Words of a Wellington soldier who survived three of the bloodiest battles in World War I will create a haunting segment in an Anzac memorial opening in Queensland tomorrow.
Walk with the Anzacs - Gallipoli to Armistice is a multimedia trail running through Queen's Park, Maryborough, about 250km north of Brisbane.
The words of Private Harry Browne of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment describing the service of the Native Contingent before the August offensive at Gallipoli will be heard within an arbour designed to represent the landscape around Anzac Cove.
That section of the memorial will highlight New Zealanders' involvement in the assault on Sari Bair, including the sound of Aue e Ihu (Jesu Lover of My Soul) sung by the Native Contingent as it prepared for battle on August 6.
Browne, later part of the small band that fought to the top of the Sari Bair range and briefly held the summit, eloquently described how all within earshot stood silent to hear the sound of 25 tenors in the contingent, led by their chaplain.
Aue e Ihu was later adopted as the Maori Battalion hymn and sung as soldiers left Palmerston North for World War II, on Anzac Day 1940.
The part of the memorial featuring Browne's words will also include Australian World War I historian Charles Bean's description of the heroic effort of the Wellington Infantry Battalion in holding the summit of Chunuk Bair on August 8: "Throughout that day not one had dreamed of leaving his post. Their uniforms were torn, their knees broken. They had had no water since the morning; they could talk only in whispers; their eyes were sunken …"
The memorial is being built by the Queen's Park Military Trail Project Committee, working under the banner of the Maryborough Sub-Branch of the Returned and Services League of Australia – their equivalent of the RSA.
Committee president Nancy Bates said she would be interested to hear from any descendants of Private Harry Browne.
"We expect this unique memorial will become a national attraction with strong international interest, particularly from New Zealanders."
According to the NZ History website, Browne was born in Whakatane in April 1887. He was working as a baker in Wellington when World War I began. An ex-school cadet, he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in August 1914.
Browne arrived at Gallipoli on May 12, 1915, with the 6th (Manawatu) Squadron, Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment. They landed without their horses, which were unsuitable for the rugged terrain.
They relieved Royal Naval Brigade units on Walker's Ridge where they remained until the August offensive. On August 5, they moved north to No. 1 Outpost to support the assault on Chunuk Bair.
The Wellington Infantry Battalion captured the slopes of Chunuk Bair early on August 8. Despite severe casualties, they held the position throughout the day.
Around noon, the 2nd and 6th squadrons – the latter was Browne's - of the Wellington Mounted Rifles moved to reinforce them. They arrived at 10.30pm and occupied the central position in the hastily dug trenches.
Under Lieutenant-Colonel William Meldrum, the Wellington Mounted Rifles held their tenuous position, despite suffering more than 60 per cent casualties. That included Browne, who suffered a leg wound on August 9.
He described the heavy fighting on the summit in an account written after the offensive and published on NZ History.
Invalided to England, Browne did not return to Gallipoli. After recovering, he transferred to the New Zealand Field Artillery in May 1916 and served on the Western Front.
Browne fought at the Somme and Messines before a serious chest wound ended his war in June 1917. He never fully recovered and died from pneumonia in 1928. His grave is in Karori Cemetery in Wellington.