The famed "Anzac spirit" was not forged on the battlefields of Gallipoli, as the well-known bi-national narrative has been told, but rather some 15 years earlier in South Africa, a new book has claimed.
With Anzac Day memorial preparations underway for tomorrow, the bombshell revelations come in Our First Foreign War – The Impact of the South African War 1899–1902 on New Zealand.
Historian Nigel Robson examines the social, political and economic impact of an often-overlooked war.
And he reveals that Australians and New Zealanders fought shoulder-to-shoulder years before they fought the Germans and Ottomans in World War I.
"That kind of military camaraderie that existed at Gallipoli and on the Western Front – this shared sense of adversity – was predated by at least a decade because a similar thing took place in the South African War," says Robson, whose grandfathers both fought in the 1914-1918 war.
Soldiers from the fledgling countries joined units from both sides of the Tasman, and served together in mixed British and colonial units, to fight against the Boer republics of South Africa - Transvaal and Orange Free State.
More than 6500 Kiwi men were sent to fight overseas.
Robson says although the numbers are small compared to those who fought during World War I, New Zealand's response to the conflict was on a grand scale.
In an outpouring of early patriotic sentiment, thousands followed the stories of sieges at Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith.
But rather than delving into military tactics and manoeuvres, Robson sets out to look at the impact the war had on New Zealand itself – told through the eyes of those who experienced it.
"I don't think it's had the attention it deserves, mainly because of the enormity of the two world wars, which largely eclipsed it," he says.
One of the biggest impacts was economically. With the first contingents largely funded by contributions from the New Zealand public, and later by the imperial government, the cost to the New Zealand at the time was relatively small.
Profits of war followed, with horses sent for mounted troops, clothing companies making uniforms, and rural regions supplying oats, providing a particular boon for Southland farmers and ports.
Those who signed up represented a cross-section of New Zealand society, a "real national hodgepodge of identities" with many born elsewhere, including Scotland, Ireland, England, Canada, and Australia.
"There were the people you would expect, like farmers, stockmen, horse trainers, but also solicitors, pastry cooks, even a Member of Parliament," Robson says.
"While patriotism was a strong factor in the response to the war, I don't think it was the sole reason these guys went. Most of them were just young guys who wanted an adventure and get overseas, just like today when young Kiwis go on the big O.E."
The youngest was just 15. The oldest was 70-year-old Robert Bakewell, a doctor who served in the Crimean War (1853-56) alongside Florence Nightingale at Scutari.
Bakewell claimed that 24 hours before the ninth New Zealand contingent was due to sail, Premier Richard John Seddon had wanted him as its surgeon-captain, despite his age and infirmities.
Suffering from emphysema and asthma while at sea, Bakewell took to smoking powerful hallucinogen datura to relieve his symptoms.
And on arrival in Natal, Bakewell was hospitalised and played no part in the conflict, returning home as an invalid.
Newspapers back home, feeding on the first time a national force had been sent overseas, often exaggerated the Kiwis' exploits, Robson says.
"There was a real desire to portray them in a good light, that they were brave, chivalrous, good fighters and, as the book shows, that was not quite true," Robson says.
He reveals instances of looting, theft, and violence. And on one occasion, troops running amok in the Malay quarter of a town, which ended with a homeowner defending his property, killing one soldier and injuring two others.
British newspapers, however, twisted the story to say the trooper was killed putting down a Malay riot.
The Kiwi troops, however, also gained praised from senior British officers, especially in their role as scouts, going ahead of main British units.
But Robson notes that it's hard to tell if the praise was genuine or "motivated by a desire for a continued flow of colonial troops" to support the British in South Africa.
"There was a perception they wanted to see the Empire standing strong and a unified imperial response to a challenge to British dominance in southern Africa," Robson says.
Although Māori support for the war was not universal, certain Maori groups were keen to get involved in the fighting.
They weren't allowed however, with newspapers and documents referring to it as a "white man's war" and the imperial Government, arguing circumstances were "peculiar to South Africa" that prevented them from accepting the services of "coloured troops".
"Seddon pressed for Māori involvement but it's hard to tell whether it was to increase the Māori vote in his favour during elections or whether he genuinely thought there was a possibility the imperial authorities would accept the offer," Robson says.
It didn't stop some Māori from making their own way to South Africa. There are examples of individuals – maybe 60 or so, according to Robson - who were "at least part Māori who served in contingents using European names".
Robson highlights Āhere Te Koari Hōhepa, a master horseman and crack shot from Hawke's Bay, who would later also fight at Gallipoli, who served under the name Arthur Joseph.
Hōhepa's target shooting score was the highest in the Napier Guards Rifle Volunteers – and was reportedly one of the best riders in the region – but his initial attempt to join his contingent was blocked because he was a "full Māori".
But after the intervention of some of Hastings' leading citizens, his path was cleared, even if he did sign up under a fake name.
Government reports show that 182 contingent members died while on active service in Africa, including soldiers who lose their lives as a result of accidents, incidents, disease and other medical conditions. Seventy-four died of typhoid and 68 were either killed in action or died of wounds.
And those who did make it home were not unscathed by their experiences.
Although post-traumatic stress disorder wasn't recognised back then, Robson says there is substantial evidence around returning soldiers being "genuinely disturbed by the things they had seen".