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 7500 Kiwis died, the majority of the 8000 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 18,000 casualties by the end of it all. The failure of the campaign was in only having advanced some 8 kilometres whilst losing over 200,000 soldiers in a mere three and a half months. To make matters worse, they were forced to abandon every metre of that blood soaked ground in March, 1918.