Topic: From Tauranga to horror of Gallipoli by Emma Trail

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Tauranga boys sign up - Emma Trail spent many hours as a Tauranga Girls' College student in 2003 researching George Crosley's background and experiences signing up to fight in WWI. Her article was printed in the Bay of Plenty Times in 2003 (September 10). She gave her permission in 2013 for it to be made available on Tauranga Memories, Remembering War.

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 WHEN war broke out between Germany and Russia in August 1914, the involvement of Britain in the conflict was inevitable. On August 4, 1914, Britain officially declared war against Germany and its allies. The colonies of Britain's Empire followed soon after, pledging their allegiance to Britain in the war. As conflict was now no longer solely between European nations, this signified the beginning of World War 1 and consequently the involvement of New Zealand.

George Wickham Crosley (1894-1915)As a British colony, New Zealand was still strongly linked to Britain in many ways, such as trade, heritage, family ties and identity. New Zealand firmly supported Britain's entry into the war along with their motives for doing so. Before the outbreak of war, most New Zealanders saw the conflict as a "terrible calamity" that Britain would be able to avert through its righteous and peaceful motives. When war did break out, however, it was generally accepted as unavoidable and that New Zealand would stand beside Britain throughout.

 To many young New Zealanders at the time, the idea of war was inviting. It offered adventure, a change from a somewhat dull lifestyle and the honour of fighting for their country. Consequently, after the Auckland Star announced that New Zealand would be sending an expeditionary force as part of the Dardanelles Campaign and that volunteers were wanted, almost 14,000 men put their names forward within a week1.

Eighty-six soldiers were sent from Tauranga to fight in World War 1. The majority served in the Gallipoli campaign at some stage. Twelve of the men were killed in this campaign and about 58 continued to fight and died later on the Western Front. Men were also sent in the latter years of the war and participated in different campaigns.

 These 86 soldiers were from what was known as the Tauranga County or Borough at the time, which consisted of the central town of Tauranga as well as surrounding areas and smaller towns, such as Te Puke, Katikati and Mount Maunganui. Mount Maunganui became a separate district in 1936 but was part of Tauranga County at the time of World War. As a small area with a population of only 2241 in 1921 2, the departure of these soldiers had a significant impact on the community. Among these 86 soldiers was George Wickham Crosley who joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) on August 14, 1914.

 At the time, Tauranga was seen by potential settlers as a likeable place to live — small, casual and quieter than the much larger and industrial Auckland. Tauranga was a developing farming town but had a small industrial side which offered potential work and the opportunity for settlers to establish new businesses. The town centre of Tauranga Borough acted as a service centre for the surrounding district, although it was merely a small collection of shops and businesses centred on The Strand — Tauranga's key commercial area.

 Throughout the early 1900s, Tauranga's industrial development was slow and marked more by failures than successes3. The businesses set up around The Strand were small and of a general nature. Consequently, many people who chose not to make a living off the land needed to pursue several general trades to make a profit, as Tauranga was too small to have a demand for specialty stores — most people went to Auckland for these.


George Crosley was born in Earlstown, Lancashire , England, on July 19 1884, and emigrated to New Zealand with his parents George and Hanna Crosley in the early1900s. Like many of the British immigrants, he was a member of the Church of England and most likely attended the nearby Holy Trinity Church with his parents.  In 1905, only a few months after moving to Tauranga, Crosley's father set up a small tailoring business on The Strand, which he relocated in August 1906 to new premises adjoining the Masonic Hotel.

 As the family was most likely of British working class, they were probably pushed by the low-paying factory work predominant in "the old country" at the time of the industrial revolution to emigrate to New Zealand. The tailoring business they set up revolved around skills most likely developed in the textile factories of Britain but adapted to a new country and new demands.

 The establishment of this new tailoring business in Tauranga was obviously very successful. The factory Crosley's father set up was large scale for its time and employed about 11 people, including several very skilled tailors. His business also took orders from Tauranga County and outside the area. As Crosley's tailoring business was local and operated by sending a representative with samples to other districts, it brought profit into the Tauranga area, rather than the previous trend of losing revenue to other tailors who made quarterly visits to the town. Those visiting tailors had taken large sums of money out of Tauranga through payments for orders. Crosley's business kept the money that would have been taken from the community circulating locally. For a small town with a slowly developing industry, the setting up of this business was quite a significant step forward for the district.

 George Crosley's father owned the business for six years, until it was sold to a Mr Carlton and his son on March 15, 1911. As the new owners had moved recently to Tauranga from Lancashire, England, and had skills in the trade, it is likely that they had connections with the Crosleys before they left England.

 The family lived in Fraser St, which was then in the less-developed out skirts of Tauranga town. Crosley attended school at Tauranga College until about age 16, when he left to work as a brick layer for Ashton and Crump, a local building company. Ashton and Crump had built several local buildings, including the Bank of Australasia on Wharf St in 1913 and the Tauranga Town Hall, which was ready for use in 1915. It is very likely that, before he left for war, Crosley was involved in the building of the bank and the town hall.

 Crosley under took compulsory military training, instigated throughout New Zealand after the Defence Act 1909. After this training, he continued to work at Ashton and Crump until he signed up for the NZEF in -1914. The training soldiers went through at the time was about 13 weeks and consisted of a mixture of "square bashing"— regulation army drills, marching and confidence courses —followed by trade training, where they moved into more specialist areas of the armed forces such as armaments or medical assistance. Tauranga men were trained as part of the Waikato Contingent. The soldiers that left in August 1914, along with Crosley, were part of the 4th Waikato Mounted Rifles Regiment.

 The Bay of Plenty Times reported on August 14, 1914, that the troops who left with Crosley were farewelled officially by the Mayor, Mr BC Robbins, members of Tauranga Borough Council and several high-ranking members of the Waikato Mounted Rifles Regiment.  The farewell took place on the evening August 13 — the night before they were to leave. There was a large gathering of the public in the square outside the Star Hotel (later known as Red Square). The speeches were made from the balcony of the hotel. George Crosley left at the same time as five other local men who were part of the regiment.

 In his speech, the Mayor reminded the soldiers that the district was proud of the fact they had "young, trained men who are ready to make sacrifices for the good of their country."4 Colonel Ward, in charge of the Tauranga contingent of the Waikato Mounted Rifles, confirmed what was expected of the young men. They were to carry the honour, as Tauranga soldiers, of upholding the high reputation of the regiment, town and dominion. Although most men were motivated to volunteer for the NZEF for various other reasons, such  as adventure and the chance at a new lifestyle, it is very likely that a significant amount of pressure was placed on them to sign up to the 4th Waikato Mounted Rifles. Crosley, like many British subjects, was probably pushed to volunteer by the expectation that he should fight for his home country. However, despite the fact that New Zealand was involved solely through its link to Britain, statistics show few New Zealand soldiers claimed to be British. It appears most soldiers were either unconcerned with the reasons for war or wanted to fight for their own country— New Zealand — and were not necessarily concerned with where Britain fitted into the picture.5 

 The 8556 New Zealand soldiers who had volunteered for the NZEF were to take part in the Gallipoli campaign —an attack on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey which aimed to break through the Turkish defences and take control of the Dardanelle Straits behind the peninsula. If this had been carried out, the British Royal Navy could have threatened the Turkish capital and eliminated Turkey from the war. New Zealand troops were not originally needed for this campaign. But the Anzac soldiers were included after Lord Kitchener convinced the British they were good enough. The campaign took place between April 25 and December 20, 1915, after which the New Zealand troops were evacuated due to the failure of the campaign.

 Throughout the time the soldiers were away, Tauranga citizens were informed very vaguely of the progress or setbacks of the campaign through letters to home, many of which were published in the Bay of Plenty Times, or other reports in the newspaper. Death notices were also published but tended to be late as the soldiers often were not identified as missing or dead for several days or even weeks. When a family member was killed overseas, the family were informed in town during the morning and the notice was published in the newspaper later the same day.

 George Crosley was killed in action during the battle of Chunuk Bair at the Dardanelles — the main offensive for the New Zealand soldiers in this campaign. The battle aimed to capture the strategically important crest of Chunuk Bair, a hill from which then arrows of the Dardanelles could be seen. The objective of the campaign was to capture then arrows and, while the crest was held for a matter of hours on August 8, it was the only time in the campaign the troops glimpsed victory. The battle, although carefully planned and initially successfully carried out, eventually ended in failure and this effectively marked the failure of  the Gallipoli campaign.

 The offensive took place between August 7 and10. During these three days, 683 New Zealand soldiers were killed. Crosley died during a night attack on a Turkish trench in the preparatory stages of this battle on August 6, almost a year after he volunteered to join the NZEF and only four months after he arrived at Gallipoli. His death notice was published in the Bay of Plenty Times on August 28, along side Corporal A W Kenfs, a fellow soldier of the 4th Waikato Mounted Rifles who had left Tauranga at the same time as Crosley. Throughout Tauranga, much regret was expressed at the death of their soldiers, including notices and reports in the newspaper.

One way the Tauranga community gave a tribute to these soldiers was by screening their photos to the  tune of the  funeral march before the evening programmes in the Lyric Theatre. When the news of the deaths of Crosley and Kent reached Tauranga, their photos were screened twice, on August 29 and 30. Public memorial services were held for lieutenants and other high – ranking officials. Families held private services for their own family members.

 Tauranga made certain that the Soldiers who lost their lives fighting for New Zealand in the war would be remembered and honoured for years to come. The names of each fallen soldier were engraved on the gates of Tauranga Domain. Later on, the names of soldiers who left Tauranga to serve were engraved on the war memorial in Memorial Park. These soldiers will always be remembered throughout Tauranga for their services and bravery. Each one was an important person in the history of Tauranga and New Zealand.



    1. Paul Baker, King and Country Call New Zealanders: Conscription and the Great War, p15.Auckland University Press, 1985
    2. Evelyn Stokes An history of TaurangaCounty, P288.DunmorePress, Palmerston North, 1980.
    3. ibid, P281.
    4. BayofPlentyTimes, August 14, 1914.
    5. Christopher Pugsley, Gallipoli: TheNew Zealandstory,P3 61. Hodder and Stoughton, 1984.


A version of this article was archived in August 2016 at Perma CC

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From Tauranga to horror of Gallipoli by Emma Trail

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
From Tauranga to horror of Gallipoli by Emma Trail by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License