to … immediately that scream came tearing directly overhead we would duck down flat’.

Equally lethal in Shrapnel Gully and Monash Valley were the Turkish snipers. These sharpshooters fired from camouflaged sites up on the ridge, and for safety there were sandbag walls between which men dashed as they made their way along the valley floor. Eventually, a deep communication trench, dug along the side of the track, gave better protection, and a party of ‘counter-snipers’, led by Lieutenant T Grace, Wellington Battalion NZEF, took on the Turkish marksmen. Anzac snipers, a rifleman and a spotter with a telescope, lay out all day observing Turkish sniper positions and firing on them when the least movement was observed.

Despite all these precautions there were many casualties in Shrapnel Gully. Undoubtedly the best known is Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, renowned for his use of donkeys to evacuate wounded men from the slopes of the valley and along to dressing stations at the beach. As he was bringing a wounded man down Monash Valley on the morning of 19 May 1915, Simpson was killed by Turkish machine-gun fire. Simpson’s grave is in Beach Cemetery.

Anzac Cove

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of Anzac Cove 1.79 MB MP3

Audio transcript

For Australians, Anzac Cove is the best-known spot on Gallipoli. While the dawn landings were spread out over three-quarters of a kilometre of coastline, during the rest of 25 April 1915 the men of the ANZAC corps waded ashore at Anzac Cove. They were sent immediately inland into battle along Second Ridge at places which became famous in the story of Anzac – Lone Pine, Courtney’s Post, Quinn’s Post and the Nek. By the afternoon of 25 April, the beach was crowded with the wounded from the ferocious actions being fought out along the ridges. That day an estimated 2000 wounded passed through the cove, while others lay out on the battlefield awaiting evacuation.

By 1 May 1915, more than 27 000 men of the ANZAC corps had landed at Gallipoli, and Anzac Cove was being transformed into the main port and administrative centre for the Anzac area. Piers were built to offload essential supplies and reinforcements, the best-known being Watson’s Pier, built by a party of the 2nd Australian Field Engineers under the supervision of Lieutenant Stanley Watson of the 1st Division Signal Company AIF. For the remainder of the campaign, huge rectangular piles of boxes were crammed into the narrow beach area and there was a constant fetching and carrying between the cove and the front line along the ridges. Some of this vital transport of supplies was undertaken by an Indian Army unit, the Indian Mule Cart Transport Company.

Up the slopes of the eroded valleys behind Anzac Cove, a virtual town of lean-to shelters, dugouts and more elaborate structures emerged to house the ANZAC staff. Australia’s official historian, Charles Bean, felt that this hillside settlement resembled ‘the Manly of New South Wales or the Victorian Sorrento, while the sleepy tick-tock of rifles from behind the hills suggested the assiduous practice of batsmen at their nets on some neighbouring cricket field’. Any sense of normality suggested here was belied by the fact that the Turks had the range of Anzac Cove and the area was shelled daily throughout the campaign, causing many casualties.

North Beach

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of North Beach 1.67 MB MP3

Audio transcript

Looming over North Beach is the great natural outcrop of the ‘Sphinx’, so named by the Anzacs who landed here at dawn on 25 April 1915. One of the first waves, the men of the 11th Battalion from Western Australia, came ashore at dawn beneath the slopes leading up to the flat-topped peak to the right of the Sphinx, later known as Plugge’s Plateau. Under fire from the small Turkish garrison that was defending the area, the Australians struggled up towards the plateau, at times using their bayonets to dig into the earth and pull themselves forwards. Soon they were at the top and firing after some Turks who were withdrawing towards a ridge line in the distance. The Australians were moving inland to what would be a day-long struggle with the Turks to hold on at Anzac.

An Anzac who came ashore at North Beach was the ‘Man with the Donkey’, Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick of the 3rd Field Ambulance. During the morning of 25 April the ambulancemen established an aid post and stretcher-bearers scoured the cliffs around the Sphinx for Australian wounded. ‘The Three sections were going for all they were worth’, wrote Captain Douglas McWhae, 3rd Field Ambulance, ‘they had iodine and field dressings; all splints were improvised using rifles and bushes. There were terrible wounds to deal with’.

After August 1915, North Beach was transformed into a major base against the possibility of the Anzacs having to spend the winter on Gallipoli. There were piers, mountains of stores, a tented hospital, a post office and even a YMCA, complete with so-called ‘comforts’ such as chocolate and tobacco. The piers of North Beach were major embarkation points during the evacuation of December 1915, and at 4.10 am on 20 December 1915, Colonel John Paton, the commander of the ‘Rear Party’, the last man to leave Anzac, departed from Williams’ Pier, which ran out into the sea roughly from where the bottom wall of the Anzac Commemorative Site now stands.

Historical Background: Gallipoli, 25 April 1915 – 8 January 1916

Gallipoli, 25 April 1915 – 8 January 1916

Listen to the audio-cast on your device.

Download audio of Historical Background: Gallipoli, 25 April 1915 – 8 January 1916 7.72 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This failure led to the decision to force the Straits by a landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. Once the Turkish forts and batteries had been seized, the Royal Navy could steam on to Istanbul. A Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) composed of British Empire and French troops was hastily assembled in Egypt. Among the British Empire forces were the men of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) and the NZEF (New Zealand Expeditionary Force) who had been training in Egypt when the decision to invade Turkey had been taken. They were now combined into one army corps, known as the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), and the men who fought in the corps became known as Anzacs.

At dawn on 25 April 1915, the Gallipoli campaign began. Australians and New Zealanders landed on the rugged and mountainous western side of the peninsula. The small area captured that day became known as ‘Anzac’ and the little beach where most Anzacs came ashore after the initial attack was soon called Anzac Cove. The aim of the landing was twofold – to capture the heights of the Sari Bair range which dominate this part of the peninsula and to force a way inland to a hill known as Mal Tepe, overlooking the Straits and the Turkish lines of communication to the south.

That same morning, around Cape Helles, the British landed at a number of different locations. Their objective was the high point of a plateau about 11 kilometres from the cape, which ran across the peninsula, known locally as Alçitepe (Achi Baba to the British), and then to progress north from there to join up with the Anzacs. Across the Straits, the French mounted a diversionary landing at Kum Kale. The British position in the south became known as ‘Helles’. But strong and unexpected Turkish resistance held off both these attacks and by the evening of 25 April the landing forces clung to small gains at both Anzac and Helles.

Over the next few days, during the Battle of the Landing, and despite terrible casualties on both sides, the Turks were unable to drive the Anzacs back into the sea. Conversely, the Anzacs made little or no headway against the Turks, and by 5 May 1915 they were left holding a slice of Turkey 1.5 kilometres from north to south and 0.5 kilometres at its widest point. This position was held, with additions of territory to the north during the ‘August offensive’, until the end of the campaign.

During May and June the British undertook a number of operations at Helles, designed to push their line towards Achi Baba and hopefully to break out to the north. All of these actions – the First Battle of Krithia (28 April), the Second Battle of Krithia (8 May) and the Third Battle of Krithia (4 June) – failed. For the Second Battle of Krithia, the 2nd Brigade (Victoria) AIF and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade (about 8000 men) were sent to Helles. On the morning of 8 May, the New Zealanders gained about 360 metres of ground with considerable losses. Late that afternoon, the Australians made a charge over open ground towards the village of Alçitepe (Krithia), suffering similar losses without even reaching the front line. This was the only occasion when Australian and New Zealand infantry fought at Helles, although artillery units also served there.

At both Anzac and Helles things settled into the stalemate of trench warfare – exactly what the Allies had come to Turkey to avoid. The most sensitive part of the Anzac line lay along the ridge (Second Ridge) from the Lone Pine position in the south to Quinn’s Post in the north. At Quinn’s Post, Anzac and Turk faced each other over a few metres of bullet- and bomb-blasted landscape. If the Anzac line gave way here the Turks would look down the valley, Shrapnel Gully, all the way to the sea, and the whole Anzac position would be untenable. Quinn’s became a constant battleground, with endless bomb attacks by both sides. On one occasion the Turks broke into Quinn’s but were quickly driven out.

On 19 May 1915, the Turks mounted a major attack all along the ridge. An estimated 40 000 Turkish soldiers had been assembled to drive the invaders back to the beaches, but the Anzacs received warning of the attack and were ready. Despite their desperate courage the Turkish soldiers were shot down in their hundreds by rifle and machine-gun fire as they charged across the narrow ridge. That morning an estimated 3000 Turks died in this fruitless attack and a further 7000 were wounded. By comparison, there were few Anzac casualties. So great became the stench from the rotting corpses in no-man’s-land that a truce was arranged for 24 May 1915 to allow both sides to bury their dead in pits and trenches between the lines.

By early August 1915 a new plan had been evolved for a breakout at Anzac. On the afternoon of 6 August, Australians mounted a large diversionary attack at Lone Pine, aimed at seizing and holding the front- line Turkish trenches. The strength of the assault was to make the Turks think a major offensive was being launched here and to tie their reserves to those positions. This was achieved over the next two days during some of the most savage and costly trench fighting ever experienced by the AIF. Dozens of brave Turkish counter-attacks were made in an effort to drive the Australians out of their old trenches at Lone Pine, but by the end of 9 August it was clear that the Australians were going to hold on, and that this would be the new Australian front line at Anzac.

As the battle raged at Lone Pine, an Allied force composed of Australian, New Zealand, Indian, Gurkha and British troops made their way in the darkness north from North Beach at Anzac and into the valleys leading up to the heights of the Sari Bair range – Chunuk Bair (Conkbayiri) and Hill 971 (Çimentepe). The objective was to capture these dominating positions and turn the flank at Anzac, compelling the Turks to retreat back across the peninsula. From there, a breakout might be possible and the original aim of the campaign, the seizure of the Dardanelles, might be achieved. To support this new ‘August offensive’ British troops were landed at Suvla Bay on the night of 6–7 August with the intention of getting across the peninsula by way of the low-lying land north of Chunuk Bair.

For three days the struggle raged in the ranges. On 8 August, the New Zealanders, with some British support, reached the peak of Chunuk Bair and dug in there, holding on against increasingly strong Turkish counter-attacks. Further north, Australian forces had become lost in the valleys leading up to Hill 971, the highest point on the peninsula, and never managed to get forward against Turkish opposition.

On 9 August, more Turkish attacks were directed against the New Zealand and British trenches at Chunuk Bair without success, while a Gurkha unit managed to seize a position between there and Hill 971 at Hill Q. But the Allied foothold on the heights was precarious. At dawn on 10 August 1915 the Turks attacked over Chunuk Bair, driving all before them back down the slopes beyond. Here the Turks were themselves shot to ground by the New Zealand machine-guns, but Chunuk Bair was safe and never again threatened. The British landings at Suvla were a disaster and no real headway was made there. The August offensive had failed and in many ways, despite some bitter fighting to straighten out the new line between Anzac and Suvla, the serious fighting was over.

After the August offensive the Allies prepared for a winter on the peninsula. At Anzac a large base was built up at North Beach, but discussions were already taking place back in London as to whether the positions at Gallipoli were viable at all. After a visit by the British Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, the British government determined on evacuation. There were concerns about winter gales as storms during October and November wrecked piers at Anzac. It was also feared that the Turks would be able to bring in heavy artillery to shell the precarious Anzac positions. On 29 November, such a bombardment did indeed occur at Lone Pine, with significant casualties and considerable damage to the trenches. It was an indication of what might happen.

Between late November and 19–20 December, the garrisons at Anzac and Suvla were gradually withdrawn. Elaborate precautions were taken to make the Turks think that life was proceeding as normal until, on the morning of 20 December 1915, the last Anzac embarked from North Beach. On 8 January 1916, the last British troops left Helles. The Gallipoli campaign was over.

Gallipoli cost the Allies 141 000 casualties, of whom more than 44 000 died. Of the dead, 8709 were Australians and 2701 were New Zealanders. The Turks suffered 251 000 casualties, of whom more than 86 000 lost their lives. Countless thousands had been evacuated sick from the various diseases which had plagued both sides, especially during the long hot summer. For the Allies it was a defeat despite the individual courage and endurance of the soldiers themselves. Equally, Turkish soldiers had shown a strength and capacity in defence of their homeland which amazed all who had known the military weaknesses of the old Ottoman Empire.

Ari Burnu Cemetery

Directions

From the Anzac Commemorative Site walk back up to the road. Turn right and walk for about a quarter of a kilometre to Ari Burnu Cemetery at the head of the bay. (You can also reach the cemetery by walking along the beach from the Commemorative Site.) The cemetery is to the right off the road and down an approach path. Go through the cemetery to Ari Burnu point and look out to sea.

Download audio of Ari Burnu Cemetery 6.03 MB MP3

Audio transcript

‘Come on, boys they can't hit you’

If you had gazed out to sea in the pre-dawn gloom of 25 April 1915 from Ari Burnu (Bee Point) you would have seen the assembled British invasion fleet which had made the 100 kilometre trip through the night from the Greek island of Lemnos. Facing you would have been a collection of Royal Navy warships – battleships and destroyers (sometimes referred to as torpedo boats) and behind them large transport ships. In these ships were the soldiers of the ANZAC Corps, the 1st Australian Division and the New Zealand and Australian Division. Each man who was to land at dawn in the first wave had been inspected to ensure that he had all his equipment – rifle, pack, two empty sandbags, a full water bottle, 200 rounds of ammunition in his ammunition pouches and two little white bags containing an extra two days ration (a tin of bully beef, small tin of tea and sugar and a supply of hard coarse biscuits).

At 3.30 am, 36 rowing boats in groups of three, each group being towed by a small steamboat, left the battleships Prince of Wales, London and Queen and headed towards the coast. In the boats were six companies (a company contained about a hundred men), about 1200 soldiers from the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions of the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade. These men were to be the first ashore and they would be followed in closely by the remainder of their battalions and the 12th Battalion.

The landing was supposed to take place on a beach about a kilometre and a half further south from Ari Burnu and north of the promontory of Gaba Tepe. However, in the dark the battleship tows lost direction, bunched up and converged on Ari Burnu point. As the boat carrying Captain Leane of the 11th Battalion neared the shore he called out and pointed upwards – ‘Look at that’. Charles Bean described the moment:

The figure of a man was on the skyline of the plateau above them. A voice called on the land. From the top of Ari Burnu a rifle flashed. A bullet whizzed overhead and plunged into the sea. A second or two of silence … four or five shots as if from a sentry group. Another pause – then a scattered irregular fire growing very fast. They were discovered …

[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 1, p 252]

As the boats grounded all around Ari Burnu point, men jumped into the water. Some were hit and drowned; most scrambled ashore soaking wet and made for the cover of the sandy banks of the beach. It was quickly realised that they had landed in the wrong place. ‘What are we to do next, Sir?’ someone asked the commanding officer of the 11th Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnstone. ‘I don’t know, I’m sure. Everything is a terrible muddle’. But the orders had been drummed into this, the ‘Covering Force’: ‘You must go forward … you must get on whatever the opposition’. Lieutenant Talbot-Smith, the leader of the scouts of the 10th Battalion from South Australia, yelled at his men, ‘Come on boys, they can’t hit you’ and then led them straight up the hill towards the Turkish gunfire. Soon there was a general rush by hundreds of Australians up the slopes of Ari Burnu and on up towards the top of Plugge’s Plateau. It was steep enough and hard going with full kit and rifle. Men dug their bayonets into the ground to haul themselves along or grabbed the roots of plants.

Half way up, two 11th Battalion men stumbled on a Turkish trench. Bean has the story:

A single Turk jumped up like a rabbit, threw away his rifle and tried to escape. The nearest man could not fire as his rifle was full of sand. He bayoneted the Turk through his haversack and captured him. ‘Prisoner here!’ he shouted. ‘Shoot the bastard!’ was all the notice they received from others passing up the hill. But as in every battle he fought in the Australian soldier was more humane than in his words. The Turk was sent down to the beach in charge of a wounded man.

[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 1, pp 258–9]

At Ari Burnu the ‘Covering Force’ faced only a small garrison of Turks who had orders to conduct a fighting withdrawal if confronted by a much larger invading force. Shortly after 5 am, the Australians had reached the height of Plugge’s Plateau and taken few casualties. The Turks who had held a trench there were seen retreating back down the steep valley beyond.

Although it seemed successful this initial landing was only the beginning of a long and bloody struggle which lasted the whole of 25 April. While virtually the whole of the ANZAC Corps were able to get ashore that day, intense fighting developed along a ridge inland known as Second Ridge and on the slopes leading north-eastward towards the heights of Koja Temen Tepe. Strong and determined Turkish counter attacks held the Anzacs to the small area described in your Walk Introduction. By the evening of that first day the beach at Anzac Cove just to your left and to the south was crammed with wounded men. Moreover, Turkish artillery fire was bursting shells all over the Anzac area, causing many casualties. Many of the commanders on the spot advised getting off the peninsula as the objectives set for the first day had nowhere been reached and Turkish resistance was stiffening. The head of the so-called Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, General Sir Ian Hamilton, however, was told by his naval commanders that a re-embarkation from the beaches in the dark would be a disaster. At the same time, he heard that the Australian submarine, the AE2, had broken through the straits of the Dardanelles so he sent a message of reassurance which ended:

You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe.

So the Anzacs dug in and stayed.

VC Corner, Fromelles

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of VC Corner, Fromelles 3.59 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles, in France. Across the flat fields is the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial and just beyond that along the road, but not really visible unless one stands right beside it, is the Riviere de Layes, little more than a stream cutting across the landscape from the north-east to the south-west. Out in these fields on 11 November 1918 Charles Bean, Australia's official historian of World War I, discovered the remains of the Australian dead of the Battle of Fromelles: 'We found the old no-man's-land simply full of our dead … west of the Laies river … the skulls and bones and torn uniforms were lying about everywhere'.

Bean instructed the photographer who accompanied him to capture images of the landscape around the old battlefield, where more than 5500 men of the 5th Australian Division were killed, wounded or went missing on 19–20 July 1916 during the division's attack on the German lines at Fromelles. One photograph shows a collection of Australian kit—boots and bits of uniform—with two water bottles in the foreground. It is likely that Bean found these close to the river where, he speculated, wounded men had crawled for water. And the most terrible sight after the failed attack at Fromelles was that of the wounded out in no-man's-land. 'Around the Laies', wrote Bean in his history, 'the wounded could be seen everywhere raising their limbs in pain or turning hopelessly, hour after hour, from one side to the other'.

For their comrades watching from the front-line trench, the sight would have been appalling. Every instinct would have urged them to go out and help, but that meant exposure to German fire. Bean mentioned some, and there would have been many others, who rescued the wounded. Company Sergeant Major John Thorburn and Sergeant Alexander Ross, of the 57th Battalion; Corporals William Brown and William Davis, and Privates Edgar Williams and Paul McDonnell, of the 58th Battalion; all, in Bean's words, 'went out boldly by day'. Brown and Davis, although repeatedly fired upon, brought in six men, the last of whom was killed on a stretcher as they tried to manoeuvre him over the parapet of the trench. Brown was severely wounded. Williams and McDonnell were both awarded the Military Medal for saving three wounded and five unwounded men. On the last of these attempts Williams was hit in no-man's-land and went 'missing'. His body was never found.

At the Australian Memorial Park is a statue called 'Cobbers'. It shows Sergeant Simon Fraser, 58th Battalion, carrying in a wounded man on his back. Why 'Cobbers'? That old Australian word for mate is little heard today, but in 1916 Fraser used it in a letter describing his rescue of two men: 'Then another man about 30 yards out sang out, “Don't forget me, cobber". I went in and got four volunteers with stretchers, and we got both men in safely'. So it is not the memory of the military disaster of Fromelles which is remembered here, but rather the courage and compassion of those who risked their lives to help the wounded.

VC Corner, Fromelles

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of VC Corner, Fromelles 3.59 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles, in France. Across the flat fields is the VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial and just beyond that along the road, but not really visible unless one stands right beside it, is the Riviere de Layes, little more than a stream cutting across the landscape from the north-east to the south-west. Out in these fields on 11 November 1918 Charles Bean, Australia's official historian of World War I, discovered the remains of the Australian dead of the Battle of Fromelles: 'We found the old no-man's-land simply full of our dead … west of the Laies river … the skulls and bones and torn uniforms were lying about everywhere'.

Bean instructed the photographer who accompanied him to capture images of the landscape around the old battlefield, where more than 5500 men of the 5th Australian Division were killed, wounded or went missing on 19–20 July 1916 during the division's attack on the German lines at Fromelles. One photograph shows a collection of Australian kit—boots and bits of uniform—with two water bottles in the foreground. It is likely that Bean found these close to the river where, he speculated, wounded men had crawled for water. And the most terrible sight after the failed attack at Fromelles was that of the wounded out in no-man's-land. 'Around the Laies', wrote Bean in his history, 'the wounded could be seen everywhere raising their limbs in pain or turning hopelessly, hour after hour, from one side to the other'.

For their comrades watching from the front-line trench, the sight would have been appalling. Every instinct would have urged them to go out and help, but that meant exposure to German fire. Bean mentioned some, and there would have been many others, who rescued the wounded. Company Sergeant Major John Thorburn and Sergeant Alexander Ross, of the 57th Battalion; Corporals William Brown and William Davis, and Privates Edgar Williams and Paul McDonnell, of the 58th Battalion; all, in Bean's words, 'went out boldly by day'. Brown and Davis, although repeatedly fired upon, brought in six men, the last of whom was killed on a stretcher as they tried to manoeuvre him over the parapet of the trench. Brown was severely wounded. Williams and McDonnell were both awarded the Military Medal for saving three wounded and five unwounded men. On the last of these attempts Williams was hit in no-man's-land and went 'missing'. His body was never found.

At the Australian Memorial Park is a statue called 'Cobbers'. It shows Sergeant Simon Fraser, 58th Battalion, carrying in a wounded man on his back. Why 'Cobbers'? That old Australian word for mate is little heard today, but in 1916 Fraser used it in a letter describing his rescue of two men: 'Then another man about 30 yards out sang out, “Don't forget me, cobber". I went in and got four volunteers with stretchers, and we got both men in safely'. So it is not the memory of the military disaster of Fromelles which is remembered here, but rather the courage and compassion of those who risked their lives to help the wounded.

Australian National Memorial, Villers‑Bretonneux

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of Australian National Memorial, Villers‑Bretonneux 3.66 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France. From here, on 5 November 1993, the coffin containing Australia's Unknown Soldier began the long trip home to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Fifty-five years before, on 22 July 1938, Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland laid a small bunch of poppies on the steps leading up to the memorial tower.

The Queen had been given the flowers that morning by a small boy from the Franco-Australian school in Villers-Bretonneux as she and her husband, King George VI, arrived to officially dedicate the memorial. After the King laid an official wreath, the Queen whispered to him, walked to his wreath, laid the poppies on top of it, and then stood looking for a moment at the memorial. Stretching away on either side of her, engraved in stone, were the names of more than 11 000 men of the Australian Imperial Force who had been killed in France in World War I and had 'no known grave'. Forty-eight of them went 'missing' in the fields immediately to the south-east of the tower on 25 April 1918.

From the top of the tower there is a good view of those fields and of the whole countryside encompassing Villers-Bretonneux, the city of Amiens away to the west, and the town of Corbie, with its 18th Century twin-towered abbey church. On 24 April 1918 the Germans, in their advance towards Amiens, seized Villers-Bretonneux. That night, Australian soldiers counter-attacked to the north and south of the town and encircled it, and by the evening of 25 April—Anzac Day—the enemy had been driven out. On this northern side, men of the Australian 57th, 59th and 60th Battalions, supported by the 58th Battalion, formed up on the road well down the slope to the west of the memorial. Then, carrying out a complicated forward movement in the dark, the Australians advanced through the shallow valley between the tower and the town, the 60th passing closest to the memorial. Soon they were strung out along the apex of the ridge directly to the east.

As the Australians approached German positions, the light from a burning building revealed their movement. Enemy flares lit the scene and the order was given to charge. 'There went up', wrote historian Charles Bean, 'from the unleashed line a shout—a savage, eager yell of which every narrative speaks—and the Australians made straight for the enemy'. Personal accounts collected later from every battalion, company and platoon which took part revealed the physical intensity of their assault: '[the Germans] screamed for mercy but there were too many machine guns about to show them any consideration', 'these three men [the first German machine-gun crew] were either bayoneted or shot'. Bean concluded that the half hour it took to seize the German line ranked as one of the 'wildest in the experience of the Australian infantry'.

As the Germans never retook these positions, it is surprising that the bodies of as many as forty-eight Australian soldiers went 'missing' in this northern area of the attack. Their names are listed with the missing of the 57th, 58th, 59th and 60th Battalions on the Australian National Memorial. The story of their fate is a tale worth telling on any Anzac Day.

Australian National Memorial, Villers‑Bretonneux

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of Australian National Memorial, Villers‑Bretonneux 3.66 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France. From here, on 5 November 1993, the coffin containing Australia's Unknown Soldier began the long trip home to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Fifty-five years before, on 22 July 1938, Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland laid a small bunch of poppies on the steps leading up to the memorial tower.

The Queen had been given the flowers that morning by a small boy from the Franco-Australian school in Villers-Bretonneux as she and her husband, King George VI, arrived to officially dedicate the memorial. After the King laid an official wreath, the Queen whispered to him, walked to his wreath, laid the poppies on top of it, and then stood looking for a moment at the memorial. Stretching away on either side of her, engraved in stone, were the names of more than 11 000 men of the Australian Imperial Force who had been killed in France in World War I and had 'no known grave'. Forty-eight of them went 'missing' in the fields immediately to the south-east of the tower on 25 April 1918.

From the top of the tower there is a good view of those fields and of the whole countryside encompassing Villers-Bretonneux, the city of Amiens away to the west, and the town of Corbie, with its 18th Century twin-towered abbey church. On 24 April 1918 the Germans, in their advance towards Amiens, seized Villers-Bretonneux. That night, Australian soldiers counter-attacked to the north and south of the town and encircled it, and by the evening of 25 April—Anzac Day—the enemy had been driven out. On this northern side, men of the Australian 57th, 59th and 60th Battalions, supported by the 58th Battalion, formed up on the road well down the slope to the west of the memorial. Then, carrying out a complicated forward movement in the dark, the Australians advanced through the shallow valley between the tower and the town, the 60th passing closest to the memorial. Soon they were strung out along the apex of the ridge directly to the east.

As the Australians approached German positions, the light from a burning building revealed their movement. Enemy flares lit the scene and the order was given to charge. 'There went up', wrote historian Charles Bean, 'from the unleashed line a shout—a savage, eager yell of which every narrative speaks—and the Australians made straight for the enemy'. Personal accounts collected later from every battalion, company and platoon which took part revealed the physical intensity of their assault: '[the Germans] screamed for mercy but there were too many machine guns about to show them any consideration', 'these three men [the first German machine-gun crew] were either bayoneted or shot'. Bean concluded that the half hour it took to seize the German line ranked as one of the 'wildest in the experience of the Australian infantry'.

As the Germans never retook these positions, it is surprising that the bodies of as many as forty-eight Australian soldiers went 'missing' in this northern area of the attack. Their names are listed with the missing of the 57th, 58th, 59th and 60th Battalions on the Australian National Memorial. The story of their fate is a tale worth telling on any Anzac Day.

On this spot—2nd Australian Division Memorial, Mont St Quentin

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of On this spot—2nd Australian Division Memorial, Mont St Quentin 3.65 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Second Australian Division Memorial at Mont St Quentin. Of the five Australian divisional memorials in France and Belgium this is the only one with a symbolic work of art, in this case a 'digger' in slouch hat in full marching order, carrying all his personal equipment. By the time they reached this area on 31 August 1918 the men of the Second Division, along with the rest of the Australian Imperial Force, had been fighting their way across the French countryside since 8 August, pushing back the German Army.

On 1 September, 'A' Company of the 21st Australian Infantry Battalion, Second Division, were in position below Mont St Quentin beside the town of Péronne. Corporal Philip Starr wrote: 'We were weary and hungry and generally played out, so we threw ourselves down almost anywhere to rest'. The midday sun warmed the air as Starr and his mates thought they were going to have a good rest—'a very short one it turned out to be, as about an hour later we were called out and told that we had to take Mont St Quentin'. Strongly defended, Mont St Quentin was a vital position. Capture it, and the whole enemy position in Péronne would be untenable for the Germans. Although the Mont had been taken the previous day, a German counter-attack had driven the Australians off. Now 'A' Company was to be part of a renewed effort to secure the hill.

Under the leadership of Captain James Sullivan, the company moved to the attack at 2 pm. Starr felt they were all aware of what they were doing: 'It would certainly have meant the withdrawal of the force threatening Péronne … had we failed'. To their left they could see other companies of their battalion making progress straight up and over the hill, through Mont St Quentin village. With 'A' Company was the AIF's official photographer, Captain Hubert Wilkins, described by Starr as 'a game man' who 'took some good snaps'. One 'snap' showed Captain Sullivan leading his men under fire up a road in the village. It can't have been far from where the memorial stands today.

It took 'A' Company until 6 pm to reach a German trench just beyond the village to the south. Starr described his path through a bushy space where leaves were forced aside with bayonets as enemy machine-gun bullets ripped through the branches. A road was crossed and hard fighting ensued to drive the Germans from more bushes. A bullet killed Private William McIntosh, but, as Starr wrote, they were 'not in the mood to be stopped that day'. Another strongly held trench was captured by fighting their way down it with 'bomb and bayonet' until 'A' Company reached what Starr called the 'last stronghold of the defences of Mont St Quentin'. Here they stopped, consolidated their position and beat off counter-attacks. Up to their left the other companies were digging in. Mont St Quentin was in Australian hands.

This action was soon being hailed as one of the greatest Australian victories of the war, so perhaps it is no surprise that the Second Division decided to build its memorial here. On the side of the memorial is another feature not seen on any other Australian divisional memorial: a bas-relief depicting diggers making their way down a German trench with bomb and bayonet. It is a fitting tribute to the contribution of 'A' Company, 21st Battalion, and others, to the capture of Mont St Quentin.

On this spot—2nd Australian Division Memorial, Mont St Quentin

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of On this spot—2nd Australian Division Memorial, Mont St Quentin 3.65 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Second Australian Division Memorial at Mont St Quentin. Of the five Australian divisional memorials in France and Belgium this is the only one with a symbolic work of art, in this case a 'digger' in slouch hat in full marching order, carrying all his personal equipment. By the time they reached this area on 31 August 1918 the men of the Second Division, along with the rest of the Australian Imperial Force, had been fighting their way across the French countryside since 8 August, pushing back the German Army.

On 1 September, 'A' Company of the 21st Australian Infantry Battalion, Second Division, were in position below Mont St Quentin beside the town of Péronne. Corporal Philip Starr wrote: 'We were weary and hungry and generally played out, so we threw ourselves down almost anywhere to rest'. The midday sun warmed the air as Starr and his mates thought they were going to have a good rest—'a very short one it turned out to be, as about an hour later we were called out and told that we had to take Mont St Quentin'. Strongly defended, Mont St Quentin was a vital position. Capture it, and the whole enemy position in Péronne would be untenable for the Germans. Although the Mont had been taken the previous day, a German counter-attack had driven the Australians off. Now 'A' Company was to be part of a renewed effort to secure the hill.

Under the leadership of Captain James Sullivan, the company moved to the attack at 2 pm. Starr felt they were all aware of what they were doing: 'It would certainly have meant the withdrawal of the force threatening Péronne … had we failed'. To their left they could see other companies of their battalion making progress straight up and over the hill, through Mont St Quentin village. With 'A' Company was the AIF's official photographer, Captain Hubert Wilkins, described by Starr as 'a game man' who 'took some good snaps'. One 'snap' showed Captain Sullivan leading his men under fire up a road in the village. It can't have been far from where the memorial stands today.

It took 'A' Company until 6 pm to reach a German trench just beyond the village to the south. Starr described his path through a bushy space where leaves were forced aside with bayonets as enemy machine-gun bullets ripped through the branches. A road was crossed and hard fighting ensued to drive the Germans from more bushes. A bullet killed Private William McIntosh, but, as Starr wrote, they were 'not in the mood to be stopped that day'. Another strongly held trench was captured by fighting their way down it with 'bomb and bayonet' until 'A' Company reached what Starr called the 'last stronghold of the defences of Mont St Quentin'. Here they stopped, consolidated their position and beat off counter-attacks. Up to their left the other companies were digging in. Mont St Quentin was in Australian hands.

This action was soon being hailed as one of the greatest Australian victories of the war, so perhaps it is no surprise that the Second Division decided to build its memorial here. On the side of the memorial is another feature not seen on any other Australian divisional memorial: a bas-relief depicting diggers making their way down a German trench with bomb and bayonet. It is a fitting tribute to the contribution of 'A' Company, 21st Battalion, and others, to the capture of Mont St Quentin.

Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel 3.44 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Australian Corps Memorial on the ridge overlooking the village of Le Hamel, near Villers-Bretonneux, in France. From here the view to the west and north is superb. In the distance, about four kilometres away, are the twin towers of the 18th century abbey church of Corbie; to the right, and down the hill, is the River Somme running due west through numerous open pond-like stretches of water; and peeping over the distant hill slightly to the south-west, is the top of the tower of the Australian National Memorial. Among the battle honours inscribed on that memorial is the name 'Hamel', which remembers the battle fought here on 4 July 1918.

Shaping his official narrative of that day's events, the diarist of the War Diary of the 44th Battalion AIF wrote: 'As darkness gave way to day, our men could be seen working their way steadily but surely to the crest of the ridge while eight tanks wobbled here and there over the slopes'. They had begun their advance on this strong German position known as the 'Wolfsberg', full of deep dugouts and stretching for some 500 metres north to south, in the dark from about two and a half kilometres away.

At 3.10 am an Australian artillery barrage had descended on the Germans, its effect vividly captured by our battalion diarist: '[it] came down with ferocious suddenness upon the enemy front line and pounded, battered and chopped it to pieces with shells of every calibre—light, medium, heavy, gas, shrapnel, high explosive'. After four minutes the barrage lifted 90 metres forward and then progressed, in stages like this, every one minute. Supported by British Mark V tanks, the men of the 44th Battalion advanced behind another Australian battalion towards Le Hamel. German machine gunners opened up and here the key role of the tanks is brought to life, as recorded once again in the War Diary: [they] smelt out the vicious machine guns in the enemy strong points, and summarily dealt with them in their own quaint manner'.

On reaching Le Hamel the 44th Battalion split into two groups and, each group accompanied by three tanks, went ahead around the village and straight up the slope at the Wolfsberg. Ahead of them the sky was lit up by exploding Verey lights and rockets as the embattled Germans sent up these colourful signals requesting badly needed artillery support. The 44th found the resulting barrage of little effect, but praised the manner in which their tanks dealt with the more troublesome machine guns. Indeed, it was the tanks which, as the War Diary put it, 'wobbled' over the summit of the ridge and cleared the German machine gunners from their positions.

'By twenty-five minutes to five' according to our war diarist, 'the ridge was ours'. That was, from their official record, just 85 minutes after the men of the 44th Battalion had begun their advance. Usually the time given for this most successful Australian advance and the capture of the German positions along the ridge beyond Le Hamel is 93 minutes. If their record is correct, the 44th beat that by eight minutes.

Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel 3.44 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Australian Corps Memorial on the ridge overlooking the village of Le Hamel, near Villers-Bretonneux, in France. From here the view to the west and north is superb. In the distance, about four kilometres away, are the twin towers of the 18th century abbey church of Corbie; to the right, and down the hill, is the River Somme running due west through numerous open pond-like stretches of water; and peeping over the distant hill slightly to the south-west, is the top of the tower of the Australian National Memorial. Among the battle honours inscribed on that memorial is the name 'Hamel', which remembers the battle fought here on 4 July 1918.

Shaping his official narrative of that day's events, the diarist of the War Diary of the 44th Battalion AIF wrote: 'As darkness gave way to day, our men could be seen working their way steadily but surely to the crest of the ridge while eight tanks wobbled here and there over the slopes'. They had begun their advance on this strong German position known as the 'Wolfsberg', full of deep dugouts and stretching for some 500 metres north to south, in the dark from about two and a half kilometres away.

At 3.10 am an Australian artillery barrage had descended on the Germans, its effect vividly captured by our battalion diarist: '[it] came down with ferocious suddenness upon the enemy front line and pounded, battered and chopped it to pieces with shells of every calibre—light, medium, heavy, gas, shrapnel, high explosive'. After four minutes the barrage lifted 90 metres forward and then progressed, in stages like this, every one minute. Supported by British Mark V tanks, the men of the 44th Battalion advanced behind another Australian battalion towards Le Hamel. German machine gunners opened up and here the key role of the tanks is brought to life, as recorded once again in the War Diary: [they] smelt out the vicious machine guns in the enemy strong points, and summarily dealt with them in their own quaint manner'.

On reaching Le Hamel the 44th Battalion split into two groups and, each group accompanied by three tanks, went ahead around the village and straight up the slope at the Wolfsberg. Ahead of them the sky was lit up by exploding Verey lights and rockets as the embattled Germans sent up these colourful signals requesting badly needed artillery support. The 44th found the resulting barrage of little effect, but praised the manner in which their tanks dealt with the more troublesome machine guns. Indeed, it was the tanks which, as the War Diary put it, 'wobbled' over the summit of the ridge and cleared the German machine gunners from their positions.

'By twenty-five minutes to five' according to our war diarist, 'the ridge was ours'. That was, from their official record, just 85 minutes after the men of the 44th Battalion had begun their advance. Usually the time given for this most successful Australian advance and the capture of the German positions along the ridge beyond Le Hamel is 93 minutes. If their record is correct, the 44th beat that by eight minutes.

Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of Australian Corps Memorial, Le Hamel 3.44 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the Australian Corps Memorial on the ridge overlooking the village of Le Hamel, near Villers-Bretonneux, in France. From here the view to the west and north is superb. In the distance, about four kilometres away, are the twin towers of the 18th century abbey church of Corbie; to the right, and down the hill, is the River Somme running due west through numerous open pond-like stretches of water; and peeping over the distant hill slightly to the south-west, is the top of the tower of the Australian National Memorial. Among the battle honours inscribed on that memorial is the name 'Hamel', which remembers the battle fought here on 4 July 1918.

Shaping his official narrative of that day's events, the diarist of the War Diary of the 44th Battalion AIF wrote: 'As darkness gave way to day, our men could be seen working their way steadily but surely to the crest of the ridge while eight tanks wobbled here and there over the slopes'. They had begun their advance on this strong German position known as the 'Wolfsberg', full of deep dugouts and stretching for some 500 metres north to south, in the dark from about two and a half kilometres away.

At 3.10 am an Australian artillery barrage had descended on the Germans, its effect vividly captured by our battalion diarist: '[it] came down with ferocious suddenness upon the enemy front line and pounded, battered and chopped it to pieces with shells of every calibre—light, medium, heavy, gas, shrapnel, high explosive'. After four minutes the barrage lifted 90 metres forward and then progressed, in stages like this, every one minute. Supported by British Mark V tanks, the men of the 44th Battalion advanced behind another Australian battalion towards Le Hamel. German machine gunners opened up and here the key role of the tanks is brought to life, as recorded once again in the War Diary: [they] smelt out the vicious machine guns in the enemy strong points, and summarily dealt with them in their own quaint manner'.

On reaching Le Hamel the 44th Battalion split into two groups and, each group accompanied by three tanks, went ahead around the village and straight up the slope at the Wolfsberg. Ahead of them the sky was lit up by exploding Verey lights and rockets as the embattled Germans sent up these colourful signals requesting badly needed artillery support. The 44th found the resulting barrage of little effect, but praised the manner in which their tanks dealt with the more troublesome machine guns. Indeed, it was the tanks which, as the War Diary put it, 'wobbled' over the summit of the ridge and cleared the German machine gunners from their positions.

'By twenty-five minutes to five' according to our war diarist, 'the ridge was ours'. That was, from their official record, just 85 minutes after the men of the 44th Battalion had begun their advance. Usually the time given for this most successful Australian advance and the capture of the German positions along the ridge beyond Le Hamel is 93 minutes. If their record is correct, the 44th beat that by eight minutes.

The Windmill, Pozières

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of The Windmill, Pozières 3.94 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the site of the old Pozières windmill. Perched on this ridge just beyond the village, its sails once caught the winds that sweep in from the Atlantic across these exposed upland stretches of the Somme. Like Pozières itself, the windmill was battered out of existence by artillery bombardment during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Looking from the windmill ruins back to the village and to the right towards Mouquet Farm, about 1.8 kilometres away, the eye takes in a sweep of countryside which, in the words of official historian Charles Bean, 'was more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other spot on earth'. By that, Bean meant the 23 000 casualties suffered here by the Australian Imperial Force between 23 July and 4 September 1916. More than 6700 of them were killed in action or died of wounds. In 1932 Bean persuaded the Australian War Memorial to buy the windmill ruins, and it was from here that French soil was dug up to scatter on the coffin of Australia's Unknown Soldier when he was laid to rest at the Memorial on 11 November 1993.

Bean was deeply aware of the desperate digging in the shell-shattered country around Pozières and the windmill between 29 July and 3 August 1916. On 28–29 July the Second Australian Division had failed to capture this ridge. To attack it again required the construction of a network of communication trenches along which men could approach assembly trenches protected from enemy machine-gun and sniper fire. The diggers, however, were an easy target for the German artillery and the work was regarded as a battle operation.

On the night of 31 July, Lieutenant John Raws, 23rd Australian Infantry Battalion, was in charge of a party in no-man's-land. German flares lit up the night, but they dug on through what Raws described as a 'tornado of bursting shells' ripping up the earth and burying them. Raws was often knocked down, and twice buried with the dead and dying. He pushed his men to the limit and towards daybreak refused to leave, even when ordered to do so by another officer. 'The trench was not finished', he wrote, 'I took it on myself to insist on the men staying, saying that any man who stopped digging would be shot'. On their way out Raws carried the only unburied wounded man they could find—'The journey down with him was awful. He was delirious. I tied one of his legs to his pack with one of my puttees'. Raws then spent two more hours under the shelling looking for wounded men. On the evening of 4 August 1916, in daylight, the Second Australian Division captured the ridge, including the ruin of the windmill.

On 31 July 1916 Bean visited the front line and was shocked. 'Everywhere', he wrote, 'were blackened men—torn and whole—dead for days'. On 28 August Bean took British official photographer Ernest Brooks out beyond Pozières to where all this furious digging had happened. Brooks' images are now in the Australian War Memorial. Much later, in May 1917, Bean walked the deserted battlefield with English poet and journalist John Masefield. Masefield found, and gave to Bean, an old Australian trench sign from 'Centre Way', one of the key communication trenches dug for the 4 August 1916 attack. It is thought to be the first object collected by Bean in France for what ultimately became the Australian War Memorial.

The Windmill, Pozières

At home, or as you tour the twelve locations of the Australian Remembrance Trail in France and Belgium, listen to a four-minute audio-cast featuring the extraordinary stories of Australian soldiers 'on this spot'. Listen to the audio-cast from your device.

Also available are all 12 audio-casts.

Download audio of The Windmill, Pozières 3.94 MB MP3

Audio transcript

This is the site of the old Pozières windmill. Perched on this ridge just beyond the village, its sails once caught the winds that sweep in from the Atlantic across these exposed upland stretches of the Somme. Like Pozières itself, the windmill was battered out of existence by artillery bombardment during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Looking from the windmill ruins back to the village and to the right towards Mouquet Farm, about 1.8 kilometres away, the eye takes in a sweep of countryside which, in the words of official historian Charles Bean, 'was more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other spot on earth'. By that, Bean meant the 23 000 casualties suffered here by the Australian Imperial Force between 23 July and 4 September 1916. More than 6700 of them were killed in action or died of wounds. In 1932 Bean persuaded the Australian War Memorial to buy the windmill ruins, and it was from here that French soil was dug up to scatter on the coffin of Australia's Unknown Soldier when he was laid to rest at the Memorial on 11 November 1993.

Bean was deeply aware of the desperate digging in the shell-shattered country around Pozières and the windmill between 29 July and 3 August 1916. On 28–29 July the Second Australian Division had failed to capture this ridge. To attack it again required the construction of a network of communication trenches along which men could approach assembly trenches protected from enemy machine-gun and sniper fire. The diggers, however, were an easy target for the German artillery and the work was regarded as a battle operation.

On the night of 31 July, Lieutenant John Raws, 23rd Australian Infantry Battalion, was in charge of a party in no-man's-land. German flares lit up the night, but they dug on through what Raws described as a 'tornado of bursting shells' ripping up the earth and burying them. Raws was often knocked down, and twice buried with the dead and dying. He pushed his men to the limit and towards daybreak refused to leave, even when ordered to do so by another officer. 'The trench was not finished', he wrote, 'I took it on myself to insist on the men staying, saying that any man who stopped digging would be shot'. On their way out Raws carried the only unburied wounded man they could find—'The journey down with him was awful. He was delirious. I tied one of his legs to his pack with one of my puttees'. Raws then spent two more hours under the shelling looking for wounded men. On the evening of 4 August 1916, in daylight, the Second Australian Division captured the ridge, including the ruin of the windmill.

On 31 July 1916 Bean visited the front line and was shocked. 'Everywhere', he wrote, 'were blackened men—torn and whole—dead for days'. On 28 August Bean took British official photographer Ernest Brooks out beyond Pozières to where all this furious digging had happened. Brooks' images are now in the Australian War Memorial. Much later, in May 1917, Bean walked the deserted battlefield with English poet and journalist John Masefield. Masefield found, and gave to Bean, an old Australian trench sign from 'Centre Way', one of the key communication trenches dug for the 4 August 1916 attack. It is thought to be the first object collected by Bean in France for what ultimately became the Australian War Memorial.

Pages