The British navy, under Winston Churchill had tried to take the Dardanelles Straight through Turkey. This sea route was needed to get supplies to Russia. The British navy failed losing 3 ships and the French navy losing 2 ships. The next idea was for a military action to take the Gallipoli peninsular and secure this sea route from overland. The army was supported from the sea by 12 inch and 15 inch naval guns.
Major General Sir Alexander Godley was Commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Major Walter Alderman echoed Godley’s feelings, when he said to the 16th Waikato Company, as they waited off Gallipoli, “We are going ashore now: but I do not think that anyone is going to be killed today”. (Gallipoli The New Zealand Story by Christopher Pugsley)
It was Sunday 25 April 1915 and the Auckland Regiment was the first of 3100 New Zealand men into battle at Gallipoli on that day. One third was either killed, wounded or missing.
‘Troops landed in lighters and small boats and in the majority of cases were obliged to jump into the sea waist deep. Packs were left on the beach when the Battalion moved up the hill and they were not seen again for two days. Three days rations were carried on the men, all transport remaining on the troopship. The Battalion was ordered to move forward up the hill and support the Australian Division which had landed some hours previously and were being heavily pressed. The Battalion became scattered along the firing line.’ (Auckland Regiment War Diary)
As they rushed onto Anzac Cove, two Cambridge men were never seen again.
Private 12/710 Ernest Wilkin Cox, the son of Edmund and Ann nee Wilkin, was born 11 April 1893. He was a farmer at Roto-o-rangi with an interest in rugby and rifle shooting and enlisted on13 August 1914 with the Auckland Infantry Regiment 16 Waikato Co.
It would be months later, after a Court of Enquiry, before their families were told that their boys were officially dead.
The Hon R Heaton Rhodes went to Egypt to enquire on behalf of the New Zealand government into several matters affecting the Dominion soldiers. He wrote to Mr E B Cox of Roto-o-rangi in January 1916:-
“In answer to your enquiry of September 7th, I have to inform you that on making enquiries from the Record Office here I find that your son 12/710 Private E W Cox, was reported by his unit as wounded and missing on 25th April last and this information was cabled to New Zealand. Owing to the severity of fighting and the rough nature of the country, much of which is covered with scrub many bodies of our brave men were never found, and I fear that your son was amongst these, consequently I regret that I cannot hold out any hope of his being alive. There are many of these distressing cases of ‘missing’ whose actual fate will never be known. The O.C. N Z Records here informs me that he has applied to Divisional H Q for authority to declare missing men as killed in action. This would relieve much anxiety and put an end to this cruel uncertainty. With deepest sympathy for you in your loss,
R Heaton Rhodes.” (Waikato Independent Cambridge 1904 – 1995)
Ernest was Killed in Action 25 April 1915 and is one of 456 New Zealand soldiers listed as missing on the Plugges Plateau Lone Pine Memorial.
At the Annual Meeting of St Andrew’s Anglican Church in May 1920 it is recorded – ‘The vestry in the name of all parishioners gratefully acknowledge the gift of a church site of half an acre at Roto-o-rangi from Mr and Mrs E B Cox in memory of their son Ernest who was killed on Gallipoli.’
The other soldier was Private 12/830 Francis Asbury Paine, son of Mr and Mrs Frank Paine also of Roto-o-rangi. Also a farmer and a member of the Roto-o-rangi Rifle club when he enlisted in Cambridge in 1914 with the Auckland Infantry Regiment 16 Waikato Co.
Francis Paine, had a twin brother Charles who also joined the army. Their father, Frank, who had seen service as a first class petty officer in the British Navy, sent his application Home indicating he was willing to serve again. With both sons away they were no longer able to manage their Roto-o-rangi farm so sold up and moved to Auckland.
Charlie was later wounded in September 1917.
Frank Paine senior wrote in December 1916:- “I understand that a set of paintings are to be shown in Hamilton shortly, from the brush of Mr Moore-Jones, himself a sapper in the New Zealand Engineers. I would strongly advise those who have heard of the deeds of the Waikato boys not to miss seeing the sketches of Sapper Moore-Jones. Here we have a man combining the artist’s soul, with the soldier’s spirit, and having faced the Turks and Germans, shoulder to shoulder with our boys, his pictures possess a living tone and colour in them peculiar to an eye witness. When listening to the excellent lecture explaining the pictures, many a father and mother whose lads have fought and died for us, will understand the extra-ordinary odds our lads had to face, and can almost hear the cheers of the Waikatos’ as they stormed almost perpendicular heights hundreds of feet high. Personally with all my reading and letters of enquiry, nothing brings the bravery of our bonny lads so vividly as these valuable pictures.”
Francis junior was listed as Killed in Action 25 April 1915 on Plugges Plateau, Lone Pine Memorial.
The Auckland Battalion had started landing men at 8 30am in lighters and small boats and they scrambled ashore under heavy shellfire.
12/846 Private A C C ‘Bert’ Robins of Cambridge wrote to his parents – “The fight was most furious, and all played the game. The Turks held a most difficult position for us to take, as we had to force a landing, and there were big, rugged ranges immediately ahead. We landed early on Sunday morning, under heavy fire from our battleships. All made a name for themselves straight away, charging and rooting the Turks out of a very difficult place.
“Well, they never stopped until they were over two high ridges, although our attacking line was very thin, as men being landed had to work very hard to catch up to the front. Anyway, a fighting line was eventually made, and a good defence was organised, this being all that was asked of us. The New Zealanders suffered severely, owing to the place they were holding, the old 16th coming in for a little more than their share. All officers were wounded or killed.” (Waikato Times published in Hamilton.)
12/255 Sergeant Thomas La Trobe Hill was employed in his father’s chemist shop in Cambridge before he enlisted. He left with the Main Body and landed on Gallipoli with the first New Zealanders at 10am on 25 April 1915. He recorded in his diary on 25 April 1915, ‘Anzac Cove Landed 10a.m. under heavy shrapnel all day. Heavy casualties’.
In his book ‘The Auckland Regiment’, 2nd Lt O E Burton wrote – ‘Away down Artillery Lane Dr G Craig, and his devoted little band, Wishart, Shewring, Stacey and Hill were doing splendid work. It was a heart breaking sight; wounded men lying about in hundreds and no provision made for them.’
The Auckland Battalion became scattered along the firing line where Lieutenant John Peake was wounded – ultimately losing his right arm. ‘At one stage Lieutenant H H S Westmacott recalled that he thought he saw Peake and Allen directing some of the company off a wrong spur to Plugge’s Plateau.’ (Gallipoli The New Zealand Story by Christopher Pugsley.)
‘Lieutenant Peake was impressed with the magnificent behaviour of the New Zealand non-commissioned officers and men during their first experience under fire. He felt they showed the greatest resource and daring, and there was no hanging back on the part of anybody.
“He said a mistake had been made as to their landing place at Gallipoli. It was a good job there were no entanglements, but there was a steep cliff, and the artillery and machine guns played havoc with them. All the officers were soon out of action, but the non-coms, and privates filled their places immediately. They traversed ‘Dead Man’s Gully’ and took the hill which the 16th Waikatos still held. Great difficulties had been experienced. The water was poisoned, and they had to take a supply from Alexandria to Malta. The Turks were good fighters, and there were no atrocities like those perpetrated by the Germans. Their snipers were excellently hidden, and were splendid shots. The 16th Waikatos upheld the traditions of the Waikato equal to Rewi Maniapoto, whose motto was ‘We will fight for ever and ever’.’ (Waikato Times published in Hamilton.)
25 April 1915 Weekly News 50 years ago 21 April 1965
Pte W H Rhodes of Amberley (16th Waikato)
‘We New Zealanders, especially the Auckland boys, have been badly cut up. My company is in a terrible mess. Our major is wounded, our captain is shot through the lungs and Lts Allen and Baddeley missing.
‘My platoon officer, Lt H H S Westmacott (an old Christchurch boy) is seriously wounded in the arm and back, and Lt Peake has an arm nearly blown off.
‘The men have been game against the greatest odds.’
The Anzacs held their position and on 26 April Auckland Battalion congregated and entrenched on Plugge’s Plateau. (Named after Lieutenant Colonel Plugge, New Zealand’s Commanding Officer.)
‘But with the night came no peace. The Turks attacked with renewed vigour – reinforcements had arrived for them. Blowing trumpets and shouting “Allah!” they surged forward. Our fellows ran to meet them, cursing in good round English and very bad Arabic. Up there in the tangled gullies many a strange duel was fought that night. When not actually fighting, men dug for their lives. Then on would come the Turks again, shovels would be dropped, and the attack repelled.’
The Auckland Battalion had the most serious losses. Sixteen of its 28 officers were killed or wounded. In the 16th Waikato Sergeant R F Ward was the sole surviving senior NCO; all officers were casualties. ‘In his diary he recorded that on the 26th he was directed by Colonel Plugge to get together all the 16th Waikato men he could find and let Plugge know how many had survived. Sergeant Ward found 34 of the company of 226. Thirty more struggled in the next day. 122 had been killed or wounded, 37 were missing.’
The first newspaper report appeared 28 April 1915. There were congratulations for brilliant work well done, but in the beginning of May the country was following the campaign, impressed more with the seriousness of the situation and the long list of casualties.