Monday, August 8, 2011

If Stones Could Speak

Today is the annvsy of the Battle of Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli, 8th August 1915.
It was literally the high point of the New Zealand effort, and indeed the furthest any Allied forces advanced during that poorly-planned and ineptly-managed British disaster.
The attack highlighted the leadership of Lt-Col. William Malone, who refused to sacrifice his men in daylight attacks and insisted on waiting until night. Malone was a tough respected commander who defied his superiors: "We are not taking orders from you people. My men are not going to commit suicide."
The Wellington Battalion captured the summit before dawn on 8th August, and saw to the east the long watery sliver of the Dardanelles, the capture of which was the whole point of the campaign. But with sunrise came heavy Turkish artillery fire, and desperate hand-to-hand combat. It was not until after dark that reinforcements (the Otago Battalion and the Wgtn.Mounted Rifles) arrived. By then only 70 Wgtn.Bttln.men remained out of 760: Malone had been killed at dusk by a British naval shell. The kiwis were relieved on the night of 9/10 August by British battalions, but these were not up to the daunting task of holding off the Turks. They lost the summit to the very last Turkish reserves, and it was up to NZ machine-guns further down the slopes to halt the Turkish counter-attack as it swept downhill.
If Chunuk Bair had been held until strongly reinforced, the outcome of the Gallipoli campaign would have been different. But Chunuk Bair had been saved for Turkey, and no Allied soldier ever stood on those heights again.
Chunuk Bair's capture was the only Allied success of the campaign and so "...it might have been supposed that Malone was a perfect candidate for a posthumous Victoria Cross - now that his dissidence was silenced. He had, after all saved the beachhead and taken
Chunuk Bair. But the high command remained unforgiving.
More mysteriously still, Malone's name was to be ruthlessly blackened by his British superiors; he would eventually be blamed for the failure of the August offensive" - (Maurice Shadbolt, Voices of Gallipoli,1988). Some historians later accused the British commanders of deliberately leaving the NZers to their fate.
A NZ memorial now stands on top of Chunuk Bair. It has a narrow slit through which the rising sun shines on every 8th August, and bears an inscription to the men from the 'Uttermost Ends of the Earth’.

4 comments:

Digger Dave said...

Sad but true - how often have NZ and Aussie troops been used as cannon fodder by those bastard Brits!

Anonymous said...

"They exploited the Anzacs at Gallipoli and betrayed them at Singapore" . Australia should have ripped out the corner of our flag after WW2 as the Anzacs proved they had more than earn't the right to be an independent Nation paid for with rivers of their own blood.

Anonymous said...

My Great Uncle was one of the Welligton Brigade killed on the 8th August 1915. I can't even find a photo of him. I blame Winston Churchill who's bright idea the Gallipoli campaign was. My Uncle was only 18 and my Great Nan Took it realy badly.

Writer Of The Purple Sage said...

I am honoured and humbled that my blog has touched your heart.
Go well.