Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Mustafa Kemal at the Decisive Moment

After a fumbled opening to the landings at Suvla Bay and the Turks' strong resistance to the push from Anzac, things were looking more promising for the Allies. New Zealand troops had finally reached the peaks of strategic Chunuk Bair. A big push in support was starting to move out from Suvla Bay. With the situation desperate, the German commander of the Turkish forces sent his best man to the scene. Robert Rhodes described what happened then:

To take charge at Chunuk Bair, the Turkish high command now dispatched Colonel Mustafa Kemal, a senior officer who led from the front. On 9 August, Kemal routed the British as they advanced across the Suvla plain. In the evening he rode up to Chunuk Bair where the Turks were faltering under the British naval bombardment and the strong stand of the New Zealanders. Convinced that the time had come for an all-out counter-attack, Kemal ordered his men forward at dawn on 10 August in a bayonet charge. [Meanwhile] the New Zealanders finally left Chunuk Bair. In their place stood soldiers of the British 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and the 5th Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment.

Mustafa Kemal at Gallipoli

As planned, Kemal ordered his men forward at dawn on 10 August in a bayonet charge. He later recounted his actions that morning:

The blanket of night had lifted. Now was the hour for the attack. I looked at my watch. It was nearly 4.30 am. After a few minutes it would become quite light and the enemy would be able to see our troops. Should the enemy infantry open fire with his machine guns and should the land and naval guns open fire on our troops in our close packed formation I didn't doubt the impossibility of the attack .... I greeted the men and addressed them:

"Soldiers! There is no doubt that we can defeat the enemy opposing us. But don't you hurry, let me go in front first. When you see the wave of my whip all of you rush forward together!"

Then I went to a point forward of the assault line, and, raising my whip, gave the signal for the assault. 

Side-by-Side Atop Chunuk Bair Stand Monuments to
Mustafa Kemal and the New Zealanders Who Had Captured the Peak

The Turks rushed forward and swept the British from the heights of Chunuk Bair and had regained Chunuk Bair and no British Empire soldier ever again beheld the Dardanelles from that peak.

Sources: Robert James, Gallipoli and the Website

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