The Royal New South Wales Lancers
|Battle Honour 1st|
During the Defence of Anzac the attack on the Chessboard by the 1st Light Horse on 7 August 1915 was part of the offensive aimed at the capture of the hill mass known as Sari Bair.
At 04:50 on 7 August the regiment was ordered to attack in co-operation with Walker's Post on the left and Quinn's Post on the right, against what was known as the enemy's "Chessboard ' trenches north of the Bloody Angle then strike into the gully beyond known as the "Cup" where there were Turkish administration units. The principal objective of the attack on this date was Baby 700, to the left (north). The troops for its assault were to be the 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments of 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade, assisted by the 8th Cheshires and also by the Royal Welch Fusiliers who from the head of Monash Valley would attack the nearer Turkish positions of the Chessboard, and eventually connect with the 1st LH from Pope's.
In 2011 the statue of a Turkish soldier stands vigil over the site of this battle, the location of Pope's is just to the rear of the tour bus in the top right picture, the flat "chessboard" of trenches has been developed as a carpark for the nearby Turkish memorial (bikers were very friendly); whilst the cup is as it was in 1915.
The attack by the 1st LH., which would be directed by Major T. W. Glasgow, commandant of Pope's, was to be made by two squadrons, about 200 men. Instructions were to go over the top when the 8th LH left their trenches to attack on the left; no shots were to be fired and only bayonets to be used until the trenches were occupied. White patches were sewn on the backs of the men's shirts so that mistakes could not occur in the dark. Rations and water were carried as it was hoped to push on.
The attack was gallantly led by Major J M Reid, of Tenterfield, who lost his life. The first Turkish trench was only about 10 metres from the start line. The storming party reached the third line of trenches (about another 20 metres in) and held on for two hours, but the enemy attacked in great force and bombed the already thinned-out regiment back. (The ground contested had been fought over by the Royal Marines at the first landing and many of the bodies still remained in no-man's-land.) The regiment lost heavily, viz: 15 killed, 98 wounded, 34 missing (mostly killed) , total 147. (These figures differ slightly from those given in the Official History of Australia in the War,1914-18, Vol. II,)
The casualties included all the officers of "B" Squadron; Major Reid's and Lieutenant Nettleton's bodies were not recovered; Captain Cox and Lieutenant Tinson died from their wounds a day later. The following officers were evacuated wounded: Captain Holman, Lieutenants Reid, Macmillan, Stewart, Weir, Harris and White.
Lieutenant Harris showed great gallantry in leading the advanced storming party, and, although wounded, remained in the foremost position until the retirement. The grit of the men when being carried to the beach was remarkable; some 3,000 passed through the dressing station that day, and boats in strings of four and five, towed by small tugs, took the wounded off to empty transports where accommodation for them was hastily improvised. Much suffering occurred on the voyage to Alexandria, and many wounds were septic by the time Cairo was reached.
There were many acts of gallantry performed on August 7, notably those of 566 Corporal T. J. Keys, 437 Trooper R C Tancred and 397 Trooper F. Barrow in carrying much-needed bombs to the forward party over ground swept by machine gun and rifle fire.
When attacking Turkish soldiers shouted "Allah", after the Australian attacks during the August offensive, Turkish prisoners asked if "bastard" was the name of the Australian god; so often had the Australians been heard to use the word in battle.
On 8 August Lone Pine, the objective of the Australian infantry on the right, was gallantly taken and held against repeated counter-attacks. The 1st LH cooperated with heavy covering fire on the Chessboard and from Quinn's.
This single battle honour resulted in more casualties than any other. It emphasises that in World War 1 Australia lost more of its citizens per head of population than any other nation.
John Howells May 2002
PV Vernon Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885 –1985 Parramatta 1985
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