Our Darkest Days
Our Darkest Days
At Gallipoli, New Zealand saw her first innings in the horror and futility of modern war. Even the veterans of the infantry and rough riders of the Boer War weren’t prepared for utter loss of life that awaited at Gallipoli. Two years later, at the Battle of Passchendaele, what transpired turned out to be New Zealand’s worst military disaster yet. However, it is often overshadowed by New Zealand’s first engagement in the First World War and less people know about this massive event than those that know of Gallipoli.
While Gallipoli is remembered by most New Zealanders as the tragedy that shaped our national identity, how does it compare to the Battle of Passchendaele?
At Gallipoli, around 2779 Kiwis died, one sixth of the estimated 17,000-18,000 strong New Zealand force that landed there. At Gallipoli, New Zealanders fought under their own flag for the British Empire for the first time since the nation’s inception. Gallipoli was a totally fruitless campaign that saw many brave young men die for nothing. Every man there was a volunteer, they had no idea what they were in for which is part of why Gallipoli is remembered as such a shocking event.
All of this horror and devastation however, was nothing compared to the slaughter at Passchendaele. Gallipoli was a disaster but Passchendaele was a tragedy, with 4879 casualties by the end of it all. With 846 Kiwis dead on a single day, the 12th of October, New Zealand’s blackest day. Many more died of wounds received on that day over the coming days. The failure of the campaign was in only having advanced some 8 kilometres whilst losing over 245,000 British soldiers in a mere 100 days. To make matters worse, they were forced to abandon every metre of that blood soaked ground in March 1918 during the German Spring Offensive.