Our Slender Perch on the Cliffs of the Peninsula

Our Slender Perch on the Cliffs of the Peninsula

One hundred years ago to the day, a passionate and desperate plea sent on 23rd September,1915 from Keith Murdoch, an outstanding and committed Australian journalist to the then Australian Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher signalled the end of the ANZAC campaign, General Ian Hamilton sent back to England and the withdrawal of the Allies from Gallipoli in December of the same year.

                                                                                

Sir Keith Murdoch (1885 - 1952) was to become one of the leading  journalists, editors and newspaper proprietors in Australia in the 20th century. A previous journalist with The Age, he was promoted in 1911 as Commonwealth parliamentary reporter and was a founding member of the Australian Journalists Association [AJA] established in 1910.

Narrowly missing the position as official correspondent for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) to CEW Bean, Murdoch was transferred to London as Managing Editor of the United Cable Service. A close friend and mentor to Murdoch, Andrew Fisher encouraged the commissioning of Murdoch to spend four days at Gallipoli to document the atrocious and ignominious failure of the campaign. Murdoch passionately writes to Fisher on 23 September, 1915:

It is of bigger things I write you now. I shall talk as if you were by my side, as in the good days. .. It is undoubtedly one of the most terrible chapters in our history. Your fears have been justified. I have not military knowledge to be able to say whether the enterprise ever had a chance of succeeding. (p1)

He also writes to Fisher:

I must leave this story, scrappy as it is, of the operations, to tell you of the situation and the problems that face us. I will do so with the frankness you have always encouraged. (p9)

He writes of munitions, fear of German attack, harsh geographical and weather conditions, rations, water shortages, thirst, 'deplorable' conditions and sickness faced every day:

... the frightful weakening effect of sickness. Already the flies are spreading dysentery to an alarming extent, and the sick rate would astonish you. It cannot be less than 600 a day. We must be evacuating fully 1000 sick and wounded men every day.  (p13)

                

His inherent and relentless compassion for the despairing loss of young lives is reflected in his lamentable heart-rendering plea to Fisher:

They and other troops were dashed against the Turkish lines, and broken. They never had a chance of holding their positions when for one brief hour they pierced the Turk’s first line; and the slaughter of fine youths was appalling… and to fling them, without even the element of surprise, against such trenches as the Turks made, was murder. (p8)

The Fryer Library holds an extensive collection of manuscripts and photographs depicting the ANZAC Campaign and World War 1 and welcomes researchers, academics, students, journalists and the community at large to view these collections. 

Last updated:
30 November 2016