The Governor of Çanakkale Province, Ahmet Çınar, and New Zealand's Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mataparae, receive poppies from Cadet Warrant Officer Helena Bethell at the service remembering the 1915 Battle of Chunuk Bair (Photo: New Zealand Defence Force, Crown Copyright © NZDF)

Gallipoli Centenary: New Zealand pays tribute at Chunuk Bair

Posted on on 12 August 2015
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Commemorations have been held in Turkey and New Zealand to mark the centenary of the Battle of Chunuk Bair, New Zealand's most significant action of the Gallipoli campaign.

More than 400 people gathered for a service at Gallipoli, described as 'intimate and poignant,' paying tribute to all those who died in the fight for control of the heights of the peninsula during the 1915 August offensive. 

New Zealand's Governor-General, Sir Jerry Mateparae, led the  commemorations at the Chunuk Bair New Zealand Memorial on August 8th 2015, accompanied by Australian and Turkish representatives.

Sir Jerry, a former Chief of Defence, said they were remembering some of the bravest men to have served New Zealand.

The attack on the Chunuk Bair ridge was part of a concerted Allied attempt to break out of the Gallipoli beachheads after three months of stalemate.

Troops of the Wellington Battalion took the summit on August 8th 1915 but their commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Malone, was killed that day. He was hit by shrapnel from an artillery shell, probably fired by the Allied side, while directing the defence of Chunuk Bair against Turkish counter-attacks.

Despite the arrival of New Zealand and British reinforcements, the ridge was lost two days later. 

Chunuk Bair was also notable for being the first major action to involve the Maori Contingent. It suffered more than 100 casualties, including 17 soldiers killed.

Members of the Maori Contingent gathering on the beach at Gallipoli. The troops arrived on July 3rd 1915, and were attached to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade during the August offensive (Image courtesy of Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira. Williams Album (1915), PH-ALB-212-15-2)

In his Chunuk Bair address, Sir Jerry Mateparae said: "We come here to remember some of the bravest men who have ever served our country - described by Malone as 'cool, determined, enduring, clever, patient, kindly and cheerful.'

"If we need words to describe the 'Anzac spirit', and seek worthy qualities to emulate, we could do no better than Malone's."

New Zealander Cyril Bassett was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at Chunuk Bair.

Sir Jerry also paid tribute to the tens thousands of soldiers who died in the defence of the Ottoman Empire, and the 'generosity of spirit of the Turkish people' which had enabled construction of the New Zealand Memorial 90 years ago.

The Chunuk Bair service ended with a traditional Haka for the dead.

*In New Zealand itself, a national service of commemoration was held at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, which opened in Wellington for the Centenary Anzac Day in April 2015.

The full text of Sir Jerry Mateparae's address at Chunuk Bair can be found here. The Governor-General also represented New Zealand at Australian commemorations marking the centenary of the Battle of Lone Pine on August 6th 2015.

Sources: Governor-General of New Zealand; WW100 New Zealand

Images courtesy of the New Zealand Defence Force, Crown Copyright © NZDF (Chunuk Bair ceremony); Auckland War Memorial Museum – Tamaki Paenga Hira. Williams Album (1915), PH-ALB-212-15-2 (Maori Contingent 1915)

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News