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The New Zealanders at Gallipoli

Waiting for the Escort

Waiting for the Escort.

Through August and the first weeks of September the training and equipping went on. Four transports were lying alongside the Wellington wharves, and two ships at each of the other three ports of embarkation—Auckland, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. Day and night carpenters laboured fitting up the troop and horse decks.

On September 24, the people of Wellington assembled at Newtown Park to witness the farewell parade of the divisional troops, the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment, and the Wellington Infantry Battalion. After an inspection by His Excellency the Governor, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, the troops marched through cheering crowds to the transports, and at half-past five that evening all but the “Maunganui” pulled out into the stream, ready page 11
Black and white photograph of soldiers sorting kit-bags.

[Lent by F. W. Randall
Sorting Kit-Bags Alongside the “Athenic,” Lyttelton.

page 12 to sail early next morning to join the Auckland ships at sea. During the evening of the 24th the four ships from Lyttelton and Port Chalmers joined the Wellington quota in the harbour. All night anxious relatives made endeavours to get aboard the vessels in the stream to say a last farewell or deliver a parting gift, while the people of Wellington went betimes to bed to awaken early and see the fleet steam out.

But early next morning a wireless message recalled H.M.S. “Philomel,” the “Waimana,” and the “Star of India,” which had left Auckland the night before. In Wellington the seven transports in the harbour rejoined the “Maunganui” alongside the wharves. The mounted units and horses were disembarked and scattered to camps round Wellington, there to remain until a more powerful naval escort was available.

For three weeks the troops, chafing at the delay, were exercised in musketry and route marching. At nights they crowded into Wellington for a little amusement. The women of Wellington rose splendidly to the occasion. Concert parties entertained the men every night in “U” shed on the wharf. At this time the well-known Sydney Street Soldiers' Club was started. The soldier realizes that he may never come back, and that sacrifice he is prepared to make willingly. He sings and is happy because he feels—though often in an indefinite way—that he did the right thing in enlisting. But the times of waiting—whether at the base or in the front-line trench—are most irritating. Being a healthy animal, he must be doing something. It is here that soldiers' clubs, managed by understanding, sympathetic women, prove of inestimable value. For their untiring efforts the women of Wellington are entitled to the thanks of all the mothers of men concentrated in Wellington throughout the four long years of war.

On October 14, the troops exercising their horses in the surf at Lyall Bay were delighted to see a big grey four-funnelled cruiser, flying the white ensign, closely followed by a huge black three-funnelled monster with the rising sun displayed. Past Somes Island and Evans Bay they steamed and dropped anchor, proving to be H.M.S. “Minotaur” and H.I.J.M.S. “Ibuki,” the escort which the army was anxiously expecting.

page 13

Next day the “Star of India” and “Waimana,” escorted by the “Philomel,” arrived in Wellington from Auckland, and proceeded to water and coal. The ten transports were now assembled, and the four cruisers made ready to convoy the precious freight on the first stage of its long journey. Many are the valuable cargoes that have left these shores, but for the first time in the history of New Zealand were nine thousand gallant souls—the flower of the young nation's manhood—going down to the sea in ships.

Black and white photographs of ships in Wellington Harbour.

[Lent by F. W. Randall
The “Ibuki” and “Minotaur” in Wellington Harbour.

By half-past three on the afternoon of Thursday, October 15, the mounted units were again embarked. The last good-byes were exchanged with relatives ashore, and night fell on Wellington Harbour with its fleet of fourteen historic ships. The morning broke beautifully fine. The fleet weighed anchor at 6 o'clock. Crowds of early risers saw the ships go out, preceded by the “Minotaur” and the “Ibuki.” The first division of ships was led by the cruiser “Psyche” and the second division by the “Philomel.” So the watchers on Mount Victoria saw the long grey line slip silently down the Straits.