On 7 August 1915 two regiments of dismounted Australian cavalry, the 8th and 10th Light Horse, carried out a futile attack on a narrow front. Four waves of attackers left their trenches, only to be cut down by Turkish rifle and machine gun fire. The attack went into ANZAC folklore and remained controversial for many decades after the end of the war.
The structure of the book is a little unusual. We actually start with the account of the attack itself - an incredibly costly if rather short-lived attempt to rush the Turkish lines on the Nek which failed to make any significant progress and saw four waves of attackers suffer appalling levels of casualties. After that we move back to Australia to look at the unit that took part in the attack, the brigadier in command, his brigade major and the other officers and men of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. There are two aims in this section - first to make us familiar with the key figures in the upcoming disaster, and second to see how their character and the relationships between them contributed to it.
This structure is very effective. We know what is to come from the start, and can concentrate on the building of the units, the flaws in their command structure and how they helped contribute to the disaster on the Nek. Burness makes it clear that there were problems at most levels - the overall plan of attack for the 7th was over-ambitious and failed to take into account the situation at Gallipoli, the brigadier was probably too old for such a stressful front line, his brigade major too rigid in attitude, the relationship with the regimental commanders badly broken, and the more able of those commanders took part in the first wave of the attack and was killed right at the start of the battle. The result is a very valuable study of a costly military disaster.
1 - The Attack at the Nek
2 - 3rd Light Horse Brigade
3 - The Brigadier
4 - The Brigade Major
5 - Officers and Men
6 - Egypt
7 - Gallipoli and Trench Warfare
8 - Walker's Ridge and Russell's Top
9 - The New Offensive
10 - 'Come on boys. Come on. Come on.'
11 - The Decision
12 - The Aftermath of Battle
13 - Reflection
14 - Remembrance
Author: Peter Burness
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military