The battle for Lone Pine

Name: Hugh Anderson
Date: 1915
Unit: 1st Brigade AIF
Location: Lone Pine, Gallipoli

The battle for Lone Pine, involving the Australian 1st Brigade plus two other battalions, was a crushing victory for the Australians but at a horrendous cost to both sides.

The Australians lost 80 officers and 2197 men in the four days the battle lasted. The attack started at 5.30pm on 6 August with the Australians taking Lone Pine by 6pm, but the battle continued until 10 August as the Turks counter attacked. The Turks lost almost 7000 men of the 16th Division. No fewer than seven Victoria Crosses were awarded to Australian troops.

Hugh Anderson took part in the heroic Australian attack. He was badly wounded and ended up in hospital at Heliopolis for several months from where he wrote to his parents on 6 January 1916, describing his role in the battle.

"I hope the censor will let it pass after all these months," he wrote. "We knew several days before that we were to charge the Lone Pine trenches. I was glad as I had come over for the adventure and this seemed what I was looking for.

"We were issued with a white strip of calico to sew on to each arm and a big patch for the back, this was for the artillery to show where our men were, and also made a good mark for Johnie as we soon found to our cost. We were then told what we were to take over with us and our officer gave us a rough sketch of the trenches and told us what was expected of us, and what we had to do.

"On August 6th we paraded just after 3 o'clock in battle order and marched round to our trenches opposite the Lone Pine. The whole of the first division was to do the job, the 1st Battalion formed the first line and were in our advanced firing line, the 2nd Battalion were in the main firing line in the firing positions, and the 4th Battalion were in the bottom of the trench just behind them. The 3rd Battalion were the reserves and came over twenty minutes after we started. The brigade went in a little over 3000 strong and came out something over 400, so the casualties were very heavy.

"We got to our positions about 4pm and the artillery commenced bombarding the Turkish trenches and they returned the compliment and the crash and scream of shells was deafening for a little over an hour, the smell of explosives was very strong and the suspense of waiting tried our nerves. I was nervous I can tell you and put up many a prayer for courage. I bet others did also.

"About 5pm the officers were all there with watch in hand calling 3 minutes to go, 2 minutes to go, 1 minute to go half a minute to go and shut his watch and three shrill blasts of a whistle. Out scrambled the boys from advanced line up through holes in the ground, the trench being a tunnel. Over the parapet go the 2nd Battalion and we are close behind. I will never forget that picture, I was well up with the rest racing like mad, all nervousness gone now. The shrapnel falling as thick as hail, many a good man went down here although I never noticed it at the time.

"We reached the Turkish lines and found the first trench covered in with logs and branches and dirt heaped on top. There was a partial check, some men fired in through the loop holes, others tried to pull the logs apart. Out runs our officer, old Dickie Seldon, waving a revolver, 'This won't do men! On! On! On!' and running over the top of the trench he came to the second trench and down into it the crowd followed.

"I got alongside of Captain Milson of Milson's Point. I slid down into the trench, the Turks ran round a corner and got into a large cave place dug in the trench side as a bomb proof shelter. The first man to follow was shot dead, here we were checked. Captain Milson took command. A bomber came on the parapet and commenced throwing bombs round the corner among the Turks. Very soon he was shot in the arm, and said he was useless and threw his bags of' bombs down to us, several rolled away and out rushed a Turk to try and get them. I shot at him but never hit, and he got back quick.

"Milson started throwing, and I was next to him lighting bombs for him. He then proposed getting a party the other side of this possie and bombing from both sides and asked if we would follow him. We all said 'yes' so he threw a bomb and dashed across. A dozen Turks shot him and he fell dead the other side. I was next and as I ran I threw my rifle into the possie and pulled the trigger. I suppose they had never got time to load as I never got hit, but no one followed and I was there alone with no bombs and only my rifle. I shouted to them to come on but they were not having any.

"I felt a little dickie I can tell you, but I kept firing into the possie from where I was, some of the Turks were firing at me, and I knew it but I could not get away. Wack! Like a sledge hammer on the head and down I went across Milson's body and several Turks, some of whom were only wounded, and groaned and squirmed from time to time. I bled pretty freely and then I got a crack on the shoulder from a shrapnel pellet which hurt badly but did not do much damage.

"Our men meanwhile were still bombing away and one bomb went off near my head, and I got bits of it in the hand and face and was knocked unconscious for a while. The next I remembered is a rush of feet and being trampled on. I lay very still and there was a big shooting and bombing match going on all round and back rushed the Turks over me leaving a heap of dead and wounded. I was very dry and tried to get Milson's water bottle, my own being empty, but could not. I tried to get my rifle but it was jamed between the bodies. Milson's revolver was handy, and I ought to have used that as I had a good view of the Turk's possie from where I was, but I did not have brains enough at the time.

"Soon I heard someone call behind me 'Hullo Australia' and I crawled down the trench and found Seldon with one eye shot out, but still going, leading a party and I explained the position to him and he sent me away to a temporary dressing station while he went and fixed up the Turks. They captured 15 Turks and 1 German Officer for that position.

"I got my head bandaged and a drink of rum and felt better, I picked up a rifle and was going round to the firing line when I came across Crichton's body with a frightful gash in it, further on our Corporal's with a bayonet hole through his back and chest. I went on and was set to dig in the now captured trench. There was only a man every 20 yards or so and we had to pass messages to head quarters for reinforcements and sandbags. They were still fighting on the flanks, the right most especially under Captain Scot, he got a DCM for this. I was taken off to collect arms and ammunition from dead and it was heavy work.

"As darkness come on reinforcements arrived, and I went into the firing line and stood on guard with them. While I was working and hot my head did not trouble me, but when it was cold it started to ache, and I had a bad time all night. I left the trenches on Saturday and how I was sent to Lemnos you already know."

Hugh Anderson went on to fight in France where he was killed in the second Battle of Bullecourt on 5 May 1917. He is commemorated at the Villers-Brettoneux Memorial dedicated to more than 10,000 Australian soldiers who fell in battlefields of the Somme, Aras and the "Hundred Days" and who have no known grave.

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), The battle for Lone Pine, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 11 July 2024,
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