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Official History of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F. in the Great War 1914-1918

The Regiment Embarks

The Regiment Embarks.

On the morning of September 22nd Otago's first contribution to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, comprised of troops of the Main Body and the 1st Reinforcements, entrained at Tahuna Park, and proceeding to Port Chalmers, embarked on that date on two transports, and were enthusiastically farewelled by the people of the Province. On the evening of September 24th the Otago and Canterbury transports arrived in Wellington Harbour; by the morning of September 25th, under escort of H.M.S. Psyche, they were ready to join the Auckland and Wellington transports, which had already put to sea.

At this moment, however, orders were issued by the New Zealand Government that, for Imperial reasons, the sailing of the Expeditionary Force was to be temporarily postponed. In accordance with this unexpected development, arrangements were immediately made to disembark all horses and all mounted units. Camps were established in and around Wellington for the mounted units, while the infantry remained on the transports by night, and were taken ashore by day and exercised, for the first time, in tactical operations over the hills around Wellington, one battalion being railed daily to Trentham for musketry practice.

On October 14th H.M.S. Minotaur and H.I.J.M.S. Ibuki arrived in Wellington Harbour, and on the following day the Auckland transports, escorted by H.M.S. Philomel, arrived at Wellington. At 6 a.m. on October 16th the whole convoy, escorted by Minotaur, Psyche, Philomel and Ibuki, weighed anchor and proceeded out of Wellington Harbour to sea, cheered by large numbers of the people of Wellington and farewelled by His Excellency the Governor, the Militarypage 7 Headquarters Staff and Ministers of the Cabinet. Once Cook Strait was cleared, the convoy formed up in columns of divisions, in line ahead, with three of the four escorting cruisers steaming at a distance of six miles, one ahead, one on either beam, and the fourth four miles astern, these distances being reduced by less than half during the night.

The strength of the Expeditionary Force, consisting of the Main Body and the 1st Reinforcements, totalled 360 officers and 8,067 other ranks, and included 3,815 horses. Its composition was as follows: Commander, Major-General Sir Alexander Godley, K.C.M.G., C.B., and Headquarters Staff; one Mounted Rifle Brigade; one Field Troop; one Signal Troop; Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance; one independent Mounted Rifles Regiment (the Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment); one Infantry Brigade (four Battalions); Divisional Artillery (one Field Artillery Brigade); Divisional Signal Service; Divisional Transport and Supply Unit; Divisional Medical Units.

The personnel of Otago Battalion was as follows:—

Officer Commanding, Lieut.-Col. T. W. McDonald, N.Z.S.C.; Second-in-Command, Major J. B. McClymont; Adjutant, Captain A. Moore, D.S.O. (Royal Dublin Fusiliers); Assistant-Adjutant, Lieut. J. S. Reid; Regimental Transport Officer, Lieut. H. R. Martineau, V.C.; Quartermaster, Lieut. V. J. Egglestone. Attached: Medical Officers, Captain C. V. A. Baigent, N.Z.M.C., Lieut. W. G. Scannell, N.Z.M.C.; Dental Officer, Captain J. H. Don, N.Z.M.C.; Chaplain, Rev. J. Ross.

Machine Gun Section.—2nd-Lieut. L. G. Wilson.

4th (Otago) Company.—Major R. Price, Captain A. V. Spedding, Lieuts. R. P. Jones, J. S. Reid, J. L. Saunders, 2nd-Lieut. A. C. Boyes.

8th (Southland) Company.—Major J. A. Mackenzie, Captain W. Fleming, Lieuts. W. I. K. Jennings, N.Z.S.C., G. Myers, 2nd-Lieuts. E. M. Gabites, W. F. Tracy.

10th (North Otago) Company.—Major J. H. Moir, Captain F. H. Statham, Lieut. T. W. Nisbet. 2nd-Lieuts. C. St. C. Hamilton, J. G. Cowan, W. M. McKenzie.

14th (South Otago) Company.—Major W. McG. Turnbull, N.Z.S.C., Captain G. S. Smith, Lieuts. J. T. Moroney, R. L. Duthie, H. L. Richards, 2nd-Lieut. D. J. A. Lyttle.

page 8

The embarkation states of the Otago Battalion indicated a total strength, inclusive of the Machine Gun Section, of 34 officers and 1,076 other ranks. Of this number 21 officers and 603 other ranks sailed on the Ruapehu, officially designated H.M.N.Z.T. No. 5, and Lieut.-Colonel T. W. McDonald was appointed Officer Commanding Troops. On the Hawke's Bay (H.M.N.Z.T. No. 9) there were 13 officers and 473 other ranks of Otago Battalion under the command of Major J. B. McClymont; Lieut.-Colonel Bauchop, C.M.G., being Officer Commanding Troops of the transport.

This eventful voyage to the seat of the European War of New Zealand's first Expeditionary Force may be briefly described. Hobart was reached on October 21st, the convoy sailing again on the following day, and reaching Albany on October 28th, where was found in the sheltered waters of King George's Sound an imposing assemblage of transports carrying the troops of the first Australian Expeditionary Force. At 5 a.m. on Sunday, November 1st, the escort, now consisting of H.M.A.S. Melbourne, H.M.A.S. Sydney and H.M.S. Minotaur, put to sea, followed by the Australian transports. Two hours later the New Zealand transports followed in their wake, and on November 3rd the Japanese cruiser Ibuki rejoined the escort. On the night of November 8th-9th the convoy passed 50 miles to the east of the Cocos Islands, and at 6.30 a.m. on the 9th the S.O.S. signal was picked up which resulted in the memorable destruction of the German raider Emden by H.M.A.S. Sydney, which had hurriedly left the convoy in response to the signals sent out from the cable station on the Cocos Group. The announcement of this fine achievement by H.M.A.S. Sydney was received with the greatest enthusiasm on board the troopships. On November 15th the convoy reached Colombo, the victorious Sydney, with 138 prisoners from the battered Emden, subsequently entering the harbour, when the prisoners were distributed over the New Zealand and Australian troopships. On November 17th the New Zealand transports, escorted by the Hampshire, left for Aden, which was reached on November 25th. On the following morning the journey was continued to Suez.

On November 28th information was received by wireless that there was a probability of disembarkation at Suez, which page break
Main Body Non-Commissioned. Officers, Otago Regimes.Commanding Officer:Lieut.-Colonel. T. W. McDonald, N.Z.S.C.

Main Body Non-Commissioned. Officers, Otago Regimes.
Commanding Officer:Lieut.-Colonel. T. W. McDonald, N.Z.S.C.

page 9 meant that instead of proceeding to England, as was supposed to have been originally intended, the Force was to land in Egypt. This proved to be the case; but the journey was not yet quite at an end. The great waterway of the Suez Canal, with its defence posts and garrisons of Indian troops, was entered and Port Said reached on December 1st. The Emden's prisoners were now transferred to the Hampshire, and the convoy left for Alexandria on December 2nd, arriving there on the following morning.