Can the Allies end their stalemate with attacks at Lone Pine, the Nek and Chunuk Bair?
It’s just after dawn on April 25, 1915, and the first 1500 of 4000 soldiers from the Third Brigade are racing across the stony shore of the Gallipoli peninsula near Ari Burnu under orders to kill in silence with only “cold steel” – bayonets not bullets.
Behind them are 200 vessels – steamers, battleships, destroyers, tow boats – and thousands more troops from the Anzac Corps (Core) who will land throughout the day.
As the first wave lands, they become scattered on the beach in some spots facing cliffs that are near-perpendicular. Handfuls of Turkish soldiers are firing on them but the Australians rush forwards, pushing them back up the scrubby hills.
Meanwhile, at the southern tip of the peninsula at Cape Helles, British soldiers quickly take control of three beaches but advance no further. At two other beaches, they are met with a hail of machinegun fire.
By 4.40am, a second wave of troops is coming ashore. Not longer after, in the hills above the beach, the fastest of them are making headway towards their objective, the high ground. They move as far as Russell’s Top and Baby 700, to 400 Plateau and Gun Ridge. Some of them can see the waters of the Dardanelles.
Now, down south along the beach at Gaba Tepe, the Turks point their heavy artillery at the landing fleet and start firing. Shrapnel shells pound the Anzacs.
In the next few hours, engineers and men from the 1st Field Ambulance arrive alongside the infantry; two brigades of 8000 soldiers have come ashore and more are on the way … but the wounded will not be taken out until after nightfall. Meanwhile, provisions are being unloaded on the beach, a radio mast is put up.
Inland, the fighting goes on.
By mid-morning, soldiers from the Ottoman 27th Regiment are defending against the Anzacs up on ridges above the beach. The 57th Regiment, in the area for military exercises, swings into action too. Under orders from its commander, Mustafa Kemal, who will later become the first president of Turkey, they go into battle for Baby 700. Kemal tells his men to defend to the death. The hill changes hands several times during the day but by the time night falls, the Turks have it.
The Anzacs face a mission impossible.
Late that night, their commander, British General Sir William Birdwood, sends a note to the ship headquarters of his commander-in-chief, General Sir Ian Hamilton. Birdwood suggests that the troops be withdrawn.
But an evacuation would be a major operation in itself, fraught with danger under the eye of the enemy.
Hamilton tells Birdwood: the hard part is over, now all you must do is dig in.
Dugouts, foxholes, tunnels, trenches.
What they soon learn is that, no matter how elaborate their defences, in the small strip of land that will become “the Anzac sector”, nowhere is safe.