Artillery Road - Shell Green

Audio file
Running time
5 min 39 sec

Directions

About half a kilometre along the Brighton Beach road, on the left, is a directional brown and yellow sign. It points up an unpaved road - Artillery Road as it was known to the Anzacs - to Shell Green Cemetery. Follow this road uphill, stopping

Audio transcript

The way up Artillery Road is the way to Second Ridge (the first ridge was considered to be the ridge leading down from Plugge's Plateau to the coast behind Anzac Cove) and the Anzac front line. Behind the ridge and along the side of the road were many dugouts and rest positions where units could be stationed when not in the trenches. The ridge, also known during the campaign as Bolton's Ridge, stretches down to the sea at Brighton Beach and the end of the Anzac line in 1915.

Reinforcements, and men returning from temporary rest camps on Imroz and Lemnos islands, would have walked the same route you have just taken from Anzac Cove to reach units stationed in this area. This is to the right of the 'old Anzac' line held by the infantry battalions of the 3rd Brigade (9th, 10th, 11th and 12thBattalions) and, from early June 1915, the regiments of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade (5th Light Horse, Queensland; 6th Light Horse, NSW; 7th Light Horse, NSW).

As the name Artillery Road suggests, there were also a number of batteries of the Australian Field Artillery stationed in these hills. Originally, the road only reached as far as Shell Green Cemetery. In preparation for the August Offensive thousands of soldiers, mainly British, were brought to Anzac and hidden in newly constructed dugouts on terraces along the hills.

During this period, Artillery Road was widened and extended up the hill to just behind the Lone Pine position on the ridge. The hard work of road building had to be done by the Anzacs themselves and this daily grind, called 'fatigues', was the reality of war at Anzac:

You must not imagine that life in one of these year-long modern battles consists of continuous bomb fighting, bayoneting and bombarding all the time … [the] chief occupation is the digging of mile upon mile of endless sap [trench], of sunken road … The carrying of biscuit boxes and building timbers for hours daily … the sweeping and disinfecting of trenches in the never ending battle against flies - this is the soldier's life for nine days out of ten in a modern battle.

[Charles Bean, dispatch, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 2 December 1915, p.3058]

The flies were everywhere, breeding in millions in the bad sanitary conditions, piles of food scraps and rotting corpses. The smell was something a veteran never forgot. Trooper Ion Idriess, 5th Light Horse, spent much of his time at Gallipoli here on Bolton's Ridge and the rest positions behind it. Like others, he lived mainly on a diet of tinned bully beef, tea, sugar, biscuits and jam. So hard were these biscuits that it was not uncommon for men to break teeth on them. The easiest way to deal with the biscuits was to grate them and turn the resultant mush into a sort of porridge. Idriess recalled a particularly foul dinner of biscuits and jam:

Immediately I opened the tin the flies rushed the jam. They buzzed like a swarm of bees. They swarmed that jam, all fighting among themselves. I wrapped my overcoat over the tin and gouged out the flies, then spread the biscuit, held my hand over it, and drew the biscuit out of the coat. But a lot of the flies flew into my mouth and beat about inside. Finally, I threw the tin over the parapet. I nearly howled with rage … Of all the bastards of places this is the greatest bastard in the world.

[Ion Idriess, The Desert Column, Sydney, 1982, p 42]

Behind the names on the gravestones at Shell Green Cemetery, off to your right about half-way up Artillery Road, are many touching stories. In Plot 2, Row G, Grave 23 lies Private Roy Facey, 11th Battalion, age 23, from Subiaco, Western Australia. Roy came to Gallipoli in June 1915 to join his brother Albert Facey who was already serving in the battalion. Albert, as the older brother, put in a request to move to Roy's company and was looking forward to being with his brother with whom he 'always got along well'. The reunion never took place. On 28 June 1915, both Roy and Albert took part in an attack and Albert later wrote about what happened:

… on arriving back I was told that Roy had been killed. He and his mate had been killed by the same shell. This was a terrible blow to me. I had lost a lot of my mates and seen a lot of men die, but Roy was my brother … I helped to bury Roy and fifteen of our mates who had been killed on the twenty-eighth. We put them in a grave side by side on the edge of a clearing we called Shell Green. Roy was in pieces when they found him. We put him together as best we could - I can remember carrying a leg - it was terrible.

[Albert Facey, A Fortunate Life, 1984, p 273]