Bill Leadley was born in Yorkshire and emigrated to Christchurch in 1911. Before the war he worked as a telegraphist and enlisted when war broke out in August 1914. With his expert knowledge of Morse code and semaphore, he became a signaller with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion, he landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. Leadley was shipped south in early May with the New Zealand Infantry Brigade to take part in an attempt to break the stalemate that had developed at Cape Helles. He had to carry all his own signalling gear, which included lamps, flags, stationery, telescopes, field glasses and heliographs – a wireless solar telegraph.
We then sailed for Cape Helles, at the extreme end of the Gallipoli peninsula, where we landed about 5 a.m. on 6 May. The signalling gear that each man had to carry in addition to pack and rifle was a bit of a strain, but the boys stuck it very well indeed.
Leadley and his brigade went into action in the Second Battle of Krithia – a series of unsuccessful daylight attacks on the Ottoman trenches near the town of Krithia. The New Zealanders had little time to prepare for the attacks and it was a disaster. As well as having to carry heavy gear, Leadley was probably suffering the effects of malnutrition; his dentures had broken so he could not eat solid food.
We pushed forward into the firing line, loaded up with signalling gear. I was feeling the effects of poor feeding and had to drop out for a spell I was so weak. Bullets were whizzing past me and I wished that one would hit me – I was so deadbeat.
The New Zealanders attacked behind a weak artillery barrage, charging across the Daisy Patch – an open patch of scrubby land where daises grew – right into Ottoman machine gun and rifle fire.
I watched the 12th Nelson Company make an advance over open country called the Daisy Patch. There was absolutely no cover for them. They lost their commanding officer and several men were casualties. Our turn to go across came next, and we went over the top in good order, with the best of luck. At once we were greeted with a terrible fusillade of rifle and machine gun fire which was deadly. The man on my right had his brains shot out into his face, and the man on my left was shot through the stomach.
Bill Leadley managed to make it across the Daisy Patch unharmed, and found cover in a nearby riverbed. He took part in a second attack later that day.
We lost over 200 men in this attack. I managed to come through safely once more, but it was a miracle I was not hit as men were falling all around me.
During this advance, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade suffered 835 casualties and gained little ground, an experience repeated all along the Allied line. When the attack was finally called off after two days of fighting, the Allies had lost over 6500 men either killed or wounded and had gained just 500 metres. In September 1916, Leadley was sent to the Western Front where he was badly wounded. From 1938, he was national secretary for the Disabled Servicemen’s Civil Re-establishment League. He died in 1970.