The Attack of the 42nd Division

The Attack of the 42nd Division

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Description: Pat Armstrong’s account of the attack of the 42nd Division on 7 August 1915
Date: August 1915
Source: Armstrong Collection
Identifier: P6/1381 (21), pp. 3-4

Ref Map 6 (Revised).

On August 7 the 42 Division were ordered to attack the Turkish trenches up to F13 G13a & G13. This attack was arranged to take place in two phases. The first attack which was to be launched at 9.40 was to capture & consolidate F12 G10 G11 G12 & G12a. At 9.50 another attacking line was to go forward passing over the trenches already captured & taking F13 & G13.

The bombardment started at 8 am and increased in intensity till 9.40. The last 20 minutes of this was extremely heavy & it was almost impossible to see either our own or the enemy’s trenches.

At 9.40 punctually the guns lengthened their range & the men leapt from their trenches & dashed forward. They could be seen very indistinctly owing to the dense cloud of dust but here & there one of the glittering tins which the men carried on their backs could be seen to flash for a moment & then disappear again. The dust cloud seemed to clear slightly for a moment & then men could be seen surging forward like a great wave & jumping down into the first line of the enemy’s trenches. During this time which seemed like an eternity but which in reality was only a few moments, the Turks had opened an extremely heavy fire on these attack with guns, machine-guns & rifles. The first line however seemed to be taken with extremely small losses. But with the clouds of dust & smoke it was quite impossible to see what was really happening.

At 9.50 the second attack was launched, they dashed forward with great gallantry but came under heavy & accurate fire which quickly made large gaps in their ranks. This did not seem to check them in the least & they swept on to F13 & G13 which was their objective. Some of the men over ran this line & went dashing on towards F14 & G14. A large number stayed in the captured trenches & at once started putting them in a state of defence against counter attack. At 10 am the support line went forward but seemed to suffer more heavily than either of the other two lines who had already gone.

One platoon came out of their trench & started forward but before they had gone 20 yards there was a puff of smoke which looked like some great evil hand passing over them but which in reality was made by the spatter of bullets from a machine gun. Gradually the smoke passed away & all the men could be seen lying either dead or wounded on the ground, not one single soul having got forward. About a minute elapsed & another party dashed forward but only to share a similar fate, one man only getting about 50 yards ahead of the others, but as soon as he appeared through the smoke he was shot down. The majority of the supports went up the communication trench which runs up on the western side of the vineyard. Their heads could just be seen over the top of the trench bobbing up & down as they ran forward & occasionally the flash of a bayonet could be seen.

There seemed to be a good deal of halting & checking at the North western end of the vineyard & it was hard to make out what was happening. At about 10.20 a large body of men were seen coming from the direction of F14. They at first looked like a Turkish counter attack but on closer inspection they were found to be the men returning who in the first onslaught had overrun F13 & G13 & gone forging off into the blue. They came dashing back & some of them actually went back as far as our old firing line. The great majority of them stayed in F13 & F12r. A certain number of men could be seen coming back down F12r & 122 but it was extremely hard to see the cause of their retirement. About 11.30 Turks were seen in G12a firing at our men in G12.

It was extremely hard to make out which were which but in this case it was quite easy to see that the Turks occupied G12a as they were firing from it at our men in G12. In the afternoon the Turks made a strong counter attack which was partially successful but suffered extremely heavy casualties. That night the 42nd Div were in possession of the vineyard & F12 but had failed to hold the rest of the ground which they had gained in the morning. This operation in spite of not being wholly successful in itself had the desired effect of holding the Turks to their trenches & preventing them from sending reinforcements against the IX Corps which had landed at Anzac the day before & was pushing its way inland.