Who Are These Mystery Voices of Gallipoli?

– By Sarah Johnston (SANTK Client Services Archivist)

Can you help us identify the voices of the five unidentified Gallipoli veterans who feature in this radio documentary?

[“ANZAC” (1969). Archival audio from Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of Copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact SANTK.]

The men’s recollections of landing at Gallipoli and the brutal conditions they encountered form a powerful documentary simply called “ANZAC”, which late Napier broadcaster Laurie Swindell made in the studios of station 2ZC in Napier in January 1969.

Broadcaster Laurie Swindell (courtesy of the Swindell family)
Broadcaster Laurie Swindell (courtesy of the Swindell family)

The programme has been kept since then in the collection of Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero in Christchurch.

In preparation for the World War One commemorations this year, SANTK is digitising and describing all its recordings relating to the war and staff are trying to identify all the men and women who recorded memories of the conflict over the years.

As was sometimes the style in documentary making in those days, the men taking part in this programme were not named. Because Laurie Swindell was based in Napier, it is believed the five men she interviewed were probably all Hawke’s Bay residents in 1968 and 1969.

Unfortunately Laurie passed away in 2009 at the age of 95, after a long career producing many of New Zealand’s early radio documentaries. Before that, she was well-known as the host of national women’s radio programmes and as a director of many Hawke’s Bay drama productions.

The men would have been in their seventies when they were interviewed and they were still able to articulately recall their most vivid memories of Gallipoli. One man graphically recalls the desperate charges made by New Zealand troops across a field known as “the Daisy Patch” in May 1915. He was wounded and describes how he lay helplessly watching as several more waves of men charged, only to be attacked by well-entrenched Turkish machine guns.

Another link to Hawke’s Bay is provided by a veteran who, after being shot, recalls how he was carried for three miles on the shoulders of Phillip Blake, who was a member of the 9th Hawkes Bay Regiment of the Wellington Infantry Battalion. Corporal Blake was a Junior Māori All Black from Hastings, who was to die on Chunuk Bair in August 1915.

Unlike some other radio programmes about World War One, in which veterans’ recollections are voiced by actors, Laurie recorded the men telling their stories in their own voices, which makes it powerful listening.

SANTK are hoping a family may recall that a grandfather or great-uncle who was a Gallipoli veteran took part in a radio documentary – or even recognise his voice from the programme.

We ask anyone able to contribute information on this documentary to please contact SANTK on info@soundarchives.co.nz or (03) 374 8440.