Te Awamutu RSA and Museum commemorate Chunuk Bair
Saturday 8th August will mark 100 years since the ANZAC forces took the summit of Chunuk Bair as part of the Sari Bair offensive. Chunuk Bair was the highest point of the range and was the furthest point ever occupied by the Allied forces. The New Zealand Battalions held the summit under extreme conditions for two days until they were relieved by a British Gurkha battalion. Shortly after the New Zealanders were relieved the Turkish forces regained control of the summit, forcing the Allied forces back down the hills.
The Sari Bair Range runs along the Gallipoli Peninsula, and it was the Allied forces objective during the initial invasion in April 1915 to seize key points along the ridge. Due to the commanders underestimation of the Ottoman strength, and the error of the initial landing beach, the ANZACs had not achieved their initial objective on the first day. By August 1915, gaining control of Sari Bair would allow further attacks to begin driving back the Ottoman soldiers, reduce their control of the peninsula and break the stalemate.
This battle was hugely significant for the New Zealand forces, has become widely studied by military historians and is remembered as the only ANZAC success on the Gallipoli Peninsula throughout the entire Gallipoli campaign. Despite the brave and valiant efforts of the ANZAC troops, only one VC was awarded, to Corporal Cyril Bassett of the New Zealand Divisional Signals, for maintaining communications under heavy fire during the battle. The Australians were fighting along the same ridge, at Lone Pine, and it is poignant to note that seven VCs were awarded during the same battle. The VC or Victoria Cross, is the highest military honour within the British Empire, and is awarded for acts of supreme bravery and courage.
As part of the wider World War One Centenary Commemorations that are being held throughout 2014-2019, the Te Awamutu and Districts RSA and the Te Awamutu Museum are hosting a remembrance service at 4pm on Saturday 8th August. The service will also mark the opening of an exhibition created by the Museum for the anniversary; The day we beheld the Narrows from the hill. This exhibition will examine the battle for Chunuk Bair in detail, and includes the personal story of Private Jack Portway, whose granddaughter Sheree Gross has graciously shared with the Museum.
For the day of the service, a selection of World War One objects will be on special display in the Museum.