PIPES OF ANZAC
Battle Eve with the 4th
(By EK Gillies in Sydney "Morning Herald")
The bagpipes have often played their part in stirring drama, but probably
never as on the night before the landing at Anzac. The 4th Battalion AIF had
the only official pipe band in the AIF, which consisted of 16 pipers and drummers.
Through the streets they had led the men on route marches; across the arid waste
of the Egyptian desert. Major MacNaughton who had commanded the old NSW Scottish
Rifles, selected many of his old regiment as officers and NCO's for service
with the Fourth.
April 24, 1915 - HMT Mitchigan - about 10 hours slow steam from Gallipoli - the sun just set. Word is sent round the men to parade on the poop deck in silence. The decks are in semi darkness enveloped in a mysterious calm, for all lights are out. Ghostly, silent, dark forms assemble in serried ranks wherever possible to stand - 1125 men.
Standing on the boat deck far above is Regimental Sergeant Major Clarke. Beside him are a bugler and Pipe Major Charlie Ross. But for an occasional whisper asking "What is it all about!" the slow, steady movement forward of the ship is all that attracts notice. This is no ordinary parade; the officers stand with the men expectantly. Our thoughts wander back to Birkenhead, when troops stand awaiting the end as the good ship sank beneath them.
Colonel Onslow-Thompson approaches from the gloom of the upper deck with Major MacNaughton. Facing the parade these two men seem to convey that they felt we were meeting for the last time - a great family about to say farewell. For two or three minutes thoughts of home, life in Egypt, the brotherly spirit of our service together. Then the Colonel spoke. In a few words he told what he expected of each one of us in the morning, when we were told to land on a foreign, hostile coast to support our comrades of the Third Brigade. "Save the water in your bottles; don't waste ammunition, take cover where possible. Treat enemy women and children with the kindness as you would your own... I pray that God will bring us together again; we are in His keeping."
After a further impressive silence that will never be forgotten by those who survived, Major MacNaughton spoke of the old days in the NSW Scottish Rifles, the homes left behind the dear ones and friends watching to see how we would conduct ourselves under fire. As an old soldier he expressed himself confident that we would uphold the honour of our Scottish forefathers. "Fight hard and clan and never yield. Some of us will not be together this time tomorrow; those of us who are will keep on in the service of our country and to the honour of our regiment." There was a long, tense pause, faintly at first, then rising in volume - Ross, the Piper, skirling twisting notes. The pipes of Scotland were surely never played under more poignant circumstances. "The Flowers of the Forest," Scottish funeral march, for those who would not meet tomorrow. Salvation Army Padre JT Mackenzie, attached to the battalion, offered prayers for those at home and serving with the forces.
Colonel Thompson was killed leading a charge across "Shell Green," about 3 o'clock next day. Major MacNaughton was wounded several times, but insisted upon going back to his men on each occasion. He was awarded the CMG at Lone Pine on August 6, 1915. He was invalided to Australia and discharged. Two days later he re enlisted in Queensland as a private. He was discovered as a Corporal in charge of the Guard at an estaminet in France, sent under escort to England, gazetted as Brigadier General, and received his CMG from his Majesty the King. He died in Canada five years ago , and was buried at Montreal.
Three days after the landing the Fourth were withdrawn to the beach. Of the 1126 (over strength) only 623 answered the roll call. At Lone Pine the battalion's strength was approximately 630. After three days, at another roll call, only 36 answered their names.
So the regiment, inspired by the Scottish pipers, "did its bit."