Gresley and Wilfred Harper were among the hundreds of men of the Australian Light Horse who lost their lives during the doomed charge at the Battle of Nek on 7 August 1915.
In October that year, elder brother Walter (one of the founders of Wesfarmers and its longest serving chairman) wrote a heart-felt letter from his home at Woodbridge near Perth to his sister Clara, assuring her both boys had been killed outright and that they had been buried the following day near the trenches.
Trooper Gresley Harper (left), 10th Light Horse Regiment – [Australian War Memorial P07183.001]. Trooper Wilfred Harper (right), 10th Light Horse Regiment [Australian War Memorial P07183.002]. From Guildford, WA, the Harper brothers embarked together aboard HMAT Mashobra (A47) on 8 February 1915 from Fremantle and were both killed in action on Walker’s Ridge, Gallipoli on 7 August 1915.
Walter’s assertions were based on Arthur Leakes’ eye-witness report, enabling him to relate chilling details of the awful events of the day. The odds were stacked so incredibly high against the success of the charge that those who took part were aware they almost certainly would not survive, as these telling excerpts from Walter’s letter recount:
“ ‘The Turks were not fifty yds away and had their guns turned onto us and were just waiting for us to mount the parapet. Every man in our line knew that it was almost certain death to get out of our own trench yet not one hesitated an instant when the word “go” was passed along the line. All went as one.
The noise was terrific – shells and bombs were bursting all around us in addition to the hail of lead. It seemed impossible that anyone could live through it.’
In several letters from the front soldiers have told how after Turkish charges the wounded were to be seen in the broiling heat trying to crawl back to cover and those too wounded to move waving their arms and legs either in death agony or as signals for help which could never reach them.
All of us have visions of our boys enduring these tortures and it is a great relief to know that they suffered the easiest of deaths – to be instantly killed in the excitement of battle.”
Bonus Gift For Subscribers
Reproduced in its entirety in authentic style by The Perth Mint as part of The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series, this historical document is a remarkable bonus gift for subscribers to the five-year 1/2oz Silver Proof Three-Coin Set.
This year’s coins pay tribute to the sacrifices of all those who fought at Gallipoli and also efforts at home to make the soldiers’ lives more bearable.
Bravest of the Brave
The coin’s reverse depicts the Anzacs as they battled to scale the rocky cliffs above Anzac Cove on 25th April 1915. An Australian soldier, with bayonet fixed to his rifle, is highlighted in colour.
Spirit of the Fallen
The coin’s reverse depicts a symbolic image of the Lone Pine tree in 1915 on the left, with soldiers walking through trenches filled with their fallen comrades. On the right is a coloured representation of the Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing.
Billies for the Troops
The coin’s reverse depicts a symbolic image of a woman in colour giving a billy tin to an Australian First World War soldier. The image on the tin is the Alexandra Club Christmas billy tin design which features a kangaroo on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Subscribers will also receive a limited edition replica billy tin in which all 15 1/2oz silver coins issued between 2014 and 2018 can be housed.
Click here for further information about this year’s Three-Coin Set and a Series subscription.
Replica of Walter Harper’s letter written in 1915 and a replica billy tin with room for all 15 1/2oz silver proof coins from the five-year ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series.
Produced in association with the Australian War Memorial
POST A COMMENT