Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Problems for the Covering Force

As outlined in the comic “Gallipoli: The Landing” (Z Beach True Comics) by Hugh Dolan and Mal Gardiner, ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) was ordered to land between Gaba Tepe and the Fisherman’s Hut and capture the heights of Hill 971. General Birdwood, the Anzac commander, was allowed to make his own plans, so he decided to land his Corps on the beach north of Gaba Tepe and south of Ari Burnu.

The first troops to land (the 3rd Australian Brigade) were called the “Covering Force”, and were to hit the beach just south of Anzac Cove (Brighton Beach). They had only to cross a low plateau and a number of low spurs to reach their objective – the Third Ridge. Only one and a half to 2 kilometres distant, and possibly could be achieved in less then an hour.

The low hills behind the planned landing place.

Turkish defence was quite light, and as it turned out, whenever encountered it was easily swept aside by the Anzac’s superior numbers. The 2nd Brigade would secure Hill 971 afterwards.

But as most of us know, the Covering Force landed about 1600 metres further north then expected. The reasons for this have been speculated ever since. The tide? A sudden change of plans? Human error? Enemy interference? Or even - the original intention was to land where they did, but the plan was kept secret from everybody, except Birdwood and the admiral in charge? A book, by David Winter “25 April 1915”, was written and explores all these possibilities. 

There was an enquiry into the Campaign in 1917, where Gen Birdwood and others gave evidence at a court hearing, and Birdwood stated that they basically landed where they were intended to. This is true; because most of the 1st Australian Division and the NZ&A Div (New Zealand and Australian Division) were earmarked to land in, or near Anzac Cove. Also, if things got too hot from the Ottoman defensive fire at Gaba Tepe, the Navy was to land the remaining troops north of Anzac Cove. But for the Covering Force the shift of a mile northwards made it very difficult for it to achieve its goals.
The Covering Forces planned move inland, with the 2nd Brigade arriving offshore close behind them.
Instead of a few low spurs to cross, the Covering Force had to negotiate the steep cliffs of Sari Bair and the ones above Anzac Cove. Then negotiate the deep winding valleys behind and their associated cliffs.

It took approximately two and a half hours for only a small number of the Covering Force (roughly 160 men in three scattered groups) to finally reach the Third Ridge, or parts of it. These Australians were soon confronted by the leading Ottoman reserve troops (these were the tip of a force of 2000 men).
LT Plant (9 Bn) and his platoon, on the Third ridge, see the approaching Ottoman troops.
The rest of the Covering Force, over 3500 men, were scattered from Baby 700, along the Second Ridge to the 400 plateau.

Although the troops of the Covering Force went as fast as they could, they couldn’t reach their goal quick enough. 

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