Battle of Lone Pine 6 to 10 August 1915
Allied forces planned the August Offensive as a complex series of actions to take control of the Sari Bair Range from the Ottomans. As part of the offensive, Lieutenant General Sir Harold Walker commanded Australian troops to launch a diversionary attack at Lone Pine. The site on 400 Plateau was south-east of Anzac Cove.
Large diversionary attack
Lone Pine was planned as a diversion to keep Turkish reserves from the main Allied attack, an attempt to break out of the Anzac perimeter and capture the heights of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971.
An Australian artillery barrage of Ottoman trenches preceded the attack.
At 5:30pm on 6 August 1915, the attack began. With the evening sun slanting down into Turkish eyes, the Australians rose from their trenches and charged.
The Australians' objectives were to:
- take and hold the Turkish line
- draw Turkish reserves away from action on the Sari Bair range
When the Australians reached the Ottoman line, they found timber roofs covered many of the trenches. At this point, they split up and either:
- fired, bombed and bayoneted from above
- made their way inside the trenches
- charged past to the open communications and support trenches behind
- advanced as far as ‘the Cup’ (about 20m behind the Turkish front line)
Within minutes, the Australians had seized the first Turkish trenches and were into the communication trenches beyond.
By nightfall, the Australians had:
- taken over most of the enemy front line
- established outposts in former Ottoman communication trenches
Then the real battle began.
From nightfall on 6 August to the night of 9 August, fierce fighting took place underground, in a complex maze of Ottoman tunnels.
Australian Engineers dug a safe passage across no-man’s-land so that reinforcements could enter the captured positions without being exposed to enemy fire.
The Turks desperately tried to eject the attacking force, but the Australians held on.
Private John Gammage of 1st Battalion wrote:
The wounded bodies of both Turks and Anzacs were piled up 3 and 4 deep … the bombs simply poured in but as fast as our men went down another would take his place
Tewfik Bey, commander of the Turkish 47th Regiment was held responsible for the loss of Lone Pine. He led a subsequent counter-attack and was killed.
Despite the Anzac victory, the overall August Offensive failed. A stalemate developed around Lone Pine and lasted until the evacuation of Australian troops in December 1915.
Casualties and decorations
When the battle was over, some 2300 men were killed or wounded across six Australian battalions, and over 6000 Turks had been killed or wounded.
From the action at Lone Pine, seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest British Empire bravery decoration. It was the highest number ever awarded to an Australian division for one action.
One VC went to Captain Alfred Shout of 1st Battalion, who was evacuated with terrible wounds. Despite the pain, he was ‘still cheerful and sat up to drink tea’ but died 2 days later. Shout's name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial.
Remembering the fallen at Lone Pine
The Lone Pine cemetery in Turkey partly covers:
- the old battlefield
- Australian positions (behind the eastern edge)
- Turkish trenches (near the Lone Pine Memorial pylon)
Australian veteran and war artist, Louis McCubbin, recreated the battle scene in a well-known Lone Pine diorama.