Title: Official History of the Otago Regiment in the Great War 1914 – 1918
Author: Byrne, Arthur Emmett MC
Edition: 2nd Edition
Publication Date: 2003
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 407 pages
Comments: The Otago Infantry Battalion, later the Otago Regiment, was formed in August 1914 from the existing four territorial regiments of the Otago Military District: the 4th (Otago), 8th (Southland), 10th (North Otago) and 14th (South Otago) Regiments. Similarly a battalion was formed from each of three other Provinces – Canterbury, Auckland and Wellington and the four made up the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, the infantry component of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). When the force sailed on 14 October 1914, the embarkation strength of the Otago Battalion was 34 officers and 1,076 other ranks.
They disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt, on 3 December and in January 1915 the brigade was moved down to the Suez Canal which the Turks were preparing to attack. In April 1915 the division sailed for Gallipoli via Mudros, and on the 25th of that month the Otago Battalion landed with the brigade near Anzac Cove. The battalion was eight months at Gallipoli, fighting in several actions, particularly the second battle of Krithia and the battle of Sari Bair. It was evacuated in December 1915 and returned to Egypt where a 2nd Battalion was formed for each of the four original battalions and the combined New Zealand and Australian Division was reorganized as an all New Zealand Division which crossed to France in April 1916. In March 1917 each regiment received a third battalion, formed in England and sent to France in May giving the division, uniquely, a fourth brigade.
In February 1918 this brigade and the battalions were disbanded. On the Western Front the New Zealand Division was an elite formation and the regiment was involved in most of the major operations – the Somme, Messines, Third Ypres and the battles of 1918. Two VCs were won including one of the most famous, that awarded to Sgt Travis (real name Savage) of the 2nd Battalion, known as the king of No Man’s Land, who was killed in Rossignol Wood in July 1918 and is buried in Couin New British Cemetery; the divisional commander attended his funeral. He gets a chapter to himself in the book. This is a good, authoritative history as the title suggests, in which personalities are identified in the narrative, casualty figures and reinforcements noted; minor actions are described as well as the bigger picture. Its drawback is that it has no index, very frustrating for the researcher trying to find some reference in a book with so many pages. There is a list of honours and awards but no roll of honour.