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The forgotten Kiwis who halted the Turks

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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Nov 2007 16:49    Onderwerp: The forgotten Kiwis who halted the Turks Reageer met quote

The forgotten Kiwis who halted the Turks

More than 500 formidable soldiers lie unvisited in 14 graveyards of the Holy Lands, writes Hank Schouten.

TERRY KINLOCH is frustrated that the crucial role played by New Zealand's mounted soldiers in the British campaign to defeat Turkish forces in the Middle East in World War I is forgotten.

Between 1916 and 1919 about 12,000 Kiwis served in the arduous campaign to push Turkish forces out of the Sinai Desert and Palestine. They were tough, earned a formidable reputation, and more than 500 were killed and buried in graveyards scattered around the Holy Lands.

But their exploits are overshadowed by the grim and virtually static battles in Gallipoli and the trenches on the Western Front.

Lieutenant Colonel Kinloch, who has just written a book on the mounted rifles called Devils on Horses, says he became interested in the subject during his time with the Queen Alexandra's Mounted Rifles, the armoured unit which traces its origins back to the 12 horse-mounted units that New Zealand had at the time of World War I.

An interest was sparked by old battle honours and photos, but it was a story that was not well recorded or accessible - the last history about New Zealanders in the Middle East was published in 1923.

Colonel Kinloch was able to help rectify that when he was posted to the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai in 2000. This gave him a chance to see otherwise inaccessible and largely forgotten battlefields.

"Since 1982 hundreds of Kiwis have served with the MFO and some of their grandfathers would have fought there, but none of them had a clue about that."

He went to all the battlefields in Sinai, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Syria, and visited the 14 Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries scattered around the area.

"They've all got New Zealanders in them, but New Zealanders never visit them because they don't know they're there."

He is exasperated that even last week there was no recognition of Kiwis in news coverage of the 90th anniversary commemoration of a famous cavalry charge by the 12th Australian Lighthorse Regiment on Turkish forces holding Beersheba, in what is now Israel.

Television footage did not mention that 2000 New Zealanders were there or that they captured a hill covered in machine guns - "without that the charge would not have happened or it would have been a massacre".

He says more than 12,000 New Zealanders served in the brigade.

The mounted units were sent out on long patrols to scout Turkish defences and to outflank their positions, while the infantry were supposed to push home the main assault on enemy positions.

But in many of these battles the infantry were too slow, so much of the fighting had to be done by the mounted troops.

They would ride up to 80 kilometres and then dismount before engaging the enemy on foot.

Foot soldiers marching those distances would have been too exhausted to fight. Horses played a crucial role but they too suffered in the harsh environment.

"This was the last time New Zealanders fought on horses. Thank God, because horses don't belong on battlefields."

Colonel Kinloch says the efforts of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles in the Middle East were overshadowed by the Western Front. Five hundred were killed in three years of fighting in the Middle East - that compares with 800 lost in just one morning at Passchendaele.

"But here we played a part in one of the most successful campaigns in the First World War - we threw the Turks out of the Middle East."
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