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With the Dardanelles Expedition - Ashmead Bartlett

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Mal Murray View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: With the Dardanelles Expedition - Ashmead Bartlett
    Posted: 13 Jan 2012 at 15:33
This is an interesting little item with some additional page linked to it (which I will post as additional posts to the main one). Video clips are available on the link.

http://aso.gov.au/titles/historical/with-the-dardanelles/notes/

With the Dardanelles Expedition c.1915

Synopsis

During July, August and September of 1915, English war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett shot scenes of the allied troops on Gallipoli. The first section, entitled ‘Scenes of Anzac’, shows Watson’s Pier at Anzac Cove, including MacLaurin’s Hill and Bridges Road, leading to the front line. Troops trudge past the camera at Monash Valley. The titles, written by CEW Bean in 1919, note the thinness of the men and the ‘Anzac uniform’ – shorts and sometimes a singlet. A series of runners bring messages to headquarters, and two soldiers demonstrate the use of a ‘periscope rifle’, a device invented in this campaign.

In section two we see Cape Helles, where the British 29th Division landed on 25 April, 21 kilometres further south on the peninsula. The beached steamer River Clyde has become headquarters for naval staff, the old fort at ‘Seddel Bahr’ is now occupied by French and British troops. Horses and mules are kept in protective trenches. British troops move forward to relieve the garrison at the front line, carrying emergency rations in white shoulder bags. An armoured car, used unsuccessfully in June, is filmed in a wide trench behind the lines.

Section three concentrates on the allied counter offensives of August 1915, beginning with British troops embarking at Imbros Island, before their attack at Suvla Bay, north of Anzac Cove. Turkish prisoners and Egyptian labourers work on Imbros, near a wrecked aeroplane in the water. Preparations are also underway at Anzac Cove, where the camera does a long slow pan from right to left across the warren of dug-outs and headquarters positions. Signallers lay telephone cables in a long and wide trench – a main thoroughfare used for moving troops to and from the forward positions. At Imbros, troops march on to ‘motor lighters’ which carry them past a harbour full of ships.

On 7 August, at Suvla Bay, the Australian Naval Bridging Train helps to disembark troops. The Suvla wounded are carried out along jetties, many of which were constructed by Australian seamen. Soldiers carry water containers ashore, along with large amounts of stores. British officers eat at a makeshift mess, after taking Suvla Bay. Meanwhile, the Anzac troops attack at Walker’s Ridge, as naval guns and artillery attack Turkish positions at ‘the Chessboard’. Large fires burn on the ridge that is soon to be attacked. In a trench, Irish or Australian troops fire vigorously as Mr Ashmead-Bartlett walks the trench behind them. In a final long shot, Turkish shells rain down on the headquarters of the 1st Australian Division, high on the ridge, near Lone Pine.

Curator’s notes

These 20 minutes of film, scratched and badly exposed, are among the most precious moving images that Australia possesses. They are the only record on film of what Gallipoli looked like in 1915. Even with the poor quality, we get a vivid sense of the dust, heat and wretched conditions of the trenches – and an occasional glimpse of the more genteel life of the British officers at leisure. The only Turks we see are prisoners of war, and there is precious little footage of actual warfare, for obvious reasons, but it’s remarkable that we have any footage at all, given that the photographer had no permission to film and no experience using a cine-camera.

English war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was already famous in Australia and Europe before he took these pictures. His account of the 25 April landings of the Anzacs was the first to reach the Australian newspapers – ahead of the report by Australian correspondent CEW Bean – and it was extremely complimentary of their bravery and commitment (read more in Gallipoli on Film). Ashmead-Bartlett was a seasoned war correspondent, a former soldier himself, who had a taste for adventure, intrigue, gambling, women and fine food and drink. His camp at Imbros Island was well stocked with wines and he had imported a chef from Malta. He was a renowned conversationalist, blunt in language and with little false modesty, but he had more experience of war than most of the British officers – including a personal knowledge of the Turkish army.

He knew most of the important people in England personally, including the King, and he went to Gallipoli with grave misgivings about Churchill’s plan to knock Turkey out of the war by taking the straits of the Dardanelles. He would become the first to denounce the campaign as a failure, in a private letter to the British prime minister, Herbert Asquith, for which he paid a high price – banishment from all British battlefields for the rest of his life – but he had a significant impact on the duration of the campaign, and on the formation of the Anzac legend in Australia and New Zealand.

His reasons for making the film were prosaic: he needed the money. Ashmead-Bartlett returned to England in June 1915 to buy new kit after all his possessions went down aboard HMS Majestic, torpedoed off Gallipoli on 27 May. While shopping for new clothes, entertaining lady friends and briefing Herbert Asquith, Lord Kitchener (Secretary of State for War), Winston Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty) and the Cabinet about his doubts on the Gallipoli campaign leadership, he also had to consider his debts. He signed a deal to write a book about Gallipoli and agreed to take a cine-camera back with him. This would have been a new and difficult concept, even for a professional cine-photographer, which he was not. The cameras were unwieldy, film was volatile and wartime censorship made filming anything difficult. Nevertheless, there were profits to be made and Ashmead-Bartlett certainly needed money. He had debts of more than ₤4,000 – an enormous sum in 1915.

In the 2005 book Myth Maker: Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, Fred and Elizabeth Brenchley say that the backing came from theatrical entrepreneur Alfred Butt. He supplied the camera, a new lightweight Aeroscope which could shoot 450-foot reels, or about eight minutes at a time, plus 10,000 feet of unexposed film. Ashmead-Bartlett was to get 45 per cent of the profits from screenings. ‘If only we are able to get some really valuable pictures and at the same time are allowed to use them’, he wrote. This latter concern was serious, because the War Office in London was completely opposed to him shooting either film or still photographs.

He managed to convince the Commander-in-Chief on Gallipoli, Sir Ian Hamilton, that he should be allowed to film, as long as the film went through censorship in England. The War Office instructed Hamilton to prevent the filming, but he apparently ignored them. Even so, much of what Ashmead-Bartlett eventually sent back was impounded by the War Office and never released. Alfred Butt was only allowed to release the film in cinemas in January 1916 after Gallipoli was evacuated.

Ashmead-Bartlett returned to Imbros Island on 23 June 1915, knowing very little about how to operate the camera. Two days later, on board HMS Exmouth, he met Ernest Brooks, the official photographer for the Admiralty. Brooks was an experienced stills cameraman, but had never used an Aeroscope. After some practice together in early July, they began shooting but the arrangement did not last. Brooks returned to England, after he was slightly wounded by shrapnel. Ashmead-Bartlett forced himself to study the camera’s intricacies and began filming on 22 July, at Anzac Cove.

In an article in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television in 2004, Philip Dutton of the Imperial War Museum writes that Ashmead-Bartlett climbed to Quinn’s Post and Courtney’s Post that day, with war correspondent HW Nevinson and an intelligence officer, Captain Aubrey Herbert. Charles Bean’s diary records that he went with them, possibly as their guide. Ashmead-Bartlett was ‘anxious to get the cinema pictures which Ernest Brooks had been going to take’, wrote Bean. ‘As he wanted to see Quinn’s we went up there first.’

Bean’s entry makes it appear that Ashmead-Bartlett had never been to Quinn’s Post, which was one of the most dangerous places on Gallipoli, and already one of the most famous. Quinn’s was then occupied by New Zealand troops, the Wellington Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, who was a stickler for order, cleanliness and discipline. Malone was used to hosting excitable correspondents, according to historian Peter Stanley’s book, Quinn’s Post (2005). He would serve them afternoon tea on his terrace accompanied by a ‘bomb orchestra on the trenches above’, Stanley writes. He would then take them to a stretch of trench partially open to distant Turkish positions 350 yards away, where they could be shot at.

This appears to be what he did with Ashmead-Bartlett and his camera. Malone records that Ashmead-Bartlett ‘kinematographed part of the post at the back, taking in the terraces and the men at work’. Malone did not quite approve of the Englishman. ‘He seemed a bit swollen-headed and full of his own importance.’ Peter Stanley believes that the men in one part of Ashmead-Bartlett’s film are likely to be men of the Wellington Battalion. ‘Their dress strongly suggests that they are Malone’s Wellingtons. They wear undershirts and a variety of hats – sun helmets, slouch hats and flat caps with sun cloths or fly-nets hanging from the crown … At one point an officer passes wearing a tie (another sign of Malone’s standards).’ Stanley suggests that these sequences, if taken at Quinn’s, are especially valuable, as they are the only film record of a place that no longer exists. Quinn’s Post has largely been washed away by weathering.

CEW Bean acquired a copy of Ashmead-Bartlett’s film in 1919, when Bean was setting up the Australian War Memorial. He rewrote the film’s titles, some of which are wrong or misleading. He may also have edited the film, removing certain shots (see below). The film was restored in 2005 by the New Zealand director Peter Jackson, working with the Australian War Memorial. They used digital techniques developed at Jackson’s Weta Digital Workshop in Wellington, while he was making The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001–03).

Since then, staff at the AWM have uncovered another two shots they believe are probably from the Ashmead-Bartlett film. These show Anzac Cove and soldiers on a beach, possibly at Suvla Bay. The footage was on a compilation reel, the AH Noad Film, acquired by the AWM in 1938. It is possible that these shots were edited out by CEW Bean in 1919, but no-one knows how they came to be on the Noad film.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jan 2012 at 15:35
Clip 1 Quinn's Post (see url to view video)
 

Curator’s clip description

Filming from Watson’s Pier at Anzac Cove, the camera pans along the steep hillside at the beach, across the area the Australian and New Zealand troops had to assault on 25 April 1915. This shot is from three months later when the area is a hive of activity, headquarters for the Anzac troops. Stairs have been hewn out of the hillside, and tents erected with sandbags to protect them. On top of MacLaurin’s Hill, a soldier waves to the camera as troops use trench roads to climb Monash Valley, leading eventually to Quinn’s Post, where the scenes of runners handing in messages ‘at headquarters’ are thought to have been filmed. Two soldiers demonstrate a ‘periscope rifle’, invented at Anzac to counter Turkish snipers.

Curator’s notes

The titles for the film were written by the Australian historian CEW (Charles) Bean in 1919, when he received a copy of the film from Sir Alfred Butt. If it had titles before then, we do not know, but Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett used the film on his lecture tours in 1916, so he may not have bothered with titles, because he could explain the shots as his audience watched. Bean’s titles have since been deemed inaccurate in parts, which makes identification of places in the film more complicated.

Peter Stanley, former principal historian at the Australian War Memorial, believes these scenes of soldiers in covered trenches were shot at Quinn’s Post, which would mean these are probably soldiers of William Malone’s Wellington Battalion, from New Zealand. Part of his reasoning is that one of the soldiers wears a tie – and Malone was famous for insisting on proper attire from his men. It is clear that these scenes are staged, or directed, as the men walking out of shot turn to look back as soon as they think they are off camera. One possibility is that some of the men in the shot were not men of Quinn’s Post at all, but deputed to accompany the party of war correspondents who visited Malone and his men on 22 July 1915 (see main notes). One or two of them look very like men who turn up in later parts of the film in other locations (see clip two notes).

The opening shots of this clip are fascinating, because they show us what Anzac Cove looked like after three months of occupation – a small and very active village has been established, with roads, well-hewn paths and terraces, housing tents, bicycles, workshops and sleeping quarters. MacLaurin’s Hill was a ridge top just south of Quinn’s Post. Monash Valley led up from Anzac Cove, via Shrapnel Gully, past MacLaurin’s Hill and Courtney’s Post to Quinn’s Post, a legendary and terrible part of the front line, where Turkish trenches, at their closest, were eight metres from the Anzac trenches. Fighting here was constant for the eight months of the Gallipoli campaign, with persistent casualties on both sides, due partly to the accurate sniping and the tactic of lobbing improvised bombs into the enemy’s trenches. Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli (1981) recreates this kind of warfare at Quinn’s Post. Ashmead-Bartlett’s film footage informed much of the look of that film.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jan 2012 at 15:37
Clip 2 - Anzac Cove Area (see url to view video)
 

Curator’s clip description

As in clip one, the camera is on the wharf at Anzac Cove, but the pan is longer, covering more of the scene, and from a longer distance. The size of the encampment and the logistics required are more obvious. At the end of the first shot, you can just see men bathing on the beach. In a ‘mile-long avenue’, signallers lay telephone cable on makeshift crosses. The scene then shifts to Imbros Island, where British troops board ‘lighters’ to transport them across the 21 km stretch of water to the Gallipoli peninsula. These troops are heading to a landing at Suvla Bay north of Anzac Cove in the offensive of early August 1915.

Curator’s notes

Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett had two lenses with his camera, a longer one for telephoto shots, and a shorter one for scenes where he was closer to the action to be filmed. He had no idea initially of how to use them, which makes identifying which one is used for which shot more difficult. It is likely that the long pan across Anzac Cove here is done with a short lens, giving a wider angle of view. The similar shot in clip one is much closer to the action, suggesting he used the long lens – although he may just have been physically closer on the jetty from which he shot.

The differences in quality and clarity between shots in the film may have less to do with differences in lens quality and more to do with Ashmead-Bartlett’s skill in operating the camera. He got better after the first few weeks of using it, in late July and early August. The scenes of embarkation at Imbros are much clearer than the scenes at Quinn’s Post in clip one, for example. Some of this may be a difference in rates of deterioration of the original nitrate negative, but not all of it.

Note the soldier wearing braces and a satchel in the scene with the signallers. He seems to reappear in clip three, walking away from camera along a sunken road. The man who holds the lines up in clip two appears to be in front of him in the same shot in clip three, suggesting at least that these two shots are taken in the same stretch of sunken trench at the same time. The intriguing thing is that two of the men in the Quinn’s Post sequence in clip one, shown walking towards camera, appear to be very similar. The man in the tie in clip one wears a dark shirt and carries a pair of binoculars in a shoulder case; he appears to be the one holding the wires up in clip two, and walking in the middle (of three men) in the sunken road in clip three. The man in white undershirt with the satchel who follows him in clips two and three appears to be the first of three men who walk towards camera in the covered trench shots at Quinn’s Post (after the shot of the man who hands in a note at headquarters).

Why is this significant? Because it seems to indicate that Ashmead-Bartlett was accompanied by these men on the day he filmed at what Peter Stanley claims is footage of Quinn’s Post. Stanley uses the man in the tie to add weight to his claim that these are men of the Wellington Battalion at Quinn’s Post. But if that is true, why are these same men shown in another location entirely? It makes it more likely that they were accompanying Ashmead-Bartlett on this day’s filming, rather than men he found at Quinn’s Post. And if they’re not men of the Wellington Battalion, is this really Quinn’s Post? We know that Ashmead-Bartlett filmed there, but the man in the tie appears not to be firm evidence.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Jan 2012 at 15:39
Clip 3 - Rea and History (see url to view video)
 

Curator’s clip description

British officers sit in a dug-out ‘mess’ at Suvla Bay in early August 1915, enjoying tea and tobacco. Meanwhile, Anzac troops are attacking at Walker’s Ridge. Naval guns and Anzac artillery shell the Turkish trenches at ‘the Chessboard’, starting brush fires. Australian troops below Sari Bair fire from a newly-won Turkish trench. Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett is visible moving toward camera behind them. In the final pictures of the film, Turkish shells land on Anzac positions high on the ridge, at Lone Pine.

Curator’s notes

This is the most contentious section of the film, and the most dramatic. Opinions differ about who and what it shows, whether the troops in the firefight are Australian or Irish, and whether Charles Bean or Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett was trying to make a point with the scene of the British officers having tea.

Phillip Dutton of the Imperial War Museum in London believes the troops in the firefight are Irish, not Australian. He quotes Ashmead-Bartlett’s book The Uncensored Dardanelles (1928) as evidence that Ashmead-Bartlett, his Australian servant MacNabie (who carried the equipment) and the recently returned cameraman Ernest Brooks went to a frontline trench occupied by Irish troops at Green Hill, near Suvla Bay, on 2 September 1915. Brooks filmed the troops pretending to be under attack; when he complained that it looked fake, the soldiers started to fire in earnest at nearby Turkish trenches, who responded in kind. Dutton believes the soldiers were members of the 5th Royal Irish Fusiliers. ‘There is no doubt that the firefight, though only 23 feet in length (roughly 18 seconds in duration) and somewhat out of focus, remains the most impressive scene of the filming’, writes Phillip Dutton, in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television (2004, Vol. 24, No. 2):

It is possibly the first authentic example of British Commonwealth troops in combat during the First World War; it is certainly one of the few surviving examples of genuine live action First World War film; the proximity of the cameraman to the action (and indeed the enemy, who were estimated by Ashmead-Bartlett to be about 30 yards away) is in itself remarkable!

Charles Bean, writing the titles in 1919, thought these men were Australians. He had access to Ashmead-Bartlett (who lived until 1931) and Bean had been at Gallipoli for the whole campaign. How then would he have made such a mistake, given that he was renowned for his attention to detail?

Opinion is also divided over whether Bean or Ashmead-Bartlett was making a veiled criticism of the British leadership with the scene of the officers taking tea. Bean edited the film after the war, so he may have chosen to put that scene next to a title that suggests Anzacs were fighting while these men dithered. The scene is thought to have been filmed at Suvla Bay on 7 August – a significant date. This was the start of the August offensives, aimed at finally dislodging the Turks along a wide section of the stalemated front, but the failure of that offensive is sometimes attributed, at least in part, to the fact that the British troops sent to attack Suvla Bay did not press on immediately after securing their landing site.

That is why images of tea-drinking officers at Suvla Bay had a particular resonance for anyone who knew the story – which in the years immediately after the war, would have been a considerable number. Whether Ashmead-Bartlett intended this criticism as well is hard to know, but he was certainly increasingly critical of the way the campaign was being run, so it’s reasonable to assume that both Bean and Ashmead-Bartlett intended this scene as somewhat critical.

There is some dispute also whether the shelling at the end of the clip is where Bean says it is. Phillip Dutton believes the scenes describing ‘shelling of the Chessboard’ and Lone Pine might actually be the shelling of Sari Bair as viewed from Suvla Bay.

One final mystery: in the officers’ tea party, the man sitting second from left is wearing a tie, shorts and a dark khaki shirt and carrying binoculars. He also looks very like the man in the tie from clip one and clip two. Could this be the same man? If it is the same man, it suggests he was with Ashmead-Bartlett on more than the day he visited Quinn’s Post, which was two weeks before this shot was taken.

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