Gallipoli was a campaign that has been condemned as a useless waste of lives and resources in a war that is generally regarded as a costly battle of attrition. For any one action at Gallipoli to be seen as a significant disaster, it had to be unusually costly and pointless. The author tells the story of Billy Sing in the third of his Gallipoli books. This compliments the author’s other Gallipoli books. Highly Recommended.
NAME: Gallipoli Sniper, The Remarkable Life of Billy Sing
AUTHOR: John Hamilton
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, frontline
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: The Great War, WWI, World War One, First World War, Gallipoli, Light Cavalry, Trench warfare, machine guns, snipers, rifle, Lee Enfield
DESCRIPTION: Gallipoli was a campaign that has been condemned as a useless waste of lives and resources in a war that is generally regarded as a costly battle of attrition. For any one action at Gallipoli to be seen as a significant disaster, it had to be unusually costly and pointless. The author tells the story of Billy Sing in the third of his Gallipoli books. This compliments the author’s other Gallipoli books. Highly Recommended.
Gallipoli is a strange campaign that followed a good naval reconnaissance exercise that should perhaps have been left at that. In the event, a Government and military desperately looking for a positive campaign to set against the increasingly costly Western Front battles, Gallipoli looked like a soft opportunity. There then followed a series of mistakes and command failures that turned a possibly fruitful campaign into an unwinnable exercise in futility. At this point the commanders were in denial, and the campaign continued beyond the point where withdrawal should have been undertaken. The result is that a succession of courageous actions by British troops led to nothing but high casualties and much of these were borne by the Australian troops who made a large percentage of the British force. The Light Cavalry at Nek, in many respects, compare with the charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. The author has written a fine book on the charge, and this account of Hugo Throssell compliments the book on ht battle itself.
Light cavalry traditionally provided the scouts for an army searching for the enemy. They were fast, lightly armed and ideally suited to a war of movement. They were also suitable for lightning charges, as in the Crimea, to take the enemy by surprise and disable gun batteries. In the Crimean War the British Light Brigade came very close to success and the real failure was to back up the charge and exploit its opportunity. All those decades later, the Australian soldiers of the Third Light Horse never really stood a chance. They provided unmissable targets for the Turkish machine guns and were mowed down before they even reached the Turkish trench line. It was one of those horrendous military failures that saw the greatest gallantry for the least result.
The horseman was obsolete by the start of WWI because the use of machine guns and barbed wire forced a war of attrition from entrenched positions. It was not until the horseman was remounted in the tank, that the cavalry were able to return to a war of mobility.
Sing was one of a number who became a sniper and developed a fearsome reputation that prompted the Turks to attempt to target him. He deserved his names as “ANZAC Angel of Death” and “Assassin of Gallipoli”. In many conflicts, a highly effective sniper is directly targeted by another sniper and a personal dual results. Sing faced “Abdul the Terrible” but the Turk was the one who died.
The chosen weapon used by Sing was the Lee Enfield .303 rifle that was standard British equipment during WWI and WWII. It has been described as simple but it was a very well engineered rifle that married the American Lee bolt action to the barrel made by the Enfield Armoury in the UK. The removable magazine was normally not removed and a charger guide was used to rapidly refill the magazine. That magazine loading system, together with a fast action bolt, was used in the early battles in France to such effect that the Germans thought they were facing machine guns. It was also an excellent weapon for carefully aimed long shots by a sniper with his spotter. The first Lee Enfields, which were the WWI standard had a long barrel and a wooden fore-stock that ended at the bayonet mount. The standard iron sights were easy to use and very effective. Although optical sights were used by some WWI snipers, most were effective with the standard iron sights.