Tomorrow, 25 April 2016, marks 100 years since the first ANZAC commemoration, 101 years since the brief, bloody and ultimately futile war for control of the Dardanelles was kicked off by British and Australian Troops landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The slaughter at Gallipoli led to the erection of memorials of some sort or another throughout the land.
The New Zealanders would land in the 2nd wave behind the Australians, collectively, ANZACs. Perhaps the greatest feat of the campaign came when the Turkish troops looked out on the Aegean Sea at dawn on the 20th of December, 1915 to find the flotilla of ships that had been there for the past 8 months gone, 40,000 troops had been evacuated without the Turks having an inkling, even though they could look into almost every position.
For this post I am again drawing heavily on Chris Pugsley’s “Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story“. Hopefully I won’t rehash too much of what went into my first post last year. I’d have liked to put more time into it but circumstances conspire against me. The New Zealander’s big day came with the August push (6 -18th), if you can call it a ‘big day’ when a force of 4,000 is cut to under 1,000. Most of the New Zealander’s attention was focused on the capture of Chunuk Bair, which it seems was achieved readily enough, those that made it to the crest “…beheld the Narrows from the Hill” but holding it was another matter.
“If I were asked to give a description of the colour of the earth on Chunuk Bair on the 9th or 10th of August, I would say it was a dull browny red – and that was blood just dried blood” Nicholson
850 would die on Chunuk Bair, only 10 would ever get a grave and Colonel Malone of the Wellington Brigade having been killed on the crest by a shell from a British warship, would become the scapegoat after the ANZACs, Gurkhas, 6th Loyal North Lancashires and the Wiltshires were driven off Chunuk Bair by Mustafa Kemal‘s forces. In this narration Pugsley sets the record straight for Col. Malone. If there is fault, Pugsley maintains it lies elsewhere.
Some say it was where New Zealand gained its identity as a nation, but they already new that they were different from the Australians, and all the ANZACs had already worked out that they were no longer British. My take is that Gallipoli and therefore Chunuk Bair was for New Zealand akin to The Alamo. From that comes the constant looking back to Gallipoli as the moment when NZ ‘came of age’. The place where they went to fight for their English King and came back (those that did) having fought for each other and their own – New Zealand. By 20th December, British and Turkish casualties would come to around 250,000 each and Mustafa Kemal, who so ably defended the Gallipoli Peninsula would become Turkey’s first president and have “Ataturk” (father of the Turks) appended to his name. The remnants of the ANZACS and Canadians that were fit, and reinforcements that followed to France and Belgium would be used repeatedly to spearhead actions on the Western front.
Most of those that survived Gallipoli were sent home, ‘unfit for service’.
“…Not many are fit and not many are sound
And thousands lie buried in Turkish ground
These are the Anzacs;
The others may claim, their zeal and their spirit,
But never their name.”
My grandfather was one such on crutches or in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. My grandmother would push him in his wheelchair from Brighton to the Square every week for his war pension and he would die in Sunnyside Asylum of “shell shock”. However their route for the weekly pension would have crossed what in time became ANZAC Drive and where in 2002 or 2003 a memorial to the Gallipoli dead was erected. Personally I think it is ugly but I like the idea and the sentiment.
Gallipoli Memorial, corner of ANZAC Drive and Queen Elizabeth II Drive, Christchurch
When the ANZACs returned after the war to gather what they could of the remains of the fallen, poppies bloomed among the bones as they did in Flanders. Mustafa Ataturk’s words (Our Sons As Well) are cut into steel plate below a sculpture showing the outline of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Our Sons As Well – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
“Those heroes that shed their blood
And lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore, rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours,
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well”.
We mustn’t forget that the A stands for Australia and for the New Zealanders to reach the summit of Chunuk Bair the English at Helles and the Australians at Lone Pine would draw turkish troops away to the south and as added insurance the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade would create a further diversion to the north by attempting the impossible, charging into the machine guns that covered ‘The Nek’, it later became known as the ‘The Battle of the Nek‘ In less than 15 minutes 372 out of 600 Australians would be casualties, this charge was portrayed in the 1981 Australian movie, Gallipoli. Seven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the Australians at Lone Pine. One V.C went to a New Zealander, Cyril Bassett tried to hide it from friends and family “All my mates ever got were wooden crosses”
Today on the crest of Chunuk Bair there is a memorial to:
“…the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 8th August, 1915.
From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth.”