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This year marks the 100th anniversary since the battle at Gallipoli and the New Zealanders’ Chunuk Bair offensive, considered to be one of the defining moments in New Zealand history and national identity.
The Gallipoli offensive at Anzac Cove in Turkey is well documented by military historians. ANZAC bravery won wide praise for reaching Chunuk Bair’s summit which they briefly held, but it grew into an unsuccessful campaign, the remaining soldiers withdrawn and eventually evacuated at nightfall from the peninsula. Over two thousand New Zealand soldiers died there, and many more were wounded.
PANZA would like to offer a tribute to New Zealand’s fallen in the form of verse authentic to the country at the time of World War One.
The anonymous poem, ‘On the Death of Col. Malone’, found by PANZA Archivist Mark Pirie, appeared in the Stratford Evening Post, Taranaki, in 1915. He also came across a second poem tribute “Love is Mightier Than Death” mentioning Col. Malone in Papers Past, the National Library of New Zealand’s website.
The subject of the poem Col. Malone (1859-1915), of the Wellington Battalion, was one of New Zealand’s prominent figures at Gallipoli, and successfully reached Chunuk Bair’s summit.
Some details can be found in Papers Past (Taranaki Daily News, 26 October 1915):
The “Stratford Post” publishes a letter from Chaplain-Captain Father McMenamin, who is at Gallipoli, to Father Maples, in the course of which the reverend gentleman says, concerning the great fight on August 7th: “Our boys fought nobly, and I can say without boasting that there are no troops to excel them. No matter how severe the assault, they never broke or wavered for an instant. I cannot tell you of our losses, but the casualty lists will tell their own tale. The greatest loss that our Infantry Brigade suffered was in the death of Col. Malone. His work over here has been magnificent, and he has proved himself to be every inch a soldier. In this last great fight he rose to the occasion and made fame for himself and the battalion he commanded. On Sunday, August 7, his men had the foremost position, and from daylight till dark they fought like tigers. Colonel Malone, who did not know what fear was, remained all day in the thick of the battle; encouraging his brave men by his own example. About 6 p.m., he was struck down by a burst of shrapnel, and died without a word.”
Another report (Star, 10 January 1916) notes:
In the attack on Chunuk Bair [Malone’s] resolute leadership was an inspiration to his men. He was ever in the van, scorning all danger. Early in the day a rifle that he carried was pierced by a Turkish bullet. This interested him, and he said he would keep it as a memento of the fight. Whenever he moved forward or along the trench he picked up the battered rifle again and carried it with him. Finally he was shot through the head by a bullet from a shrapnel shell that burst over the trench. He sank back into the arms of one of his officers [Captain Hastings] and died painlessly on the highest point on the Peninsula attained by our arms.
In 1982, Maurice Shadbolt’s play, Once on Chunuk Bair, considered that Col. Malone was killed by ‘friendly fire’ from a British fleet ship firing shrapnel shells over their trench but historians didn’t support this version of events (Shadbolt took it from Robert Rhodes James, Gallipoli, 1965, that includes Captain Hastings’ report).
An article in the Evening Post tends to support Shadbolt’s and others’ version of events:
HIT BY BRITISH NAVAL SHRAPNEL.
Malone was close up to the fighting line, on foot, encouraging his men when he was struck. He was hit by shrapnel from a shell fired by one of our own ships. Four or five bullets struck him. The ships were doing their best to support the troops, firing over their heads from the sea. The Turks were so close, and the position occupied by the battalion was so difficult, that a good many casualties on our side were caused the same way. However, my informant seemed to regard this loss as inevitable, and not to be set against the value of the support given at the time by the ships’ guns.
He said that Col. Malone was exceedingly popular with his men; that he was a fine officer, and had done great service, which had been appreciated by his brigadier. The man also drew a picture of Malone’s energy and care for his men, and personal example to them. He said that each morning the colonel might be seen having a hard run to keep himself fit and in good condition; that often he had seen him with open shirt and sleeves rolled up, handling a shovel or axe or pick-axe, and showing how some piece of work should be done.
Shortly before his death Col. Malone had gone down to an English battalion (one of Kitchener’s new ones) which had lost most of its officers, and was under a murderous fire, and had helped to get it into order again. As a proof of his popularity, this man said that he was affectionately known among his men as “Mollie Malone.”
(Evening Post, Volume XC, Issue 117, 13 November 1915, Page 13)
A large number of tributes and obituaries for Col. Malone are in Papers Past searches near the time of his death. He was certainly a popular, well-known man in Taranaki and elsewhere who led by example.
The New Zealand public had remembered him also in verse.
Poem by “Hei-konei-ra”
ON THE DEATH OF COL. MALONE
The roll is called, and deathless names
Are written where the Book of Life
Tells of the lurid battle flames,
Of shot and steel, high hopes and aims,
Brave deeds amid a world of strife.
Such pages are for those alone,
Who heard the call that echoes through
The far-thrown aisles of Britain’s fame,
For in her hour of need they drew
Their swords, and at her call, they came.
On sunlit plain and dark defile
They carved their names, their thoughts and creeds,
And there Death’s Angel paused a while
And entered each – the rank and file –
And made a record of their deeds,
The silent witness of the dead
Perhaps alone, who watched them go,
Whose icy fingers slowly turned
The storied pages, moving slow,
When youth’s high courage fiercely burned.
And here is one, whose shield appears
Through Britain’s early years of stress,
Whose motto through the marching years
Was ever this – “That Justice hears
The weak one’s call and gives redress.”
It mattered not that his great creed
Might ask from him great sacrifice.
He only knew that for a space
He clothed a soul that never dies, –
A soul that asks no resting place.
Through the storm-tossed mantle falling –
Snows of ages – on the scroll
Of Britain’s fame a voice is calling
Gathering where the war drums roll:
“Brave one, thou has answered smiling,
Courage lights the stormy way
Of our noble children filing
Through valhalla’s halls to-day.”
(Stratford Evening Post, 26 August 1915)
A second poem tribute that is also related to Malone’s death appears in Papers Past by a woman poet of Kapuni, written whilst milking her cows:
“LOVE IS MIGHTIER THAN DEATH.”
[In forwarding these lines, the writer —a woman—says that the thoughts are her own, and that she put them into verse one evening whilst she was milking her cows. She says, further, that if love for our brothers, our little children, our aged, the freedom of our Empire and consideration for those who are suffering at the hands of our enemies, are roused within us, there will be no need for conscription.]
Let us take for an example
Brave Malone, and many more,
Who have given their lives for others
On that distant battle shore.
Their high service shows us plainly,
We must serve, too, one and all,
If we wish to save our Empire,
From a low and shameful fall.
How arousing, how appalling
Are the things we hear each day –
Think of all our comrades falling,
Who have gone and led the way:
Deck their memories with laurel,
Sing their praise in every clime;
Their great deeds will ring for ages,
Through the corridors of time.
While we speak thus of the fallen,
Let us think of those in pain,
Who will bear the scars of battle,
When they come to us again:
When their stories stir the feeling,
Till our hearts are caught for breath,
We will feel the truth revealing –
“Love is mightier than death.”
Let us now be truly brothers,
Prove our manhood ere too late,
Let us go to help the others
Save our land from evil fate.
We must join our strength together,
Fight and fight while we have breath,
And so prove to all the ages –
“Love is mightier than death.”
(Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXIX, 5 November 1915, Page 3)
Many more poems about the Great War have been written, both from World War One and from contemporary writers looking back on the war. A newly published Australian anthology When ANZAC Day Comes Around: 100 Years From Gallipoli Poetry Project, compiled by Graeme Lindsay, features 200 New Zealand and Australian poets remembering war and dates back to the 1840s. The Printing Museum in New Zealand is working on several World War One poetry projects, including collections by two World War One New Zealand poets: Alfred Clark and Don H Lea.
PANZA has featured some World War One verse in previous issues of Poetry Notes (including Don H Lea) and is always on the look out for New Zealand war verse. This small tribute in verse is but one of numerous mediums being used for this year’s remembrance.