WWI - The Ground War


Although Warbirdsite.Com is generally dedicated to aviation and the air war, those who fought on the ground and at sea should never be forgotten. This page is designed to highlight some of the stories behind this people who fought in this roll.


Gallipoli - New Zealanders on Chunuk Bair


 Anderson's British War Medal


Collar badge of the 6th Manawatu Mounted Rifles

Ref. No. 1078. BRITISH WAR MEDAL AWARDED TO 11/4 OSCAR FREDERICK ANDERSON, NZEF, KIA ON CHUNUK BAIR 9 AUGUST 1915. 

Anderson was born in Palmerston North circa 1876. He was the eldest son of Mrs H Segren (formerly Anderson), 133 Rangitikei St (later North Road), Palmerston North. He first served in the Anglo-Boer War (also known as the Second Boer War) with the 1st Scottish Horse. When war broke out, volunteers from the Empire (Australia, Canada and New Zealand) who were not selected for the official contingents from their countries traveled privately to South Africa and joined local units in South Africa. In Anderson’s case, he was in South Africa at the time war began (age 23).

He stayed with the 1st Scottish Horse and was selected, along with others, to represent them at the 1902 Coronation of King Edward in London. After this, he returned to South Africa and served with the Repatriation Department until the close of the war. He held the Queen’s Medal and three bars for his war service.

 Following the Boer War, he supplied horses to the German authorities in South West Africa for some time but, not liking the service, he left and returned to New Zealand in 1908. Living in Palmerston North, he joined the Manawatu Hunt and was stud master, a skilled huntsman and a popular member.  He was also well-known in the Manawatu area.

During WWI, he enlisted as a trooper and served in the 6th Manawatu Rifles.  It served with the Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment at Gallipoli.

Anderson departed Wellington on 16 October 1914 with the Main Body onboard the Orari. The Orari was one of 12 transports carrying the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and carried the most horses – 730 in all. When conditions allowed, horses were led from their stalls and walked around the deck. The seven week journey to Egypt took its toll however and 25 horses from the Orari died. The Orari arrived in Alexandria on 3 December 1914. After arriving with another 26 transports from Australia, the horses were unloaded – some stampeding in the process. Camp was then set up and training in the desert began. Anderson remained in Egypt before going to the Gallipoli Peninsula. His horse would have been left in Cairo as the terrain at Gallipoli was generally unsuitable for horses.

Details of Anderson's time at Anzac Cove are not known but he certainly would have been involved in various actions prior to the August Offensive.

The 8th and 9th of August 1915 were significant days in the history of New Zealand for they marked the climax of the August Offensive and the Battle for Chunuk Bair – the initial objective for the New Zealanders in the Gallipoli Campaign. In the book Bloody Gallipoli – The New Zealander’s Story by Richard Stowers, the author wrote: “The events that took place on Chunuk Bair on 8 August and the following day epitomise the whole campaign from New Zealand’s perspective. For two days the New Zealanders would fight their fiercest battle of the campaign, desperately holding on to the summit of Chunuk Bair. It would be the closest they would come to victory of Gallipoli and yet it would be their greatest tragedy.”

During the fighting on the 9th, the only full day the New Zealanders held the summit of Chunuk Bair, Anderson was killed, age 39.

In the fierce fighting to hold the summit (which had been won on the morning of the 8th), casualties were high. A total of 88 New Zealanders were killed in action that day – 49 of these (including Anderson) being with the Wellington Mounted Rifles.  Although fighting on the 9th was as intense as the 8th (when casualties were much higher), and the number of New Zealanders on Chunk Bair was much the same, casualties were less as the medical services had been improved, with many more wounded receiving medical attention
.

On the evening of the 9th the New Zealanders were replaced by the 6th Loyal North Lancashires and the 5th Wiltshires. On the morning of the following day, however, the Turks, which had amassed behind Sari Bair, overran the two battalions holding the summit. Up to 900 British soldiers were cut down. It is believed that many of the young British recruits ran from the summit and only about 40 Lancashires are known to have survived. Turkish losses were staggering with as many as 5000 being claimed to have been machine-gunned to death as they charged down the hill. Chunuk Bair was lost and with it any opportunity to cross the peninsula towards the Narrows and the Dardanelles. It was the turning point of the campaign, which would eventually see the evacuation of peninsula in December.

 Although some authors have described Chunuk Bair as New Zealand’s “finest hour”, the carnage was horrific. The Australian war correspondent, C E W Bean wrote of the survivors: “They could talk only in whispers; their eyes were sunken; their knees trembled; some broke down and cried like children.”

 In his book Gallipoli – The New Zealand Story military historian Christopher Pugsley wrote: “The soldiers who fought upon Chunuk Bair performed one of the outstanding feats of arms in New Zealand history. It was a soldier’s battle.” He went on to write: “But on Chunuk Bair, New Zealand soldiers gave up their amateur status and found an identity as fighting men. For an army ‘is also a mirror of its own society and its values, in some places and at some times an agent of national pride or a bulwark against national fears, or perhaps even the last symbol of the nation itself.’ On Chunuk Bair we demonstrated our nationhood to the world for the first time in a manner which we in New Zealand have only just begun to appreciate. It would be seen again on the Somme in 1916 and 1918, at Messines and Passchendaele in 1917. It would also become the hallmark of Freyberg’s New Zealanders in the Second World War.”

 O E Burton, author of The Silent Division wrote: “There was no power of command; in the nature of things there could not be; but every man on that ridge knew that the thin line of New Zealand men was holding wide the door to victory . . . How men were to die on Chunuk was determined largely by how men and women lived on the farms and in the towns of New Zealand. . . . But the way men died on Chunuk is shaping the deeds yet to be done by the generations still unborn . . . When the August fighting died down there was no longer any question but that New Zealanders had commenced to realise themselves as a nation.”

 In the Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, Major A H Wilkie wrote: “The fact that the small force on Chunuk Bair was the only one which held its ground on 9th August against the enormous weight of the Turkish attacks, unsupported by the two columns (some 10,000 troops), which had been intended to co-operate, speaks volumes for the tenacity and determination of the defenders.”

 Having no known grave, Anderson was probably buried in the Chunuk Bair Cemetery. Of the 632 graves in this cemetery, only ten are identified and eight of these are named to New Zealanders. His name appears on the Chunuk Bair Memorial on panel No. 5. This memorial commemorates 856 New Zealanders who have no known graves. Most of these died on and around Chunuk Bair summit on 8-9 August.

Anderson’s death was announced in the Auckland Weekly News on 2nd September 1915.

In World War I, New Zealand lost 18,166 service men and women, out of a population of approximately 1,089,825. Nearly all those killed were buried overseas. 5325 of these New Zealanders have no known grave.


Machine-gunner on the Apex below Chunuk Bair

Wounded from the initial battle for Chunuk Bair arrive at No. 2 Outpost on 7th August 1915.

Infantry on the Apex below Chunuk Bair

The Chunuk Bair Memorial



Passchendaele - New Zealand's worst military disaster


Arthur Thomas Hall - photograph taken with other sergeants at Codford, England.
Ref. No. 1082. WWI MEDALS, MEMORIAL PLAQUE AND DOG TAGS  FOR 23/2195 SERGEANT ARTHUR THOMAS HALL, NZEF. 

Arthur Thomas Hall was killed in action on 4 October 1917, age 34, during the successful Battle of Broodseinde, one of eight battles that took place during Third Ypres (sometimes known just as the Battle of Passchendaele).

Hall was the son of Achibald and Katherine Hall of Hill St, Wellington, and husband of Jessie Catherine Hall, of 252 Somme Parade, Aramoho, Wanganui.  Being with the 1st Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade (part of 3rd New Zealand Brigade of the New Zealand Division), he would have left Wellington on 8 October 1915 and arrived in Cairo on 14 November 1915 - too late to see action at Gallipoli, which was evacuated the following month. The 1st and 2nd Battalion were joined on the 13th and 15th March 1916 by the 3rd and 4th Battalions and together they left Alexandria on 7 April for France. They entered the line on 13 May 1916 east of Armentieres.

Hall would have taken part in the Battle of the Somme when it attacked on 15 September 1916 as part of the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, as well as the Battle of Messines in 1917.

The battles for Messines, Broodseinde and Passchendaele were just some of the battles that took place in what was known as the Ypres Salient (a salient is basically a bulge in a defensive line, in which the enemy surround you on three sides). The town of Ypres was located in Belgium near the coast and only 60 miles from the English coast. It was located near a vast system of trenches that ran from the North Sea to Switzerland. With Germany and the Allies basically gridlocked in trench warfare, the British commanders decided on mounting an offensive to break through the German lines and then take the German submarine bases further up the coast. Mounting an amphibious landing (like D Day in WWII) was not practical with the technology available at the time.

The Battle of Messines in September 1917 (in which large mines were detonated under the German troops) and the Battle of Broodseinde (4 October, in which Hall was killed) were successful advances from the Ypres Salient (undertaken in part to "flatten" the line). The reason for success was due to careful planning, good tactics and favourable weather. Each advance was preceeded by a heavy artillery barrage which cut the wire and made life miserable for the German defenders. When the advance was made, soldiers advanced behind a "creeping" barrage. This required careful coodination and ranging from the artillery. The Battle of Broodseinde was seen as a textbook operation and the New Zealand Division was justifiably proud of achieving all its goals. To that date, the New Zealand Division had not experienced military failure.

Sadly all that was to change.  The battle for  Passhendaele on 12 October 1917 was a disaster due to the weather, poor reconnaissance, not enough preparation time, exhausted troops and the fact that they could not get all the artillery in place from the previous battle due to all the mud.  What artillery was put in place couldn't be stabilised sufficiently and, after each shot was fired, the guns would have to be repositioned in the soft ground to get the correct line of fire. The result was a weak opening barrage and, worse, shells landing on friendly troops. The New Zealander's didn't have a chance, particularly given the Germans were well prepared for the attack (some say tipped off) and placed in well-constructed concrete pillboxes along all the ridgelines ("flat" as they were). With the wire not even cut and German machineguns and snipers everywhere, it was a bloodbath with over 1000 New Zealanders killed and a further 2000 wounded - New Zealand's worst military disaster. As is typical with some of these battles, the troops knew it was suicide and those making the decisions at the top hadn't visited the ground to be covered. The worst thing was the whole thing was avoidable. Had they carried out the attack in the same well-organised fashion as previous offensives, losses would have been comparitively light.

Hall’s name is recorded on Panel Six of the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen. The memorial bears the names of almost 1200 New Zealanders who fell in the Passchendaele battles and whose bodies were never recovered.

Like so many others, on both sides of the war, Arthur Hall never returned home to the country of his birth.  Never again did his parents, Achibald and Catherine, or wife Jessie, share the warmth of his embrace.


Victory Medal (left) and British War Medal awarded to Hall and sent to his family.
   Memorial Plaque with name "Arthur Thomas Hall"


Hall's dog tags. "NZRB" stands for New Zealand Rifle Brigade. It is interesting to note that his service number is incorrectly recorded on both tags as 23/2125 rather than 23/2195.

 


 



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