Wednesday 2 April 2014

One hundred years ago

We tend to focus such a lot on Anzac Day that often we forget about the days leading up to it in 1915. In March and April 1915, the NZ troops were in Egypt, training, seeing exotic new sights and waiting to hear where they would go next. These are some of William Malone's diary entries for this week, a hundred years ago:

April 2nd
Crossed the Nile, then per donkey to the Temple of Queen Hetetu, a beautiful piece of work. Then to the tomb of Queen Nefertari, 2nd wife of Rameses II or III... then to the Temple of Medmet Habi. To my mind thsi is the best of the temples... Left Luxor by 6.10pm train by which as it happened Gen Birdwood was travelling. He asked me to dine with him on the train, and as there was for the night no Restaurant car on, I was lucky. I got a jolly good dinner, and the most interesting of company.

April 3rd
Reported back to camp at 8am. We are to embark next week for Turkey! Everybody getting ready... We will sail about Thursday next.

April 5th
Inspection of troops by Transports. An awful day Khamsin wind, and accompanying sand and dust storm. It is like being in a hot dry fog, full of grit. The heat is sweltering,the wind is as coming from a furnace. Still we are cheerful, knowing that we will soon be away.

April 6th
Another hot dusty day. At last we have got definite orders for embarkation. My Bn [Battalion] entrains tomorrow night in 2 trains ... We go straight on board 2 ships Achaia and Itonus... Our destination is unknown to us at present, but we have a notion that we have to land in the face of the enemy (Turks).

The diary entries make poignant reading when you know what was ahead for these soldiers, and for Malone himself.

Photograph of Commander Malone who was killed at Chunak Bare in 1915.
Lt Colonel William Malone, Commander of the Wellington Infantry Battalion, killed at Chunuk Bair in 1915

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