The Lone Pine operation was planned as a diversion to draw Turkish resources away from a major Allied attack at the northern end of the Australian and New Zealand position on the Gallipoli peninsula. The “August Offensive” – as it was known – was an attempt by the Allies to break the three-month long stalemate that had developed since their invasion of the Turkish peninsula on 25 April 1915.
The Battle occurred in an area of Plateau 400 known as Lone Pine. The plateau had been dominated by the Pinus halepensis tree, commonly known as the Aleppo Pine. The Turks had cut down all but one of these pines and used them to cover their trenches.
The operation was launched late in the afternoon of 6 August 1915. Units of the 1st Infantry Brigade took the main Turkish trench within 20 minutes of the initial charge, but the Turks were quick to respond, launching a series of fierce counter attacks. Intense hand to hand fighting lasted a further four days. The ANZACs managed to hold the Turkish trenches, and even gain a few hundred yards ground, which they controlled until their evacuation of the peninsula in December 1915.
Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for acts of bravery during the Battle of Lone Pine, including Orange born John Patrick Hamilton.
The Lone Pine Cemetery was constructed during the campaign and initially contained 46 graves. The Cemetery was expanded following the Armistice to incorporate other cemeteries in the area. 1,167 Commonwealth servicemen are buried or commemorated in the cemetery; 504 of the burials are unidentified.
The Lone Pine Memorial is located within the cemetery. It commemorates the 3,268 Australians and 456 New Zealanders who have no known grave and the 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who were buried at sea after evacuation through wounds or disease.
Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, 1936. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
In the three months following the landing of the Allied forces on the Gallipoli Peninsula the situation between both sides had developed into a stalemate. In early August 1915 Australian, New Zealand, British and Indian troops launched a series of assaults against the Turkish strongholds with the aim of breaking this deadlock.
The August Offensive began with a diversionary attack at Lone Pine on the afternoon of 6 August 1915. Units of the 1st Infantry Brigade quickly succeeded in capturing a series of Turkish trenches,but with both sides sustaining heavy casualties in the process.
Meanwhile, regiments of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles attacked along the valleys leading to the heights of the Sari Bair Range, to Chunuk Bair, Hill Q and Hill 971. They were followed by the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, the 29th Infantry Brigade of Sikhs and Gurkhas, and the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade. They managed to seize Chunuk Bair, however, the Turks recaptured the peak in the following days.
At dawn the following morning the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade charged Turkish defences at The Nek, only to be mown down by machine-gun fire: 375 of the 600-strong Brigade became casualties.
British forces had landed at Suvla Bay late on the night of 6 August. They managed to secure the bay, but were unable to consolidate their position or take the surrounding heights due to heavy casualties.
The August Offensive ultimately failed, and the stalemate resumed. The campaign on Gallipoli was eventually abandoned; Allied troops withdrew from the peninsula four months later, in December 1915.
John Patrick Hamilton VC 1919 Image courtesy Australian War Memorial
John Hamilton was born in Orange on 24 January 1896 to William and Catherine Hamilton. His parents were married on 11 April 1893 in St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Orange. Catherine was the daughter of Ambrose Fox and his wife Ann Elizabeth [nee Frost] who was the eldest daughter of Samuel Frost the Orange brickmaker. Samuel made the bricks for many of the principal buildings of Orange, including the Holy Trinity Church and the Orange Public School. Read the rest of this entry »
Banjo Paterson, captain with the 2nd Remount Unit in Egypt, organised morale boosting activities for the men of the Australian Light Horse. In a letter to his publisher, George Robertson, he explained:
I got the idea of giving a rough-riding display in public. We won five out of seven events open to all troops in Egypt at a show the other day. In the wrestling on horseback, one of my Queenslanders, a big half-caste named Ned Kelly, pulled the English Tommies off their horses like picking apples off a tree. You say what does this do towards winning the war? Well, it shows that we are up in our work and are doing it and it is not too easy. At the present moment I have two men with broken legs, one with a fractured shoulder blade, two with badly crushed ankles, and about seven others more or less disabled. I have never had to tell a man twice to get on a horse, no matter how hostile the animal appeared; in fact, they dearly like to do a bit of ‘grandstand’ work even though they risk their necks by it.
Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 2 February 1916, p. 12.
In deference to the requests of the residents of the locality, Germans’ Hill, so called from the small colony of Germans and German-born there, is henceforth to be called Lidster, in commemoration of Trooper Cecil Lidster, a member of a pioneer family, who was killed on April 25 at the landing at Anzac.
The scenes made in Orange were those of the final charge on Beersheba, the climax of the whole film. The first scenes filmed were at Cronulla/Kurnell, in 1938. When Sydney’s sesquicentenary celebrations were in progress, and the Light Horse parading, my father gained permission of the Army to use the Light Horseman for scenes on the sandhills at Kurnell, depicting their long desert marches on the way across the Sinai, and their approach to Beersheba.
He used these scenes as a ‘shop window’ to gain finance for the making of the film. Finance and final scripting, as well as construction of studio sets, casting, etc. took about a year and a half, so the main part of the production was not begun until May, 1940. Chauvel did his research well, gaining advice from his uncle, the General. He knew that the final part of the charge on Beersheba took place over flattish, hard ground, as the men had left the sands of Sinai behind. For that reason, he chose a venue near Orange.
Alf Reid (This is the late Alf Read of Spring Hill) told me that there had been Light Horse encampments at Orange in 1939, so I am assuming that the charge scenes were made in that year, while all the studio preparations were in hand.
Although it was basically only one scene, it was the most memorable scene of the whole film, and integral to the story.