National Day..

From time to time the question of NZ having a National Day comes up.

We could also do with a mid-winter long weekend.

August 8 is one of my nominations.

It has an Anzac connection: it’s the day New Zealand troops took Chunuk Bair, a peak which held the key to the whole peninsula.

According to the history of the campaign written in 1919:

So far as the New Zealanders are concerned, August 8, 1915, was the blackest day on the Peninsula. But the prize was the strategical key to the Gallipoli Peninsula. Win the Ridge and we should win the Narrows. Open the Narrows to the Navy, and Constantinople was ours.

Unfortunately they weren’t supported: then there was misdirected shelling from the ships offshore which landed among them.

There’s a history of it here.

Maurice Shadbolt wrote a great play about it: Once On Chunuk Bair. It’s a bit…well, its a play. Plays are not subtle. But there is still a tingle down the spine at the words of Connolly, a character based on Colonal Malone, who led the Wellington Battallion, as he tells his signallaer:

“Tell him some scarecrows called Wellington Infantry have taken Chunuk Bair. No. Tell him, God damn it, that New Zealand has taken Chunuk Bair. Tell him New Zealand is holding Chunuk Bair.”

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