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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

The Mobilization

The Mobilization.

In those early days of August, the naval position in the Pacific was shrouded in mystery. Rumour was alarmingly busy. It was possible that the German Pacific fleet of heavily armed cruisers might appear at any moment off the New Zealand coast. Their only superior in these waters at the outbreak of war was the battle cruiser “Australia,” the “New Zealand,” of course, being in the North Sea. On August 6, a message from the Secretary of State for War was received by His Excellency the Governor: “If your Ministers desire and feel themselves able to seize the German wireless station at Samoa, we should feel that this was a great and urgent Imperial service….” A force of 1,413 men immediately volunteered from territorial units in Auckland and Wellington, and sailed for their unknown destination on August 15, convoyed by three obsolescent “P” class cruisers —“Philomel,” “Psyche,” and “Pyramus”; joined by H.M.A.S. “Australia,” H.M.A.S. “Melbourne,” and the page 3
Black and white photograph of unit badges.

[From the collection of Sergt. C. B. Gibbs, N.Z.A.O.D.
Badges of New Zealand Mounted Rifles and Divisional Units That Served at Samoa and Gallipoli.

1st Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry M.R.
6th Manawatu M.R.
11th North Auckland M.R.
Railway Battalions, N.Z.E.
2nd Wellington West Coast M.R.
7th Southland M.R.
12th Otago M.R.
Post and Telegraph Corps, N.Z.E.
3rd Auckland M.R.
N.Z. Army Nursing Service.
8th South Canterbury M.R.
N.Z. Field Artillery
N.Z. Staff Corps.
N.Z. Permanent Staff.
4th Waikato M.R.
9th Wellington East Coast M.R.
Field Engineers, N.Z.E.
N.Z. Veterinary Corps.
5th Otago Hussars M.R.
10th Nelson M.R.
Signal Service, N.Z.E.
N.Z. Chaplains Dept.

page 4 French cruiser “Montcalm” at New Caledonia, the expedition proceeded on its way, occupying German Samoa on August 29 without firing a shot. Thus early in the Great War were New Zealand soldiers, supported by the allied navies, the first to take possession of German territory in the name of King George V.

On August 7, 1914, the New Zealand Government cabled to the Imperial authorities offering the services of an Expeditionary Force. On August 12 the offer was accepted, and preparations were made to have the force ready to embark for Europe on August 28. More and more men offered their services. Those declared unfit by the doctor in Auckland caught the train to Wellington, and if not successful there, went on and on until they found a loophole. Family men of fifty-five shaved their faces clean and enlisted with an “apparent age” of thirty-five. One man, with an artificial eye and minus two fingers, struggled into the N.Z.M.C.; while two gallant souls—veterans of previous wars—enlisted and were accepted as quartermasters, even though they had but one arm apiece.

A partial mobilization had already taken place at each regimental headquarters. The drafts, consisting mostly of men who had served in the Territorial Force and in previous wars, were sent to district concentration camps. The Auckland Mounted Rifles, Auckland Infantry Battalion, and the No. 1 Field Ambulance of the New Zealand Medical Corps were quartered in Alexandra Park, Auckland. The Wellington Mounted Rifles and the Wellington Infantry Battalion camped at the Awapuni Racecourse, near Palmerston North; here, also, were organized the N.Z. Field Artillery, the Field and Signal Troops of New Zealand Engineers, the company of Divisional Signallers, and the Mounted Field Ambulance, the men for these units being drawn in proportion from the territorial troops of the four Military Districts. Addington Park, Christchurch, was the rendezvous for the troops of the Canterbury Military District—the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment and the Canterbury Infantry Battalion. The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment and the Otago Infantry Battalion concentrated in Tahuna Park, near the Ocean Beach, Dunedin.

page 5
Black and white photograph of infantry badges.

[From the col'ection of Sergt. C. B. Gibbs, N.Z.A.O.D. Badges of Infantry Regiments That Served at Samoa and Gallipoli.

1st Canterbury Regiment.
6th Hauraki Regiment.
11th Taranaki Riffes Regiment.
16the Waikato Regiment.
2nd South Canterbury Regiment.
7th Wellington West Coast Regiment
12th Nelson Regiment.
17th Ruahine Regiment.
3rd Auckland Regiment.
8th Southland Regiment.
13th North Canterbury and Westland Regiment.
N.Z. Maori Contingent.
4th Otago Regiment.
9th Hawkes Bay Regiment.
14th South Otago Regiment.
N.Z. Army Service Corps.
5th Wellington Regiment.
10th North Otago Regiment.
15th North Auckland Regiment.
N.Z. British Section.
N.Z. Medical Corps.

page 6

The territorial system of compulory training was still in its infancy, but it was considered advisable to retain the territorial distinctions. Each of the four Military Districts was asked to supply one regiment of mounted rifles and one battalion of infantry. Each territorial regiment and battalion supplied to the Expeditionary Force a squadron and a company respectively, and these units retained their badges and the customs of their parent organisations.

The organisation of the Expeditionary Force was that of the headquarters of a division, divisional troops, a mounted rifles brigade, and an infantry brigade. The Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment made, with the Field and Signal Troops and Mounted Field Ambulance, a complete mounted brigade. The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment became divisional cavalry, and did not form part of the brigade. The four infantry battalions—Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago—made a complete infantry brigade.

The characteristic slouch hat, with the brim down all round, was adopted by the whole force; but the Otago Mounted Rifles, the New Zealand Field Artillery, and the Wellington Infantry Battalion wore their hats peaked and with four dents. After the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula the entire New Zealand Division wore peaked hats, but the New Zealand Mounted Rifles remained faithful to the old style. A further distinguishing mark was the different coloured puggaree for each branch of the service. The troopers of the Mounted Rifles wore khaki and green; the gunners, red and blue; the sappers, khaki and blue; the infantry, khaki and red; the Army Service Corps, khaki and white; and the men of the Field Ambulance, khaki and maroon.