Wednesday, July 20, 2011

World War I

On the 5th of August 1914 New Zealand as a member of the British Empire found herself at war with Germany. On the 11th August Stanley George Austen joined up, and two days later, on the 13th, his cousin Arthur Postlewaight did the same. Both men had been part of the New Zealand Territorial Force, Stanley in the No. 2 Native Rifles ("Native" refers to being born in New Zealand) and Arthur in the Eden Cadets. They were now part of the Auckland Infantry Battalion.
Stanley was 23 years old, a labourer working for Dingley & Leonard. He was 5ft 8in weighed 10st 10lb had brown eyes dark brown hair and a tattoo of the Rose, Thistle and Shamrock on his left wrist. Arthur was 20, 5ft 5in weighed 10st 4lb had grey eyes brown hair and tattoos on both forarms. He had been working as a tailors cutter for a clothing company on Elliot Street. Both were single and with the example of their grandfather probably more than ready for a little adventure.
O.E. Burton described the mood of the men in The Auckland Regiment (being an account of the doings on active service of the First, Second and Third Battalions of the Auckland Regiment) - "The food was excellent. Training was not too hard. There was a reasonable amount of leave, and all things were going well, except the fact that the war was hurrying on, and unless the "Heads" hurried up, the Auckland Battalion would arrive too late for the fun"
On the 23rd September 1914 their troopship"Waimana" set sail, only to turn around and return to Auckland!
"Waimana H.M.N.Z. T No. 12" in Auckland Harbour 1914 Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1582A
The German Pacific Fleet had been sighted and she stayed in port before steaming down to Wellington to join the whole of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The fleet of 14 ships carrying 8,568 men set sail.
They landed first in Hobart, where they were greeted with much cheering and joined up with the 20,000 Australians of the Australian Imperial Force. They crossed the Equatorial line where the "fun was fast and furious", then landed in Colombo. "For the majority, it was their first introduction to the wonders of the Magic East". Trinkets were bought to be sent home for Christmas.
The men on board were unsure of their destination, most had assumed they were going to Europe but Turkeys's entry into the war saw the convoy diverted to Egypt. On the 3rd December the "Waimana" berthed in Alexandria, and after an eventful train ride the troops set up camp outside of Cairo, where their training commenced in earnest.
"Hard training it was, too". They marched, fought, dug and drilled for six or seven hours in the desert until they were hardened into "a magnificent regiment, perfectly trained for war." They were free to do as they pleased at the end of the day and in the evenings Cairo was crowded "with high-spirited men looking for fun and finding it".
There was some action when the New Zealanders helped repulse a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal.
But by February 1915 the men were back in Camp and growing restless.
On Good Friday 1915 the "Battle of the Wassah" occurred. Burton describes it thus " a very riotous bit of real good fun carried a little too far." He goes on "The inevitable result was the stopping of all leave, which in turn resulted in the cinema catching fire and the canteen being raided. There was such a superabundance of high spirits that steam simply had to be let off somewhere."
Orders came at last and the Auckland Battalion embarked on the "Lutzow" and sailed to Murdos Harbour where a great assembly of ships and troops waited.
And on the evening of the 24th April 1915 the ships headed for the Turkish coast.
"There were no gloomy forebodings. They might have going to a picnic, judging by the high spirits shown by all that gallant company."

To be continued....

More images of Gallipoli can be found on Timeframes
including this one of an Austin at Gallipoli There is no knowing whether one of these men is Stan as there were several Austen/Austins serving there.

1 comment:

  1. Sydney Francis Postlewaight also sailed with his cousins on the" Waimana". Sadly Sydney's defence force personnel record is incomplete so whilst we know he served in the Dardanelles and then went on to be gassed in France we know little of the details of his service. He was a year older than his brother Arthur at 21. He was the tallest of the cousins at 5ft 10in weighed 11st 10lb, He also had the highest rank as a sergeant. Interestingly when he was discharged it was to Arthur Austen's (Pop) address Truro Road, Mt Albert.