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Gallipoli: The 2779 who gave their lives

One hundred years ago, New Zealand joined a battle that would cut deep scars but also help forge a national identity.

On April 25, 1915, thousands of Kiwis climbed ashore at a small crook in the coastline, about 1.6km north of where they were supposed to land on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula.

On the first day, 152 New Zealanders would die as the Turks defended their land against the latest allied assault of the Great War. Another 2626 New Zealanders would lose their lives as a result of the eight-month Gallipoli campaign. Who were they? How did they die? And when?

‘The 2779’ shows when the bloody excesses of the Gallipoli campaign were worst for New Zealand. On the memorial tab, the name, age, rank, date and cause of death for all of the 2779 men killed is recorded. For many, there are even more details, like where they were buried, their occupation, next of kin or even their rugby club.

The four toughest stages of the campaign are highlighted and explained in the sections below: The Anzac landing; the May offensives, the August Offensive and the Hill 60 campaign. In each, the death toll suffered by the different Kiwi battalions is highlighted.

In ‘explore the war’, it’s possible to search the surnames of all 2779 men who died as a result of the Gallipoli campaign. Any different time period can also be chosen to examine the heavy toll of what turned out to be a failed offensive.

Anzac landing - the first week (April 25-May 1)

At around 8am on April 25, 1915, the first of the Kiwi troops landed at Anzac Cove in converted lifeboats towed by a steamboat. Turkish machine gun fire started raining down on them almost immediately. The men of the Auckland Infantry Battalion were the first of the Kiwis ashore and accounted for 100 of the 152 New Zealanders killed on the first day.

On April 27, the Wellington and Canterbury Battalions were involved in a battle for Walker’s Ridge. The area was named for Brigadier-General Harold Walker who commanded the New Zealand infantry at the landing and established his headquarters in the area.

May offensives (May 2-8)

On May 2, the Otago Battalion attacked a hill known as Baby 700. The assault failed and Otago Battalion lost 146 men on a single day. Despite a series of attempts during the Gallipoli campaign, Baby 700 was never taken by the allies.

After holding off Ottoman attacks on the Anzac landing point, the NZ Infantry Brigade was moved forward to take part in second Battle of Krithia. On May 8, they relieved British forces who had started the assault and advanced about 370m to a the Daisy Patch. But they were pinned to a spot where they could neither withdraw nor attack. Despite their position, they were ordered to try to advance over the Daisy Patch in to the Ottoman trenches. The assault failed and 175 New Zealanders were killed. Of them, 67 were from the Auckland Infantry, 46 Canterbury, 42 Wellington, and 20 from the Otago reserves.

August Offensive (August 6-10)

For the first couple of months of the Gallipoli campaign, the allies had sustained heavy losses without making any significant gains. A fresh offensive was proposed with the New Zealanders marching out from Anzac Cove on the night of August 6, aiming to take the peak known as Chunuk Bair.

A “covering force” made up of men from the New Zealand Mounted Rifles brigades was tasked with clearing a number of Ottoman outposts on the path to the summit. The Otago Mounted Rifles lost 23 men; Canterbury 22; Auckland 5 and Wellington 4 on August 6.

After a heavy night of climbing, on the morning of August 7, the Auckland Battalion pushed on to the Pinnacle, a ridge just below the Chunuk Bair. In the struggle for the Pinnacle, some 227 New Zealand lives were lost, including 78 from the Auckland Infantry Battalion, 75 from Canterbury and 46 from Otago.

In the midst of the battle, the Wellington Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel William Malone refused to send his men to their slaughter and resolved to press for Chunuk Bair at night.

A naval barrage early on August 8 virtually cleared Chunuk Bair of the Ottomans and the Wellingtonians took the ridge virtually unopposed. However, it was difficult to defend and the Ottomans were on the counter attack by 5am. A day of fierce fighting followed with a total of 424 New Zealand lives lost. The Wellington Infantry Battalion - spared from the heaviest fatalities the day before - lost 296 men in a single day. The Auckland Mounted Rifles lost 80 men and the Otago Infantry Battalion 23. It was by far the worst day of the Gallipoli campaign for New Zealand fatalities.

On August 9, the exhausted men holding Chunuk Bair faced third day of fighting. Attempts to send in reinforcements faltered and the New Zealanders suffered further casualties. Another 113 men, including 53 from the Wellington Mounted Rifles and 34 from the Otago Infantry Battalion were lost before those that remained of the New Zealanders fell back in the early hours of August 10.

A further 35 New Zealanders were killed on August 10 as a fierce counter-attack led by Mustafa Kemal rushed over Chunuk Bair, rolling back the hard-won gains of the preceding days.

Hill 60 Campaign (August 21-29)

On August 21, men from the Otago and Canterbury Mounted Rifles joined an allied attack at Hill 60. Hill 60 was not a major landmark but it had two important wells near its base. The attack was supposed to support an assault by the British at Suvla Bay.

The attack was not well-supported by artillery and was largely driven back by the Ottomans. The New Zealanders managed to capture a small section of the Ottoman trenches, however. There were 55 New Zealand lives lost on the first day of the campaign, August 21.

A renewed attempt at taking Hill 60 was planned for August 25 but delayed until the 27th. In two days of intense fighting, a further 167 New Zealand lives were lost for no gain. Across the 27th and 28th, the Wellington Mounted Rifles lost 59 men, Canterbury Mounted Rifles 48 and the Auckland Mounted Rifles 29.

Explore the war

Use the sliding bar below to pick any date range you'd like to see in more detail. Click the 'explore' button when you have the date range you're looking for.

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Search the records of all 2779 men killed as a result of the Gallipoli campaign by typing in a surname below and the clicking the 'search' button.

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Project credits

Source: Bloody Gallipoli: The New Zealanders' Story by Richard Stowers

Developer: Cameron Roberts

Data editing: Andy Fyers

Project editor: John Hartevelt

Images: NZHistory.net, Australian War Memorial, Fairfax NZ archive

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Memorials

Lest We Forget

The soldiers who died.