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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli


The decisive repulses in June made the Turk very chary of attacking. On our side it was evident that the forces at the disposal of Sir Ian Hamilton were not sufficient to win through. After months of desperate attack and dogged defence the month of July saw the enemy still holding the high ground at Helles and Anzac. At Anzac there was a cheery optimism. Everyone was satisfied that with reasonable reinforcements we would win through to the Narrows.

By now the front-line
Black and white photograph of soldiers standing by the barricade.

The Barricade in the Big Sap.

trenches were secure and the units settled down to the routine of trench warfare. Troops holding the line have a good deal of time in which to talk and think. One of the most dreadful phases of soldiering is the monotony. It is then that the soldier becomes “fed up.” Men at these times will growl and argue about anything. Three debatable subjects never lost their attractiveness — oysters, medals, and the horizon. The oyster question raged furiously. Perhaps the Turkish shells suggested it; perhaps the soldier was thinking of what he would eat when he got home again; but, with an Aucklander present, it was never safe to say that Stewart Island oysters were the finest in the sea. The medal question was a perennial one. What medals would be struck for the war? Would there be a different one page 183
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by F. H. Dawn
Soldiers Bathing in Anzac Cove.

page 184 for the different campaigns—France, West Africa, Gallipoli, and all other theatres? Would the clasps be names of actions or only dates? It was persistently rumoured that the new Sultan of Egypt would give a medal to each of the troops who lined the Cairo streets on his coronation day. The Sultan supplied the answer to this by dying before his alleged promise could be fulfilled. The great line of transports and warships stretching from Cape Suvla down to Tenedos suggested the horizon. What was the horizon? There seemed to be no end of definitions, all of which could be traversed by learned persons present. Some ships would be hull down and some with only the masts and smoke showing. This raised the question as to whether one could see past the horizon, a suggestion scouted by the majority of the debating society, but warmly applauded by an enthusiastic minority.
Late in the afternoon, when the little groups assembled behind the firing line to prepare the evening meal, men would talk of their favourite foods, and speculate as to where the first big meal would be eaten when the great work was comp-
Black and white photograph of the sunset.

Sunset from Ari Burnu.

. Smoking the ration cigarette after tea, the New Zealander would watch the sun set behind the rose-tinted peaks of Samothrace and would picture again the sunset in his own beloved country, would hear the water tumbling and splashing in the creek, would see the sheep and horses cropping the sweet green grass of Maoriland—when “Whizz! crash!” would come the Turkish gunners' evening hate. Back with page 185 a start would the soldier come to the shells, the heat, the stench of chloride of lime, and the steadily increasing rows of little crosses on the hillside.

Units not engaged in the front line were officially “resting” in Rest Gully. Paradoxically, it was an accident if one got an hour's respite there! In civil life, where labour is expensive and difficult to obtain, all means of labour-saving devices are available to do laborious work. Near the firing line there is no room or concealment for these cumbrous instruments. On the other hand, labour is plentiful. So it happens that a multiplicity of men, with primitive picks and shovels, are available for any necessary work. On the Peninsula a spell of “rest” inevitably meant being detailed for a working party.