Research doubles number of Kiwi soldiers who fought at Gallipoli

One of the notebooks that have helped re-write the history of New Zealand's involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.
NZDF

One of the notebooks that have helped re-write the history of New Zealand's involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.

The number of New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli was twice as high as previously thought, new research shows.

The research by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) found the total number of New Zealand soldiers who served at Gallipoli in 1915 is certain to have been more than 16,000.

This new total number almost doubled the original number of 8556 soldiers implied by General Sir Ian Hamilton in 1919 in his preface to the New Zealand official war history of the Gallipoli Campaign, NZDF said on Tuesday.

Soldiers occupying a trench during the Gallipoli campaign, 1915, probably from the Wellington Mounted Rifles, New ...
James Cornelius Read/Alexander Turnbull Library

Soldiers occupying a trench during the Gallipoli campaign, 1915, probably from the Wellington Mounted Rifles, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, occupying a trench on Table Top.

A major breakthrough came in January when NZDF historian John Crawford discovered the notebooks of the Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (DAAG) of the Australian and New Zealand Division in Archives New Zealand.

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Anzac Cove.

Anzac Cove.

"These meticulously kept records detail the movements of Australian and New Zealand Division soldiers on and off the peninsula during June, July and August 1915 and meant we could calculate the total numbers with a much higher accuracy," Crawford said.

MCH chief historian Neill Atkinson said researchers were also able to analyse thousands of individual military service files, thanks to Archives New Zealand's digitisation of World War 1 service records in 2014.

"First World War military service files recorded a soldier's military career, movements between units, and illnesses, but were less concerned with placing them in a particular campaign or theatre of war. Sometimes that 'Gallipoli box' simply wasn't checked,"  Atkinson said.

Further analysis of unit movements and official war diaries also gave a much better understanding of Gallipoli service.

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The research initially looked at 2429 service records of the 6th Reinforcements, the last reinforcement to reach Egypt before the end of the 1915 Gallipoli campaign. That analysis showed at least 76 per cent of those men served at Gallipoli, but that military service records alone could not provide a definitive answer, NZDF said.

The project expanded to cross-reference unit administrative files and to search for other relevant material, including the recently-rediscovered DAAG's notebooks.

The final figure was reached by adding the results of the 6th Reinforcement research, the numbers estimated to be present in April-May 1915, and the numbers from the DAAG's notebook research.

"This figure is by no means final but it's the most accurate we can achieve using the evidence we have discovered to date,"  Crawford said.

 - Stuff

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