Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealanders at Gallipoli


Three years in succession the valleys of Anzac were flooded with the crimson poppies of the Aegean Spring. During these three years the New Zealanders in France and Palestine shared in the vicissitudes and the dearly-bought victories of the Allied Armies.

Black and white photograph.

The Great Turkish Victory Monument on the Nek.

While the soldiers were fighting, some of the politicians of England—a few of whom had been prominent in reducing Army and Navy expenditure before the war—enquired with great deliberation into the rights and wrongs of the page 295 Gallipoli campaign. Money that would have been better spent in hand grenades in 1915 was lavishly poured out in trying to discover who was to blame for this and who should be censored for that. It may be said with pride that the people of New Zealand—and the people of Australia, too—did not indulge in recrimination. They knew that the armies were not to blame, and were content to leave it at that.

While commissions investigated ancient history the triumphant Turks erected great monuments on the Peninsula—monuments to commemorate the defeat of the infidels.

*   *   *   *

But the months slipped by, and nearer and nearer crept the forces enveloping the Central Powers. The Bulgars felt the pressure first. When they finally broke and fled up the Seres Road, our airmen bombed them unmercifully. Caught in their mountain passes, they were killed in thousands by our low-flying planes. So was Bulgaria finally bombed out of the war by British airmen.

On October 26, 1918, British cavalry and armoured cars entered Aleppo and cut the Constantinople—Baghdad railway. On October 29, General Marshall's forces on the Tigris severed the Turkish communications at Mosul. The Turkish armies were everywhere helpless.

One day at the end of October a little launch with General Townshend on board slipped out from Chios down near Smyrna, carrying a white flag. A representative of Vice-Admiral Calthorpe, the British naval commander in the Aegean, conducted the liberated hero of Kut-el-Amara and the fully-accredited representatives of the Turkish Government to Mudros—the Mudros of our rendezvous and of our Rest Camp—where the Turkish representatives signed the Armistice terms, preparatory to an unconditional surrender. This was on the evening of October 30. The Armistice came into effect at noon on the following day.

The end of 1918 saw British and French warships lying off the Golden Horn and British soldiers on guard at the forts of Chanak and Kilid Bahr.

Was it not prophesied that one day a New Zealander would sit on London Bridge and survey the ruins of the page 296 metropolis? In the year of grace, 1918, the real modern New Zealanders—with the dust of the desert still on their faded tunics, complete with their wristlet watches and folding kodaks—stand on the famous Galata Bridge and snapshot the imperturable Turkish boatmen who seem but faintly interested in the doom of the Ottoman Empire. There in their old slouch hats stand the war-worn troopers—young crusaders who have contributed their full share to the humbling of those despots who for centuries have been the curse of Western Europe.

Black and white photograph of a horse being lifted ashore.

Going ashore at Maidos.

Among the troops to re-occupy Gallipoli were the Canterbury Mounted Rifles, who, in December, disembarked at Maidos, and with their comrades of the 7th Australian Light Horse, did not hesitate to sit as conquerors on the giant guns of Kilid Bahr.

Up the valley towards Lone Pine they rode, until they came to the Turkish victory monument erected on the site of the famous Australian salient. Then over to Koja Chemen Tepe, to stand in silence where British soldiers had never stood before. This was the moment of triumph: this was the prize for which we had striven in 1915, and now, after all these years, the prize was ours—on the one hand the great forts and Point Nagara running out into the rushing waters of the Narrows; on the other side the great page 297
Black and white photograph.

The Triumph of Anzac.
Men of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles sitting on a 14-inch gun at Kilid Bahr.

page 298
Black and white photograph.

Rhododendron Spur from the Apex.
Notice the luxuriant growth of thistle in the old trench lines.

Black and white photograph.

The Promised Land: The Country behind Koja Chemen Tepe.

panorama of the Aegean Sea—Samothrace and Imbros in the distance; the Salt Lake and the fatal plains of Suvla; away South, the forbidding hump of Achi Baba; and closer in, the Anzac beaches, Russell's Top, the tangled steeps of Walker's Ridge, The Farm, and the ridge of Chunuk. These men of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles were the page 299 triumphant victors, but slowly they rode down the winding ways of dry watercourses looking for the last resting places of brothers and comrades-in-arms. Never a yard but somebody stopped and silently searched for an indentification disc.

And here on the Nek was the great monument erected by the Turks in honour of their victory in December, 1915!

Down the Aghyl Dere where the gallant Overton rests under the shade of the Turkish trees; out to Hill 60 where the white bones lie in heaps; along to Ari Burnu where the graves are thickly crowded; and so to Anzac Cove itself. Here, pathetic beyond words, were the skeletons of old barges and boats—rotting in the smooth white sand once pockmarked by thousands of hurrying feet; here on the sandy beaches the Turk paid the men of Anzac the greatest compliment, for they had wired the beach against another landing! Did not the daredevils say they would come back? Was it not wise to prepare for possibilities? But the soldiers who went so quietly away in December, 1915, chose to come another way as victors.

This is the end of the Gallipoli campaign. The men of New Zealand were there at the start—here they are as the victors at the end.

*   *   *   *

And now that the struggle is over, now that the great guns of Chanak are silent, and the hillsides once peopled with busy men are again given over to the song birds and the wandering Turkish shepherds—what is the gain to the world? What is the gain to New Zealand?

For assuredly there is some gain? Our eight months struggle—even if it grievously tried us—undoubtedly weakened the military power of the Turks. But it did more. It taught the New Zealander many things. It taught him lessons that stood him in excellent stead on the battlefields of the world. It taught him to respect his own strength and capabilities. For before the war we were an untried and insular people; after Anzac, we were tried and trusted. Before Anzac we had few standards; after Anzac, we knew that, come what may, if it were humanly possible—and often when it seemed almost impossible—New Zealanders page 300 would not be found wanting, but would prove irresistible in attack, steadfast and stubborn in defence—and what more can anyone ask of soldiers?

Even as in the war we lost our insularity and found our national spirit, so at Anzac we found our brothers-in-arms, the gallant sons of Australia; and we did our work together—for if the initial “A” stands for Australia, New Zealand furnished the very necessary pivotal consonants. So in the future we must stand together and carry the white man's burden in these Southern Seas.

Black and white photograph.

A Turkish Victory Monument behind No. 1 Post.
The design is carried out with shell-cases. The monument itself was knocked down by our troops.

And if Anzac means suffering, a hopeless longing, aching hearts and a keen sense of loss to many in this land of ours, the gain cannot be measured—for the miner at Quinn's Post did not sweat at the tunnel face in the interests of self; the middies of the picket boats and the men of the trawlers were not working for dividends; the nurses on those hospital ships did not toil the long nights through for praise or notoriety; the women who waited so bravely and patiently at home in hourly dread of the telegraph boy, thought nothing of themselves. One and all made their willing sacrifices for the common good. And that is the message of Anzac to the page 301 people of New Zealand: Place the interests of the community before the interests of self, follow in the footsteps of the early pioneers, and make New Zealand a sweeter place for the little children.

Black and white photograph.

Anzac Cove To-day.