Soldiers from 5/7 RNZIR march the 5th Battalion battle flag into the Battle for Chunuk Bair centenary service. The flag has the battle honour of 'Sari Bair', one of only two New Zealand units' flags bearing this honour.
9 August 2015
More than 400 people attended the commemoration of the Battle for Chunuk Bair on the Gallipoli Peninsula, at an intimate and poignant service to remember the hundreds of soldiers killed during the violent battle that took place to gain possession of the hill.
A century ago the ground was covered with the blood and bodies of New Zealand and Turkish soldiers, and on 8 August 2015, under the blazing heat of the Turkish sun, descendants, international dignitaries, past and present soldiers and those who wanted to pay their respects joined the New Zealand Defence Force in a unique ceremony that concluded in a haka to the fallen warriors of the battle.
Dignitaries included Governor-General of New Zealand, His Excellency Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mataparae, the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency Sir Peter Cosgrove, His Excellency Jonathan Curr, New Zealand Ambassador to Turkey, Minister of Veterans Affairs the Honourable Craig Foss, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Major General Timothy Gall, and Corporal (Rtd) Willie Apiata VC.
A colour party carrying the regimental colour of the 5th Wellington, West Coast and Taranaki Battalion Group that displays the battle honours for Sari Bair stood stoically through the service. It was the first time the regimental colour had been back on the Gallipoli Peninsula since the ill-fated campaign.
In 1915 the Wellington Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) William Malone, suffered immense casualties including Malone himself during the battle. Having the colour at the service was a huge honour for the battalion, said its current commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Ian McDonald.
"To be here and to see the colour here is incredibly moving. To be able to pay our respects to the dead and those who fought here a hundred years ago is an incredible honour and I can say we all felt it."
The Battle for Chunk Bair was the first time Maori fought under the New Zealand flag, and the Maori Contingent lost 17 men and had 89 wounded during the battle, so it was fitting the NZ Defence Force Maori cultural group sang a heart wrenching waiata, Aue e Ihu, and the roll call of the dead was displayed on the big screen.
The service concluded with the entire contingent of 50 coming together to perform a spine tingling, emotional haka for the dead laying in the mass grave of the Lower Cemetery and for the men whose names are engraved on the monument.
Commemoration Director John McLeod said he was extremely happy with the number of people who attended the commemoration.
"This was a unique commemoration that focused specifically on one battle where New Zealand suffered horrendous losses. It was also an honour to be able to include our Australian Defence Force mates in true Anzac spirit."
Mr McLeod said many months of preparation had gone into the commemoration and he was very proud of the team that had been behind the organisation and execution of the event.
"They have honoured their dead and those who returned from the August Offensive with pride, dignity and fervour."
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