In memory of Joseph Martin Cornwall
Joseph was born in 1892 in New Zealand. He was the son of Elizabeth and George Cornwall who lived in Paraparaumu.
On his enlistment, Joseph Martin Cornwall was posted to 16th Company, Auckland Infantry Battalion as a Private soldier. For the next five weeks he underwent initial military training.
On the 16th October 1914, Joseph Martin Cornwall finally departed for his ‘big adventure” overseas. Whilst his Service File provides no detail on which ship he actually embarked on, on that day, 8,444 New Zealand soldiers departed from Wellington on ten Troopships. These ships included “His Majesty’s New Zealand Troopships “Maunganui”; “Tahiti”; “Ruapehu”; ”Orari”;”Limerick”; “Star of India”;“Hawke’s Bay”; “Arawa”; “Athenic” and the “Waimana”.
On the 3rd December 1914 the convoy reached its destination when it berthed at Alexandria, Egypt. From Alexandria Joseph Martin Cornwall and the remainder of the Auckland Battalion entrained for Cairo with the Battalion occupying a location at Zeitoun where the New Zealand Brigade proceeded to establish its training camp. Training then began in earnest to prepare this Battalion for front line duties. At that stage, nobody knew where this action was likely to occur, or when it was likely to commence.
On the 25th January 1915, excitement was created. The Auckland Battalion and other New Zealand Units were to take up defensive positions behind the Indian troops who were guarding the Suez Canal. The Turks were known to be approx 14km from the far bank of the canal.
Orders had been received for the Auckland Battalion to entrain for the Suez Canal. Ammunition was issued; bandages were checked; bayonets were oiled and possibly sharpened and all the other mandatory preparations for ‘war’ were quickly made.
On the 26th January 1915 Private Joseph Martin Cornwall and the Auckland Battalion entrained for Ismailia and camped there. Patrols were sent forward to El Ferdan, Battery Post, Ferry Post, Toussoum and Serapaeum. But no action was seen, apart from fighting off the mosquitoes! A month later, on the 26th February 1915, the Auckland Battalion was safely back at Zeitoun. Training continued. Reinforcements from New Zealand continued to be absorbed into the Battalion.
On the 9th April 1915,Private Joseph Martin Cornwall and the Auckland Battalion entrained for Alexandria and from there departed for Mudros Harbour on the Greek island of Lemnos, on the transport “Lutzow”. They were going to Gallipoli. Mudros Harbour was protected by a boom which was itself protected by destroyers and picket boats. The“Lutzow” was soon absorbed into the remainder of the fleet and there they waited. Shore leave was available. The soldiers enjoyed the cloudless warm days and everything appeared so peaceful. One hundred kilometers away was the Dardanelles.
On the 23rd April 1915 all the ships in Mudros Harbour started to manoeuvre into their allocated positions for their intended landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The mood was buoyant. 100,000 men from Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand lined the decks of their respective ships, all singing their own National Anthems to the accompaniment of their battalion bands. Two days later the landing commenced.
Private Joseph Martin Cornwall now in the 16th (Waikato) Company of the Auckland Infantry Battalion. Here is what the16th (Waikato) Company did that day and where they did it.
Before dawn broke on that Sunday the 25th April, the 16th (Waikato) Company was still asleep on the deck of the “Lutzow” as it silently slipped out of Mudros towards the western shore of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The remainder of the Auckland Infantry Battalion plus two companies from the Canterbury Infantry Battalion – totalling approximately 1,500 men, was to land on that day. The Australian’s landed first, as planned, at dawn. Their task was to establish a beachhead. The New Zealanders were intended to be in reserve that day and were certainly not expected to be involved in any fighting. But things went wrong. A fatal error by the Navy had the troops landing on the wrong beach and they were immediately confronted with sheer cliffs, steep ravines, broken country and all covered with thick thorny scrub.
From 8.00am the Auckland Infantry Battalion started to wade ashore and by 9.00am the Battalion was formed up on the beach and was moving north. Private Joseph Martin Cornwall and his 16th (Waikato) Company were bringing up the rear. Orders were given to reinforce the Australians but the terrain the leading elements encountered, especially the unscaleable cliffs, meant that this task was impossible.
About midday the Auckland Battalion was recalled from this impossible task and was given new orders to approach “Plugge’s Plateau”. Private Joseph Martin Cornwall and his 16th (Waikato) Company were now leading the advance. Soon men were being killed and severe casualties were being taken from shrapnel and from the well-aimed fire from the Turkish snipers. At about this time, the level of casualties within the Auckland Battalion meant that the Battalion, as such, ceased to exist. What was left of the 16th (Waikato) Company was clinging to a position around feature “Pope”. But there was no structure left. Soldiers from one company found themselves occupying positions allocated to other companies. There was no longer any resemblance of Battalion or Company command. Whoever was alive – and capable – took control of whatever men they could gather together. Every officer and every sergeant in the 16th (Waikato) Company was now casualty. By the time the next day, only 34 men from the original 226 men of the 16th (Waikato) Company of the Auckland Infantry Battalion were alive. Private Cornwall was one of the 192 men from his Company who was killed on that dreadful day.
Private Joseph Martin Cornwall was initially reported as “missing and wounded” and later that same day his disappearance was again reported. This time the cable indicated that he was now “believed dead”. On the 16th January 1916, with the final withdrawal of all allied troops off the Gallipoli Peninsula, a Board of Enquiry was conducted at Moascar Camp in Ismalia, Egypt. As a result of witness statements, the Board concluded that 12/941 Private Joseph Martin Cornwall was “killed in action”
Private Joseph Martin Cornwall’s name appears on Panel D.4. On the “Quinn’s Post Cemetery” memorial wall. His name is one of eleven New Zealand soldiers who are named on that memorial wall.
“Quinn’s Post” was established on the afternoon of the 25th April 1915 by a New Zealand machine-gun crew. In the coming months, the post was held by a number of different Australian and New Zealand units and was the target of incessant attacks and continual hand-to-hand fighting with the Turkish post opposite, who knew it as “Bomba Sirt” (Bomb Ridge). The post was named after Major Hugh Quinn of the 15th Battalion, Australian Infantry, who was killed there during a fierce attack on the 29th May 1915.
Private Joseph Martin Cornwall’s next-of-kin were presented with the following medals on his death:
The 1914/15 Star, The British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.
In memory of Edward Percy Meek
Edward was born in Wellington. He indicated on his Enlistment Forms that his date of birth was the 24th May 1888 (making him 28 years of age on enlistment) but the Department of Internal Affairs records his birth as being registered in 1883, possibly making him 33 years of age when he enlisted. Understating one’s age was a common occurrence for those enlis ting to serve during World War One.
Edward was the son of Edward Meek and Rebecca Rennington, who married in 1882. Edward left New Zealand with his parents about 1887 and resided in South Australia, where he did all his schooling. The family then returned to New Zealand in 1900, and moved to the Waikanae district. On the 14th May 1913, Edward married Annie Winifred Corner at Paraparaumu. The Reverend Edwin Jones officiated at their wedding. Annie was the daughter of Mr S. Corner of Reikiorangi. In 1914, Edward and Annie became the proud parents of their first child, a girl, named Winifred Mary Isabel Meek. When Edward embarked for active service Annie was expecting their second child. Prior to his enlistment, Edward had served in a Volunteer Army unit in Wellington, but had resigned when he left the district; presumably to go to Pio Pio where he was employed as a butter maker, at the Pio Pio Dairy Company.
Edward enlisted, at Trentham, on the 10th January 1916 and for the next four months he underwent basic military training.
On the 1st May 1916, Edward embarked on the Troopship “Ulimaroa”. His record indicates that he disembarked, at Suez, on the 9th June 1916. Five weeks later, on the 26th July 1916, he embarked on the Troopship “Ivemia”, which took him to England.
Edward disembarked at Southampton on the 7th August 1916 and was immediately moved to Sling Camp, on the Salisbury Plains.
On arrival at Sling Camp, Edward was allocated to the Wellington Reinforcement Company and commenced pre-deployment training for the front line.
After four weeks Edward left England for Etaples, France. On arrival at Etaples he commenced the rigorous training required of all reinforcements before they were sent to their place in a front line unit. Edward completed this training on the 30th September 1916 and was sent to join the 1st Battalion of the Wellington Infantry Regiment.
When Edward joined the 1st Battalion, in the vicinity of Flers, on the 30th September 1916, the battalion had just come out of an attack. No sooner had Edward got himself settled in when his Battalion were again detailed off to support another attack, to be made by the 2nd Wellington Battalion, on the 1st October 1916, on the village of Eaucourt l’Abbaye. After the successful attack, Edward and his Battalion were relieved in the front line and moved back.
Nine days later the 1st Battalion moved to Estaires, and then on to the Armentieres Sector, where they went into the front line, and remained until the 18th December 1916. They then moved into a reserve position. Many of the soldiers were given leave, although it is doubtful if Edward was given this opportunity.
On the 1st January 1917, Edward’s 1st Battalion moved to Sailly-Sur-Lys where they commenced training, and on the 8th January, the Battalion went back into the front line. During Edward’s fourth day in the front line trenches, his son, Percy Robert Meek was born. Communications being what they were then, it probably took Edward months before he learned of the arrival of his son.
The Battalion remained in the line until relieved on the 16th January 1917; only to go back into the same trenches 8 days later.They remained in the trenches until they were relieved on the 1st February.
On the night of the 3rd February 1917, Edward received his first initiation of gas attacks and on the 7th February 1917, the Battalion’s position was shelled. On the 23rd February 1917, Edward and his Battalion moved back to Sailly-Sur-Lys.
On the 25th February 1917, the 1st Battalion marched to Le Bizet; an uninhabited village that had been badly damaged. Five days later Edward and his Battalion took over the front linetrenches. There they remained until the 9th March where they moved into reserve.
On the 18th March 1917, Edward and his Battalion marched back to Bulford Camp, where they commenced garrison duties.
On the 31st March 1917, the 1st Battalion again went into the front line; from this time until May the battalion were week in and week out into the front lines and in reserves.
On the 19th May 1917 the Battalion marched to Bailleul where they boarded a train and moved to St. Omer and commenced further training to prepare themselves for the forthcoming Battle of Messines.
With the Battle of Messines looming, the 1st Battalion selected those men whom they wished to keep out of battle and who would form the nucleus of the Battalion if a large casualty rate was taken. Edward was one of the many soldiers selected to be
“left out of battle”. These men were taken away from the 1st Battalion and moved to a Reinforcement Camp at Morbeeque.
The Battle of Messines (6 – 10 June 1917) took its toll on the 1st Battalion. Seventy three men were reported killed in action; eight were missing and 337 were wounded. In essence, nearly half of the Battalion were casualties from this battle. On the 13th June 1917, Edward returned to his old Battalion. They remained there for five days when they once again, returned to the vicinity
of Hill 63. There they remained for a week, spending most of their time on work parties. On the night of the 23rd June 1917, Edward and his Battalion moved back into the front line, and had to contend with frequent and heavy enemy artillery bombardments. The Battalion remained in the line for six days and during this period they suffered a further 97 casualties.
From June until July the battalion underwent various forms of training.
Towards the end of July they then proceeded to Hill 63 and were placed into a reserve position. During their occupation of trenches on Hill 63, the Battalion had to endure persistent gas attacks. They remained at Hill 63 until the 28th July 1917 when they moved into front line trenches. That night, during a heavy enemy raid on to their position, the Battalion was given preliminary orders that they were to be engaged in a major advance on the enemy positions in the Ypres Salient.
On the 31st July 1917, the 1st Battalion remained in position until they were relieved four days later, and moved back to Nieppe. There they remained until the 17th August 1917 when they returned to the front line, in the vicinity of St. Yves. They remained there until the night of the 21st August 1917.
On the 25th August 1917, the 1st Battalion were moved by motor vehicles where they began training for their next big battle – the Battle for Passchendaele.
On the 25th September 1917, Edward and the 1st Battalion marched to the Wardrecque area; a distance of approximately 44 kilometres. The day was hot and the men were required to carry their full marching order along the cobbled roads. The next day, they marched a further 21 kilometres to Wallon Cappel the next day, on the 27th September 1917, they marched a further 21 kilometres. In three days, Edward’s Battalion marched some 86 kilometres. At this point, another group of men, again classified as to be “left out of battle”, were sent away to the Reinforcement Camp at Morbeeque. Edward was in the group again.
Whilst Edward was at the Reinforcement Camp, the 1st Battalion were ordered to participate in the attack on Gravenstafel, commencing at 6.00am on the morning of the 4th October 1917. The 1st Battalion achieved all their objectives during this attack, on the 14th October 1917, Edward returned to his Battalion. His record shows that during the 14 days he was away from the Battalion, categorised as a “left out of battle”, Edward managed to get himself back to England for some well-deserved leave.
On the 16th October 1917, fresh back from leave, Edward took ill and spent the next two months in various hospitals. Having recuperated from his illness, Edward was required to report again to the New Zealand Infantry and General Base Depot, at Etaples in France, to undergo a regime of rigorous training so that he was ready to resume his front line duties. His training obviously went well, and on the 29th December 1917, he rejoined his Battalion. He found his Battalion was now at Hoograaf and were providing numerous work parties in the area.
A month later Edward and the 1st Battalion, again moved into front line trenches, in the Reutel Sector. They remained there until the 1st February 1918, and during this short period back in the front line they took a further 12 casualties. Seven days later, they were back in the front line.
On the 21st March 1918, when the Germans attacked in strength on the Somme, the New Zealand Division was ordered to be ready to move south, at short notice. The next day they were on the move, by train, to Amiens, where the battalion became the Divisional Reserve. On the 27th March 1918, the Battalion moved back into the front line. They were relieved on the 2nd April 1918 and seven days later they moved back into the front line.
On the 26th May 1918, Edward left the Battalion and attended a “Commanding Officer’s Course”– somewhere in the field. No, Edward wasn’t about to become a Battalion Commander; he went off to be a “Batman” for a potential Commanding Officer who was attending the course.
Edward returned to the Battalion a month later on the 4th October, he was accidentally wounded when a ‘bomb’, being handed from one soldier to another was dropped and exploded. Edward and one other soldier were wounded. Edward was evacuated to the nearest Field Ambulance and from there to the nearest Casualty Collecting Station. He was then evacuated to the 3rd Australian General Hospital, located at Abbeville. His wounds were such that he was repatriated back to England, where he was admitted to the Southwark Military Hospital.
On the 20th December 1918, he was transferred to the 1st New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst.
At 11am on the 11th of November 1918 the war was over Edward would be expecting to return home to his wife and his son he had never seen.
But his health was not the best. Whilst at Brockenhurst he was diagnosed with tuberculosis on the 7th February 1919, he was placed on the ‘Dangerously Ill” list. Edward died on the 19th February 1919 at Brockenhurst.
Edward Meek was buried at the Brockenhurst (St. Nicholas) Parish Church on the 21st February 1919.
There are 110 Commonwealth graves in this cemetery, of which, 93 are the graves of New Zealand soldiers.
Edward’s widow would have been sent her late husband’s medals. These were the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
In memory of the Lynch Brothers
This is the story of two brothers, Oscar & William Lynch who joined up together; once they disembarked in Alexandria they went their separate ways never to see each other or their families again. One was killed in action the other died of illness in hospital.
William and Oscar were pupils of St. Patrick’s College, Wellington, both had been cadets in that school’s cadet unit.
When William and Oscar signed on for war they were employed as farmers on the family farm.
After War was declared by New Zealand on the 5th August 1914, recruiting began immediately. Volunteers had to be between the ages of 20 and 35 years and single men were preferred over married men. Oscar & William were allocated to the Wellington Mounted Rifles. On their enlistment he indicated that his pre-enlistment occupation was that of a farmer, and from his records it was noted that he was employed by his father on the family farm at Paekakariki.
A mounted rifle regiment comprised 549 men and 608 horses. The Regiment was organised into a headquarters, three squadrons and a machine-gun section. A squadron comprised 158 men and 169 horses and was made up with a headquarters and four troops. Each troop consisted of eight sections, each of four men.
Those who volunteered for a mounted rifle’s unit were supposed to bring a horse with them when they enlisted. If the horse was found to be ‘acceptable’ – whatever that may have been – the government then purchased the horse, presumably at the ‘going rate’ and issued the horse back to its original owner. Any shortages in the quantity of horses were made up by the government soliciting horse donations from the general public.
Oscar and his brother William commenced their initial training on the 14th August 1914 at the Awapuni Racecourse. Reports indicate that the entire period that was spent undergoing this training, it rained; it blew and it froze at night. The Wellington Mounted Rifles spent six weeks at
this venue before loading up their horses and accompanying them on a train to Wellington.
On the 24th September 1914 the unit conducted a dismounted parade for the Governor General and approximately 15,000 spectators at Newtown Park. After the parade, the unit joined up with their horses and embarked on their allocated ships, namely the “Maunganui”, “Orari”, “Arawa” and the Limerick”.
The intention was for the convoy, carrying the entire New Zealand Expeditionary Force of some 8,500 men and 3,800 horses were to sail the next day. The ships left the wharves and anchored in the harbour. But as the morning dawned, the news was not good. A fear that German raiders may be lurking in the Tasman Sea was of concern. A stronger escort of warships was required. That delayed the departure for three weeks. The unit spent these three weeks at the Trentham Racecourse and conducted “leisurely” training in the area.
On the 15th October 1914 the force was again brought together at the Wellington wharves and embarked. They spent that night on board the ships anchored in Wellington Harbour and at 6.00am on Thursday the 16th October 1914 the convoy set sail for Europe led by an escort of
During the morning of the 1st December 1914 the ships reached Suez and sometime later they commenced to file through the Canal at intervals of 30 minutes. On the morning of the 2nd December 1914 the ships were anchored at Port Said and at 1.30pm they left the anchorage for Alexandria which was reached on the 3rd December 1914. During the voyage there were 728 horses (on the “Orari”) of which only 14 died during the seven week voyage.
On the 4th December 1914 the Wellington Mounted Rifles disembarked at Alexandria and proceeded by three trains to Zeitoun, near Cairo.
The troops detrained and proceeded to Heliopolis Racecourse, a distance of about two kilometres. The racecourse was found to be unsuitable as it had recently been occupied by horses infected with ringworm. They vacated it urgently and moved to an open, sandy desert area close to the ruins of the biblical town of On.
No sooner had the new camp been established that Oscar Lynch left the Wellington Mounted Rifles and transferred to the New Zealand Army Service Corps and became a soldier in the Divisional Train.
Very little detail is available on what Oscar may have done when he joined the Army Service Corps. on the 17th January 1915. Whatever he did, he obviously impressed his superiors, because on the 10th May 1915 he was promoted to Lcpl.
The Army Service Corps was tasked with bringing supplies from the rear area forward to the front-line – or as close to the front-line as was possible. These included a Field Bakery and a Field Butchery and those elements necessary to supply the troops. It was the main supply line to transport men, artillery and small-arms ammunition, stores and supplies of all natures and horses to the front-line.
Interestingly, Oscar Lynch, as a soldier in the Army Service Corps, landed at Gallipoli on the 7th May 1915. He would have been involved in the stock-piling of stores on the beach and then arranging for their distribution to the troops occupying the various trench-lines on the rugged terrain above that beach.
But Oscar was not able to remain at his post for too long. Eleven days after his arrival he took ill
and reported in to the 17th (British) General Hospital, located on the Peninsula. His ailment was not diagnosed on his admittance. The next day he was transferred to His Majesty’s Ship “Osmanieh” and was diagnosed suffering from ‘enteric fever’. ‘Enteric fever’ is now commonly known as ‘typhoid’. ‘Typhoid’ is a common worldwide bacterial disease transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person.
Oscar remained on the “Osmanieh”until the 25th May 1915 when he was transferred back to the 17th (British) General Hospital and his illness was assessed as being “slight”.
On the 7th June 1915 Oscar was discharged back to full duties. His unit was now at Sidi Bishi, a camp in Alexandria, but the very next day he was again admitted to hospital – this time to the Victoria College Hospital at Alexandria – again suffering from ‘enteric fever’. He remained in this hospital until the 4th July 1915, when he was again admitted to the 17th (British) General Hospital at Alexandria and was assessed as being “dangerously ill”.
The next day, the 5th July 1915, Oscar Lynch died in this hospital. The cause of his death was given as “Tubercular Meningitis”. Tubercular Meningitis is the infection of the ‘meninges’ – the system of membranes which envelope the central nervous system.
After the war his next-of-kin was presented with following three medals:
The 1914/15 Star, The British War Medal, and The Victory Medal.
William Lynch Oscar’s brother was allocated to the Wellington Mounted Rifles. On his enlistment he indicated that his pre-enlistment occupation was that of a farmer, and from his records it was noted that he was employed by his father on the family farm at Paekakariki. William commenced his initial training with Oscar on the 14th August 1914 at the Awapuni Racecourse.
William’s file contains the interesting outcome of a dental examination that he received on the 16th November 1914, whilst he was aboard his troopship. He had just turned twenty one years of age. That examination revealed that he was deficient four of his teeth; the remaining 28 were found to be “stumps”. The examining dentist determined that he needed a “full upper and lower denture” was required. There is no record on his file if this treatment was ever completed.
In April 1915, the Wellington Mounted Rifles saw the infantry units move out of Egypt and to Gallipoli. The Wellington Mounted Rifles were keen to accompany them but mounted troops were not required. However, their wishes were soon answered. Heavy casualties during the landing at Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915 necessitated an urgent call for reinforcements. The Wellington Mounted Rifles, along with other mounted troops were on their way.
The camp of the Wellington Mounted Rifles was awake early on the morning of the 8th May 1915, in order to make preparations for the Regiment to entrain for Alexandria, en-route to Gallipoli. That night the Wellington Mounted Rifles, after marching from Zeitoun, entrained in two parties – 25 officers and 453 Other Ranks at Palais de Koubbel, and 1 officer and 30 Other Ranks, with horses, at Cairo. The former were to embark on the “Glentully Castle” and the latter on the “Kingstonian”. They left at 2.00am on the morning of the 9th May 1915.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade arrived about 7.30am on the 9th May 1915 and sailed the same day.
The ships arrived at Gallipoli on the 12th May 1915. After dark, all troops were transferred to torpedo-boat destroyers, and from these on to lighters so as to make their landing on the shore. During this operation, heavy firing was taking place on-shore which was quickly responded to by the warships which lay along the coastline.
As the lighters approached a temporary jetty at Anzac Cove the rifle fire from the hills above them was of such intensity that the flashes illuminated the surrounding area. Bullets occasionally splashed the water and hit the lighters, but the landing was accomplished quickly; only one man was hit. The Mounted Rifles Brigade then marched along the beach, past the northern point of Anzac Cove, and camped. The strength of the Wellington Mounted Rifles on landing was 25 officers and 451 Other Ranks.
Meanwhile, the “Kingstonian”, with the horses and first line of transport, returned to Alexandria.
On the 13th May 1915 the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade were ordered into the front trenches. The Wellington Mounted Rifles were the first to move up the rugged face of “Walker’s Ridge” and completed the activity by 3.00pm. The area occupied by the Wellington Mounted Rifles was small and in close proximity to the Turkish line. The trenches were anything but clean and flies swarmed everywhere. Enemy snipers were active. The troops immediately commenced improving the trenches, working day and night.
A shortage of water was of concern, with only three litres being available for each man per day. This water was drawn from barges that were filled at either Malta or Alexandria. From the beach the water was carried by the men in kerosene tins, up the steep tracks to the trenches. Rations were brought from the beach on mules, and consisted of bully beef, biscuits, cheese,
jam and tea, but the intense heat, nauseating smells and the flies discounted their value in Gallipoli. Meat was almost entirely discarded, owing to the thirst it caused, and the cheese melted. Biscuits and jam with a tin of tea comprised the usual meal. When the jam was consumed the tins came in handy as emergency grenades.
About the middle of May 1915 it became known that the Turks had been heavily reinforced and that he would probably attempt to carry out his threat “to drive the Anzac force into the sea”. On the 17th May 1915 his guns were very active and his airplanes flew over the Wellington Mounted Rifles’ positions – but the Wellington Mounted Rifles were waiting. The threatened attack commenced at midnight on the 18th May 1915 and continued until about 3.30am. The attack was driven off; the Turks took hundreds of casualties.
At 1.25pm the Wellington Mounted Rifles were ordered to launch a counter-attack on to the Turkish trenches they occupied at the “Nek”. The first trench was only 100 metres away. The
attack was ordered to begin at 3.00pm. A force of 100 men was detailed to mount the attack and command of this ad hoc force was given to Captain W.J.Hardham, VC. The attack was going to go nowhere, and as a consequence, the Commander of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles’ Brigade countermanded the initial order. Some seven weeks later another attempt was made for an Australian unit to attack these same trenches. Practically all of the 450 men detailed to make that attack were killed.
On the morning of the 20th May 1915 the day commenced as normal. There was the usual sniper fire and Turkish artillery fired a number of rounds on to the Wellington Mounted Rifles’ position, inflicting a number of casualties. At 4.30pm, all the Turkish firing ceased and numerous white flags were seen appearing above the Turkish trenches. Following negotiations with the foe, it was ascertained that the Turks desired an armistice to enable them to bury their dead, lying in their hundreds along the trench lines.
On the afternoon of the 22nd May 1915, Turkish artillery fire targeted the trench used by the Wellington Mounted Rifles’ officers as a mess. Casualties resulted from this fire. These Turkish guns were seldom located as they were concealed in tunnels and only brought forward to the tunnel mouth when they were required to fire.
Another truce was called by the Turks on the 24th May 1915 between the hours of 7.30am and 5.00pm. The day was wet and cold and as soon as it turned 7.30am, troops from both sides emerged from their trenches – met in the centre of “no-man’s-land”; cigarettes were exchanged, hands were shaken and conversations were had, with the assistance of interpreters. Once the pleasantries were over, it was time to bury the dead. At 5.00pm, with the ground between both opposing forces cleared, hostilities resumed.
On the 25th May 1915 the Wellington Mounted Rifles were relieved from the front line trenches and moved to their former area in “Shrapnel Valley”. Naturally, the decision to have them withdraw from the front-line trenches was to provide the soldiers with some “rest”. But “rest” meant, more work, more shell fire and yet another Turkish attack on to their position. “Shrapnel Valley” was exposed to Turkish gunfire and, on the morning of the 26th May 1915 the position was heavily shelled resulting in two Wellington Mounted Rifles’ soldiers being killed-in-action and six wounded-in-action.
On the 28th May 1915 Squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles were to relieve elements of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles and by 3.30am next morning (at day break), 6 Squadron, despite digging all night, found their position completely exposed to artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire. Heavy enemy fire ensued all day, making it impossible to continue the defence work. 6 Squadron was relieved that night at 9.00pm.
On the 30th May 1915 6 Squadron was ordered to assist 2 Squadron in dealing with a group of Turkish trenches that were causing some concern, but as the day progressed, it was soon realised that employing such a small attacking force was not going to achieve the desired results, and, as a consequence the Wellington Mounted Rifles would be withdrawn. This was finally completed by 10.30pm that night. In just two days the Wellington Mounted Rifles and the Canterbury Mounted Rifles had lost 23 of their men killed-in-action and a further 57 had been wounded-in-action.
On the 7th June 1915 the Wellington Mounted Rifles were again sent to “Walker’s Ridge”; 6 Squadron was tasked with supporting 2nd Squadron who were in the front-line trenches. There they remained for the remainder of the month.
On the 18th July 1915 they were back in the front-line trenches and remained there until the 31st July 1915. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was suffering. Casualties from all natures saw the strength now down by approximately 200 men from its full strength.
Sunday the 1st August 1915 was to be the start of a memorable month for the New Zealand Mounted Rifles’ Brigade and the remainder of the Allied forces on Gallipoli for it was planned that a major advance would begin, aimed at breaking out from their positions and cutting off the Turkish Army from its land corridor to Constantinople.
The Wellington Mounted Rifles’ task in all of this was to capture “Destroyer Ridge” and “Big Table Top”. The attack was to be by “bomb and bayonet” only and silence was to be strictly observed. No warm equipment was to be worn or carried and no lights were to be shown. Each man was ordered to carry 200 rounds of small-arms ammunition and water. Only “fit” men were to make up the attacking forces.
On the 5th August 1915 the Wellington Mounted Rifles moved to an intermediate position so as to prepare for this particular operation. The Wellington Mounted Rifles’ activities were dependant on the success of the Auckland Mounted Rifles’ attack, scheduled to commence at 2130 hours on the 6th August 1915. 6 Squadron was given the mission of attacking “Destroyer Ridge”.
As planned, the Wellington Mounted Rifles followed behind the Auckland Mounted Rifles until the latter moved on to their attack. 6 Squadron then moved on to commence the attack on “Destroyer Ridge” and clear all trench systems beyond the feature. As often was the case, the exact position and the strength of the enemy in these positions were not known.
After advancing for a distance of about 200 metres, 6 Squadron were fired on from a distance of about 1 metre by a strong Turkish post. As ordered, bayonets were the weapon of choice by 6 Squadron. The Squadron continued on their advance and by 10.55pm, they had reached their objective; bayoneted the small post of Turkish defend ers in the position and took over the enemy trenches. During the night the other units of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles’ Brigade had also captured their objectives although at a heavy cost.
On the morning of the 7th August 1915 the enemy still held the vital ground on the south-western slopes of the Chunuk Bair Ridge and on the morning of the 8th August 1915 the Wellington Mounted Rifles received orders to gain the whole of the Chunuk Bair position and then extend as far as possible to the south and the east of the feature. They were ready to move at 3.00pm. But even before they left, heavy enemy fire started to take their toll on the unit.
The order given to the 173 soldiers of the Wellington Mounted Rifles, headed by Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone were ordered to take Chunuk Bair The order was very clear: “Chunuk Bair was to be held to the last man”.
At 10.30pm the Wellington Mounted Rifles, who were initially to be in support of the Otago Infantry Battalion’s preliminary attack, found themselves in the wrong position due to the inability to find their way in the dark, and without the assistance of any competent guides, now found themselves in the central position of the Chunuk Bair trenches, and only 15 metres from the Turkish forward trenches. To make matters worse, the trenches they now occupied were found to be too shallow and too narrow and orders were given to dig them deeper, plus add new ones.
Whilst the work of improving the defences in the area was underway, the opposing enemy continued to harass the men, although no serious attack was made until 4.00am on the morning of the 9th August 1915. This attack was of great intensity and heavy losses resulted, but by 5.00am the Turkish attack had been broken. However, for the next two hours more attacks were expected, but fortunately, apart from continued sniper firing and grenade attacks, enemy assaults were driven off.
By 7.00am the Wellington Mounted Rifles had sustained heavy casualties. Perhaps William Lynch may have been one of them. The promised 40 reinforcements were unable to get to the position until 12.00pm, and when they did arrive, they came without the expected ammunition resupply.
At 10.30pm, the Wellington Mounted Rifles were finally relieved by a 900 strong force of British soldiers. Of the 173 soldiers of the Wellington Mounted Rifles that took part in this action, only 56 men survived the day; 43 had been killed-in-action, including William,and Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, 74 were wounded-in-action. It is estimated that opposing these 173 men that day was a Turkish force of some 10,000 troops.
William’s death is recorded on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial at Panel 5. The Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial is one of four memorials erected to commemorate New Zealand soldiers who died on the Gallipoli Peninsula and whose graves are not known. This memorial relates to the Battle of Sari Bair and in other operations in the New Zealand area of operations. It bears more than 850 names. Chunuk Bair Cemetery was established after the armistice on the site where the Turks had buried some of the Allied soldiers who had been killed during the period 6th-8th August 1915. The cemetery contains 632 Commonwealth burials, of which only 10 have been identified.
After the war ended his next-of-kin was presented with the following three medals:
The 1914/15 Star, The British War Medal, The Victory Medal.
Not only did this particular family lose two of their sons during World War One, but a cousin was also killed-in-action on Gallipoli on the 8th August 1915 whilst serving in the Wellington Infantry Battalion. He was Henry Kildare Lynch, the only son of Mr. Patrick Henry Lynch of Kumeroa, Woodville.
The Lynch family certainly paid an enormous price to our country.