Whistle blow recalls Lone Pine attack

  • 02/19/2019

Ian Burrett hopes he’s made his father proud after giving three blasts on a whistle at a commemoration service on the Gallipoli Peninsula.


One hundred years to the day after his father blew the same signal to send his men over the top at Lone Pine, Mr Burrett on Thursday laid a wreath at a memorial wall and repeated the signal on a replica whistle.

“It would have to be the best moment in my life and I hope I’ve made Dad proud,” said Mr Burrett, from Portland in NSW.

The 69-year-old’s gesture in memory of his father was made in front of Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and hundreds of people who attended the centenary service to mark the Battle of Lone Pine.

Mr Burrett’s father, Athol, was a platoon commander in August 1915 when he and his men were ordered to charge out of their trenches and attack heavily defended Turkish lines.

Along the Australian line at 5.30pm on August 6, three blasts on a whistle was the signal to go over the top.

Four days of vicious close-quarter fighting followed in which about 800 Australian soldiers were killed and about 1500 wounded, with Turkish casualties higher.

Athol Burrett survived Gallipoli and the fighting in France, and his son believes he may be the youngest person to have climbed through the ranks to become a major at the age of 22.

Mr Burrett told AAP his father was a “magnificent man” who landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, and got a bullet through the arm two days later.

When he recovered, he was given an officer’s commission and in August that year led his men into the mayhem that was the Lone Pine battle.

But his son said it was not easy getting permission from the Department of Veterans Affairs to blow a whistle at a commemoration service.

He said Australian Federal Police stepped in to help him at Lone Pine close the wreath-laying with his whistle blow.

“It adds a better touch to it rather than just the words being read out,” said Mr Burrett.

On Thursday, he wore his father’s medals and his own from his army service in Vietnam after joining up as an 18-year-old following his father’s death in 1965.

“I was 18 and my life wasn’t going anywhere. Dad might have thought a couple of years in the army would do me good, so I volunteered for national service.”


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