Mrs Ngaire Hall has kindly sent us the following story of her grandfather, William Motion, who served as part of the ANZAC force that went ashore on 25 April 1915.
Like so many young men William, aged nearly 25, was keen to serve his country from the very beginning. He joined the Otago Infantry Battalion on 26 August 1914. When he left New Zealand shores for Europe on 14 October 1914, the Otago Battalion (later the Otago Regiment) comprised 34 officers and 1,076 other ranks, and became part of the infantry component of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).
William disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt, on 3 December 1914 for further training and in April 1915 sailed for Gallipoli, via Mudros. William landed with the battalion at Anzac Cove on Day One, 25 April 1915. Over the next four months he survived some very heavy fighting and was promoted steadily through the ranks from Lance Corporal to Sergeant. Eventually, on 13 August 1915, he was wounded and subsequently evacuated by ship to Britain. All allied occupying troops successfully withdrew from Gallipoli by 8 January 1916.
After convalescing in Birmingham Hospital William rejoined his unit on 29 January 1916. The New Zealand sacrifice at Gallipoli had been considerable and among the highest per capita of all serving countries: 2,721 New Zealand men were killed at Gallipoli, a 53% casualty rate. The Otago Regiment distinguished itself in a number of actions, including the second battle of Krithia and the battle of Sari Bair.
After Gallipoli, the Division went on to the Western Front in April 1916. William’s contribution to the war continued. His service was long, protracted and demanding, and not without cost. He saw action at Armentières before moving on to the Somme in July 1916. There were all-too-brief periods of leave, and during one of these William went to England where he was able to catch up with his elder brother James, who was serving with the Canadian armed forces.
William then returned to serve at Passchendale and at Ypres, and finally on the Somme again in early 1918. As an infantryman William spent most of his time in the trenches, eventually coming down with ‘trench foot’ from continually standing in water, a condition which precipitated his return to New Zealand as ‘medically unfit’. William was discharged with the rank of Quartermaster Sergeant in July 1918.
Both William and James Motion survived their four year struggle during World War One. James returned to Vancouver in Canada and William to New Zealand. In one of the strange ironies of the war, William found that his mother, not having heard from him for a very considerable time, thought he must have been killed in action. She therefore had disposed of his possessions, leaving William no choice but to go down to the main street and buy himself a new set of clothes, just so he could re-enter life as a civilian.
William’s war diary for Gallipoli is shown below. We are indebted to Mrs Ngaire Hall for kindly allowing us to publish it here. We also acknowledge the permission of William’s sons, Reginald and Neil Motion.
THE GALLIPOLI DIARY OF WILLIAM ADAM MOTION
William kept a diary of his army service and experiences throughout World War One, including his time at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. Only that part of the diary which relates to his experiences at Gallipoli has been reproduced here. William kept a spare, to-the-point diary which conveys very clearly his day to day movements at Gallipoli. Through his concise entries, William gives us a very strong impression of what life must have been like for men in the forward trenches above Anzac Cove, and of the enormous sacrifices asked of them. William’s commitment to his diary appears to have been interrupted only when enemy activity made this impossible. His wounding on 13 August 1915 received scarcely a mention, other than the fact that he was duly hospitalised and eventually evacuated.
THE GALLIPOLI CAMPAIGN
Friday 16th: Arrived at the base off Gallipoli Peninsula about 11am at Lemnos.
Saturday 17th: British submarine sunk Turkish torpedo boat not far from us. Some Tommies drowned off troopship.
Sunday 18th: Church parade on board Annaberg at Lemnos Island.
Monday 19th: Our company went for a march ashore. I was on guard on the ship.
APRIL 25th 1915
Sunday 25th: We sailed from Lemnos to our landing place on Gallipoli Peninsula and landed ashore about 4pm.
Monday 26th: Heavy fighting all day. We were on reserve and remained in the trenches.
Tuesday 27th: We changed our position and went out on the left flank. Heavy fire all day. I got my rifle smashed up by shrapnel from a shell.
Wednesday 28th: Heavy fire all day. Remained in trenches, digging all night.
(THIS IS AN ENLARGED VERSION [BELOW] FROM THE BACK OF THE DIARY, APRIL 1915. OUR GUESS IS HE [WILLIAM] WROTE THIS WHEN THE SITUATION WAS MUCH QUIETER.)
Tuesday April 13th: We left Alexandria by German captive steamer (Annaberg) and arrived at our base off Gallipoli Peninsula on Friday, April 16th. There were 17 battleships anchored and a number of submarines, troopships and torpedo boats. We had a rough passage owing to our boat being so lightly loaded and a good number were sick. Our base was the island of Lemnos.
Sunday April 25th: We left Lemnos at 6am and arrived at our landing place at 1pm and landed under heavy fire at 4pm. All safe. The Australians lost a good many before we got there.
Monday April 26th: We lay in our trenches all day. Auckland and Canterbury battalions suffered heavy losses. Cooperthwaite got shot in the head. This was the first man we lost. I got wet through while we were landing and spent a very miserable night. We were now under heavy fire of shrapnel from the enemy. 12 noon.
Tuesday April 27th: Very heavy rifle fire and shrapnel all day. Several of our men were hit. I got my rifle smashed by the case of a shrapnel shell. We shifted over to the left flank and entrenched there overnight. J. Ewart got hit in the head. The battleship Queen Elizabeth shelled the Turks and they suffered very heavy losses.
Thursday April 29th: J. Lloyd got shot. The town of Kojadere was set on fire by our guns. On sentry all night and digging.
Friday April 30th: Stood to arms at 5.30am. Digging trenches all night. Lull in firing.
Saturday May 1st: Big Bombardment. We were to take another hill. Stood to arms at 5.30am. Digging trenches for batteries. I was on sentry but had my first hours in bed since we came here.
Sunday May 2nd: We shifted from our trenches round to prepare to charge to take a hill which we captured and entrenched down for the night but in the morning of Monday 3rd May we were forced to retreat.
Monday May 3rd: We were forced to retreat because the Turks almost surrounded us and our losses were very heavy. Only about 300 left out of the whole Battalion. W. Stewart and H. Broome were missing also was Lieutenant Little and Major Price.
Tuesday May 4th: Had a spell in our trenches on the beach.
Wednesday May 5th: Shifted us and all the N.Z. Brigade at night on a torpedo boat and joined the English and French troops at another post Aki Baba (Itchy Baba).
Thursday May 6th: We dug ourselves in and remained there all day at the rear of the firing line next to the Gurkhas. I was made a Lance Corporal.
Friday May 7th: Shifted up nearer the line and remained in our trenches.
Saturday May 8th: Shifted early in the morning near the Gurkhas, then up to the firing line under heavy fire of shrapnel. We made a brilliant charge with bayonets and suffered heavily from shrapnel and machine gun fire but were successful and remained in the firing line for three days, lost a good few of our Company, then returned to our base at the beach. The name of the place was Itchy Baba.
Sunday May 9th: Retired early in the morning to supporting trenches and went up to the firing line in the evening.
Monday May 10th: Remained in the trenches all day. Very cold and I had no dry clothes.
Tuesday May 11th: Still in firing line and very little to eat—only a few biscuits.
Wednesday May 12th: We got relieved during the night by the Manchester boys. Rained all night and we got very wet.
Thursday May 13th: Arrived back at our base at the beach for a spell and had our first sleep. Lost Lieutenant Duthie. Rained very heavy.
Friday May 14th: Fine day. Reinforcements joined us. Mounted men arrived from Zeatoun. Had a surf bathe at the beach.
Saturday May 15th: Lovely warm day. We all went road making in the morning and surf bathing in the afternoon. I was Corporal of the water guard.
MEMO : British lost Battleship Galluther. Torpedoed by the Turks on Monday 10th.
Sunday May 16th: Lovely warm day. I went on Orderly Corporal for the week. Went to church in the evening.
Monday May 17th: Our Company went road making in the morning and I remained in camp. Rumoured that we are going to Ismalia.
Tuesday May 18th: Camp. Road making to the beach in the morning and lost two men killed and 5 wounded by shrapnel (Carr and Hooker).
Wednesday May 19th: New Zealand Infantry left Itchy Baba by transport in the evening back to our first landing place Capa Tepe.
Thursday May 20th: Arrived at Capa Tepe early in the morning and dug ourselves in behind the firing line.
Friday May 21st: Otago Battalion went on inline picket duty during the night at the beach.
Saturday May 22nd: Our Company on road work. Very quiet in the firing line. Turkish officer came on horseback and wanted a 24 hour Armistice.
Sunday May 23rd: Dirty wet day. We remained in our dugout. Italy declared war with Austria.
Monday May 24th: An Armistice of 9 hours was granted to the Turks to bury the dead from 7.50am till 4.50pm. We were out among the Turks mixed up as if there was no war at all. Some of them were in our trenches and got cigarettes and something to eat and seemed very pleased. The first shot was fired at 12 minutes to 5pm by the Turks and the war began again.
Tuesday May 25th: An enemy submarine sunk H.M.S. Triumph just out from us. We went on picket duty on the beach.
Wednesday May 26th: I was Corporal of the water guard during the night. Things are very quiet in the firing line.
Thursday May 27th: I got word I had been appointed a full Corporal from May 8th. Turks torpedoed the Majestic but she was run ashore and no lives were lost. Australian reinforcements arrived here.
Friday May 28th: 5th and 7th Otago Mounted arrived here. Heavy firing during the night.
Saturday May 29th: We were on inline picket all day and night. Turks made attacks on our trenches but were repulsed with heavy losses.
Sunday May 30th: The Turks sapped and blew up our trenches but were repulsed.
Monday May 31st: Canterbury and Auckland moved up to the firing line.
Tuesday June 1st: We moved up to the rear of the firing line.
Wednesday June 2nd: Still on reserve.
Thursday June 3rd: Went to the beach and had a good swim.
Friday June 4th: Heavy bombarding by the Navy on Aki Baba. Canterbury charged the Turk trenches but had to retire.
Saturday June 5th: Canterbury again charged the Turk trenches which were only 6 yards off ours but could not get in to them, so retired. Captain Eggleston shot at Stores Depot.
Sunday June 6th: 4th Reinforcements arrived here.
Monday June 7th: Had a yarn to Norman Brown and C. McLennan.
Tuesday June 8th: 4th Reinforcements joined us but we are still below strength.
Wednesday June 9th: 4th and 8th went up to Courtney’s Post.
Thursday June 10th : Shifted up to the firing line at Courtney’s Post and went into the trenches.
Friday June 11th: Came out into the reserve trenches.
Saturday June 12th: In the trenches. Got a letter from Jean and some postcards from Mary.
Sunday June 13th: Church Service at 9am. Very warm day. In the trenches.
Monday June 14th: Came out on reserve. Rumour that Romanians and Bulgaria have joined us.
(NOTHING MORE WRITTEN UNTIL JUNE 25TH 1915)
Friday June 25th: Shifted down from Courtney’s Post to reserve trenches.
Sunday June 27th: Our men blew up the Turkish trench at Quinn’s Post and captured a good few.
Tuesday June 29th: Australians made a big advance on the right while a large number of Scottish and Indians landed lower down. Turks retreating from Aki Baba. Heavy bombardment by our warships. Turks suffered heavy losses.
(NO MORE ENTRIES UNTIL JULY 16TH 1915)
Friday July 16th: Came out of trenches at Courtney’s for a spell.
Tuesday July 20th: Otago Battalion went over to Imbros Island for a spell.
Wednesday July 21st: Had a good look around Imbros.
Thursday July 22nd: Came back to Capa Tepe in the evening.
Friday July 23rd: Expecting an attack from the Turks tonight.
(NO FURTHER ENTRIES UNTIL AUGUST 2nd 1915)
Monday August 2nd: Came down from Courtney’s Post to reserve gully.
Thursday August 5th: Moved around to the left flank. The whole New Zealand Brigade.
Friday August 6th: We moved round to the gully on the left flank. Made an attack and took several Turkish trenches.
Saturday August 7th: Made a very successful charge and gained the height of [Hill] 971. Lost very heavily in the morning and were withdrawn in the afternoon.
Sunday August 8th: Tommies came up and relieved us from the firing line. 5th Reinforcement joined us and we went back to the firing line. I was promoted to Sergeant of the 16th Platoon.
Monday August 9th: Went back to the firing line in the evening.
Tuesday August 10th: Were relieved again by the Tommies.
Wednesday August 11th: Shifted into our reserve gully and the 5th Reinforcements were drafted in.
Thursday August 12th: I was sent out Sergeant of Patrol in our front Company. Dug a new firing trench.
Friday August 13th: Doctor ordered me to Hospital in the morning so was put on the Hospital ship Guildford Castle.
Monday August 16th: Still at Lemnos.
Wednesday August 18th: Left Lemnos in the evening.
Friday August 20th: Arrived at Malta at dusk.
Saturday August 21st: Went ashore and was taken by motor to Hospital.
Thursday August 26th: Left Malta for England on board the Askania.
Monday August 30th: Arrived Gibralta about 7.30am