Johnston's Jolly

Audio file
Running time
5 min 31 sec

Directions

Go back out of Lone Pine Cemetery and walk down to the main road heading along up the ridge. Turn left and walk to Johnston's Jolly Cemetery a few hundred metres along the road and to your right. If you had stood here on the morning of 19 May 1

Audio transcript

By the first week in May 1915, the Anzac line along this ridge had been fairly well established. The Battle of the Landing had temporarily exhausted both sides. Moreover, the landing had failed, for neither the Anzacs nor the British force at Helles had been able to capture the southern part of the Gallipoli peninsula. That had been the whole point of the invasion - to get through to the Dardanelles and silence the Turkish batteries guarding that waterway. Then the Royal Navy, the theory went, could steam on up to Istanbul and terrify Turkey out of the war.

As the Anzacs worked to consolidate their positions, the Turkish commanders planned to drive them from the ridge and back to the sea. They considered the position along Second Ridge as the most vulnerable to attack for here their enemies clung precariously to positions just off the steep slopes of Monash Valley just on the other side of the road opposite Johnston's Jolly. One mighty rush of infantry could send them reeling back down into the valley and once the Turks commanded the whole ridge evacuation would be inevitable. So, on 18 May approximately 42,000 Turkish soldiers were massed in the valleys to the east. But aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service, flying out of Imroz Island as observation planes for Royal Navy warships, spotted them. At 3.00 am on 19 May, well before dawn, the Anzac trenches well fully manned and awake all along the line in the expectation of a Turkish attack.

Shortly after 3.00 am, the glinting bayonets of Turkish soldiers were observed in the clear night moving in the valley between where you are standing at the Jolly and the next ridge to the north, German Officer's Ridge. The Australians began firing and by mid-morning had poured 948,000 rifle and machine gun bullets into waves of attacking Turks all along the Anzac line but especially here at 400 Plateau, at German Officer's and on up the ridge towards Quinn's Post. One Australian likened the whole event to a 'wallaby drive' where the enemy were 'shot down in droves' while another talked of how they had stood virtually on top of their trenches 'shooting as fast as they could' until gun barrels became too hot to touch. Bean's words capture the scene in this area by mid-morning 19 May 1915:

… the dead and wounded lay everywhere in hundreds. Many of those nearest to the Anzac line had been shattered by the terrible wounds inflicted by modern bullets at short ranges. No sound came from that terrible space; but here and there some wounded or dying man, silently lying without help or any hope of it under the sun which glared from a cloudless sky, turned painfully from one side to the other, or slowly raised an arm towards heaven.

[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 2, p 161]

Approximately 3,000 Turks had been killed and another 7,000 wounded. The Anzacs, by comparison, lost 160 killed and 468 wounded. While the Anzacs had been unable to push forward against the Turks, the failure of this attack indicated that the Anzac line would not fall to a rush of infantry against rifles and machine guns. After 19 May the Anzac soldiers began to see the Turks as fellow sufferers and respect for their courage and prowess grew.

Within days of the attack the air was heavy with the smell of rotting corpses. A truce was arranged between 7.00 am and 4.30 pm on 24 May to allow both sides to bury their dead. Prominent in the organisation of the truce was a British officer, Captain Aubrey Herbert, attached to the staff of the Australian and New Zealand Division. On the morning of 24 May, Herbert met and accompanied Turkish officers up the ridge from the beach to 400 Plateau. He found the sight between the trenches and in the gullies 'indescribable'. So awful was the stench that a Turkish 'Red Crescent' official gave him antiseptic wool with scent to put over his nose. The scent was 'renewed frequently'. A Turkish officer said to Herbert:

At this spectacle even the most gentle must feel savage, and the most savage must weep.

Continuing on up the ridge, Herbert saw for himself the full effect of the Anzac bullets:

They [Turkish dead] fill the myrtle-grown gullies. One saw the result of machine-gun fire very clearly: entire companies annihilated - not wounded, but killed, their heads doubled under them with the impetus of their rush and both hands clasping their bayonets. It was as if God had breathed in their faces …

[Aubrey Herbert, Mons, Anzac and Kut, Hutchinson & Co, 1930]