Snow falls on Gallipoli and army chiefs ponder whether troops should stay or go.
By August 1915, the Allies are well and truly “dug in” at Gallipoli. Thousands have died in fighting and many more have been wounded. But disease now plagues the men even more: dysentry, typhoid and cholera, spread by rotting corpses and human waste and swarming flies.
In the summer heat, the Allies’ top brass hatch a plan to end the stalemate. They decide to break out of the Anzac sector and take the high ground. They want control of the tallest peaks of the Sari Bair Range, Chunuk Bair, Hill Q and, the jewel in the crown, Hill 971.
Their plan looks good on paper. Thousands of Allied troops will fight several carefully co-ordinated battles, fast and to schedule. If one action falters, though, the whole mission may fall apart.
First, the Allies will launch a diversionary attack at Cape Helles to distract the Turks away from the high ground.
On the afternoon of August 6, naval guns and British and Indian troops attack Turkish trenches at Krithia Vineyard. The Allies manage to take control of a small area but 2000 of their men are wiped out.
Later in the afternoon of August 6 comes another attempt to distract the Turks. At Lone Pine, thousands of Anzacs charge Turkish trenches. They find wood covering the trenches so they shoot through the gaps; then they tear off the makeshift ceiling. The main trench is captured in 20 minutes.
Exploding fuse bombs thrown by hand kill soldiers on both sides. After four days of hand-to-hand fighting at Lone Pine, the Anzacs take control of it.
The dead lie three-deep in the trenches; 7000 Turks and 2000 Australians are killed or wounded there.
The Turks, meanwhile, know that other attacks are likely and move reinforcements to the high ground.
On the night of August 6th, Allied troops are heading for the high ground too. Three groups each aim for a different peak, ready to attack the next morning. But things are not going according to plan. In the dark, it’s easy to get lost. And many of them are struggling with illness; exhausted and thirsty; as they struggle through gullies and ridges, they stray off course.
The next day, August 7, begins with another charge. The Nek is a narrow plateau between Russell’s Top, held by the Anzacs, and Baby 700, a prime position for the Turks. Soldiers from the Third Light Horse Brigade will charge the Nek at dawn. They will keep the Turks busy to clear the way for New Zealand troops attacking Chunuk Bair. To help them, a destroyer out on the water will shell the Turks up to the moment before they charge at precisely 4.30am.
But the destroyer stops shelling seven minutes early. And the Light Horse men are not ordered to charge, giving the Turks precious moments to scramble back into their trenches and man their machineguns.
At precisely 4.30am, the Light Horse men charge and are mown down. Three more waves follow. More than half of those who go “over the top” are killed or wounded. “When the roll was called afterwards,” said one soldier, “I cried like a child.”
Later on the morning of August 7th, New Zealand are under fire as they press on near the summit of Chunuk Bair. When it is the Wellington Batallion’s turn to fight, their leader, Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone, refuses to send his men into battle while they’re exposed by daylight.
Malone and his men lie low until dawn then charge in a surprise attack. They reach the top and then the fighting rages. Heavy artillery, rifles, bayonets, bare hands. In all the mayhem, it’s hard to tell who is a Turk and who is an Allied solider. They reach an impasse and both sides dig in, then the next day, August 9, they start fighting again.
Of 760 soldiers from the Wellington Batallion, nine-tenths are killed or injured.
By 4.30am on of August 10, Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal has had enough. He personally leads 5000 men in a massive attack on the summit. Wave after wave of Ottoman troops over-run the Allies.
As the Turks drive the Allies back down the slopes, naval ships off the coast mistakenly attack their own men. Malone is among those killed by friendly fire.
There are other attacks in August, but for the Allies the high ground is lost.
They never attempt a frontal assault at Gallipoli again.