A big ship the SS Willochra arrivees in Wellington harbour in 1915.

“We cheered lustily – and then we wept”: The First Gallipoli Wounded Return to Wellington

15 Jul 2015
On the 15th of July 1915, the transport ship Willochra brought back to Wellington the first group of men who had been wounded in the Gallipoli campaign.

By Sarah Johnston

News of men who had been killed or wounded had been in the local newspapers since mid-May, but it was not until the men arrived home that the realities of the war really reached New Zealand.

Thousands of people gathered at the wharf to greet the ship and despite the trauma and injuries the men had suffered, the government had decided a triumphant welcome should be prepared, with a procession through Wellington’s streets and a reception for them in the Town Hall.

A 1981 recording in the Sound Collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision recalls the impact the sight of the wounded, traumatized men had on the citizens who were there.

In it, educator Jack Shallcrass interviews Max Riske, a fellow Wellington teacher and lecturer, who was taken as a young boy by his mother to see the men and attended the Town Hall reception. Sixty years later, he vividly recalls how the experience changed opinions about the war for him and many other Wellingtonians.

Hero image: The steam ship Willochra, HMNZT No 14 (Her Majesty's New Zealand Transport No 14), arriving in Wellington with wounded soldiers from Gallipoli, Turkey, 15 July 1915 (Photograph taken by David James Aldersley - Alexander Turnball Library, Wellington.)

Excerpt from 'Looking Back: Interview with Marcus Riske', 23 January 1981. (Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Radio Collection. All rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of this item please contact us.)