Courtesy of “Fortune and Valour”
Since 25th April, the position of ANZAC had hardly moved, so much blood had been spilled on a few bleak acres of land for little gain. In August, the time was at hand to increase the scope of the campaign with the British landing at Suvla Bay. To cover this landing, the Anzac Corps was to deliver a series of faints and attacks to draw the Turkish reserves down on them. These attacks, now part of Australian History, saw thousands of men become causalities at places such as Lone Pine, The Nek, the Chess Board and Chunak Bair. To replace these losses, reinforcements were urgently needed.
On 23rd August, the 11th and 12th Regiments were paraded and informed that the 4th LH Brigade was to disband and that they were to travel to Gallipoli as infantry. Bandoliers were handed in and infantry pattern ’08’ webbing issued and a final farewell parade held on 24th August.
On 25th August, the Regiment embarked at Alexandria on the ‘SS Marquette’, arriving at Lemnos on 28th August. The Regiment delayed long enough to transfer to the ‘Prince Abbas’, which arrived off Anzac Cover at midnight. At 0300, 29th August, 1915 the 12th LH Regiment stepped ashore on Anzac, to commence a four month campaign, during which, the Regiment was to shed its quota of blood in the defence of the allied beachhead at Anzac Cove.
Before daybreak, the Regiment had disembarked from lighters and assembled at Rest Gully near Walkers Ridge. Here the Regiment was informed that both the 11th and 12th Regiments were to be broken up and sent to reinforce other Light Horse Regiments that were so wasted and weakened through casualties, sickness and disease that, without immediate reinforcements, they could no longer hold their sectors.
Each NSW Regiment was to be given some portion of the 12th LH. A Sqn with the MG section was to go to the 1st LH Regiment, B Sqn to the 7th LH, C Sqn to the 6th LH and Regimental Headquarters to the 3rd LH Brigade Headquarters. Lt Col P. Abbott was to assume command of the 10th LH Regiment.
A Squadron The 1st LH was in reserve on Walkers Ridge following their attacks in August, which reduced the 1st LH to 222 men. A Sqn reinforced the 1st with 167 men and 27 in the MG section and were quickly absorbed to become B Sqn 1st LH.
Walkers Ridge, though a reserve position, was constantly subjected to heavy shell fire from Turkish batteries, whilst at night enemy snipers and bombing parties showed great activity.
After a week, the 1st LH moved to Otago Gully, occupying the front line trenches overlooking Snipers Nest. During September and October, A Sqn worked at night to construct a communication trench across Otago Gully, linking with Camels Hump, while at night A Sqn sent out patrols across the enemy front lines. Turkish patrols were frequently encountered during one of these patrols. Tpr A. Chapman was wounded and evacuated. These patrols proved so effective that, in a short time, enemy patrols feared to venture far from their trenches.
Throughout the Campaign, the troops were suffering many hardships and their general health began to suffer. Lack of reinforcements made an already strenuous work load unduly heavy on those who were fit. Dysentery,fever and sickness reduced the Sqn to troop size, men out of the line in supposed rest were constantly called upon to supply work parties while under shell fire.
During November, the climate began to change, bringing cold weather which included snow, something which most men had never seen, let alone lived in. Food and water were rationed and fell way short of the actual needs of the troops. In early December, it was realised that without sizeable reinforcements, a further advance on Anzac would be impossible and they began to prepare for evacuation.
The evacuation commenced on the 11th December. Some selected parties from the 1st LH, consisting of men from the A Sqn manned the trenches on Otago Gully and Camels Hump until the 20th December when the last man left Anzac with the enemy still wiring their trenches. A Sqn had no fatalities during their stay on Anzac.
B Squadron B Sqn were attached to the 7th LH, then in position at Ryries Post.
Movement to their new position began at once, moving through Shrapnel Gully and over Shell Green, arriving around 30th August. B Sqn became D Sqn 7th LH. That night, while carrying out an inspection of the new front line, Maj H. McIntosh OC B Sqn was severely wounded and evacuated.
On 1st September, B Sqn, with a detachment from the 7th LH, were sent to garrison a section of trench line at Lone Pine, relieving elements of the 1st Infantry Brigade. The trenches at Lone Pine were only five yards apart, making observation in this position difficult and dangerous. Periscopes were shattered by the unerring skill of the Turkish marksmen. Bombing duels were a daily occurrence, keeping all ranks ever alert.
On 10th September, the 7th took over the old trenches on Holly Spur. relieving the 4th LH. At that time, Holly Spur was under constant sniper and artillery fire; while shell fire had to be endured, snipers could be dealt with and soon the Sqn established a marked superiority over their tormentors. The Sqn was also busy building up their trenches as well as supplying work parties. Gen Walker (GOC 1st Australian Division) made two inspections during September, complimenting the men on their work.
The Turks however, continued to shell the Sqn trenches. One gun (Beachy Bill) located at the Olive Grove was of some concern when, on 17th September, Tpr F. Murray was hit and evacuated. He died and was buried at sea on 30th September but he was not the last to die that day; late that night, shell fire hit Tpr E. Roberts, who was escorting visiting officers of the 6th LH, killing them all.
By the end of September, barbed wire had been placed in f ront of all trenches on Holly Spur but in the course of it B Sqn lost more men. On 29th September Tpr W. Holland and Tpr R. Isaac were killed getting ready for a wiring party. Tpr Robert Isaac was only 18 years old, the youngest member of the Regiment lost at Gallipoli. His brother John, also in B Sqn, was near him when killed. Next day, Tpr B. Watt of 3 Troop was killed by shell fire.
The weather now changed to winter and storms raced across the Anzac position. Some relief from shell fire was provided by the Royal Navy when ‘HMS Agammemnon’ and Lord Nelson’ shelled the enemy at the Olive Grove and Kilid Bahr plateau, their 12″ guns pounded the Turks with an impressive roar. In November, snow began to fall but work went on improving our position, sending out work parties and providing garrisons on the Brigade area. Tpr G. Cooch and Tpr J. Hall were wounded in early November and evacuated. Both died of wounds.
Turkish shell fire was now supplemented by mortar bombs known as broom sticks. Lt H. Holden was killed on 23rd November by one of these bombs. Aged 21, he became the only officer of the Regiment to lose his life. It was during this month that operations known as silent stunts took place where, for several days, not a shot was fired by rifle along the whole line, no matter how fierce the enemy fire.
On the night of 27th November, the alarm was given as a large force of Turks struck the 7th LH position. This raiding force tried to probe our position on Ryries Post which, after some time, the enemy were beaten off. Morning revealed 20 dead Turks around the positions, the Sqns only casualty was Tpr E. West shot during the night.
The evacuation began on 18th December. Capt Willsallen, formerly of the 12th LH then Adjt 7th LH, commanded one of the last parties off Gallipoli leaving on 20th December.
C Squadron C Squadron was attached to the 6th LH on Holly Spur, becoming D Sqn 6th LH and bringing the 6th LH strength up to 315 men. During the move up to the 6th LH position, Tpr A. Neaves was wounded but died of wounds on 3rd September and became the first member of the 12th LH to be killed on Gallipoli. He was also the only soldier of the Regiment to be buried on Anzac under the 12th LH.
September saw the Sqn digging to improve their trenches and placing wire along the front. Enemy shell fire at that time though, caused only wounds. Cpl J. Clements succumbed to his wounds on 19th September.
October passed uneventfully but for occasional heavy firing demonstrations. In November, the tempo increased. The 6th LH bombing section, which included men from C Sqn, had now reached a high state of efficiency and with the continual advance of the Turkish trenches toward Chatham Post, made the rear of Ryries Post insecure. To counter this Turkish intrusion, C Sqn began making a tunnel 120 yards in front of Chatham Post towards the Turkish position known as Despair Trench.
This was attacked on 3rd November by the 5th LH. Its capture that night consequently enabled B Sqn to connect their tunnel to this new trench system.
On 9th November. while working on the connecting tunnel to Despair Trench, Tprs A. Thorne, R. Musgrove and J. McCauley were killed and Tpr. C Edgeworth died of wounds when a shell exploded amongst them during a meal break. In Tpr (Chook) Fowler’s book “Looking Back”, he states that ‘when two shrapnel shells burst overhead during the midday meal, six men were killed and eight wounded with the first and third wounded by the second shell’ but only four men appear to have died on this day, although Tpr C. McInnes died of wounds in Egypt on 13th November.
Vigorous bombing duels continued and, on 22nd November, Tpr. T. Buck of 2 Troop was killed.
On 26th November, the 6th LH moved to Chathams Post and Wilsons Look Out, which was the most advanced position on Anzac overlooking Gaba Tape and Poppy Valley and, while holding this exposed position, Tpr G. Waller and Tpr C. Lambert were killed on 27th November.
The weather was the worst enemy that, combined with the restricted diet, reduced the fighting strength of B Sqn. During late November, silent stunts began and, in December, the Regiment began to leave. The last party of 51 men withdrew from Chathams Post at 0230 on 20th December.
The 12th Light Horse Regiment’s actions during the Gallipoli campaigns came at a time of great peril on Anzac. It’s almost impossible to know the total casualties suffered by the 12th LH during their short stay on Gallipoli. Approximately 600 men of the 12th LH served at Anzac. This included the first reinforcements which arrived at the Regiment on 24th August, just one day before embarkation and the second reinforcement which arrived on Anzac about 2nd November.
It is known that when the Regiment was reformed on 22nd February 1916, B Sqn reported with only 88 men. Since the Squadrons strength on landing was around 170 and that B & C Sqn received the major share of the 2nd reinforcements, perhaps the total casualties to the 12th LH were as high as 60%.
Some insight into the casualties comes from Cpl W. Shelley, Troop Cpl 3 Troop B Sqn, who kept the troop roll in his diary. A table shows only the troop strength from 29th August till 5th December when the author was wounded in action and evacuated.
This table shows the greatest casualties were caused by sickness which, with the poor diet and impure water, when coupled with the strenuous workload, had the effect of quickly reducing the available fighting strength of the Regiment. By late November, all men who became casualties, either through wounds or illness, were evacuated never to return.
While on Gallipoli, the 12th LH suffered 19 known deaths but did not take part in any great battles nor did they receive any decoration for bravery.
The following is a list of men from the 12th Light Horse lost during the Gallipoli Campaign. Those men named appear on the Roll of Honour as belonging to the following Regiments:
By Tpr S.M. Becker. Courtesy also of Charles Allen