The Main Body
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) convoy of 10 ships carrying 8500 men and 3800 horses, departed from Wellington on 14 October 1914. An earlier departure had been delayed by the lack of suitable naval escorts while German Navy warships were still in the Pacific.
The volunteers of the NZEF’s four infantry battalions, Mounted Rifles Brigade, artillery, engineers and medical staff were accompanied by the First Reinforcement to the Main Body, as this group of soldiers was known. Major-General Alexander Godley was the NZEF commander and remained so for the war’s duration.
The New Zealand convoy joined with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Albany, Western Australia, before continuing, via Colombo, to Egypt. On the way, convoy escort HMAS Sydney destroyed the German cruiser Emden at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
The NZEF became part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps of two divisions, soon to be known by the acronym ANZAC. The men trained in the desert near Cairo, preparing for a yet to be chosen battle assignment. Brief action occurred in February 1915 when Turkish troops in Palestine attacked the Suez Canal, with some ANZAC soldiers involved.
Early British/French naval attacks on the Dardanelles waterway failed to open the way to Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire. After the disaster of 18 March 1915, when three battleships were sunk and others damaged, an attack by land forces on the Gallipoli Peninsular was planned to clear Turkish artillery, allowing naval forces through. The ANZAC troops in Egypt became part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, tasked to capture Gallipoli.
New Zealand soldiers, including many from the Wairarapa, went into action on Sunday, 25 April 1915. Until war’s end, our soldiers would never be far from action, whether at Gallipoli, Palestine or on the Western Front.