New Zealand raised a force to fight in Europe and sent a brigade of mounted riflemen and a brigade of infantry, which – after meeting up with the Australians at Albany, Western Australia – was diverted to Egypt. These colonial troops from Australia and New Zealand were thought by the British to be uncouth and inferior soldiers, so when an operation was planned to take the Gallipoli peninsula, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) was chosen to take part in the diversionary attack halfway up the peninsula. The idea was to free up the straits of the Dardanelles so ships could get through to the Russian ports.
The New Zealand Infantry Brigade landed after the Australians on the morning of 25 April 1915 at a beach that would become known as ANZAC Cove. They were supposed to have been landed 2 kilometres south where the land was flat, but a navigational error put them ashore where gorse-choked gullies and steep hills made the attack very difficult. The New Zealand and Australian positions eventually ran along the line of Pope’s Hill, Quinn’s Post, and Courtney’s Post with the Ottoman Turkish positions sometimes only a few metres away.
After several months of fighting the New Zealanders advanced and took Chunuk Bair, the dominant feature and vital ground overlooking Anzac Cove to the west and the advance route to the Dardanelles to the east. The Wellington Battalion captured the heights in the early hours of 8 August and held the position against a series of Turkish counter-attacks. Their ranks would be decimated and relieving New Zealand units held the ground for 2 days until reinforced by 2 British units that would be pushed off the hill following a massed Turkish assault. The battle for Chunuk Bair was over and any Allied hope of capturing the peninsula was lost.
In December 1915, the entire position was evacuated after terrible casualties to both sides in the 8 months of fighting. The New Zealand casualty rate was 87% of the soldiers who fought. Far from being inferior soldiers, the New Zealand and Australian troops proved themselves to be some of the best fighting soldiers in the Empire. The day of the landings, 25 April, has become a national day of remembrance for Australian and New Zealand casualties of war – Anzac Day.