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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Chapter I. The Concentration of the Expeditionary Force

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Chapter I. The Concentration of the Expeditionary Force.

The pioneer settlers of New Zealand left the Mother Country for many reasons, but primarily because they wished for a freer existence. They certainly did not choose an easy path for themselves. They could have settled in English-speaking countries comparatively near, but they deliberately left England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for a land thirteen thousand miles away—a land covered with virgin forest and inhabited by a proud and warlike native race.

In communities that governed themselves according to their own advanced ideas, away from the baneful influence of large cities and the trammelling tendencies of hoary tradition, they wrestled with the giants of the bush, literally hewing out their homes in the wilderness. Not sparing themselves, they created a desirable and a healthy environment for their sons and daughters. Many had given up comfortable homes in the old lands so that their children and their children's children might have that freedom of life and thought and speech for which they themselves had been willing to make so many sacrifices.

Would it be natural, then, when Autocracy and Greed again threatened the free peoples of Europe, that a young nation born of the early settlers of New Zealand should stand aloof? A few weeks after the dreadful tragedy of Serajevo, realizing that the freedom of the world was again challenged, and recognizing to the full the gravity of the step, New Zealand placed all her resources at the disposal of the Mother Land.

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The martial instincts of Maori and Pakeha were at once aroused. In the town enthusiasm was infectious; newspaper offices were besieged, and eager volunteers thronged the headquarters of each territorial unit; every shop, office and factory sent its representatives, and before the services of the Expeditionary Force were accepted by the Imperial Government the lists were full to overflowing.

From the country men crowded in. The musterer and station owner alike forsook their flocks; the bushman put away his crosscut and axe; the flaxmill hand left swamp and mill and hurried to the nearest railway station. Quiet men up on the hillside watched the train coming across country with the eagerly awaited newspapers. The strain of waiting was unendurable. With the call of Old England throbbing in their ears, they left their stock unattended in the paddocks and swelled the procession to the railway station. Here eager crowds discussed the situation. It was instinctively recognised that Britain must stand by France and Belgium, and when the news of that momentous decision did come the great wave of enthusiasm swept anew over the country side.

The Mobilization.

In those early days of August, the naval position in the Pacific was shrouded in mystery. Rumour was alarmingly busy. It was possible that the German Pacific fleet of heavily armed cruisers might appear at any moment off the New Zealand coast. Their only superior in these waters at the outbreak of war was the battle cruiser “Australia,” the “New Zealand,” of course, being in the North Sea. On August 6, a message from the Secretary of State for War was received by His Excellency the Governor: “If your Ministers desire and feel themselves able to seize the German wireless station at Samoa, we should feel that this was a great and urgent Imperial service….” A force of 1,413 men immediately volunteered from territorial units in Auckland and Wellington, and sailed for their unknown destination on August 15, convoyed by three obsolescent “P” class cruisers —“Philomel,” “Psyche,” and “Pyramus”; joined by H.M.A.S. “Australia,” H.M.A.S. “Melbourne,” and the page 3
Black and white photograph of unit badges.

[From the collection of Sergt. C. B. Gibbs, N.Z.A.O.D.
Badges of New Zealand Mounted Rifles and Divisional Units That Served at Samoa and Gallipoli.

1st Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry M.R.
6th Manawatu M.R.
11th North Auckland M.R.
Railway Battalions, N.Z.E.
2nd Wellington West Coast M.R.
7th Southland M.R.
12th Otago M.R.
Post and Telegraph Corps, N.Z.E.
3rd Auckland M.R.
N.Z. Army Nursing Service.
8th South Canterbury M.R.
N.Z. Field Artillery
N.Z. Staff Corps.
N.Z. Permanent Staff.
4th Waikato M.R.
9th Wellington East Coast M.R.
Field Engineers, N.Z.E.
N.Z. Veterinary Corps.
5th Otago Hussars M.R.
10th Nelson M.R.
Signal Service, N.Z.E.
N.Z. Chaplains Dept.

page 4 French cruiser “Montcalm” at New Caledonia, the expedition proceeded on its way, occupying German Samoa on August 29 without firing a shot. Thus early in the Great War were New Zealand soldiers, supported by the allied navies, the first to take possession of German territory in the name of King George V.

On August 7, 1914, the New Zealand Government cabled to the Imperial authorities offering the services of an Expeditionary Force. On August 12 the offer was accepted, and preparations were made to have the force ready to embark for Europe on August 28. More and more men offered their services. Those declared unfit by the doctor in Auckland caught the train to Wellington, and if not successful there, went on and on until they found a loophole. Family men of fifty-five shaved their faces clean and enlisted with an “apparent age” of thirty-five. One man, with an artificial eye and minus two fingers, struggled into the N.Z.M.C.; while two gallant souls—veterans of previous wars—enlisted and were accepted as quartermasters, even though they had but one arm apiece.

A partial mobilization had already taken place at each regimental headquarters. The drafts, consisting mostly of men who had served in the Territorial Force and in previous wars, were sent to district concentration camps. The Auckland Mounted Rifles, Auckland Infantry Battalion, and the No. 1 Field Ambulance of the New Zealand Medical Corps were quartered in Alexandra Park, Auckland. The Wellington Mounted Rifles and the Wellington Infantry Battalion camped at the Awapuni Racecourse, near Palmerston North; here, also, were organized the N.Z. Field Artillery, the Field and Signal Troops of New Zealand Engineers, the company of Divisional Signallers, and the Mounted Field Ambulance, the men for these units being drawn in proportion from the territorial troops of the four Military Districts. Addington Park, Christchurch, was the rendezvous for the troops of the Canterbury Military District—the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment and the Canterbury Infantry Battalion. The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment and the Otago Infantry Battalion concentrated in Tahuna Park, near the Ocean Beach, Dunedin.

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Black and white photograph of infantry badges.

[From the col'ection of Sergt. C. B. Gibbs, N.Z.A.O.D. Badges of Infantry Regiments That Served at Samoa and Gallipoli.

1st Canterbury Regiment.
6th Hauraki Regiment.
11th Taranaki Riffes Regiment.
16the Waikato Regiment.
2nd South Canterbury Regiment.
7th Wellington West Coast Regiment
12th Nelson Regiment.
17th Ruahine Regiment.
3rd Auckland Regiment.
8th Southland Regiment.
13th North Canterbury and Westland Regiment.
N.Z. Maori Contingent.
4th Otago Regiment.
9th Hawkes Bay Regiment.
14th South Otago Regiment.
N.Z. Army Service Corps.
5th Wellington Regiment.
10th North Otago Regiment.
15th North Auckland Regiment.
N.Z. British Section.
N.Z. Medical Corps.

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The territorial system of compulory training was still in its infancy, but it was considered advisable to retain the territorial distinctions. Each of the four Military Districts was asked to supply one regiment of mounted rifles and one battalion of infantry. Each territorial regiment and battalion supplied to the Expeditionary Force a squadron and a company respectively, and these units retained their badges and the customs of their parent organisations.

The organisation of the Expeditionary Force was that of the headquarters of a division, divisional troops, a mounted rifles brigade, and an infantry brigade. The Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment made, with the Field and Signal Troops and Mounted Field Ambulance, a complete mounted brigade. The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment became divisional cavalry, and did not form part of the brigade. The four infantry battalions—Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago—made a complete infantry brigade.

The characteristic slouch hat, with the brim down all round, was adopted by the whole force; but the Otago Mounted Rifles, the New Zealand Field Artillery, and the Wellington Infantry Battalion wore their hats peaked and with four dents. After the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula the entire New Zealand Division wore peaked hats, but the New Zealand Mounted Rifles remained faithful to the old style. A further distinguishing mark was the different coloured puggaree for each branch of the service. The troopers of the Mounted Rifles wore khaki and green; the gunners, red and blue; the sappers, khaki and blue; the infantry, khaki and red; the Army Service Corps, khaki and white; and the men of the Field Ambulance, khaki and maroon.

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.”

Waiting for the Escort.

Through August and the first weeks of September the training and equipping went on. Four transports were lying alongside the Wellington wharves, and two ships at each of the other three ports of embarkation—Auckland, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. Day and night carpenters laboured fitting up the troop and horse decks.

On September 24, the people of Wellington assembled at Newtown Park to witness the farewell parade of the divisional troops, the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, and the Wellington Infantry Battalion. After an inspection by His Excellency the Governor, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, the troops marched through cheering crowds to the transports, and at half-past five that evening all but the “Maunganui” pulled out into the stream, ready page 11
Black and white photograph of soldiers sorting kit-bags.

[Lent by F. W. Randall
Sorting Kit-Bags Alongside the “Athenic,” Lyttelton.

page 12 to sail early next morning to join the Auckland ships at sea. During the evening of the 24th the four ships from Lyttelton and Port Chalmers joined the Wellington quota in the harbour. All night anxious relatives made endeavours to get aboard the vessels in the stream to say a last farewell or deliver a parting gift, while the people of Wellington went betimes to bed to awaken early and see the fleet steam out.

But early next morning a wireless message recalled H.M.S. “Philomel,” the “Waimana,” and the “Star of India,” which had left Auckland the night before. In Wellington the seven transports in the harbour rejoined the “Maunganui” alongside the wharves. The mounted units and horses were disembarked and scattered to camps round Wellington, there to remain until a more powerful naval escort was available.

For three weeks the troops, chafing at the delay, were exercised in musketry and route marching. At nights they crowded into Wellington for a little amusement. The women of Wellington rose splendidly to the occasion. Concert parties entertained the men every night in “U” shed on the wharf. At this time the well-known Sydney Street Soldiers' Club was started. The soldier realizes that he may never come back, and that sacrifice he is prepared to make willingly. He sings and is happy because he feels—though often in an indefinite way—that he did the right thing in enlisting. But the times of waiting—whether at the base or in the front-line trench—are most irritating. Being a healthy animal, he must be doing something. It is here that soldiers' clubs, managed by understanding, sympathetic women, prove of inestimable value. For their untiring efforts the women of Wellington are entitled to the thanks of all the mothers of men concentrated in Wellington throughout the four long years of war.

On October 14, the troops exercising their horses in the surf at Lyall Bay were delighted to see a big grey four-funnelled cruiser, flying the white ensign, closely followed by a huge black three-funnelled monster with the rising sun displayed. Past Somes Island and Evans Bay they steamed and dropped anchor, proving to be H.M.S. “Minotaur” and H.I.J.M.S. “Ibuki,” the escort which the army was anxiously expecting.

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Next day the “Star of India” and “Waimana,” escorted by the “Philomel,” arrived in Wellington from Auckland, and proceeded to water and coal. The ten transports were now assembled, and the four cruisers made ready to convoy the precious freight on the first stage of its long journey. Many are the valuable cargoes that have left these shores, but for the first time in the history of New Zealand were nine thousand gallant souls—the flower of the young nation's manhood—going down to the sea in ships.

Black and white photographs of ships in Wellington Harbour.

[Lent by F. W. Randall
The “Ibuki” and “Minotaur” in Wellington Harbour.

By half-past three on the afternoon of Thursday, October 15, the mounted units were again embarked. The last good-byes were exchanged with relatives ashore, and night fell on Wellington Harbour with its fleet of fourteen historic ships. The morning broke beautifully fine. The fleet weighed anchor at 6 o'clock. Crowds of early risers saw the ships go out, preceded by the “Minotaur” and the “Ibuki.” The first division of ships was led by the cruiser “Psyche” and the second division by the “Philomel.” So the watchers on Mount Victoria saw the long grey line slip silently down the Straits.