In search of Cari­bou Hill

The Telegram (St. John's) - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRANK GO­GOS Frank Go­gos is a free­lance writer, re­searcher, pho­tog­ra­pher and au­thor of two books on the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment in the Great War. His latest book “The Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment in the Great War: A guide to the Bat­tle­fields and Me

Pil­grims comb Gal­lipoli, Tur­key, for elu­sive bat­tle­field

I was for­tu­nate to be among the pil­grim­age group to the rugged land­scape of Gal­lipoli, Tur­key, as their guide to the New­found­land bat­tle­fields and sights of in­ter­est 100 years af­ter the First New­found­land Reg­i­ment landed on Kan­ga­roo Beach.

Joined by to­day’s Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment, these pil­grims shared a cen­ten­nial jour­ney to the graves, bat­tle­fields and em­barka­tion beaches of the brave young sol­diers who served in the Gal­lipoli Cam­paign.

It was my sec­ond trip, hav­ing vis­ited the penin­sula pre­vi­ously in April 2012 to re­search the New­found­land trenches in Su­vla Bay, as well as pay re­spects to our fallen sol­diers. I, along with another his­to­rian, An­thony McAl­lis­ter, artist Mor­gan Mac­Don­ald and Ron­ald Pen­ney, chair­man of the Reg­i­men­tal Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, went there on a re­search and fact-find­ing mis­sion to de­ter­mine a suit­able lo­ca­tion for a Bronze cari­bou to fin­ish the Trail of the Cari­bou first en­vi­sioned by Padre Thomas Nan­gle.

One of my per­sonal goals was to find the elu­sive Cari­bou Hill. At that time, lit­tle was known of the lo­ca­tion of Cari­bou Hill, the sight of one of the few suc­cesses on the Su­vla Bay bat­tle­fields in the fall of 1915.

On Nov. 4, 1915, a sec­tion from C Com­pany of the New­found­land Reg­i­ment, un­der the com­mand of Lt. James Don­nelly oc­cu­pied the hill in No Man’s Land to wrest a trou­ble­some sniper out­post from Turk­ish hands and in­cor­po­rate it within the Bri­tish front­line. Af­ter an all­night fire­fight be­tween Don­nelly’s party and a de­ter­mined Turk­ish counter at­tack, the hill re­mained with the New­found­land Reg­i­ment. The next day 11 out­posts were joined to­gether along the New­found­land Ridge which also in­cluded Cari­bou Hill to ex­tend the Bri­tish line 150 yards in front and another 150200 yards along the length, mak­ing it the largest ter­ri­to­rial gain for any reg­i­ment since the ini­tial in­va­sion of Su­vla Bay. There is lit­tle won­der why Cari­bou Hill was granted to New­found­land by the Bri­tish Bat­tle Ex­ploits Com­mit­tee to place a me­mo­rial there.

Ear­lier in 2011, I paired up with David Mercer, a car­tog­ra­pher and a li­brary as­sis­tant who works in the map room of the QEII Li­brary at MUN. David and I share a com­mon pas­sion and the chance to work to­gether on find­ing Cari­bou Hill was too good for us to pass up.

For David and I, our main in­ten­tion was to find the New­found­land front­lines at Su­vla Bay, and more specif­i­cally, Cari­bou Hill, based upon known his­tor­i­cal anec­dotes and the few sparse bat­tle­field maps that ex­isted of the Gal­lipoli Penin­sula. Cari­bou Hill had been an ob­scure piece of ground to the few New­found­lan­ders to have searched for this uniquely New­found­land bat­tle­ground since the end of the First World War. In April 2012, we had man­aged to come within 100-square-me­tre area of the Hill and plant a New­found­land flag nearby. We were also the first to have walked on a non­de­script hill that would over the next few years re­veal it­self to be the ob­ject of our ob­ses­sion.

More than three years would pass be­fore for­tune en­abled a re­turn to the front lines of Su­vla Bay. This time I came armed with ac­cu­rate maps cre­ated through many ses­sions with David, as well as more in­for­ma­tion col­lected from our con­tin­u­ous re­search. I guided two buses of New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, in­clud­ing 25 mem­bers of the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment to the ex­act lo­ca­tion of Cari­bou Hill. They be­came the first New­found­land pil­grim­age group to stand on the very spot that Don­nelly and his men had fought so valiantly.

The next day an op­por­tu­nity arose, as the pil­grim­age took a day off to visit the op­po­site side of the Dar­danelles, when ex-pat New­found­lan­der Keith Sher­ren and his son Ni­co­lai, along with his fa­ther Nel­son, of­fered to take me back to Cari­bou Hill for fur­ther scour­ing of the grounds. It was an of­fer that I could not refuse. We were joined by Ken Gate­house, a grand­son of one of the sol­diers in the main line that night, and a for­mer Bri­tish sailor Kevin Re­gan, a New­found­lan­der by mar­riage. We were also later joined by three more re­searchers from New­found­land on their own pil­grim­age. Us­ing the map, we were able fol­low the newly in­cor­po­rated fir­ing line from the grassy plain, to the ris­ing rocky ter­rain and prickly bushes cov­er­ing Cari­bou Hill and New­found­land Ridge. Bro­ken sup­ply re­serve de­pot jugs marked the Bri­tish front line in this area which neatly cor­re­sponded to our map. Four years of pick­ing away and map­ping the area had fi­nally paid off in a big way. David and I man­aged to un­ravel the mys­ter­ies of Cari­bou Hill, of that there was no ques­tion.

We took a short break in the lit­tle vil­lage of Büyükana­farta in the Teke Tepe hills for lunch af­ter which our ex­pe­di­tion re­turned to the Su­vla Plain. With the story of the deadly Novem­ber Storm of 1915 in our minds, the skies above us dark­ened as light­ning lit up the sky and thun­der claps shud­dered through the heavy air, mak­ing us ques­tion the san­ity of our next en­deav­our, which was to find the Block­house, an old stone house in the south­ern­most part of the fir­ing line that the New­found­lan­ders oc­cu­pied dur­ing their time in Su­vla Bay. Us­ing the map cre­ated by David to pos­i­tively iden­tify Cari­bou Hill, the block­house was found ex­actly where it should have been. We were now two for two with a solid con­fir­ma­tion on the ac­cu­racy of the map that we had worked on for the last three and half years.

Ex­cited by the dis­cov­ery, my­self, Ken and Keith jumped onto a muddy farmer’s road, and an in­creas­ingly soggy fal­low sun­flower field in the pour­ing rain, to in­ves­ti­gate the stone house, which was hid­den be­hind a cen­tury of old growth, tan­gled vines and trees. A well that was men­tioned in the same ac­counts and shown on hand drawn maps, was also found nearby.

Our visit how­ever, was rushed, with the fa­mous Novem­ber Storm still loom­ing large in our minds, we knew that any more de­lays would re­quire a res­cue party to ex­tri­cate us from the surg­ing wa­ter, de­te­ri­o­rat­ing muddy road and a seem­ingly an­gry Turk­ish farmer ges­tat­ing wildly to get off his land (he was ac­tu­ally try­ing to warn us of the haz­ards of get­ting stuck in the mid­dle of nowhere). We were not long mov­ing when the van slipped off the farmer’s track, send­ing two wheels deep into the mud on one side. With the help of the van’s two stoutest pas­sen­gers (my­self and Ken), we man­aged to es­cape the wet Su­vla Plain and drove through the hills to the vil­lage of Küçükana­farta just in time.

With this dis­cov­ery, we have now de­mar­cated the New­found­land fir­ing line in Su­vla Bay. Over­all, the day was one to re­mem­ber for my­self, David and the rest of the group, hav­ing traced the line and con­firm­ing the place­ment of the most elu­sive bat­tle­ground of the Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment in the Great War.

It was a thrill to walk over the ground of such a his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant event to New­found­land and know that our hard work not only paid off, but we were able to share this with other New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans, es­pe­cially the young Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment sol­diers that came to the penin­sula to pay re­spect to their fallen com­rades dur­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the reg­i­ment first en­ter­ing into ac­tive ser­vice in the Great War.

The first per­son I called af­ter the dis­cov­ery was David, who had stayed be­hind in New­found­land, He was al­most speech­less when I gave him the news.

“I al­most don’t know what to say. … Hav­ing had the chance to work with great peo­ple who put so much into this, for so long, pulling to­gether all of the bits and pieces to fi­nally hear some­one con­firm the lo­ca­tion is truly over­whelm­ing. It’s amaz­ing!” said David.

Ken Gate­house summed up the day.

“Walk­ing on Cari­bou Hill with Frank, who’s done an in­cred­i­ble amount of re­search, years try­ing to find out where all these places were be­cause you know the ground is not like it was, un­like France, things aren’t as de­fined as they were,” he said. “But to be with him and walk around … was just an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. You can re­ally see first­hand where they were and what they had done and to find that block house that Frank was look­ing for … it was a rainy, muddy day when we found it and he was over the moon and he just felt it was such a pos­i­tive thing for the fu­ture and for the other New­found­lan­ders who would come.”

As for all the group that made the trek that day, you couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces as we dragged our weary, wet and muddy selves into our ho­tel that evening. It was… truly amaz­ing.


Cari­bou Hill–Su­vla Plain in the back­ground. From left are mem­bers of a New­found­land and Labrador del­e­ga­tion to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the First World War: Ken Gate­house, Ean Par­sons, Keven Re­gan, Frank Go­gos, Neil Burgess and Nico Sher­ren.


Frank Go­gos on Cari­bou Hill with the Su­vla Plain in the back­ground.


The well near the block­house still in use to­day. Dur­ing the Gal­lipoli Cam­paign many wells were pol­luted with an­i­mal and hu­man re­mains to pre­vent the Bri­tish from get­ting fresh wa­ter.

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