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From the age of 12 all males in New Zealand received military training. In 1911 New Zealand formed a 25,000, part-time national militia. Most of the men who volunteered to join the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in August 1914 came from this Territorial Army.
Under the command of General Godley, the NZEF joined with the Australian Imperial Force in Australia. The two forces were sent to Egypt for training with British weapons. It was decided to put Australian and New Zealand forces together to form the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Some were used to defend Suez but most of them were sent to the Gallipoli Front. The ANZACs suffered over 33,600 losses (over one-third killed) by the time they were ordered to withdraw in January 1916. The New Zealand troops were then transferred to the Western Front in France.
During the First World War over 124,000 New Zealanders, almost 10 per cent of the population, joined the army. Of these, 100,000 served overseas and the high percentage who served on the front-line is reflected in the fact that they suffered 58,000 casualties, including 17,000 men killed.
New Zealand Expeditionary Force
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was the title of the military forces sent from New Zealand to fight alongside other British Empire and Dominion troops during World War I (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945). Ultimately, the NZEF of World War I became known as the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The NZEF of World War II was known as the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF).
The 2NZEF was led by General Bernard Freyberg.
1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was the title of the military forces sent from New Zealand to fight for Britain during World War I. Upon the outbreak of war, New Zealand immediately offered to provide two brigades—one of infantry and one of mounted troops—with a total of 8,500 men. As was the case with the Australian army the existing New Zealand army was a "territorial" force, designed for the defense of the home islands. It could not be deployed overseas. Hence, it was necessary to form a volunteer "expeditionary" force. The initial contingent of the NZEF, known as the "Main Body," sailed on 16 October 1914 for Australia and then joined with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in a convoy that sailed for Egypt on 1 November. The NZEF and AIF convoy was originally bound for Britain but diverted en route to Egypt because of the state of the training camps in England. As a result, the troops were dressed in woolen uniforms for the British climate. On 2 December the convoy reached Alexandria after passing through the Suez Canal. Disembarking the troops traveled by train for Cairo, bivouacking in tent camps within sight of the Pyramids.
The NZEF was commanded throughout the war by Major General Alexander Godley, a British Army officer who in 1910, on the recommendation of Lord Kitchener, had been appointed as the commander of the New Zealand Military Forces. After Godley departed with the NZEF in October 1914, Major General Alfred William Robin commanded the New Zealand Military Forces at home throughout the war as commandant, and was pivotal in ensuring the ongoing provision of reinforcements and support to the NZEF. 
Major General George Napier Johnston CB CMG DSO (1867–1947) served with New Zealand forces during World War I as director of ordnance and commander of permanent artillery in the New Zealand Defence Force from the outset of World War I during 1914–1918.
New Zealand, like Australia, had a pre-war policy of compulsory military training, but, like Australia, New Zealand's Territorial Army could not be deployed overseas. Thus, the NZEF was initially composed solely of volunteers. Conscription was introduced on 1 August 1916 and by the end of the war 124,000 men—nearly half the eligible male population of 250,000—had served with the NZEF. Of these, about 100,000 had been sent overseas.
The NZEF was closely tied to the AIF for much of the war. When the Gallipoli campaign began, the New Zealand contingent was insufficient to complete a division of their own, so it was combined with the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade to form the New Zealand and Australian Division under the command of General Godley. This division, along with the Australian 1st Division, formed the famous Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) under the command of General William Birdwood.
After the end of the Gallipoli campaign, the NZEF formed its own infantry division, the New Zealand Division, which served on the Western Front for the rest of the war. General Godley was promoted to a corps command and given II ANZAC Corps, which contained the New Zealand Division. From 1916 until the formation of the Australian Corps in 1918 (made up of the five Australian divisions) there were always two "ANZAC" corps—I ANZAC Corps and II ANZAC Corps—despite the fact that there was only one New Zealand Division. During early 1916 the New Zealand Government supported the formation of an Australian and New Zealand Army, but this did not occur.
The mounted arm of the NZEF was the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. The brigade remained in Egypt and, combined with the 1st and 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigades, made up the ANZAC Mounted Division which served through the Sinai and Palestine campaign.
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (later called the 1st NZEF) was finally disbanded on 31 December 1921.
- New Zealand Infantry Brigade
- Auckland Battalion: 4 Cos. raised from 3rd (Auckland), 6th (Hauraki), 15th (North Auckland), and 16th (Waikato) Territorial Regiments
- Canterbury Battalion: 4 Cos. raised from 1st (Canterbury), 2nd (South Canterbury), 12th (Nelson), and 13th (North Canterbury and Westland) Territorial Regiments
- Otago Battalion: 4 Cos. raised from 4th (Otago), 8th (Southland), 10th (North Otago), and 14th (South Otago) Territorial Regiments
- Wellington Battalion: 4 Cos. raised from 7th (Wellington West Coast), 9th (Hawke's Bay), 11th (Taranaki), and 17th (Ruahine) Territorial Regiments
- 1st New Zealand Infantry Brigade Signal Co. (3 Sections)
- New Zealand Field Ambulance No. 1
- Auckland Mounted Rifles: 3 raised from these territorial regiments: 3rd (Auckland) Mounted Rifles, 4th (Waikato) Mounted Rifles, and 11th (North Auckland) Mounted Rifles
- Canterbury Mounted Rifles: 3 squadrons raised from these territorial regiments: 1st Mounted Rifles (Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry), 8th (South Canterbury) Mounted Rifles, and 10th (Nelson) Mounted Rifles
- Wellington Mounted Rifles: 3 squadrons raised from these territorial regiments: 2nd (Wellington West Coast), 6th (Manawatu), 9th (Wellington East Coast)
- New Zealand Engineers Field Troop
- New Zealand Mounted Signal Troop
- New Zealand Mounted Rifles Field Ambulance
- Otago Mounted Rifles: 3 squadrons raised from these territorial regiments: 5th (Otago Hussars), 7th (Southland), 12th (Otago)
- 1st Field Battery
- 2nd Field Battery
- 3rd Field Battery
- 1st Brigade Ammunition Column
2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force
At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the New Zealand Government declared war on Germany.  Within a few days, the government pronounced the assembly of what would be an Expeditionary Force, which become known as the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF), for service in the war.  After consulting with the British Government, it was decided to raise an infantry division.  This, the 2nd New Zealand Division, would be commanded by Major-General Bernard Freyberg, a British Army officer who had spent his early years in New Zealand and won a Victoria Cross in the First World War, ending it as a brigadier general, who had offered his services to the New Zealand Government. Freyberg would also be the commander of the 2NZEF. 
Service in Africa and Europe
The first echelon of 2NZEF Headquarters and a Brigade Group landed in Egypt in February 1940. The second echelon, also a Brigade Group, was diverted to Britain on Italy's entry into the war and did not reach Egypt until March 1941. The third echelon arrived in Egypt in September 1940 and concentration of the division was completed just before it was deployed to northern Greece in March 1941.
This force remained as part of the British Eighth Army to the end of World War II in 1945 during which it fought in the Battle of Greece (March–April 1941), the Battle of Crete (May), Operation Crusader (November–December), Minqar Qaim (June 1942), the First (July) and Second Battles of El Alamein (October–November), Libya and Tunisia (December–May 1943), the Sangro (October–December), the Battle of Monte Cassino (February–March 1944), the Central Italy (May–December), and the Adriatic Coast (April–May 1945). 
Under the command of Major-General William Stevens, the 2NZEF began demobilising in late 1945, a process that was largely completed by mid 1946.
Service in the Pacific
The 2NZEF also had a Pacific Section, which was initially responsible for the defence of Fiji. The basis for the Pacific Section was initially an infantry brigade—the 8th Infantry Brigade—which arrived on Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, in November 1940.  Following the entry of the Japanese Empire into the war, in early 1942, the 2NZEF contingent in Fiji was expanded to two brigades, and formally designated Pacific Section, 2NZEF.  Under the command of Major General Owen Mead, the Pacific Section was withdrawn from Fiji back to New Zealand when the United States 37th Division took over defence responsibility. 
The Pacific Section later became the 3rd Division, the main unit of the 2NZEF in the Pacific.  After of period of training in New Zealand, it fought in the Solomon Islands campaign during 1943–1944, participating in the Battles of Vella Lavella, the Treasury Islands and the Green Islands,  although never as a full division.
In early 1944, the New Zealand Government faced a manpower crisis caused by the demands of maintaining two divisions overseas while simultaneously maintaining agricultural and industrial production to meet the needs of the Allied countries. In order to cope with this crisis the New Zealand Government saw no option other than to disband one of the country's two infantry divisions. The decision to disband the 3rd Division was made after consulting with the British and United States Governments, who were of the view that the 2nd Division's contribution to the campaign in Italy was of greater importance than the 3rd Division's contribution in the Pacific. 
The 3rd Division was withdrawn to New Caledonia in June 1944 and returned to New Zealand in August. The Division was rapidly downsized and was formally disbanded on 20 October 1944. About 4,000 veterans of the 3rd NZ Division were dispatched to Italy to reinforce the 2nd Division with the remaining men of the division returning to civilian employment. 
3rd New Zealand Expeditionary Force
From 1950 onwards a division-sized force, reserves (Territorial Force) maintained by conscription, formed the principal striking force of the New Zealand Army. The division was alternatively known as 3NZEF.  It disbanded in 1961.
First World War Centenary print histories
A series of authoritative and accessible print histories on New Zealand and the First World War.
Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Massey University and the New Zealand Defence Force have joined forces to produce a series of authoritative and accessible print histories on New Zealand and the First World War.
The works in the Centenary History Programme will cover the major campaigns in Europe and the Middle East, New Zealanders’ contributions in the air and at sea, the experiences of soldiers at the front and civilians at home, the Māori war effort, and the war’s impact and legacy.
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force sets forth
When the Main Body and 1st Reinforcements of the NZEF departed from Wellington on 16 October 1914 they became the single largest group of New Zealanders ever to leave these shores.
Troops of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles boarding HMNZ Transport No.4 Tahiti
On 6 August, shortly after the First World War broke out, Britain accepted New Zealand’s offer of an expeditionary force of approximately 8000 men. When countrywide recruiting for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force’s (NZEF) ‘Main Body’ began on 8 August 1914, the response was overwhelming. Thousands of men eager to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives rushed to volunteer.
The Main Body (plus the 1st Reinforcements) was the largest single group of New Zealanders ever to leave these shores. About 8,500 men – and nearly 4,000 horses – sailed from Wellington on 16 October 1914. They were transported in 10 troopships, which the government had requisitioned from commercial shipping lines. Before they were loaded with men, horses, ammunition, equipment and supplies the ships were hurriedly repainted a uniform Admiralty grey – one ship was completely repainted in less than four days.
The numbers of men that left Wellington that day was significantly boosted by the addition of two Auckland troopships. These had been expected instead to meet the rest of the fleet in the Tasman Sea, but sailed with the Main Body from Wellington to avoid the threat posed by a squadron of German warships at large in the Pacific Ocean. The British and Japanese navies provided a naval escort to protect the troops on their voyage from Wellington to Albany, Australia, where they joined the ships carrying the Australian Imperial Force en route to Egypt.
The fleet of troopships which transported the Main Body of the NZEF and their escort in Wellington Harbour, 15 October 1914. Image courtesy of Matt Pomeroy.
Throughout August, in preparation for the departure of the Main Body, columns of volunteers marched through their home towns en route to the four regional mobilisation camps. Each of New Zealand’s four military districts had one camp where NZEF units were being formed and equipped. Auckland recruits were sent to Alexandra Park, those from the Wellington region made the trip to Awapuni Racecourse in Palmerston North, Canterbury’s volunteers went first to Addington Park then Sockburn Park in Christchurch, and those from Otago military district camped at Tahuna Park in Dunedin.
Before the troops departed for camps there were a series of farewells. There were personal farewells – where families said goodbye to their loved ones – as well as civic farewells in towns throughout the country. People lined the streets, waved flags and cheered on the troops as they set off. Family and friends gathered on railway station platforms for a last, anxious, farewell.
A mother says goodbye to her son, a sergeant in the NZEF Main Body. Image courtesy of Auckland War Memorial Museum. You can find a colourised version on our Facebook page.
Scene in Masterton on 10 August 1914, as the first Wairarapa volunteers left for training prior to going to war. Image courtesy of Wairarapa Archive.
Wairarapa locals farewell the Masterton Ambulance Corps from the Masterton railway station, August 1914. Image courtesy of Wairarapa Archives.
Otago Infantry Battalion march through Dunedin’s Octagon in September 1914. Image from the Otago Witness.
Each of the four military districts was responsible for raising a quarter of the Main Body force, and recruiting officers were initially spoilt for choice. New Zealand was well prepared to mobilise troops at the beginning of the war thanks to the creation of the Territorial Force in 1911, which used compulsory part-time training to create a 30,000-strong army. Almost half of the Main Body force were active Territorials. Only men aged between 20 and 40 were eligible to enlist in the Main Body, although underage and overage soldiers managed to slip through. Recruits had to be at least 162.5 cm tall, weigh 76 kg or less, and be physically fit. Medical rejection rates for 1914 averaged 25 percent.
On 23 September 1914, the NZEF battalions and regiments closed down their camps and boarded the transport ships waiting for them in Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. The plan was that the South Island troops would leave from Wellington with the Wellington troopships, and the Auckland transports from Auckland. The whole convoy was to rendezvous in the Tasman Sea before proceeding to Albany, Western Australia, to join up with the Australian Imperial Force.
Members of the Canterbury Mounted Rifles join those from the Canterbury Infantry Regiment on board H.M.N.Z. Transport No.4, Tahiti, and H.M.N.Z. Transport No.11, Athenic, at Lyttelton on 23 September 1914. Courtesy of Archives New Zealand (Archives Ref: AEGA 18982, PC4/1569)
HMS Philomel and HMNZ Transport No.12 Waimana berthed at Auckland in September 1914, shortly before making the trip to join the rest of the Main Body fleet. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. 1-W1582A.
The following day (24 September) the Canterbury and Otago ships made their way to Wellington and the Auckland ships set off towards North Cape. That evening, as the Auckland ships HMNZ Transport No.8 Star of India and HMNZ Transport No.12 Waimana steamed northwards with 2143 men and 891 horses on board, they were sent an urgent message ordering them to return to the Waitemata Harbour. Prime Minister William Massey was worried about the threat posed by the powerful warships of the German East Asia Squadron, which remained at large in the Pacific Ocean. Until a proper escort of Allied naval vessels could be provided, Massey would not allow the Main Body to leave New Zealand waters.
Captain Colvin Algie, of the Auckland Infantry Battalion, kept a diary while on board the Waimana. On 24 September he wrote:
There was much speculation as to our route from North Head but we were soon aware of one fact when we passed Tiri [Tiritiri Matangi Island] – we were not, as rumoured, going to Wellington. The colonel informed us at lunch that we were in more or less great danger for a few days until we pick up our full convoy…. About 9 pm we received a message to turn back with all speed to Auckland and many were the conjectures as to the reason when we heard the news.
His entry for the following day describes the confusion of the men when they realised they were heading back to Auckland:
This morning early we were inside Tiri again and with Rangitoto in sight. Most of the men were unaware of our having turned and could hardly believe their eyes when they recognised the landmarks. So far we have not learned the real reason but have now formed a good idea why we turned.
After Auckland’s false start, the other regions’ ships emptied their troops into camps around Wellington. The departure was delayed for three weeks until a ‘more powerful naval escort’ arrived in the form of the armoured cruiser HMS Minotaur and the Japanese battlecruiser IJN Ibuki. The Auckland ships were redirected to Wellington, where they arrived on 14 October.
At last, with a proper escort available, the Main Body was ready to depart for Albany. Men representing all regions of New Zealand embarked on their respective ships, which gathered in Wellington Harbour.
A typical embarkation scene in Wellington shortly before the departure of the Main Body. Courtesy of Archives New Zealand (Archives Ref: AAME 8106, 11/17/3, R20939655)
The Main Body left Wellington in one great fleet early in the morning of 16 October 1914. Along the city’s hilltops, lines of hardy Wellingtonians stood and watched as the convoy formed up at the harbour entrance.
Colonel George Malone, on board HMNZ Transport No.10 Arawa, wrote of the departure:
No noise, anchor got up quietly and each ship seemed to slip away and take up its place in line… A most impressive sight, grim but harmonious. All was grey bar men.
This event marks the only time in New Zealand’s history to date that so many men have gathered together and departed our shores with a singular purpose. Many of them would never see New Zealand again.
Researching with images
Rich visual depictions of the First World War can be found in photograph albums, sketchbooks, newspapers, illustrated magazines, letters, diaries, maps, cartoons and caricatures and studio portraits. Using them, you’ll find the official and unofficial visual records of the war.
Advertisement for Soldier's Kodak camera. Auckland Star, 20 September 1915.
Advances in photographic technology meant that the First World War was the first war to be widely photographed by its participants. From 1898 the company Eastman Kodak had introduced easy to operate portable, inexpensive cameras and film developing processes that were aimed at the mass consumer market. Defying orders not to take cameras to war, many soldiers and nurses created evocative records of life in the camps, hospitals and battlefields.
The bird’s eye view possible from an aeroplane meant that military on all sides increasingly relied on intelligence from aerial reconnaissance. Development of the Thornton Pickard aerial camera in 1915 and the Eastman Kodak aerial cameras used by United States Signal Corps in 1917 meant that map sketches and verbal reports were increasingly replaced by aerial photographs.
Searching for images
It can be challenging to narrow the many images down to images of specific events, people, and activities. When you’re searching, try keywords such as world war and then your specific subject such as Gallipoli, tanks, soldiers, Somme, food etc. For example, world war rations.
Getting too many results from the Second World War? Use the date filters on the left of the results page to limit your results to the 1910s. Not all images have firm dates, but this technique will remove the 1940s from your results.
Looking for a specific soldier?
Most individual soldiers have not been identified in our images. Where we do know the name or names of a soldier, this information has been added to the record so you can search by the name. If you can’t find your soldier by name, you could find out where they went (and when) and browse through the images to see if you can identify them in any of the photographs.
You may also find them by using the subject heading for their unit, and browsing through the images there.
Only a small percentage of our images are available online. If an image’s record page doesn’t show the picture, you’ll need to come into the Library reading rooms to view the album or negatives, or contact the Library to send you a scan or description. If you’re planning a visit to the Library to see heritage materials like this, it’s always a good idea to let us know in advance so that we can get the material ready for you.
To see the physical photographic prints, come to Alexander Turnbull Library Reading Rooms, on level one of our Wellington building.
Photographic Collections relating to the First World War
These collections have been selected to give you direct access to our most significant photographic collections relating to the First World War. They also demonstrate the variety of images available.
New Zealand officers in the trenches, May 1917. Ref: 1/4-009462-G.
Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association New Zealand Official Negatives World War 1914-1918
1828 negatives and four albums by official photographers Henry Armytage Sanders and Thomas Frederick Scales showing New Zealand forces in France, Belgium, British Isles, and Egypt. 1595 images are digitised.
The First World War albums
14 albums of official New Zealand First World War photographs taken by Henry Armytage Sanders, the Royal Air Force and unknown photographers during 1917-1918. Images show the NZEF in France and Belgium, tank warfare, Royal Flying Corps and other aviation service scenes, medical services, sport and recreation, views of the Western Front and Battle of Messines. Includes the Ramleh War Cemetery and Jerusalem War Cemetery 1927. Some images from these albums have been digitised.
The World War 1914-1918 Official H series Z1/6
One album of official NZ army photographs of the NZEF in France and Belgium taken by Henry Armytage Sanders 1917-1918. This album has not yet been digitised.
Photographs by Malcolm Ross of New Zealanders in the Great War, Maori, mountaineering, New Zealand scenery
Includes images of the arrival of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to Samoa in 1914. 82 images have been digitised.
Copy of a album containing photographs of some specimens of plastio facio-maxillary cases of the New Zealand section, Queen's Hospital, Sidcup, Kent, England
A copy of one album showing New Zealand soldiers with facial reconstructions performed by the New Zealand section at Queens Hospital, Kent, England circa 1918. This album has not been digitised.
Photographs of Agnes Elizabeth Lloyd Bennett 1900-1936
Collection focuses on Agnes Bennett’s medical career during the First World War including her work at a military hospital in Egypt 1915-1916, her command of the No 7 Unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service attached to the Serbian Army 1916-1917, and her work at a British military hospital and on troop ships in 1918. Nine images from the collection have been digitised.
A soldier’s experience of the Gallipoli campaign April to September 1915
Three albums of photographs compiled by George Gordon Denniston showing the life of a soldier leaving for war, the ocean voyage, camp life in Egypt and the Gallipoli campaign April to September 1915. One album features copies of official WW1 photos 1917-1918 taken by Sanders. 93 of these images have been digitised.
Artists who created images of the First World War
Sketches and other artworks were an important way that participants documented their war experience and the experience of those around them. Most soldier’s diaries or letters include a sketch or two. These established artists created a body of work that incorporates a wide variety of perspectives on the First World War.
Corporal James O’Grady was in the Otago Infantry Regiment, E Company. We hold two sketchbooks (reference: E-919/920) of over 100 sketches of trench warfare and effects of war from the point of view of a New Zealand soldier in Belgium 1918-1919. These sketches are available online.
Francis Ledingham McFarlane
McFarlane drew sketches and cartoons during service in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Palestine while serving with Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division.
Nugent Herrmann Welch
Welch was an artist who enlisted in March 1916. He was later to become a well known New Zealand landscape artist.
We hold a Welch sketchbook of watercolours and pencil drawings of WW1 scenes (Reference: E-940), showing leaving Fremantle, the Indian Ocean, Dakar in West Africa, Salisbury, England, Bapaume, France, the ship journey home through the Panama Canal, and scenes finally back in New Zealand. Many of the sketches are available online. We also hold some of his watercolours.
Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones
Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones was an artist and sapper with the NZ Engineers at Gallipoli. We have a small collection of his works.
Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones, Anzac Cove the historic landing-place, 1915. Ref: A-184-058.
Arthur John Lloyd
Lloyd was originally a Londoner. He spent three and a half years fighting with the NZ Expeditionary Force in the First World War, returning to New Zealand to live after the war. We hold two of his works.
Arthur John Lloyd, War-time desolation, ca 1916. Ref: A-176-028
William Frederick Bell
Bell was a New Zealand artist and cartoonist who served in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade in France. His caricatures of soldiers’ life in the trenches in France were published in the magazine Shell shocks.
William Frederick Bell, "A bakshee. Blighty at last!" 1916. Ref: A-222-011.
George Edmund Butler
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force
The New Zealand Division
Sinai and the Holy Land
New Zealanders in the Royal Flying Corps
A Massive and Costly War Effort
Submitted by admin on April 23, 2009 - 00:01
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force
In a rush of enthusiasm another expeditionary force intended for France was soon assembled, consisting in the end of the following:
A divisional headquarters.
The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment (divisional cavalry).
A mounted rifles brigade (Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury Regiments).
A field artillery brigade and brigade ammunition column.
An infantry brigade (Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago Battalions).
With supporting troops and reinforcements 8,427 men embarked, with 3,815 horses.* No nurses were included. The Main Body, as it was later called, under Major-General Godley was the largest single body of New Zealand troops ever to leave these shores. It sailed from Wellington in 10 transports on 16 October, linked with an even larger Australian contingent, and at sea was redirected to Egypt. A loss of 700–800 horses on the voyage had been predicted but only 77 died. Early in December the NZEF settled into camp at Zeitoun, near Cairo, and was soon joined by the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade, the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, and 240 New Zealanders from England. All combined to form the New Zealand and Australian Division to which the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade was added at the end of January 1915. Before this, however, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade had been sent post haste to meet a daring but easily repulsed Turkish thrust across the Sinai Desert. The Canterbury Battalion saw action in support of an Indian Brigade south of Ismailia on 3 February, frustrating repeated Turkish attempts to cross the Suez Canal by boat or pontoon. In so doing, a private was killed and a sergeant wounded, the first NZEF battle casualties. (*Over 10,000 horses all told were shipped for service in the NZEF.)
Page 2. Initial response
New Zealand’s first wartime task was to carry out a British request to seize the radio station in German Samoa, as part of an effort to neutralise German territories in the Pacific (Japan did the same to German territories north of the equator, and Australia to New Guinea). A 1,374-strong expeditionary force occupied German Samoa on 29 August 1914. Samoa remained under New Zealand military administration until 1920.
At the 1917 imperial conference William Massey claimed New Zealand was the first to capture German territory. In fact Togoland in west Africa had already been captured by British and French forces. At the conference the next year he said, ‘So far as risk is concerned, I would sooner have six months on the Western Front than that fortnight in shipping carrying troops from New Zealand to Samoa.’ 1 He was referring to the danger of attack from the German squadron in the Pacific. But in fact the squadron posed no threat to the ships in transit because it was always well to the north.
The New Zealand government also turned its attention to how the country might assist the broad imperial effort. Maintaining the flow of produce on which Britain depended was important. This home-front effort, which also assisted the New Zealand economy, was a major element in New Zealand’s contribution to the overall war effort. Under bulk purchase agreements Britain agreed to take most of New Zealand’s exports at fixed prices, a highly favourable outcome for New Zealand’s farmers.
A military force
New Zealand aimed to contribute to the military effort as well, as it had done in the South African War of 1899–1902. With a navy that comprised one decrepit cruiser, and no air force, New Zealand’s soldiers provided the only means of doing so. The Defence Act 1909, which established New Zealand’s Territorial Force, had prepared the way by introducing compulsory military training. New Zealand had sent mounted horsemen to South Africa, though on a small scale and New Zealand raised a mounted brigade in 1914. But infantry, the cheapest and most practical form of contribution, dominated the military force that New Zealand began creating in August 1914.
Based on the Territorial Force, the 8,454-strong New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was quickly assembled under the command of Alexander Godley, a British general on loan to New Zealand. It left New Zealand on 16 October 1914, the largest body of men (and horses) to leave New Zealand at any one time. The 10 troopships headed across the Tasman to link up with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Together they set out across the Indian Ocean bound for France to join the British Expeditionary Force that had been deployed there.
Among the NZEF troops there were some Māori, but Māori were generally excluded from the NZEF – the war was initially assumed to be a ‘white-man’s war’. Not until it became apparent that Indian troops would take part did the New Zealand government change tack. A Māori contingent followed the main body, going to Malta as garrison (guard) troops, and then on to Gallipoli. In all, 2,227 Māori served in the NZEF during the war.
Sustaining the NZEF required a steady flow of reinforcements. Men who volunteered for service trained for 14 weeks at Trentham, near Wellington, or at smaller camps elsewhere, and later at a major camp created at Featherston, in Wairarapa. Over the next four years 42 drafts, each roughly 2,000-strong, left New Zealand – approximately one every month.
How to apply for military service information
Enquiries about living former servicemen and women
If you cannot do this because the person concerned is unable to provide this authorisation, then we will need to receive a signed request from the person who holds the relevant ‘Power of Attorney’. We also require a copy of the Power of Attorney documents for verification purposes.
Enquiries about deceased former servicemen and women
Anyone can request the service records of deceased former service personnel, whether it is for a research project, your family history or your personal interest.
You can request a copy of a deceased person’s service record by completing the application form.
Please note that if the person concerned died after leaving the services this fact may not be recorded on their file. In such cases you will need to send us some form of evidence that they are deceased. This could be a copy of a death certificate, newspaper death notice, funeral service sheet or photograph of the headstone. It will save time if you send us this information with your initial request.
Please do not provide any payment up front. We will advise if charges are applicable for the services that you have requested prior to finalizing your request. Internet banking and credit card (Visa or MasterCard) payments are accepted.
Reproducing large files may attract a fee of $28 per file and replacing medals will be on-charged at cost.
All the material we hold is protected by copyright and copies are supplied on the understanding that they are for personal research purposes or private study only. NZDF copyright permission is required before this material can be used for any other reason.
Making a request
To help our records staff find the correct files, it is important to include as much information as possible in your application about the person or persons who you want to find out about. Additional information you might want to include is:
- Navy / Army / Air Force
- Period of Service / years served
- Regiment / battalion / unit
- Next-of-kin at time of enlistment
- Address at time of enlistment
- Occupation at time of enlistment
- (If deceased) date of death, and if they died after leaving the Service you should send us some form of “proof of death”. This could be a copy of a death certificate, newspaper death notice, funeral service sheet or photograph of the headstone.
Don’t worry if you cannot provide all of this information, but please try to tell us as much as you can.
NZDF Personnel Archives & Medals
Trentham Military Camp
Private Bag 905
Upper Hutt 5140
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Viewing Original Files
If you’d like to see the original files you should complete an application form for each file you wish to view. Once the files have been pulled one of our staff will contact you to make a booking to view the file(s) in our reading room which is inside Trentham Military Camp. Our staff will be on hand to provide advice and to help you decode the sometimes complex information to be found in the files. We also hold a small library of reference books that may help you in your research.
Opening times are: Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm, excluding public holidays.
Please note that bookings are subject to availability and must be made at least five working days in advance of your intended visit.
Use of the reading room is free but photocopying charges will apply.
Photocopying Charge: 20c per A4 sheet
Travelling North along Fergusson Drive in Upper Hutt, turn right at the lights into Sutherland Ave and then continue over the railway into Messines Ave. The Trentham Camp entrance is the third turn to the left.
New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the First World War - History
NEW ZEALAND AND WORLD WAR ONE
NEW ZEALAND SCHOOL PLEDGE - "The Great War proved that thousands of our brave New Zealand soldiers thought this beautiful land of ours was worth dying for. We are too young to do as they did, but we pledge ourselves, so to live, that when our hour of trial shall come we shall not be found wanting. We salute those who gave their lives that we might live in peace and security."
NEW ZEALAND EXPEDITIONARY FORCE REGIMENTAL NUMBERS- WORLD WAR ONE*
1 Samoan Advance 14 Army Service Corps Divisional Train 2 Artillery 15 Headquarters 3 NZ Medical Corps 16 Maori Infantry 4 Engineers 17 Veterinary Corps 5 Army Service Corps 18 Chaplains Department 6 Canterbury Infantry 19 Samoan Relief Infantry 7 Canterbury Mounted Rifles 20 Samoan Relief Mounted 8 Otago Infantry 21 Pay Department 9 Otago Mounted Rifles 22 Nursing Department 10 Wellington Infantry 23 1st Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade 11 Wellington Mounted Rifles 24 2nd Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade 12 Auckland Infantry 25 3rd Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade 13 Auckland Mounted Rifles 26 4th Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade
* - Please note this system of numbering was only used until the formation of the 10th Reinforcements as it was found the system too confusing when personnel were moving between units.
My favourite World War One photo. My husbands grandfather John Walker Alexander #20278 is the tall one in the centre of the back row.
This will be at either 1st NZ General Hospital, Brockenhurst or NZ Convalescent Hospital, Hornchurch in September or October 1917.
OTAGO DAILY TIMES 11 JULY 1917 [and 11 July 2017]
Sir James Allen [Minister of Defence] gave the number of men in the New Zealand army. The original body sent to Samoa was 1955, and the men sent to the front numbered 74,000, but that did not include the British section, numbering 240. The New Zealanders who had joined the Royal Flying Corps numbered 18, the Royal Naval Auxiliary Patrol 190, Imperial Reservists 211, naval ranks and ratings 190, H.M.S. Philomel 159, guards for German prisoners 2, and nurses 435. In addition there were 9024 men in training, making a grand total of 86,402. It would in all probability take another three or four months before we would have sent away those reinforcements, and the number supplied rose to 86,000. We originally sent away a Maori draft of 500 men, and since then we had sent 1757. Rarotonga had sent away 161 men. Over 400 men had been sent away for tunnelling purposes and 63 wireless men had done splendid work in Mesopotamia. Already 10,547 men had returned [sick and wounded]. Of those 8573 had been discharged, and no less than 1238 had been restored to health and strength and had gone back to the front to fight again. Up to July 23 some 26,000 men had suffered casualties, and of that total 7500 would never see New Zealand again. One hundred men were missing, 71 were prisoners of war, and 18,879 were wounded.
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New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the First World War - History
Abstract: This thesis examines the origins, selection process, training, promotion and general performance, at battalion and regimental level, of combat officers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces of the First and Second World Wars. These were easily the greatest armed conflicts in the country&rsquos history. Through a prosopographical analysis of data obtained from personnel records and established databases, along with evidence from diaries, letters, biographies and interviews, comparisons are made not only between the experiences of those New Zealand officers who served in the Great War and those who served in the Second World War, but also with the officers of other British Empire forces. During both wars New Zealand soldiers were generally led by competent and capable combat officers at all levels of command, from leading a platoon or troop through to command of a whole battalion or regiment. What makes this so remarkable was that the majority of these officers were citizen-soldiers who had mostly volunteered or had been conscripted to serve overseas. With only limited training before embarking for war, most of them became efficient and effective combat leaders through experiencing battle. Not all reached the required standard and those who did not were replaced to ensure a high level of performance was maintained within the combat units. Casualties were heavy among the battalion officers, especially with platoon commanders. The constant need for replacements during both wars led to the promotion of experienced non-commissioned officers from the ranks who had proven their leadership abilities in the turmoil of fighting on the front line. Such measures further enhanced the performance of the New Zealand divisions, where a team ethos, reflective of the character of New Zealand society, was embraced. The opportunities for promotion on merit at all levels, regardless of previous civilian social class or occupation, provided a sense of egalitarianism seldom found in professional military forces. This, together with the familiarity between the officers and other ranks within the regional-based infantry battalions that formed the foundations of the forces, led to a preferred style of leadership that the New Zealanders responded well to. It was these officers who provided this leadership in the cauldron of battle who helped forge the expeditionary forces into elite fighting formations.