Last year marked the Centenary of the landings at ANZAC Cove, but also the 100th Anniversary of the famous cricket game played at Gallipoli at a place called ‘Shell Green’. The original game was played as a diversionary tactic during preparations for the evacuation, but was abandoned after Turkish shells landed close by. The game was immortalised in the movie Gallipoli with Paul Hogan playing the umpire. This ANZAC Day, the Brookfield United Cricket Club will again host an Australian Army Cricket XI to play for the Shell Green Trophy. Brunch will start at 10:00 am and the game will commence at 11:00 am with a lone bugler from Kenmore High School playing the Last Post. The two team Captains will then head to the middle for the traditional ‘tossing of the coin’ (in ‘Two Up’ fashion). Recognising the role played at Gallipoli as part of the ANZAC HQ, the local cricket mad Brisbane Sri Lankan community will cater the event in commemoration of the part played by the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps or as they were nicknamed, the ‘Tea Leaves’. (see ‘a history’ below).
Original match: 17 December 1915: A game of cricket was played on Shell Green Gallipoli in an attempt to attract the Turks from the imminent departure of allied troops. Major George Macarthur Onslow of the Light Horse in batting, is being caught out. Shells were passing overhead all the time the game was in progress. GO1289AWM
At the conclusion of the match, the Shield will be awarded to the winning Captain and the ‘Corporal Mathew Hopkins Player of the Match Award’ will be presented to the ‘best on field’ by a member of CPL Hopkins’ family. Matt Hopkins grew up in the local area and was a student at Kenmore State High School. Matt, serving with 7 RAR was killed-in-action just prior to Anzac Day in Afghanistan on the 16th of March 2009 and through this award we remember his sacrifice.
A short history of Shell Green (Gallipoli)
Shell Green was situated 300 m up on a sloping cotton field and overlooking the Aegean Sea. It was not frequently used because it was under direct observation from high positions on the Turkish front line and it was subject to heavy shelling. It took its name from the frequency with which it was shelled. Shell Green was the only flat land within the Anzac perimeter. Soon after the landing, Australian engineers put in place the road which winds up the hills.
On 15 April 1915 Shell Green area was captured by the Australian infantry, but remained near to the Turkish front line. It was used from May to December, 1915. In the cemetery hundreds of crosses are visible. It was originally two cemeteries but more graves were brought here after armistice and two were combined and enlarged. Today there are 418 burials here and 409 of them are World War I burials (408 soldiers from Australia, 1 from UK), 11 are unidentified. Shell Green cemetery covers a 2,750 sq yards area.
Shell Green is famous place with the game of cricket which was played by Australian soldiers on 17th December, 1915.
The Tea Leave’ – a history
The Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps 1915: Two soldiers of the ‘Tea Leaves’ at Gallipoli. Trooper Rendle is on the left. JOO259 AWM
Extract from – the Sydney Morning Herald 16 Sep 1916:
“When war began, 8 Officers and 229 members of the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps immediately volunteered for service abroad. The Government of Ceylon offered their services and they were transported to Egypt. Three months later, when the ANZAC troops arrived, the Ceylon men were attached for duty. A genuine bond of sympathy sprang up quickly between the Australians and the Ceylon troops. General Birdwood made 71 of these men his guard and personal escort. They landed at Gallipoli with the General on that memorable day in April, and some were killed almost immediately. The survivors found themselves detailed for a duty that needed great pluck and presence of mind. Snipers concealed between the beach and our trenches were causing heavy losses, and the Ceylon men were detailed to locate the Turkish snipers. They succeeded very quickly in clearing snipers in the vicinity of the beach.
The manner in which the “Tea Leaves” dispatched the snipers pleased the Australians immensely for a sniper is entitled to no consideration whatever. As soon as trenches had been dug, the Planters did their full share of the work. General Birdwood began to get busy walking through the lines the best part of the day, and often at night. A member of the Planters always accompanied him. Within a month or so the ANZACs used to boast they made “dinkum” Australians of the “Tea Leaves,” who, when away from the General, were to be seen attired as roughly as possible and unshaven, but with a perennial smile on their faces. The guard was disbanded after the withdrawal from Gallipoli. Only 10 remained. The men carried away with them the best wishes of thousands of Australian troops. General Birdwood was said to be particularly sorry to lose them, and before they left, shook hands warmly with each”