02.00 h in the morning of 25th April, the three warships Queen, Prince of
Wales and London reached their rendezvous off Gaba Tepe, where Triumph was
showing one light directed at the approaching fleet. The 1500 Australians
of the covering force boarded their landing boats and were taken to 3000 m
from the shore. At 4 o' clock they
were towed to within 100 m of the shore by small steam tugs. For the
remaining distance they were rowed to the beach.
every member of the landing force was convinced of the fact that their
approach could not go unnoticed, it was only at the very last moment that
a rocket went up and the first rifle shots could be heard. That Turkish
resistance to oppose the landing was not stronger, was not so surprising :
previous observation of the coastline had shown that only a very weak
force had been stationed between Gaba Tepe and what was to become Anzac
was strange, and increased the confusion considerably, was the fact that
the maps that had been issued to the officers of the covering force and
the description they had been given during their briefing,
bore no resemblance at all to the surroundings. Instead of a flat
beach and gently undulating terrain beyond, they were facing shrub-covered
rocky formations and sharp ridges that nearly ran into the sea, with deep
valleys and gullies running in between them.
Before long, it became clear what had happened : the force had not been put ashore on the beach just above Gaba Tepe as had been originally intended, but in a small bay which was soon to become known as 'Anzac Cove', between Ari Burnu and Hell Spit, 2 km further north.
Why there was such feeble Turkish resistance
was obvious : who could have been so reckless to choose the roughest part
of the whole peninsula as a landing place? The real cause of the mistake
has never fully been clarified. Some sources, and especially the Navy,
maintain that an uncharted current in the sea pushed the landing boats off
course. A number of historians, with Bean among them, sooner believe in a
human error : according to them, the navy guides must have mistaken Hell
Spit or Ari Burnu, either of the two ends of Anzac Cove jutting out into the sea,
for Gaba Tepe. It is a fact that a number of diaries mention utter
confusion among the guides in the boats just before the actual landing was made.
matter where they had exactly landed, the Australian troops of the
covering force did not hesitate to carry out their orders. They
immediately threw off their packs and stormed the heights closest to the
beach. This move was made so fast that it not only set the few Turks
running for their lives, but also mixed up the different Australian units
that had landed : battalions and even platoons soon fell apart in small
parties that were trying to advance through the labyrinth gullies and over
the heights as well as they could. Because the boats had landed in
complete disorder, the beach itself was soon congested with new troops
being landed without knowing in which direction to advance. After a couple
of hours, chaos was complete.
some isolated groups under junior officers got as far as the third ridge
or close to the flanks of Chunuk Bair, two designated objectives for the
first day, Turkish resistance started growing rapidly. As confusion near
Ari Burnu increased for the Anzac forces, Mustapha Kemal succeeded in
getting the first organised Turkish units to the battle area and, through
a number of counter-attacks, to safeguard possession of the Sari Bair
range of high hills. Ultimately, the Australians and New Zealanders proved
unable to advance further than the second ridge.
the end of the first day, the entire Anzac landing force seemed to
disintegrate completely : no single position could be called safe, small
groups were fighting everywhere along the perimeter to beat off Turkish
attacks and reserves were unavailable. On the beach, the stream of wounded
increased by the hour.
22.00 h the Australian commanders came to find Birdwood with the message
that withdrawal must be considered to avoid a complete fiasco. The general
commander of the landing force, on their demand, sent a telegram to
Hamilton, stating that he was unable to organise his forces because of the
terrain and the continuous shelling with shrapnel. On top of that, he had
no reserves at hand to replace the front-line troops if a more determined
artillery bombardment the following morning were to make things even
answer became the best-known telegram of the entire campaign :
news is indeed serious. But there is nothing for it but to dig yourselves
right in and stick it out. It would take at least two days to re-embark
you as Admiral Thursby will explain to you. Meanwhile, the Australian
submarine has got up through the Narrows and has torpedoed a gunboat at
Chunuk. Hunter-Weston despite his heavy losses will be advancing tomorrow
which should divert pressure from you. Make a personal appeal to your men
and Godley's to make a supreme effort to hold their ground.
You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig,
dig, dig, until you are safe."
to some sources, this text was responsible for the nickname
"diggers", which the Australians would keep for the rest of the
war. What it really did, was giving them a new dose of motivation to keep
fighting with renewed energy. Everywhere in the Anzac sector, furious
digging started. As the Turks did not attack again during the night, the
following day The Anzac troops fought hard to consolidate their small, 800
m deep and 2km long, perimeter. The allied commanders were still convinced
of the fact that they would be able to brake through the Turkish defences.
Their Turkish counterparts were equally sure they were going to drive the
enemy back into the sea. Any form of surprise had vanished however, and
gradually a static form of trench warfare developed.
the other hand, it was difficult to compare the situation at Anzac with
what was going on at the Western Front in Flanders and France. A
continuous frontline did not exist, as this was utterly impossible because
of the gullies and ravines that cut the line in different places. For a
serious part, the Anzac front consisted of a series of small isolated
positions like Quinn's Post, Courtney's Post, Steele's Post, Lone Pine and
the Nek. Most of them were situated on the Second Ridge. As the two
opposing forces were each in possession of one flank, with no-man's-land
running along the crest, these positions were fully manned night and day.
At some places like Quinn's, the distance between the opposing front
trenches was no bigger than 15 - 20 m, with bombing going on all the time.
If the Turks should manage a breakthrough there, the entire Anzac defence
system would immediately collapse.
As long as daylight permitted, sniping never stopped and Turkish bombs kept raining into the trenches. The Anzacs who, contrary to their Turkish opponents, had not been equipped with hand grenades, could only hope to throw the projectiles back before they exploded. The casualty rate in places like Quinn's Post was understandably many times higher than that in other parts of the frontline, and there was little hope for improvement of the situation.