Quick recap……. David Little has come to Gallipoli to retrace his uncle’s final footsteps as a soldier of the 15th Bn AIF. Travelling with Roachie September 2017
I did as much reading as I could find to assist David in walking the last ground that his uncle had seen. I met David and our driver/guide, a fine gentleman, Erdem outside my home in Tekirdag. I gave the usual commentary on thee way down, the beaches of Bulair, the symbolic cemetery at Akbas and a fine lunch in the ancient harbour at Gelibolu. We crossed the Dardanelles and checked David into his chosen hotel. Erdem and I would count ourselves lucky, we were to stay as guests of Enver and Cecilia at the Tusan Hotel in Guzelyali. David joined us for dinner and a bit of a birthday treat for me.
We crossed the straits and started our journey. The morning was spent taking in the Landing Beaches, Anzac Cove, the Beach Cemetery and eventually Shrapnel Valley. I had recommended that as David was 75 yo and that the area has reverted once again to almost total wilderness that I would take him up Plugge’s Plateau here he could look back down on the route his uncle had taken many times during his month on the peninsula…….. David on the other hand would have none of it. He was determined to walk as much of Shrapnel Valley towards Quinn’s Post that he could safely endure. Before leaving for the Plugge’s track David asked if he could just walk a little of the way up the valley. I felt he has hoodwinked me the whole time ha ha ha, but as long as it was safe well why not lol.
David’s knees aren’t very good on the downward slope and therefore hopping from one side of the watercourse to the other side in Shrapnel has it’s challenges. We eventually spot the track heading up Braund’s Hill. I kept reminding that following the old track all the way to Monash Valley and/or Quinn’s would mean we would be bush-bashing completely under the overgrown scrub of Oleander and Hollyoak, nothing much would be gained and every step uphill could mean a longer track downhill. So we slowly made our way up the middle ridge of Shrapnel Valley known as Braund’s Hill. Once committed to going the entire way up to the Second Ridge we decided to send Erdem back to retrieve the car and meet us up the top at Johnston’s Jolly. We stopped at many vistas where the view was clear all the way through to Quinn’s Post. I pointed out where the trenches and sleeping terraces roughly were, where nature has washed away the soil leaving large scrapes of bare earth.
About halfway up we stopped and went through the different landmarks as best we could. I then managed to film David as he described to us the movements of his uncle up until the 29th of May.
I love this track and the opportunity to enter the 4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery from the valley.
We found our way onto the Second Ridge and walked onto Johnston’s Jolly where I showed David exactly what the trenches looked like prior to the bushfire of 1994 and before the authorities in their infinite wisdom planted about 4,000,000 pine trees. We met up with Erdem and visited the heartrending scene of the battle of Lone Pine. After my usual choked up rendition of the supposedly act of modern warfare of 1915 which was in fact a tribute to stone-age or medieval murder, 4 days of fighting with fists, teeth, nails that led Charles Bean when he visited the site to say “It was all the respect we could show was to not step on the faces of the fallen” sometimes 4 deep in the floor of the trenches.
Quinn’s Post – 15th September.
Finally, I’d delayed our first arrival at Quinn’s Post enough, we even went for a gozleme and coke at the 57th Regiment Memorial before really hitting Quinn’s. We strolled through the trenches between what was Bloody Angle, Dead Man’s Ridge and the Chessboard. We were in the cemetery, which had been mentioned by historian Peter Stanley as being Bloody Angle. Well to me it is definitely located at the very end of Quinn’s possibly overlapping what I would call Bloody Angle.
On the 29th of May 1915, Maurice Little and his own select group of men from the 15th, ‘The Transports’ were given the task of driving the Turks from the Quinn’s Post trenches. The Turkish attackers had effectively been surrounded in the two bombproof shelters built to protect the Anzacs. Little was told to keep throwing bombs (hand grenades) into no mans land to stop any chance of reinforcements reaching the surrounded Turks. For the bombs to be effective the wicks or fuses needed to be cut so short that they could throw them at running men. Maurice had just lit the fuse of a bomb that as dangerously short and it blew up in his hands. The no mans land at Quinn’s would be the last thing he ever saw.
Using old photographs and trench maps I finally managed, I think, to locate the left of the bombproof shelters. David and I stood in the old trench. looking at the deep depression, which was most probably the remains of the shelter. I decided that now was the time to confirm with David that this was the spot where his uncle Lt. E.M. Little had seen his last. With just the two of us standing on the precarious hillside behind Quinn’s, it was hard not to recognise it as an emotional moment for both of us. David’s quest had been realised……… We still had some sites to do but everything after this moment was just somewhat of an anti-climax. We’d both expended our emotions to Maurice in his trenches……….
Stay tuned to the closing chapter of David’s story. Reliving it as I type has left me fairly drained. Thanks again David for a wonderful experience.