Thorndon pupils discover Chunuk Bair connection

Thorndon pupils discover Chunuk Bair connection

In the lead-up to the centenary of the Battle of Chunuk Bair at Gallipoli this weekend, students at Wellington's Thorndon School have discovered that four previous students lost their lives there.

The school knew about some of the men on their 99-strong honour board, but have enlisted international help to find out more.

Eight-hundred and eighty New Zealanders lost their lives at the Battle of Chunuk Bair in August 1915. Four of those had attended Thorndon School, where year seven and eight students are researching the men on the school's roll of honour from World War I with the help of's Ben Mercer.

"When they're joining up in the Army in 1914 and '15, they're joining up for adventure and to see the world," says Mr Mercer.

Robert George McFarlane fought at Chunuk Bair. He, like many, lied about his age to enlist and died at the age of 20.

Students Emily Turner and Sophie Wiles researched the fate of former student Edward Armstrong.

"It's really sad because some of us could have brothers that age as well," says Emily.

"I thought he was very brave," says Sophie.

Thorndon's John Mulcahy also lost his life at Chunuk Bair, as did sportsman Thomas Grace.

"He's a great cricketer," says Mr Mercer. "He's a rugby player and it's that sportsmanship that allows him to become a sniper when he gets to Gallipoli. It also allows him to be the man that throws the grenades. He's given the job because of his cricketing career."

Depicted in a mural at Te Papa's Gallipoli exhibition, Chunuk Bair is one of the highest points on the Sari Bair range on the Gallipoli peninsula.

The New Zealand Infantry Brigade occupied the summit on August 8, only to have it recaptured by the Turks two days later. Mr Mercer calls it a brave failure. 

"Through those records you get a sense of the emotion that the family must have felt when the men didn't come home. But the personal effects and medals, these things that seem like rewards but simply aren't, come to them."

In all, the Wellington Infantry Battalion lost 400 men at Chunuk Bair.

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