Battle of the Nek
Overview
 
The Battle of the Nek was a small World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 battle fought as part of the Gallipoli campaign. "The Nek" was a narrow stretch of ridge in the Anzac
Anzac Cove
Anzac Cove is a small cove on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. It became famous as the site of World War I landing of the ANZAC on April 25, 1915. The cove is a mere long, bounded by the headlands of Ari Burnu to the north and Little Ari Burnu, known as Hell Spit, to the south...

 battlefield on the Gallipoli peninsula. The name derives from the Afrikaans
Afrikaans
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

 word for a "mountain pass" but the terrain itself was a perfect bottleneck and easy to defend, as had been proven during an Ottoman attack in May. It connected the Anzac trenches on the ridge known as "Russell's Top" to the knoll called "Baby 700" on which the Ottoman defenders were entrenched.

On 7 August 1915 two regiments of the Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n 3rd Light Horse Brigade
3rd Light Horse Brigade
The 3rd Light Horse Brigade was a mounted infantry brigade of the First Australian Imperial Force which served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I....

 mounted a tragic and futile attack on the Ottoman trenches on Baby 700.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of the Nek was a small World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 battle fought as part of the Gallipoli campaign. "The Nek" was a narrow stretch of ridge in the Anzac
Anzac Cove
Anzac Cove is a small cove on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. It became famous as the site of World War I landing of the ANZAC on April 25, 1915. The cove is a mere long, bounded by the headlands of Ari Burnu to the north and Little Ari Burnu, known as Hell Spit, to the south...

 battlefield on the Gallipoli peninsula. The name derives from the Afrikaans
Afrikaans
Afrikaans is a West Germanic language, spoken natively in South Africa and Namibia. It is a daughter language of Dutch, originating in its 17th century dialects, collectively referred to as Cape Dutch .Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch; see , , , , , .Afrikaans was historically called Cape...

 word for a "mountain pass" but the terrain itself was a perfect bottleneck and easy to defend, as had been proven during an Ottoman attack in May. It connected the Anzac trenches on the ridge known as "Russell's Top" to the knoll called "Baby 700" on which the Ottoman defenders were entrenched.

On 7 August 1915 two regiments of the Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n 3rd Light Horse Brigade
3rd Light Horse Brigade
The 3rd Light Horse Brigade was a mounted infantry brigade of the First Australian Imperial Force which served in the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I....

 mounted a tragic and futile attack on the Ottoman trenches on Baby 700. The battle became known as "Godley's abattoir".

Prelude

For the three months since the 25 April landings, the Anzac beachhead had been a stalemate. In August an offensive (which later became known as the Battle of Sari Bair
Battle of Sari Bair
The Battle of Sari Bair , also known as the August Offensive, was the final attempt made by the British in August 1915 to seize control of the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire during First World War.The Battle of Gallipoli had raged on two fronts, Anzac and Helles, for three months since...

) was intended to break the deadlock by capturing the high ground of the Sari Bair range, and linking the Anzac front with a new landing to the north at Suvla. In addition to the main advance north out of the Anzac perimeter, a number of supporting attacks were planned from the existing trench positions.

The attack at the Nek was meant to coincide with an attack by New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 troops from Chunuk Bair
Battle of Chunuk Bair
The Battle of Chunuk Bair was a World War I battle fought between the Ottoman defenders and troops of New Zealand and Britain. Allied units that made the summit of Chunuk Bair early a.m...

, which was to be captured during the night. The light horsemen were to attack across the Nek to Baby 700 while the New Zealanders descended from the rear onto Battleship Hill, the next knoll above Baby 700.

The 3rd Light Horse Brigade, which was fast commanded by Colonel F.G. Hughes
Frederic Godfrey Hughes
Major General Frederic Godfrey Hughes CB was an Australian Army Major General in World War I.-Early life and career:...

, comprised the 8th (Victorian
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

), 9th (Victorian & South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

n) and 10th
10th Light Horse Regiment (Australia)
The 10th Light Horse Regiment is a light cavalry regiment of the Australian Army. Tracing its lineage back to 1900, it predecessor units served during the Second Boer War and the First World War. Today consisting of only a single squadron, the regiment is part of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps...

(Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

n) Light Horse Regiments. Like the other Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles
New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade, consisting usually of four units of mounted infantry, fought in World War I and World War II. Initially a milita, under the instruction of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Henry Banks they formed the core of the New Zealand Army following successful service in the...

 regiments, they had been dispatched to Gallipoli in May as infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 reinforcements, leaving their horses in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

.

Battle

The attack was scheduled to commence at 4:30 a.m.
on 7 August. It was to be preceded by a naval bombardment. The 8th and 10th Light Horse regiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s were to advance on a front 80 metres (87.5 yards) wide in a total of four waves of 150 men each, two waves per regiment. Each wave would advance two minutes apart. The distance they would have to travel to reach the Ottoman line was a mere 27 metres (29.5 yards). Coloured marker flags were carried, to be shown from the captured trenches to indicate success.

On the morning of 7 August, it was clear that the prerequisites for the attack had not been met. The plan drafted by Colonel Andrew Skeen
Andrew Skeen
General Sir Andrew Skeen, KCB, KCIE, CMG served in the British Indian Army, rising to the position of Chief of the General Staff...

 required a simultaneous attack from the rear of Baby 700, thereby creating a hammer and anvil
Hammer and anvil
The Hammer and Anvil tactic is a military tactic used since the beginning of organized warfare. It was used mostly in the ancient world, including by Alexander the Great.- The procedure :...

 effect on the Ottoman trenches caught in between this pincer movement. Because the New Zealand advance was held up, and failed to reach Chunuk Bair until the morning of 8 August, a day late, the reason for charging at the Nek evaporated. A further part of the Skeen plan required an attack from Steele's Post against German Officers' Trench by the 6th Battalion
Australian 6th Battalion
The 6th Battalion was an infantry battalion of the Australian Army. Originally formed in 1914 for service during the First World War, the battalion fought at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. The battalion was disbanded in 1919 but was re-raised in 1921 as part of the Citizens Force, and adopted...

, 2nd Infantry Brigade of the Australian 1st Division, which failed. The Ottoman machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s sited there enfiladed the ground in front of Quinn's Post and the Nek. The Ottoman machine gunners did not suffer any casualties as a result. Nonetheless, Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 Sir Alexander Godley
Alexander Godley
General Sir Alexander John Godley GCB, KCMG was a First World War general, best known for his role as commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force...

, commander of the New Zealand and Australian Division
New Zealand and Australian Division
The New Zealand and Australian Division was formed at the start of the Battle of Gallipoli as a composite division under the command of New Zealand general Alexander Godley. At the start of World War I New Zealand had mustered insufficient infantry battalions to form their own division while...

 of which the 3rd Light Horse Brigade was then a part, declared that the attack was to proceed.

Owing to a failure of timing instructions, the artillery preparation ceased at 4.30 am while the attack was not launched until 4:37 am. After the artillery firing ceased, no one knew if the bombardment was to continue. It was later discovered that the synchronisation of watches between the artillery officer and the assault officer was overlooked. As a result, the attack was not launched at the scheduled time, giving the Ottoman defenders ample time to return to their trenches and prepare for the assault that they now knew was coming. The first wave of 150 men from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, led by their commander, Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 A.H. White, "hopped the bags" and went over the top. They were met with a hail of machine gun and rifle fire and within 30 seconds, Colonel White and all of his men were gunned down. A few men reached the Ottoman trenches, and marker flags were reportedly seen flying, but they were quickly overwhelmed and shot or bayoneted by the Ottoman defenders.

The second wave of 150 followed the first without question two minutes later and met the same fate with almost all the men cut down by heavy rifle and machine gun fire before they got half way to the Ottoman trench. This was the ultimate tragedy of the Nek, that the attack was not halted after the first wave when it was clear that it was futile. A simultaneous attack by the 2nd Light Horse Regiment (1st Light Horse Brigade) at Quinn's Post against the Ottoman trench system known as "The Chessboard" was abandoned after 49 out of the 50 men in the first wave became casualties. In this case, the regiment's commander had not gone in the first wave and so was able to make the decision to cancel.

Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 Noel Brazier, commander of the 10th Light Horse Regiment
10th Light Horse Regiment (Australia)
The 10th Light Horse Regiment is a light cavalry regiment of the Australian Army. Tracing its lineage back to 1900, it predecessor units served during the Second Boer War and the First World War. Today consisting of only a single squadron, the regiment is part of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps...

, attempted to have the third wave cancelled, claiming that "the whole thing was nothing but bloody murder". He was unable to find Colonel Hughes and unable to persuade the Brigade Major
Brigade Major
In the British Army, a Brigade Major was the Chief of Staff of a brigade. He held the rank of Major and was head of the brigade's "G - Operations and Intelligence" section directly and oversaw the two other branches, "A - Administration" and "Q - Quartermaster"...

, Colonel J.M. Antill
John Antill (General)
Major General John Macquarie Antill, Jr. CB, CMG was a senior Australian Army officer in World War I. Antill is best known for his refusal to call off a suicidal charge on the Turkish lines at The Nek in the Gallipoli Campaign. He was forced to do so, as he was under direct orders from Major...

, who believed the reports that marker flags had been sighted. This report of marker flags was subsequently confirmed in a Turkish article published after the war where it was stated by the author who had been at the Nek that a couple of men with a marker flag made it to the Ottoman trench before being quickly killed. In that time they were able to raise the flag. Colonel J.M. Antill had not checked the scene to establish if it was of any purpose to send the next wave and issued the order for the third wave to proceed. The third wave "hopped the bags" and the assault came to a quick end as before. On this assault, many men launched themselves out of the trenches and tried to dive for cover, having performed their duty to attack, but having no ambition to commit mindless suicide by attacking clearly impenetrable defenses. This explains the lower casualty rate for the 10th Light Horse Regiment. Finally, Hughes called off the attack, but confusion in the right area of the fire trench, due to an officer not being told of the cancellation, led to around 75 to 80 men of the fourth wave going over, and they too were cut down in less than a minute. By 4:45 a.m., the ridge was covered with fresh dead and wounded Australian soldiers, most of whom remained where they fell for the duration of the campaign.

Aftermath

A further consequence of the failure to call off the attack at the Nek was that a supporting attack by two companies of the Royal Welch Fusiliers
Royal Welch Fusiliers
The Royal Welch Fusiliers was an infantry regiment of the British Army, part of the Prince of Wales' Division. It was founded in 1689 to oppose James II and the imminent war with France...

 was launched from the head of Monash Valley, between Russell's Top and Pope's Hill, against the "Chessboard" trenches. Sixty-five casualties were incurred before the attack was aborted.

Of the 600 Australians from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade who took part in the attack, the casualties numbered 372; 234 out of 300 men from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, of which 154 were killed, and 138 out of the 300 men from the 10th, of which 80 were killed (including L.B). The Ottoman losses were negligible on this occasion for the Australians charged with unloaded rifles with fixed bayonets and were unable to return fire at all, although there are at least eight known Ottoman dead.

When Commonwealth burial parties returned to the peninsula in 1919 after the war's end, the bones of the dead light horsemen were still lying thickly on the small piece of ground. The Nek Cemetery
The Nek Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery
The Nek Cemetery is a small Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery located near Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.The cemetery was constructed following the Armistice in 1919 on the site of the Battle of the Nek, at which time the ground was still covered with the remains of...

 now covers most of no-man's land of the tiny battlefield, and contains the remains of 316 Australian soldiers, most of whom fell during the 7 August attack, of whom only five could be identified.

Trooper Harold Rush of the 10th Light Horse Regiment died in the third wave. His body was one of the few identified and he is buried in Walker's Ridge Cemetery
Walker's Ridge Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery
Walker's Ridge Cemetery is a small Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery located near Suvla Bay in Turkey. It contains the remains of Allied soldiers killed during the Battle of Gallipoli....

. His epitaph
Epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

 famously reads "His last words, Goodbye Cobber
Mate (colloquialism)
Mate is a colloquialism used to refer to a friend and is commonly used in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It is or has been used interchangeably with many equivalent terms, such as buddy , pal or bro . It is sometimes abbreviated to M8..-Origin:Mate is a colloquialism...

, God bless you".

The battle is depicted in the climax of Peter Weir
Peter Weir
Peter Lindsay Weir, AM is an Australian film director. After playing a leading role in the Australian New Wave cinema with his films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave and Gallipoli, Weir directed a diverse group of American and international films—many of them major box office...

's 1981 movie, Gallipoli
Gallipoli (1981 film)
Gallipoli is a 1981 Australian film, directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Army during the First World War. They are sent to Turkey, where they take part in the Gallipoli Campaign. During the...

, where it is inaccurately portrayed as simply a diversion to reduce Ottoman opposition to the landing at Suvla Bay
Landing at Suvla Bay
The landing at Suvla Bay was an amphibious landing made at Suvla on the Aegean coast of Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire as part of the August Offensive, the final British attempt to break the deadlock of the Battle of Gallipoli...

 instead of part of a coordinated plan to capture the Sari Bair ridge
Battle of Sari Bair
The Battle of Sari Bair , also known as the August Offensive, was the final attempt made by the British in August 1915 to seize control of the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire during First World War.The Battle of Gallipoli had raged on two fronts, Anzac and Helles, for three months since...

. The film featured Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson
Mel Colm-Cille Gerard Gibson, AO is an American actor, film director, producer and screenwriter. Born in Peekskill, New York, Gibson moved with his parents to Sydney, Australia when he was 12 years old and later studied acting at the Australian National Institute of Dramatic Art.After appearing in...

in one of his first leading roles and served as a major career-launcher for him.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK