Brighton Beach - Coast Road

Audio file
Running time
5 min 20 sec

Directions

From Shrapnel Valley Cemetery go back to the main beach road. Turn left and walk along this road for about half a kilometre. Ahead of you will be the promontory of Gaba Tepe and to your right the shore known to the Anzacs as Brighton Beach name

Audio transcript

In his official history The Story of Anzac, Volume 1, Charles Bean has a chapter entitled 'Landing at Gaba Tepe'. It reminds us that the Anzac landing was originally planned for this beach stretching southwards from Hell Spit to the promontory of Gaba Tepe ahead of you. Just before dawn on 25 April 1915, the four battalions of the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade, known as the 'Covering Force', were to come ashore here and move rapidly inland to positions along what was known as Third or Gun Ridge. The 11th Battalion (Western Australia) would advance up and across the ridges in a north easterly direction to Battleship Hill; the 10th Battalion (South Australia) would make straight inland to Gun Ridge; and the 9th Battalion (Queensland) would land well south along the beach, split into two groups, one heading inland to the end of Gun Ridge and the other a little inland and then south to charge and take Turkish gun positions on Gaba Tepe. The 12th Battalion would land just south of Hell Spit and act as a reserve. Then the 2nd Brigade would land and push along the northern shore and inland to the heights of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971. The objective for the whole force that day was a hill known as Mal Tepe, well inland towards the other side of the peninsula from where they would command the road south towards the forts guarding the Narrows of the Dardanelles. With such a position in their hands the Anzacs would be able to cut off Turkish reinforcements heading south towards the main British landings at Helles which took place a little after dawn on 25 April 1915.

As we know, for the Anzacs none of this came to pass. They landed further to the north and during that first day's fighting were held by the Turks to the 'old Anzac' area. As you can see, the country facing them inland of Brighton Beach was not as rugged as what they encountered at North Beach and Anzac Cove. The casualties suffered by the 3rd Brigade that day were high. It is thought, however, that casualties would have been even higher had they landed at Brighton Beach. Turkish guns at Gaba Tepe and artillery a little further back at a position the Anzacs later called the 'Olive Grove' could have decimated them as they came ashore.

During the campaign Brighton Beach was really a backwater. Men came down here to swim always in danger from Turkish snipers and shells, as they were at the other Anzac beaches. As Anzac Cove became overcrowded in the days after the landing, a stores depot was established at Brighton Beach at the mouth of Shrapnel Gully. Great stacks of boxes and other stores rose at this position and the space between Hell Spit and the beach was soon strewn with timber, barbed wire and all sorts of other engineering material. The Indian Mule Cart Company, renowned for their transporting of water and other supplies up into the hills on mules or along the shore in small two-wheeled carts, initially established themselves in this area. Shelling became severe but it was decided that this depot must be maintained as a more convenient spot than Anzac Cove to pick up stores for men coming from the southern Anzac trenches. The great stacks of boxes were carefully arranged to hide those working there and to allow some protection from shrapnel.

On 22 May 1915 an extraordinary event occurred on Brighton Beach. At a point about a third the way along the beach from Hell Spit the 'old Anzac' position came down to the sea. Here was a sandbag wall and, reaching out into the water in front of it, two trip-wire entanglements. On the morning of 22 May, a white flag was seen on Gaba Tepe. The Australians had no white flag but someone quickly brought up a beach towel to serve. Turkish envoys then came along the beach towards the trip-wire where they were met by Australian officers. They had come to negotiate a truce to allow the thousands of Turkish dead along the frontline from their attack of 19 May to be buried. A Turkish officer was eventually blindfolded and led along the beach towards the trip-wires. Charles Bean was watching:

They directed his feet carefully over the first one … They shouted for coats to help him cross the second; but in the meantime someone had a brainwave. There were several Australians bathing … nearby. Someone rushed off for a stretcher - then they called the bathers. Two of these big Australians - naked as the day they were born - took the stretcher round the larger entanglement ... And I got three photographs! 

[Bean, quoted in Frontline Gallipoli:C E W Bean's diary from the trenches, Kevin Fewster, Sydney, 1990, p 112]

Presumably it was thought not the done thing to allow this high-ranking Turkish officer to get his feet wet!