NEW ZEALAND MOUNTED RIFLES

Comments from Steve Butler ■ Email contact
MUCH MORE WORK TO BE DONE - HELP WANTED

Photographs above of the Wyllie brothers and friend, and that of Trooper George Thompson (right) are among the thousands of pieces of information that are still to be uploaded onto the site. Many items are sent into our Association by interested New Zealanders each and every week. The stories relating to these two images are part of our history that needs to be understood and told to our younger generation. Perhaps you would like to advance our knowledge on the NZMR. This site receives tens of thousands of "hits" each month as people research the Anzacs and the Mounted Rifles.

Unfortunately due to a change in fortunes for my family I am unable to manage the web site for the foreseeable future. The NZMR site is a great hobbie for myself that has led me to meet many many great and interesting people.

I would like you the reader to consider helping us carry on this great work.
If you would like to help with posting items here or elsewhere on the site, please contact our President Greg Bradley

I hope to be back putting in an effort, but I am sure you understand that my wife needs me at this time.

Thank You.



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21st Anniversary issue
penny and half-penny
stamps 1936.



50th Anniversary issue
4 penny and 5 penny
stamps 1965.


2008 stamp
90th Anniversary of
Anzac 2008.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 



CHUNUK BAIR HERO

13/354 Sergeant George Hill, circa 1914 - computer colourised by the NZMRA 2012
A Family treasure, George Hill's Gallipoli diary. The last entry is written just hours before his death, as the Auckland Mounted Rifles broke out of their trenches to take the high ground of Chunuk Bair on Gallipoli, August 7-8th 1915.
This small pocket diary written in pencil is a dramatic legacy and the final contact with his family back home.

The family ask, is his last entry a premonition of his death that was to come in the next few hours? In all the action and days George faced on Gallipoli he never once signed his name after a daily diary entry.
George's last entry reads:-

(August 6th Friday)
A very quiet day all getting ready for the attack at 9pm. I may not write any more of this Diary but whatever happens I hope to do my duty and trust for the best.
[signed]
G.A. Hill



Above: a scan of the last page.
The diary is recovered in the field by 7/501 Corporal Edward Jones of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles. He himself is Killed in Action later in the month on the 25th August 1915.
Read the full GEORGE HILL DIARY - HERE
Jack Shepherd was also a member of George Hill's Troop. His Diary is also interesting in comparing the events that both men shared under the command of Lieutenant Milliken on Gallipoli. Morris Mililken also was Killed in Action the same day as George - August 8th 1915.
13/453 Trooper Jack Shepherd's diary is available to read HERE.

7/827 Sergeant David Carter of Pleasant Point, Timaru - Killed In Action 27th August 1915 - one of thousands we remember this Anzac Day.

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE


Trooper Albert Sydney Wyllie


Headline from the Courier, now itself 50 years old
Earlier this month (4th April) we published a computer colourised photograph of a trooper taken in 1914. The name "Wyllie" and the troopers insignia showing him to be a member of the 8th Reinforcements AMR the only identification on the old glass plate.
These two items of information led us to investigate the Wyllie families of Papatoetoe. Here two brothers had established farms side by side. One brother had a family of seven children, five boys. The eldest, Artie did not serve overseas as he was too old at the outbreak of war, while the four other boys were all Auckland Mounted Riflemen. The fourth brother Fredrick departed February 1918 with the 35th Reinforcements, and Roy the youngest was still too young to see action by wars end. But Herbert and Albert (Sydney) both departed with the 8th reinforcements. To discover if this picture above was that of either Herbert or Albert Wyllie took me the next step to a genealogy site of the Wyllie family in New Zealand.
With a phone call and a day or two passing, a large envelop arrived in the post from a Mr David Wyllie. David is a member of the "Papatoetoe Historical Society", and a close descendant of the men, His great Uncle being George Wyllie the son of the other adjoining family farm.
David had alerted me to the intriguing event of the two brothers teaming up with two other Auckland Mounted Riflemen to write a note, seal it in a bottle and hurl it from H.M.N.Z.T.36 the "S.S. Tofua" as the ship was steaming up the Australian West Coast heading for the European war. The story was not to end there but 47 years later in 1962 when children playing had discovered the bottle, still with its note sealed inside. The bottle had been exposed in sand dunes after a storm.
David was unsure which of the brothers was in the photograph I sent him, but said I should telephone Mrs Jeanette Kay of Kihikihi.
Jeanette, Albert Sydney's daughter, was tracked down to her new address in Te Awamutu and she was very interested about the photograph we had posted on our site and would contact me the next day.
(13th April) Jeanette rang to say the image was definitely that of her father "Sydney" - the extended family had been notified and are pleased that the right man's name is now recognised as the brother in the photograph taken 99 years ago.

Te Awamutu Courier, Monday 21st January 1963.
Bottle Thrown From Troopship Discovered AFTER 47 Years

Many servicemen of both World Wars have thrown a bottle, which has included a message, over the side of a transport ship while in transit to active service.  Few of these bottles were ever recovered and as the years marched on the incidents were forgotten.
Such was the case when four young Auckland troopers of the Auckland Mounted Rifles threw a bottle overboard from a New Zealand transport off Western Australia on the 26th November 1915.
Now more than 47 years the bottle has been discovered lying in the sand at Cheyne Beach, east of Albany, and the only living member of the foursome has been located.
The trooper concerned is Mr H. W. Wyllie, formerly a farmer at the Te Kawa Crossroads, and now living in Young Street, Te Awamutu.
Mr Wyllie’s attention was drawn by Mr F. Waters president of the Te Awamutu R.S.A., to an article in an Auckland newspaper.  The article reported the finding of the bottle by two little children playing in the sandhills off the beach and that the message found inside the bottle had been forwarded by Mrs J. James to the secretary of the Auckland R.S.A..
Mrs James stated that the sand contours had been changed by heavy winds and the bottle was lying where sand had been scoured.
There is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the bottle and its message.  The paper is said to be browned by time, and the names of the men have been checked, and the bottle had originally contained Flag Brand pickles which were popular in the World War 1 period and as a brand had been off the market for 40 years.
The message reds:
H.M.N.Z.T. 39 26/11/15.
Thrown overboard within sight of Western Australia by the undersigned:
Kingston Hull, Sydney Wyllie, Frank Hardy, Herbert Wyllie.
All belonging to A Squadron, 8 N.Z. Expeditionary Force.  Finder please notify when picked up.  Happy Christmas.

As checked by the Auckland R.S.A,, the full names and numbers in the message were:
13/2520  John Kingston Hull, Waiuku
13/2631  Albert Sydney Wyllie, Papatoetoe
13/2559  Francis Henry Hardy, Epsom
13/2652  Herbert Wills Wyllie, Papatoetoe
The addresses given were those when the men were attested.
The Sydney Wyllie mentioned in the message was a brother of Mr H.W. Wyllie and like the other two members died within recent years.  He would be well known to older residents of the district as he was a partner with his brother on the Te Kawa Crossroads farm immediately after the cessation of World War 1 and later farmed on his own account on the main South Road before retiring to Kihikihi.
After such a long passage of time Mr Wyllie has only a vague recollections of the incident but stated the message was accurate in every respect.  All four troopers had been close friends and Mr Hardy was decorated with the D.C.M. and Mr Hull with the M.M.
Mr Wyllie has written to the Auckland R.S.A. who will pass on the information to Mrs James.

In the next few days I will open a dedicated page to the Wyllie brothers. Their story, and that of their cousin George from their Uncle's farm next door is an insight to the commitment of colonial families in the time of war.
The special bond that developed with the brothers allowed them to be true innovators and developers of unique farming practices in New Zealand. Albert, or Sydney as he preferred to be called, put in place many firsts in farming and chaired and headed many boards of governors, from the "Young Farmers" movement to schools and colleges. Sydney was President of the Farmers Union and then the Federated Farmers. The impressive list goes on - but that will be added to the Willie Brothers page shortly.
An interesting aside to the newspaper item is that now the Cenotaph database can update at least four names as sailing on the HMNZT 36 the "S.S. Tofua" and delete the possibility of the men being on the HMNZT 35 the "S.S. Willchora".

But to whet the appetite here is a expandable photograph from cousin George Wyllies' collection - where or who, now that is the question!

CALL THE ROLL

As always we remember our fallen this April 25th. Anzac dawn parades will take place throughout New Zealand and Australia as we honour not only the first Anzacs that landed on Gallipoli 97 years ago, but all our Anzacs from all wars.
If you intend to be involved with an Anzac Day service it is advisable to contact your local RSA to express your interest. Most clubs make available a breakfast and other services throughout the day. However these events are usually by ticket entry only, so be early.
This is a community day and it is not necessary that you are a member of an RSA to gain an invitation.
Should you be a non service member of the armed forces or a descendant of a returned service man or woman you have every right to wear your 'grandfathers' medals on this day. In accordance with custom you must wear medals that are not directly yours pinned to the "Right" side of your chest. For young grandchildren this is a special honour and should be encouraged and a tradition preserved.

The Association also takes this day as the end of our Membership year. We ask again for your support in continuing this web site by your continued financial membership.
We thank you for your support in advance, and we would like to acknowledge the "more than" generous donation received from 'Peter' this last week.


TROOPER BARRY, 1st GAZA DIARY
Many thanks to grandson Ian Foster and family for forwarding Edward James Vincent Barry's account of the First Battle of Gaza. This document has never been published before.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ONE OF ALLENBY'S ANZAC CAVALRYMEN

Reminiscences by 11/1116 Trooper E.J.V. Barry - Wellington Mounted Rifles.

(Note: Items in parentheses are the transcribers notes.)

Scene
Dier-El-Belah
On the Southern borders of Palestine.

Dusk March 25th 1917
The old biblical Philistia.

Two divisions of British infantry concentrated at Dier-El-Belah. An oasis with ample water supplies. Approximately 40,000 foot [Infantry], plus artillery [were] poised to take Gaza by frontal assault at daylight March 26th, 1917.
[The] ANZAC Mounted Division [of] 5,000 men, [ was in reserve ] 10 miles behind them on the coastal plain.

Captured orders from Turkish headquarters [ showed what the enemy believed was the situation at dusk ] :-
"ANZAC’s in reserve relaxed on the shore-line; swimming their horses in the surf; ten miles in rear."

It was the time of a crescent moon. The Turks most confident period.
After the shades of evening fell there was a swift concentration of relaxed men and horses into a complete out-flanking thrust behind Gaza. Horses and men were fed and completely girthed by 8pm. At 10pm we quietly passed though the infantry lines leaving them peacefully sleeping to face their tragic tomorrow.

A sea-fog delayed us in finding the main ford over the wadi Gaza. However we sorted ourselves out in due course and by daylight we had cut all communications to the north and east of Gaza with their main headquarters on “Judean” Plateau. We had made our favourite encircling movement; this time of about 40 miles between dusk and dawn. Australians were on right flank touching seacoast. N.Z.’ers in the middle. English yeomanry on our left, in crescent formation about 4 miles north of Gaza.
The Aussies captured the escaping Turkish commandant of Gaza. Was he annoyed?

After this more or less humorous episode, we were kept in a state of inertia all that sunny day for some strange military reason, until 4pm in afternoon of March 26 1917.
To relieve the monotony we ate and ate the famous Jaffa seedless oranges until we lost count of the second dozen. Camel loads galore seeking a market in Gaza, fell into our parched mouths after our twelve months in the Sinai Desert. We did not hurt the vendors but of course kept them immobilised. They did not ask us to pay them.

Now, this is where my story becomes personal. The infantry attack from the south had failed to penetrate the Turkish defences by 3pm. At long last we were told as a forlorn hope to attack the Turkish rear defences. We had a glorious three mile gallop in artillery formation each troop 200 yards apart. Shrapnel first, then machine guns; opened up on 5,000 men coming on Gaza in a long curve. This confused the Turkish gunners, they wasted a lot of ammunition, did everything but kill us. We dismounted behind a low-range of hills. Then went in on foot to attack the main ridge dominating Gaza town.
As we penetrated defences through orchards and cactus hedges, 8ft high and 3ft thick; we naturally became small units. In one situation I had NC.O.’s on both my flanks, one with a Lewis Gun. About a dozen Turks in our immediate front. They were behind some houses. From their behaviour I thought they wanted to surrender. My N.C,O.’s thought different, and wanted to eliminate them for safety’s sake. I for some mad reason volunteered to go forward and accept their surrender, provided I was fully covered on both sides.
My hunch came in, off they walked into the bag. My superior officers swung their rank. They ordered me to take my prisoners back to where we had left our horses. [They] said I was too reckless to be trusted in [the coming] penetration screen for the rest of the job.

Being a well-trained trooper I always obeyed orders when in the presence of the enemy. I duly herded back my grateful prisoners until I met a sergeant from pay headquarters, pressed into combat on duress that day for the first time in his army history. I said please take these men back.
You never saw such a smile on the face of an orderly room clerk. He gladly took over my charges.
I dare not go back to my own unit N.C.O.'s. They would have probably shot me in the legs as a madman.

I knew the disposition of the units in Wellington Mounted Rifles. So I sneaked along until I got behind my second squadron "Queen Alexandra's Own” - Cow cockies from Taranaki. Coming up to a small bunch of them stuck in a corner with 8 foot prickly hedges all around them, and no means of getting through. I was a way out for them; because on my belt was a 20 inch German sword bayonet which a grateful Turk had given to me previously. It was the ideal tool to chop a hole in that hedge corner. I gave my rifle to one man and speedily cut a gap without collecting too many thorns.
Still being a bit mad and unduly reckless for an old soldier I took my rifle back and plunged though the gap, and went blithely on without waiting for any support. Our over-riding orders of the day for the men on penetrative screen were to press on regardless until you were stopped or you shot your opposition down.

Now believe it or not, in due course I met another hedge. I spied a hole in the bottom of it, [and]crawled through it, and found myself in Gazas cemetery. Before I had time to find my way out of it, I was fired upon by a sniper. Having survived the latter half of Gallipoli I know all about snipers, and forthwith smartly dived for cover along side the nearest Muslim gravestone.
Muslim gravestones unlike ours are long like a coffin and about 18 inches high. This sniper was obviously angry because he had missed me when I was standing up. I surmise he had his early training fighting the Serbians. So he methodically shot pieces out of my cover defence. I dared not raise my head to locate him! If he had only known how frightened I was, he could have walked up to me and I would have handed him my rifle without any fuss. He did not take this risk; but he was cunning. He was up in an olive tree, his skin was the same drab green. For his third shot at me he climbed up another branch and shot me through the right lung over the top of the gravestone. It was curtains for me for some time,- unknown to me.

I survived to get back to an advanced dressing station 16 hours later on. When in hospital in Cairo a month later I found out from one of my comrades that the sniper in his eagerness to get me, had leant over from his perch. A fellow Lewis gunman who had filtered past the cemetery, heard the shot that got me; looked back [and in the] same motion, kept his finger hand on [the] trigger of his gun. The sniper, who was a gallant foe, dropped out of the tree with 22 bullets through him; almost half a magazine.

The sniper killed two men, lost his own life, wounded three of us (myself included) who all survived to get back at later dates to N.Z. My clever prisoners went safely into the bag. So on balance 10 men remained alive from that incident.

Transcribers Note: Trooper Barry later took up a farming block in Northern Hawkes Bay. he named his property ‘Ascalon’. the name of the place where he almost lost his life.
The citadel and township was known by the Anzacs as Ascalon. This was the name given by the first Crusaders. Ascalon was surrendered to Saladin in 1175, subsequently retaken, sacked, and then rebuilt. Many different armies occupied the area over the centuries. Today it is a city in Southern Israel and called Ashkelon.
Vincent was born in 1890, so he was 27 years old when he was wounded during Gaza. Grandson Ian believes this account was written by his grandfather many years after the Great War.

The Wellington Mounted Rifles recently transcribed hand written WAR DIARY for March 1917 covering this action is available HERE
Trooper Barry's wounding is recorded in the Official record of the WMR and the page is reproduced HERE

Full Name: Vincent Barry
Forename(s): Vincent
Surname: Barry
Serial No.: 11/1116
First Known Rank: Trooper
Next of Kin: Miss E. Barry (sister), care of Petherick and Machell, Featherston Street, Wellington, New Zealand
Marital Status: Single
Enlistment Address: Kingslea, Johnsonville, New Zealand
Military District: Wellington
Body on Embarkation: 5th Reinforcements
Embarkation Unit: Wellington Mounted Rifles
Embarkation Date: 13 June 1915
Place of Embarkation: Wellington, New Zealand
Vessel: Maunganui or Tahiti or Aparima
Destination: Suez, Egypt (24 July - 6 August 1915)
Page on Nominal Roll: 38

Auckland War Memorial Cenotaph Database
Above: CWGC Gaza. Here lie the British war dead from the three attacks to take Gaza from Turkish and German Forces during 1917.
Gaza War Cemetery contains 3,217 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 781 of them unidentified. Second World War burials number 210. There are also 30 post war burials and 234 war graves of other nationalities.
A few weeks ago Tim Williams was kind enough to send through photographs of historical sites pertaining to the actions of the Mounted Rifles during the Sinai/Palestine Campaign.
As Anzac Day 2012 will be remembered on the 25th April (this month) I take this opportunity to release both Trooper Barry's account of First Battle of Gaza and this image taken by Tim at an Anzac Day Ceremony he attended at the CWGC Gaza.
Tim writes in part:

In April 2010 I attended the ANZAC day service at the Gaza Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. The event was organised by the New Zealanders and Australians working in Gaza including some former NZ military now with the UN Mine Action Service who are removing UXOs from the Israeli attack of Jan 2009. It was a grand service. Due to the lack of poppies at that time of year the organisers had used red carnations which are grown in Gaza to mark every Australian and New Zealand grave.  There are two CWWGC cemeteries in Gaza, the one in Gaza city shown in these photos and a smaller one in the south in Rafah city. Both contain WW1 graves.

The British High Command had decided that the taking of Gaza should be given to British Infantry rather than employ Australian General Harry Chauvel and his highly successful Anzac mounted troops that had pushed the enemy back across the Sinai Desert during 1916.
Why the English generals failed in organising and deploying their attack was one of the sad instances of misadventure of WW1. The plan to attack Gaza was to be launched by the Infantry at day break. The countryside open with no cover meant the slow moving Infantry would be at great risk during the start of the attack. The NZMR, the ALH and the Mounted Yeomanry moved out quietly and were in position at dawn to the North of the city to support the British attack. As dawn broke it was realised a cloak of fog had descended over the whole battle ground - it was a great piece of good fortune, the Infantry could begin their attack under cover of the thick fog. To the disbelief of the Anzac troops watching on, the English officers called off the attack until the fog lifted at 10:30 am. With cover lifted the officers sent in their men to be butchered in their hundreds.
When finally ordered into action late afternoon the Mounted troops had great success. Much of the city was taken by daring mounted action, but the New Zealanders were again appalled when the British withdrew just as hundreds of Turkish troops began surrendering. NZMR Commander Ted Chaytor was distressed and angry, as he believed the city would fall in the next half-hour - unfortunately British Intelligence mistakenly believed Turkish support troops were near. The English command retreated under that threat, and the battle was lost.

Of the British Soldiers killed in action, the majority belonged to the 52nd (Lowland), the 53rd (Welsh), the 54th (East Anglian) Infantry Divisions.

This English misadventure was the final straw for the British Government, General Murray was immediately recalled to England and replaced by Allenby.