SOLDIERS’ TALES FROM THE TRENCHES
The story of one of the soldiers from Kapiti Coast who did not return home from WWI and to be told at the Why You Are You event at Paraparaumu Library on 16/17 August.
Private 12/941 Joseph Martin Cornwall.
Joseph was born in 1892 in New Zealand. He was the son of Elizabeth and George Cornwall who lived in Paraparaumu.
On his enlistment, Joseph Martin Cornwall was working in the Waikato he was posted to 16th Company, Auckland Infantry Battalion as a Private soldier.For the next five weeks he underwent initial military training. Whilst his Service File provides no indication of where this training was undertaken, this probably would have occurred in Alexandra Park in Epsom, Auckland. This Park was designated a ‘military camp’ and it is where the Auckland Infantry Battalion was formed and trained.
On the 16th October 1914, Joseph finally departed for his ‘big adventure” overseas. Whilst his Service File provides no detail on which ship he actually embarked on, on that day, 8,444 New Zealand soldiers departed from Wellington on ten Troopships. These ships included “His Majesty’s New Zealand Troopships “Maunganui”;“Tahiti”; “Ruapehu”; ”Orari”;”Limerick”; “Star of India”;“Hawke’s Bay”; “Arawa”; “Athenic” andthe“Waimana”. (It is not recorded if the regiment entrained to Wellington or, if the ships called into Auckland to collect the regiment.)
December 1914 the convoy reached its destination when it berthed at Alexandria, Egypt. From Alexandria Joseph and the remainder of the Auckland Battalion entrained for Cairo with the Battalion occupying a location at Zeitoun where the New Zealand Brigade proceeded to establish its training camp. Training then began in earnest to prepare this Battalion for front line duties. At that stage, nobody knew where this action was likely to occur, or when it was likely to commence.
From the time of arrival at Alexandria 1914 until April 1915 Joseph and the regiment saw very little in the way of battles, most of the time was spent training and moving around from camp to camp.
On the 9th April 1915, Joseph and the Auckland Battalion entrained for Alexandria and from there departed for Mudros Harbour on the Greek island of Lemnos, on the transport “Lutzow”. They were going to Gallipoli.
On the 23rd April 1915 all the ships in Mudros Harbour started to maneuver into their allocated positions for their intended landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The mood was buoyant. 100,000 men from Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand lined the decks of their respective ships, all singing their own National Anthems to the accompaniment of their battalion bands. Two days later the landing commenced.
Private Joseph Martin Cornwall now in the 16th (Waikato) Company of the Auckland Infantry Battalion. Here is what the 16th (Waikato) Company did that day and where they did it.
Before dawn broke on that Sunday the 25th April, the 16th (Waikato) Company was still asleep on the deck of the “Lutzow” as it silently slipped out of Mudros towards the western shore of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The remainder of the Auckland Infantry Battalion plus two companies from the Canterbury Infantry Battalion – totaling approximately 1,500 men, was to land on that day. The Australian’s landed first, as planned, at dawn. Their task was to establish a beachhead. The New Zealanders were intended to be in reserve that day and were certainly not expected to be involved in any fighting. But things went wrong. A fatal error by the Navy had the troops landing on the wrong beach and they were immediately confronted with sheer cliffs, steep ravines, broken country and all covered with thick thorny scrub.
From 8.00am the Auckland Infantry Battalion started to wade ashore and by 9.00am the Battalion was formed up on the beach and was moving north. Joseph and his 16th (Waikato) Company were bringing up the rear. Orders were given to reinforce the Australians but the terrain the leading elements encountered, especially the unscaleable cliffs, meant that this task was impossible.
About midday the Auckland Battalion was recalled from this impossible task and was given new orders to approach “Plugge’s Plateau”. Private Joseph and his 16th (Waikato) Company were now leading the advance. Soon men were being killed and severe casualties were being taken from shrapnel and from the well-aimed fire from the Turkish snipers. At about this time, the level of casualties within the Auckland Battalion meant that the Battalion, as such, ceased to exist. What was left of the 16th (Waikato) Company was clinging to a position around feature “Pope”. But there was no structure left. Soldiers from one company found themselves occupying positions allocated to other companies. There was no longer any resemblance of Battalion or Company command. Whoever was alive – and capable – took control of whatever men they could gather together. Every officer and every sergeant in the 16th (Waikato) Company was now a casualty. By the time of the next day, only 34 men from the original 226 men of the 16th (Waikato) Company of the Auckland Infantry Battalion were alive. Private Cornwall was one of the 192 men from his Company who was killed on that dreadful day.
Private Joseph Martin Cornwall was initially reported as “missing and wounded” and later that same day his disappearance was again reported. This time the cable indicated that he was now “believed dead”. On the 16th January 1916, with the final withdrawal of all allied troops off the Gallipoli Peninsula, a Board of Enquiry was conducted at Moascar Camp in Ismalia, Egypt. As a result of witness statements, the Board concluded that 12/941 Private Joseph Martin Cornwall was “killed in action.
Private Joseph Martin Cornwall’s name appears on Panel D.4. On the “Quinn’s Post Cemetery” memorial wall.