For the first four months of 1915, the Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiment (CMR) continues training in Egypt. Hopes of action in defence of the Suez Canal and then in the invasion of the Dardanelles are dashed. In May, however, the CMR and the rest of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (NZMR) are thrown – as infantry – into the desperate struggle to seize the commanding heights of the Gallipoli Peninsula. In the next four months the regiment suffers more than half of all its casualties in the war.
- 9th – The CMR begins training as a regiment.
- 30th – The Second Reinforcements arrive in Zeitoun Camp. About 105 men and 130 horses join the CMR.
- 1st – The NZMR begins training as a brigade. These exercises in coordination are important for the senior officers but tedious for the men.
- 26th – The Third Reinforcements arrive in Zeitoun. The CMR receives 115 horses, some of poor quality.
- 2nd – Rioting by Anzac soldiers in Cairo’s Wazzir brothel district is put down by mounted troops. All leave is stopped.
- 3rd – Orders are received for the Gallipoli invasion. The bulk of the NZMR (including the CMR) and the two Australian Light Horse brigades will remain in Egypt to continue training and to defend the Suez Canal against the Ottoman Turks.
Training focuses on long-distance treks and inter-brigade maneouvres.
- 5th – The NZMR receives orders to move to Gallipoli as infantry.
- 7th – On the night of 7/8 May, the CMR leaves Zeitoun Camp and travels by train to Alexandria. The regiment, along with the rest of the NZMR, has been selected to reinforce the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Anzacs are part of General Sir Ian Hamilton’s Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF), which has been given the task of capturing the Gallipoli Peninsula and seizing control of the Dardanelle Straits from the Ottoman Empire. Because of the small size of the Anzac beachhead, and the rugged terrain, the regiments of the NZMR are ordered to leave most of their horses behind in Egypt. They will fight as standard infantry units at Gallipoli. Arrangements are made to take officers’ horses and a few draught horses to meet transport requirements.
The strength of the CMR is 26 officers and 482 other ranks.
- 8th – The CMR is divided into two groups that embark on two transport ships:
HMT Grantully Castle – 25 officers, 452 other ranks
HMT Kingstonian – one officer, 30 other ranks and the horses
- 9th – HMT Grantully Castle leaves Alexandria at 6 p.m.
- 12th – HMT Grantully Castle arrives off Anzac Cove at 12.30 p.m. The men of the CMR are transferred onto destroyers, taken closer inshore and landed by lighters at the jetty. Though they are exposed to Ottoman small-arms fire from the heights overlooking Anzac Cove during this process, only one man is wounded. On landing the strength of the regiment is 25 officers and 451 other ranks.
The CMR bivouacs in Reserve Gully.
- 13th – The NZMR is ordered to relieve the Royal Naval Brigade and take over No. 4 Section of the Anzac Cove defensive perimeter (a line which included positions on Russell’s Top and Walker’s Ridge). After dark the CMR relieves British troops on Walker’s Ridge.
HMT Kingstonian,which is carrying the first-line transport, arrives off Anzac Cove but returns to Alexandria without disembarking any of the men or horses on board.
- 15th – The CMR suffers its first battle death when Trooper William Hay is killed.
Major Percy Overton, the CMR’s second-in-command, undertakes the first of a number of daylight reconnaissance patrols outside the Anzac perimeter. The information gained will be crucial in planning the August offensives.
- 19th – The CMR sends a troop to help the Auckland Mounted Rifles defend Walker’s Ridge against a strong Ottoman attack.
- 24th – A truce is in effect at Anzac Cove between 7.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. This allows both sides to collect and bury their dead from the ‘no-man’s land’ between the two front lines. Medical officers supervise the truce, during which each side clears half of no-man’s land. The bodies of enemy dead are brought to collection points in the centre to be handed over to the other side. Men of the CMR in the front line collect and bury bodies.
- 27th – Major Overton leads three parties out of the British lines on reconnaissance. Overton’s group does not return until the morning of the 30th.
- 28th – The Otago Mounted Rifles relieves the CMR on Walker’s Ridge. While most of the CMR moves into a reserve position, the 1st Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry is tasked with attacking a new Turkish position 450 m north-east of No. 2 Post that evening. The attack against weak opposition succeeds. This ground, now known as No. 3 Post, is immediately handed over to a squadron of the Wellington Mounted Rifles and 1st Canterbury withdraws.
- 30th – The 8th (South Canterbury), less one troop, and 10th (Nelson) squadrons are ordered to relieve the Wellington Mounted Rifles at No. 3 Post. The Wellingtons have been under constant attack since taking over the post, and Ottoman forces have come close to surrounding them.
Captain Neil Guthrie, the regiment’s Medical Officer, is wounded in the wrist but refuses to be evacuated.
The CMR force moves up to No. 3 Post at 8 p.m. The changeover is complete by midnight.
- 31st – Shortly after relieving the Wellington Mounted Rifles the CMR’s commanding officer, Major George Hutton, decides that No. 3 Post is untenable and retires to Fishermen’s Hut. The Ottoman Turks quickly reoccupy No. 3 Post (from now on known as ‘Old No. 3 Post’ by the Anzacs) and advance towards the gully between Fishermen’s Hut and No. 1 Post. Alerted to this sudden threat, the Wellington Mounted Rifles’ commander stands to his squadrons and extends them in a makeshift defensive line between Fishermen’s Hut and No. 1 Post. Met with a hail of fire, the Ottoman forces break off their attack and fall back to Old No. 3 Post.
- 4th – The CMR moves back into the front line on Walker’s Ridge, taking over Posts 1 and 2.
- 9th – The Otago Mounted Rifles relieves the CMR at No. 2 Post.
- 11th – The CMR relieves the Otago Mounted Rifles at No. 2 Post.
The CMR is later relieved and goes into bivouac near the beach.
- 21st – A party led by Lieutenant G.R. Blackett is dropped off by a destroyer near Ejelmer Bay, north of Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay, and conducts a reconnaissance into the hills towards Buyuk Anafarta. The party is picked up and returned to Anzac Cove by destroyer next day.
- 22nd – Major Overton leaves for Alexandria to buy fresh food. Because of the poor sanitary conditions and diet, a quarter of the regiment’s 320 men are now unfit for service despite remaining on duty.
- 30th – The CMR receives three officers and 44 men from the Fourth Reinforcements.
- 7th – The CMR moves into a front-line position at No. 2 Post on Russell Top, relieving the 8th Australian Light Horse Regiment.
- 18th – The CMR is relieved from the front line.
- 5th – Battle of Chunuk Bair: The CMR takes part in the biggest offensive undertaken by the Allies at Gallipoli. This has three main components:
1. A large-scale British landing at Suvla Bay, 8 km north of Anzac Cove;
2. An attack by New Zealand, Australian and British forces from Anzac Cove aimed at linking up with the British at Suvla and capturing the strategic heights of the Sari Bair range;
3. Diversionary attacks by the Australian Division at Lone Pine and British forces at Cape Helles.
The NZMR is assigned to the Right Covering Force of the Allied attack on the Sari Bair range. This force is to clear the way for the Right Assaulting Column to capture the ridge at Chunuk Bair (part of the Sari Bair range) by taking six key features: Old No. 3 Post, Big Table Top, Destroyer Hill, Little Table Top, Bauchop’s Hill and Walden Point.
The CMR – supported by a platoon of the Maori Contingent – is to capture Walden Point.
The CMR moves to No. 2 Post in preparation for its part in the offensive.
- 6th – After resting for the day, the CMR moves to a small depression in front of No. 2 Post at 9 p.m. and begins its advance at 9.30 p.m. They clear Walden Point with bayonets alone before advancing along the north side of Bauchop’s Hill to their objective. The regiment suffers 40% casualties; Major Overton is killed and Lieutenant-Colonel Findlay badly wounded. Medical Officer Captain Guthrie receives a second wound, but again refuses to be evacuated.
- 7th – Battle of Chunuk Bair: The advance of the main assault columns is now badly behind schedule. The CMR remains on Bauchop’s Hill, releasing men as stretcher-bearers for the wounded and burial parties for the dead.
Major Hutton takes command of the regiment.
- 8th to 10th – Battle of Chunuk Bair: The battle for the heights continues. Chunuk Bair is taken, then lost. The CMR remains in its defensive positions on Bauchop’s Hill.
- 11th – The CMR sends a squadron to stiffen a line held by the South Wales Borderers Battalion and the Indian Brigade near Kabak Kuyu, inland from Suvla Bay.
- 12th – Since the 6th, the CMR has lost 24 men killed and 63 wounded.
- 15th – The CMR moves into the support trenches on Holly Hill, then during the evening takes over the front-line trenches from the South Wales Borderers. That night the CMR advances 200 m and incorporates an abandoned Ottoman trench into the Allied defences.
- 21st – The CMR, along with the Otago Mounted Rifles and 100 men from the Maori Contingent, approximately 500 from the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade and 700 from the Connaught Rangers, are assigned to attack the Ottoman trenches on Hill 60 in conjunction with an attack from Suvla Bay. The attack starts at 3.30 p.m. after an artillery bombardment. The attackers run across an open valley for approximately 800 m. Only the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles reach the Turkish trenches, at the cost of approximately 60% casualties. A small group of men now hold 100 m of trenches with no support on the flanks and no line of communication across the exposed ground crossed by the initial charge. They consolidate and hold their newly won position until dusk, when Ottoman fire slackens.
Major Hutton is wounded during the charge. Major H.C. Hurst assumes command of the CMR.
- 22nd – Repeated Ottoman counter-attacks are repelled throughout the night. At one point fire from the Mounteds’ machine-guns sets alight clothing on the body of a Turk. The resulting scrub fire almost forces the Mounteds out of their trenches. Trooper A. Barr beats it out with a shovel while standing in the open under fire.
An attack launched at 4.15 a.m. by the 18th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force (AIF), takes the trenches on the Mounteds’ left flank. Counter-attacks by the Ottoman Turks leave the Australians holding just 50 m of trench by 10 a.m.
While attending to wounded men under fire, Medical Officer Captain Guthrie is wounded for a third time. With a serious neck wound, he has no option but to be evacuated.
During the night of the 22nd/23rd a communications trench is dug from the old front line to the trenches captured by the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles.
- 23rd – The CMR and the Otago Mounted Rifles are relieved from the front-line trenches on Hill 60 by the Wellington and Auckland Mounted Rifles.
During this attack the Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles collectively have lost 25 men killed, 111 wounded, 73 missing and 46 evacuated sick.
- 27th – A second attack on Hill 60 is mounted in an effort to expand the foothold gained on the 21st. The attacking force comprises a Right Force of 350 Australian infantry, a Left Force of 250 infantry from the Connaught Rangers, and a Centre Force consisting of 300 men of the NZMR and 100 from the 18th Battalion, AIF.
An artillery bombardment opens up on the Ottoman trenches at 4 p.m. After this ceases at 5 p.m. the first wave of attackers
160 men of the Auckland and Canterbury Mounted Rifles – quickly capture the first line of Ottoman trenches. The second wave, consisting of the Wellington and Otago Mounted Rifles, captures the second line of trenches, some 40 m further on. Both waves suffer heavy casualties and the Ottomans counter-attack. The advance is halted and Centre Force is ordered to consolidate its hold on the second line of trenches. The 100 men from the 18th Battalion, AIF, reinforce the New Zealand line.
The New Zealanders defend the position under continuous artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire. A number of Ottoman counter-attacks are beaten off.
Another 50 men from the 18th Infantry Battalion, AIF, 250 men of the 9th Australian Light Horse, and the Wellington Mounted Rifles men who did not take part in the attack arrive around 10 p.m. to reinforce the position.
Major Hurst is evacuated after being wounded during the attack.
- 28th – The CMR continues to hold the trenches on Hill 60 against constant Ottoman counter-attacks.
Captain D.B. Blair is wounded, leaving Captain T.L. Gibbs as the only commissioned officer in the CMR.
Late in the day 180 men of the 10th Australian Light Horse Regiment arrive to reinforce the line.
- 29th – The CMR is relieved from the position on Hill 60 by troops of the 19th Battalion, AIF and the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade. The CMR and the rest of the NZMR move into trenches at the rear of the Hill 60 position.
It has been a hard month for the regiment. Of the 16 officers and 280 other ranks who were with it on 6 August, only one officer and 39 other ranks remain.
- 2nd – The CMR and the rest of the NZMR move into a bivouac just behind the front line on Cheshire Ridge.
- 4th – The CMR and the rest of the NZMR relieve the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the front-line trenches on Cheshire Ridge.
- 12th – Some of the CMR men are relieved from front-line positions by the 27th Battalion, AIF.
- 13th – The rest of the CMR is relieved from front-line positions by the 5th Australian Infantry Brigade. The CMR (apart from the 12-man machine-gun section) is ordered to move down to the beach and board HMT Osmanich. Along with the rest of the NZMR, it is transported from Anzac Cove to the island of Lemnos.
The CMR has suffered heavy casualties on Gallipoli. 485 men landed at Anzac Cove on 12 May and another 192 arrived later as reinforcements. Of these 677 men, 113 have been killed in action, 12 died of sickness, 46 are missing and 466 have been evacuated wounded or sick. Just 28 men of the CMR travel to Lemnos.
- 14th – The CMR disembarks in Mudros Harbour and goes into Sarpi Camp for rest and training.
- 5th – Reinforcements arrive to replenish the depleted ranks of the CMR.
- 7th – The four regiments of the NZMR reallocate their recently arrived reinforcements to the regiment from the military district in which they were recruited.
- 8th – Lieutenant-Colonel George Stewart takes command of the CMR.
- End of Oct – Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart is evacuated to hospital with illness. Major J. Studholme takes command of the regiment.
- 10th – The CMR embarks on HMT Osmanich to return to Anzac Cove. Its strength is now nine officers and 163 men. On arrival the CMR bivouacs in Waterfall Gully.
- 27th – The CMR relieves the Suffolk Yeomanry and part of the 162nd Brigade on the northern side of the Aghyl Dere.
Snow starts to fall late in the day and continues falling until the next day. Men in the trenches with little shelter have a miserable time.
- 9th – Major C. Guy Powles takes over command of CMR from Major Studholme.
- 18th – Five officers and 177 other ranks from the CMR are embarked as part of the general evacuation of Suvla Bay and Anzac Cove by the Allies. They are transported to Lemnos.
- 20th – During the night of 19/20 December the final CMR party leaves Anzac Cove for Lemnos. The CMR’s involvement in the Gallipoli campaign is over.
The regiment (total effective strength 354 men) camps on Lemnos awaiting transport to Egypt.
- 22nd – The CMR embarks on HMT Hororata and leaves Lemnos for Egypt.
- 26th – The CMR disembarks at Alexandria, Egypt, and travels by train to Zeitoun Camp, near Cairo.
- 27th – The CMR arrives at Zeitoun Camp. Mounted training resumes.