Battle of Lone Pine

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The Battle of Lone Pine, which took place during the Gallipoli campaign, was the only successful Australian attack against the Turkish trenches within the original perimeter of the Anzac battlefield, and yet it was merely a diversion to draw attention from the main assaults of August 6 against the Sari Bair peaks of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971.

Contents

Prelude

The Lone Pine battlefield, named for a solitary Turkish Pine that stood there at the start of the fighting, was situated about the centre of the eastern line of the Anzac trenches on a rise known as '400 Plateau' that joined Bolton's Ridge to the south with the ridge along the east side of Monash Valley to the north. Being towards the southern end of Anzac, the Lone Pine region was comparatively gentle and the opposing trenches were separated some distance with a flat no-man's land intervening.

The original Australian front at Lone Pine contained a salient. To the north of the salient, on the Turkish side, was the head of a gully called 'The Cup'. This was a reserve area for the Turks and lightly fortified. The Turkish trenches at Lone Pine were the strongest at Anzac and no attack was expected there.

The commander of the Australian 1st Division, which was to make the attack, was General H.B. Walker who had replaced General W.T. Bridges after he was killed by a sniper in May. General Walker did not approve of an attack at Lone Pine, let alone a mere diversion. When General Sir Ian Hamilton, the British commander, insisted the attack proceed, Walker endeavoured to give his troops the best chance of success possible on such an unfavourable battleground.

The battle

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Captured_Turkish_trench_Lone_Pine_1915.jpg
A captured Turkish trench at Lone Pine

The width of the front of the attack was 220 yards and the distance between the two trench lines was about 100 yards. To reduce the distance to be crossed, the Australians projected a number of tunnels to within 40 yards of the Turkish trenches. Immediately after the attack, one of these tunnels was to be opened along its length to make a communications trench via which reinforcements could advance without having to cross the exposed ground. Some of the attackers would have to make the advance over ground from the Australian trench line. To provide some measure of protection for these men, three mines were set and exploded to make craters in which they could seek shelter. The preliminary bombardment was stretched over three days and was successful in cutting much of the Turkish barbed wire.

At 5.30 pm the Australian 1st Infantry Brigade attacked. Half the force went via the prepared tunnels and half crossed the exposed ground between the trench lines. When they reached the Turkish trenches they found them roofed with pine logs with no easy entrance. Some fired, bombed and bayonetted from above, some found their way inside and others ran on past to the open communications and support trenches behind.

All the ground that was won by the Australians at Lone Pine was actually reached within a couple of hours of the start of the attack. However, the battle itself raged for another six days as the Turks counterattacked incessantly and at great cost. The 2nd and 3rd Infantry Brigades were poured in to reinforce the Australian gains. The fighting took place in the complicated maze of the former Turkish trench system. Bombs were the weapon of choice and the close quarters meant that some of them would travel back and forth up to three times before exploding. The Australians held the old Turkish fire trench and had footholds deeper in Turkish lines. They blocked the Turkish communications trenches as best they could, often with the bodies of the dead, to thwart raids. Other bodies were simply pitched over the parapet or left to lie at the bottom of the trench under a thin layer of dirt.

Aftermath

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Lonepine.jpg
The Australian cemetery at Lone Pine

Though a victory for the Australians, the wider repercussions of the attack at Lone Pine weighed heavily on the outcome at Chunuk Bair. Sent north to reinforce Lone Pine, Colonel Hans Kannengeiser's Turkish 9th Division was directed instead to proceed on to Chunuk Bair where, at the time there was only an artillery battery and its 20-man infantry defence. His force arrived in time to seriously delay the New Zealand attack.

Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross at Lone Pine including Corporal William Dunstan who after the war became the general manager of Keith Murdoch's newspaper The Herald in Melbourne. Another VC recipient was Captain A.J. Shout who had already earned the Military Cross and been Mentioned in Dispatches since landing at Gallipoli. He was mortally wounded at Lone Pine and was buried at sea. The other VC recipients were privates Leonard Keysor and John Hamilton, Corporal Alexander Burton and Lieutenant Frederick Tubb.

On ANZAC Day, after the dawn service, Australian visitors congregate at the Lone Pine cemetery for a memorial service to remember all their countrymen who fought and died at Gallipoli.

Several pine cones from the eponymous tree were returned the Australia. One tree grown from a seed of one cone was planted at the Australian War Memorial by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in October 1934. Others are growing at war memorials at Shrine, The Sisters, Wattle Park and Warrnambool.

References

  • Ch. 20, Gallipoli, Les Carlyon, 2001, ISBN 0732911281
  • J. Hawker, 1990. Lone Pine. Conifer Society of Australia Newsletter 8: 6-7.
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