Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Equipping the Force

Equipping the Force.

The equipment of the force was no easy matter, though valuable material was obtained from the Territorial Force, which was being fitted out at the time. Most of the mounted riflemen brought their own horses to the place of concentration. If the animals were suitable, they were paid for, and became the property of the Government, but each man was page 7
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by Guy
Otago Infantry Entraining at Tahuna Park, Dunedin.

page 8 allowed to ride the horse that he had brought. The saddles and equipment were mostly made in the Dominion. Day by day more material came to hand, and the men became more accustomed to manoeuvring in troops and squadrons; gradually but surely the mounted regiments evolved from very keen individual horsemen and shots to efficient military units. With the traditions of the South African campaign and the enthusiasm of the New Zealander for a good horse, the excellence of the mounted rifles was not at all surprising.

The field artillery were fortunate in that they had the nucleus of batteries in the officers and men of the Royal New Zealand Artillery—professional soldiers, who, in time of peace, trained the territorial batteries and garrisoned the artillery provided for coast defence. Thanks to the energy and foresight of the dominion artillerists, the old 15-pounders had been replaced by modern 18-pounders, and more fortunate still, New Zealand had, in 1914, some of the newest 4.5 howitzers, which guns above all others were to prove their worth in the closing days of April, 1915. The horses for the gun teams were procured mostly in the Wellington District—some were well broken, others were broken to chains in the plough, a number had hardly been handled at all; but the drivers set to with a will, and soon the roads of Palmerston North were enlivened with spirited six-horse teams jingling along with their businesslike guns and limbers.

The sappers of the field troop were drawn in equal proportions from the territorial field companies. There were no divisional field engineers, only a mounted brigade troop. In order to keep up with the cavalry, light collapsible boats were substituted for the heavy pontoons of the ordinary field company. No boats were available in New Zealand, the intention being to pick them up in England when the Expeditionary Force landed there. The signal troop and divisional signallers were all territorials, most of the operators being highly skilled men from the Post and Telegraph Department.

Owing to the large numbers available for selection, the infantry were a magnificent body of men. Born of freedom-loving parents in a free country, nurtured in a land of plenty with a climate unsurpassed on earth, it is not surprising that page 9 the trained New Zealander is modelled like a Greek statue. To see a battalion of infantry bathing in the Manawatu River was a wonderful sight. The clean blue sky, the waving toi toi on the fringe of native bush, the river rippling and sprawling over its gravelly bed, the thousand beautiful athletes splashing in the sun-kissed water, made an ineffaceable impression. The New Zealand infantry soldier trained at Alexandra Park, Awapuni, Addington, and Tahuna Park has long since proved his courage and steadfastness to be equal to his undeniable physique and fitness.

Black and white photograph of horses being loaded onto a ship.

[Lent by Capt. Boxer, N.Z.M.U.
Loading Horses on the “Star of India” at Auckland.

The matter of transport was a difficult one. As yet the New Zealand Army Service Corps of the Territorial Force was not organized. Men and horses were forthcoming, but suitable waggons were hard to procure. Eventually a number of waggons—some suitable and some otherwise—were purchased. Many were only a quarter-lock, and the angry drivers were sometimes heard to murmur that no place but the wide deserts of Egypt would have been sufficient to turn—much less manoeuvre—in !

The personnel of the New Zealand Medical Corps was from the outset most efficient. The senior officers had mostly page 10 seen service in former campaigns; the men were enthusiastic territorials and keen young medical students who had forsaken their classes when the call came.

In all branches of the service discipline was very strict. Men realized that if they transgressed they would cease to be members of the Main Body. There was no crime. All ranks understood they were chosen to represent New Zealand in the eyes of the world.

Passed by the doctor, the recruit was fitted out with that wonderful receptacle, the soldier's kit bag. This was soon filled to overflowing by the combined efforts of a paternal Government and committees of enthusiastic ladies. All the uniforms and purely military kit came from the ordnance stores, but the woollen stuff — socks, underclothing and woollen caps—were the handiwork and gift of the women of New Zealand. Surely never before in history had an army so many socks and shirts! It must be admitted that in the first flush of enthusiasm some good folks showed more energy than skill in the matter of shirt making. The soldier is nothing if not adaptable, so he cut off the superfluous portion of sleeve. One was not surprised that the sergeant-major, wanting the men for physical drill, daily shouted “Fall in the kimonos.”