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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Waiting for the Turk

Waiting for the Turk.

Some of our posts were on the Sinai side of the Canal, some on the Egyptian side. Up and down we were connected by telephone to all these posts and the batteries. The Turkish intelligence system was very active, whatever its efficiency, for on one night the wires from Kubri were cut no less than five times, although the line was being specially watched.

Black and white photograph of a ship in the Suez Canal.

In the Suez Canal.

The provision of desert patrols, post guards, Canal patrols, listening and examination posts, took up most of the time. The work was hard but full of interest. The Turk was not far away, and it was exhilarating making preparations for his downfall. On both sides of the Canal, trenches had to be dug page 51 and sandbagged, and strong posts of tactical importance constructed. Every day it was regretted that though the Turks were quiescent, armies of mosquitoes were extremely active. Ships of all the Allies and the neutral nations passed slowly through the Canal, carrying many civilian Australians and New Zealanders to and from the south. After the heat of Cairo, the daily dip was a great boon, particularly as the ladies on the passing vessels threw many luxuries to the soldiers in the water. Especially at Ismailia were the surroundings agreeable. The men in their spare time bathed in Lake Timsah, lolled in the shade of the high acacias, and marvelled at the masses of bougainvillea climbing in its purple glory among the dark green trees.

On January 28, the “Willochra” discharged the infantry of the Second Reinforcements at Suez, from whence they travelled by rail to Cairo. The ships carrying the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, together with the New Zealand transports “Verdala” and “Knight of the Garter,” steamed
Black and white photograph of trenches on the Suez Canal bank.

[Lent by Major Brunt, W.I.R.
Trenches on the Canal Bank.

up through the Canal to the accompaniments of tumultous cheering, which burst forth anew when their escort was discovered to be the Australian submarine AE2, steaming awash between the banks lined with enthusiastic East Lancashires, Indians, Australians and New Zealanders.

The end of January drew near and still the Turks did not attack. Occasionally the outposts on either side saw shadowy page 52 forms and fired into the dark. Our Intelligence Department had gleaned some knowledge of the enemy's dispositions. It was known that about forty miles east of the Canal, opposite Serapeum, he was concentrating in a deep valley, from whence it was believed he intended to advance in two columns—one on Kantara and the other on Serapeum. These were the obvious routes, the only other feasible one being by way of Kubri.

The troops were very fit and well dug in. Every man–English, Indian, and Colonial—was a volunteer in the strictest sense and eager to try conclusions with the enemy. On the last day of the month we were greatly cheered by the news that the “Blucher” had been sunk in the North Sea.

It was discovered that the Turkish column, marching by way of the old caravan road towards Kantara, moved at nights, using the telegraph line as a guide. The Indians had prepared elaborate fortifications and wire entanglements out from Kantara, then skilfully altered the direction of the telegraph line, so that it might end in carefully concealed barbed wire and pointed stakes.

Black and white photograph of the Taranaki section of Kubri fort.

[Lent by Major Brunt. W.I.R.
The Taranaki Section of Kubri Fort.
The wire running out is an alarm wire connected with the wire entanglements in front.

Affairs of outposts gradually became matters of frequency over the length of the line. The Turk was making a show of reconnaissance from Kantara to Kubri, but everywhere a warm welcome was awaiting him.