Landing At Anzac

The Anzacs did not face the main Turkish defences as the British at Helles did. However, they had problems of their own, namely the much rougher ground. The terrain behind the planned landing site was rough, thinly wooded and covered with scrub. The main ridge line, the Kocacimentepe Range (mistakenly called the Sari Bair Range by the British), ran along the length of the peninsula behind the landing area. There was little flat ground; the area was dominated by a series of ridges and eroded gullies or ravines. The peak of Hill 971 (Kocacimentepe) was the highest point on the peninsula. Anzac Cove itself is a shallow, nondescript stretch of beach about one kilometre wide, bounded by the headlands of Ari Burnu to the north and Hell Spit to the south.

The first troops to land were two companies of each of the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions of the Australian 3rd Brigade. The companies embarked from three Formidable-class battleships; HMS Queen, HMS London and HMS Prince of Wales. Each battleship dispatched four steamboats towing three row boats (launches and pinnaces), a total of 48 boats.

The moon set at 3am and the battleships released the tows at 3.30am. Given the night was pitch dark, the tows headed due east and so relied on the battleships having been in the correct position when they were released. The journey of the tows became a shambles and numerous theories have been proposed to explain what went amiss. The southern-most tow kept a good course and was aimed correctly just north of Gaba Tepe but its commander found the neighbouring tows were heading northwards, leaving him isolated. He altered course to bring his tow closer and this may have caused a ripple effect as the other tows responded with a similar correction. As the shore was sighted, the headland of Ari Burnu became visible and some tows mistook this for Gaba Tepe and hence veered even further north.

For whatever reason, these first boats which were meant to land on a two mile front between Hell Spit and Gaba Tepe ended up concentrated about Ari Burnu, 1.5 miles north of their intended landing area, in fact in the landing area of the 2nd Brigade which was to follow. The area about Ari Burnu was defended by a single company of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment, Turkish 9th Division. The first man to land was Cpl. Joseph Stratford. According to eyewitness reports while waist deep in water he disposed most of his heavy equipment and charged towards the enemy. Cut down by a hail of bullets he was later buried at Lone Pine.

The first troops to land were met by sporadic rifle and machine gun fire but casualties were relatively light. The 11th Battalion, which had landed just north of Ari Burnu, suffered the worst. The main enemy was confusion. The erratic course of the tows meant that the units had become intermingled. Officers were unsure where their units were or indeed where they themselves were; some thought that they had landed at Gaba Tepe. The geography was utterly unfamiliar and no objective could be identified.

When reports reached Mustafa Kemal that the Australians were making for the peaks of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, he was convinced the landing was not a feint and so, making a decision that probably doomed the Anzac landing to failure, if not defeat, he personally led the entire 57th Regiment forward to counter-attack, setting up his headquarters on the third ridge at Scrubby Knoll (understandably known to the Turks as Kemal Tepe "Kemal's Hill"). Prior to committing the 57th Regiment, Mustafa Kemal issued his famous order, "I do not expect you to attack, I order you to die! In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can take your place!" He would later write that the 57th Regiment was "a famous regiment this, because it was completely wiped out." The remaining regiments of the 19th Division, the 72nd and 77th Regiments, would join the fight in the evening. Only two regiments, the 25th and 26th, were available to counter the British landing at Helles.

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