Adapted from the book ‘Don't
forget me, cobber!’ by Matt
“No talking, lads,
Not all brave acts at Gallipoli met with success, however.
The film ‘Gallipoli’ tells the story of the 10th Light Horse Regiment
from Western Australia and the brave but pointless attack at a place
called The Nek. After several mistakes that gave the Turks time to prepare
for an attack, the Australians fixed bayonets, leapt out of their trenches
and charged the Turkish lines. In just 30 seconds, the first wave of men
had all been killed or wounded. The Turks eventually stopped shooting and
the battlefield fell silent. The loudest noise was the heartbeat of the
men who were next to go over the top.
After only two minutes, the second wave stormed from the
trenches, into the wall of hot lead and steel. The final wave of ANZACs
remained in the trench. They knew the attack was now pointless, and waited
for the Generals down on the beach to order them to stop. But the only
order they received was to attack. Brothers said goodbye to each other,
and friends stood side by side. As they leapt out of the trench they
jumped over the bodies of their friends who had been alive only minutes
earlier, and knew they would soon join them. No ANZACs ever reached the
Turkish trenches. In 1919, after the war was over, several ANZACs went
back to Gallipoli to bury their dead properly. At the Nek, they found the
bodies of more than 300 Australians in an area smaller than a tennis
After eight long months of bitter fighting, the British
High Command decided that the war at Gallipoli was too costly when they
were also fighting other battles in Europe. The ANZACs alone had lost
10,000 men, and so the order came for a withdrawal.
This news upset the ANZACs, as they never thought that
they would leave Gallipoli until they had won. Too many of their mates had
died to give up now. But the order was final. The ANZACs decided that if
they had to leave, then they would do it properly. Somehow they had to
sneak off the Gallipoli peninsula, right from under the noses of the
Over two weeks, 35,000 Australians were evacuated from
Gallipoli. First off were the wounded, then the mules and heavy guns and
equipment, and finally the soldiers. Right up until the last day the
ANZACs tried to make everything look normal.
They played cricket and walked around smoking and talking
in the open. They rigged rifles – ‘ghost guns’ they called them –
so that they would fire after the owners had left.
ANZACs playing cricket at Gallipoli. (AWM G01289)
(Above) The famous
‘ghost gun’. Water dripped slowly from the top tin into the one below.
The rifle fired when the bottom tin became heavy enough to pull a wire
attached to the trigger. (AWM G01291)
And night after night they wrapped sandbags around their
boots and quietly made their way down to the beach for evacuation. “No
talking, lads, no smoking,” they were told by their sergeants.
Many stopped by the graves of brothers, mates, even
fathers, and hoped those buried far from home couldn’t hear them
News of the terrible
losses at Gallipoli was printed daily in the newspapers back home in
Australia. Included in these lists were the names of the fathers, brothers
and mates now buried, or missing, on the peninsula. But instead of making
Australians too frightened to enlist, the news did the opposite. In July
1915, when the casualty figures coming back from Gallipoli were at their
worst, more than 36,000 men volunteered. (This is more than in the whole
Army today !) Veterans of Gallipoli called these men the
‘fair dinkums’. “Any man who volunteers after knowing the horror of
Gallipoli must be fair dinkum,” they said.
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