Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Game of Catch . . . with Grenades

In the early days of World War I, the British and French militaries launched an assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula, between Turkey and Greece, with the ultimate intention of taking Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The campaign was a large-scale failure, with plenty of logistical failures and military blunders dooming it to failure. However, it served as a showcase for the prominence of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, also called ANZAC.

One of ANZAC's most renowned battles from this campaign was the Battle of Lone Pine, in which the Australian 1st Brigade captured a Turkish strongpoint on August 6, 1915, and then - reinforced by the 7th and 12th Battalions from the 2nd Brigade - held it for three days of constant counterattacks by a steadily increasing Turkish force. The 7th Battalion in particular took severe casualties, reducing their original size from 670 men to 320.

A small contingent of the 7th - Lt. Frederick Tubb of Longwood, Victoria, and seven other men - were defending a section called Goldenstedt's Trench. Tubb and his men fired on the Turks, who responded by hurling wave after wave of Turkish bombs into the trench. Tubb continued to fire as his men essentially played a game of catch with the incoming grenades, tossing them back to their attackers as quickly as they could. Over time, they missed a few - one man had his hands blown off, another had a grenade explode in his face, and Tubb himself was wounded in the arm and the top of his head as their protective wall of sandbags was blown down.

By this point, there were only three defenders remaining - Tubb, and Corporals Burton and Dunstan. Tubb provided cover with his revolver while Burton and Dunstan rebuilt the wall. They held out for some time, but eventually a bomb burst in the middle of camp, killing Burton and blinding Dunstan. Tubb continued to fight for as long as he could, but before he was overrun, reinforcements arrived and the Turks retreated from Goldenstedt's Trench.

Tubb recovered from his injuries, and insisted on returning to duty. After being promoted to Major, he participated in the 3rd Battle of Ypres, during which he was wounded by sniper fire and, while being evacuated, was caught in artillery fire and killed. Dunstan was blinded for almost a year but eventually recovered his eyesight; he became a newspaperman and lived until 1957. All three of the last remaining men of Goldenstadt's Trench were awarded the Victoria's Cross for their gallantry, Burton's being awarded posthumously.

Links and Sources:
Wikipedia: The Battle of Lone Pine and Frederick Tubb.
"Australia's Highest Military Honour: The Victoria Cross" by Emma Beth, retrieved March 8, 2012.
"Corporal Alexander Burton, Corporal William Dunstan and Lieutenant Frederick Tubb", by the Australian Government Department of Veteran's Affairs, on Researching Australians at Gallipoi and Australians at War, retrieved March 8, 2012.
"Frederick Harold Tubb", by H. Murray Hamilton, on the Australian Dictionary of Biography, retrieved March 8, 2012.
Painting of the Battle of Lone Pine is from VCs of the First World War: Gallipoli, by Stephen Snelling, Stroud, 1995, page 157.
Photo of Lt. Frederick Tubb is by an unknown photographer, and was probably taken in England while he was healing, but before he received his medal. Taken from the ANZAC website.

1 comment:

  1. Cool story, Aries. I've been killed many times in Call Of Duty trying too late to hurl back an enemy grenade. The window is very small.

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