Imperial soldiers? : The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade in Sinai and Palestine 1916-1919

by D John Milnes

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Record ID: 1303883
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5011


New Zealanders served in large numbers in three campaigns during the Great War of 1914-1918. Much has been written by historians, both past and present, about the experiences of the soldiers in two of these campaigns: Gallipoli and the Western Front. The third of these campaigns, Sinai and Palestine, is perhaps the least well known of New Zealand's Great War war efforts, but probably the most successful. This thesis is an investigation of how Imperial the New Zealanders who served in the Mounted Rifles brigade were. By this it is meant; were the soldiers characteristic of the British Empire, its institutions, and its ethos? Or were they different, reflecting distinctly New Zealand ideals and institutions? Central to this investigation were the views and opinions held by the New Zealand soldiers who served in the Mounted Rifles brigade in Sinai and Palestine from 1916-1919 regarding the British Empire. Several areas have been identified to provide the necessary information - how the soldiers fought in Sinai-Palestine, what they thought of different cultures and ethnicities, their opinion of the British Empire, their pastimes, and the soldier myth of New Zealand and its origins. In each of these areas, comparisons have been drawn with other Imperial formations in the theatre, notably units from the United Kingdom and Australia. These five key areas have provided clear answers to the question of how Imperial the soldiers were. It is demonstrable from the evidence presented and conclusions reached that the soldiers of the Mounted Rifles were Imperial soldiers, shaped and reflecting the institutions and ethos of the British Empire. They thought and acted similarly to the English and Australian soldiers in almost all areas examined. Where evidence could be found about other British Empire formations, such as the Sikhs and the British West Indians, it is also evident that the New Zealanders acted similarly to them. In their conscious thoughts and actions, it is evident that the Mounted Rifles acted in accordance with many of the British Empire's institutions and its ethos, once more indicating an Imperial connection. Some areas investigated, such as the New Zealand soldier mythology, upheld as distinctly New Zealand, have been demonstrated to be linked to an Empire wide colonial mythology, evolved from an English root, and owing itself to New Zealand's participation in the British Empire. The Imperial mentality of the Mounted Rifles was present in almost everything they did, and it seems certain that they were characteristic of the British Empire.