Private Craig's view of Gallipoli landing

Name: Harold Gordon Craig
Date: 1915
Unit: 6th Battalion AIF
Location: Gallipoli

The landing at Gallipoli has been described by many of the men who survived.

The harrowing accounts add substance to the horrors faced by the Anzacs as they headed for the beach in boats and while they were fighting their way up the steep inclines against appalling odds.

Private Harold Gordon Craig survived the early fighting but was wounded and evacuated to Cairo. He described the landing in a letter to his brother Ken, written from his hospital bed on 18 May 1915.

He wrote how his wounds were mending and that he expected to be fit again in a couple of weeks and would then go back to the front.

"I shall be jolly glad when I do go, but hope it won't be as bad as before."

He explained how the troops when in Egypt had been given orders to get their kit ready and had been given 50 rounds of ammunition, taking the weight of their packs to something like 68kg.

They had then marched 19 kilometers to Cairo and had caught the train for Alexandria, arriving next morning. They had boarded ships immediately and had sailed for Lemnos where they stayed for two weeks awaiting the arrival of more troops.

"Well we received a letter from Lord Kitchener telling us that we were going to do work that no soldiers had ever been asked to do before, and that it would go down in history and a lot more as to the Colonials," he told brother Ken. "Told us that we would have a very hard time as we would land under fire. Never tumbled that it would be so bad as it was.

"One night about 12 we sailed from where we were, about 4am I heard a gun burst over my head, so went down below - wasn't taking any risks. We had breakfast and then started to disembark.

"There were about four destroyers firing on the Turks, Queen Elizabeth, the London and don't know what the other two were. A Company was the first to land then B and C. I was looking out of the port hole and could see about a million Turks on the beach and cliffs banging away at our boys for all they were worth.

"We had to climb down the ship rope ladder into our boat. There were about 10 boats and 25 men in each boat. A tug took us within 100 yards of the beach and we had to row the rest of the way. The shrapnel was bursting all round us, also machine guns, rifle shot.

"We lost a lot of men before we landed, but our boat got ashore safely. The Naval Officer in our boat - a big fat chap - when a shrapnel burst within a yard of us laughed and said "Oh never mind them, the beggars couldn't hit a hay stack".

"I believe the first lot to arrive fixed bayonets in the water and did not wait for any orders but simply charged the Turks. Some of them dropped the guns and cried for mercy, which they didn't get, and the rest went for their lives to the trenches.

"Well we landed. We marched about 100 yards and then took a rest and then word came to go up into the firing line at once. We threw our packs away and then got on with the game. The country was so rough and scrubby that you couldn't see where you were going and the shrapnel was bursting all round us and the bullets were so thick that we thought they were bees buzzing about us.

"I was hiding behind a bush and the bullets were cutting the leaves off. There must have been 100,000 Turks against 20,000 Australians as the French and British landed somewhere else so you can see we were having a pretty hot time, especially as we did not have artillery with us.

"By this time we were all mixed up with different Companies and I heard one of our officers call out 'Are there any men about here?' So I called out that I was there. So we advanced together. We came to a gully and laid there for a rest. The shrapnel was worse than hell, was getting nearer to us every minute, so I said to the officer that we ought to get into the firing line and try and pot a few Turks before we throw a seven. The rotten beggar wasn't having any so I left him.

"Then I got up to the firing line. I was lying next to a major who was shot in both legs. He asked me what sort of shot I was so I told him not bad, so told me to try the range at 500 yards, but my shot went over their heads so tried 450 and got right on to them. It was awful hearing the wounded crying out and seeing the dead lying round you.

"Well after a while a bullet hit me, and just grazed my wrist enough to burn the skin. I didn't take any notice of that, but about five minutes after one got me clean through the arm. I tried to go on but was settled. Just as I got hit the chap next to me got one also.

"I then made my way back to the beach. I reckon I have more luck than Jessie the Elephant not getting hit on the way back. When I got back the doctor dressed my wounds. I went into the hospital boat. We lost 15 men on the boat. There were about 5,000 to 6,000 wounded and killed the first day."

Craig went on to recount reports he had heard that the 2nd Brigade had been sent to reinforce the French and British after two days rest and with barely 1000 men left.

"They were told that as they put in such good work the first day that it was a post of honour they were being sent there," Craig wrote.

"When they arrived I believe it was as bad as when we landed. The French are fair squibs, worse than Ricketts. Our boys advanced to where the French and British were."

"The brigadier came along and called out 'Come on Australians, show these French and British beggars how to fight.' That was enough. They jumped out of the trenches and charged. They left the French and British behind but the Australians got shot down like rabbits. I believe there is only about 200 of the 2nd Brigade left on the field and not one officer."

Craig was obviously proud of the Australian contribution and fighting skills.

"Well Ken, I suppose you are tired of reading this and think I am boasting of ourselves too much but everybody calls us the 'White Gurkhas'. A Tommy told me that a Seat of Gold was not good enough for the Australians to sit upon. When you receive this I will be right in it again."

Harold Gordon Craig was sent back to Gallipoli where he was severely wounded by an exploding bomb during an attack on the German officers' trench on 7 August. He died the next day on 8 August 1915 on a hospital ship and was buried at sea.

He is commemorated at the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli which is dedicated to

"the glory of God and in lasting memorial of 3268 Australian soldiers who fought on Gallipoli in 1915 and have no known graves, and 456 New Zealand soldiers whose names are not recorded in other areas of the Peninsula but who fell in the Anzac area and have no known graves; and also of 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who, fighting on Gallipoli in 1915, incurred mortal wounds or sickness and found burial at sea."

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), Private Craig's view of Gallipoli landing, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 18 June 2024,
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