New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair

Fine military spirit

One hundred years ago New Zealand soldiers were involved in the Battle for Chunuk Bair. This battle is considered New Zealand’s most important action in the Gallipoli Campaign. It took place between 6 August and 10 August, 1915. The battle was part of a bigger plan, the August Offensive, which involved the Allies attempting to take hold of the Sari Bair heights from Ottoman (Turkish) forces. It was hoped this would break the stalemate at Gallipoli but the plan failed and over 800 New Zealanders died.

Often with World War One commemorations there is a focus on the young soldiers who fought and died. Undoubtedly there is something especially poignant about remembering the loss of people killed in their teens and early twenties. But for this blog I have chosen to focus on one of the older Chunuk Bair casualties from North Otago.

Alexander William Porteous was a Boer War veteran. When he enlisted in 1914 he was 39 years old. (At this time men between the ages of 20 and 40 were eligible to volunteer.) He was living on Itchen Street in Oamaru and working for the Defence department. Alexander was the regimental Sergeant-Major to the 10th (North Otago) Regiment. His daughter Mary was only 8 years old when she saw her father for the last time.

Alexander was mentioned in dispatches for his service early in the Gallipoli Campaign:

On 26th April 1915, during operations in the neighbourhood of Gaba Tepe, for gallantry in action, and again on the night of 2nd-3rd May, for exceptional bravery and devotion to duty. All the officers of his company being killed or wounded, he organised and led the company, continually exposing himself for four hours, and showing fine military spirit and powers of leadership.”

He was awarded the Military Cross on 3 July 1915.

Alexander was killed in action on 9 August. There is an oak tree planted in his memory on Towey Street.


Chloe Searle