Quinn’s Post – Gallipoli

After the Australians had gone ashore at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, various battles revolved around a number of well defended places. One was a most dangerous stretch of trenches called Quinn’s Post in Monash Valley.

Quinn’s Post was so close to the Turkish trenches that grenades could be thrown easily from one side into the trenches of the other. Quinn’s Post took a terrible toll on young men from the North Shore. A number of soldiers from Sydney’s Upper North Shore served at Quinn’s Post. Maurice Fergusson, an ex-student of Beecroft Primary School, had gone ashore with the 13th Battalion on 25 April and endured heavy fighting. On 2 May the men of the 13th were sent to attack the Turkish trenches near the crucial position of Quinn’s Post. In the ensuing confused action Fergusson, the son of a Presbyterian minister at Wahroonga, was lost. It was a savage battle. Tragically, the date of Fergusson’s death indicates that he was killed as the unit was withdrawing from the engagement. His loss was noted in the local paper, the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate and no doubt added to the growing depression which was a feature of the wider Australian community at this time. Another man with connections to Beecroft and Cheltenham to lose his life at Quinn’s Post was Edwin Butler, a 28 year-old engine driver. While he was from Picton, his father moved to Malton Road Beecroft soon after the war and thus Edwin’s name appears on the monument to the fallen in the centre of the Beecroft village. Edwin Butler was killed barely a week after arriving on Gallipoli from Egypt on 9 May 1915. His unit, the 3rd Light Horse was sent into their first contact with the enemy at Quinn’s Post. Arrival at the front line was hazardous in the extreme for such novice soldiers. Edwin Butler did not survive his first day at the post. The carnage experienced by Butler’s unit in their first front line posting led to a review of how new troops were prepared for such hazardous duty, but the improved training was too late for Butler. The young men were thrown into a situation where enemy bombs landed, and exploded next to them without warning, or a quick curious look over the parapet to see what was happening invited a fatal bullet.

In the same month as Butler was killed, a number of other men from the surrounding district lost their lives on Gallipoli including Reginald Epthorpe from Thornleigh, Thomas Nelson from Hornsby, Sydney Parkes from Waitara and Leonard Williams from Eastwood. A steady stream of telegrams was borne by sombre faced clergymen delivering the tragic news.

Quinn’s Post also saw the first local hero honoured. Lance Corporal Charles Grimson, a 28-yearold farmer of Lodge Street Hornsby, gained fame as the first man from the district to win the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Grimson was serving at the post with the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment on 28/29 May when the Turks exploded a mine close by, which caused the Australian trench to collapse, completely blocking off one section. The Turks then started moving their men into this section, forming a small post from which they could launch further attacks. Fierce fighting ensued and the Turks were trapped and called on to surrender. Nothing happened because no one spoke Arabic amongst the Australians. Inevitably someone had to go in and get the enemy out. Grimson and two others fixed bayonets and crawled over the rubble into the enemy position. They moved along the trench forcing 17 Turks to surrender. The interior of the shelter was a horrific sight, splashed with the remains of 23 dead Turks. The terrified Turkish prisoners were taken out, expecting to be killed. Instead they were given a friendly welcome and cigarettes and marched into captivity. So relieved were they, that they kissed the hands of their captors. Grimson returned home in November 1915 and became a well-known local figure, prominent in the recruiting efforts.

Three other young men from the district went to Gallipoli together. They were Arthur Gilbert, an 18 year old clerk of “Torrington” on Beecroft Road, Beecroft, George Murray, 22, of “Brackland” on Cheltenham Road also listed as a Beecroft man, and Douglas Kenway, 20, of “Carneton” in West Pennant Hills. Other local men on Gallipoli were a local farmer, Henry Connell, working with the Service Corps as a horse driver and Adrian Hope in the Light Horse.

There was a wave of enlistments across the country in response to news of the landings. One local boy, Samuel Greer of “Armagh” in “The Crescent”, Pennant Hills, who had been to Beecroft Public School, convinced his parents to let him join up at the age of 18. He left on the transport Berrima on 25 June along with Raymond King of Clark Road in Hornsby, Roy Gallard of Abuklea Road in Eastwood and Leopold Gartung of Galston, near Hornsby. They were just in time for the end of Gallipoli. Perhaps young Sammy Greer would not have been so ardent had he known what he was getting himself into. The war killed him by degrees. While the local men crouched in terror at Quinn’s Post, the suburbs of Beecroft and Cheltenham went about their lives. St John’s Anglican Church prepared to celebrate its 25th anniversary and the Reverend Joseph Young distributed prizes to the successful students of the Sunday School. Local news was concerned with a successful kitchen tea for the soon-to-be-married Miss Mabel Lyon, complaints over the cost of the Hannah Street Bridge, joy at the way the Reverend Archibald Ogilvie had allowed members of his congregation to use his tennis court and relief that Mrs Brown had recovered from appendicitis. However, the war intruded on every aspect of life. After Gallipoli and the waves of terrible telegrams a subdued gloom settled on the suburbs as everyone feared the worst for their sons and brothers at the war.