Hell Spit

Audio file
Running time
7 min 10 sec

Directions

From the 'Anzac Cove' sign make your way along the coastal path to Beach Cemetery. Walk through the cemetery and look out to sea.

Audio transcript

The Anzacs gave the name Hell Spit to this area, the southern point of Anzac Cove. On a clear day you will have directly in front of you the Turkish island of Imroz (Imbros in 1915, as it was largely a Greek island then) and off to the north-west the Greek island of Samothrace. It was on Samothrace that pieces of a statue of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory, were discovered. The pieces were reassembled and today form one of the most famous sights of the Louvre Museum in Paris - the headless Winged Victory of Samothrace. The sun sets behind these Aegean islands and during the Gallipoli campaign the beauty of these sunsets produced many lyrical descriptions from Australian soldiers:

Away about fifteen miles off our position are two mountainous islands, Imbros and Samothrace. The sun goes below the sea's horizon just off the northern end of the latter throwing them both, great jagged peaks, into silhouette on a crimson background. The sea is nearly always like oil and as the crimson path streams across the water the store ships, hospital ships, torpedo boats and mine sweepers stand out jet black. God, it's just magnificent!

[The Gallipoli Diary of Sergeant Lawrence of the Australian Engineers, Sir Ronald East (ed), Melbourne 1983, p 35]

Health to the Navy, that took us there and away

Looking out to sea at Hell Spit we can image the activity in the stretch of water between here and the islands during the eight months of the Gallipoli campaign. As the phrase above from Lieutenant Oliver Hogue's poem 'Anzac' suggests, the men of the British Royal Navy and Merchant Marine were a central part of the whole Anzac story. Without them there would have been no landing, no ongoing naval bombardment support, no supply of food and fighting material, no removal of the sick and wounded and no successful evacuation at the end.

At most times the sea between Anzac and the islands was full of warships and other vessels. Standing here after mid-June 1915, you might have seen the little North Sea trawler (fishing boat) which brought fresh bread across from the Australian Field Bakeries on Imroz to Anzac. Wood to fuel the bakery ovens was brought from all over the islands of the Aegean, supplied by Greek contractors, but especially from Mount Athos. At one point over 14,500 bread rations were arriving every day.

The men of the Royal Navy also turned up at Anzac Cove as members of naval beach parties. At the beach soldiers could buy food items that were rare on Anzac, such as eggs and condensed milk, from the sailors who were able to obtain them from the islands. The cases of  exploded Turkish shrapnel were also used as currency. As Charles Bean observed,  'The man who brought down a shell case, when duty brought him to the beach, knew that it was as good as a loaf to take back again'. The sailors in one battleship, the Prince of Wales, were known for keeping many an Anzac supplied with cigarettes for free.

In charge of the comings and goings of the little ships from the piers was Lieutenant Commander Edward Cater. The Commander could often be heard bawling himself hoarse through a megaphone:

… [directing] the incoming barges to their proper piers and [superintending] the Anzac Beach parties in making them fast - no easy matter, where the only illumination for the whole bay and its foreshores was the light of the stars, or a rare stable lantern swinging in the hand of one of these officers or tucked behind some stack of provisions where work was active.

[Charles Bean, Story of Anzac, Vol 2, p 352]

In the style of many British officers of the period Cater wore a monocle. The story goes that Australian soldiers would mockingly approach Cater, 'the Bloke with the Eye Glass', with their identity discs in their eye-sockets. Relishing the joke, he would take his monocle out, throw it in the air, catch it in his eye-socket and respond - 'Do that, you blighters'. Cater was killed by shellfire as he was running out to help the crew of a small steamboat which had been hit and was sinking off a pier at Anzac Cove. His remains lie in Plot 2, Row G, Grave 5 behind you in Beach Cemetery. 

Also visible daily from Hell Spit were the hospital ships, painted white and with a Red Cross on their sides. A constant stream of trawlers and steamboats towing rowing boats and barges made regular trips to the hospital ships carrying sick and wounded. Chivalrously, the Turks never usually deliberately fired on these medical vessels, but inevitably many stray bullets found their way out to sea towards the hospital ships. On 11 August 1915, Sister Daisy Richmond, Australian Army Nursing Service, was on the deck of a hospital ship off Anzac:

We are well under fire many bullets coming on the decks. I was speaking to one boy, moved away to another patient when a bullet hit him and lodged in the thigh. I just missed.

[Sister Daisy Richmond, diary, 11 August 1915, Australian War Memorial 2 DRL/0783]

Undoubtedly, the most dramatic naval sight to be observed from Anzac was that of a Royal Navy warship shelling Turkish positions. The navy lent regular support to Anzac operations from the very beginning of the campaign and an unforgettable sight would have been a naval bombardment at night using searchlights. If you look down the coast to your left you can see the promontory of Gaba Tepe (Rough Hill). In early newspaper reports the landing of 25 April was referred to as the Gaba Tepe landing. In the darkness, if you had stood at Hell Spit and looked towards Gaba Tepe this might have been the scene:

… just after dusk a destroyer creeps right in upon our flank and lies there, black and silent. Suddenly, without warning, a vivid white streak shoots out from here and stretches across to the shore … Her light travels slowly up and down along the beach and the rising ground with their [the Turks] trenches are behind it; sometimes it stops stationary upon one point for a minute or so; see how plainly everything stands out, trees, sandbags and patches of scrub. Round goes the light until it lights up Gaba Tepe. There is a vivid spurt of flame from the inky blackness; then comes the sharp, 'whouf', 'bang' of the gun, a short and sudden roar, then crash! and up go showers of red sparks from - no, not Gaba Tepe, but the opposite end of their track. Then immediately the light is switched round on to that spot and then click and she is out again. A few more minutes and out it flashes, rests a second or so on a certain spot and then bang! bang! bang! go the guns.

[The Gallipoli Diary of Sergeant Lawrence of the Australian Engineers, Sir Ronald East (ed), Melbourne 1983, p 124]