Generations later, family feeling runs strong for a relative about to see the foreign field where a South Island teenager, who lied to go to war, died in Gallipoli’s last futile battle with hundreds of other Anzacs.

My great-great-uncle Francis Woodhouse was just 17 when he enlisted to go to war. He wasn't legally old enough to join the army so, like many others, the small-town teenager fibbed about his age.

I bet if he had the luxury of regrets, that would have been his biggest.

Frank was working as a labourer in Alexandra, Central Otago, when he signed up. His attestation form, filled out in meticulous cursive handwriting, states he was 20, but according to a Woodhouse family Bible in which all birth and death dates were noted, he was just 17 years, six months and six days old.

He left New Zealand for Turkey on April 17, 1915 - eight days before the Anzac landings.


It is thought he went to Egypt via the Suez Canal and then embarked for the Dardanelles on August 3, 1915, to bolster the Allies' rapidly failing invasion effort.

He was a trooper in the Otago Mounted Rifles and among a wave of reinforcements that took part in the Battle of Hill 60 - the last big assault of the Gallipoli campaign.

The first offensive was launched on the 21st of the month. A week later, during the second push to take the hill, 183 Anzacs were killed.

Frank was reported missing that day and on January 19, 1916, a board of inquiry ruled that he had been killed in action on August 27, 1915.

He was 18 years, 2 months and 25 days old. Like so many, his short life ended far too soon and needlessly on that bloody battlefield.

Where Frank's remains lie, no one knows. But his name is inscribed on the New Zealand memorial at the cemetery at Hill 60 - known as Kaiajik Aghala to the Turks.

The memorial is one of four erected to commemorate Kiwi troops who died at Gallipoli but whose final resting places are not known.

I will be visiting that memorial this month when I travel to Gallipoli to cover the centenary for the Herald.


Frank was the uncle of my maternal grandfather, Victor Edward Woodhouse - better known as Ted. He died, aged 61, when I was just 5, so I never had the chance to grill him for information about the family as I've had with my other grandparents (I've always been quite the history and family-tree nerd).

Trooper Francis
Trooper Francis "Frank" Woodhouse.

Luckily, others in the family share my interest and have over the years gathered a good stock of information about Uncle Frank. There is a great sense of pride that we have an Anzac in our family, that one of our number was part of that bravery, tenacity, determination and spirit that carved a new identity for New Zealand and is still held sacred 100 years on.

But there is also sadness when I think of what we lost - what Frank never got to experience and achieve in his life. What his mother and father and his siblings lost, and how that impacted on the rest of their lives.

I can't imagine what it was like to go to war at 17; to leave your tiny South Island town and all you know to board a ship with strangers for the unknown and a shadowy enemy.

At 17 in my tiny South Island town, I was at high school, the hardest part of my daily life deciding what to have on my toast each morning. The comparison is unfathomable.

I find myself wondering what the journey to Gallipoli was like for him. Was he nervous? How did he get to Hill 60? Was he scared, was it cold at night, was he hungry, lonely, homesick? What did he see at Gallipoli? How many Turks did he kill or maim? The more my mind wanders, the more questions I find.

I don't know what it will be like visiting Hill 60, seeing a family name etched into the memorial, walking where he walked, standing where he met his fate. Some say it's unexpectedly emotional, that you don't realise until you get there how strongly you feel that Anzac connection. Others have described it to me as peaceful, reflective, eerie.

A document on the signing up of Frank Woodhouse to the Otago Mounted Rifles before being sent to Gallipoli in 1915.
A document on the signing up of Frank Woodhouse to the Otago Mounted Rifles before being sent to Gallipoli in 1915.

I don't know how I will react, what I will feel or how visiting the memorial will affect me.

What I do know is that it will be a privilege to visit the place where my great-great-uncle served King and country, fought bravely and fell doing what he believed was right.

I'll let you all know how it goes.

Trooper Francis "Frank" Woodhouse

•Born 2 June 1897 to William and Julia Woodhouse of Alexandra

•Date enlisted 8 December 1914

•He was 17 when he enlisted but gave his age as 20

•Left New Zealand for Egypt on April 17, 1915 from Wellington

•Was a trooper for the 4th Reinforcements, Otago Mounted Rifles Travelled via ship on •Willochra or Knight Templar or Waitomo

•Reported missing after the assault on Hill 60 at Gallipoli on 27 August 1915

•Board of Enquiry in January 1916 ruled he was killed in action during the assault


Then-Veterans' Affairs Minister Michael Woodhouse claimed Frank was his great uncle after finding his name on the Gallipoli memorial. However Frank shared only the Woodhouse surnamewith the MP,who later apologised for his gaffe.

The Battle of Hill 60

The August Offensive, which saw two assaults by the Anzacs on Hill 60, was the last major assault of the Gallipoli Campaign. It was dubbed "an abominable little hill" by Brigadier-General Andrew Russell, commander of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade.

The first assault on Hill 60 was undertaken by troops from the Otago and Canterbury Mounted Rifles Regiments on 21 August. It was unsuccessful, and resulted in 5000 casualties on the Allied side.

The Kiwis managed to seize part of the Turkish trench system but could not dislodge the enemy from the hill. Six days later about 300men - the remainder of the whole brigade which originally numbered 1865 - launched a second attack.

They made a slight gain, extending the Allies' frontline. But again they failed to capture the target. British historian Robert Rhodes James later wrote that "for connoisseurs of military futility, valour, incompetence and determination, the attacks on Hill 60 are in a class of their own".