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The 9th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force marching in Queen Street, Brisbane, 1914. (Courtesy State Library of Queensland)

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They were the first to join, first to fight, first to die –
the brave Australian soldiers who fell on the first day

Battleship tows landed under fire – 4.15am, the 10th Battalion war diary reads. It marks the moment the Lost Boys and their comrades entered the world of battle that was to define the Lost Boys’ last day alive. What did it feel like, sitting in the ships’ boats as they were rowed towards the shore in the final, tense seconds of silence in the pre-dawn chill? Some men knew they would be safe. A 10th Battalion sergeant recalled 60 years on how “we all had the wind up”, but that he had a conviction that he would survive: “I always had perfect faith that I was going to get through”, and he did. About 4.15am or 4.20am, shots rang out from the shore. The Turkish platoon on the headland of Ari Burnu opened fire.

Experienced soldiers, using rapid-fire Mauser rifles, they poured dozens of rounds into the boats around the point. Bullets turned the water to foam, striking sparks or splinters off the boats and hitting men sitting helplessly in them. Men died without even setting foot on Gallipoli. “Four chaps … killed in my boat,” wrote a survivor. He described the scene in one of HMS London’s boats: “… shot by chance hits through the head, these poor fellows lay at the bottom of our boat, being unavoidable trampled by the clambering men getting over board”. As the boats neared the shore, a survivor recounted: “There was a tightening of belts and fixing of equipment.” One soldier held out his hand to give his watch to a midshipman but died before he could finish the transaction. It is clear that, startled by the sudden storm of rifle fire, disoriented and frightened, perhaps feeling helplessly exposed as they sat in the boats, some men panicked.

An 11th Battalion man remembered the “unwritten law of each man for himself” that for a time suppressed the military discipline with which they had been so recently imbued. A 9th Battalion man described how “men cried, laughed, prayed, swore, and still the bullets tore through the boats”. As they climbed out of the boats (finding themselves waist or even chest-deep in water) men struggled ashore, holding their rifles over their heads and slipping on the rocks that still make bathers at Anzac Cove wary. Unlike bathers today, these men were impeded by a heavy weight of woollen clothing, boots and pack and kit weighing up to 80 pounds (36kg), a fatal burden for men losing their footing. “This tremendous weight of gear,” a survivor explained, “simply meant you would not rise again.” He managed to keep his footing and emerged “gasping like a bull out of breath”, but he saw “several poor chaps by me had been hit and had fallen in that awful sea, unable to stand only to die drowned”.

Then on to the shingly beach, where most men dropped their packs and some of their kit. Soon the beach was littered with discarded kit and the bodies of those who died on the shoreline. No one knows how many, but perhaps 10 or at most 20 of the first wave died in the boats or on the beach. Many bodies lay in the shallows offshore all day and beyond. A soldier later recalled that “looking down at the bottom of the sea you could see a carpet of dead men who had been shot getting out of the boats”. These bodies included those of men of the later waves, of course. But what happened to their corpses? They could not have been washed out to sea by the tide.Nor could they have been drawn away by a current (the current that supposedly pushed the boats north has been shown to be a myth). The weight that pulled them beneath the water probably kept them from washing anywhere.

For the Lost Boys’ story, it is perhaps enough to know that the first 36 boats landed on and around the northern end of what would soon be called Anzac Cove. The London’s boats, carrying the 11th Battalion men, beached around the point of Ari Burnu; in the centre the Prince of Wales’ boats carrying the 10th Battalion, and further to the south the Queen’s with the 9th. Some of the boats clustered closely together, in one case so entangled that when three came together the oarsmen in the middle boat could not use their oars. The landing, so carefully planned around the staff officers’ tables in Mudros Harbour, became a shambles after the landing. Who was the first man out of the boats? The Red Cross searchers’ notes disclosed that among members of B Company of the 9th Battalion many men believed that the first man to set foot on the peninsula was Joe Stratford.

WHEN Britain declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, and Australia immediately followed suit, the young Aussies who enlisted believed they were off to fight the Germans in Europe. Turkey was uncommitted for some time after that, and so it was hoped it might side with the Allied powers of Britain, France and Russia. Or at least remain neutral. But when Britain confiscated for its own use two Turkish warships being constructed in British shipyards, Germany quickly provided two German warships already in Constantinople (Istanbul) as replacements, and any possibility of enlisting Turkey to the Allied cause was lost.


At the same time, Russia’s southern flank was threatened by Turkey and, more importantly, its strategic access to southern Europe through the Black Sea into the Mediterranean. As the convoy carrying Australian troops sailed from Albany, Western Australia, in November 1914, British naval forces were testing Turkish defences in the Dardanelles, the strategic waterway linking the Black Sea and the Mediterranean - Russia’s southern lifeline. This only served to increase the Turks resolve, who responded by reinforcing the Dardanelles fortifications and mining its waterways, particularly the key strategic point The Narrows. One month later the Australian convoy sailed through the Suez Canal and the AIF began disembarking in Alexandria, Egypt, before entraining to Cairo.


The AIF was a raw, volunteer force comprising an infantry division and a light horse brigade, effectively untrained. As British strategists also began considering how they might deal with the Dardanelles problem, it was decided to keep the Australians in Egypt in the event they might be needed for ground operations. In March 1915 the Allies attempted to seize the Dardenelles in a massive naval operation, which failed on March 18 when several ships were sunk or destroyed after the Turks overnight relayed a minefield which the allied forces thought they’d cleared. The Turks still celebrate March 18 as the date of their Dardenelles victory. Undeterred, allied strategists planned an allied land invasion of the Dardanelles to seize the Turkish forts at Eceabat and Cannakale and open the waterways to Constantinople and the Black Sea beyond.


The die was set for the Australians in Egypt who, instead of facing the Germans in Europe as they had originally understood, would soon be engaged in a bold but ultimately doomed adventure to seize the Dardanelles. The point chosen for the Australian landing was to the west of the small fishing village called Gelibolu, a name which would be forever etched into the Australian conscience by its westernised spelling, Gallipoli.



Captain Ross Smith and an observer with a Bristol fighter plane in Palestine.

At the start of the war pilots from the rival nations threw nothing more dangerous at each other than insults when they crossed each other’s path. Before long, though, they were using grappling hooks to jam propellers and then shotguns. By the middle of 1915 the Germans had perfected the interrupter gear allowing pilots such as “The Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen to aim and fire machine guns through a spinning propeller. Earlier in the war the great Zeppelin airships had floated across the English Channel to drop bombs from the sky on London and the industrial cities of the north. English defenders soon turned the great German gasbags into flying incinerators with another new invention, the tracer bullet, but the Zeppelins were replaced by Gotha bombers powered by Mercedes engines.

Even underground there were great leaps forward with tunnelling warfare perfected by men like Australian engineer General John Monash at Messines in Belgium. On the morning of June 7, 1917, 19 huge underground bombs beneath German emplacements were detonated in a matter of seconds, one deafening roar after another that made the whole landscape explode like a great rolling earthquake and the earth bubble up in mushroom-shaped clouds. They instantly killed 10,000 German troops. The largest of the mines at Spanbroekmolen took six months to dig and contained 41 tonnes of ammonal in a 27m-deep tunnel. The explosion formed a crater 76m in wide and 12m deep. The Australian troops who attacked after the blast had to survive waves of poison gas fired by the Germans. Chemical warfare had been a key weapon for both sides as soon as the French began using tear gas grenades in August 1914.

Within weeks, German munitions factories were turning out thousands of artillery shells filled with tear gas and chlorine and before long both sides were using mustard gas that burned the eyes and blistered the skin. More than a million soldiers suffered gas poisoning during the war, more than 90,000 fatally. The changing nature of warfare also saw the rise of great mechanical beasts at Wormwood Scrubs in London. To keep the plans secret the new weapons were referred to in coded dispatches as water carriers – or “tanks.” These mobile fortresses were designed to break the deadlock in the trenches of the Somme, where the British Mark I first saw action in September 1916. The French soon followed with the smaller, faster Renault FTs – capable of a head spinning 15km/h.

The Germans tried to counter with small numbers of the A7V, one of which, the Mephisto, eventually found a home at the Queensland Museum. But World War 1 technology wasn’t all about carnage. Just as modern military advancements have given the world satellite navigation and jet travel, the Great War also saw improved air transport and medical developments including mobile X-Ray machines from Marie Curie, and facial tissues and sanitary napkins based on the soft cellulose bandages used to treat wounds. Daylight saving was also brought in by the Germans in April 1916 to give an extra hour of daylight in the evenings to a starving population faced with acute shortages of coal.

The innovation spread other countries. Wristwatches grew in popularity as soldiers needed both hands free on the battlefield and luminous watches became prized possessions for night raids. Faced with food shortages, the mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, later one of Germany’s most revered statesmen, developed vegetarian sausages made from soy beans. Soon they could be cooked in stainless steel pans after Harry Brearley of Sheffield developed a metal that did not rust or corrode and which was first used in aircraft engines. These were life-changing inventions, though 17 million people died in the war while they were being developed. Even generals such as Monash, trying to end the war as quickly as he could, hated the whole mechanisation of death, man’s inhumanity to man. “I hate the business of war and soldiering with a loathing that I cannot describe,” he once wrote, “ the awful horror of it, the waste, the destruction.”
THE assault on Gallipoli in the early hours of April 25, 1915, represented the first combination of a massed land invasion backed by aerial and naval support. As the Anzac and British troops hit the beach running and then desperately crawling up the cliffs of the Turkish coast under a rain of shrapnel, British pilots above offered reconnaissance information and aerial bombing as support. Navy ships attempted covering fire by blasting away at the enemy fortifications. Just eight months old in April 1915, the Great War had already spread to almost every corner of the globe and was ushering in great technological advances, changing the nature of combat forever. Now death would be on an industrial scale as both sides continually improved their weapons of mass destruction. At Gallipoli the Turks were already using artillery shells that exploded in the air and sent shrapnel in all directions like huge shotgun blasts.

But the war saw rapid development of high-explosive shells and cannons using controlled recoil to increase accuracy and lethal capability of artillery exponentially. By March 1918 the Germans were using a giant cannon to bomb Paris from 130km away. Smaller arms also went through rapid change, especially in the development of light machine guns such as the Lewis gun that could spit out 600 shells a minute. As early as February 1915 the Germans were using their new flamethrowers to burn opponents alive as they sheltered in trenches. The rudimentary hand grenade would soon become a sophisticated bomb. Nowhere was safe, not even under the sea. Australia had suffered its first major loss of the war in September 1914 when submarine AE1 disappeared with 35 crew off Rabaul, the then German New Guinea.

Her sister sub, AE2, became the first vessel to penetrate the heavily mined waterways of the Dardanelles, torpedoing enemy ships for five days until it had to be scuttled because of mechanical faults. German submarines – the dreaded U-boats – sank two British battleships off Gallipoli before turning their attention to troopships, passenger liners and cargo vessels, eventually sinking 5000 of them before the Armistice in 1918. Just two weeks after the start of the Gallipoli campaign a German submarine torpedoed the passenger liner RMS Lusitania 21km off the Irish coast resulting in 1198 deaths.

By the end of the war in 1918, they had supercharged engines and aluminium frames flown by men using parachutes, oxygen and radios to communicate with each other and ground staff. As the Anzacs ran into the thresh of the Turkish guns under a lemon-coloured dawn, British and French battleships and the world’s first true aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal were anchored off the coast. Reconnaissance planes helped the Navy’s prize battleship Queen Elizabeth sink a Turkish supply vessel and, on May 17, RNAS pilots Charles Samson and Reggie Marix, flying a French Breguet, dropped a 45kg bomb on a dock where Turkish troops were disembarking. They killed 57 men, then warned the Anzacs of an imminent Turkish attack. On August 12, flight commander Charles Edmonds, flying a Short 184 folder seaplane, made the first successful aerial torpedo attack in history, finishing off a 5000-tonne Turkish steamer that had already been damaged by a submarine strike.

By the end of the war in 1918, they had supercharged engines and aluminium frames flown by men using parachutes, oxygen and radios to communicate with each other and ground staff. As the Anzacs ran into the thresh of the Turkish guns under a lemon-coloured dawn, British and French battleships and the world’s first true aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal were anchored off the coast. Reconnaissance planes helped the Navy’s prize battleship Queen Elizabeth sink a Turkish supply vessel and, on May 17, RNAS pilots Charles Samson and Reggie Marix, flying a French Breguet, dropped a 45kg bomb on a dock where Turkish troops were disembarking. They killed 57 men, then warned the Anzacs of an imminent Turkish attack. On August 12, flight commander Charles Edmonds, flying a Short 184 folder seaplane, made the first successful aerial torpedo attack in history, finishing off a 5000-tonne Turkish steamer that had already been damaged by a submarine strike.

Compare WWI soldiers' gear to that of
their modern counterparts

Joe, originally of Lismore, NSW, had enlisted from Yeppoon in central Queensland. Stratford dashed up the beach and the scrubby ridge as energetically as any of those in the first wave. Several men told searchers that he had been the first man ashore. Stratford’s heroism was soon forgotten, but for a time, while news of the landing remained fresh, he was briefly celebrated. A man of Stratford’s battalion claimed that he had seen an article published in a newspaper that confirmed that he had been the first man to land, and that a French officer had stated that he should have been awarded the Victoria Cross. In any case, who can say who was the first? “On landing all units were mixed,” an official report blandly put it. Once on the shingly beach, the boatloads of attackers, already disorganised, sheltered in the cover of a slight bank, panting as bullets passed overhead. A man recalled how he “felt the air … as they whizzed past and whispered zip, Zip, ZIP”.

He lay panting from the exertion of struggling ashore. Behind them lay perhaps 10 or more of the Lost Boys, some shot by the fire of the Turkish platoon defending the shore, others drowned, dragged down by packs, boots and kit in chest-deep water. Plugge's Plateau and the slopes of MacLagan’s Ridge are not mountainous (nor are there boulders at Anzac Cove) but it must have seemed so in the half-light that morning. Shouting and cheering (“Imshi! Imshi!” some shouted, the scrappy Arabic they had picked up in Egypt meaning “get out” or “hurry”), they pushed on up the slopes as best they could. As a 9th Battalion soldier later explained, soon after landing men became “scattered about in small sections right through the firing line”. Men headed off up the steep slopes, within a few minutes losing touch with the sections, platoons and companies they should have stayed with.

“It was the wildest of charges,” a sergeant recalled. The men pushed up steep hills with dense scrub: arbutus and holly bushes, with wildflowers, anemones and poppies. An 11th Battalion sergeant whose candid recollections, written to his mother, are so valuable, confessed that he and the men of his section felt “mad to get at them”. His memoir reveals one of the key reasons why the landing went wrong. They had been given precise orders, but he confessed that “we did just the opposite to what we were told to do”. “Wait for the officers?” “Oh d--- the officers,” he heard. “Come on, they can’t hit us.” Within minutes the attacking wave, distributed in boatloads, had become “just a mob climbing the hills”. They simply began climbing. AS another 11th Battalion man remembered: “We then had to make our own way and fight our own battle … it was anybody’s race.” It was at that moment, arguably, that the landing on Gallipoli turned from being a possible success to becoming a probable failure.

“We were all mixed up like a dog’s breakfast,” a survivor recalled. A few got no farther than the first ridge. Many of the 10th and 11th Battalion parties rushed up the slopes of what became known as MacLagan’s Ridge, the southern continuation of Plugge's. When one platoon reached its summit a man looked back to see Peter McConnachy stroll up. Sitting down, he pulled out a cigarette. “Dig in, you ------ fool if you value your hide!” a sergeant said. McConnachy answered, “Be hanged. I am going to have a fag first.” Not all of the bullets that killed the Lost Boys were Turkish. The troops had been warned not to fire, and some on the beach realised that “we dared not fire because of our own being often in front of us”, but others forgot their instructions to not fire before daylight.

This explains how Brisbane schoolteacher Bert Fowles, of A Company of the 9th, died. A fellow 9th Battalion man said that he had been hit by a sniper, about half a mile inland. In fact, he was shot in the back by a man of the second wave. It happened 20 minutes after landing, as Fowles climbed the first ridge they reached – Plugge's Plateau. Fowles himself knew that he had been shot by an Australian. Someone heard him say: “It is hard luck being hit by one of our own men.” This is an edited extract from Lost Boys of Anzac by Peter Stanley (NewSouth, $34.99).

World War I ushered in huge technological advances that would change the nature of combat forever, writes Grantlee Kieza


Telephone and telegraph: Phones were the preferred means of communicating. It was used in the trenches because they could pick up and send Morse code between units and ensured soldiers right across the front knew the plans. But systems failed easily when wires broke. Telegraph faced the same problems of cable breakage. While it was effective at sending messages over long distances, each message had to be written in full, sent and then written out by the person receiving them.

Radio: Wireless (radio) was also used, but this was heavy, expensive and fragile. Messages could also be easily intercepted which is why complex codes were developed, but this slowed things down. Radio was used more commonly for sending messages between ships and for aircraft to transmit only, not receive, messages. Radio technology did, however, improve vastly in the course of the war

Runners: One of the most perilous jobs of the war, runners had often had to cross open ground and so were exposed to enemy fire. It was also a relatively slow means of communication.

Dogs and pigeons: Dogs were not just mascots or great companions in World War I. They also proved fast and agile couriers, able to make their way through the maze of trenches and, being lower to the ground, were harder to shoot. About 20,000 dogs are estimated to have been used in World War I. The homing instinct of carrier pigeons was handy when soldiers needed to get messages back to base. The army would ensure the pigeons were nested near military bases, would take them in to the field, tie messages to their legs and release them. The pigeons would then bring the messages back to base.

Visual: Flags, lamps and heliographs (using a mirror system) using Morse code were also used, but exposed the signaller to great danger. Sources: Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial

Communicating in the early 1900s was difficult enough without factoring in the possibility of enemy interception. These methods of communication were available in WWI



Australian troops on Anzac Cove beach shortly after landing. (Courtesy The Australian War Memorial)

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An Australian journalist exposed Gallipoli's folly in a frank and valid letter, and his words changed history, writes Patrick Carlyon

Keith Murdoch spent about four days at Gallipoli in September, 1915. The conflict was again at a stalemate, and Australian troops were fighting bigger battles against illness and despondency. Chilly winds gusted off the Aegean Sea, and the forthcoming winter promised rains and floods. The Anzacs huddled in their tangle of cliffs and ravines and fretted about being washed away. Murdoch met the Allied commander, Sir Ian Hamilton, who found him sensible and well-spoken. He visited Lone Pine, the scene of a lone victory. On Murdoch’s last day, the official Australian war correspondent, Charles Bean, took Murdoch up to Quinn’s Post. Here, Turks buzzed on three flanks. Sheer drops lay behind. The outpost was a triumph of defiance and a monument to loss.

The Anzacs were stuck. They could not break out. An audacious push the month before had only exposed the muddles of British command. The story was not being told, not to the political masters in London and not to an Australian public being fed nonsense about bayonets flashing. At 30, Murdoch had prospered as a journalist in Australia after a spell in London’s Fleet Street. He had narrowly missed the Gallipoli posting to Bean in a ballot the previous year. Here, now, he was supposed to be a bit player looking into delays in the Anzacs’ mail service. Yet Murdoch wasn’t one for minor roles. Shy of nature, a slight stammer had once held him back. Yet he was always plain-speaking, in the corridors of power, in expressing beliefs that conflicted with the prevailing line.

Bean and Murdoch shared ideals that would later converge in political intrigues at the highest levels. Bean would describe Murdoch as someone who made “a religion” of being Australian. But it was with another journalist, a Brit, and in the most secretive of plans, that Murdoch would make his name at Gallipoli and help stop a war. The pairing seems unlikely. Murdoch, the son of a minister, wanted to do “something useful in the world”. Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, a veteran war correspondent of seven conflicts, was the “cleverest conversationalist” Bean had met. Ashmead-Bartlett’s flair extended to long lunches and expense accounts. They met him on Imbros, the island off Gallipoli where Ashmead-Bartlett had his chef, imported from Paris, and his champagne. They chatted about a shared cause: the breadth of the Gallipoli folly.

Ashmead-Bartlett’s private diaries reveal misgivings dating back to April 5, almost three weeks before the campaign began. By May, Ashmead-Bartlett feared that Hamilton’s confused tactics and failure to grasp both the terrain and the Turkish stranglehold would lead to the “fresh massacre of innocents”. He had expressed private concerns to Britain’s Prime Minister Herbert Asquith on a trip in June. A sceptical story of his had been gagged by censors, but his doubts were shared by others. Some of Hamilton’s own subordinates, though fond of their leader, had grown to distrust his judgment. They whispered truths that Hamilton hid. On Imbros, Murdoch and Ashmead-Bartlett struck a bold pact. Strict censorship prevented journalists from reporting facts seen to undermine morale or strategy. Murdoch “begged” Ashmead-Bartlett to write a letter which Murdoch would smuggle past the censors to the highest offices in London.

Murdoch feared that his own word would not carry enough weight, given his limited time at Gallipoli. “He is very alarmed over the state of the Army and the prospects of a winter campaign,” Ashmead-Bartlett wrote in his diary. “He declares, and I think quite rightly, that unless someone lets the truth be known at home we are likely to suffer a great disaster.” Ashmead-Bartlett’s letter was, Bean later wrote, “brilliantly written”. The recent August offensive was the “most ghastly and costly fiasco”. Ashmead-Bartlett invoked “the large majority of the army” in claiming that the “muddles and mismanagement beat anything that has ever occurred in our military history”. Yet someone betrayed the pair. It’s unclear who: another journalist, perhaps, or a Royal Navy photographer or a British Army private. Murdoch was stopped in Marseilles by an army officer, troops and French police. The letter was confiscated. Murdoch arrived in London and decided to write his own letter to Australian Prime Minister Andrew Fisher.

Australian journalist and newspaper executive Sir Keith Murdoch wearing WWI correspondent's uniform.



Murdoch penned 8000 words. He recalled details of Ashmead-Bartlett’s letter, and bathed them in a tone that was, as Bean would later describe Murdoch, “wholly Australian”. Murdoch’s willingness to belittle the British – in terms of strategy, physique and intelligence – in comparison with Australians was astonishing in an era when almost all Australians considered themselves British. Murdoch revealed damning lies. What Britain’s political leaders had been told of the Gallipoli campaign had been misleading and incomplete from the start. Hamilton had a dreamy quality and a literary bent. His chains of command lacked the rigorous reporting standards one might expect of battles of such heavy casualties and so few gains. Hamilton’s plans looked neat enough on maps. His updates to London were vague and overly optimistic: they cloaked the impossible challenges of unassailable heights and inadequate artillery.

The expedition, Murdoch wrote, was “one of the most terrible chapters in our history”, a “series of disastrous underestimations”. Murdoch pointed out that naval guns with flat trajectories could not penetrate when opposing trenches were only metres apart. He said the treatment of the wounded was disgraceful. He decried English officers for their “conceit and self-complacency”. They were “only playing at war”. “What can you expect of men who have never worked seriously, who have lived for their appearance and for social distinction and self-satisfaction, and who are now called on to conduct a gigantic war?” Murdoch posed the dilemma that powerbrokers in London seemed reluctant to confront – what was to be done? The onset of winter demanded a withdrawal or a fresh offensive afterwards. Yet could the armies be supplied? Could new troops be made available?

Of Hamilton, Murdoch showed scant respect. The troops, he said, had lost faith in their leader. Such a bald assertion, and some brazen generalisations, could have blotted his letter’s indisputable message of truth. Yet the timing and the thrust of Murdoch’s words were unimpeachable. Some British politicians had long held doubts about Gallipoli. One was Cabinet minister Lloyd George, whom Murdoch met. Murdoch struck him as “exceptionally intelligent and sane”, which made the “account he gave me of his visit to the Dardanelles much more disquieting”. George told Murdoch to send his letter to prime minister Herbert Asquith. The leader’s decision to print the letter as a state paper is critical to history. Asquith chose not to refer its contents to Hamilton first.

When Hamilton did finally read it, he was upset. Of Murdoch’s put-down of English officers, he would later say: “No gentleman would have said it, and no gentleman will believe it.” Hamilton’s problem was that the gentlemen who mattered had already decided. He was doomed as commander. Cabinet and military heads did not believe in his campaign. Those who had tried to ignore it as a troublesome distraction now pondered how to extricate Britain from the calamity. In private discussions, Asquith and war minister Lord Herbert Kitchener made constant references to Murdoch’s letter. It was confirmation of a faraway folly, evidence to quote from. It followed a number of meetings between one of Hamilton’s own staff officers and King George V, the prime minister and others, in which deep doubts had been expressed.

Evacuation from Gallipoli . (Courtesy The Australian War Memorial)



Murdoch’s letter provided grounds, finally, for the kind of oversight lacking since the chaos of the Gallipoli landing. Events moved rather swiftly. On October 11, Kitchener asked Hamilton for casualty estimates for an evacuation. Half, Hamilton replied. Three days later, the Dardanelles Committee sacked Hamilton. When he received a coded message late the next night, he went back to sleep and decoded it the next morning. He knew what it would say. The evacuation was completed early on December 20 at Anzac Cove. Not an Aussie was lost. Murdoch would grow close to the Australian prime minister Billy Hughes, a figure remembered in part for his vocal nationalism. Yet, as Bean said, Murdoch stood apart as a “young Australian” who was not “afraid of any other creed”. History suggests Murdoch pioneered this new patriotism. In October, 1915, Hughes, as a newly elected leader, was asked to respond to an Ashmead-Bartlett interview in the British press.

Ashmead-Bartlett had spoken of unfavourable results at Gallipoli. Hughes, replying in parliament, nodded to Imperial government instructions: “I do not pretend to understand the situation but I do know the duty of this government, and it is to mind our own business”. In 1915, Murdoch did not mind his own business: a century later, his grandson, Lachlan, described his actions as Australia’s “boldest declaration that our nation had the right to know the truth”. Hamilton is remembered as a sad figure. The wrong man for an ill-conceived campaign, too removed from those beneath him and too diffident with those above. Murdoch’s letter – and the Gallipoli withdrawal – is said, as his son Rupert once observed, to have “changed history”. In replying to Hamilton’s criticisms in 1920, Keith Murdoch said he had a “perfectly clear conscience”. “I went to London and I hit Sir Ian Hamilton as hard as I possibly could,” he said.

Select the numbered touch points to see how the events of Gallipoli unfolded.

3D artwork by Tony Bela.

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Editorial: Mike Bruce, Grantlee Kieza, Patrick Carlyon, Les Carlyon and Ross Eastgate

Photography: Glen Male. Supplied photography: The Australian War Memorial

Graphic art: Obelia McCormack  Digital interactive: Obelia McCormack