The Fascinating Tale of Maurice Little and his Nephew’s Quest of a Lifetime – PART 1

This year, 2017 has been one of quiet reflection, some painting and occasional visits to the Gallipoli battlefield. I love just wandering around the place, having a beer or two with the locals but still got to pay the bills…… That’s why holding the unique position as the ‘Resident Historian for Mat McLachlan’s Battlefield Tours’    keeps me busy from time to time. However, due to the downturn in interest in Gallipoli because of all the centenaries on the Western Front and Turkey’s somewhat disastrous tourism industry, it’s been a very lean season for all of us involved in Gallipoli.

Two weeks ago I received an email asking  if I was available for a very special journey to Gallipoli. Of course I jump at any chance and confirmed. I then received an interesting email from an older chap by the name of Mr. David Little. A 75 year old retired business leader from Queensland. First off he asked if I’d read Peter Stanley’s ‘Quinn’s Post’…. I had not. He then sent his unfinished manuscript for a book on the life of his uncle, E.M. (Maurice) Little of the 15th Battalion AIF. Now usually we get the details of family that died in the campaign, but in this case the campaign was  just the beginning of what can only be described as an extraordinary life.

Maurice was born in Barcaldine Queensland on 6th July 1893. The son of a Methodist preacher. He enlisted in what became known as ‘The Originals’ on 16th September in the 15th Bn AIF. He wrote about his first journey abroad as a bright 21 year old teacher. Eager to do his bit for the Mother Country. Maurice wrote about the waiting and endless rehearsals of preparing for the landing. B Company of the  15th landed in the afternoon of 25th April, what would from that day forward be known as ANZAC Day…………

The 15th eventually took up place in Quinn’s Post. He performed well in the opening engagements and was given a field promotion to Lieutenant. There was one huge difference in training that the Australians, indeed all the Allied forces faced in those early days. The use of sharp-shooters and more devastating, the use of bombs, hand grenades. Te Germans had trained  the Turks very well in these aspects of war….. The Anzacs had to play ‘catch up’.

Early in the  piece the Anzacs had devised a system of building  the much needed bombs from used ‘jam tins’ packed with nails, barbed wire, metal, rocks etc. Maurice was given the task to test out the new devices and two of them were given to him and his men to try out. A Queensland miner in his charge gave his experience and cut the wick then placed a match in the fuse. They lit the bomb and threw it into No Mans Land, after some time it exploded. Problem was that the fuses were way too long and therefore  the enemy could easily  pick it up and send it back to our trenches. To use the bombs successfully the Anzacs  would need to cut the fuses dangerously short to have the desired  effect. Ironically it was this action that was to prove almost fatal for Maurice on the 29th of May.

The Turks were a determined lot and saw Quinn’s Post as the key to driving the Anzacs back into the sea. On the 29th of May the Turks broke into the Quinn’s trenches. The situation was dire. The Turks had occupied two bombproof shelters built to provide rest and security for the garrison. Maurice and his men were given the task of sending  the Turks back across No Mans Land. He was given an ample amount of jam tin bombs and was given the task of cutting off reinforcements trying to aid their comrades. To be able to bomb men running the fuses needed  to be cut as short as possible. It was during this action  that a jam tin exploded in Maurice’s hand. He sustained major injuries including the loss of his right hand, and his eyesight. He was repatriated to the beach still fully conscious. He even asked to be sent back into the line to assist his men. The last action he  took that day was to recommend  one of his men for a commendation for delivering a bomb into the bombproof shelter and therefore convincing the Turks to surrender. Quinn’s Post was the last thing he ever saw in his life, but it was the beginning of a new life for the 22 year old……