Anthony W. Pahl

The Charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek: 7 August 1915 by George Lambert. [AWM ART07965]
The Charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek: 7 August 1915 by George Lambert. [AWM ART07965]

THE NEK

A three-pronged diversion was needed
To capture the high ground at Chunnuk Bair;
On the seventh of August nineteen-fifteen
The 8th and 10th were ordered, “Prepare!”

Their objective – to capture “Baby 700”
(High-ground held by the Turks)
But the artillery bombardment finished early
Allowing the enemy to prepare their worst.

On foot, Victorian and West Aussie Horsemen
Needed to cross a sixty-foot-wide neck of land
That separated the ANZAC and Turkish positions
… And so the terrible massacre began.

And the devil’s terrain was no wider
Than two tennis courts… but ‘twas no game
With screams of the limbless and dying
And in piles – the wounded and the slain.

No Aussie reneged on his mate or sworn duty
Despite the slaughter each digger could see;
a hundred ‘n’ fifty in each of the four waves
Charged into the mouth of the Turk’s killing spree.

Each wave after the first saw the losses
And the dark Angel of Death, they all knew
More Aussie corpses piled onto wounded
And still the enemy wasn’t hidden from view.

After wave four, the attack was called-off
The terrible carnage had ceased;
The killing fields fell into silence
Broken only by moans of the weak.

Charles Bean, an Aussie with the British Graves Unit,
wrote, after burying three hundred Aussies or more,
“Their graves mark one of the bravest of actions
That was ever fought in the history of war!”

“The Nek” is the name of that hallowed ground
Where hundreds of Aussies were slain;
Only ten graves mark their earthly existence
But in Aussie hearts they’ll always remain.

Author’s Note: “The Nek” is dedicated to those who fought in that battle, the men of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, which consisted of the 8th Light Horse Regiment from Victoria, the 9th from South Australia, and the 10th from Western Australia. Only elements from the 8th and 10th took part in the action at the Nek.

The information for the poem was obtained from the “Visit Gallipoli” website, particularly the page relating to The Nek and The Nek Cemetery.

The following comment was made on April 28, 2006 by an American friend who read the poem:

“This is excellent, Tony. You have written a brilliant tribute to these heroes of Nek. I read the site several times and I mean no disrespect, it is the farthest thing from my mind, but for God’s sake, what were those in charge thinking?? It seems a terrible loss of life due to bad orders. Why were they not told to fall back?

Faye (sticking her neck out)

Which prompted my response:

Dearest Faye,

My sentiments exactly! It’s all related to the British and their immoral use and disregard of the Aussies and Kiwis… in fact all Colonial troops were commonly treated as cannon fodder – expendable so as to create diversions so the British troops could attain their goals.

Although being aware that the exhausted New Zealand Troops, despite truly heroic and epic attempts to take the high ground at Chunnuck Bair by the required time, the Generals ordered the Aussies “over-the-top” with the thought that taking “Baby 700” would provide support for the Kiwi troops to achieve their objective and, in effect, result in the successful outcome to the entire Gallipoli campaign, which was to secure the narrow Dardanelle Straights and thus enable Constantinople to be taken thereby opening the back door to Europe.

After the 2nd wave of Aussies, the 8th Light Infantry Regiment went over the top and was decimated, the British orders were questioned by the officers on the scene but those behind the lines repeated those orders and so the slaughter continued with two waves comprising the 10th Light Horse Regiment. After the 4th wave, the attack was called off but I am unable to find where it’s recorded as to who gave the order.

Such was the fighting and defeat at Gallipoli… a campaign not won in terms of objective, but a campaign that marked the beginning of the Australian and New Zealand psyche; and the legacy that Australian and New Zealand warriors have always been determined to uphold. Such battles as the Kakoda Track in Papua New Guinea during WW2, Long Tan in Vietnam in 1966, and countless others, have served to continue to reinforce the opinion that the ANZACs and their successors are a cut above the norm.

No Faye – your question is not out of order… we in Australia and New Zealand have been asking that question for nigh on 100 years… but we will probably never know the true answer so we have incorporated into our national psyche, the indomitable dedication, bravery, mateship, honour, and sacrifice of those ANZACs; we have learned the importance of independent thinking and actions, and that makes us some of the greatest soldiers ever to have donned the uniforms of their country. When we believe the cause is just, will fight to the end of our being in support and defence of that cause – but we are no longer followers, we are leaders!

So say I… with pride and patriotic intensity, but without the wide-eyed madness of the brain-washed, unthinking, and deluded puppet-like fanatics – religious or otherwise.

Your friend from down-under
Tony