Kiretche Tepe is the highest point of the Karokol Dagh Ridge which skirts the northern edge of Sulva Bay.
A fierce and deadly fight was fought along this ridge during the campaign.
The landing at Suvla Bay was an amphibious landing made at Suvla on the Aegean coast of Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey as part of the August Offensive, the final British attempt to break the deadlock of the Battle of Gallipoli. The landing, which commenced on the night of 6 August 1915, was intended to support a breakout from the Anzac sector, five miles to the south.
Despite facing light opposition, the landing at Suvla was mismanaged from the outset and quickly reached the same stalemate conditions that prevailed on the Anzac and Helles fronts. On 15 August, after a week of indecision and inactivity, the British commander at Suvla, Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stopford was dismissed. His performance in command was one of the most incompetent feats of generalship of the First World War.
The 32nd and 33rd Brigades of the 11th Division began to come ashore at "B Beach" south of Nibrunesi Point shortly before 10 pm. In the first action fought by a New Army unit, two companies from the 6th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, drove the Turkish defenders off the small hillock of Lala Baba which overlooked the beach. It was an inauspicious start; all but two of the Yorkshires' officers became casualties as did one third of the men.
Shortly afterwards the 34th Brigade attempted to land at "A Beach" within Suvla Bay but the landing went awry from the start. The destroyers conveying the brigade anchored 1,000 yards too far south, facing shoal water and on the wrong side of the channel that drained the salt lake into the bay. Two lighters grounded on reefs and the men had to wade ashore submerged up to their necks. The 11th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, having come ashore from the destroyer HMS Grampus, had the greatest success of the landing, managing to find its way to the Kiretch Tepe ridge and fight its way some distance along it to the east for the loss of 200 casualties.
Elsewhere the landing was in chaos, having been made in pitch darkness which resulted in great confusion with units becoming mixed and officers unable to locate their position or their objectives. Later, when the moon rose, the British troops became targets for Turkish snipers. Attempts to capture Hill 10 failed because no one in the field knew where Hill 10 was. Shortly after dawn it was found and taken, the Turkish rearguard having withdrawn during the night.
Stopford had chosen to command the landing from the sloop HMS Jonquil but as the landing was in progress, he went to sleep. The first news he received was when Commander Unwin came aboard at 4 am on 7 August to discourage further landings in Suvla Bay.
British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett witnessed the landing shortly after dawn from the transport Minneapolis. While he could hear the fighting continuing at Anzac, Suvla was comparatively quiet and "no firm hand appeared to control this mass of men suddenly dumped on an unknown shore." The British official history, written by Captain Cecil Aspinall-Oglander who was on Hamilton's staff, was blunt in its assessment; "It was now broad daylight and the situation in Suvla Bay was verging on chaos."
Progress on 7 August was minimal. The two brigades of the 10th Division came ashore, adding to the confusion. In the heat of the day, the soldiers became desperate for drinking water. Towards evening two hills east of the salt lake were captured; these represented the sole gains for the first day ashore at Suvla. IX Corps had suffered 1,700 casualties in the first 24 hours, a figure exceeding the total size of Willmer's detachment. At 7 pm, Willmer was able to report to Von Sanders:
"No energetic attacks on the enemy's part have taken place. On the contrary, the enemy is advancing timidly."
Von Sanders now ordered two divisions from Bulair, the Turkish 7th Division and Turkish 12th Division, under the command of Feizi Bey, to move south to Suvla.
Stopford did not go ashore from the Jonquil on 7 August. By the end of the day, the chain of command had completely broken down.
Stopford was satisfied with the results of the first day. On the morning of 8 August, he signalled Hamilton:
"Major-General Hammersley and troops under him deserve great credit for the result attained against strenuous opposition and great difficulty. I must now consolidate the position held."
He had no intention of advancing to the high ground. The British staff had estimated that it would take the Turkish divisions at Bulair 36 hours to reach Suvla — they could be expected to arrive on the evening of 8 August. Hamilton was dismayed by the lack of progress so far and the absence of any drive from Stopford or his subordinates. He had already dispatched Captain Aspinall to discover first-hand what was happening at Suvla. Aspinall was accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice Hankey, Secretary to the Committee of Imperial Defence, who was to report on the progress of the campaign to the British Cabinet. When he received Stopford's signal, Hamilton decided to see Suvla for himself, travelling on the yacht HMS Triad.
Aspinall and Hankey initially found the ease and inactivity at Suvla encouraging, assuming it meant the fighting was now far away amongst the hills. Once on the beach, they were warned to keep their heads down as the front line was only a few hundred yards away — and that Stopford was still aboard the Jonquil. Aspinall found Stopford "in excellent spirits", well satisfied with progress. When Aspinall pointed out that the men had not reached the high ground, Stopford replied, "No, but they are ashore."
Aspinall and Hamilton both converged on the light cruiser HMS Chatham, the flagship of Rear-Admiral John de Robeck who commanded the landing fleet. Finally, on the afternoon of 8 August, nearly two days after the landing commenced, Hamilton gained a clear picture of events. Accompanied by Aspinall and Commodore Roger Keyes, he crossed to the Jonquil to confront Stopford who had finally been ashore to consult with Hammersley.
Stopford and Hammersley planned to order an advance the following morning, 9 August. Hamilton insisted that an advance be made immediately and so, at 6.30 pm, the 32nd Brigade was ordered to march two and a half miles to the Tekke Tepe ridge. The march, in darkness over unfamiliar, rough terrain, was difficult and the brigade did not approach the summit until 4 am on 9 August. The Turkish reinforcements had reached the ridge shortly before them and met the exhausted British infantry with a bayonet charge. The 32nd Brigade was virtually annihilated in a matter of minutes and the remnants of the battalions scattered back towards the beach.
Hamilton had watched the battle from the Triad. He wrote in his diary:
"My heart has grown tough amidst the struggles of the peninsula but the misery of this scene well nigh broke it... Words are of no use."
AT SUVLA BAY
BEING THE NOTES AND SKETCHES OF
SCENES, CHARACTERS AND ADVENTURES
OF THE DARDANELLES CAMPAIGN
("White Fox" of "The Scout ")
WHILE SERVING WITH THE 32ND FIELD AMBULANCE,
X DIVISION, MEDITERRANEAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE,
DURING THE GREAT WAR
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That night was dark, with no stars. I didn't know what part of Gallipoli we were in, and the maps issued were useless.
The first cases had been picked up close to the firing-line, and were mostly gun-shot wounds, and now--late in the evening--all my squads
having worked four miles to the beach, I was trying to get my own direction back to the ambulance.
The Turks seldom fired at night, so that it was only the occasional shot of a British rifle, or the sudden "pop-pop-pop-pop-pop!" of a
machine-gun which told me the direction of the firing-line.
I trudged on and on in the dark, stumbling over rocks and slithering down steep crags, tearing my way through thorns and brambles, and
sometimes rustling among high dry grass.
Queer scents, pepperminty and sage-like smells, came in whiffs. It was cold. I must have gone several miles along the Kapanja Sirt when I
came to a halt and once more tried to get my bearings. I peered at the gloomy sky, but there was no star. I listened for the lap-lap of water
on the beach of Suvla Bay, but I must have been too far up the ridges to hear anything. There was dead silence. When I moved a little green
lizard scutted over a white rock and vanished among the dead scrub.
I was past feeling hungry, although I had eaten one army biscuit in the early morning and had had nothing since.
It was extraordinarily lonely. You may imagine how queer it was, for here was I, trying to get back to my ambulance headquarters at night
on the first day of landing--and I was hopelessly lost. It was impossible to tell where the firing-line began. I reckoned I was
outside the British outposts and not far from the Turkish lines. Once, as I went blundering along over some rocks, a dark figure bolted out
of a bush and ran away up the ridge in a panic.
"Halt!" I shouted, trying to make believe I was a British armed sentry. But the figure ran on, and I began to stride after it. This
led me up and up the ridge over very broken ground. Whoever it was (it was probably a Turkish sniper, for there were many out
night-scouting) I lost sight and sound of him.
I went climbing steadily up till at last I found myself looking into darkness. I got down on my hands and knees and peered over the edge of
a ridge of rock. I could see a tiny beam of light away down, and this beam grew and grew as it slowly moved up and up till it became a great
triangular ray. It swept slowly along the top of what I now saw was a steep precipice sloping sheer down into blackness below. One step
further and I should have gone hurtling into the sea. For, although I did not then know it, this was the topmost ridge of the Kapanja Sirt.
The great searchlight came nearer and nearer, and I slid backwards and lay on my stomach looking over. The nearer it came the lower I
moved, so as to get well off the skyline when the beam reached me. It may have been a Turkish searchlight. It swept slowly, slowly, till at
last it was turned off and everything was deadly black.
I started off again in another direction, keeping my back to the ridge, as I reckoned that to be a Turkish searchlight, and, therefore,
our own lines would be somewhere down the ridge. Here, high up, I could just see a grey streak, which I took to be the bay.
I tried to make for this streak. I scrambled down a very steep stratum of the mountain-side and landed at last in a little patch of dead
grass and tall dried-up thistles.
By this time, having come down from my high position on the Sirt, I could no longer see the bay; but I judged the direction as best I
could, and without waiting I tramped on.
I began to wonder how long I had been trudging about, and I put it at about two hours.