Anzac landings in Gallipoli

Article by Paul Nixon

The ANZAC landings at Gallipoli - 25th April 1915

The landing of ANZAC troops at what would become known as ANZAC Cove was simple enough in its conception. A covering force of 4,000 men from the 1st Australian Division would land in three successive waves on a front of 2,000 yards on the Gallipoli peninsula slightly north of Gaba Tepe.

The men would then fan out across country; the three waves heading for Chunuk Bair in the north, Scrubb Knoll to the east, and Gaba Tepe itself to the south. Having secured these three strategic positions, the main body of men, landing shortly afterwards, would then be able to advance easily tow ards the main objectives of Mal Tepe and Maidos further to the east.

So much for the plan. What actually happened was that the ANZACs, due to poor navigation, landed two kilometres farther north than was originally intended. Instead of having to deal with a relatively straightforward assault across low sand-banks, they found themselves faced with sheer sandstone cliffs. In actual fact, it was not the disaster it might have been.

It was the men of the Australian 3rd Brigade; two companies each of the 9th (Queensland), 10th (South Australian) and 11th (West Australian) Battalions who were the first ashore at Anzac Cove. Leaving their ships they'd been towed towards the shore in boats and then rowed the final few hundred yards, the Turkish defenders opening fire as the first men leapt ashore.

Nevertheless, unlike the assault by British forces at Cape Helles further south, the vast majority of ANZACs managed to land in one piece and make their way to the relative shelter of the cliff faces. Here, they could re-group and then, undaunted, begin their steady hack through the scrub and up the cliffs. Nor, for the most part, was their climb impeded. Strong opposition from a defensive outpost known as Fisherman's Hut, to the north, virtually destroyed a landing attempt there, but by 6am on the 25th the men who'd climbed the cliffs at Anzac Cove were in possession of the First Ridge and advancing towards the Second. An hour later, some of the men had even got as far as Legge Valley and the Third Ridge but it was here that the advance, so promising until that point, was halted by the Turkish 27th Regiment.

And while the advance parties of men were first held and then steadily pushed back towards the cliffs by Turkish defenders, a Turkish artillery battery behind Gaba Tepe started to shell Anzac Cove. By mid-morning, over 8,000 Australian and New Zealand troops had landed on Gallipoli but there had also been fierce fighting, much of it hand-to-hand on the ridges above the beaches. Positions initially taken by ANZAC forces were re-taken by Turkish re-enforcements and, as always seemed to be the case in the First World War, it was the enemy who ultimately commanded the heights. In this case firing down on their exposed enemy with its backs to the beaches.

The Australian War Memorial website estimates that total ANZAC casualties on the first day amounted to around 2,000 with nearly a third of these killed or missing. By First World War standards, it could be argued that this was light. Nevertheless, it was a sharp awakening for the men from Australia and New Zealand; more so for their loved ones back home. Many of the men killed on the plateau on that first day's fighting were never recovered.

A soldier of Anzac Cove
651 Pte Edgar Mouland of the 12th Battalion, AIF was killed in action on 25th April 1915. This is his story.

Edgar Mouland volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force, joining at Morphettville, Adelaide on the 7th September 1914. He was twenty-seven years and four months old, a motor-driver by trade, who gave his place of birth as Alderbury, near Salisbury, England. His surviving papers at the National Archives of Australia record that he stood five feet, nine and a half inches tall, had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and black hair. His religion is noted as Church of England. Edgar was a single man and noted his next of kin as his mother, Emma Mouland, also of Alderbury.

The England and Wales census returns for 1901 show Edgar living with his parents, three brothers and two sisters at The Green, Alderbury. His father John is noted as a blacksmith and his brother Bertram was working alongside him. By the time the 1911 census was taken, John is still working as a blacksmith but assisted by another son, Wilfred (aged 17) and his thirty-year-old nephew Ralph. Bertram is listed as the head of a separate household in Alderbury and is recorded as the village blacksmith. Edgar does not appear on the 1911 census and it's possible that he had already immigrated to Australia.

Edgar embarked at Melbourne on the 17th September 1914 aboard HMAT Geelong (A2), the former passenger ship having been converted at Melbourne to accommodate 62 officers and 1539 additional personnel.

He was originally reported as missing in action in the Dardanelles between 25th and 28th April 1915. This was later revised by a Board of Inquiry in June 1916 to "killed in action" on the 25th April. The Board noted a report by 718 Sgt L E Ring of C Company, 12th AIF and recorded that "... about 2 miles back from the Beach at Anzac, Mowland [sic] was killed. Informant did not actually see him after death, but says that enquiries were made among the survivors of the Battalion, and it was considered established that Mowland was killed. Informant is certain Mowland is dead." Another witness, 145 Pte W Hase, also recovering in hospital (this time, in Cairo), remembered last seeing Edgar Mouland in the charge at 9am on the 25th. Hase, who was in the same platoon and company as Mouland noted that none of the Company had seen him since.

At some point after the Inquiry reported its findings, Edgar Mouland's body was discovered and he was buried on the Gallipoli peninsula. His body was later exhumed and re-buried in Lone Pine Cemetery, grave reference O.12. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission's Roll of Honour website, records that he was the son of Emma Mouland and the late John Mouland (his father having died in 1913). Edgar's name also appears on the village war memorial in Alderbury and on panel 66 in the commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial. Wilfred Mouland, Edgar's 17-year-old blacksmith brother on the 1911 census was also killed in action during the First World War.

Discover your Anzac ancestors in our military records

Colour maps from the Australian War Memorial website; black and white map from Gallipoli by Robert Rhodes James, Batsford, London 1965.

Paul Nixon, Military Expert at findmypast
Paul Nixon's paternal grandfather, maternal great-grandfather and countless great uncles and second cousins served their King and Country during the First World War. Paul's interest began in the early 1980s when he interviewed and corresponded with scores of surviving Great War veterans in southern England and the Midlands and subsequently published research on the community of Chailey in Sussex between 1914 and 1918. In recent years, Paul has studied recruitment patterns in the British Army in depth and is considered an expert in regimental numbers between 1881 and 1918. When he does not have his head buried in a military database Paul is the attentive father to three small children, and the loving husband of a long-suffering wife.