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The Spirit - Gallipoli Landing 1915
Detailed Description

The painting depicts in the foreground, the second wave of the 10th Battalion (South Australia) scaling the heights at about 0500 hours (civil dawn was at 0455), thirty minutes after the initial landing, which was in darkness. The first wave of the three leading Australian battalions, half of the 9th (Queensland), 10th and 11th (Western Australia), are already on Plugge's Plateau above the top right of the painting.

The view is looking roughly northwest from the slopes of MacLagan's Ridge, the spur running from Plugge's Plateau to Hell Spit enclosing Anzac Cove. The first lights of dawn strike Ari Burnu, the northern headland of the cove, while in the far distance is the faint outline of Nibrunesi Point, the southern headland of Suvla Bay. The initial wave landed either side of Ari Burnu on a frontage of about 370 metres at 0430 hours. The second and third waves were carried inshore by the destroyers shown in the painting. They landed astride the cove on a 1500 metre frontage, with the remaining half of the 10th Battalion and some of the 12th (Tasmania, South and Western Australia) landing along the cove itself, and it is these men shown in the painting. The 11th Battalion and part of the 12th landed north of Ari Burnu, while the second wave companies of the 9th and part of the 12th landed south of Hell Spit, behind the viewer.

Contrary to popular opinion the Turkish opposition at Anzac Cove was relatively light. About 80 riflemen of Second Lieutenant Muharrem's 2nd Platoon, of the 8th Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment confronted the almost 4000 men of the 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade. There were no machine guns deployed with this platoon. The first few boats had grounded, and Private Alex Wilson was helping Sergeant Fred Coe remove his pack when the first shot rang out in the pre-dawn darkness. Machine guns mounted on the Royal Navy steam pinnaces that had towed the boats of the first wave inshore, then opened fire on the Turkish rifle flashes on Plugge's Plateau. On the beach the Australians were in dead ground or defilade to the Turkish riflemen above them. The primary source evidence and the Australian Official History record the Turks quickly fell back and the heights overlooking Anzac Cove were captured about 20 minutes after the first wave landed. In Anzac to Amiens Charles Bean, the Australian Official Historian, wrote "Neither then nor at any time later was that beach the inferno of bursting shells, barbed wire, and falling men that has sometimes been described or painted." All the photos taken of the beach later in the morning show only one dead man lying on it, and he is accurately depicted in the painting at the water's edge.

The depiction of the troop's headdress is correct. The orders for the landing directed they were to wear the field service cap, rather than the slouch hat, to avoid confusion at a distance with the Turkish headdress; it was felt the sharp round rim of the field service cap would stand out. Photos of the 3rd Brigade on board the battleships heading for Gallipoli on the afternoon of the 24th April, of the 2nd and 1st Brigades disembarking from the transports and the troops ashore on the morning of the 25th April show them wearing the cap. Very few wore the slouch hat.

Out to sea steam pinnaces can be seen transferring the last elements of the 12th Battalion from the destroyers to the beach in tows, comprising four boats each which were then released and rowed the final 100- 200 metres to shore. The destroyers are from right to left HMS Ribble (carried A Company 12th Battalion and 3rd Field Ambulance), HMS Usk (carried B Company 11th Battalion and half D Company 12th Battalion), HMS Chelmer (carried D Company 11th Battalion and half D Company 12th battalion) and HMS Scourge (carried D Company 10th Battalion and half B company 12th Battalion). The other three destroyers are out of picture to the viewer's left and left rear. Behind the destroyers are the transports HMT Galeka carrying the 6th and 7th Battalions (Victoria) and HMT Novian carrying the 5th Battalion (Victoria) and 2nd Brigade headquarters. The 7th is already disembarking into the Galeka's ship's boats. Fire from Turkish guns at Gaba Tepe,1.8 kilometres south of Anzac Cove, later forced the transports further out to sea. Behind the transports is the battleship HMS London which carried A and C Companies 11th Battalion (part of the first wave) from Mudros until they disembarked into the boats and were taken in tow by the steam pinnaces.