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Chunuk Bair: the story of a hill

August 8, 2015

8 August 2015 marks 100 years from the final dawn attack on the summit of Chunuk Bair, Turkey, by the Wellington Infantry Battalion. New Zealand battalions, representing the regions of this country,poppy suffered extremely high losses in the Gallipoli August Offensive, 6 – 10 August 1915. Over the two days on Chunuk Bair, New Zealand suffered nearly 2,500 casualties, including over 800 dead. Over the five days of the August Offensive, 6-10 August, over 880 New Zealanders were killed and close to 2,500 wounded. 

Official commemorations at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington at 4pm, and at Chunuk Bair in Turkey at 5pm, lead commemorations for New Zealanders.  Most towns have something on: there is a concert at Dannevirke Town Hall at 3pm Saturday 8 August (gold coin donation), to commemorate the local men of whom 16 died, 14 were injured and 8 others who survived.

In August 1915, the Allies launched a major offensive in an attempt to break the deadlock. The plan was to capture the high ground overlooking the Anzac sector, the Sari Bair Range, while a British force landed further north at Suvla Bay. Major-General Sir Alexander Godley’s New Zealand and Australian Division played a prominent part in this offensive, with New Zealand troops capturing one of the hills, Chunuk Bair. This was the limit of the Allied advance; an Ottoman counter-attack forced the troops who had relieved the New Zealanders off Chunuk Bair, while the British failed to make any progress inland from Suvla.  (source: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/the-gallipoli-campaign/gallipoli-in-brief)

Colonel Malone

Colonel Malone

The Commander of Wellington Infantry Battalion was Lieutenant Colonel William Malone. In the early morning of 7 August 1915 Malone and the WIB reached the Apex, with Rhododendron Ridge heading up to Chunuk Bair.  The Auckland Battalion were ordered to advance up the ridge but were totally exposed to Turkish fire and were decimated.  Malone was ordered to advance but flatly refused: ‘I am not going to ask my men to commit suicide’.

Instead the men dug in and at 4.15am on 8 August 1915 they did advance up the ridge and occupied Chunuk Bair. When the Turks attacked, they held on despite heavy losses.  At about 5pm a shell, fired either by New Zealand artillery or from a Royal Navy destroyer, killed Malone. When reinforcements arrived, the WIB withdrew – there were only 50-70 left unwounded from the 760 who had advanced that morning.  New Zealand reinforcements held on all the next day but on 10 August, after they in turn had been relieved by British battalions, the defenders were overwhelmed and Chunuk Bair fell back into Turkish hands.  (source: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/video/william-malone-great-war-story)

William Malone’s diary is with the National Library but can be viewed digitally.  His granddaughter visited the area where his body remains and brought back a momento.

The Battle for Chunuk Bair was part of the three-pronged attack plan devised by Sir Ian Hamilton. The New Zealanders were  Chunuk Bair and the Australians for Lone Pine. Could the attack have succeeded?  Most historians agree that this was never likely, and even if it had succeeded, there was little real strategic benefit.  Read all about it here http://ww100.govt.nz/could-the-attack-on-chunuk-bair-have-succeeded

Chunuk map

 

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