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Evocative watercolour of Anzac Cove

Column 25 April 2020

Normally at sunrise on ANZAC Day we would be gathered together, each wearing a red poppy, in every village, town and city throughout Aotearoa, to commemorate those who have given their lives defending this beautiful country. Today, we are celebrating ANZAC Day in isolation to protect New Zealand from a covert insidious enemy known as Covid 19 coronavirus. Together we are contributing to the defence of our country so, like the military on parade at all ANZAC services, stand straight, head held high and be proud as we fight off this unseen enemy.

ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the landing of the first ANZAC’s (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) – on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The peninsula was important as it guarded the entrance to the Dardanelles Strait. The Allied plan was to break through the straits and open a sea route to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, capture the Ottoman capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul) and knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war.

On the morning of 25 April 1915 the ANZAC’s, led by Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood, came ashore at a cove on the Dardanelles Peninsula. Because of poor British strategic leadership and navigational errors, the Anzacs landed approximately 2 km north of the intended flat stretch of coastline. Instead, they disembarked on a narrow beach, which later became known as Anzac Cove.

Here the ANZAC’s encountered steep hills, gullies and ridgelines – these they had to navigate while being fired at by the enemy. Richard Stowers, in his book Bloody Gallipoli, wrote “Death was everywhere on Anzac: it was in the air and in the sounds coming from the tops. It was as much in the front-line as on the beach or in the gullies. In stark contrast was the absolute beauty and tranquillity of the blue Mediterranean.

Over the next two days, approximately 20,000 soldiers landed on this beach. As the campaign progressed, the promised support from the Suvla Bay landings never left the beachhead. The British staff sent the Anzacs into battle and the British New Army divisions failed to support them. Britain let the Anzacs down.

Gallipoli was hell in paradise, a human tragedy for all New Zealanders - 2779 of our soldiers died, 5212 were wounded. Although the campaign lasted 240 days it was fought on an area no larger than 750 acres. Men confined to this small portion of land not only had to fight the enemy but also had to battle death, disease, hunger and despair.

On 20 December 1915 the campaign ended in military defeat and the surviving troops were evacuated, with over 10,000 ANZAC soldiers killed and more than 23,000 further injured. The campaign was lost - Gallipoli was still held by its Ottoman Turkish defenders.

A year later ANZAC Day was commemorated by New Zealanders and Australians at home and at war. Gallipoli helped foster a sense of nationhood as both countries broke away from the ties that bound them to ‘home’ (the British Empire) and ANZAC Day became central to national pride and identity.

Frances Hursthouse of Te Awanga gifted the watercolour Gallipoli, 1915 to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection. Barely discernible amongst the shrubbery, rocky outcrops, gullies and foreshore of the harsh, inhospitable steep terrain that is Anzac Cove can be seen outlines of soldiers preparing for battle. Not far from land on the vivid blue Mediterranean, British naval vessels lay at anchor.

This evocative watercolour was painted by New Zealand's best-known first world war artist, Sapper Horace Moore-Jones. He enlisted in the British Section of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, in 1914, and was posted to the 1st Field Company of Engineers, which participated in the allied landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Moore-Jones was subsequently attached to Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood’s ANZAC printing section, instructed to make topographical pencil and watercolour sketches of the landscape and plans of allied and Turkish positions.

November 1915, Moore-Jones was wounded, his health deteriorated and he was invalided to Britain. While recuperating he painted watercolours based on his Gallipoli sketches and it was these which won him high acclaim in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. An exhibition of Moore-Jones paintings was held at New Zealand House in London from 11 to 24 April 1916 and also shown by command of the King at Buckingham Palace.

In the Napier Cemetery, situated next to the Botanical Gardens on Mataruahou, Napier hill, are several graves where soldiers, who died during the Gallipoli campaign, are memorialized by their families. Two in particular are:

Gerald Richard Clarkson was shot and killed while patrolling telegraph wires in no man’s land, an estimated twelve days after the Gallipoli landing. The exact date of his death is not known because for many days he was reported missing. When his body was finally found he had been buried, along with three other New Zealanders - where they had fallen.

Private Archibald Campbell, age 24, of the 9 Hawke’s Bay Company, Wellington Infantry Battalion was wounded in action at Chunuk Bair during the August Offensive at Gallipoli. He was taken, along with other wounded men, on board the hospital ship Devania. Campbell’s injuries were so extensive that he died while on board the ship and was buried at sea.

During every Anzac service throughout New Zealand and Australia the poem titled ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon is read to the audience. So on this day, let us pause and remember:

They went with songs to the battle, they were young
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

 

Image caption: Gallipoli, 1915, Sapper Horace Moore-Jones

27 April 2020

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