Remembering the August Offensive—a soldiers’ perspective


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A 100 years ago the August Offensive was the last major attempt by Allied forces at Gallipoli to break the stalemate that had persisted since the landing on 25 April 1915. 
The August Offensive included the Battle of Lone Pine which began with an initial charge on the main Turkish trench. The trench was taken within 20 minutes but the intense hand-to-hand fighting between the Allied forces and the Turks lasted 4 days. 

Over 2,000 Australians and over 6,300 Turks are said to have been killed in the fighting. 

As we remember the August Offensive it is appropriate to let the words of a soldier who fought in the Battle of Lone Pine tell the story. 

Sergeant Major Egbert Lee from Numurkah, Victoria, witnessed the winning of two of the four Victoria Crosses won in the battle by the 7th Battalion. 

The following is a shortened extract of notes he wrote while convalescing in the 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, England on 8 December 1915, taken from article published in the Shepparton Advertiser on 31 January 1916.

Lone Pine, August 7th, 1915.

Just arrived back at Peninsula after ten days at Lemnos, feeling worse than when I left. Our battalion is in the trenches opposite Johnson's Folly waiting for the word to charge. During my absence our old Sergeant-Major—"Bill" Baker—returned just two days inside three months, making himself "good." The day I returned I was sent with the other sick and wounded at the same time to head-quarters. We were attached for four days with instructions from the brigadier that not on any consideration were we to leave. Colonel Elliot send word down that he would like to see us all, but we were not allowed to shift. We were providing guards light fatigues, etc. I had an easy time, as there were a lot of N.C.O's, when a private message came down to me from our adjutant saying he would like to see me at once. So I took the risk and left, when I learned that Sergeant Major Baker…

Had Received a Shock

by a "six-incher" bursting in the trench near him. So I was asked to take over S.M. again—very exciting, with the prospect of a charge at any minute. Whilst I was away we had received our 6th reinforcements, so that our company was a little larger. Just along on our right the 1st Brigade had made a charge and taken Lonesome Pine, and word was sent to our battalion to hold a portion of the position. So we started. At night the Turks counter-attacked, throwing three fresh battalions at the position we were holding… The Turks were sent up the open saps with bombs, like bees, 15 yards apart at places. The battle commenced. In 24 hours we had completely won, but at the loss of over 6o per cent of our battalion alone in that time.

Talk About Fight!

It was during this fight that our battalion won four V.C.'s — a splendid feat! I had the honor of witnessing two won, also the reporting of same: Lieutenant—now Captain—Tubb and Corporal A. Burton. (I will give a description of what they did later). I am very proud at having been called for a report on the two named. About two days later I had to sign about 20 copies of same, and sure enough we got the honors. Poor Alick Burton was killed. I saw the whole lot, my work being to rush up ammunition, bombs and reinforcements to where ever they were needed.

Figures will Tell You

how many of the old hands are left. Nelson Hardy lost his life at "The Pine—a "75." He got the full force. We were bombarded regularly twice a day with "75's" after the attack. We generally lost a few each trip up The Turks would run just along the trench and take every loop hole and make a mess generally. There was not a great deal of danger if you knew when they were going to start, but they generally got in a few before we had time to take cover. Then the bomb part; that was continuous, and a great strain at different times-terrific exchanges taking place-of course, casualties. It took over a week to get the place in order, burying dead in the bottom of the trench. The smell was awful. Poor Alick Burton lies in a trench at Lone Pine with a lot of his comrades—no chance of getting them out so they were buried where they lay.

The original newspaper article is held by the National Library of Australia.