Ari Burnu Cemetery

Audio file
Running time
6 min 35 sec

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

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.