The attack at the Nek was to coincide with an attack by New Zealand soldiers from Chunuk Bair, and was also supposed to be captured in the early morning of August 7th. The Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade were to take the Nek while New Zealanders took Battleship Hill from the rear. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade were raised in Australia as a combined infantry, artillery and cavalry unit. They were shipped to Egypt, where they had to leave their horses and serve as infantry in Gallipoli.
The attack was supposed to begin at 0430 after a naval bombardment. The 8th and 10th Light Horse Regiments were to advance on a front 80 yards wide, in four waves of 150 men each. Each wave was to go over the top ever two minutes. The Ottoman lines were only 29 yards away. Unfortunately the New Zealand advance failed to reach Chunuk Bair. Without capturing that high ground the Ottoman machine guns, with their enfiladed fire, would slaughter anyone crossing the ground around Quinn’s Post and the Nek. Major General Sir Alexander Godley, commander of the ANZAC Division, declared that the attack would proceed anyway.
The artillery bombardment also went wrong, with the barrage ending at 0423. The officers in the trenches did not know if the artillery was to continue or not. The artillery officer and the assault officer had not synchronized their watches prior to the attack. The attack did not go at 0430 and this gave the Ottoman defenders plenty of time to return to their trenches and prepare for the assault they now knew was coming.
The first wave of 150 men, from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, went over the top, and within 30 seconds they were all gunned down. Incredibly a few men made it to the enemy trenches and marker flags were seen flying, but those men were quickly shot or bayoneted by the Ottoman defenders. The second wave followed the first, without hesistation, two minutes later. They were met by the same wall of murderous machine gun and rifle fire, and were cut down before they got halfway to the trench… only about 15 yards. A supporting attack by the Royal Welch Fusiliers against the “Chessboard” trenches also suffered 65 casualties before it too was called off. A simultaneous attack by the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, from the 1st Light Horse Brigade at Quinn’s Post was abandoned when 49 out of the 50 men in the first wave were killed or wounded. Their regiment commander did not go over in the first wave and was able to stop the slaughter.
Unfortunately for the men attacking the Nek, the 8th Light Horse Regiment’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel A.H. White, was in the first wave and lay dead in the the space between the two trenches. No one called off the attack. The commander of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Brazier, tried to call off the third wave, claiming that “the whole thing was nothing but bloody murder”, but he could not persuade the Brigade Major, Colonel John Anthill, to end the attack. Neither could find the Brigade commander Colonel Hughes. Anthill implied that there was success since marker flags were seen in the trenches. Anthill ordered the third wave to go over the top.
The third wave “hopped the bags” and was slaughtered. Many of the men just ran out of the trench and immediately dived for cover, using the bodies of those who went before them as a buffer from the bullets. Since their duty was just to get over the trench and they considered it fulfilled. Due to this the 10th Light Horse Regiment had a lower casualty rate than the 8th Regiment. The attack was finally called off, but amazingly, in all the chaos of the morning, about half of the fourth wave went over, and they were cut down too. By 0445 it was over and the ridge was covered with dead and wounded Australians. They would remain there for the duration.
Out of the 600 Australians that took part in the attack, 372 fell. The 8th Light Horse Regiment lost 234 men out of the 300 who “hopped the bags” and 154 of them were killed. The 10th Light Horse Regiment lost 138 out of their 300 of which 80 were killed. The Ottoman losses were almost non-exitent, with only eight dead. It is said the Australians were ordered to charge with unloaded rifles, using only the bayonet.