The capture of the Belgian village of Passchendaele (Passendale), near Ypres (Ieper) in Flanders, became an objective that cost the lives of thousands of people, including many New Zealanders. The ridge leading to the village was the site of the worst disaster, in terms of lives lost, in New Zealand’s since 1840. This day represents the worst military disaster in our nation’s history.
New Zealanders who lie half a world away in the fields of Flanders shall never be forgotten.
260 days of the Gallipoli Campaign
8556 NZ forces landed
4852 NZ forces wounded
2721 NZ forces fatalities
8709 Australian forces fatalities
33,072 fatalities from all British forces
10,000* French fatalities
87,000* Turkish fatalities
20,000* Total number attending 2005
Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli.
* Estimated number
On 25 April 1915, eight months into the First World War, Allied soldiers landed on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula. This was Turkish territory that formed part of Germany’s ally, the Ottoman Empire. The troops were there as part of a plan to open the Dardanelles Strait to the Allied fleets, allowing them to threaten the Ottoman capital Constantinople (now Istanbul) and, it was hoped, force a Turkish surrender. The Allied forces encountered unexpectedly strong resistance from the Turks, and both sides suffered enormous loss of life.
The forces from New Zealand and Australia, fighting as part of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), played an important part in the Gallipoli campaign. At its beginning, people at home greeted with excitement the news that our soldiers were at last fully engaged in the war. New Zealand soldiers distinguished themselves with their courage and skill, establishing an enduring bond with the Australians they fought alongside.
The Gallipoli campaign was, however, a costly failure for the Allies, who after nine months abandoned it and evacuated their surviving troops. Almost a third of the New Zealanders taking part had been killed; the communities they came from had counted the cost in the lengthy casualty lists that appeared in their newspapers. And the sacrifice seemed to have been in vain, for the under-resourced and poorly-conducted campaign did not have any significant influence on the outcome of the war.
Although Anzac Day, the anniversary of the first day of conflict, does not mark a military triumph, it does remind us of a very important episode in New Zealand’s history. Great suffering was caused to a small country by the loss of so many of its young men. But the Gallipoli campaign showcased attitudes and attributes – bravery, tenacity, practicality, ingenuity, loyalty to King and comrades – that helped New Zealand define itself as a nation, even as it fought unquestioningly on the other side of the world in the name of the British Empire.
After Gallipoli, New Zealand had a greater confidence in its distinct identity, and a greater pride in the international contribution it could make. And the mutual respect earned during the fighting formed the basis of the close ties with Australia that continue today.
This image depicts Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick of the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance and his donkey, ‘Murphy’. Kirkpatrick is shown as a full-length figure, moving forwards along a cliff edge, supporting a wounded soldier seated on his donkey.
Later research undertaken by the Australian War Memorial suggests that the water colour was copied by Moore-Jones from a photograph of a stretcher-bearer with the New Zealand Medical Corps, Richard Alexander Henderson.
This work was reproduced by the British Historical Section (Military Branch) of the Committee of Imperial Defence, London, in July 1926. It was owned by the Commonwealth Government in London and then came back to Australia during the 1960s, where it became property of the Prime Minister’s Department and from there entered the National Gallery of Australia’s collections during the 1980s. The painting was presented to the Commonwealth Government through Sir John McEwan.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick, affectionately known as “the man and his donkey”, was born on the 6th of July 1892 in South Shields, England. He landed at ANZAC Cove at 5 a.m. on the 25th of April 1915 and was mortally wounded in Shrapnel Gully, near the mouth of Monash Valley, on the 19th of May 1915 at the age of 22. During the 24 days he spent at ANZAC he operated as a sole unit with his beloved donkey/s and is credited with saving the lives of probably hundreds of men. He has become a part of the ANZAC folklore and though recommended for the Victoria Cross, twice, and the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was never decorated for his actions.
John Simpson Kirkpatrick served as 202 Private J Simpson, Aust. Army Medical Corps, 19th May 1945, Age 22
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