"I am sure that the enemy thought that they had a picked body of marksmen in front of them – well so they had … twenty five New Zealand boys who were picked because they had done a little rabbit shooting or had chased a stag or had become marksmen in their musketry course."
Captain Wallingford who had put together a specialist force of sharpshooters to combat Turkish Snipers.
Prior to WW1 Jesse Alfred Wallingford had won numerous medals in rifle and pistol shooting. He was six times the rifle champion of the British Empire, twice revolver champion and five times was second in the revolver championship. He was twice the winner of the Prince of Wales’ £100 prize, one of the biggest shooting trophies in the world.
As a Sergeant Major in the British Army Wallingford put 36 rounds into the bull's eye of a 24" target at 300 yards, during a "mad minute".
He was recruited by Sir Joseph Ward, the then New Zealand Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, on a visit to England. Sir Ward had heard of Sergeant Major Wallingford’s desire of promotion, but due to British policy of the time it wasn't possible. Ward offered him a commission in the NZ Army and the post of Musketry
Instructor. The Sergeant Major
accepted and he joined the Army as an instructor to the New Zealand Territorial Forces.
Wallingford deployed with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) and landed at Gallipoli with the Auckland Battalion on 25 April 1915.
His exploits at Gallipoli would earn him the nickname of the ‘Human Machine Gun’ and the title ‘Hero of ANZAC.’
On landing at Gallipoli Wallingford wasn't above operating a Vickers gun when needed. On April the 27th the ANZAC's were pinned down, outnumbered and in danger of being over run. Wallingford determined that the Kiwi's only chance was to launch a spoiling attack. So he leapt out of his trench and attacked. As he advanced through the Turkish fire he found a disabled machine gun with a wounded crewman in a patch of dead ground. He quickly brought the Vickers into action, armed with his rifle and with the wounded man on the belt fed, together they fought the Turks off for several hours until a relief force could be moved into position. For these actions and those at the Apex Wallingford was awarded the Military Cross.
As a machine gun officer he was responsible for positioning those weapons at the Apex. On 10th of August 1915 when the Turks attacked, Wallingfords machine guns were arrayed to fire across the Turks line of advance. "When they got to a point which was the perfect enfilade, we let the poor beggars have it. It was such a sight as I had dreamt of, but never expected to see. When they arrived in the ‘death zone’ they went down and never rose, and line upon line followed them. It was magnificent on their part. There were about 150 in each line." It's estimated that in that 30 minutes of continuous firing the Turks lost around 5,000 men.
His citation for the Military Cross states: "On 25th and 26th April, 1915, during operations near Gaba Tepe, for exceptionally good service with the New Zealand Brigade machine-gun and sharpshooters, and for conspicuous coolness and resource on several critical occasions."
The action for which he received the award were recorded in The Auckland Regiment by OE Burn in 1922:
On the afternoon of the 27th, Wallingford greatly distinguished himself. The position above Walker's was obscure, doubtful and dangerous. Arriving on the scene, he found that the casualties had been very heavy, that the Turks had obtained complete superiority of fire and were apparently massing, ready to storm over the disheartened few who were still holding on. No one was in charge. In perilous times the boldest measures are always the best. Wallingford saw that to attack, to get on the offensive, was the only thing that could save the situation. He told the men around that he was going forward. It seemed certain death, but he made the venture, not knowing whether any would follow. Twenty yards for-ward, thirty yards—and the Turkish fire was very hot for-ward still, and then down in a little patch of partially dead ground. Here, between the lines was a machine-gun. It was jammed and out of order; belt and spare parts were lying around in confusion. The crew had been killed, with the exception of Preston, who, wounded as he was, stayed by his gun, although he could not put it to rights. For the master gunner it was but a moment's work, and the gun was rattling away, "Rat-tat-tat, rat-tat-tat," and the Turks who were a moment ago insolently showing themselves were shot down. For hours Wallingford and Preston held on, despite every effort of the Turks to dislodge them. The deadly rifle of the great marksman, and the still more deadly bursts of machine-gun fire made short work of any venturesome Turks who dared to show themselves. Their fire slackened. Then the worn-out men behind took fresh courage, and came round the machine-gun. The position was once more secure. It was characteristic of Captain Wallingford that his next business was to get the wounded clear. With the exception of Dr. Craig, no man was ever keener on salvaging the poor broken sufferers on the battlefield than this fighting soldier, of whom it is literally true to say that, like Saul of old, "he had slain his thousands." In those early critical days the fiery enthusiasm, the tireless energy, the stark valour of this man were invaluable. It was he "who gave us the courage."
And at The Apex, Gallipoli 10 August 1915:
As darkness fell on the 9th, the hope of victory had almost vanished. If the remnant of the crest of Chunuk could still be held...first it was necessary to obtain more men and more ammunition. It was now four days since the beginning of the struggle. The Turks had called up all their reserves. Thousands had crossed from Asia, and other thousands had come down from Bulair. All night they were massing behind Sari Bair, and on the morning of the 10th the whole mass was in motion, moving with the power of an avalanche and the speed of a landslide.... The Turks came on. The hill-side was brown with their charging battalions.... For a moment it seemed that no power on earth could stop the moving mass, but the target they made was a good one. Aucklanders on Cheshire Ridge were firing—firing as fast as they could load and fire—and with them now were the Fifth Reinforcements. The Turks came on, three hundred men in a line, and twenty lines, following at a little space one behind the other. … Wallingford had ten machine-guns in action....They were trained across the line of the Turkish advance. The men behind, cool and resolute, set up a zone of death. The first line of Turks charged into it and went down to a man. The next line melted away on the same spot. But still they came on, line after line, and the leaden sweep reaped them in swathes. No hesitation; no faltering; the last line charged on with the same high courage. They also fall.
Captain Wallingford "I have stated they were 20 yards distance at one pace intervals and the lines were 300yards long and that we were firing for 30 minutes, the last line arriving and suffering in the death zone exactly similar to the first it has been stated that thousands came down and hundreds walked back. None walked back. A fair number crawled back but in no case did the guns molest them. I gave permission to shoot any that may walk but it was unnecessary as the only men to move crawled" and estimated that 5,000 Turks were killed in the charge. (Stowers, Richard, Bloody Gallipoli: The New Zealanders' Story. David Bateman: Auckland, 2005)
New Zealand Army Officers, Major Levin, Captain Wallingford, Major Powles, and Major king, Gallipoli, 1915.
Wallingford also distinguished himself dealing with Turkish snipers. He would briefly expose himself to enemy fire, and using his knowledge of musketry pinpoint the snipers position. Once he'd spotted the snipers hiding place he would kill them with rapid, accurate, rifle fire. One time Wallingford spotted a nearby bush acting suspiciously, 60 yards from the Kiwi trenches. Wallingford hefted his service revolver and said "I think we'll give him a chance!" killing the Turk with a single shot.
A Poverty Bay Herald article on 16 September 1915 stated:
"On another occasion Captain Wallingford played one of his practical jokes on the Turks in the opposing trenches. "I think "we'll make the beggars waste some ammunition presently", he said. Then he passed the word that when he shouted an order the company was to fire five rounds rapid, and then stop. As the narrator tells: 'We fired our five rounds rapid in five seconds or so, and they kept on firing for an hour and a-quarter expecting us to attack. We stayed snug in our trench of course. Afterwards Captain Wallingford said 'I guess" we've got more ammunition left than they aye' This joke was practised very often with good effect in the first months, but now the Turk is more wary, and probably ammunition is more scarce."
Captain Wallingford was invalided back to NZ with a heart problem. In a letter to his parents sent from Raseltin hospital, Captain Wallingford mentions. —
“I tried to stick to it, but for 14 days after we had beaten off the Turks I was crawling round my guns with a stick. I got home with a revolver, killing four, one at a foot, another at five feet, a third at ten feet, and the last at 20 yards. The poor devils were all youngsters. I am sick of killing with the rifle.”
In another letter from Raseltin to a friend in Christchurch, Captain Wallingford writes. —
“looking about 600 yards away we saw the Turks going down the slope in beautiful lines, and from 3000 to 5000. While the, guns were ranging, they were coming down, and when they got to a point which was a perfect enfilade we let the poor beggars have it. It was such s sight as I had dreamt of, but never expected to see. When they arrived into the death zone they went down and never rose, and line upon line followed them. It was magnificent on their part. There were about 1500 in each line. You will notice that Ashmead Bartlett gives the Navy and the Artillery part share in the credit. They didn’t see it. The New Zealand Infantry guns did the trick. I am proud of being a New Zealander, and consider we are second to none— that is the Mounted Rifles and Infantry— but of course there are many weak points, and we are likely to go down hill if we are going to exist on our name. As riflemen I have nothing to complain of. We can always raise parties of snipers— not snipers in name only. Now I don't see why every man in New Zealand should not be graded as a sniper.”
Suffering from a strained heart, Captain Wallingford wasn't considered fit for routine work. He was struck off the strength of NZEF his rank reverting to Lieutenant, standard practice of the time. He served out the war in various training positions. He continued to serve and after the war Wallingford held various staff and training posts, he retired in August 1927 with the rank of Major. From March 1929 to 1941 he was Superintendent of the Mount Roskill Veterans Home.
On the 6th June 1944 in his 73rd year Major Wallingford the Prince of Riflemen died in Auckland.