The Battle of Lone Pine, 1915

Sir William BirdwoodThe Battle of Lone Pine was fought between Australian and Ottoman Empire forces during the First World War between 6 and 10 August 1915. Part of the Gallipoli campaign, the battle was part of a diversionary attack to draw Ottoman attention away from the main assaults against Sari Bair, Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, which became known as the August Offensive. 

The attack, launched by Sir William Birdwood's 1st Australian Division of 4,600 men (from 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades), was chiefly intended to draw attention away from the key diversionary attacks. It was directed against the so-called 'Lone Pine' position in Turkish hands some 100 metres above Anzac Cove - thus a key target on 6 August 1915 given the planned mass landings intended for Anzac Cove the same day. 

Opening on the evening of 6 August at 5.30pm the attack developed into a ferocious hand-to-hand assault ultimately spanning five days. Attacking with the sun at their back (and thus with the sun in the Turkish defenders' eyes) the Australians were astonished to find the Turkish trenches covered with logs and earth. 

Effectively brought to a halt while they searched for a means of entering the Turkish trenches, the Turk defenders were presented with point-blank targets; the Australians suffered significant initial casualties, a pattern that continued on both sides. 

Having finally gained entrance to the Turk lines via communication trenches, and with the log covers heaved off the front trench by persistent Australian troops, a fierce hand-to-hand battle was conducted, often in virtual darkness. Such was the nature of the fighting that there was often insufficient room to use either bayonet or grenades: instead fighting was conducted using fists and bayonet swords. 

Within half an hour at 6pm - the trench line was in Australian hands and the Lone Pine position was secured two days later. Wave after wave of diminishing Turkish counter-attacks were subsequently launched, lasting some five days in total. 

Casualties were heavy, 10,000 in total (7,000 Turkish, 3,000 Australian). Of these some 9,000 comprised fatalities. The Lone Pine action remains notorious to the present day. Seven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Australian force as a consequence of fighting at Lone Pine. 

Unfortunately for the Allies the attack upon Lone Pine proved far less diversionary than intended, for the Turkish reserves drafted in to defend Lone Pine were subsequently better placed to rush to the Sari Bair range once its importance became clearer. 

Nevertheless, despite the Australian victory, the wider August Offensive failed and a situation of stalemate developed around Lone Pine which lasted until the end of the campaign in December 1915 when Allied troops were evacuated from the peninsula. 

As a result of the battle's significance to the Australians, Lone Pine is the site of the annual Australian Anzac Day dawn service at Gallipoli. After the service Australian visitors congregate at the memorial to remember all their countrymen who fought and died at Gallipoli. At the New Zealand National World War I Museum, there is an exhibit for the Battle of Lone Pine, and there is also one in the Australian War Memorial. Memorial ‘Lone Pine’ trees have also been planted in Australia, New Zealand and Gallipoli to commemorate the battle and the Gallipoli campaign in general, seeded from specimens taken from Gallipoli. 

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