Steeds and shellfire on the Western Front
The horses that were sent to the Western Front during the First World War faced many of the same difficulties as the soldiers that they served. Horses were used to transport officers, heavy artillery and other equipment to the front lines. The artillery conveyed by these horses was an essential element of the military strategies that developed on the battlefront. The Battle of the Somme in 1916 in particular saw the first widespread use of the ‘creeping barrage’, a strategy designed to provide cover for an advancing line of infantry.
Leonard Leary was a law student in Wellington who first served in Samoa after joining up in 1914 and then joined the British Royal Artillery and fought at the Battle of the Somme. In this 'Spectrum' radio documentary from 1982 he recalls both the trials of controlling horses amid the confusion of a battlefield and the use of the creeping barrage at the Somme.
Training at Trentham
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) required fit, young, trained solders, both to prepare them for the realities of marching and fighting on the Western Front, but also to reinforce those who met their deaths there. Many men who were trained during the First World War had already received compulsory drilling during junior cadet training at school. The Trentham Military Camp in the Hutt Valley was opened in 1915 to accommodate and train newly recruited soldiers before they were sent to Europe, where their training would continue.
The Daisy Patch
Joseph Gasparich was a gumdigger and school teacher before he joined the Auckland Infantry Battalion. In May 1915 he was serving with the combined Australian and New Zealand forces at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. General Sir Ian Hamilton decided to try and break through to the south of the Gallipoli peninsula, and New Zealand and Australian infantrymen were sent to Cape Helles by ferry. On 8 May the New Zealanders launched a series of attacks across an open field of poppies and daisies. In 1968 Joe Gasparich recorded his memories of the unsuccessful attacks in the Daisy Patch. “It was absolute murder – or suicide, whichever way you like to look at it.”