PHENOMENAL AND WICKED: Attrition and Reinforcement in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli.

AuthorStanley, Peter

PHENOMENAL AND WICKED: Attrition and Reinforcement in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli

Author: John Crawford and Matthew Buck

Published by: New Zealand Defence Force, Wellington, 2020, 137pp.

As New Zealand's minister of defence, Ron Mark, observes in the foreword to this useful and salutary book, 'given the resonance of Gallipoli on our national psyche, it is somewhat extraordinary that it has taken [over] a hundred years for us to be able to authoritatively quantify the number of our soldiers who actually served on the peninsula'. It is indeed remarkable that a campaign which has been so exhaustively documented, interpreted, explained, deplored but also celebrated (especially in what I will risk calling Australasia) that such a basic question as 'how many New Zealanders served on Gallipoli?' should have remained not just unanswered but unexamined for so long.

Two of the New Zealand Defence Force's most respected historians, John Crawford and Matthew Buck, have turned their attention to a question which recently became the subject of debate among military historians on both sides of the Tasman who care about such matters. As one of that community, I opened Phenomenal and Wicked with particular interest, not least because in my 2015 book Die in Battle, Do not Despair: the Indians on Gallipoli, 1915, I argued that the number of Indian troops who served on Gallipoli was more than three times the figure accepted for a century. That New Zealand should also have inherited a substantial under-estimate does not surprise me. What impresses me is the care with which the authors have tested the formerly accepted figure and, even more importantly, reached a new and justified number.

The previously accepted figure of 8556 New Zealanders who served on the peninsula had been challenged since 1921, but remained (the authors plausibly argue) because the high ratio of served-to-casualties contributed to the 'exceptionalism' of New Zealand's disproportionate contribution to the campaign. While Chris Pugsley in his 1984 Gallipoli: the New Zealand Story (arguably the first of the revisionist wave of Gallipoli histories, rightly influential) pondered the figure, he did not contest it outright. Richard Stowers's 2005 Bloody Gallipoli and David Green's later research challenged the official figure, and over the past decade or so debate has continued. Such is the residual power of the idea of an 'official history', however, the war's centenary saw...

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