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

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Anzacs at Krithia: "Ours Is Just to Do and Die"


Machine Gun Position on Helles Front


Krithia was a Greek village on the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, approximately eight kilometers north of Cape Helles, the site of the costly British landings of 25 April 1915. The village was at the foot of the dominating heights of Achi Baba peak which had been the first objective of the British troops on 25 April. 


Click on Map to Enlarge

Cape Helles Sector


Unable to break through at Anzac, Hamilton focused the MEF’s energies on the Helles sector, targeting the village of Krithia (Alҫitepe) and the hill known as Achi Baba (Alҫi Tepe). An attack by British and French forces on 28 April – the First Battle of Krithia – made little headway and cost some 3000 casualties. To offset these losses, Hamilton dispatched the 29th Indian Brigade and British 42nd Division to Helles from Egypt. Another French division arrived shortly afterwards. The Ottomans matched this build-up of forces and on 1-2 May launched a major attack on the Allied line, which only just held.


Before Second Battle of Krithia


The British 29th Division, in the First Battle of Krithia, advanced the line to within three kilometers of the village. The Australian 2nd Brigade and the New Zealand Brigade were transferred from Anzac Cove to Helles to assist the British and French in the second Battle of Krithia from 6 to 8 May.


Anzac Dead in Second Battle


British attacks on 6 May gained some ground but two further attacks next day failed to make progress. A further British attempt failed on 8 May and just before 5 pm that afternoon, the 2nd Brigade, commanded by Colonel James M’Cay, was given orders to attack at 5.30 pm when it was still light. The Australians advanced from a trench manned by Indian soldiers and 500 meters further on unexpectedly found another trench manned by British soldiers. This trench was named by the Australians as ‘The Tommies Trench’ and the Australians either jumped into it or laid down behind it. Three minutes later, M’Cay with more Australians approached and M'Cay called on the men taking shelter to continue the advance. The Australians pressed forward under heavy enemy fire before casualties compelled them to stop 400 metres from the Turkish trenches and two kilometers from Krithia. The Australians in an hour had suffered 1000 killed and wounded. On the left, the New Zealanders gained a little ground but at a heavy cost. With the Turks digging in and receiving reinforcements, the two brigades returned to Anzac Cove.


British Troops Attacking During Third Battle


A month later, another assault was made to capture Krithia and open a path to Achi Baba.  The previous failures in the first and second battles resulted in a less ambitious plan being developed for the attack, but the outcome was another costly failure for the Allies. From that point on, Helles was a lost venture.  Neither Krithia nor Achi Baba would ever fall to the Allies during the Gallipoli campaign.  For more see our related article HERE.

Sources: Australian War Memorial; NZ History

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