William George Malone memorial gates

Stone war-memorial gates in Stratford commemorate Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone, a local farmer and lawyer who commanded the Wellington Infantry Battalion at Gallipoli during the First World War. Although the Gallipoli campaign was ultimately a failure, Malone's troops achieved some notable successes. However, Malone was killed (possibly by friendly fire) after his men seized the heights of Chunuk Bair.

Transcript

Intro: A lone bugle plays an excerpt from the The Last Post

Narrator: Of the thousands of war memorials throughout New Zealand, few are dedicated to individuals.  An impressive exception can be found a short distance from Stratford’s main street, at the Fenton Street entrance to King Edward Park.  Here stands an elegant stone gateway to the memory of Lieutenant-Colonel William George Malone, Commander of the Wellington Infantry Regiment [sic]  at Gallipoli. The memorial was erected by his men soon after the end of the First World War.

When the Great War broke out in 1914, it was expected that New Zealand soldiers would fight on Europe’s Western Front. However, they were sent to Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula in the hope that they would capture it and clear the way for British ships to attack Istanbul.  

Though born in England, Malone was described as a ‘typical rugged New Zealand pioneer’. He hacked a farm out of the bush at Stratford and was also a successful land agent and lawyer. An ardent support of the British Empire, Malone was 56 years old when he arrived at Gallipoli. In May 1915, at Cape Helles at the southern tip of the peninsula, Malone and his soldiers overran the Turkish trenches.  His diary records his pride in his men:

Malone (actor): My Battalion advanced 1200 yards under shell, machine gun and rifle fire, crossed several trenches which must have been most tempting to stop in, kept their intervals and never fired a shot until they were within 200 to 400 yards of the Turkish trenches. They lost heavily but advanced as though they were on a Parade Ground. It was splendid.

Narrator: Despite the bravery shown by the New Zealand troops, the Gallipoli campaign was a failure. Malone believed this was largely the result of inept British command and a lack of organisation and equipment.

Malone (actor): The war is a ‘JOKE WAR’.  Our howitzers are short of ammunition, our eighteen-pounders don’t seem to be able to get in to action, and the naval guns can’t talk soldier gunnery. If it were not so serious, the penalty, one could roar with laughter at the preach and no practice. The Briton is a muddler all right.

Narrator: On August 8, 1915, Malone and his men, facing fire on three sides from the Turks, who were led by a brilliant young soldier called Kemal Attaturk, gained the hilltop of Chunuk Bair – the highest point on the Gallipoli Peninsula. From here the men could see the Dardenelles and the route to Istanbul. That evening, during a lull in the fighting, Malone stood up briefly to survey the terrain, only to be killed by Allied artillery fire. Soon afterwards his regiment was replaced by British troops, who failed to hold the hilltop.

Though he commanded his men brilliantly, the British commanders held Malone responsible for the failure at Chunuk Bair. Perhaps the reason for their hostility was because he regularly refused their demands to send his men to certain death for little gain.

Two of Malone’s sons were wounded at Gallipoli. He dearly loved his family, as his last letter to his wife Ida, shows.

Malone (actor): My sweetheart, I am prepared for death and hope that God will have forgiven me all my sins. My desire for life – so that I may see and be with you again – could not be greater but I have only done what every man was bound to do in our country’s need. Your loving husband, William G Malone.

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