More than 100 South Australian soldiers, who died at the Battle of Lone Pine, will be honoured during an Anzac Centenary commemoration in Gallipoli today.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Martin Hamilton-Smith said a bi-partisan parliamentary and veteran delegation will also pay tribute to the 8000 Australian soldiers who died at Gallipoli during an arduous eight month period and more than 19,000 more who were wounded.
Designed to break the stalemate that had occurred on the Gallipoli Peninsula since the landings on 25 April 1915, the Lone Pine offensive from 6-10 August saw some of the most brutal fighting of the campaign.
“It is difficult to fathom the courage displayed by the Australian Imperial Forces which launched its Lone Pine attack in the late afternoon against formidable entrenched Turkish positions – this led to 4 days of intense hand-to-hand fighting,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.
Mr Hamilton-Smith also paid his respects at the Lone Pine Memorial situated in the Lone Pine Cemetery, which commemorates the 3268 Australians and 456 New Zealanders who have no known grave and the many hundreds more who were buried at sea after evacuation due to wounds or disease.
“The Memorial stands over the centre of the Turkish trenches and tunnels which were the scene of heavy fighting during the August offensive,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.
“More than 300 diggers were found in an area no bigger than three tennis courts.
“The Battle of Lone Pine was the last allied offensive of the Gallipoli campaign and holds a particular significance for South Australians.
“B and C Companies of the 10th Battalion, raised in South Australia, were part of the covering force for the landings and among the first ashore on 25 April 1915.
“The 9th Light Horse Regiment, also raised in South Australia, was in reserve for the Lone Pine offensive tasked with providing supporting fire at the Nek. The Regiment lost its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Albert Miell, at the Nek,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.
The final burial place of the 45-year-old family man from Crystal Brook is unknown.
The perilous existence of an Australian soldier on the front line was aptly explained in a letter Mr Miell wrote to his family dated June 8, 1915, where he described surviving a bullet wound to his head and another instance when his dugout was bombed.
“A shell-case came crashing into my dugout last week. It struck the wall and rebounded and hit me on the calf of the leg, but did no harm at all. Tell the kiddies that every day my boys shot several Turkish snipers. We lost a few good men.”
In another note from the Gallipoli Peninsula in August 1915 Mr Miell wrote “at present every part of our position can be shelled any hour. As I scrawl these few lines in my dugout, overlooking the blue waters of the Mediterranean, a few shells are playfully shrieking overhead. Sometimes one plumps into a dugout. If it bursts, and the occupants are at home, some souls go out on the east wind.”
There are many stories of bravery and the senseless loss of life from Gallipoli, including that of Henry Dawson Tutt, the digger from Kingswood. He left his job as a woodworking machinist and went on to serve in the 10th Battalion, where he was killed in action and buried at the Lone Pine Cemetery – his brother Albert Tutt of the 48th Battalion died at Bullecourt two years later.
Mitcham’s Harold Mitchell, who was employed as a presser and enlisted at 23-years of age, was killed less than nine months later.
Another young South Australian, who was full of potential, only to be killed in the bloody Battle of Lone Pine, was 21-year old Corporal Cuthbert Glen Davison, who was born in Mount Gambier and attended St Peter’s College.
A statement from witness Private Charles Lind said Corporal Davison was “shot through the head during a bayonet charge at the edge of the Turkish trenches just before the taking of Lone Pine.”
Following his death the Mount Gambier newspaper published an article about his short life, it said “he was a scholar, athlete, gentlemen and soldier – and is the first native of Mount Gambier to forfeit his life in Britain’s cause.”
There is also the remarkable story of 13-year-old Private Albert Francis Dunnicliff from Normanville. His father was killed in action on 6 August at Lone Pine and young Albert enlisted three weeks later one week shy of his 14th birthday. He is thought to have been one of the youngest soldiers to serve in Australia’s Imperial Forces.
Not long after arriving in Egypt he was treated for a toe injury and then soon shipped out to France. In December 1916 Albert wrote an application for discharge stating that his father and brother had been killed at Lone Pine and that he could not stand the strain of the front in France for much longer. He also admitted to lying about his age. Albert returned to Australia on 12 April, 1917 after 16 months of service.
Mr Hamilton-Smith said today we honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“We remember their families and communities, changed forever. We reflect on all in our community who endure the physical and psychological impact of war, and we take this moment to thank Australia’s servicemen and women for their service and sacrifice in all wars, conflicts and peace operations to ensure the preservation of the way of life we enjoy today.”
For further information on the Anzac Centenary visit www.anzaccentenary.sa.gov.au