Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 28, September 1984




(published in Anzac week 1984)

This book contains a story that touches Paeroa and district as much as it does any part of New Zealand. It is surely the most shattering, devastating story presented in a book in modern times. It is more terrible a story than that of the futility of the disastrous Crimean War. There is no glamour about the Gallipoli story - only a record of failure due to the ineptitude of those responsible for directing the operation. What stands out in undying contrast is the incredible discipline, determination, and the sheer heroism of our men who could have succeeded in their task (and nearly did) which would have shortened the War possibly by at least two years but were denied their triumph by the inadequacies of the higher command. No brief review can deal with these inadequacies which saw repeated suicidal attacks against impossible odds, inadequate military resources (our men made bombs with empty jam tins); not much food or water, but sickness and disease, this book is crammed with the awful details.

I was nine years old at the time and am groping for memories that take me back to Paeroa. I find my first at page 148 where the name appears of Private Langley Manning of the 6th Haurakis, a name familiar to Paeroa folk of those days. His name is mentioned as representative of that great number who, on the date of the landing, were lost in the terrible confusion. First posted as wounded, later as wounded and missing, again as "believed dead", now regarded as Killed in action on that very first day, 25th April, 1915.

On Page 151, I grasp another Paeroa memory - Major Frederick Stuckey dies of wounds on that same first day. He was O.C. (officer Commanding) the 6th Haurakis.

In the Magazine of the Centennial Celebrations of the Paeroa District School is a photo of Major Stuckey mounted on "Paeroa" the magnificent horse we school children had bought with our pennies and threepences to present to the regiment.

At Page 197 when New Zealanders have been temporarily transferred from Anzac to Helles to fight again against impossible odds in a battle across the infamous "Daisy Patch" I find a later well-known Paeroa accountant -- Captain John Bartlett. A sergeant records: "I slithered down out of the fire and on the bank at the side was Captain Bartlett, wounded, lying in the scrub, bandaged. I remember saying to him: 'Sir, this is a sheer waste of good men...I'm going back... to see what I can do to stop this senseless waste of life.' " Captain Bartlett was fortunate for the Turks habitually despatched our wounded with the bayonet or butt of the rifle!

Pages 299-300 take us to the awful shambles on Chunik Bair where the shy, reticent Corporal Cyril Bassett wins the only V.C. grudgingly awarded to a New Zealander on the Peninsula though uncounted numbers earned it. We will meet Cyril Bassett again as a very popular bank manager in Paeroa.

The book's jacket bears this statement: "GALLIPOLI: THE NEW ZEALAND STORY provides the first major evaluation of one of the most important events in our history, and seven decades later ... does full justice to the reality of that epic campaign." I am glad it touches upon some of our Paeroa men. There are many more known to us who have no mention. It is unthinkable that we should allow succeeding generations to forget them. The least we can do is to remember them.