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Battle of the Nek

History -- Military history -- List of battles -- World War 1 -- Battle of Gallipoli

Battle before: Battle of Lone Pine
Battle after: Battle of Chunuk Bair
Battle of the Nek
ConflictWorld War 1
DateAugust 7, 1915
PlaceAnzac, Gallipoli
ResultTurkish victory
Colonel F.G. Hughes??
600 (2 LH Regt.)??

The Nek is a narrow stretch of ridge in the Anzac battlefield on the Gallipoli peninsula. It connected the Anzac trenches on the ridge known as "Russell's Top" to the knoll called "Baby 700" on which the Turkish defenders were entrenched. In total area, the Nek is about the size of three tennis courts.

On August 7, 1915 two regiments of the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade mounted a tragic and futile attack on the Turkish trenches on Baby 700.

Table of contents
1 Prelude
2 The Attack
3 Aftermath
4 Resources


For the three months since the April 25 landings, the Anzac beachead had been a stalemate. The August offensive was intended to break the deadlock by linking the Anzac front with a new landing to the north at Suvla. In addition of the main advance north out of the Anzac perimeter, a number of supporting attacks were planned from the existing trench positions.

The attack at the Nek was meant to coincide with with an attack by New Zealand troops from Chunuk Bair which was to be captured during the night. The light horsemen were to attack across the Nek to Baby 700 while the New Zealanders descended from the rear onto Battleship Hill, the next knoll above Baby 700.

The 3rd Light Horse Brigade, commanded by Colonel F.G. Hughes, comprised the 8th (Victorian), 9th (Victorian & South Australian) and 10th (Western Australian) Light Horse Regiments. Like the other Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifle regiments, they had been dispatched to Gallipoli in May as infantry reinforcements, leaving their horses in Egypt.

The Attack

The attack was scheduled to commence at 4.30 am on August 7. It was to be preceded by a naval bombardment. The 8th and 10th Light Horse regiments were to advance in a total of four waves of 150 men each, two waves per regiment. Each wave would advance two minutes apart. Coloured marker flags were carried, to be shown from the captured trenches to indicate success.

On the morning of the 7th it was clear that the prerequisites for the attack had not been met. In particular, there would be no simultaneous attack from the rear of Baby 700. The New Zealand advance was held up and they were not to reach Chunuk Bair until the morning of August 8, a day late. Also an attack from Steele's Post against German Officers' Trench by the 6th Battalion had failed. The Turkish machine guns sited there enfiladed the ground in front of Quinn's Post and the Nek. Yet Major General Sir Alexander Godley, commander of the New Zealand and Australian Division of which the 3rd Light Horse Brigade was then a part, declared that the attack was to proceed.

Due to a failure to synchronise watches, the naval bombardment finished 7 minutes early, giving the Turkish defenders ample time to return to their trenches and prepare for the assault that they now knew was coming. The first wave of 150 men from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, led by their commander, Lieutenant Colonel A.H. White, went over the top at the planned time and ran into a hail of machine gun and rifle fire. A few men reached the Turkish trenches, and marker flags were reportedly seen flying, but they were quickly overwhelmed.

The second wave of 150 followed the first without question and met the same fate. This was the ultimate tragedy of the Nek, that the attack was not halted after the first wave when it was clear that it was futile. A simultaneous attack by the 2nd Light Horse Regiment (1st Light Horse Brigade) at Quinn's Post against the Turkish trench system known as "The Chessboard" was abandoned after 49 out of the 50 men in the first wave became casualties. In this case, the regiment's commander had not gone in the first wave and so was able to make the decision to cancel.

Lieutenant Colonel N.M. Brazier, commander of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, attempted to have the third wave cancelled. He was unable to find Colonel Hughes and unable to persuade the brigade-major, J.M. Antill who believed the reports that marker flags had been sighted. So the third wave attacked and was wiped out. Finally Hughes called off the attack but confusion in the fire trench led to some of the fourth wave going over.


A further consequence of the failure to call of the attack at the Nek was that a supporting attack by two companies of the Royal Welch Fusiliers was launched from the head of Monash Valley, between Russell's Top and Pope's Hill, against "The Chessboard" trenches. 65 casualties were incurred before the attack was aborted.

The Australian casualties from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade numbered 372; 234 from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, of which 154 were killed, and 138 from the 10th, of which 80 were killed. The Turkish losses were negligible on this occasion. When Commonwealth burial parties returned to the peninsula in 1919, the bones of the dead light horsemen were still lying thinkly on the small piece of ground.


The Nek: The Tragic Charge of the Light Horse at Gallipoli, Peter Burness, 1996, ISBN 0864177828
Ch. 23, Gallipoli, Les Carlyon, 2001, ISBN 0732911281