Putting the NZ in ANZAC

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In considering this topic, I must confess to my lack of knowledge of New Zealand’s contribution to WW I. I believe we have taken New Zealand for granted as one of us!

An illustration following the ANZAC CampaignWhy Gallipoli? With the stalemate on the Western Front, it was Churchill’s idea to take Turkey out of the equation for two reasons:

  • First to open up the Black Sea supply route to Russia (ammunition and wheat).
  • Second to control Egypt and the important Suez Canal.

(Refer to Situation Map 1 and note the number of neutral countries)

First, some facts to put Australasia in the context of that time: - the Australian population was 4.8 million compared to New Zealand at 1 million.

The instantaneous response to Britain’s request for Dominion support came from a 1912 Compact between Australia & New Zealand to offer 20,000 and 8,000 personnel respectively as well as placing their Navies under British ‘Admiralty’ command. Further New Zealand had ‘imported’ British GEN Alexander Godley in 1910 to restructure their Army, hence their 8,000 wasn’t just an estimate.

New Zealand introduced Compulsory Military Training for Boys aged 14 – 18 in Cadets, while Men, 18 – 25, served in the ‘Territorials’ and continued ‘on call’ until age 30. They established four Military Districts: Canterbury & Otago – South Island and Auckland & Wellington in the North Island, with the aim of raising two Infantry Divisions and four Mounted Rifle Brigades. Out of their one million population they had 25,685 ‘Terriers’ and 20,000 Cadets. So New Zealand “went to War smoothly --- and far better organised than the Australia.” (Carlyon), also better trained, probably with the exception of the Australian Light Horse.

Like the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) the NZ Expeditionary Force (NZEF) were volunteers, mainly from the ‘Terriers’. The criteria were: serve for the duration, age 20 – 34, over 5’4”, less than 12 stone and preferably single. The Mounted Rifles personnel mainly supplied their own horses and tack for a maximum price of 20 ‘quid’ ‘and no greys’ allowed!

GEN Godley appointed the following commanders:

  • COL Francis Johnston, to command the New Zealand Infantry Brigade – former Indian Army, age 42
  • LTCOL William Malone, Commanding Officer, Wellington Infantry Battalion – farmer/solicitor
  • LTCOL Arthur Plugge , Commanding Officer, Auckland Infantry Battalion – school teacher
  • COL Andrew Russell, to command the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade – former British Army

Of the NZEF of 8,417 personnel, only 1,492 had no military experience. Less than 18% and quite different to the AIF makeup. That NZEF contingent, plus 3,818 horses, sailed on 16 Oct 1914 via Hobart to Albany to join the first convoy. Even Godley didn’t know where to???

After the failure of the British Navy to force the Dardanelles sea passageway on 18 March 1915 Turkey believed an invasion was inevitable and raised its 5thArmy, commanded by German GEN Liman von Sanders, with responsibility for the Dardanelles area. The British had lost the surprise factor and worse still thought Turkish troops were inept! This was based on Russia winning the Battle at ‘Sarikamish’ (NE border of Turkey / Russia) on 4 January 1915 and the British win at the Suez Canal on 3-4 February 1915.
The British LTGEN Hamilton’s campaign plan, after being ordered to invade Turkey at Gallipoli was in hindsight ill conceived. (Refer to the Invasion Plan Map 2)

The Allies were facing six Turkish Divisions of the 5thArmy – two Divisions on the peninsula with a third Division in Reserve and two on the Asiatic shore of Turkey. The main landing was to be at Cape Helles by the 29th UK DIV with four landing sites to coordinate; at the same time secondary landings at Gaba Tete by the ANZAC Corps (Gen Birdwood) and at Kum Kale, on the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles by the French Oriental Expeditionary Corps (FOEC) of two Divisions. There was also a prior feint at Besika Bay, some 20km South of Kum Kale. Another feint North that could have been very significant, if they had gone on with it, was by the Royal Naval Division, opposite Bulair, the narrowest point of the peninsular!

The FOEC landing at Kum Kale was a success and inextricably, but planned, they withdrew the next day to deploy on Cape Helles, thereby releasing two Turkish Divisions!

The Cape Helles invasion (refer to Map 3) of three allied Divisions, the UK 29th and the FOEC of two Divisions, made reasonable progress, but did not exploit the success of the 2nd UK Battalion at “Y” Beach, which was NW and behind the Turkish defensive line. They actually entered Krithia village, the gateway to Achi Baba, before being ordered, again inextricably, to withdraw!

Now let’s turn to the secondary, but main ANZAC landing for us, (refer to Map 4) some 20km up the NW side of the peninsula. You need to consider the planned versus actual landing site, some .5 to 1.5 km further North and maybe caused by: navigation error, at night, strong tide, no up to date maps and certainly lack of reconnaissance and worse still no advance parties ashore to light their way in.

Did it really matter? The Turkish opposition consisted of only one Battalion spread over 6 -7 km with Reserves more than 5 km away!

The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) (Hamilton) left Alexandria, Egypt, in single transport ships (no convoy) and arrived in Mudros Harbour by 16 April 1915. They had less than nine days to reorganise and prepare for a night amphibious landing. To add to that bad weather prevented any worthwhile rehearsal!

The first wave was Sinclair MacLagan’s 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade with the role to provide a screen, some 3 - 4 km inland to the ‘third or Gun Ridge’ line, with the aim to protect the beachhead and its flanks. The terrain was more difficult where they landed below and across three ridge lines running north east up to ‘Battleship Hill’ and further up the ‘Sari Bair’ Range. We now know that the planned landing site, with its wider opening and more gentle slopes, had wire and obstacles in the water, but was not seen by Turkish as a/the primary landing site. Unfortunately the three ‘screen’ Battalions were all stalled by MacLagan on the ‘Second Ridge’, line well short of their objectives, because of his concern for his right or southern flank from ‘Gaba Tepe’. The first Turkish rifle fire was at 0438; there were no machine guns at this stage and then some howitzer fire (two 150mm) at 0453 from that direction.

When McKay’s 2nd Australian Infantry Brigade, in the second wave, landed with the objective of, seizing the high ground, beyond ‘Battleship Hill’ and upwards towards ‘Hill 971’; MacLagan convinced McKay to disobey orders and secure the southern flank. Thereby losing the initiative that was theirs for the taking.

The third wave on that fateful day was the NZ & A DIV, comprising New Zealand Ingantry Brigade (Johnston) and 4th Australian Infantry Brigade (Monash) which landed on a crowded disorganised beach under continuous rifle fire were rushed forward, with great difficulty because of the terrain, to reinforce the held line. Map 5 indicates those dispositions of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at the end of Day 1 and they virtually remained the same for the next 8 months! The ANZAC trench lines as depicted are at Day 6 of their development to illustrate the allied front. It was a day of missed opportunities as opposed to Mustafa Kemal’s correct appreciation and vigorous response in bringing forward his Reserve Forces. The New Zealand BDE is on the west side of the ‘First Ridge’ and 4th Australian Brigade is at the head of the ‘First and Second Ridges’. The Vital Ground now was ‘Baby 700’! That battle for ‘Baby 700’was lost by 1400 resulting in 6 to 700 CAS (153 KIA) of the 3,100 Kiwis that landed that day

I will now concentrate on subsequent actions by the New Zealand & Australian Division.

‘Attempts to expand the perimeter were unsuccessful.’

A breakout on night 2/3 May by Godley’s NZ & A DIV to seize ‘Baby 700’ was again a disaster with over 1,000 Casualties! The key lesson being the need for appropriate artillery support. This left the Anzacs’ positions under observation and siege, mainly through snipers and now MG’s and artillery. The decision for Hamilton was to either open a new front or heavily reinforce one of his two fronts to break the stalemate. He chose Cape Helles and shipped the depleted New Zealand Brigade (strength now 2,443 of 3,100) and 2nd Australian Brigade (strength now 2,900) during the night 5/6 May to reinforce the UK 8th Corps. In an extraordinary action, at 1000 on 8 May both Brigades attacked toward Krithia Village over open ground, unsupported by artillery or other formations with an anticipated tragic out come. Stupidly another attack was ordered on similar arrangements and failed! New Zealand strength was now at 1,700 of 3,100 (855 CAS). Malone’s Wellington Battalion, at half strength, was the strongest of the four New Zealand Battalions! The New Zealand BDE was returned to ANZAC and placed in reserve at appropriately named ‘Reserve Gully’.

Meanwhile on 12 May, COL Russell’s New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade landed at ANZAC, followed by the Otago Mounted Rifles. Now fighting dismounted, they took over the northern number 4 Section and ‘sapped’ (dug trenches) forward onto ‘Russell’s Top’.
Fortunately a New Zealand character, CAPT Wallingford, a machine gun (MG) specialist had cooperated with his counterpart in 4th Brigade (CAPT Rose, also a Kiwi) in establishing a mutually supporting machine gun plan for the head of ‘Monash Valley’, was vital.

Hamilton had lost the reinforcement battle! The Turkish, now fully reinforced, launched a series of attacks on 18/19 May, with the aim of ‘throwing the defenders back into the sea’, however the Anzacs held firm! The Turkish lost from four Divisions of 42,000 some 10,000 Casualties (3,000 KIA) compared to the Anzacs’ 628 Casualties. This led to the ‘famous’ Armistice of 26 May 1915 to bury the dead of both sides. However another problem was emerging for the ANZACS and that was losses through disease and illness; some 200 Kiwis died!

There was little activity during June and July at ANZAC though there were another five unsuccessful pitched battles at Cape Helles. At this time Hamilton received news of the reinforcements he had requested – five Divisions, extra howitzers, naval support with 14” gunned ‘Monitors’ and landing barges (500 pax); also air support with 15 aircraft in addition to his several seaplanes.
So planning for the August offensive began. Apart from the reinforcements, it was the New Zealand patrolling from the coast into the high ground of the Sari Bair Range that formed part of the plan. Map 6. The main attack was to be from ANZAC with the intention of taking the high hill features: Chunuk Bair, ‘Hill Q’ and ‘Hill 971 with two diversionary attacks – a minor attack at Cape Helles to draw Turkish reinforcements south and a major amphibious invasion at Suvla Bay by the new British 9th Corps (LTGEN Stopford) to draw Turkish reserves away from the main thrust at ANZAC and to capture the range of hills 5,000m inland, to effectively cut the main north south supply route down the peninsula. None of the attacks succeeded! This resulted in Hamilton’s replacement by Gen Charles Munro who quickly foresaw the need to evacuate the peninsula.

In the meantime on 6 August the troops got on with their orders: the huge Australian cost in Casualties to capture of and hold for four days at ‘Lone Pine’; likewise the disastrous Australian Light Horse ‘charge’ at ‘The Nek’ without the planned New Zealand supporting attack from above the Turkish position. The long circuitous approach marches, in the dark, from the left or west became disorganised for various reasons and in fact the nearest to success were New Zealand towards Chunuk Bair. They held the upper slopes for a while before having to withdraw.

The Suvla Bay opportunity up north also failed! Stopford did not push his three Divisions, who had landed some 20,000 between 6 and 9 August, resolutely toward their objectives and 1,500 Turks managed to delay them whilst von Sanders reinforced and developed the high ground defences. By 16 August, again stalemate, on all three fronts! The whole campaign was effectively over! FM Kitchener visited the peninsula on 13 November and confirmed that evacuation was necessary, with Suvla Bay and ANZAC first (19/20 December) followed by Cape Helles (9 January 1916) The evacuation was the only completely successful operation and that was planned by COL Brudenell White, Birdwood’s Chief of Staff.

Chunuk Bair was an epic battle of courage by New Zealand and that it was not held by two relieving British Battalions adds to the tragedy. To be fair the ‘Brits’ like the Kiwis had no supporting artillery and the Turkish knew they had to regain this vital feature. ‘The New Zealand Expeditionary Force was effectively destroyed as a fighting force --- losing some 2,400 casualties, KIA/WIA/MIA, thereby reducing both Brigades to Battalion strength.’ The remnants of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade were further depleted in two fruitless attacks on ‘Hill 60’ in late August. What was left of Godley’s New Zealand & Australian Division was withdrawn to Lemnos Island on 15 September for rest & reinforcement. Then at half strength in early November they returned and took over the sector below Chunuk Bair. How ironic it must have been to those Kiwis!

One interesting sidelight to the campaign was that a Maori contingent of 14 officers & 425 other ranks, as part of the 3rd Reinforcement expected on 26 May, were diverted to Malta for Garrison duties! One can only wonder what they thought of that change in expectations.

With planning for the evacuation command changes were made as follows:

Birdwood assumed acting command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force; Godley to command the ANZAC Corps, and Russell to command the NZ & A DIV. The latter having the task of providing the Rear Guard for the December evacuation.

The Gallipoli Campaign cost New Zealand dearly – 7,991 Battle Casualties (2,779 KIA). That is 93% of the 8,556 Kiwis who served on Gallipoli!

Compare this to the other allies:
Australia 50-60,000 served 28,150 casualties (8,709 KIA) (19,411 WIA) 47 – 56%
Indian & Gurkha’s 10,500 4,779 (1,358 KIA) (3,421 WIA) 46%
French - est’d 80,000 27,000 (10,000 KIA) (17,000 WIA) 34%
British 330,000 73,485 (21,255 KIA) (52,230 WIA) 22% of those landed
Newfoundland 142 (49 KIA/93 WIA)

Country Served Casualties KIA WIA %
Australia 50-60,000  28,150 8,709 19,411 47 – 56%
Indian & Gurkha’s  10,500  4,779 1,358 3,421  46% 
 French  80,000 est.  27,000 10,000  17,000  34% 
 British 330,000  73,485  21,225 52,230 22% of those landed
 Newfoundland  142 142 49 93  
Allies Total:   141,547 44,150 97,297  

Turkey 251,309 (86,692 KIA/164,617 WIA)

The Gallipoli aftermath: ‘Gallipoli was a chilling forecast --- of the likely cost of a long war’

Gallipoli dictated the New Zealand decision to commit no more than one Division to the Western Front. This was all that New Zealand’s one million population could sustain.

They certainly put the NZ in ANZAC! In turn, let us make sure we also remember the sacrifice of our Kiwi brothers.

Lest we forget!

J E Barry MAJGEN (Retd)

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