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

A Tribute from — Major-General Sir A.H. Russell, — K.C.B., K.C.M.G. (d.), [f.]

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A Tribute from
Major-General Sir
A.H. Russell,
K.C.B., K.C.M.G. (d.), [f.]

Rich in its traditions of race and the unpurchasable inheritance of an unconquerable spirit, still vibrant and responsive, as the historic Call to Arms so splendidly demonstrated, the sons of Otago stand out conspicuously for the brilliance of their achievements among the soldiers of New Zealand in the Great War. Otago could not, however, with its comparatively modest population be expected to provide unaided the necessary quota for the Regiment which bears its name. In order, therefore, to supply the deficiency and make up the requisite strength, men from all parts of the Dominion were drafted into the Regiment. From this formation it follows that the Otago Regiment may be correctly described as representative not only of the Province from which it takes its name, but of the Dominion itself.

At the same time it is fair to assume that its ranks included a large proportion of the descendants of those early Colonists who sailed from Greenock in the John Wickliffe, or followed the fortunes of William Cargill, leavened not inconsiderably by the sons of those adventuring Islanders of our common stock who in succeeding years made Otago their home—happy intermingling of Norman, Celt, and Saxon, to which the English speaking race owes its capacity for conquest.

It is beyond the power of a Commander in any retrospect of the crowded and stormy scenes of war to attempt to distinguish or differentiate between Battalions in their relative and contrasting vicissitudes and general treatment at the hands of Fortune. But it must be said that Fate, especially in the earlier years, seemed to take a sinisterpage break pleasure in placing the Otago Regiment in the hottest corners of the fight. Pope's Hill, May 2nd, 1915, the raid at Armentieres on July 13th-14th, 1916, and Goose Alley on September 27th of the same year, were hard days; but each experience only served to put a finer edge on their steel; and henceforward Fortune smiled on men who had shown themselves independent of her favours and concerned only for the opportunities that appeal to the instinctive fighter.

Esprit de corps was a strongly marked characteristic of all the Battalions; showing itself equally in the stress and heat of conflict, in the temporary calm of rest billets, and on the march. The record put up by the 1st Battalion of Otago Regiment in its hard and hurried march to Hedauville, in March, 1918, to meet the German attack, when not a man fell out, deserves to take its place among the finest memories of the Regiment as an example of endurance, will-power, and that superb and unyielding spirit which is ever the distinguishing mark of the born soldier.

No word of the Otago Regiment would be complete without mention of the name of Sergeant Travis, first of all scouts and bravest of men, whose epitaph might well be the single word "Undefeated." Asking him one day, half in chaff, if he could produce a prisoner or two for identification, he replied, "Any time you say the word, Sir." He kept his promise.

Under a long list of capable Commanders, Charters, Smith, Hargest and others, the Regiment fought, flourished and brought back to New Zealand a measure of honour of which Otago and Southland may well be proud.

A. H. Russell