Obelisk Bay served for Anzac Cove not long after the landing on 25 April 1915. The beach on the southern side of Middle Head was the location for Within Our Gates, a film also known as Deeds That Won Gallipoli, directed by Frank Harvey for the J. C. Williamson company. Only a few seconds of footage and a couple of stills survive, but the WWI diary of Percy Smythe can take us there again…
About 9am. we fell in again and were put into boats and taken in tow by motor launches. Enjoyed the run out in the boats to Middle Head. After hanging about there for some time we were landed on the tiny beach at Obelisk Bay. A company of men there were dressed in the Turkish uniform. Some land mines were placed in the sand on the beach and connected up by wires, to be exploded by electricity. There were a few in the water too. After waiting there for a while we got in the boats again. It was rather amusing. We had to wait till the water receded and then rush down and clamber into the boat before the water came swirling up again. Several would make a rush together, and their frantic efforts to escape the water were very laughable. In the excitement one chap lost his footing and managed to sit down in the water as it came washing up.
Having embarked, we put off a bit and got ready for the great event. The Turks were placed some on the beach and some further up the hill. The cinema camera was placed on a rock at the left of the beach. It was still cloudy now, but all the rain had disappeared and the air was very clear. When everything was ready and the boats arranged in position some behind the others, we got the command to fix bayonets, and then the sailors started to pull for the shore. Things began to get exciting. When we got near the shore the troops on shore opened fire, and some bombs began to explode, and for some time there was quite a respectable din. As our boat, which was one of the last, ran up on the sand, we sprang out and charged up the hill with bayonets fixed. A lot of men, and some Turks, had fallen dead on the beach. Old Williams was there, and he had allowed his rifle to fall where the waves washing up each time completely covered it. With the others, I charged up that hill till the whistle blew without noticing myself getting particularly tired. But when we stopped, I was almost exhausted, although it was only quite a short distance. We had full kit on, and the hill was some steep.
Had a bit of a rest and then formed up on the beach again, while a couple of chaps acted the struggle on the cliff between the Australian and the Turk. The Turk was behind a bush sniping and the Australian crept up to bayonet him, but altered his mind, and laid his rifle down and struck the Turk with his fist and then came to grips with him. A brief struggle followed and then the Turk lay helpless. He got up, and a stuffed dummy was put in his place. The brave Australian then picked up the dummy and shot him over the cliff with truly wonderful ease.
That ended the play. It didn’t appear to me to be too well done, but might look all right on the pictures.
Within Our Gates was released on 19 July 1915 to box office success, but it wasn’t the first feature film about Gallipoli. That honour lay with The Hero of the Dardanelles, released two days earlier, featuring soldiers, like Percy Smythe, from Liverpool camp, storming the beach at Tamarama.
Mosman’s Gallipoli moment was rescued by historian Dr Daniel Reynaud, who identified these few seconds of Obelisk Bay in the A H Noad film held at the Australian War Memorial.
Our thanks to Jacqui Ann for bringing the story to our attention on the Doing our bit Facebook Page.