Walker's Ridge Cemetery

Audio file
Running time
7 min 10 sec

Directions

Leave the Nek Cemetery and turn right down the track until you reach Walker's Ridge Cemetery. From the cemetery observe the view to the north. Below, and to your right, are the valleys and spurs leading back up to Koja Temen Tepe and Chunuk Bai

Audio transcript

From Walker's Ridge between 7 and 10 August 1915 you would have seen wounded men lying in pain all over the heights and valleys before you. Those capable of walking or crawling made their way to aid posts at the end of the valleys. A grimmer aspect of this scene was recorded by Sergeant Harold Jackson:

From the trench down to the beach, about 4 miles [6.4 kms], is one long line of grey stiff bodies of men who have died trying to get down to the beach unassisted.

[Sergeant Harold Jackson, 13th Battalion AIF, 1DRL/0592, Australian War Memorial]

Up in one of the valleys Private Ormond Burton, New Zealand Medical Corps, tried to care for this mass of suffering. Nobody appeared to be responsible for them and men lay out in the noon day sun with no food or water. Some, from where they lay dying, could see the white-painted hospital ships off shore. Burton gave his water bottle to a Turkish officer with some of his men lying nearby:

He gave every drop to his men and took not a mouthful himself. I saw nothing more dreadful during the whole war than the suffering of those men.

[Burton quoted by Chris Pugsley, Gallipoli:The New Zealand Story, Auckland, 1998, p 305]

These casualties were the result of the battle to wrest the heights of Chunuk Bair from the Turks between 7 and 10 August. The plan was a complicated one. At Anzac, an Australian attack at Lone Pine (The Battle of Lone Pine) on the afternoon of 6 August was to tie down Turkish reserves to that area and to make the enemy think that a major attempt to break through their lines was taking place there. Meantime, in the dark of 6 August long columns of Australian, New Zealand, British and Indian infantry left the gullies above North Beach, made their way along the beach and then headed up into the hills. The Australians, along with an Indian unit, went a long way north, then swung around virtually out of sight of where you are standing at Walker's Ridge and headed up a distant valley. Their aim was to assault and capture the range's highest summit - Koja Temen Tepe, the Hill of the Great Pasture.

Before the New Zealand infantry could make their way up into the valleys various Turkish positions had to be captured. This job went to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and with them went men of the Maori Contingent. The Maoris attacked in traditional style:

The Turks still held this trench further on, and the Maoris could hear their voices. The advance party worked towards them, and Captain Dansey said, 'Let's charge them!' This the little party did. They yelled as they went, with bayonets at the charge,

Ka mate, ka mate!
Ka ora, ka ora!

the ancient Maori battle-song … On they went for those Turks; there was no breath to finish the chant; they needed it to push the bayonet home. The lads hurled themselves at the foe like a band of destroying angels; with bayonet and rifle butt they cleared the trench; only the dead and dying remained. Some Maoris fell, but the victory was with them.

Ka mate, ka mate!

[James Cowen, The Maoris in the Great War, Auckland, 1926, pp 40-41]

On the morning of 7 August, the New Zealand infantry had reached Rhododendron Ridge and the Apex about 500 metres below Chunuk Bair. From here, on the morning of 8 August, the Wellington Battalion advanced to a position just below the summit from which they could see what the whole Gallipoli campaign was about - the straits of the Dardanelles. For a day the Wellingtons withstood devastating Turkish counter-attacks and Bean described their condition when they were relieved:

Of the 760 of the Wellington Battalion who had captured the height that morning, there came out only 70 unwounded … Throughout that day not one had dreamed of leaving his post. Their uniforms were torn, their knees broken … they could only talk in whispers; their eyes were sunken; their knees trembled; some broke down and cried.

[Charles Bean, Story of Anzac, Vol 2, Sydney 1924, p 279]

Commanding the Turks at Chunuk Bair was Colonel Mustafa Kemal. Just before dawn on 10 August he prepared his men for a massed bayonet attack to drive the British troops, who now held the old Wellington Battalion's position, from the heights. Kemal later wrote:

The blanket of dawn had lifted. Now was the hour for the attack. I looked at my watch. It was nearly 4.30 am … I greeted the men and addressed them: 'Soldiers! There is no doubt that we can defeat the enemy opposing us. But don't you hurry, let me go in front first. When you see the wave of my whip all of you rush forward together'. Then I went to a point forward of the assault line, and, raising my whip, gave the signal for the assault.

This fierce Turkish rush swept the British troops away from Chunuk Bair. But as the Turks dashed down the slope on the other side towards the sea they were stopped and killed in their hundreds by New Zealand machine guns and the shells of British warships.

The August Offensive failed. The British troops who landed at Suvla Bay on the night of 6-7 August made little progress inland. A Gurkha unit which scaled the heights beyond Chunuk Bair was shot off the hill by artillery as it charged down the other side. The Australian attack further north got nowhere. In a sense, although the British Empire troops hung on here for another three and a half months until the evacuation, this was the end of the Gallipoli campaign.

When you have finished your Anzac Walk, and if time permits, you might like to make your way up the main road to Chunuk Bair. There you will find the New Zealand Memorial and facing it a huge statue of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who in 1923 became the first President of the Republic of Turkey. Gallipoli helped to make Atatürk as it also helped make the Anzac legend for New Zealand. On the New Zealand Memorial are these words:

In honour of
the soldiers
of the
New Zealand
Expeditionary Force
8th August
1915
From the Uttermost
Ends of the Earth