Topic: The Story of Gallipoli in Brief (Yr. 5-8)

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The Story of Gallipoli in Brief for year 5 to 8 students was part of a teacher resource pack about World War I sent to the schools in the Tauranga area in 2015.

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In August 1914 war broke out on the other side of the world. As part of the British Empire, New Zealand entered the war to fight with Britain against Germany. Thousands of New Zealand men from many different backgrounds enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). In October 1914 soldiers were farewelled by their friends and families and sailed from the shores of New Zealand. It was thought that this first group were heading for England. However, while sailing, the troopships received news that Turkey had joined the war on the side of the Germans and, soon after, the New Zealand and Australian ships were ordered to head for Egypt. In Egypt, the New Zealand forces completed their military training in the heat of the sun and scorching sand. They also helped to fight off a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal.

Time to Move Out:

The British Empire decided they needed to take control of the area known as Gallipoli. Seventy-five thousand New Zealand, Australian, British and French troops would be involved in the attack. They would be shipped from Egypt and land on some of the beaches south of the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Landing:

On 25 and 26 April 1915, nearly 20,000 New Zealand and Australian men clambered from the large troopships into small rowing boats and headed for the shores of what was to become known as Anzac Cove. The Turkish troops were already waiting for them and began firing before the ANZACs even reached the shores – as the soldiers waded through the water to the beach bullets whizzed past the heads of some men and killed or wounded others. What they didn’t realise was that they should have been 2km down shore on flat land – they had landed at the wrong place! Now they were faced with steep cliffs and rugged ridges rather than the flat beach where they were supposed to be. The troops stumbled on to the beach and tried to organise themselves but this was almost impossible. The ground was so steep that the ANZACs made little progress against the brave and determined Turks who were defending their homeland. By nightfall the Turks had held on to their position and these ridges would become the opposing front lines for the next eight months.


By May 1915 both sides had come to a standstill – neither could move forward. So, they dug in and built trenches at least two metres deep where they ate, slept, fought and died during the following months. The senior officers of both the Allies and Turks agreed to a nine-hour ‘ceasefire’ to allow both sides to collect their wounded from ‘no mans land’ and bury their dead. Once the nine hours had passed shots began to ring out at Gallipoli again.

Tough Conditions:

Life for the ANZACs was hard. Nowhere was safe from bullets and shells that could wound or kill. New Zealanders took part in several big battles including Chunuk Bair and Hill 60 and many soldiers died. Everyday life was also difficult. Water was in short supply and had to be carried up the cliffs. The main food was tinned bully beef and hard biscuits (resulting in lots of broken teeth). The men also received jam as a treat. During the day the sun beat down on the men in scorching heat and at night the men shivered from the cold in their trenches. By November it was snowing at Gallipoli and the ground was icy cold. Many got sick and lost their lives to illness and disease brought on by a lack of water and proper food, dirty conditions, harsh climate and exhaustion.

Time Out:

In Gallipoli men were occasionally given breaks and this usually meant catching up on sleep. Although there was always the risk of being killed, swimming was very popular as it was a chance to cool off and wash. Some men only got to swim once a month so it was a real treat. In September, some men were lucky enough to be sent to Lemnos Island for a much needed rest. They were able to enjoy better food and drink and packages of sweets from children in New Zealand, and could catch up on letters and newspapers sent from their families back home. For those who did not go to Lemnos, the only change to their daily routine came in November when, after a snowstorm, some of the men built snowmen and enjoyed snowball fights.

A Secret…

By December 1915, the men were noticing changes in their routine and there were whispers and signs that something was happening – there was talk of leaving. Gallipoli had cost the Allies greatly. Huge numbers of men had been killed or wounded for the very little land that they clung to and were struggling to hold on to. Plans to evacuate had been drawn up had to be kept secret as much as possible. The evacuation would take place over a number of days with the men being withdrawn bit by bit – every effort would be made to keep the Turks thinking that nothing had changed at Gallipoli. The soldiers set booby traps and tricks for the Turks, left messages and rigged up their rifles to make it look as if they were still there. Everything had to be left behind or destroyed including guns, food and much more. Finally the evacuation began in the dark of the night with the men making their way silently down to the beaches. On 20 December 1915, after eight long months, the last New Zealanders quietly left Gallipoli. Not a single ANZAC was killed or injured in the evacuation.

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The Story of Gallipoli in Brief (Yr. 5-8)