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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The New Zealanders of Anzac

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The New Zealanders of Anzac.

As I was on the point of starting to pay a long-promised visit to the Commander-in-Chief of our Army of the Rhine, a cabled message from the Government of New Zealand was put into my hands—a message asking me to write a Preface to the Gallipoli volume of the “History of New Zealand's Share in the Great War.” This preface was to be written and posted to Wellington without loss of time, as the work had already gone to press.

When I set out for the Dardanelles on Friday, March 13, 1915, to command an unknown army against an unknown enemy, in an unknown country, that was an original undertaking. To write a preface to an unknown book being printed in another hemisphere—to write it from memory—in the train and in a hurry, that also is an original undertaking, and it is necessary to begin by setting forth these facts in order that my many omissions and shortcomings may have a better chance of forgiveness.

Crossing the German frontier, with the edict of the New Zealand Government still in my pocket, I got out to stretch my legs at the first stop. The name of that railway station was Düren. Hardly had I alighted when my eyes fell upon the letters, “N.Z.M.R.,” quite unmistakably affixed to the shoulder-strap of an officer also standing on that platform. Since the year 1915, this particular combination of capital letters has exercised upon me a certain fascination—I have to go right there. So I went, and asked the wearer of the shoulder-strap if he had been at the Dardanelles.

“I have, indeed,” he said. “I am Lieut.-Colonel John Studholme. I served in the Dardanelles under you, and now I am the last New Zealander in Germany.”

“You speak figuratively,” said I. “You mean you are one of the last.”

“Not so,” he replied. “I am not one of the last; I am the last one.”

Now here, thought I to myself, is a queer thing! I am told to write a preface to a history of an Army, and I meet the last item of that Army which did so much to win the page viii Rhineland, in Rhineland; the last man of that superb band who were raised from a population of one million and lost fifteen thousand killed; whereas, to take other standards, the Belgians, justly famous as having fought so long and so valiantly for the freedom of Europe, lost thirteen thousand killed out of a population of seven millions. Once again too, there came to me the thought of their losses at the Dardanelles:—
Total strength landed8,556 all ranks
Casualties in killed and wounded (excluding sickness)7,447

These thoughts and the coincidence of meeting Colonel Studholme, gave me courage. I had been thinking I could not do justice to my theme, and that I must regretfully decline. Now I resolved to take my courage in both hands and go ahead; so here, with the help of my personal diary, I revive memories of my meeting with the first New Zealander.

On March 29, 1915, I motored across from Mena Camp (where I had been reviewing the Australians) to Heliopolis. There was a big dust storm blowing. Godley commanded. I wrote down on the spot, “These fellows made a real good show; superb physique. Numbers of old friends, especially amongst the New Zealanders.”

Next day, March 30, I wrote to Lord Kitchener, “The physique of the rank and file could not be improved upon.” Also: “They are all as keen as possible, and will, I am certain, render a very good account of themselves if the conditions encountered give them a fair chance.”

Now, the force that I had seen and admired on March 29, 1915, had sailed from far-away New Zealand early in October, 1914, so each private soldier had already travelled over land and sea further than Ulysses during his ten years' Odyssey, and further than Christopher Columbus during his discovery of America; and they had voyaged thus, not for gold or glory, but to help the Old Country and to succour the weak and the oppressed.

When to-day we look round upon our wrecked and devastated world, we can see that neither the War, nor the Peace. page ix
Black and white photograph.

[Photo by Guy
Lieut.-Colonel A. Bauchop, C.M.G.
Otago Mounted Rifles.
(Died from wounds).

has added to the moral structure of Governments. The one great, enduring asset is this: that the rank and file of mankind, and especially the rank and file of New Zealand, let no private interest stand between them and their eagerness to strike a blow for the Right.

So the New Zealanders sailed away from their own safe islands, towards danger and death, and first cast anchor at Albany, Western Australia, a pleasant, old-fashioned spot. The little force consisted of one brigade of Mounted Rifles, a Brigade of Infantry, and one Brigade of Artillery; and there, at the south-western point of the neighbouring continent, they joined the 1st Australian Division and headed, under convoy, for Egypt, arriving at Alexandria early in December.

On the formation of Birdwood's Corps, a brigade of Australian Light Horse and a brigade of Australian Infantry were incorporated with them to form what was known as the New Zealand and page x Australian Division. This formation was trained under General Godley at Zeitoun till April, 1915, during which time a small portion of the New Zealand Brigade took part in the repulse of the Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February. Both Sir John Maxwell and General Godley assured me, at the time of my inspection in March, that the behaviour of the New Zealanders during this trying period of straining at the leash was in every way excellent.

Soon after my inspection, the last stage of the journey was begun, and leaving the mounted troops behind them, the infantry and artillery took ship and set sail for Mudros. There, for the short time remaining to them, they worked very hard at rowing, embarking, disembarking, &c., until they were almost as handy as bluejackets in the boats. Much of the success of the landing was due to this period of special preparation.

On April 25, 1915, a date regarded in the Near East as the most memorable of the Great War, the New Zealand Brigade landed early in the day and fought valiantly on the northern or Suvla side of the Bay. Everything was strange and astonishing to these boys from the green, well-watered islands of the South—the enemy, the precipices, the thirst, the wounds and death around them; but no veterans have ever done better than they did during those first few hours. Then it was that they carried, occupied and held, under steadily-increasing shell and machine-gun fire, what was afterwards known as Plugge's Plateau (from Lieut.-Colonel Plugge, commanding the Auckland Battalion), and Walker's Ridge (from Brigadier-General Walker, General Birdwood's Chief-of-Staff, who commanded the New Zealand Infantry Brigade at the Landing in the absence of Brigadier-General Earl Johnston, sick). These are the prosaic facts of a feat of arms which will endure as long as heroic poetry and history are written or read.

An extract from my diary, dated April 25, H.M.S. “Queen Elizabeth”: “They are not charging up into this Sari Bair Ridge for money, or by compulsion. There they are—all the way from the Southern Cross—earning Victoria Crosses, every one of them.”

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An extract from my diary dated April 26, H.M.S. “Queen Elizabeth”: “Passed on the news to Birdwood: I doubt the Turks coming on again—but, in case, the 29th Division's feat of arms will be a tonic.”

“I was wrong. At 3 p.m., the enemy made another effort, this time on the left of our line. We shook them badly, and were rewarded by seeing a New Zealand charge. Two battalions racing due north along the coast and foothills with levelled bayonets. Then the tumult died away.”

On May 5 I brought the New Zealand Infantry down to Helles. They had been fighting hard at Anzac, making sorties against the Turks, but I could not do without them in the attack I was about to make—a three days' and nights' battle it turned out to be—on Achi Baba. In my diary is this entry:—

“May 7, 1915—At 4.30 I ordered a general assault: the 88th Brigade to be thrown in on the top of the 87th; the New Zealand Brigade in support; the French to conform. Our gunners were to pave the way for the infantry with what they thought they could afford.”

In the deadly struggle which ensued, in the night-long conflict, in the supreme effort of the next day, the New Zealanders gained great glory, as was gratefully acknowledged by me to General Godley at the time.

That same month, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was called in to the Dardanelles. We wanted every New Zealander we could get. The brigade, destined to become so famous, was commanded by Brigadier-General Russell, now Major-General Sir Andrew Russell, K.C.B., K.C.M.G. They came dismounted, torn in two betwixt grief at parting with their horses and a longing to play their part on the Peninsula. They turned up, as is their way, in the nick of time, and were put into the trenches at once.

On one of the first days of July, the Maoris appeared upon the Peninsula. General Godley had informed me that all ranks were anxious to have them, so I cabled to Lord Kitchener, and I have always been thankful that he permitted them to come along. They were received with open arms by their compatriots, and I may say here at once that they page xii proved themselves worthy descendants of the chivalrous warriors of the olden days, and remembered, in the fiercest battles, the last words of Hongi Hika: “Be brave that you may live.”

No doubt the history to which these words are a preface will tell the tale of the trench warfare of June and July; here I will only remark that the New Zealanders helped themselves to a liberal allowance of all that was going in the way of bombs, onslaughts, and generally, hard knocks.

On August 6, took place the great attack on Sari Bair. To the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (Brigadier-General Russell) fell the honour of covering the assault, and the New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Brigadier-General Earl Johnston) formed the right assaulting column. During the four days' desperate fighting, which included night marches through the worst country imaginable, steep, scrub-covered spurs, sheer cliffs and narrow winding ravines, page xiii these two brigades and the Maoris wrested from a brave and numerous enemy the footing on the Ridge which they held till the bitter end.

Brilliant leadership was shown by Lieut.-Colonel A. Bauchop, commanding the Otago Mounted Rifles, and Lieut.-Colonel W. G. Malone, Wellington Battalion, during this battle, wherein Corporal Bassett, of the Divisional Signal Company, won a well-earned V.C. I lay a very special stress on the deeds of Bauchop and Malone. These two heroes were killed whilst leading their men with absolute contempt of danger—Bauchop after having captured what was afterwards known as Bauchop's Hill, and Malone on the very summit of Chunuk Bair. Both Bauchop and Malone were soldiers of great mark and, above all, fearless leaders of men. Where so many, living longer, have achieved distinction, it is quite necessary that New Zealand should hear the names of these two gallant soldiers in tender remembrance.

Of the New Zealanders who survived, Russell was beyond doubt the outstanding personality on the Peninsula. Steady as a rock, with a clear head and a firm character, he belongs to the type of soldier who will shoulder responsibility and never leave either his men or his commander in the lurch.

Chaytor, who was Assistant-Adjutant-General, did excellently well also, though, through being wounded, he did not have full time to develop merits which afterwards became so conspicuous in Palestine.

The losses incurred by the brigades from this terrible and prolonged fighting for the key to the Narrows of the Dardanelles, were cruel. On September 21 and 22, Russell had further victorious fighting when he and General Cox took Kaiajik Aghala; soon afterwards the brigades were sent down to Mudros to rest and to recruit. Reinforcements arrived in due course, and, in a shorter time than would have seemed possible, the formations were ready again and keen as ever to go on. But meanwhile, in October, events had occurred which put an end to the forward fighting and extinguished the Dardanelles enterprise. The first was the sending of two of our Peninsula Divisions to Salonika. The second was an order from Home that nothing serious in the way of fighting page xiv should be undertaken. The third was the advent of a new Commander-in-Chief who was opposed to the whole of the Dardanelles idea. From that date, therefore, until the evacuation, there was no further attack. When the tragic end came, the New Zealanders, steadfast as ever, held the post of honour, and General Russell and his rearguard were the very last to leave the Northern theatre of our operations.

Owing to the conditions under which my preface is being written, it will be understood that any attempt to make a list of distinguished names would be hopeless. I have just put down the half-dozen best remembered in full confidence that the historian will make good my failure in the body of the book. But there is one more officer I must mention, for although he is not a New Zealander born, he had the advantage of living there and getting to know both islands long before the War. I refer, I need hardly say, to Sir Alexander Godley, who commanded the New Zealand and Australian Division during the Dardanelles campaign. He has devoted some of the best years of his life to New Zealand, and with all his courtesy and charm of manner, has never had any traffic with indiscipline or inefficiency. If he wants his monument, let him look round at the glories won by the division in the laying of whose foundations he played a leading part.

One last word: the New Zealanders have been feared by the enemy; in quarters they have made themselves beloved. Wherever they have been billeted, all the civilians say: “We want to have them again.”

Signature of General Sir Ian HamiltonIan Hamilton
Lieutenant of the Tower of London