June 8, 2008

Movie Sunday: Breaker Morant and Gallipoli

I originally decided to feature the movie Breaker Morant today, but could find only one decent clip. So we'll add a similar movie to go with it, that being Gallipoli.

Whereas the 1902 court-martial of Australian soldiers Lt. Harry 'Breaker' Harbord Morant, Lt. Peter Joseph Handcock, and Lt. George Witton caused Australia to become increasingly resentful of the British military and British rule in general (the Australian army never again accepted British Army justice in cases involving its soldiers), the debacle at Gallipoli is considered the birth of national consciousness in both Australia and New Zealand, bringing about the psychological independence for both countries from British rule.

The final scene in Gallipoli is supposed to be of the Battle of the Nek (
Nek being the Afrikaans word for "mountain pass"), which took place on August 7, 1915. The infantry assault by the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade was scheduled for 4:30 am, preceded by a naval bombardment of the Turkish machine gun lines that faced the Australians. However, the bombardment ended prematurely, at 4:23 a.m., allowing the Turkish soldiers time to return safely back to their lines prior to the assault, which 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, "hopped the bags" and went over the top. They were met with 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 canceled, claiming that "the whole thing was nothing but bloody murder." He was unable to find Colonel Hughes and unable to persuade the brigade major, Colonel 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.

When Commonwealth burial parties returned to Gallipoli in 1919, the found the bones of the Australians still lying on the battleground. A total of 326 soldiers were buried at the Nek Cemetary, of which only ten (six Australians and four New Zealanders) were identified.

Notes: In the second clip for Gallipoli, the movie proper ends at the 4:05 mark; whoever created this clip left the credits running for the remaining 3:16. You may also notice that "Major Barton" (who gives the pep talk to the soldiers just before they're slaughtered) is actor Bill Hunter, whom we last saw on a Movie Sunday post as "Barry Fife" in Strictly Ballroom.

It really ain't the place nor time to reel off rhyming diction, but yet we'll write a final rhyme while waiting crucifixion. For we bequeath a parting tip of sound advice for such men who come in transport ships to polish off the Dutchman. If you encounter any Boers, you really must not loot 'em, and if you wish to leave these shores, for pity's sake, don't shoot 'em. Let's toss a bumper down our throat before we pass to Heaven, and toast a trim-set petticoat we leave behind in Devon.

Shoot straight, you bastards - don't make a mess of it!

Jack: What are your legs?
Archy Hamilton: Springs. Steel springs.
Jack: What are they going to do?
Archy Hamilton: Hurl me down the track.
Jack: How fast can you run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard.
Jack: How fast are you going to run?
Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard.
Jack: Then lets see you do it.

The thing I can't stand about you mate is you're always so bloody cheerful.

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