The scale of our commitment
In 2015, the centenary of the ANZAC landings spurred renewed interest in the history of the Gallipoli campaign, generating a flood of new books, commemorative events and museum exhibitions. One of the many ways we contributed was to conduct historical research to establish how many New Zealanders served at Gallipoli.
Few historians suspected that the official figure that only 8556 New Zealand service personnel served at Gallipoli was incorrect. When we sent two of our historians into Archives New Zealand to take another look, they came back with startling new findings.
One of the key discoveries was a collection of notebooks containing daily reports about the number of New Zealand troops landing at Gallipoli over six of the eight months of the campaign, which were compiled by a senior staff officer at Anzac Cove. These proved that around 16,000 New Zealanders had landed, but it was clear that there was more to the story.
Few historians suspected that the official figure of only 8556 NZ service personnel served at Gallipoli was incorrect.
The discovery of a second set of records completed the picture. These were financial and other records which showed exactly how many New Zealanders had arrived in the theatre of operations and what became of them. These showed that up to 17,000 New Zealanders had landed, and that well over half of them had been either killed, wounded or evacuated sick.
New Zealanders landed in gallipoli. Over half were killed, wounded or evacuated sick.
This was a shocking rate of attrition, amounting to over 170% of the mandated strength of New Zealand infantry battalions, and 110% of our mounted rifles regiments. What was more, it was clear that the Australian units serving alongside the New Zealanders in the New Zealand and Australian Division had suffered just as badly.
Gallipoli wounded disembarking from the Willochra at Glasgow Wharf, Wellington, on 15 July 1915.
To make this research more widely available, in 2020 our two historians, John Crawford and Matthew Buck, published their findings as a book, Phenomenal and Wicked. Attrition and Reinforcement in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli. It’s free to download here.
This book has radically changed our understanding of the scale of our commitment and sacrifice at Gallipoli.