Hundreds gather for Chunuk Bair commemorations

  • 08/08/2015

Hundreds of people will gather for centenary commemorations of the Battle for Chunuk Bair where New Zealand suffered huge losses during the Gallipoli campaign.

A dawn service at the Cenotaph in Wellington this morning kicks off a busy schedule of events.

There's a parade in Taranaki, a service at the Auckland Museum, a national ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington and a service at Chunuk Bair in Turkey.

Retired Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, who served as chief of the New Zealand Defence Force from 2011 to 2014, said Chunuk Bair was the major battle New Zealand had in the Gallipoli campaign.

The battle was "the one moment where for two days New Zealand was in the very centre of the world's attention," he told TV One's Good Morning show yesterday.

Auckland councillor Mike Lee says Chunuk Bair was one of the New Zealand army's greatest feats of arms and the nearest the Gallipoli campaign came to success.

During the dawn service in Wellington, soldiers in World War I uniforms will stand in formation, heads bowed, illuminated from below, facing the Cenotaph.

Each soldier will recite excerpts from Lieutenant-Colonel William Malone's letters home, including lines penned to his wife just three days before the battle at Chunuk Bair.

A catafalque guard by the 5th and 7th Battalion will stand in formation at the Cenotaph while the last post is played.

Later more than 70 members of 5/7 Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, will conduct charter parades in New Plymouth and Stratford.

The battalion is the descendant of Malone's Wellington Battalion. Malone was killed on August 8, 1915, during the Battle for Chunuk Bair.

The Auckland service at 11am will pay tribute to Aucklanders who gave their lives at Chunuk Bair and during the Gallipoli campaign, including Corporal Cyril Bassett, the only New Zealander to be awarded a Victoria Cross throughout the Gallipoli campaign due to his heroic actions cementing crucial communications lines at Chunuk Bair.

The national ceremony at 4pm includes a formal commemoration and laying of wreathes, readings from the Gallipoli diary of Rikihana Carkeek, reciting of the Cyril Basset Victoria Cross citation, addresses by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson, Turkish charge d'affaires Aziz Sevi and performances by the Seraphim Choir.