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Reserve Force soldier photographs, follows in footsteps of Gallipoli general

Sergeant Caroline “Daisy” Williams once had the job of copying the private papers of one of New Zealand’s most prominent First World War generals, but never thought she’d get the chance to walk in the man’s footprints at Gallipoli.

23 April, 2024

The photographer, who spent many years living in Hawke’s Bay, is in Türkiye with the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent commemorating Anzac Day this year.

Originally a photographer for the Royal New Zealand Air Force, she deployed to East Timor, Antarctica and covered the Return of the Unknown Warrior to New Zealand before leaving the military in 2005.

She took up commercial photography, which led her to work for the Russell Collection - a family project chronicling the life of Hawke’s Bay’s Major-General Sir Andrew Russell.

Major-General Russell led the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade before going on to command the famed New Zealand Division on the Western Front. He won a reputation for considered, meticulous command, which earned his New Zealand Division a fierce reputation.

“Photographing the Russell Collection gave a unique insight into the First World War, and bringing home the Unknown Warrior has had a special place in my heart ever since,” said Sergeant Williams.

“Both feel very personal, which seems odd as neither are related to me. But because of the personal aspect, I am looking forward to hearing the stories about the general and treading some of the ground he was on.

“I photographed most of the family archives – working in a shipping container – which sounds a little repetitive but the letters, diaries, photographs, maps and documents made the story feel alive and current.”

After photographing the Russell Collection, which entailed her joining the Reserve Force, Sergeant Williams was asked to photograph New Zealand Army Reserve Force activities.

She threw herself into the role so well that last year she was named Reservist of the Year, earning a place in the NZDF contingent to Gallipoli to commemorate Anzac Day.

“It’s an absolute privilege to be representing the Reserve Force, especially when I interview and photograph such talented people, I never imagined in my wildest dreams I would be going to Gallipoli in a military context.

“Major General Russell was there at the inception of the Territorial Force (the old name for the Reserve Force) and I really wanted to see the locations where he commanded.

“This will really add that extra special touch to the archives I photographed and the many pages I read.”

The NZDF contingent arrived in Türkiye last week and as well as rehearsing for the Anzac Day services, visited the sites where New Zealanders fought.

“Seeing the challenges that faced the Anzacs was massive, and to have the opportunity to walk in the trenches where Major-General Sir Andrew Russell walked is special. I am looking forward to sharing this with his family.

“I was lucky enough to have a moment with our specialist military historian, Andrew Macdonald, who has extensively researched the Gallipoli campaign. He was able to put personal context into what Major General Russell would have been doing and this really personalised it.”