Those Who Served

25th April 2019

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poppies on an ANZAC war memorial wall

Gallipoli Stories

Of the approximately 3,000 “Kiwis” who landed at ANZAC Cove on 25 April, about 20 percent had become casualties by the end of the day, signalling the beginning of a bitter and fierce campaign that would not see the Anzac’s leave until nine months later. The campaign cost the New Zealand Expeditionary Force some 7,500 casualities of whom 2,721 were killed.

There are many stories of ordinary New Zealanders who embarked on an adventure here at Gallipoli that in many cases, cost them their lives. The incredible events of the Anzacs is a tale of harsh realities, courage, defeat, pride and spirit in war. One such story told by the National Army Museum is that of 3/168 Staff Sergeant William Henry, DCM, New Zealand Medical Corps.

Born in Timaru in 1887, William “Bill” Henry developed an early interest in the medical profession and spent three years as a volunteer with the St John Ambulance Service, learning first aid and nursing.

At the outbreak of war, whilst studying medicine in Auckland, he decided to join up and was posted to the Field Ambulance, New Zealand Medical Corps. After a month of training, he left New Zealand, arriving in Egypt on 6 December 1914.

In Cairo, he worked for a few months as a hospital nursing orderly before embarking for the Dardanelles aboard the Hospital Ship Gosla, on 12 April 1915.

battle of gallipoli

On 25 April, under a cold grey sky, he landed on the beach of Anzac Cove with the first group of stretcher bearers as a member of No. 1 Field Ambulance. Throughout the campaign, both Bill Henry and his unit gave gallant service in moving the wounded to safety, often under heavy Turkish fire. His brave devotion to duty was recognised with the awarding of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The citation read:

For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 25th April 1915 at Gaba Tepe (Dardanelles). During and subsequent to the landing, Private Henry attended on the wounded under a very heavy fire, allowing no danger to interfere with his duties. He invariably showed the greatest courage and presence of mind.

Henry was also mentioned in General Hamilton’s despatch of 20 May 1915 for further gallantry and devotion to duty.

Recently it has come to light that Bill Henry may have been the original ‘Man with the Donkey’ as very early in the campaign, Bill organised two stray donkeys ‘souvenired’ on the beach, into an independent unit for evacuating wounded from the forward positions. Subsequently, other members of the Ambulance Unit used the donkeys for ‘equally gallant work’ but Bill Henry remained the ‘leading figure’ in this work. It is also been said that he named one of the donkey’s “Murphy” (not the Australian, Simpson) and that he, along with ‘Dickie’ Henderson, were the ‘models’ for Sapper Moore-Jones’ famous painting. The name “Murphy” was also given to Henry, as man and beast were often seen as one.

At the end of the war, Henry returned to New Zealand to resume his medical studies but the war had drained his health and he was advised to take up farming for the fresh air. He purchased a farm in the Te Kauwhata district, later retiring to Maraetai. He also joined the Red Cross and assisted the Home Guard during WWII. William James Henry died on 6 September 1950, aged 63 and is buried at Rangiriri.

Bill Henry’s medal group including DCM are on permanent display in the National Army Museum’s new Medal Repository.

Brothers in Arms

by Tessa Smallwood

The night had been a long one. They had ridden in the darkness of the desert landscape for 45 kilometres. They needed to rest and they needed water but there was a mission laid out ahead of them; a mission that would determine the fate of many. Some of the people beside whom they now rode would not make it through the day. That was a given. As the sun rose above the horizon ahead, the bold, golden green hills of their New Zealand must have seemed so very distant; so too their homes, families and former lives. Here, there was no Auckland or Wellington, no North Island or South, no hangi’s on the beach. But there was community and this Anzac Division were no doubt brought closer by their shared memories of home.

Amongst the party were the 5th Reinforcements of the Wellington Mounted Rifles. They had been away from New Zealand for only 18 months, but this was no holiday and it must have felt more like a lifetime. Two brothers rode together that day; brothers who had also fought together and survived Gallipoli. This day however, was to be their last foray into battle. As the Turks began to bombard them at 09.30 that morning, their mother and father would have been preparing for bed, praying for their sons’ return from the far side of the world. The older brother was called John Fairly Graham. He would have turned 27 in a week. He had brown hair and grey eyes and was 5ft 11′ like his brother.

Before the war, John had worked at Rototahi station, where his family lived in Gisborne. His younger brother Thomas Robert, had been a sheperd. He was fair with blue eyes and was slightly broader across the chest than John. He was 24 years old./ On the 13th of February 1915, they had waited in line to enlist together. Four months later, they sailed from Wellington. If they had looked back on the city’s rugged shores that day, it would have been for the last time.

By 10am on the 9th January 1917, the Anzac Division began their attack on the Rafar Turkish garrison. Initially, the brothers’ regiment stayed 10km back to watch for Ottoman reinforcements. At first, progress was slow but steady, but by midday, they were stuck 500 metres from the Redoubt. The Graham brothers moved in to help along with their Battalion. What followed was a 5 hour slog, but the New Zealand Mounted Rifles took the Redoubt sometime after 4.30pm. BY 6.30pm however, Ottoman Reinforcements had arrived and the Wellington Mounted Rifles withdrew. By 9.30pm eight of them had been killed. the younger of the brothers, Thomas, was amongst them. John had also been badly wounded and died the following day.

Back at the Rototahi station, their father John and mother Augusta were soon to receive the news that two of their three sons in active service had died. The third, Ronald, was only 21 and currently serving on the Western Front with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. This family would not have had the burial funeral in which to say their last goodbyes to John and Thomas; their bodies were buried in the battlefields of Egypt. What they did receive were the medals that their sons had earned alongside a memorial plaque for both. These memorials were little consolation, no doubt, but they are symbols of the boys noble adventure, the Brothers in Arms. They are now treasured by the National Army Museum in their new Medal Repository.battle of Gallipoli

Ronald, on the Western Front kept fighting. He had John’s dark hair, and Thomas’ blue eyes and he too suffered much on his own war-time adventure. After serving 2 years and 14 days, Ronald was discharged as “no longer physically fit for service on account of illnesses contracted while on active service.” He recovered and lived on, on those rugged shores of Wellington until his death opn the 10th May 1982.

A Gallipoli Soldier Remembered

Captain Pirimi Pererika Tahiwi

The 25th of April is a date still deep-rooted in the memory of all New Zealanders. It symbolises the start of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign but also the enduring day in history, known as Anzac Day. It was a campaign with a casualty rate of 7500 Kiwi troops injured, and 2721 killed. Amongst those who were wounded was a school teacher and Maori All Black; Captain Pirimi Tahiwi. His medals are on display in the National Army Museum’s Medal Repository.

After completing teacher training Tahiwi worked as a resident master at Otaki Native College. A keen sportsman, he represented Horowhenua Rugby Union and in 1913 became a Maori All Black. As a serving member of the Territorial Force, Pirimi was quick to join the Maori Contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

In June 1915, Tahiwi sailed to Gallipoli and on the 6th of August he and Captain Roger Dansey led a company in the battle of Sari Bair. For this attack Tahiwi and Dansey led their men in the famous Te Rauparaha’s haka, ‘Ka mate, ka ora, ka ora’ war cry as they set about clearing Turkish trenches. Unfortunately, the next day Captain Pirimi Tahiwi was shot in the neck and was evacuated to a hospital in England. He became one of the 89 Maori wounded in the attack.

Upon release from hospital, he rejoined the unit in France on 7 August 1916 and was appointed Company Commander on 19 August. He returned to New Zealand on 8 January 1917 to train reinforcements for the Maori Battalion but later went back to the Western Front on 20 October 1917 to rejoin the unit and see out the end of the war.

As an aside, leaving Gallipoli on 15 August 1915 was not, however, the end of his relationship with the slopes of Gallipoli. For the very first Anzac day in 1916, Pirimi was selected by the New Zealand high commission to lead the New Zealand troops in the London Parade. Many years later (and after further home service in WWII), the New Zealand Returned Services association organised the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Gallipoli landings (1965) and Pirimi Tahiwi was the sole surviving officer of the Maori Contingent. Once again, he travelled back to the battle site, this time with his wife. On this day, Captain Tahiwi laid a mere at the memorial at Chunuk Bair in honour of those who fought and those who died during that fateful campaign.

Pirimi Tahiwi died in Wellington on 30 July 1969, aged 78.


Do You Know Everything You Need and Want To Know About Your Parents or Grandparents?

As weeks, months and years fly by, we are all missing opportunities to talk about real things - important things - with our parents. There are things that only they can answer or explain. Sadly, the reality is that when they pass, many of those answers, explanations and stories will go with them.

"I am grateful for the time spent with both my parents discussing plans for their golden years, and we are all comfortable knowing that their wishes will be carried out. It somehow made his shocking turn in health easier to deal with as I knew his wishes.  I knew what he wanted me to do in these circumstances."

- Jennifer Conlon, Conversations That Count 

So why are we wasting time? Why don't we ask them the questions that would explain events that shaped them, decisions they made and important lessons they learned? Ask them to recount their stories? Questions that would yield new insights, understanding and compassion... for people we think we know so well?

Related: ANZAC Day 2019 | Families | How To Store Medals And What Do They Represent


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