Landing at Anzac Cove
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Landing at Anzac Cove
caption="Anzac, the landing 1915" by George Lambert.
partof=First World War
25 April- 3 May, 1915
Anzac Cove, Gallipoli
strength2=1 battalion 1 div. in reserve
casualties1=8,709 killed or wounded
casualties2=19,441 killed or wounded
The landing at Anzac Cove was part of the amphibious invasion of the
Gallipolipeninsula by British and French forces on April 25, 1915. The landing, north of Gaba Tepe on the Aegean coast of the peninsula, was made by soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and was the first significant combat of the war for these two countries. Another landing was made several miles to the south west at Cape Helles by British and French troops.
The purpose of the invasion was to neutralize the Turkish forts that controlled the passage of the
Dardanellesstraits. The Anzac Cove landing went awry when the boats strayed off course in the pre-dawn dark and what was planned as a swift operation became a protracted and bloody eight-month struggle. In that period the frontline of the Anzac battlefield remained little changed from the ground captured on the first day of the landing, a space less than three-quarters of a square mile (2 km²) in size—home to over 20,000 men.
Winning control of the Dardanelles was originally intended to be a purely naval operation but after the loss of three
battleships during the attack of March 18it was decided that the aid of the army would be required to defeat the forts that guarded the straits. See Naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign.
Mediterranean Expeditionary Forcewas formed under General Sir Ian Hamilton and a two-pronged landing on the peninsula was planned. The British 29th Divisionwould carry out the main landing at Cape Helleson the tip of the peninsula and advance along its length towards the forts at Kilitbahir which controlled the passage of the Narrows of the Dardanelles.
However, because it was not possible to land the entire force on the limited beaches at Helles, a secondary landing by the Australian (and) New Zealand Army Corps, north of Gaba Tepe on the Aegean coast, was planned. If resistance was strong, this secondary landing would be treated as a feint to draw defenders from Helles and the attacking force would be withdrawn. If successful, the attacking force would be a mere five miles (8 km) from the Narrows and in command of the high ground thereby denying the passage of reinforcements to Helles.
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in
Egyptfrom the Australian and New Zealand infantrythat had been in training prior to moving to the Western Frontin France. When the need for infantry at Gallipoli arose, they were ideally placed to participate. Two divisions were formed; the Australian 1st Division containing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades, and the New Zealand and Australian Divisioncontaining the Australian 4th Brigade and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade.
The terrain behind the planned landing site was rough, thinly wooded and covered with scrub. The main ridge line, the Kocaçimentepe Range (mistakenly called the Sari Bair Range by the British), ran along the length of the peninsula behind the landing area. There was little flat ground; the area was dominated by a series of ridges and eroded gullies or ravines. The peak of Hill 971 ("Kocaçimentepe") was the highest point on the peninsula.
Anzac Coveitself is a shallow, nondescript stretch of beach about one kilometre wide, bounded by the headlands of Ari Burnu to the north and Hell Spit to the south.
The British planners identified three ridge lines as objectives for the invasion. The first ridge started above Ari Burnu at Plugge's Plateau (named later for Colonel A. Plugge of the
AucklandBattalion). The ridge continued via a perilously narrow stretch known as the "Razor's Edge" to a plateau called Russell's Top. A number of lesser spurs projected from Russell's Top towards the beach; the most prominent was a striking, eroded outcrop that was inevitably named "The Sphinx" by soldiers who had until recently been encamped near the Pyramids of Giza. Neighbouring it to the north was Walker's Ridge which provided a direct, if exposed, route to the Top from the beach. Russell's Top was connected to the main range at Baby 700 via a narrow saddle known as "The Nek". Baby 700 was so named because it and its neighbouring hill, Big 700 (later known as Battleship Hill), lay within the convert|600|ft|m|sing=on contour on the British maps. (Baby 700 is actually convert|590|ft|m in height.)
The second ridge also connected to the main range at Baby 700. Between the first and second ridges lay "Monash Valley" named after General
John Monash. On the second ridge was one of the largest regions of level ground known as 400 Plateau (as it was bounded by the convert|400|ft|m|sing=on contour). It was a wide, heart-shaped area of relatively level ground, thickly covered with scrub but largely treeless. The northern "lobe" of the plateau became known as "Johnston's Jolly", after Colonel Johnston, commander of the divisional artillery, who positioned guns opposite it with which, in the vernacular of the day, he could "jolly up" the Turks on the plateau. The southern "lobe" was distinguished by a solitary Turkish Pinetree, initially named the "Lonesome Pine", after a popular songof the time, but afterwards shortened to Lone Pine. From this plateau, a number of lesser ridges projected towards the beach north of Gaba Tepe. The seaward ridge was Bolton's Ridge, the inland ridge, Pine Ridge.
The third ridge, known to the ANZACs as "Gun Ridge" and the Turks as "Topçuluk Sirt" (Artillery Ridge), because of some
artilleryemplacements that were located there, stretched from Gaba Tepe to the main range at Chunuk Bair, above Battleship Hill. Between the second and third ridges lay Legge Valley.
Plan of the Landing
The ANZAC landing area was a broad, four mile (6 km) stretch of beach from about a mile (1.6 km) north of Gaba Tepe to a point near Fisherman's Hut, north of Anzac Cove. It was officially designated "Z Beach". (The five landing beaches at Helles were designated "S", "V", "W", "X" and "Y Beach"). To attain surprise the landing would commence following moonset, about one hour before dawn.
The landing would begin with the arrival of a "covering" force to swiftly capture the area surrounding the landing zone and make it secure for the main force. The
Australian 3rd Brigadewas selected as the covering force. Three battalions were to seize the third ridge line as well as Gaba Tepe while the fourth battalion remained in reserve. Following the covering force, the Australian 2nd Brigade would land and move to the north, climbing to the summit of the main range at Hill 971 and protecting the left flank of the landing. The original plan called for the capture of Mal Tepe, halfway across the peninsula, on the first day but only if the landing was successful would this objective be pursued by the main force; the Australian 1st Brigade and the two brigades of the New Zealand and Australian Division.
The first wave of the covering force would come ashore from the cutters of three
battleships which were to approach within three miles (5 km) of the shore. The remaining waves of the covering force would be landed from seven destroyers which were to approach close in to the beach. The main force would land from transports.
The first wave
The first troops to land were two companies of each of the 9th, 10th and 11th Battalions of the
Australian 3rd Brigade. The companies embarked from three "Formidable"-class battleships; HMS "Queen", HMS "London" and HMS "Prince of Wales". Each battleship dispatched four steamboats towing three row boats (launches and pinnaces)—a total of 48 boats.
The moon set at 3am and the battleships released the tows at 3.30am. Given the night was pitch dark, the tows headed due east and so relied on the battleships having been in the correct position when they were released. The journey of the tows became a shambles and numerous theories have been proposed to explain what went amiss. The southern-most tow kept a good course and was aimed correctly just north of Gaba Tepe but its commander found the neighbouring tows were heading northwards, leaving him isolated. He altered course to bring his tow closer and this may have caused a ripple effect as the other tows responded with a similar correction. As the shore was sighted, the headland of Ari Burnu became visible and some tows mistook this for Gaba Tepe and hence veered even "further" north.
For whatever reason, these first boats which were meant to land on a two mile (3 km) front between Hell Spit and Gaba Tepe ended up concentrated about Ari Burnu, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of their intended landing area—in fact, in the landing area of the 2nd Brigade which was to follow. The area about Ari Burnu was defended by a single company of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Regiment,
Turkish 9th Division. The Australians began to come ashore at 4.30am, the first man to land was Cpl. Joseph Stratford #1179. 9th Btn. according to eyewitnes reports he was waist deep in water, he disposed most of his heavy equipment and charged towards the enemy, he was cut down in a hail of bullets and is buried at Lone Pine.
The first troops to land were met by sporadic rifle and
machine gunfire but casualties were relatively light. The 11th Battalion, which had landed just north of Ari Burnu, suffered the worst. The main enemy was confusion. The erratic course of the tows meant that the units had become intermingled. Officers were unsure where their units were or indeed where they themselves were; some thought that they had landed at Gaba Tepe. The geography was utterly unfamiliar and no objective could be identified.
Most of the troops of the 9th and 10th Battalions began to climb the first hill that confronted them which was unfortunately the dead-end Plugge's Plateau.
The second wave
The second wave, comprising the second halves of the 9th, 10th and 11th as well as the complete 12th Battalion (which was intended to be the brigade reserve), landed from seven destroyers; HMS "Chelmer", HMS "Colne", HMS "Ribble", HMS "Usk", HMS "Foxhound", HMS "Scourge" and HMS "Beagle". The destroyers had begun to move in at 4am and approached to within 500 metres of the shore before unloading their cargo into their boats. They too had moved too far to the north but were in places closer to the planned landing area—the "Beagle" unloaded south of Hell Spit on the intended beach, far enough south in fact that she came under machine gun fire from Gaba Tepe. The relatively short distance to travel meant that the battalions tended to land in the correct order and not become mixed as had happened with the first companies to land, however, with the element of surprise gone, the second wave was under fire the whole time.
Those units that did land to the south of the first wave's landing at Ari Burnu were confronted by gentler terrain than Plugge's Plateau and so, despite coming ashore 20 minutes after the first wave, they tended to make faster progress inland towards the second ridge. As was the case with the first wave, those of the second who landed north of Ari Burnu encountered heavy fire and suffered casualties both in the boats and on the shore.
To the north, some parties avoided the bottleneck on Plugge's and reached the extension of the first ridge at Russell's Top. One party, under the command of Captain Tulloch of the 11th Battalion, had followed the beach to the north and then ascended Walker's Ridge. There they encountered other parties from the 12th Battalion, one under Captain Lalor, which had scaled the cliff faces between Plugge's and the Sphinx.
The remainder of the Australian 1st Division (the 1st and 2nd Brigades) began to land from the transports between 5.30am and 7.30am. Boats from the transport "Galeka", bearing about 140 men of the 7th Battalion, made the most northerly landing of the day, opposite Fisherman's Hut. They were met by a withering fusillade from the Turkish defenders and less than 40 men made it to the beach. Over the next night and day numerous attempts were made to recover the wounded from the exposed boats.
The Turkish reaction
At 6am, news of the landing reached the German commander of the Fifth Army, General Liman von Sanders. He believed the Gaba Tepe landing was a feint and that the main blow would fall at Bulair, where the peninsula joins the Turkish mainland. The demonstration by the
Royal Naval Divisionin the Gulf of Saros, opposite Bulair, reinforced this belief. Von Sanders therefore retained two divisions, the 5th and the 7th, at Bulair, leaving the 9th and 19th divisions to deal with the Anzac and Helles landings. The reaction of the commander of the 9th Division was to send the two remaining battalions of the 27th Regiment (1st and 3rd) to reinforce the 2nd. Mustafa Kemal, commander of the Turkish 19th Divisionwhich was in reserve only a few miles from the landing, was instructed to send a single battalion as well.
When reports reached Kemal that the Australians were making for the peaks of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, he was convinced the landing was not a feint and so, making a decision that probably doomed the Anzac landing to failure, if not defeat, he led the entire 57th Regiment forward to counter-attack, setting up his headquarters on the third ridge at Scrubby Knoll (understandably known to the Turks as "Kemal Tepe" — "Kemal's Hill"). The remaining regiments of the 19th Division, the 72nd and 77th Regiments, would join the fight in the evening. Only two regiments, the 25th and 26th, were available to counter the British landing at Helles.
As the morning progressed, the focus of the left flank of the landing became Baby 700 which was of immense importance as it commanded the junction of the two ridges and hence access from the landing area to the first significant peak of the main range at Chunuk Bair. It also had a view straight down Monash Valley which was to become the main ANZAC base on the left.
Captain Tulloch led his force of about 60 men from Russell's Top across the Nek and, working around the inland side of Baby 700, began to drive the thin line of Turkish defenders back up the ridge. Tulloch's small force managed to advance to a point just below the crest of Battleship Hill on the inland side. Here they were stopped by mounting Turkish resistance to the front on Chunuk Bair and were threatened with outflanking from the seaward side of the hill. Tulloch therefore withdrew his force to Baby 700.
The Turkish reinforcements had begun to arrive. The 1st Battalion of the 57th Regiment attacked along Mortar Ridge towards Baby 700 from the inland side. The 2nd Battalion had swung around behind Battleship Hill and advanced down the range on the seaward side of Baby 700.
Captain Lalor, aware that his 12th Battalion was meant to be in reserve and that the Nek was a vital defensive position, began to dig in on Russell's Top. At about 8.30am, having no sign of Tulloch's progress, Lalor decided to advance across the Nek onto Baby 700. The Australians took up positions on the far side of the summit and on the spur that led down towards the beach but were repeatedly forced to withdraw to the shelter of the near side. Five attempts were made to get across between 7.30am and 3pm.
Shortly after the landing, the commander of the 3rd Brigade,
ColonelSinclair-MacLagan, had begun directing his forces on Plugge's Plateau to move up Monash Valley. The first companies were ordered to form strong posts on the second ridge, along the eastern face of the valley which was cut by steep, eroded ravines. These posts, which hung precariously from the lip of the valley wall, would come to be known as "Courtney's", "Steele's" and "Quinn's" Posts. Other forces from Plugge's were sent via Monash Valley towards Baby 700 but as fighting developed at the posts along the valley wall, these troops were repeatedly drawn off as reinforcements. Consequently, few additional troops would arrive to support those on Russell's Top as they attempted to capture and hold Baby 700. Around 10am MacLagan obtained reinforcements from the newly arrived 1st Brigade; one company from the 1st Battalion and two from the 2nd Battalion. The Aucklandand Canterbury Battalions of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, under the temporary command of Brigadier GeneralH.B. Walker, an ANZAC staff officer, were also directed to Baby 700.
As the Turks also continued to reinforce, the position on Baby 700 deteriorated and became more untenable for the ANZACs whose flanks were in the air. They lacked sufficient machine guns and artillery support was non-existent. At about 4pm, the Turkish 57th Regiment, now with the 3rd Battalion in support, mounted a concerted counter-attack on Baby 700. With the aid of artillery fire, they broke through the Anzac line forcing them to abandon the hill. The survivors retreated across the Nek or into Malone's Gully (on the seaward side of the Nek) and Monash Valley (on the inland side). A few became lost and ended up in the valley on the far side of the second ridge (Mule Valley) and were captured or killed.
One party under the command of Colonel Braund of the Australian 2nd Battalion was holding a line near the top of Walker's Ridge but Russell's Top was thinly held. During the night of April 25, a small force of Turks from the 3rd Battalion, 57th Regiment, succeeded in infiltrating the line at the Nek and advancing along the Top, effectively splitting the left and right flanks of the Anzac firing line. The Turks withdrew from the Top before dawn, possibly encouraged by a naval bombardment.
The covering force attempted to carry out their orders, despite the disarray of the landing, and so, crossing 400 Plateau, small parties headed for the third ridge. However, the only groups to reach there were from the second wave which had avoided Plugge's. Two fast-moving scouts of the 10th Battalion made the deepest penetration when they reconnoitred Scrubby Knoll on the third ridge. Lieutenant Loutit of the 10th Battalion led 30 men to a spur of the knoll, just short of the third ridge. Like Tulloch on Battleship Hill, these men had fleeting views of the Narrows, three miles (5 km) away. However, a sizeable Turkish force was amassing and, receiving few reinforcements, they were compelled to withdraw to the second ridge at 9.30am. They were pursued across the valley by the first Turkish troops of the 3rd Battalion, 27th Regiment which began to counter-attack against the thin Australian firing line that was forming along the second ridge and across the plateau.
By this stage Colonel MacLagan had already decided to change the plan and hold a position on the second ridge. The 9th and 10th Battalions began to dig in across the plateau. His orders did not reach everyone. Isolated groups continued to push for the original objectives and were lost. As troops of the 2nd Brigade began to arrive, MacLagan made the fatal decision to advance the 9th Battalion, which had formed the semblance of a firing line across the middle of the plateau. By sections the Australians advanced and effectively vanished into the mounting Turkish fire. MacLagan attempted to rescind the order shortly afterwards but by this time the battalion was dispersed. MacLagan convinced Colonel M'Cay of the 2nd Brigade to send his battalions, which had landed in some kind of order, forward into the plateau's void as well.
The day's fighting on 400 Plateau was confused. The thick scrub meant that men lying prone were invisible but unsighted and so it was nearly impossible to maintain contact with adjacent units. When standing up to move, the men were visible to the Turkish defenders on the surrounding hills, thereby summoning a hail of gunfire and shrapnel. Lacking coherent organisation, small bands would advance, either following the original orders to reach the third ridge or new orders to reinforce the "firing line", wherever that was. The outcome was inevitably the same; they became detached, lost, pinned down and reduced by casualties.
By 1pm some semblance of a line had been re-established on 400 Plateau but it was thin and discontinuous. The 2nd and 3rd Brigades had been fully committed and the 1st Brigade battalions were now being led in to the fight. At 4.45pm, threatened by a Turkish counter-attack, General Bridges, commander of the 1st Division, committed the last of the reserves, the 4th Battalion, on the plateau.
South of Lone Pine, the 8th Battalion had established a strong line on Bolton's Ridge which secured the southern flank of the landing. Major H.G. Bennett led 300 men of the 6th Battalion forward from Bolton's Ridge to Pine Ridge which extended south from Lone Pine and faced the third ridge across Legge Valley. Bennett was wounded in the wrist and forced to withdraw. When the Turkish 27th Regiment counter-attacked around 17:00, the force Bennett had established on the Pine Ridge was surrounded and annihilated, the Turks taking no prisoners.
Consolidating the landing
Assessing the situation on the first night, the consensus reached within the Corps was to re-embark the troops and abandon the Anzac landing. This was partially motivated by a mistaken belief, garnered from over-optimistic Staff reports, that the Helles landing had been a success. The main concern was that the ANZACs were in no condition to withstand a major Turkish counter-attack which everyone anticipated would occur the following morning. However, General Hamilton refused to evacuate the landing. To do so before dawn on the 26th would have been impossible anyway, as the transports and boats were scattered or damaged and those that were serviceable were engaged in loading the vast ranks of wounded men, lying on the beach. Hamilton concluded his order with:
:"You have got through the difficult business, now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe."
Dawn came and went on
April 26without a Turkish attack. The Turks of the 9th and 19th Divisions were as exhausted as the ANZACs and had lost nearly as heavily in the first day's fighting. The fresh divisions with which an attack could have been made, the 5th and 7th Divisions, had been held at Bulair all day on the 25th.
The 26th was not without bloodshed for the Australians. In a tragic fiasco, the one battalion of the 1st Division that had survived the landing relatively unscathed, the 4th Battalion, made a general advance, marching north across 400 Plateau along
no man's land. They were cut to pieces crossing Lone Pine. A few reached Johnston's Jolly where they sought shelter. The exact reason for the disaster was never determined but it seems that the 4th Battalion, expecting the ANZAC advance to resume at any time, had followed a movement on their left when General Bridges had instructed troops on Lone Pine to straighten their line.
April 27, Kemal had the troops he needed to launch his general counter-attack with the intention of driving the ANZACs into the sea. The attack was made on the entire Anzac perimeter, from Baby 700 in the north, along the second ridge, across 400 Plateau and down Bolton's Ridge to the beach. The critical situation at Helles meant that most Turkish reserves were dispatched there however Kemal had received the Turkish 33rd and 64th Regiments and his 72nd Regiment was still largely intact. He counter-attacked with five regiments, keeping the 33rd in reserve, but poor communications meant that his battalions did not coordinate their movements.
At 2.30pm, the 57th Regiment attacked in six waves, advancing down Battleship Hill. In view of the British naval forces, the HMS "Queen Elizabeth" put six 15-in shells amongst the Turkish lines, scattering them and breaking the attack. The Turks resumed the attack at the Nek under the cover of darkness but were driven off by 10pm. The 3rd Battalion of the Turkish 72nd Regiment attempted to attack across the Chessboard against Pope's Hill but were caught in enfilading fire from a small Australian outpost near Quinn's. Elsewhere the Turks were able to get close, but not break into, the Anzac posts along the second ridge. At 11am a large force had advanced across Lone Pine towards the Australian line but were driven off by noon. After nightfall a Turkish attack was made against Bolton's Ridge but, aided by field artillery guns firing over open sights, the attackers were held off, despite getting to within convert|25|yd|m of the Australian trenches. For the time being, the Anzac landing was safe.
April 28the Anzacs were reinforced by the arrival of four battalions of the Royal Naval Division; the Chatham, Portsmouthand Deal Battalions of the Royal Marine Brigade and the Nelson Battalion of the 1st Royal Naval Brigade. These were sent in along the second ridge and 400 Plateau to relieve the Australian 1st and 3rd Brigades which had been under constant pressure since the landing. The relieved brigades attempted to reorganise on the beach.
Meanwhile Kemal planned a third counter-attack, having received five new battalions. Having failed in their first two attempts, the Turks were now entrenching opposite the Anzac firing line so that a distinct system of trenches became established. Preliminary moves were made on
April 30but the main counter-attack was launched on May 1. The newly-arrived Marines suffered the most under the attack but as with the two previous efforts, it was completely defeated. For the time being, Kemal accepted he had insufficient resources to dislodge the invaders.
A gap remained in the Anzac perimeter at the head of Monash Valley between the New Zealanders on the left along Walker's Ridge and Russell's Top and the Australian 4th Brigade holding the Posts along the second ridge (Quinn's, Courtney's and Steele's). The Turks held the Chessboard and the Nek and had a foothold on Russell's Top. From here they could fire into the back of Quinn's and the other posts. Therefore an attack was planned to extend the Anzac line to encompass Baby 700. After dusk on
May 2, the 16th and 13th Battalions of the 4th Brigade climbed the Bloody Angle, next to Quinn's, and attempted to establish a line along the Chessboard to Baby 700. They only managed to form a series of disjointed trenches along the foot of the Chessboard. The OtagoBattalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade was meant to capture the summit of Baby 700 but reached the front late by which time the Turkish defences were aroused.
Only adjacent to Quinn's were the original objectives achieved. Elsewhere the positions gained were useless, being overlooked and exposed, offering no advantage to the Anzacs. With dawn on
May 3, most of the troops withdrew. Some of the 13th Battalion held out all day, abandoning their trenches that night. The debacle of the attack was compounded when the Nelson and Portsmouth Battalions of the RND were told to advance in support after dawn on May 3, by which time the attack had clearly failed. In a move that gave "Dead Man's Ridge" its name, the Marines of the Portsmouth Battalion were led up that precipitous slope in full view of the Turkish machine guns.
The attackers suffered about 1,000 casualties in this attack, only one of which was taken prisoner. The 16th Battalion had lost 338 men, over half its strength. The New Zealanders lost at least 324 men.
The Anzac battlefield had reached a stalemate. For General Hamilton, the Helles front was paramount and over the following months it would be the scene of a series of bloody engagements as the British and French edged imperceptibly closer to their first day objectives of Krithia and the hill of Achi Baba. The majority of reinforcements were directed to Helles, Anzac receiving only the dismounted Australian
light horseand New Zealand mounted regiments.
Anzac was maintained as a threat to the Turkish line of communications and a drain on their resources. When the British ceased offensive operations at Helles, Anzac provided the base from which to launch a new offensive in August in what became the
Battle of Sari Bair.
The reorganisation of the brigades of the Australian 1st Division following the reinforcement by the RND allowed a tally of the battalions to be made. In the period from April 25 to 30, the casualties for each brigade are shown in the table.
Only one soldier of the 1st Division was taken prisoner in this period. Some of the missing were found to have been wounded and already evacuated. Most of the missing were dead. The New Zealand and Australian Division suffered about 2,000 casualties during the landing and consolidation phase. By May 3, the casualty figure was about 8,500 including 600 from the Royal Naval Division. Of this figure, about 2,300 were killed in action or died of wounds.
Despite magnificent bravery by many, the troops failed to achieve their objectives. Hundreds were found to be milling around the beaches supposedly helping wounded "mates". Accusations of cowardice were made but were eventually lost in massive losses which were to follow on the Western Front. Many were to feel vindicated at the exclusion of Victorian units from the landings as the Boer War's "Battle of Wilmansrust" had cast doubt on their ability. Eventually the British Empire's greatest defeat up to that time would be overcome by the myth of the "mate" and British propaganda and the horror of the Western Front would overcome the debacle at Gallipoli. In many respects Gallipoli's debacle would become, like the Charge of the Light Brigade, a glorious defeat.
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