It was obvious the commotion would bring more Turks – they were, after all, in their territory. Enemy soldiers were, in fact, crawling across open ground to a position on the other side of the Australians. Two dropped down behind the men and the fast-shooting Dick, whirling around, pulled his trigger faster than they could pull theirs. The other Turks slid back out of sight. The Australians realised they were surrounded.
‘We’ll have to clear ourselves a passage,’ said Dick. ‘I’ll have a squiz on the other side of the barrier – see how our bombardiers are doin’.’
‘Now take it easy, Dick!’ said Martin, trying to restrain his impetuous friend. ‘We’ll hold out better back to back!’
Dick grinned at him and clambered over the sandbags. Confronted by the cautiously advancing Turks, he ran full tilt into them, sticking his bayonet into two. Before they could react, he was back around the corner, panting, his back against the trench wall.
‘Okay?’ asked Martin over his shoulder while he watched the other side of the trench.
‘Sweet as a bun.’
From Dick’s position, the Turks around the corner could only approach in ones and twos. Men dropped each time they attempted to scramble over the barrier. Martin, meanwhile, was throwing bombs, keeping the other wave of attackers at bay. And then, above it all, they heard the cries of Australian voices – ‘Hang on Aussie; we’re nearly there!’
‘Keep it going, Marty!’ called Dick. ‘Only seconds to the final bell!’
Martin smiled, his face still turned to the other side of the trench. Then a shot rang out, loud and clear. And it echoed and bounced and ricocheted through his mind. He’d heard more than a half a million rifle shots at Gallipoli, despite his weeks away. But this single crack reverberated right through him. Before he turned, he knew what he would see. He tried to whip his head around, but it seemed to move in slow motion. His eyes rested on the Turk kneeling in the trench parapet, his rifle still trained on its target. Dick lay face down, already bleeding from the mouth. Martin was still moving in slow motion. He saw the Turk lift his rifle, point it at him – and heard the click.
Again it boomed through his brain. The sound of the rifle misfiring jerked Martin into action, now high-speed action, and he whipped his rifle up to hip level and shot, catching his mate’s killer in the head.
He didn’t hear the battle outside. He didn’t hear anything. For the first time the world was silent. He walked over to his friend, his dear mate, and slumped into a sitting position beside him. Now the blood was spreading, high up on his back.
‘Oh Dick . . . Dick’, he said, quietly. He raised his hands to his face. ‘Dick . . . Dick.’
Puttees, boots, men, Aussies, dropped into the trench. The Sergeant in charge surveyed the carnage. He saw only the dead Turks.
‘Crikey! We heard your little shindig. But it doesn’t look like you need us.’
Martin nodded toward Dick’s lifeless body. ‘It was mostly his work.’
The Sergeant was still looking around at the enemy. ‘He must’ve been a bloody goer.’
Martin tried to force out words. ‘He was protecting my back, I was supposed to protect his.’ Now the tears rolled unchecked down his face. They were going to go to Queensland.
‘A mate of yours, was he?’
No more words. Martin simply nodded. The Sergeant, a builder by trade, reached down and with as much gentleness as his roughened hands would allow, touched Martin’s cheek.
‘Come on, pal. Go back to your own mob. You’ve done your share.’
He helped Martin to his feet. The young Barrington stumbled off along the trench. ‘By the way,’ called the Sergeant, ‘the boys have taken Lone Pine.’
Martin didn’t hear him; didn’t want to hear him.
They buried Dick at night on a hill overlooking Anzac Cove. The makeshift cemetery was dotted with crude crosses and tablets in memory of the men whose bodies had been recovered. Many were still inaccessible, left where they had fallen. Some were to remain for years.
The platoon stood in silence as Armstrong pushed a rough cross, made out of a biscuit tin, into the mound of earth that covered the body of the young stockman whose first steps into the war were along the wattle-edged roads of western Victoria. The cross wobbled slightly in the warm wind that blew in from the Aegean. Its inscription said simply: ‘Pte Dick Baker. 8th Btn. A good mate. 6 Aug., 1915’.