Logo for The Nek webpage
ANZAC, Gallipoli, Turkey, 7 August 1915

The attack on The Nek ( 5-7 August 1915) was part of a diversion in support of New Zealand ANZACs and their attack on Chunuk Bair. The Kiwis had heroically secured Rhodedendron Ridge, and were on their way to the heights of Chunuk Bair. Most of the Wellington Regiment had been killed or wounded. But there was the possibility of a stunning victory, opening the way to Constantinople (Istanbul) and southern Europe.

The ANZAC battlefield was by then a warren of swarming trenches, tunnels and saps, set in a craggy landscape of hills, ridges, causeways, valleys and abrupt cliffs. In addition to sometimes reckless rushes against enemy trenches, a steady toll on soldiers of both sides was effected as snipers steadily picked-off unwary stragglers and those who popped up their heads at the wrong moment.

Turkish trench at Gallipoli
A recently restored Turkish trench on top
of Chunuk Bair, about a mile from Kemal
Ataturk's HQ on Third (Gun) Ridge. New
Zealand ANZACs fought to within a few metres
of this trench. 1998 photo by Paul Roser. Bridget
Roser and a local guide are in the background.

The object of the Australian diversionary attacks in support of the New Zealanders was to storm The Nek and German Officers' Trench. It was necessary to clear Turk positions, consolidate and draw Turkish reinforcements away from the New Zealanders. A secondary objective was to further consolidate these advances by attacking and securing the hill known as Baby 700. To support this, further attacks from Quinn's and Pope's Posts by the 1st Light Horse Brigade were to occur.

View from Quinn's Post
The impossible nature of the ANZACs' task is shown in this view of the heights
from Quinn's Post. Photograph in The Dardanelles: An Epic Told in Pictures
(published by the Alfieri Picture Service London, n.d.). Kindly provided by
Michael Kesic.

Chosen for the attack on The Nek was the as yet untested 3rd Light Horse Brigade. The brigade had no experience of pitched battle, and over eleven weeks since landing, daily life consisted only of trench digging and water carrying. The attacking force was to comprise two regiments of the Brigade, the 8th Light Horse Regiment (Victorians) and the 10th Light Horse Regiment (West Australians). The Nek itself was a narrowing ridge defended by eight lines of Turkish trenches and 60 or more saps. It was wrongly believed at first that this area was lightly defended. Later assessments found Turkish defences were 'not light'.

Perhaps recklessly, in light of the immediate future--but equal in bravery to his men--the CO of 8 L. H. Regiment, Lieut-Colonel A. H. White, decided to lead the attack himself. He should have directed it from the trenches.

Regimental orders for 8th L. H. 1st line: -- First line will consist of troops already in fire trenches and saps. On a given signal, silently and without rifle fire, it will rush The Nek (A1) and with bayonet and bomb engage the enemy, taking possession of the flank, communicating and advanced trenches (A9, A5, A8, A11), paying special attention to the machine-guns, which must be sought for and rushed, and to the trenches overlooking the cliff north of The Nek and to those on the southern flank of same, so as to prevent flank interposition by the enemy -- mine fuses and 'phone wires to be sought for and cut.

There was at that stage no premonition of the appalling disaster that was about to unfold.

A further 3rd Light Horse Brigade order described battle dress for the coming conflict. 'Shirt sleeves, web equipment, helmets, 200 rounds, field dressing pinned right side inside shirt, gas helmet, full waterbottle, 6 biscuits, 2 sandbags, (4 periscopes per each line and gas sprayers to be carried by fourth line), wire cutters, rifle (unloaded and uncharged), bayonet fixed'.

With unloaded rifles, the four lines would be defenceless during the attack until they reached the Turkish trenches where the 'cold steel' of bayonets was to be employed.

Map of The Nek

Looking due north. The attack by the Light Horsemen
of the 3rd Brigade roughly came from the middle of the
heavy blue front line shown here. The Turkish and Australian
front line trenches actually zig-zagged over uneven ground.

Throughout the night of 6-7 August, allied artillery lobbed shells onto the Turkish trenches at The Nek and onto the Chessboard, each battery firing at a rate of one shell every two-and-a-half minutes. At 4am, the batteries increased to four shells a minute, and the naval bombardment began. Nothing like this had been seen at ANZAC since 2 May, and a cloud of dust and smoke covered the Turkish trenches.

The rush from the trenches was timed to begin on the dot of 4.30 am. For an unknown reason the thunderous bombardment was suddenly cut short 'as if by a knife' seven minutes early.

The Turks of the 18th Regiment quickly reoccupied their positions in the trenches and prepared for the attack that obviously was imminent. Their trenches bristled with bayonets, and rifle fire began to crackle at the Australian lines between 20 and 60 metres away. Machine-guns fired off a few bullets to find the range.

Initial puzzlement in the Australian trenches about the silence of the artillery turned to resolve. When Colonel White said 'Go!', the first line of the 8th Light Horse leapt over the parapet. Rifle fire from hundreds of Turk rifles rose from a crackle to a roar. The rush only managed five or six yards, but many had fallen back into the trench dead or wounded. Others, wounded already, dragged themselves back to the parapet and fell in to avoid being shot again.

In 30 seconds it was all over. Exactly two minutes after the first attack, the second line emerged from the trench. This second line which had to dodge the bodies of their dead comrades, got a little further on before it too was halted by gunfire.

Soon someone noticed a small yellow and red flag fluttering in the dust haze at the south-west corner of the Turkish front line trench.. This was a marker to show that, by some miracle, at least one member of the 8th Light Horse had reached his objective. This marker flag was to have tragic consequences.

 What became of the officers of the first and second lines:

1st Line

Lieut. Col A. H. White (killed)
Maj T. H. Redford, Warrnambool (killed)
Lieut L. W. H. Anderson, former Duntroon cadet (killed)
Lieut K. Borthwick, Sale (killed)
Lieut C. C. Dale, former Duntroon cadet (killed)
Lieut E. E. Henty, Hamilton (killed)
Lieut C. G. Marsh, Beaconsfield Upper (killed)
Lieut C. Talbot Woods, Sydney (killed)
Lieut E. G. Wilson, Warrnambool (killed)
2nd Line
Maj A. V. Deeble, Geelong
Maj A. McG. McLaurin, Rutherglen (wounded)
Capt L. F. S. Hore, London & Hobart (wounded)
Lieut C. Carthew, Myrtleford (killed)
Lieut A. Crawford, Tatura (wounded)
Lieut G. M. Grant, Sydney (killed)
Lieut M. B. Higgins, Malvern
Lieut T. S. Howard, Melbourne (killed)
Lieut W. Robinson, Murra Warra (wounded]
Just after the second line had started its attack, the two lines of the 10th Light Horse moved into the Australian front line, stepping here and there over dead and wounded Victorians. Death seemed certain. 'Mate having said goodbye to mate, the third line took up its position on the fire-step'.
Lieut-Col T. J. Todd who commanded the third line reported to the Regimental Commander of the 10th enquiring if further sacrifice was necessary. Lieut-Col N. M. Brazier had himself noted through a periscope the bodies scattered over the battlefield. But a staff officer from brigade HQ appeared asking why the third line had not gone forward. Brazier at 4.40 am went to the HQ where he could find only the Brigade-Major, Colonel J. M. Antill. Antill who had already been told about the yellow and red marker flag in the Turkish front line thought it important to urgently support the apparent advance. He thus urged the 10th to push ahead at once.
It was now about 4.45 am and the roar of Turkish rifles and machine-guns had gradually fallen silent. Just as the third line appeared the roar began again and intensified. 'With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia, sons of the old pioneering families, youngsters--in some cases two or three from the same home--who had flocked to Perth at the outbreak of the war with their own horses and saddlery . . . Men known and popular, the best loved leaders in sport and work in the West, then rushed straight to their death'.
A further debate now ensued at Brigade Headquarters, where Colonel Brazier and the commander of the fourth line, Major J. B. Scott, were again ordered by Colonel Antill to advance. Brazier now referred the matter to Brigadier F. G. Hughes. The Brigadier seemed agreeable to ceasing the frontal assault, and suggested an alternative route through Bully Beef Sap and Monash Gully.
While this discussion was taking place, the fourth line had moved onto the firing-step. It was now 5.15 am. An incident now took place that sealed their fate. An unknown officer approached the right wing of the waiting men and asked why they had not gone forward. Somehow an impression was created that such an order had been given and they jumped from the trench. As the Turkish guns again roared out, Major Scott exclaimed: 'By God, I believe the right has gone'. NCOs ordered a charge, and the slaughter recommenced.
Total casualties:
Out of a total of 300 in the first two lines,
12 Officers and 142 men had been killed,
and four Officers and 76 men wounded.
The 10th L. H. Regiment (lines three and four)
lost nine Officers and 129 men (seven Officers
and 73 men were killed)
All the attacks, including that of the New Zealand ANZACs and the attack by the 1st Light Horse Brigade on the Chessboard, despite initial successes, were eventually beaten off or abandoned.

NOTE: This study prepared using: Bean, C. E. W.: Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18: Vol II: The Story of ANZAC: 6th ed.: Angus & Robertson: 1938.


'A' Squadron, 10th Light Horse still exists today
as an RAAC unit in West Australia
Click here for external link

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