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The Nek, 7 August 1915


Bill Woerlee
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Tuna

G'day mate

I listed all the units that took part in the charge at the Nek at the beginning of the post. Indeed, I also put everyone's country of origin next to each individual.

I have posted maps of the Enzed action below so you can see where they actually attacked. However, they were not part of the action at the Nek.

Cheers

Bill

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Adrian

G'day mate

It is a seminal event in Australian history. Mel Gibson was in a movie about it, Bean and the rest of Australia castigated Antill over it for the rest of his life, and a swathe of other historians have used this episode as their "J'accuse" statement to push a particular cause. It has been used and abused in Australian history. So now there is a group who wish to tell the story without the recriminations or the chest thumping.

Most Australians do not know that Brits suffered at the charge. Those who do know ignore them. There is no reference to them in Burness' book on the Nek which is meant to be a definitive account. We have corrected this wrong.

Again, the person of hate in this story is Jack Antill. He is derided almost immediately by Bean and he spent the rest of his life defending his actions while his daughter did so after his death. Our work reveals that he was no better and no worse than anyone else. Down the line stupid decisions were made. White had no right leading the first wave. Yet he chose to and his death meant that therre was no senior 8th LHR man to make an assessment about the second line. That may have been bravado for White but a stupid command decision if ever there was one. He played brave at the cost of hundreds of other lives. This is now being redressed.

And if you think 3 waves plus one accidental wave was enough, we have Reynell begging Antill to allow him to lead a 5th wave cause he knew how to knock out Johnny Turk at the moment. The insanity was all around. Antill's sanity returned and told him that such a request was insane and denied.

And so forth until the myths are tackled and dismissed.

Cheers

Bill

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Mates

Just on the point about the Cheshires, the photograph [kindly provided by Jeff Pickerd] below is a shot of RSM Walter Strang, 8th LHR (formally 9th LHR) taken some time between the 9th and 11th August, on the road down from Walker's Ridge. In the background are men of the 8th Cheshire's coming down from the reserve trenches on Russell's top.

post-7100-1148521123.jpg

To help you identify the men on the left of the photograph, I have circled the Cheshires and in the next pic, blown the area up.

post-7100-1148521238.jpg

As you can see, these brave men took part in the action with the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade which cost them too in the number of casualties, especially wounded. This is a problem in counting the cost of the attack since the war records of these men are no longer available. Those who died of wounds as a direct result of the attack on the Nek are excluded since their deaths took places after the action. The Cheshires went onto fight actions at Chocolate and Scimitar Hills where they suffered even worse casualties and thus it is difficult to ascertain the DOW situation. So until those records become available - which I suspect is never - then we are forced to only account for those whom we know for certain were killed in action at the Nek.

Cheers

Bill

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Mates

Below are some maps to put the campaign in perspective.

The first pic is from an aerial photospread put together on 2 October 1915.

post-7100-1148522491.jpg

This gives an idea of the appalling conditions in which the men found themselves attempting to do the impossible. The "Three tennis courts" description is too glib to describe this hideous terrain that was neither flat nor covered in lush green grass. This landscape is just plain difficult to work on.

Cheers

Bill

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Mates

The following map outlines the scheme of attack for Enzeds who were to strike towards Chunuck Bair.

post-7100-1148522867.jpg

You can readily see the movement of the Enzeds in relation to the location of the Nek.

Cheers

Bill

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Mates

The above outline is but a small section of an overall map.

Below I have posted the outline of the attacks proposed for that day. The strategy is simple - to use the attack on Chunuck Bair as an anvil upon which the 3rd LHB is the hammer and strikes the trapped Turks.

post-7100-1148523239.jpg

At the bottom left hand corner you can see the Nek.

As we all know in hindsight, none of this happened. The only outcome, apart from the appalling casualties, was the ability to watch Stopford order his men to have a cup of tea at Suvla and miss the breakout opportunity presented by the attack.

Cheers

Bill

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It is a seminal event in Australian history.

Most Australians do not know that Brits suffered at the charge. Those who do know ignore them.

Again, the person of hate in this story is Jack Antill. The insanity was all around. Antill's sanity returned and told him that such a request was insane and denied.

And so forth until the myths are tackled and dismissed.

(Please excuse the snipping - I hope I have left the salient points meaning intact)

Bill, I cannot match the eloquence of your reply. However I applaud your aim and your work. Here in the UK we remember July 1st 1916, but perhaps the Nek is a better example of the futility and horror of war because it played out over so short a time, so tiny a place, within view of both sides.

I don't think anyone here in the UK really comprehends what Gallipoli means to Australians and New Zealanders. I do know that when I read my granny's uncle's service papers I almost dropped them when I read "Gallipoli" on them - in fact he arrived in September into what I have always viewed as a sort of non-war, with desultory shooting going on but both sides waiting for the other to move. Not, perhaps, a glorious history, but one that meant he survived. Did it mean a lot to him to have fought at Gallipoli? Sadly we never knew as he never returned from Australia to his native Scotland.

It is good to have people like you, like Egbert, Malte... The list goes on! who bring different viewpoints here for the education of all. That is one of the things I enjoy about the GWF.

ADrian

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Having been lucky enough to visit both Gallipoli and the Western Front, I still cannot fathom how men fought at the former. There just isn't a flat piece of land bigger than a fag packet in the whole place... Standing at the Nek in 110 degrees, I was reminded of the Aussie general standing in the pouring rain at Paascheandale weeping as he surveyed the scene and asking his #1 'My god, did we send men to fight in this?'.

My visit to the Nek was inspired by the Gallipoli movie I first watched at school. For me, it's a microcosm of WW1 as unlike 1/7/06 you don't have to look into individual cases to see the tragedy. There's no 60k casualties to blind you to the tragedy... Just the few survivors from the few hundreds who fought.

Amazing, evocative place. Can't wait to take the family back one day.

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mcderms, your words speak volumes.

Thank you for posting them. It makes me, more than ever, wish to go to Gallipoli.

Regards

Kim

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  • 3 weeks later...

What a superb piece of research - thank you to all for your help in lettign me know about this action.

One question - why was it called the Nek?

Stephen

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What a superb piece of research - thank you to all for your help in lettign me know about this action.

One question - why was it called the Nek?

Stephen

From the AWM website:

Russell's Top was part of a ridge line that stretched northwest from ANZAC Cove and joined the "second ridge", along which the ANZAC frontline was established, at the large round hill called Baby 700. Russell's Top was joined to Baby 700 by a thin bridge of land called the Nek. "The Top" was the highest point within the ANZAC perimeter and commanded views along most of the Turkish line to the south of Baby 700. On it was sited an artillery battery and at least eight machine-guns. It was named after Brigadier Andrew Russell, commander of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, who established his headquarters on it in May 1915.

So Russell's Top (the highest Anzac Position) was linked to Baby 700 (the highest Turkish position) by a narrow ridge. This ridge was named the Nek by Boer War veterans who had seen similar geographical features in South Africa, where they were known as neks. In Afrikaans, 'nek' means a gate between mountains.

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Mates

Just to give you an on the ground perspective of what the men saw when they left their trenches on that morning, we have this pic which speaks over a thousand words. The annotations are mine.

post-7100-1150495865.jpg

This looks pretty daunting at any time. You need to ask yourself how much raw courage these men displayed to hop over seeing all this ranged against you.

Cheers

Bill

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Mates

Another shot taken after the charge - this time we can only just get a glimpse of the carnage - and it is fearsome.

In the distance you can see the turkish wire entanglements.

post-7100-1150496406.jpg

I hope this illustrates the gravity and difficulty of the job assigned to these men on that fatal morning. This was not an early morning romp across three tennis courts as some authors have dismissively referred to the event.

Cheers

Bill

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Thank you - I wondered what the link to the SA war was.

Stephen

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I have been reading and re-reading this horrific story- silent except for a inward groan of despair for men sent unnecessairily to their deaths.

I have been trying (and failing) to link this ghastly event to the rest of the actions in early August. I understand that this was part of the northern breakout from Anzac; however I cannot find a decent map to put the action at the Nek into perspective with the assault on Sari Bair.

Could some-one point me to a map with all these features upon them

Thanx in advance as ever

Stephen

Does

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Steven

G'day mate

Apart from all the pix and strategy maps posted, the only thing not posted was an attack map from the trenches.

post-7100-1150858313.jpg

This is a trench map drawn up before the attack. The distance between the two rows of trenches is between 25 - 30 yards, a little longer than taking a run at Lords.

I hope the map clarifies both scale and perspective.

Cheers

Bill

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Bill - the maps (and your description of the run up at Lords in relation to the distance between the two trenches) brings the action very clearly into perspective.

What waste of life - I am beginning to understand why the Nek is so important to the Aussies

Stephen

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Stephen

G'day mate

What waste of life - I am beginning to understand why the Nek is so important to the Aussies

Right on the money mate. That is why we have expended so much time and effort in putting a human face to this massacre. When statistics are waved around, we tend to ignore the fact that each number represents a human. When we humanise the statistics, it is a solid reminder to those in power that these are real living Australian lives entrusted for safe keeping and not to be tossed away for whim. This work filters through to the political process where we see a government keen to put troops on the ground in Iraq as a demonstration of solidarity but terrified to see them being hurt within the conflict. No government in Australia wants to be responsible for having another "Nek" on its shift. This work remembers the victims of the tragedy in every sense of the term but behind it is the political warning of never again.

Cheers

Bill

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Bill - I reread the work again this week-end and it becoems more powerful. Thanks once again to you and all who contributed.

In your research, were you able to idenitfy if the LHR had recevied any training in infantry drills (such as the attack) or was this a first for them

Stephen

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Stephen

G'day mate

When at Broadmeadows, all men received the basic infantry training. This included ingress and egress from trenches. The AIF even put together a training film which demonstrated the main infantry techniques in addition to light horse training. When they volunteered to go to Gallipoli in early May, they received a further two weeks of infantry training relevant to Gallipoli.

Yes, they were given proper infantry training. The question asked at the time: "Was it adequate?" In terms of basic trianing, it was no more and no less than anyone else. Was it useful? No, but then again, nothing could have prepared the men for their Gallipoli experience except to overwork, starve, brutalise and dehumanise the men at the training camps - something no one would cop without understanding the hell in which they were to go.

Cheers

Bill

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Bill

a very fair answer to my question - thank you

Stephen

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  • 2 months later...

Bill

I have only just "discovered" this thread - via Google.

One of my Stockport War Memorial researchees is Fred Sinker, 8th Cheshires. I had been Googling today as I've just been contacted by a descendent. I can't add anything to the accounts of the day - you already have the extract from Crookenden and the War Diary has nothing interesting to add but thought you might like to see Fred's write-up from my website (NB: his service numbers differs from your records and is correct. Note also his date of death as recorded by CWGC/SDGW) -:-

NAME: Fred Sinker

RANK: Private

NUMBER: 12561

UNIT: 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment

DATE OF DEATH: 8 August 1915

CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: Helles Memorial, Turkey

AGE: 25 or 29

OTHER INFORMATION:

The 1901 Census suggests that Fred came from a large family. His father, Frederick, was then aged 45 and worked as “pack carrier”. Fred had a younger brother, Herbert, aged two, and several sisters – Edith, 5; Florence, 19; Lily, 14; Lucy, 4; Minnie, 16 and Nelly, 8.

The Census lists a Selina Sinker, aged 45 who was working as a laundress. It is not known what relationship she is to the other Sinkers. Frederick is recorded as marrying a Sarah Ellen Cuthbert at St Thomas’ Church, Heaton Norris in the spring of 1878. She is not listed on the Census as living in Stockport, so may have died. Selina may be Frederick’s second wife or may, of course, be another relative.

Fred’s age, when he died, is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as 29, but the Census records him as being then aged 11, making him about 25.

Fred’s service number indicates he enlisted into the army in August or September 1914. The newly formed Battalion trained near Swindon for several months. In March of 1915, Fred must have had a short spell of leave as he was back in Stockport to marry his fiancée, Annie. Their home was to be at 356 Buxton Road, Stockport.

Back in camp, Fred and his comrades finalised arrangements to go overseas on active service to Gallipoli. They left Avonmouth on 26th June on the SS Ivernia (the ship had been launched in 1900 and would be torpedoed in 1917). After three stops, at Malta, Alexandria and Mudros, they landed at Cape Helles on 16 July. Fred’s first spell in the front line was between 19th and 20th July.

In the early hours of 7 August, they were, once again, near the front line at positions known as Russell’s Top, They supported an unsuccessful attack by the Australian Light Horse Brigade. Two Companies were also sent to support an attack by the 8th Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who had attacked, again unsuccessfully, from Monash Gully. During the night of 7/8th, the whole Battalion was moved back to support positions. Sometime during this period, Fred was killed. His body was never recovered and identified. This suggests that, perhaps, he was killed while the troops were “on the move” either into support of the Fusiliers or whilst they were being relieved.

After the War, Annie remarried and became Annie Turner. In the early 1920s, when the War Graves Commission was collating its casualty information, she was living at 25 Crossfield Grove, Woodsmoor Lane, Stockport.

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Mates,

There are some interesting coments about the the ALH during there take over of Quinn's (post) in May 1915 in Stanley's book "Quinn's Post".

See pages 56-57 where he mentions coments by Lt Robert Wordsworth 2 LHR, "claimed that not a man in his Regt had fired a rifle or dug a trench, and knew nothing of the Infantry tactics. "we didn't know how to attack at all'. They were soon to learn the hard way."

He (Stanley) also makes coment about the taking over from the 15Bn AIF on Quinn's where because of the poor noise disiplne of the Regt the turks became aware of the exchange of units and gave the 2 LHR a hard time including some 33 wounded.

I surpose like all new units at the front they do take time to learn the rules of the game and untill they do suffer for that inexpirence.

But by the time of the change at the Nek (Aug 1915) by the ALH had been there for many months and did learn infantry tactics and had been on operations for some time. So there were not the novices they once were.

Cheers

S.B

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