Military History

Lone Pine - 105th Anniversary Special

By The Cove August 5, 2020


The Battle of Lone Pine was fought from 6 - 10 August 1915, between the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) and Ottoman Empire forces during the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War. The battle was part of a diversionary attack to draw Ottoman attention away from the main assaults being conducted by British, Indian and New Zealand troops around Sari Bair, Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, which became known as the August Offensive.

The Lone Pine battlefield was named for a solitary Turkish pine that stood there at the start of the fighting. The tree was also known by the Anzac soldiers as the "Lonesome Pine", and both names are likely to have been inspired by the popular song "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine". The battlefield was situated near the centre of the eastern line of the Australian and New Zealand trenches around Anzac Cove on a rise known as "400 Plateau" that joined "Bolton's Ridge" to the south with the ridge along the east side of "Monash Valley" to the north. Being towards the southern end of the area around Anzac Cove, the terrain in the Lone Pine region was comparatively gentle and the opposing trenches were separated some distance with a flat no-man's land intervening. Due to its location relative to the beachhead, and the shape of the intervening ground, Lone Pine's importance lay in the fact that its position provided a commanding view of the Australian and New Zealand rear areas. From the 400 Plateau it was possible to observe as far south as Gaba Tepe and its possession would have afforded the Ottomans the ability to place the approaches to the Second Ridge under fire, preventing the flow of Allied reinforcements and supplies from the beachhead to the forward trenches.

Brigadier General Harold Walker, commander of the 1st Australian Brigade, had no desire to assault well-constructed Turkish trenches as a sideshow to the concurrent Allied landings at Suvla Bay, but his soldiers were keen for action. Much was done to help the Australians cross the 100 yards (91 m) to the Turkish front line successfully. Preliminary bombardment destroyed the Turkish barbed wire; tunnels were dug into no-man’s-land to provide a forward jumping-off point and mines were exploded between the lines to break up the ground and create at least some form of cover.

At 5:00 PM on 6 August, whistles signalled the beginning of the assault. The Australians reached the front-line Turkish trench with light losses, but were startled to find it roofed over with wooden beams and earth. While some soldiers tried to break through, others jumped into uncovered communication trenches. The main Turkish trench was taken within 20 minutes of the initial charge, and by nightfall, the Australians held part of the Turkish trench system. The Ottomans brought up reinforcements and launched numerous counter-attacks in an attempt to recapture the ground they had lost. As the counter-attacks intensified the ANZACs brought up two fresh battalions to reinforce their newly gained line. A vicious battle developed in the warren of trenches, with grenades a principal weapon, sometimes thrown back and forth three times before exploding. Evacuation of the wounded was near impossible; many died where they lay.

Finally, on 9th August the Ottomans called off any further attempts and by 10th August, offensive action had ceased, leaving the Allies in control of the position. The four days of fighting resulted in more than 2,000 Australian casualties and an estimated 7,000 Turkish losses. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross. Despite this Australian victory, the wider August Offensive of which the Lone Pine attack had been a part of failed. 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.

The Seven VCs of Lone Pine

Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions during the fighting at Lone Pine, including four men from the 7th Battalion, which had been rushed forward to help relieve the 1st Brigade at the height of the Ottoman counter-attacks. 

Frederick Tubb (image left) was born on 28 November 1881 to Harry and Emma E. Tubb, of St. Helena, Longwood East, Victoria, Australia.

In the early morning on 09 August 1915, the enemy made a determined counter-attack on the centre of the newly captured trench held by Lieutenant Tubb. They advanced up a sap and blew in a sandbag barricade, leaving only one foot of it standing, but Lieutenant Tubb led his men back (Dunstan and Burton), repulsed the enemy and rebuilt the barricade. Supported by strong bombing parties, the enemy succeeded in twice again blowing in the barricade, but on each occasion Lieutenant Tubb, although wounded in the head and arm, held his ground with the greatest coolness and rebuilt it, and finally succeeded in maintaining his position under very heavy bomb fire.

He later achieved the rank of Major and died of wounds suffered in battle at Polygon Wood, in the Third Battle of Ypres, on 20 September 1917. In this action Major Tubb was serving with 7th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Australian Division when he was shot by a German sniper during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge. While being carried to the rear he was struck by British artillery shells. He died at the dressing station at Lijssenthoek and was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Alexander Burton (image left) was born in Kyneton, Victoria on 20 January 1893. His father, a grocer, moved his family to Euroa where he commenced working for a department store. After completing his schooling, Alexander joined his father at the store, working in the ironmongers section. Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, at the age of 21, Burton enlisted on 18 August 1914 and posted to the 7th Battalion. He embarked with the battalion for the Middle East on 19 October 1914. On 9 August 1915, Burton fought in the Battle of Lone Pine when his company reinforced newly captured Turkish trenches. Burton was one of a party of men (with Tubb and Dunstan that manned a barricade against attacking Turkish soldiers. Killed in this action, he was recommended by his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Pompey Elliott, for the award of the Victoria Cross (VC).

William Dunstan (Image right) was born on 08 March 1895. He was 20 years old and a corporal in the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force when he repelled the enemy and rebuilt the barricades with LT Tubb and PTE Burton who were awarded the VC for the same action. Dunstan was blind for almost a year after Lone Pine. He later achieved the rank of Lieutenant. Before the war, Dunstan had been a messenger boy in a draper's shop. After the war he worked for the Repatriation Department in Melbourne and in 1921 joined the staff of the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd as an accountant. He rose to become its General manager. He died on 2 March 1957.

Lieutenant William Symons was 26 years old in the 7th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 8–9 August 1915, at Lone Pine, Symons was in command of a section of newly captured trenches and repelled several counter-attacks with great coolness. An enemy attack on an isolated sap early in the morning resulted in six officers becoming casualties and part of the sap being lost, but Symons retook it, shooting two Turks. The sap was then attacked from three sides and this officer managed, in the face of heavy fire, to build a barricade. On the enemy setting fire to the head cover, he extinguished it and rebuilt the barricade. His coolness and determination finally compelled the enemy to withdraw.

On 2 February 1916, Lt. Col. Harold (Pompey) Elliott, commanding the 7th Battalion, wrote to his wife Kate about the action at Lone Pine when the 7th Battalion won four Victoria Crosses, including Symons. He describes the infiltration of the Australian trenches by the attacking Turks and the exchange of shots and grenades. Captain Bastin was shot through the arm and stretchered out of the trench but the Turks entered the trench a second time. Elliott writes that when the Australian's waivered he got together a few fresh men and placed Symons in charge with the order to charge the Turks at bayonet point. In a trench described as being full of dead men, blood and brains, Symons succeeded to Elliott's admiration.

Another VC recipient was Captain Alfred Shout (image left) who had already earned the Military Cross and been Mentioned in Dispatches earlier in the Gallipoli campaign. During the Battle of Lone Pine, after Ottoman forces had counter-attacked and seized a large stretch of the Australians' front line, Captain Shout gathered a small party of men and charged down one trench throwing grenades. He killed eight Turkish soldiers and managed to clear others to retake the trench. In a similar action later that day, supported by another officer, he recaptured further ground amid hard fighting. In the final push forward, Shout simultaneously lit three grenades to lob at the enemy. He successfully threw two, but the third burst just as it was leaving his hand. Shout was grievously wounded, and died two days later. He was buried at sea. Captain Shout was posthumously awarded the VC for his actions at Lone Pine.

Born in Orange, New South Wales, John Patrick Hamilton (image right) described himself as a butcher when he enlisted aged eighteen, as a private in the 1st Australian Imperial Force on 15 September 1914. His father William Hamilton was also a butcher and they resided together in Penshurst, Sydney when the younger Hamilton joined up. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion and embarked from Sydney in October 1914 on HMAT Euripides. Hamilton was 19 years old, and still a private when the following deed took place at Sasse's Sap during the Battle of Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula for which he was awarded the VC:

For most conspicuous bravery on 9th August, 1915, in the Gallipoli Peninsula. During a heavy bomb attack by the enemy on the newly captured position at Lone Pine, Private Hamilton, with utter disregard to personal safety, exposed himself under heavy fire on the parados, in order to secure a better fire position against the enemy's bomb throwers. His coolness and daring example had an immediate effect. The defence was encouraged, and the enemy driven off with heavy loss.

The 3rd Battalion was decimated at Lone Pine but, after the withdrawal from Gallipoli and reorganization in Egypt the Battalion was redeployed to the Western Front in March 1916 and went into the line at Armentières. Hamilton was promoted Corporal on 03 May and fought at the Battle of Pozières in July, the Battle of Mouquet Farm in August and Flers in November. He was promoted Sergeant in May 1917 and that year his battalion served at Bullecourt and at the Menin Road and Broodseinde theatres of the Battle of Passchendale.

After officer cadet training at Cambridge, England from July 1918 he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in January 1919 and promoted Lieutenant in April 1919. After demobilisation, he was discharged in September 1919.

It was during the course of the Lone Pine battle that Private Leonard Keysor performed the actions that led to him receiving the Victoria Cross. Over the course of about 50 hours on 7–8 August, Keysor continually risked his life to pick up the Turkish grenades as they were thrown into the trenches and throw them back. Later, despite being wounded and ordered to seek medical attention, Keysor continued to remain in the line, volunteering to throw bombs for another company.

After the battle was over Keysor was evacuated from Gallipoli suffering enteric fever. He eventually rejoined the 1st Battalion after they had been transferred to France in early 1916.In March 1916 Keysor took part in the Battle of Pozières. In November 1916 he was transferred to the 42nd Battalion and promoted to the rank of Sergeant on 1 December. On 13 January 1917 he was commissioned and promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. Six months later he was promoted to Lieutenant. On 28 March 1918 Keysor was wounded and was evacuated from the line before returning to take part in the fighting at Villers-Bretonneux, where he was gassed on 26 May 1918. In October 1918 when manpower levels in the AIF reached critical level, Keysor returned to Australia to head up a recruiting campaign. He was discharged from the army on medical grounds on 12 December 1918.

The story of the pine cones

After the battle, Lance Corporal Benjamin Charles Smith, 3rd Battalion, collected several pine cones from the branches used to cover the trenches. This was done in commemoration of his brother Mark, who had died on 6 August. Corporal Smith sent the pine cones home to his mother.  From one of these cones Smith’s mother sowed several seeds and successfully raised two seedlings. One was planted in Inverell, New South Wales where both her sons had enlisted. The other was presented to the Australian War Memorial to be planted in its grounds in honour of her own and others’ sons who fell at Lone Pine.

Planting the pine at Australian War Memorial

On 24 October 1934 HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (and later Governor-General of Australia), planted the small Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial. He decorated it with a wreath of red poppies he had brought with him.

Shortly after the ceremony, a severe thunderstorm hit the area. The storm washed away a bridge over the Molonglo River, but the sapling stood firm.

A plaque on the low wrought-iron fence around the tree reads:

After the capture of the Lone Pine Ridge in Gallipoli (6 August 1915), an Australian Soldier who had taken part in the attack in which his brother was killed, found a cone on one of the branches used by the Turks as overhead cover for their trenches, and sent it to his mother. From seed shed by it she raised the tree, which she presented to be planted in the War Memorial grounds in honour of her own and others’ sons who fell at Lone Pine.

____________________

References:

'Alexander Burton', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Burton

'Alfred Shout', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Shout

'Battle of Lone Pine', nd., Encyclopaedia Britannica, viewed 05 August 2020,  https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Lone-Pine

'Battle of Lone Pine', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lone_Pine

'Frederick Tubb', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Tubb

'John Patrick Hamilton', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Patrick_Hamilton

'Leonard Keysor', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Keysor

'The Battle Lone Pine', nd., Australian War Memorial, viewed 04 August 2020

'William Dunstan', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Dunstan

'William Symons', nd., Wikipedia, viewed 05 August 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Symons

 


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The Cove

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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