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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Glory of New Zealand

The Glory of New Zealand.

This forward Turkish trench became a veritable death trap. Not far behind it was another line that resolved itself into our real line of resistance. But some ardent spirits of the Aucklands, Otagos and Wellingtons decided to stick to their forward line. No one—except the dozen badly-wounded survivors—can conceive the horrors of that awful front line trench. It was practically dark when they arrived in the early hours of the morning. When daylight came it proved to be a fatal position. About ten or fifteen yards to their front the ground sloped rapidly away into a valley until again it revealed itself about six hundred yards away. When it was light this far away hill was seen to be occupied by about a battalion of Turks—a battalion advancing to attack this forward trench of Chunuk! A few long range shots were all that could be fired. Then came the long wait while the attackers crossed the gully. To the waiting New Zealanders—the New Zealand infantrymen who had penetrated farthest into Turkey—the minutes seemed hours. But a shower of hand grenades announced the beginning of the end. From the dead ground in the page 221 front came bombs and more bombs. Away from the left came the Turkish shrapnel. To fire at all, our men had to stand up in the trench and expose themselves almost bodily to view. One by one they died on Chunuk, until after a few hours desperate struggle against overwhelming forces the only New Zealanders left alive were a dozen severely wounded. But not for a long time did the first Turk dare show his head. Then into the trench several crept with their bayonets to kill the wounded. Fortunately a Turkish sergeant arrived and saved the lives of the wounded who were carried off to the German dressing stations behind Hill Q. In all the history of the Gallipoli Campaign there is no finer story of fortitude, no finer exhibition of heroism and self-sacrifice, than was shown in this forward trench of Chunuk on that desperate August morning. Here died some of the noblest characters in the New Zealand Army. August 8 was a day of tragedy for New Zealand, but no day in our calendar shines with greater glory.

All that day midst the shriek of the Turkish shrapnel, the dull booming of the British naval guns, the incessant rattle of musketry and machine gun fire, that heroic band held on. With their faces blackened with dust and sweat, with the smell of the picric acid assailing their nostrils, with their tongues parched for the lack of water, up there in the blazing heat of the August sun those gallant souls held on.

The Auckland Mounted Rifles and the Maoris arrived at Rhododendron about 3 a.m. and were ordered to the firing line about 11 o'clock. The Aucklanders went out to help Colonel Malone on the ridge. On came the Turks again. The line of infantry and mounteds drove them back at the point of the bayonet. A portion of Chunuk Bair was undoubtedly ours, but at what a cost! Many of the finest young men of the Dominion lay dead upon the crest. Colonel Malone himself, one of the striking characters in the New Zealanl army, was killed as he was marking out the trench line.

It was during this struggle for Chunuk Bair that Corporal Bassett of the Divisional Signallers undertook to carry the telephone line up on to the ridge and gained the first V.C. page 222
Black and white photograph of the Apex and Chunuk Bair.

The Apex and Chunuk Bair.
These photographs were taken after the Armistice in 1918, and clearly show the distinction between Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, which was 1,400 yards away. No British Troops ever got on to Koja Chemen Tepe (or Hill 971). When New Zealanders say they were on “the top of 971,” they mean “the ridge of Chunuk Bair.” Hill Q is about 600 yards from the highest point of Chunuk Bair. Koja Chemen Tepe is 800 yards further on than the crest of Q.

Black and white photograph of the view from Chunuk Bair.

Looking towards Koja Chemen Tepe (Hill 971) from Chunuk Bair.
Hill Q is the high ground to the right.

page 223 for New Zealand. In full daylight, with the approach swept by rifle and machine gun fire, with the Turkish field artillery from Abdel Rahman mercilessly searching the slopes, Bassett dashed and then crept, then dashed and crept again, up to the forward line on Chunuk. These lines were cut again and again, but Bassett and his fellow linesmen of the Signals went out day and night to mend the broken wires. No V.C. on the Peninsula was more consistently earned. This was not for one brilliant act of bravery, but for a full week of ceaseless devotion.

The Maoris were sent over more to the left and most gallantly hung on to an almost untenable position in the neighbourhood of The Farm. They suffered grievious losses uncomplainingly. At dusk the Otago Infantry went out to reinforce what was left of the Wellington and Auckland Infantry, the 7th Gloucesters, and the Auckland Mounteds. Already the Otagos had suffered terribly, but throughout that awful night of August 8 all previous experiences were as nothing. It was a night of agony by thirst, of nerve-wracking bomb explosions, and of bayonet jabs in the dark.

In the darkness a little much-needed water was carried out to the thirsty men. Hand grenades, food and reinforcements went out to the battered trenches; more machine guns were sent—three from the Cheshire Regiment, three from the Wiltshires, and one from the Wellington Mounted Rifles. The Cheshire guns came back as there was ample without them. This second lot of four guns was never seen again.

Still another effort had to be made, for the hold we had on Chunuk had to be increased. It was the most important capture, so far, in the whole campaign; but the Suvla army still clung to the low ground at Suvla, leaving the Australians with their left flank out in the air waiting for the necessary support to carry them on to victory up the Abdel Rahman.

There was no time to lose. The partial success on Chunuk must be exploited. We could not afford to wait on Suvla.