For King and country the hell that was Gallipoli
Imagine if you will living in either Australia or New Zealand in 1915 Australia had only become an independent nation 13 years earlier in 1901. New Zealand gained their independence from Britian six years later in 1907. Everyone back in those days still thought themselves British in fact most of the older generation had been born in the UK. Their sons had grown up with tales of the glory that was Britain, tales of battles like Waterloo where the British had held the line for hours until the Prussians could enter the field of battle and deliver the killer blow to French dreams of European dominance.
That was back on the day of 18 June 1815. Now in 1915 another war and many battles raged in Europe this time the roles had been reversed and France and Britian were now at war with Germany to stop Germany dominating Europe.
How the young men of Australia and New Zealand must have listened to the news and read the reports in newspapers of the exploits of the British and wished they could be there helping them out. Adventure is always something young men crave and the Australians in the fledgling citys of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane would have thought they could in their young wisdom go and help the people where their fathers and mothers came from. Same with the lads from citys like Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton New Zealand. How the pull for adventure must have been great
Many in fact has signed up to join the Armies of Australia and New Zealand in 1914 when they first heard of the outbreak such was their thoughts of patriotic duty to the Mother countrie where 5% had been born anyway.
What none could have envisaged was that instead of going to France and Belgium they would instead be going to a place that many would not have heard of a place that would become infamous for the word slaughter that place was Gallipoli. Gallipoli is located in the southern part of East Thrace, the European part of Turkey, with the Aegean Sea to the west and the Dardanelles strait to the east. It was here that the flower of Australian youth 8,141 lost their lives with 19,441 wounded. New Zealand lost 2,721with 4,752 wounded.
When we talk of Gallipoli we must not forget that the British themselves lost 34,072 with 78,520 wounded and the British India Army lost 1,358 and wounded 3,421 with a further 9,000 French.
What makes Gallipoli unique for the Australians and New Zealand soldiers was the fact that everyone was a volunteer. No one forced them to join they did it for adventure and a love for the flames of nationalism. Ordinary men, or ‘diggers’ as they were called, had the chance to ‘do their country proud’, and by joining the global conflict, Australia and New Zealand would establish themselves on the international stage.
As dawn broke on 25 April, 1915, the first Anzacs waded ashore at Gallipoli. It was the start of an eight-month ordeal that would test them to the limits.
They faced an onslaught of Turkish fire from the Machine guns. This was the first significant military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. The attempt to capture the Gallipoli peninsula and quickly defeat the Turks ultimately failed. It hopeless campaign that lasted eight months before ending in a stalemate. However the Anzac forces as they became known won great admiration for their bravery; at the time, Australia had been a nation for just fourteen years New Zealand less . The campaign subsequently became recognised as a turning point in Australian and New Zealand identity. In 1916 the anniversary of Gallipoli was celebrated unofficially, with the day being recognised as a public holiday in Australia from 1923. In subsequent decades, the fighting at Gallipoli increasingly took on a symbolic status.
Today no one who fought in that Campaign is alive just as there is no one left who fought on the European battlefields of Flanders. All the men and woman as we must not forget that woman were there also as Nurses are now sleeping the big sleep so richly deserved well away from the horrors that confronted everyone of them.
The freedom we all have today was richly won by people like them. We must never forget that fact. To lay down one's life, to go forward knowing that you might not see the breaking of another dawn or never see the ones you love again epitomises bravery, As you see the ones you have lived with trained with and love like a brother fall never to rise and still go forward into the jaws of hell again shows how brave those young men were.
Today many young Australians and New Zealanders make a pilgrimage to Gallipoli to pay their respects to their fallen ancestors. Their unflinching sacrifice inspires tens of thousands of them to make the journey every year to walk the Turkish peninsula were carnage and bravery walked hand in hand.
Many soldiers from New Zealand were original natives the Maori. Here is the story of one Maori officer Captain Pirimi Pererika Tahiwi.
The 25th of April is a date still deep-rooted in the memory of all New Zealanders. It symbolises the start of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign but also the enduring day in history, known as Anzac Day. It was a campaign with a casualty rate of 7500 Kiwi troops injured, and 2721 killed. Amongst those who were wounded was a school teacher and Maori All Black; Captain Pirimi Tahiwi. His medals are on display in the National Army Museum’s Medal Repository.
After completing teacher training Tahiwi worked as a resident master at Otaki Native College. A keen sportsman, he represented Horowhenua Rugby Union and in 1913 became a Maori All Black. As a serving member of the Territorial Force, Pirimi was quick to join the Maori Contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
In June 1915, Tahiwi sailed to Gallipoli and on the 6th of August he and Captain Roger Dansey led a company in the battle of Sari Bair. For this attack Tahiwi and Dansey led their men in the famous Te Rauparaha’s haka, ‘Ka mate, ka ora, ka ora’ war cry as they set about clearing Turkish trenches. Unfortunately, the next day Captain Pirimi Tahiwi was shot in the neck and was evacuated to a hospital in England. He became one of the 89 Maori wounded in the attack.
Upon release from hospital, he rejoined the unit in France on 7 August 1916 and was appointed Company Commander on 19 August. He returned to New Zealand on 8 January 1917 to train reinforcements for the Maori Battalion but later went back to the Western Front on 20 October 1917 to rejoin the unit and see out the end of the war.
As an aside, leaving Gallipoli on 15 August 1915 was not, however, the end of his relationship with the slopes of Gallipoli. For the very first Anzac day in 1916, Pirimi was selected by the New Zealand high commission to lead the New Zealand troops in the London Parade. Many years later (and after further home service in WWII), the New Zealand Returned Services association organised the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Gallipoli landings (1965) and Pirimi Tahiwi was the sole surviving officer of the Maori Contingent. Once again, he travelled back to the battle site, this time with his wife. On this day, Captain Tahiwi laid a mere at the memorial at Chunuk Bair in honour of those who fought and those who died during that fateful campaign.
Pirimi Tahiwi died in Wellington on 30 July 1969, aged 78.
Then there was Staff Sergeant William Henry, DCM, New Zealand Medical Corps.
There are many stories of ordinary New Zealanders who embarked on an adventure here at Gallipoli that in many cases, cost them their lives. The incredible events of the Anzacs is a tale of harsh realities, courage, defeat, pride and spirit in war. One such story told by the National Army Museum is that of 3/168 Staff Sergeant William Henry, DCM, New Zealand Medical Corps.
Born in Timaru in 1887, William “Bill” Henry developed an early interest in the medical profession and spent three years as a volunteer with the St John Ambulance Service, learning first aid and nursing.
At the outbreak of war, whilst studying medicine in Auckland, he decided to join up and was posted to the Field Ambulance, New Zealand Medical Corps. After a month of training, he left New Zealand, arriving in Egypt on 6 December 1914.
In Cairo, he worked for a few months as a hospital nursing orderly before embarking for the Dardanelles aboard the Hospital Ship Gosla, on 12 April 1915.
On 25 April, under a cold grey sky, he landed on the beach of Anzac Cove with the first group of stretcher bearers as a member of №1 Field Ambulance. Throughout the campaign, both Bill Henry and his unit gave gallant service in moving the wounded to safety, often under heavy Turkish fire. His brave devotion to duty was recognised with the awarding of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation read:
For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 25th April 1915 at Gaba Tepe (Dardanelles). During and subsequent to the landing, Private Henry attended on the wounded under a very heavy fire, allowing no danger to interfere with his duties. He invariably showed the greatest courage and presence of mind.
Henry was also mentioned in General Hamilton’s despatch of 20 May 1915 for further gallantry and devotion to duty.
Recently it has come to light that Bill Henry may have been the original ‘Man with the Donkey’ as very early in the campaign, Bill organised two stray donkeys ‘souvenired’ on the beach, into an independent unit for evacuating wounded from the forward positions. Subsequently, other members of the Ambulance Unit used the donkeys for ‘equally gallant work’ but Bill Henry remained the ‘leading figure’ in this work. It is also been said that he named one of the donkey’s “Murphy” (not the Australian, Simpson) and that he, along with ‘Dickie’ Henderson, were the ‘models’ for Sapper Moore-Jones’ famous painting. The name “Murphy” was also given to Henry, as man and beast were often seen as one.
At the end of the war, Henry returned to New Zealand to resume his medical studies but the war had drained his health and he was advised to take up farming for the fresh air. He purchased a farm in the Te Kauwhata district, later retiring to Maraetai. He also joined the Red Cross and assisted the Home Guard during WWII. William James Henry died on 6 September 1950, aged 63 and is buried at Rangiriri.
Bill Henry’s medal group including DCM are on permanent display in the National Army Museum.
Private Patrick Sheerin, Killed in Action
Patrick ‘Pat’ Sheerin was born in Palmerston North in 1891 and at the outbreak of World War One, was working as a Printer for the Wellington based company Ferguson and Mitchell.
Pat left for Egypt in October 1914 and in a letter to his mother, wrote.
“We had a good run over and no sign of being seasick. We did not get a rough sea all the way….It took us about seven weeks to get here so you can see we were pretty sick of the boat once we landed.”
Once in Egypt, Pat was camped just outside Cairo at Heliopolis and in the same letter to his mother, he wrote.
“This place is terribly dirty but they have some lovely buildings here. The Catholic Church is the prettiest place you could see…..we have to march over to church every Sunday at 8 o’clock.”
However in a letter to his mate Tom, he wrote of different sights.
“I can’t describe this place and if I could you wouldn’t believe me. The n**ger girls are married with seven or eight of a family when their 14 years old. They use no closets [toilet] the main street does them, and they would be glad to murder the lot of us.”
Pat first encountered the Turks in February 1915 at Suez Canal although he never fired a shot. In his letter he wrote of his disappointment at not coming face to face with the Turks but he was glad to be out of the trenches. Back in Cairo he carried on with training and waiting to be told when they would be on the move again. In his letter to his mother, dated 1 April 1915, he wrote.
“We are hearing that we have to move away from here every day but have not gone yet. I suppose the end will be that we will go home again……they published in the papers that the British base was going to be at Naples next month, so it is likely that we will go there. That is in Italy.”
Unfortunately, it was not Italy and on 25 April 1915, Pat and the other men of the 4th Otago Company found themselevs hitting the beach at ANZAC Cove at around 5.00pm and then having to make their way to Plugges Plateau. Here they had to ‘dig in’.
By 1 May, the men were caught up in a stalemate. They were under constant shell and machine gun fire and Turkish snipers were earning their keep.
On 17th May, at some point during the day, the trench occupied by Pat and others came under heavy shell fire. The trench collapsed and it is believed that Pat was killed by the falling dirt and debris of the trench. His body was never recovered. Patrick Sheerin is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial, Panel 75.
Further tragedy was to befall the Sheerin family when Pat’s older brother James was killed during Wellington’s attack on Chunuk Bair on 8 August.
Sergeant Harry Barlow, DCM
Kiwi soldier Harry Barlow landed at Gallipoli on the day that gave us the origin of ANZAC Day, 25 April 1915. Almost two months later while fighting at Quinn’s Post, one of the most advanced and dangerous ANZAC posts in Gallipoli, Barlow was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions.
Quinns Post was the site of repeated Turkish bombardment and some of the bloodiest hand to hand combat encounters between the ANZACs and the Turks — whose posts were just a stone’s throw away.
Barlow’s citation reads:
“For great gallantry and ability on the night of the 21st-22nd June 1915, at Quinn’s Post (Dardanelles). On his own initiative he crawled from the trench to reconnoitre an enemy bombproof shelter some distance away. He was successful in dropping two bombs into it, and returned with two Turkish bombs which he found outside. Throughout the operations, he has distinguished himself as a most courageous and skilful bomb thrower.”
Soon after, during the advance on Chunuk Bair on August 7, Barlow received minor wounds and two weeks later was admitted to the 16th Casualty Clearing Station with influenza. He was transferred by ship back to England and to hospital to recover. After his release he returned to New Zealand.
Timeline The Battle of Gallipoli
The British Empire declares war on Germany and its allies. Just two days before, Germany and Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) had entered into a secret agreement against Russia.
August 31, 1914
Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, asks for plans to be drawn up to seize Gallipoli and the Dardanelles strait from the Turks to allow Russian ships to be able to sail from the Black Sea, and ultimately, into the Mediterranean.
September 27, 1914
The Turks close the Dardanelles in response to the British forcing a Turkish boat to turn back. The Turks disable lighthouses, lay mines and start to fortify the cliffs.
October 28, 1914
The Turks begin naval raids and bombardments against Russian ports on the Black Sea, including Sevastopol, Odessa and Feodosia. The British respond by attacking Turkish ports at the entrance to the Dardanelles.
December 13, 1914
The British submarine B11 sinks the Turkish battleship Mesudiye. The British commander is awarded the Victoria Cross.
January 13, 1915
The British War Council agrees that “the Admiralty should prepare for a naval expedition in February to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula, with Constantinople as its objective”.
February 19, 1915
The Royal Navy starts a huge bombardment of Turkish forts at the mouth of the Dardanelles.
March 12, 1915
General Sir Ian Hamilton is appointed to lead the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. His orders are to launch an attack “only in the event of the Fleet failing to get through after every effort has been exhausted”.
March 18, 1915
The British and French fleet mount a huge attack on the strait. It fails, with three battleships sunk by mines, with the loss of 700 sailors.
April 26, 1915
The Turks mount a counterattack against Anzac, who manage to hold on. Meanwhile, the British fail to take the village of Krithia.
April 25, 1915
British Empire and French forces start landing at Gallipoli. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) land at what will be called Anzac Cove. At the end of the day, the British are stuck on the tip of Cape Helles, and the Anzac is holding a small patch of ground. Nine hundred Anzac troops have been killed, and a further 2,000 wounded.
May 1, 1915
The first Victoria Cross is awarded at Anzac Cove, to a stretcher bearer, L/Cpl Walter Parker, who helped evacuate many wounded men despite being seriously wounded himself.
May 6, 1915
The British, French and Anzac again try to take Krithia but fail. Throughout the rest of this month, the Anzac is reinforced by at least four brigades.
May 25, 1915
The German submarine U21 sinks the British battleship Triumph. Two days later it sinks the Majestic.
June 4, 1915
The British and French launch a third assault against Krithia. It fails and they lose 6,500 men. From now until the middle of July, the British will advance just 500 yards, and will lose 17,000 men. The Turks will lose 40,000.
August 6, 1915
Anzac starts its summer offensive. Seven Victoria Crosses are awarded; almost two regiments are entirely wiped out within a week. The offensive is largely a failure. Apart from the Turks, the other enemy is illness, with 45 per cent lost from one battalion alone with diarrhoea.
August 29, 1915
A combined force of Anzac, British and Gurkhas fails to capture the strategically vital Hill 60.
October 14, 1915
After months of stalemate and continuing losses, General Hamilton is finally sacked by the War Office and replaced by General Sir Charles Monro.
October 31, 1915
Monro advises Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener that Allied troops should withdraw from Gallipoli. Kitchener does not agree.
November 15, 1915
Churchill resigns from the Cabinet because of his involvement with the doomed campaign.
November 22, 1915
Kitchener finally agrees to the evacuation of Gallipoli, which is completed by the following January. A total of almost 500,000 men from both sides of the campaign have been lost.