The 2nd Light Horse Regiment at Quinn’s Post

On 19 May the Turks launched a major attack on the whole of the Anzac position. A total of 42,000 Turks took part in the attack but were successfully repulsed, suffering over 10,000 casualties. During the armistice of 24 May, the 2nd Light Horse supplied a burial party of 50 men…
Early one morning in March 1997, my wife, Rosemary, and I left Istanbul for a 10 day tour of Turkey with our English speaking Turkish guide, Artun Ertem, and driver, Sukruh.  The highlight for that day was a memorable visit to the Military Reserve of Gallipoli.  Having had the privilege of serving in a Light Horse Regiment which is the custodian of the Guidon of 2nd Light Horse Regiment (AIF), I planned to honour the Regiment’s battle honour “Defence of Anzac”..  

This is a story of that visit, dedicated to the Lighthorsemen of 2nd Light Horse who paid the supreme sacrifice to achieve the Regimental battle honour. Major G.F.Tregenza ED RFD (Rtd)

Upon arrival at Gaba Tepe it was plain to see why this would have been an ideal beach-head for the ill fated campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  From the beach, the ground is open and undulating which allows easy mobility across the narrow Gallipoli Peninsula to the Dardenells.  Art explained that Mustafa Kemal, the Commander of the Turkish defenders, knew from a study of the astrology of the moon and tides that a landing at Gaba Tepe on the night of 25th April 1915 would fail.  Instead, he planned his defences for a landing at a beach which, now known as Anzac Cove, has become indelibly printed on the Australian psyche.

Quinn’s Post was the farthest Anzac post along the eastern branch of Monash Valley taken and held by a handful of New Zealanders and Australians through the wild night of the landing.  Opposing forces were each clinging to the edge of their own slope, forty yards apart, with a slight crest between them.  The fact that Quinn,s lay lower than the ridges on either side made it impossible for the garrison to raise their heads to the level of the parapets either to observe or fire.  On the other hand, the Turks above them, both to the left and right, were able to hold theirs up so that at this point they had established superiority of fire.  The strain of such a precarious method of defence was increased by the bombs now regularly thrown at the post by the Turks.  Men passing up Monash Valley seeing and hearing the bombs bursting up at Quinn’s used to glance at the place “as a man looks at a haunted house”.

At noon on 13 May, 2nd Light Horse was charged with the defence of Quinn’s Post which became for a month the centre of almost all the fighting at Anzac.  These Queenslanders, including many who were little more than boys, suffered heavily because of their inexperience in such a precarious position.  The holding of Quinn’s was becoming a nightmare and it became vital to destroy old communication trenches from which the Turks were bomb-throwing.  During the night of 14-15 May, an assault by 60 men of C Squadron resulted in 25 killed and 27 wounded.   They Turks had effectively countered such an attack by placing machine guns which looked at point-blank range straight up the No-Man’s land, no wider than a road, between Quinn’s and the Turkish trenches facing it.

On 19 May the Turks launched a major attack on the whole of the Anzac position.  At that time, B Squadron was part of the defence of Quinn’s Post.  A total of 42,000 Turks took part in the attack but were successfully repulsed, suffering over 10,000 casualties.  During the armistice of 24 May, 2nd Light Horse supplied a burial party of 50 men.  According to a statement of a Turk subsequently captured, Mustafa Kemal worked as a Sergeant with one of the Turkish burial parties.  He was impressed with the extraordinary opportunity which the position at Quinn’s afforded, after having stood in front of that post and looked over the Australian trenches straight down the slope in rear.

The staff of Quinn’s Post had always expected that, by a mine or other means, the Turks would some day force their way into Quinn’s Post.  Lieutenant T. McSharry of 2nd Light Horse, the post-adjutant, had determined his own action.  When on 27 May the Turks broke into a section of Quinn’s Post, McSharry went straight to the bomb-store and rallied the men tumbling out of occupied trenches by a cry, “Come on Australia!”  To McSharry, very cool in the thick of the fight, it seemed obvious that the one efficacious plan for dealing with the Turks then in Quinn’s was by filtering men into the trenches on either side of them to attack them from both flanks through the trenches.  By such tactics, the Turks were bottled up and finally surrendered.  Quinn’s Post had again been successfully defended.

An offensive planned for 7th August had as its main objective the strategic position on Baby 700.   It was recognized that an unaided attack across the Nek against Baby 700 was almost impossible.  The plan involved a simultaneous attack from the heights of Chunuk Bair, when captured by the New Zealanders who had that unenviable task.  Also, there was to be a simultaneous feint attack from Quinn’s Post.   The attack from Quinn’s by the first wave of the 2nd Light Horse was doomed to fail because the preconditions for that attack could not be met.  Critically, the Turkish machine-guns covering No-Man’s Land between Quinn’s and the Turkish trenches facing it were not destroyed or neutralized.  The Regiment lost 16 killed and 37 wounded of the 56 who charged in the first wave.  there was no valid reason for flinging away the later lines after the first had utterly failed.

On 18 December at midnight the last of the 2nd Light Horse left the trenches and wended their way to the beach and embarked as part of a successful evacuation completed on 20 December.   Left behind was a medallion discovered on Anzac Day 1996 which bears the inscription ”Presented to B Tippett with best wishes from his employers W. C. Thomas & Sons”..  it is to be hoped that B. Tippett himself left in good health.  It may be more likely that he lies in Quinn’s Post Cemetary where can be found the following message from Kemal Ataturk, now known as the father of the Turks, erected at Gallipoli in 1934:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.  You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.  Therefore, rest in peace.  There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.  You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe your tears.  Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.  After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

By Major G.F.Tregenza ED RFD (Rtd)                                                             28 July 1997