Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Chris Best

TURKISH MACHINE GUNS AT GALLIPOLI

Recommended Posts

Robert Dunlop

It should be noted that the British soldiers landing on the beaches would not have been the first to confuse high volumes of aimed rifle fire as coming from machine guns. The same interpretation was made by the Germans who came under fire from the BEF in 1914.

Robert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB

The citations for the LF VCs refers to the MG fire, but, as Robert says, it could have been mistaken:-

Bravery: 25 April 1915.

On the 25th of April 1915, three Companies and the Headquarters of the 1st Battn. Lancashire Fusiliers,

in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the west of Cape Helles, were met by very deadly fire

from hidden machine guns which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up

to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and

after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.

Amongst the very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking,

Capt. Willis, Sergt. Richards and Private Keneally have been selected by their comrades

as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty.'

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

There are various mentions of machine guns in the Turkish account

see 'A Brief History of the Canakkale Campaign' published the Turkish General Staff, 2004

for example, page 110

d. The plan of the 9th Division for the night of April 25-26 and Attack Attempts on Various Landing Sites

Halil Sami, the Commander of the 9th Division, prepared a different and new plan for the 25-26 night attack.

According to the plan, the reserve regiment (most of the 25th Regiment) was to be divided in three:

1. Two companies from the 1st Battalion of the 25th Regiment with two heavy machine gun companies are to be reinforced to the 3rd Battalion in Zigindere and destroy the English in the region with a night attack.

2. The other half of the 1st Battalion with a machine gun company is to be under the battalion commander positioned in Seddulbahir sector, and attack English units with the 3rd Battalion of the 26th Regiment.

3. the 2nd Battalion of the 25th Regiment is to be divided in two. First of them (two companies) is to be under the command of battalion commander move to Eskihisarlik and teaming up with the 8th Comapny is to attack and destroy the English forces at night.

also see

page 111

The English Historians evaluate this battle ['Y' Beach] as:

"Planned well. Began in an opportune way. Well commanded and led. Zelilane finished"

General Hamilton tried to justify the defeat with unreal expressions such as: "The Turkish outnumbered our units and got continuous reserves..."

He was mistaken in this matter. The historical fact is an English brigade of two and a half battalions was landed in the region. The 4th English Fleet supported the brigade.

However a total of one and a half battalion with two machine guns was able to defeat the English forces.

On the other side two companies sent for reinforcing the 3rd Battalion of the 26th Regiment comprised one team and two heavy machine guns. This force was positioned in the north of Harapkale

Major Mahmut Sabri the brave and energetic commander of the Seddulbahir defense decided for a night attack at 0330 despite the insufficient reserves.

The attack plan was:

1…..

2…..

3 The 3rd Battalion positioned in Teke bay ridges-Aytepe and 9th Company units are to join the attack. The units of the 11th Company are to attack the side and rear flanks of Aytepe and the heavy machine gun team are to support the attack."

Still wishing I had more time for this

With regrets

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bob lembke

I think that the answer is that the Turks had a few MGs. I read the same Brief History ---- a few weeks ago; either there or somewhere else I got the idea that a Turkish "machine gun company" had no more than four MGs, possibly only two. At this time German MG companies had six, soon to go up to 12. This indicates an army with few MGs. Prior discussion had the Turks placing an order of 60 MGs for their entire army. Also remember that the Turkish Army had been badly torn up only a few years before, in the Balkan Wars. And it was hard for the Germans to get anything thru to the Turks; they even attempted to bring artillery ammunition in the few tiny submarines they had in the theatre.

When the British landed to the north of ANZAC they initially were opposed by a single gendarmarie battalion, which only had rifles, not a single MG.

Bob Lembke

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ozzie

05.00 hrs 25th April

"By then the Turks estimate 4000 Anzac's are already ashore. The task of containing them was shouldered by the 2nd and 3rd platoons of the 4th company with a maximum of 160 rifles and not a single machine gun."

Gallipoli 1915 Day One Plus. 27th Ottoman Inf. Regt. vs. Anzac Based on account of Lt.Col. Sefik Aker, Commander of the 27th. Inf. Regt.

by H.B. Danisman

ISBN 978-9944-264-04-4 1st Edition 2007

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bryn

Every Australian and New Zealand battalion history of every unit that landed on 25th April, and the British, Australian and New Zealand official histories, as well as a French account of their landing at Kum Kale, mention the presence of Turkish machine-guns on the first day.

The British history even notes that Turkish sources do not 'admit' the presence of machine-guns, but that they were certainly there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ZackNZ

Bryn is very correct in his statement with respect to NZ battalions on Gallipoli - I've also found lots of references in individual dairies and even specific mention re wounds caused by Turkish MG's as opposed to rifle, shrapnel etc. I would think that troops "ears" would be well tuned to the difference between MG fire and other types of fire. The question remains though where exactly were Turkish MG's situated on Gallipoli?

Zack

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
grantmal

How to reconcile the machine-gun debate? From what I read here Turkish sources deny there were MG's, but, as Bryn points out, Allied forces were convinced they were facing MG's. In my area of research - the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance - MG's firing on North Beach on the morning of April 25th is a given. Nearly every account of the landing from this unit mentions two MG's - one firing from the north (in the direction of Fisherman's Hut) and the other from somewhere in front (Walker's Ridge) or to the right (Ari Burnu). C Section of the 3rd FAmb, landing on the extreme left of the 3rd Brigade, had one man hit on the way to the beach (a sailor was also killed) but, in the seconds between the boat grounding and emptying, 13 men were hit. I have always concluded, from the available information, that a machine-gun fired into the boat/onto the disembarking men. The alternative is a group of Turkish riflemen, in concert, suddenly bringing to bear an accurate rifle fire on this party (minimum of 7 rifles firing twice and hitting with every shot), which, given the range of targets available to the Turks at this point, always seemed unlikely.

The men of the 3rd Field Ambulance believed they faced MG's at the Landing, and any account of their experience on April 25th must take into account this perception. The question is - in reconstructing the landing of the 3rd Field Ambulance - am I entitled to believe in the MG's existence?

Good on you,

Grant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bryn

Grant notes that diaries and other accounts also mention the presence of MGs at Gallipoli on 25th April. The references are so numerous they're easy to locate. Here's one referring to the 10th Battalion on 25th April. Note it refers to 'bursts' of fire and also that the word 'gun' is here used in its correct military form to mean either a machine gun or artillery piece (and in this case, an MG), but specifically NOT a rifle:

' A Maxim commenced to enfilade us from the left. At every burst men stopped lead.

Behind was a Maxim worked by Lieut. Talbot Smith. It was right in the open. Every time the enfilading Turk gun opened this maxim opened on it with a throaty roar. Talbot Smith died at the gun. Others took post and fired for minutes or seconds, until death took them. Soon a ring of dead surrounded the gun. At last it ceased to bay.' (Mitchell, Capt. (Cpl at Landing) G.D. MItchell MC DCM 'The Anzac Landing' Reveille Vol. 8 No. 9; 1 May 1935).

As Zack implies, soldiers could tell the difference between the sound of a rifle and the 'clubbing' sound of a Maxim machine gun. Anybody who has served any time in the army will tell you that different weapons produce distinctive noises. Someone with experience can tell not only what type of weapon is firing, but even what model. An AK-47 sounds much different to an M-16, and a GPMG M-60 sounds radically different to a Bren, as does a Mauser rifle to a Maxim, and so on. Brigadier-General Hare was certain that, during the landing at W Beach, two machine-guns were firing from the right flank when he landed, and Turkish sources state two operational Maxims were at V Beach at the time of the landing (British Official History Vol 1 p221).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ozzie

The Quote applies only to the 2nd and 3rd platoons and these platoons were almost annihilated by the Anzac forces.

The 27th Battalion were not equipped with machine guns, they were armed with bolt action mausers which took five round clips. In every squad there was one man with two grenades.

A company of machine gunners was under direct operational orders of the regimental commander.The 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 27th Regiment reach a point at which they could run into Anzacs by 8.00 hours.

With out breaching copyright, that is all I can put up, but although there were machine guns later, having been marched up from Maydos, (The 27th Regiment began using their MG's on Hill 165 at approx. 8am.)

it appears from Col. Sefik Aker, that initially in the very early hours, there were no MG's attached to the 2nd and 3rd Platoons.

This source does admit to the machine guns. It is merely saying that the two platoons at Ari Burnu did not have MG's at that time of the morning, but Captain Faik reported MG fire from small ships off the beach.

It really is interesting reading.

Cheers

Kim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
stevebecker

Mates,

Of cause we had a simular discussion on the LH site about the use of MG's by the Turks at Magdhaba.

All Anzac reports mention being under MG fire but when the redoubts were taken only one MG was even found.

Did that gun travel the battlefield shooting at everyone?

Turkish offical reports mention that there was no MG's at Magdhaba as the MG company of the 80th Regt was with the 1stBn/80th Regt near Rafa although later documents show this MG company as only a platoon.

So its possible there was one platoon of MG's at this battle of which only one of the two guns were found/captured. And as to the MG fire which all record clearly that was incorrect and mistook rifle fire for MG fire other then in the one redoubt where that gun was captured.

Could that have happened at Anzac and Helles, well thats always possible concidering the troops were new to battle, they were very exusted, they were mixed up and never understoond the tactics the turks were using against them, but above all they were afraid and the shock of battle was heavy on most of them.

S.B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bryn

I guess it comes down to what you consider the debate to be. If the statement is that no Turkish units at Gallipoli on 25th April had MGs, then it's easily disputed. If it's that they didn't arrive till a certain time, that's another matter. The Anzac sector is made up of many different areas which are invisible to each other. What was happening in one may not have been happening in another, and when we include the seven separate landing places at Helles and Kum Kale, where the French landed, it gets more and more complicated.

As to the Anzac trroops being 'exhausted', that would have been some units and later in the day, but reinforcements were landing all day and night. Every account that states MGs opposed them cannot be wrong, but it has to be kept in mind that 'the Landing' was not a point-in-time. It didn't begin and end at 4:30am. It extended over the entire day, and when writers refer to the Landing, they may be referring to any time during the day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bob lembke

I think that it is clear that the Turks had very few MGs at any time, and certainly on the opening days. It is entirely possible that entire Turkish divisions, at least on other fronts, did not have any. Certainly, with an attack immenent on this critical point, Liman von Sanders would have moved heaven and hell to get as many of these critical weapons to this front. It seems that his tactics were to keep reserves, not to put all his resources on the many threatened beaches, so certainly some of his MGs must have been held in reserve, but there certainly were only a few.

Why did the Germans strip MGs from the Goeben and Breslau and have valuable officers and sailors go to Gallipoli to provide MG support? Some buddy-buddy feel-good solidarity measure? Probably not, probably a desperate shortage. The Germans probably wanted their MGs back, and if they just handed them over to the Turkish Army it would not be reasonable to expect them to be sent back in a month or two by Fed Express. The Turks had no shortage of brave men to serve these valuable weapons.

Byrn correctly mentioned how experienced troops can tell one MG from another by sound. (In WW II the Americans were so concerned about the morale effect of the sound of the German MG 42, based on an astonishingly high cyclical rate, that they made a movie to show to US infantry to try to convince them that it was an over-rated weapon.) I have large gaps in my knowledge of Gallipoli. The ANZAC forces were clearly fine troops, but had they been in combat before?

A personal note related to Gallipoli. I am selling a small apartment building, sale should be complete next week. I had "shown" it about 45 times without success, and a new person drove up one day. He is a young (27?) Turk who I actually knew. We both laughed, he walked thru part of the building and said: "I will buy it, I have not seen the whole building, but I trust your description of it and its condition. I will waive all inspections and conditions, and I am going to pay you $50,000 more than I planned to spend." And he has done everything to allow this complicated deal to work, to make every accomodation.

He knew, from prior conversations in his sister's wonderful Turkish restaurant, that in 1915 my father had volunteered to travel to Turkey and fight with the Turkish Army, and he knew that my father had run guns to the Turkish Army ca. 1922 when the Greeks were driving deep into Turkey and no one in the Christian world would sell the Turks a pencil, never mind guns. This young Turk is sophisticated, I think he was doing graduate work in mathematics in New York when his sister lured him to Philadelphia to build her restaurant. Interesting that I am now receiving a significant benefit in part based on my father's service at Gallipoli 92 years ago.

Bob Lembke

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

Another quote from the Turkish GS's 'A Brief History...'

see page 128

"There were also many casualties, especially many officers were lost.

As a matter of fact the statements in the received report from lieutenant colonel Halil, the commander of the Regiment in the morning of May 2, are really interesting.

'As the soldiers of the regiment interweaved within other units, only 150 soldiers could be collected from the regiment. We learned that the battalion commander were injured and had to retreat. There is an officer left in the 1st battalion of the regiment and two officers were left in the other battalion. the commanders of the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, and 12th units are killed. What happened to other officers could not be detected yet. It is said that some of the officers are within units of the 19th regiment. We have not been able to supply sufficient water and food to our units at the first line for two nights. All the ammunition carriers were shot down. I will be next to the frontier, our hinge, with my 150 soldiers at hand until I receive your new instructions. The Beyoglu Gendarmerie Battalion reached for reinforcement and there are no changes in the situation. A part of our machine gun troops have not been taken back yet. The enemy is dreading thus they confine themselves to fire battles. As I put forward before, I am in the opinion that the enemy soldiers have not the power and will to march forward.'"

The pattern, or style if you will, which I find to emerge from this writing is that while the Turkish historian makes several references to Allied machine guns/fire in his text, he only mentions his own machine guns in direct quotes eg. in the texts of Turkish orders or reports.

As I said, this may be nothing more than a question of the writer's style or perhaps even the translation. But, having direct quotes from Turkish orders and reports which mention machine guns, means (to me at least) that the Turkish army had machine guns and used them at Gallipoli

What I feel has yet to be decided, is to what extent the absence of machine guns from the general text can be read as there not being used/available at that point?

I am inclined to believe as they are mentioned in Turkish orders and reports, then they were more widely available to the Turkish army than is suggested by the absence of their mention in the general text. On this basis and without further evidence, I feel that because they are not mentioned at a particular point, then it would be a dangerous to presume that they were not there. The next question is, from where do we draw that 'further evidence'?

regards

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
stevebecker

Bob,

Yes the Anzac troops were all new to battle none save the odd soldier who served in the Boer War seen any active service for 13-15 years.

Many Anzac officers and soldiers had milita training (like your national guard) and had been in the Milita for many years and did know the noise of a maxim.

But as Bryn mentions when did this MG fire appear, as all Anzac records are different as to the time the troops arrived on the beach and when they saw or heard it.

The only problem with this idea is that at Anazc the troops were new to battle and understood what they were hearing while at Magdhaba the Anzac Troops were vetern's from the NZ mounted Rifles and ALH and draw the same conclusion.

If these veterns at Magdhaba could make that mistake why couldn't inexpirenced troops at Anzac?

What is interesting about the Maghdaba battle was when the histories of that battle were recorded the maps used changed to reflect what the troops fought not what was on the ground. That is clear when a look at the British Offical history is compared to the NZMR History and the Australian Offical History, the former has five redoubts while the later two histories has six and seven redoubts?

Why did they need to add two more redoubts when there original map drawn after the battle has five?

I think it was to fit in what the units were reporting.

S.B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bob lembke
Bob,

Yes the Anzac troops were all new to battle none save the odd soldier who served in the Boer War seen any active service for 13-15 years.

Many Anzac officers and soldiers had milita training (like your national guard) and had been in the Milita for many years and did know the noise of a maxim.

But as Bryn mentions when did this MG fire appear, as all Anzac records are different as to the time the troops arrived on the beach and when they saw or heard it.

S.B

Trying to summarize, it seems from a variety of types of information that the Turks seem to have had a small number of MGs at the beaches, but not more than a few. (Wasn't one, but only one, captured by ANZAC forces on the first day? As an area of (?) several square miles were taken, and I am sure that several Turkish units must have been almost entirely wiped out, that suggests some, but just a few MGs present on the first day.)

Wasn't the standard UK MG of the period (the Vickers?) actually a Maxim? Wouldn't they sound quite a lot alike? Weren't most of the rifle and MG cartriges fired on both sides much the same in form, ballistics, and hence sound? Men in a terribly fierce combat, a totally new experience to the vast proportion of men, and quite different to most Boer War engagements experienced 15 years before by a few of the men. Men receiving, for the first time in their lives, a great volume of small-arms fire, and hearing occasional bursts of MG fire, would be likely to associate the two.

It seems that, if in fact almost all of the ANZAC accounts of the first day report receiving a good deal of MG fire from the Turks, then many of them were mistaken, it would seem.

The very complex topography of the ANZAC terrain, steep hills, gullies, etc, of a particularly stony and not heavily vegitated landscape, would have the sounds of firing bouncing and echoing all over the place, making the seemingly perceived direction of the sources of received fire very uncertain and often deceiving.

Was the MG that the ANZACs brought ashore very similar in mechanics and ballistics to the German Maxim? The Turks bought weapons from a large variety of sources. I have visited the Askeri Mueze (Military Museum) in Istanbul on three different visits to that city, and recall seeing a lot of very odd MGs, things that I have never seen or even heard of, largely brass MGs, etc., from that period. I know that the Turks scoured their museums of the period for antique crew-served weapons to rush to the front, artillery firing stone balls, etc. Who knows what sort of MGs were the Turks actually using? Do I remember seeing a Gatling Gun at the Askeri Mueze ?

How many MGs did the ANZACs bring ashore on the first day?

Bob Lembke

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PeterH

Hi

Tosun posted this on AHF:

Col. Şefik Aker "Çanakkale-Arıburnu Savaşları ve 27 nci Alay" ( Gallipoli-Arıbunu Battles and 27th Inf. Regt.)

Lt. Col. Şefik Bey commanded the 27th Regt. during the first day of landing.

"The battalions had no MGs. Each Regt. had a MG Company with 4 Maxims. There were no spare parts. They worked very well at the day of landing on April 25th 1915. Later we had spare parts problems. 4 of them became useless."

Regards

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PeterH

Pom-Poms also encountered at Gallipoli

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=113676

Normally a fortress defensive weapon in a fixed static role but as the discussion indicates " 2 Nordenfelt(25mm) guns were used against the Anzacs in the first day of the landing,and the other two of the guns were used in Helles.."

Regards

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bryn

There was a 'pom pom' on the Gaba Tepe headland south of the Anzac sector. It killed 2nd Lieutenant Thompson, of the 11th Battalion AIF, on the beach there, on 4 May 1915.

As for weapons sounding the same, the Anzacs were not quite so inexperienced that they couldn't tell when something was being fired at them. Anyone who's ever been in the 'butts' on a rifle / machine gun range, or otherwise been on the receiving end of bullets, can tell when the weapon is pointing towards them, no matter how inexperienced they may be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PeterH

The Admiralty Report on the landings at Kum Kale and Sedulbahr on the 26th February 1915 mentions "four Nordenfelt cannons--were destroyed".

It seems that the River Clyde on V Beach was subject to pom-pom fire,mistaken for machine gun fire.This did the greatest slaughter on the gangway down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bryn

An article by a Turkish officer in the 'Turkish Military Review' of Oct 1926 states that the Turks had 4 old-pattern Maxims at V Beach on 25th April. Two were disabled in the bombardment. They also had two pom-poms at V Beach. (British Official History p221).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PeterH

Thanks Bryn.

Another source I have(article by Alan Wykes in Purnell's History of the First World War,1970) infers that the 4 maxims were brought up later in the morning and did not cause the initial slaughter on the River Clyde.No source is given for this conclusion.

Regards

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Helen Bachaus

Hi Folks

I've been very interested in the number of comments on Turkish MGs at Gallipoli.

For what its worth I've been reading "Cobbers" Stories of Gallipoli 1915 based on recollections of veterans sharing their stories by Jim Haynes.

Now reading the chapter on "Heroes of Gallipoli" by Oliver Hogue ('Trooper Bluegum') he recalls a Sergeant Burne, 9th battalion tackling a machine gun on a hill with two of his lads. It seems the sergeant and the two soldiers took the position taking on ten Turks. There was also a German Officer working the MG. This was on the initial landing and after losing his Lieutenant.

Anyway can anyone verifly this story as being true.

Thankyou.

God Bless

Helen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ozzie

Helen, is there a time mentioned, and a name of the hill, in this account?

Cheers

Kim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
bob lembke
Now reading the chapter on "Heroes of Gallipoli" by Oliver Hogue ('Trooper Bluegum') he recalls a Sergeant Burne, 9th battalion tackling a machine gun on a hill with two of his lads. It seems the sergeant and the two soldiers took the position taking on ten Turks. There was also a German Officer working the MG. This was on the initial landing and after losing his Lieutenant.

Anyway can anyone verifly this story as being true.

Helen;

Without knowing any specifics, I think that the odds are very strong that this story is fanciful.

The lesser evidence is the likelyhood of three soldiers rushing ten Turks, one German officer, and a MG, and (I imagine) successfully overcoming them. As we have generally established, the Turks had, at the most, only a few MGs on this front on Day One. They would have been very carefully sited and protected, and not put in a position where three men could rush them and take the MG.

I also have to point out that the Turks fought with enormous valor, and fiercely, and three men with bolt action rifles and bayonets would mostly have come to a bad end rushing these opponents and a MG. Possible, but not likely.

The most conclusive evidence was that, in the Turkish infantry at that time and place, it was almost certain that there were no German officers posted at a level below regimental HQs, and quite likely generally below the level of the division. I do think that there were some elite mobile artillery batteries assigned to move about and shell the Allied warships that had a German battery commander. I am almost positive that there were no German officers with the front-line troops, unless possibly one was visiting for some sort of inspection and got caught in the onslaught. German officers did not man MGs in the German Army, and it is very unlikely that one would in the Turkish Army. Even the commander of a German machine gun, a low-ranking NCO, did not "man" the gun, but positioned himself to the side with binoculars and directed his team.

Weeks or months later a few German machine gun units, formed from the German crews of the Goeben and the Breslau, showed up, but not at this date.

Also, a Turkish MG company had four, or possibly only two guns per company. Even if the only defenders were the men of the MG company, they would have had more than ten defenders.

I think your guy was spinning a tale.

Bob Lembke

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×