The battle of Lone Pine, fought between Australian and Ottoman Empire* forces during the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War, took place on 400 Plateau, 120m above sea level, south-east of Anzac Cove, between 6 and 10 August 1915. It has become one of the most sacred sites because of the bloody battle which resulted in a rare win on the peninsular for the Australians.
The plan was for the Turkish forces to be fooled into regarding the area around Lone Pine as the objective of the main August assault, while the real offensive was carried out by troops from the New Zealand and Australian Divisions on the heights well to the north along the Sari Bair range.
It was familiar territory to the Australians. On the 25th April it was reached and passed by part of the 9th Australian Battalion about 8 am, and by other units later. That night it was No Man’s Land. On the 26th it was re-occupied by the 4th Battalion, and again it had to be given up at night. It was an important Turkish strong point, known to them as “Kanli Sirt” (Bloody Ridge) commanding Gaba Tepe to the South, and the ravines leading up from that part of the coast. The Australians pushed mines towards it from the end of May to the beginning of August.
Map showing the high ground objectives within the Anzac Sector at Gallipoli. During the August Offensive British and ANZAC troops attempted to capture Hill 971, Hill Q and Chunuk Bair, the highest points on the Sari Bair Range. The Turkish strongpoint at Lone Pine, located on the 400 Plateau was the objective of a diversionary action launched on 6 August 1915. Ex Sydney ANZAC Memorial
Troops of the 1st Australian Brigade commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Harold Walker launched the diversionary attack at 5:30pm on 6 August 1915 preceded by mine explosions and artillery bombardment from land and sea. The width of the front of the attack was 160 yards (150 m) and the distance between the two trench lines of the opposing forces was about 60–100 yards (55–91 m).
When the Australians reached the Ottoman line, they found pine log roofs covered many of the trenches. By nightfall, the Australians had: taken over most of the enemy front line and established outposts in former Ottoman communication trenches. Up until 9 August, ferocious hand to hand fighting took place underground, in a complex maze of Ottoman tunnels.
Thereafter a stalemate developed around Lone Pine and lasted until the evacuation of Australian troops in December 1915. Despite the specific Australian victory, the overall August Offensive failed.
When the battle was over, some 2,273 men were killed or wounded across Australian battalions, and over 6,390 Turks had been killed or wounded. From the action at Lone Pine, seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest British Empire bravery decoration. It was the largest number ever awarded to an Australian Division for one action.
For the rest of WWI and entering the public physic the battle of Lone Pine became a totem for Australian valour and commitment.
After the war, an Australian military historical mission was sent to Gallipoli, led by Charles Bean. On Bean’s advice the Australian government sought permission from the newly formed Turkish Republic to establish an official war cemetery in the area. In 1923 the Treaty of Lausanne was ratified, and through its provisions the Lone Pine cemetery was established in the area, dubbed the Daisy Patch by the Australians.
The Lone Pine cemetery and memorial partly covers:
- the old battlefield
- Australian positions (behind the eastern edge)
- Turkish trenches (near the Lone Pine Memorial pylon)
The existing lone pine tree in situ is actually a stone pine or umbrella (Pinus pinea L.) which is not native to Gallipoli itself, but is frequent in the Aegean region of Türkiye. It was planted after the cemetery was laid out in the 1920s.
The question arises as to the identity of the original standalone tree.
Foresters concur that the taxonomy of the original lone pine was a Pinus brutia Ten., Turkish Pine or Calabrian pine, native to the Gallipoli peninsular**.
Sergeant Keith McDowell picked up a pine cone from the original Lone Pine and placed it in his haversack as a souvenir. On his eventual return to Australia he gave the cone to his aunt, Mrs Emma Gray of Grassmere near Warrnambool, Victoria. Some 12 years later the few seeds from the cone were planted and four sprouted and grew into seedlings. One was planted at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. From this mother tree hundreds of seedlings have been raised over the intervening years by Legacy and its supporters and distributed to community groups.
What then of the third pine species Pinus halepensis Miller, Aleppo Pine or Jerusalem pine that has also been commonly planted around various WWI memorials across Australia including the lone pine planted by HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (and later Governor-General of Australia), on 24 October 1934 during the construction of the Australian War Memorial.
Pinus halepensis does not grow naturally on the Gallipoli Peninsular but is found nearby along the Mediterranean coast. It had long been used by local Forestry authorities as a suitable tree for man-made plantations.
Lance Corporal Benjamin Smith of the 3rd Battalion whose brother was killed in the battle for Lone Pine Ridge sent a cone home to his mother, Mrs McMullen at Inverell in New South Wales. Mrs McMullen kept the cone for 13 years until 1928 before planting the seeds. She grew two seedlings, one of which she presented to the town of Inverell and the other to the Parks and Gardens section of the Department of the Interior in Canberra. It was this latter seedling of Pinus halepensis that was planted at the Australian War Memorial and which in turn provided many offspring for distribution around Australia.
The confusion of the two distinct pine species brought back from Gallipoli by active servicemen and thence to various ANZAC shrines around Australia can be attributed to the use of both Pinus brutia the native pine and Pinus halepensis the afforestation planted pine to supply logs in the well documented use to shore up and cover the Ottoman trenches.
The confusion arises from the souveniring tendencies of the Australian troops.
The complete story of the ‘lone pine’ of Gallipoli necessitates the inclusion of three distinct species of pine tree. It would seem apt to have a small grove of these three pines established concurrently with the existing expansion of the Australian War Memorial.