First to Fall at Anzac 25 April 1915
On the day of the landing, some 20,000 soldiers from Britain, France and their dominions, including Australia and New Zealand, went ashore. They fought the soldiers of the Ottoman Army. For the Australians and New Zealanders, most of the campaign was fought among the ridges and gullies above the original landing beaches at Ari Burnu. Four infantry battalions of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Australian Division, landed at dawn. With some wide research, we can find out which Australian soldiers might have been the first to be killed on Gallipoli.
11th Battalion at the landing
At dawn on 25 April, Australian troops from four infantry battalions of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Australian Division landed on Gallipoli:
- 9th Infantry Battalion AIF
- 10th Infantry Battalion AIF
- 11th Infantry Battalion AIF
- 12th Infantry Battalion AIF
These men came from what Charles Bean, Australia's official historian, called the 'outer states' - Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland.
The first group of men ashore were the so-called 'covering force'. Their task was to drive the Turkish defenders into the hills. After that, the main force would come ashore.
The 11th Battalion, from Western Australia, came ashore south of Anzac Cove, on the beach beneath the slopes leading down from Ari Burnu Point.
Among the first to fall was Captain William Annear, 11th Battalion, of Subiaco, Western Australia. He was shot as he came up onto Plugge's Plateau after the hard climb from the beach. Charles Bean described the scene:
The first Australians clambered out on to the small plateau ... heavy fire still met the Australians appearing over the rim of the plateau, and was sufficient to force the first men to take what cover they could on the seaward edge - Captain Annear was hit through the head and lay there, the first Australian officer to be killed.
[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 1, 'The Landing at Gaba Tepe', Sydney, 1941, p.259]
Later, as the men of the 11th Battalion struggled up towards the heights of Chunuk Bair, they met strong Turkish opposition around the slopes of a hill called 'Baby 700'. Another young officer was killed there - Second Lieutenant Mordaunt Reid[Discovering Anzacs], of Coolgardie, Western Australia. Reid had been sent across the Nek with a small party to help in the advance up the range:
Lieutenant Mordaunt Reid, who was carefully controlling the fire from the right of [the] line, was severely hit through the thigh. One of his men went to help him crawl to the rear, but Reid was never thereafter seen or heard of by his battalion.
[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 1, 'The Landing at Gaba Tepe', Sydney, 1941, p.290]
The story of these two men - Annear and Reid - was to be repeated over and over again on 25 April 1915 as the Anzacs battled with determined Turkish resistance and attempts to drive them back into the sea. The First to Fall data collated by Professor Peter Dennis shows that the bodies of Annear and Reid were either never recovered or not identifiable. Both officers are commemorated at the Lone Pine Memorial.
59 men killed from 11th Battalion
Over 620 Australians died that day, and 59 were from the 11th Battalion.
The men of the 11th Battalion came from all over the vast state of Western Australia - from rural districts, country towns and city suburbs. Only 13 of the 59 who died on the day of the landing have known graves.
Frank Henry Burton ADCOCK
William Richard ANNEAR
Crispin Kenworthy BATTYE
Charles Emanuel BONAVIA
Charles George BROWN
James Edward CARRINGTON
Thomas George CARROLL
Robert Henry CATLIN
Arthur Lancelot DEVENISH
John Currie DUCKWORTH
Richard Thomas DUFFETT
John James FERGUSON
Walter John GENERY
Alexander Francis GARNER
Wilfred Carl HILL
Cuthbert Oliver HOLCOMBE
John William INMAN
Frederick William JOHNSTON
Ivo Brian JOY
Leslie John LANGDON
Francis Ronald Reid McJANNET
Robert Stirling MACKIE
William Henry MAYNE
David William PALMER
William George PRICE
Henry James Vivian PRIESTLEY
Mordaunt Leslie REID
Henry John RIEKIE
Wallace Passmore ROACH
Basil Archdeacon SCOTT
Guy Allen SHARPE
Alfred Henry SMITH
Edward Pennell STABLES
Edward Harvey STATHAM
Ernest Percy WALKER
William John WILCOX
Robert Edgar WILLISON
Burial sites of the 'first to fall'
Over 620 Australians died on the 25 April 1915, including 59 men from the 11th Battalion. These are the cemeteries where the first to fall, all those who died on 25 April 1915, are either buried or commemorated.
Baby Cemetery 700
Baby 700 Cemetery was constructed after the end of the war in 1918. It contains a total of 483 Allied graves:
- 23 Australian soldiers
- 10 from New Zealand
- one seaman from the Royal Naval Division
- 449 men whose units could not be determined
The names of 10 Australian soldiers, the details of whose burial in the cemetery are not clearly established, are recorded on special tablets.
Of the AIF men killed in action on 25 April 1915, 14 are buried in Baby 700 Cemetery.
The cemetery was named after the hill, 'Baby 700', which was part of the Sari Bair range connecting Russell's Top with Battleship Hill ('Big 700'). On the maps used at Gallipoli, the hill was mistakenly marked as being 700 feet (213m) above sea level, when in fact its correct height is only 590 feet (180m).
Baby 700 was the objective of the 3rd Australian Brigade on the first day of the land campaign, and was taken early on the morning of 25 April by troops from the 11th and 12th Battalions, AIF. Later in the morning, they were reinforced by part of the Auckland Infantry Battalion, NZEF, but were forced to abandon their positions in the afternoon. Despite attempts to retake the hill in May and August, it was never again held by Allied troops.
Lone Pine Cemetery
The Lone Pine Cemetery is the second-most southerly cemetery in the Anzac Area, which covers about 647Ha and was ceded in perpetuity by the Turkish government under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923). It contains a total of 986 Allied graves:
- 471 Australian soldiers
- two New Zealand soldiers
- 14 British soldiers, sailors or marines
- 499 whose names and units could not be determined
Special tablets record the names of 182 Australian soldiers and one British soldier who are thought to have been buried either in the Lone Pine Cemetery or in the group of small cemeteries nearby at Brown's Dip, which were subsequently relocated to Lone Pine.
Of the AIF men killed in action on 25 April 1915, 51 are buried in Lone Pine Cemetery.
The plateau on which the cemetery is constructed was taken and passed at about 8am on 25 April by part of the 9th Battalion AIF, and subsequently by other battalions. For several days, its control swung backwards and forwards between Australian and Turkish troops, the Australians not consolidating their hold until 10 August. The cemetery is built over the original Turkish tunnels.
The Lone Pine Memorial
In the centre of the screen wall in front of the Lone Pine Memorial are inscribed the words:
To the Glory of God and in lasting memory of 3,268 Australian soldiers who fought on Gallipoli in 1915 and who have no known graves, and 456 New Zealand soldiers whose names are not recorded in other graves on 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.
The Lone Pine Memorial, situated in the Lone Pine Cemetery at Anzac, is the main Australian Memorial on Gallipoli, and one of four memorials to men of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Designed by Sir John Burnet, the principal architect of the Gallipoli cemeteries, it's a thick tapering pylon 14.3m high on a square base 12.98m wide. It's constructed from limestone mined at Ilgardere in Türkiye.
The Memorial commemorates the 3268 Australians and 456 New Zealanders who have no known grave and the 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who were buried at sea after evacuation through wounds or disease.
The names of New Zealanders commemorated are inscribed on stone panels mounted on the south and north sides of the pylon.
The names of the Australians are listed on a long wall of panels in front of the pylon and to either side.
The Memorial stands over the centre of the Turkish trenches and tunnels, which were the scene of heavy fighting during the August Offensive. Most cemeteries on Gallipoli contain relatively few marked graves, and most Australians killed on Gallipoli are commemorated here.
Of the AIF men killed in action on 25 April 1915 and have no known grave, 487 are commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial.
Plugge's Plateau Cemetery
Plugge's Plateau Cemetery is on the northwest corner of the plateau. It contains 21 Allied graves:
- 12 Australian soldiers
- eight New Zealanders
- one grave whose details cannot be determined
Of the AIF men killed in action on 25 April 1915, 7 are buried in Plugge's Plateau Cemetery.
Plugge's Plateau (pronounced 'Pluggy's') was named after Colonel Arthur Plugge, Commanding Officer of the Auckland Battalion NZEF, whose headquarters were subsequently established there. The position was captured on 25 April by the 3rd Infantry Brigade AIF.
Shrapnel Valley Cemetery
Shrapnel Valley Cemetery contains 660 Allied graves:
- 506 Australian soldiers
- 56 New Zealand soldiers
- 26 from the United Kingdom
- 72 who could not be identified
The names of 21 Australian soldiers and two from the United Kingdom who are thought to be buried in the cemetery are recorded on special tablets.
Of the AIF men killed in action on 25 April 1915, nine are buried in Shrapnel Valley Cemetery.
Shrapnel Valley runs from the west side of the Lone Pine Plateau to the sea near Hell Spit, at the southern end of Anzac Cove. It obtained its name from the heavy shelling to which it was subjected by the Turks on 26 April.
Sources used to construct the First to Fall data
The Embarkation Rolls draw together the information given on the attestation forms, signed by each member of the AIF at the time of enlistment. At the end of the war, the individual attestation forms were conflated into unit lists, and then published.
From the Embarkation Rolls, you can derive:
- number and unit on enlistment
- date of enlistment
- previous military service
- next of kin as designated by the enlistee
- next of kin's address
- relationship of next of kin to the enlistee
- date of embarkation from Australia
- ship and place of embarkation
Note that the Army did not ask for the date of birth, but only the stated age. Thus many men were able to provide a false age. Sometimes they did this because they were too young; more often because they were too old.
The Nominal Rolls updates the information provided on the Embarkation Rolls in that it gives us details of each member of the AIF at the end of the war. From these, you can derive:
- number and rank of each person
- their unit
- any decorations they might have received
- their ultimate fate in the war (killed in action, died of wounds/disease/illness, returned to Australia)
- the date of the fate
Unlike the 2nd AIF, an individual's number could change in the course of the war. For example, a soldier who was wounded at Gallipoli, sent back to Australia in 1915 and discharged, might have re-enlisted in 1916, at which time he would normally have been issued with a new number.
Units could often change, especially with the Australian Light Horse, much of which after 1915 was converted into other arms.
Privates were sometimes promoted to non-commissioned rank, and the Nominal Roll provides the only comprehensive listing of such promotions.
Details of promotions at the commissioned level are drawn from the Army Lists, and include the date of promotion. No such consolidated list exists for non-commissioned officers: minimal details are drawn from the Nominal Roll, supplemented in some cases by information from the Roll of Honour circulars.
Roll of Honour circulars
The Roll of Honour circulars is another useful source.
In the 1920s and early 1930s, questionnaires were sent to the next of kin of those members of the AIF who had died during the war or whose death up to the end of 1921 was deemed to be the result of war service.
This information was sought partly for the writing of the official history under the direction of Charles Bean and also for the drawing up of the official Roll of Honour, the bronze tablets of which now line the colonnades of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Inevitably not all the forms were returned: next of kin had died or could not be traced, in which case the Records Section filled in what details it could from the individual's AIF dossier. These entries, written in a distinctive clerical script, do not contain much of the background information that was sought, but they usually list in outline form the movements and any promotions (at officer or NCO rank), together with the appropriate dates. In the case of NCOs, this information could only be obtained otherwise from the individual's dossier, since promotions at non-commissioned level were not centrally recorded in, for example, the Army List.
The quality of the forms that were returned varies enormously.
Questions, such as 'Place where killed or wounded', are often unanswered, or left with the poignant comment 'I have never been told and would dearly like to know', or answered incorrectly: 'Battle of Messines, France' instead of 'Messines, Belgium'. Where the answer is simply given as 'France', this is recorded, but is open to correction. Where a place and country is given (Messines, France), this is corrected before being entered on the database.
'What was his calling' produces a range of responses, from the expected statement of occupation to 'King and Country', and even 'John Smith'.
The request for additional biographical details that might have been of interest to the official historian brought enormous amounts of information, from accounts of pre-war achievements to wartime acts of bravery, often accompanied by letters, newspaper cuttings and photographs.
The request for details of relatives killed or who distinguished themselves in the AIF usually brought a much less selective response: records of relations who served in the Napoleonic and Crimean wars, and lists of brothers, uncles, cousins and brothers-in-law who served in the AIF, whether or not they fitted into the criteria specified on the form. These details of relatives enable us to cross reference extended family networks, as does the computer-generated identification of brothers, fathers and sons from the Embarkation Rolls.