Marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle for Chunuk Bair. 8 August 2015, New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli Historical National Park, Turkey.
The initial plan for the August Offensive was that two columns of troops, right and left, would move up the Sari Bair Range and capture the high points of Chunuk Bair, Hill Q and Hill 971 (Koja Chemen Tepe) during the night of 6-7 August 1915. The Australians would create a diversionary attack which would distract Turkish attention from the assault on Sari Bair. The Australians launched their diversionary attack on Lone Pine at 5:30pm on 6 August, with another attack taking place at Helles. The diversionary attacks achieved nothing positive.
During the night of 6/7 August the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, the Māori Contingent and British troops cleared the foothills in front of the Sari Bair Range, but took longer than planned to achieve what was a very demanding task. The plan for the right and left columns to take the Range however soon came apart when the left column got lost in the darkness, and the right column never properly formed. The right column’s two parts, including the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, were supposed to meet at Rhododendron Spur before advancing on to Chunuk Bair.
At sunrise on 7 August the Brigade was still waiting for the other part of the column to arrive. The attack went ahead nevertheless and the Auckland Battalion managed to advance within 200 metres of the summit with heavy casualties. The Wellington Battalion, led by Lt Col William Malone, were ordered to follow, but Malone refused to sacrifice his men in broad daylight, instead insisting on an attack under cover of darkness.
On 8 August the Wellington Battalion advanced to the summit of Chunuk Bair and successfully captured it. Despite this success there were still Turkish forces positioned in higher vantage points, and the casualties suffered by the Wellington Battalion were enormous. It was very difficult to supply or reinforce the troops on Chunuk Bair. By the time they were relieved only 70 of the 760 men who went up came back unscathed, the rest had either been killed or wounded. Lt Col Malone was among those killed.
New Zealand’s only Victoria Cross of the Gallipoli Campaign was awarded at Chunuk Bair, to Corporal Cyril Bassett of the New Zealand Divisional Signal Company. Under relentless Turkish fire Bassett continued laying the telephone wires which were essential for communication between the summit of Chunuk Bair and headquarters below.