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National service to mark centenary of Chunuk Bair

The centenary of the Battle of Chunuk Bair will be marked in Wellington this weekend with a national commemorative service at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says.

On August 8, 1915, soldiers from the Wellington Battalion took the heights of Chunuk Bair in a night attack. After fierce fighting, the New Zealanders and allied forces were driven from the position, suffering heavy losses.

“Chunuk Bair has come to symbolise the bravery of our New Zealand soldiers and the tragic futility of those battles on the Gallipoli peninsula,” Ms Barry says.

“Its name has become a powerful reminder of the sacrifices an entire generation of Kiwis made during the First World War.”

The battle saw the first engagement for the Māori contingent, as well as the only Victoria Cross awarded to a New Zealander during the Gallipoli campaign, to Corporal Cyril Bassett.

The commemorative service will begin at 4pm.

A New Zealand ceremony will also be held at Chunuk Bair itself at 5pm Turkish time on August 8.

“As we remember those who died and stretch out a hand to the grief of their families, it is a reminder that our former foe Turkey is now a firm friend,” Ms Barry says.

“The peninsula we fought over has become a place where, through the generosity of the Turks, we can now all come together to commemorate the tragedy which had such a profound effect on both our countries.”

Updated on 5th August 2015