Military History Of New Zealand In World War I  

When Britain declared war against Germany, the government of New Zealand had no hesitation whatsoever in joining the war even though they were completely isolated from the rest of the world in terms of geography.

A total number of 103,000 soldiers and nurses took part in World War I. This was a feat considering that the population of the country was just a little bit over one million. Around 16,697 soldiers died and another 41,317 were injured and wounded. New Zealand had a casualty rate of fifty-eight percent in World War I. This was the highest casualty rate among all countries that took part in the war.

World War I was also the first time that Maori soldiers were allowed to serve alongside the New Zealand army. A contingent of Maori soldiers took part in the Battle of Gallipoli and then served at the Western Front in the New Zealand Maori Pioneer Battalion. Some 2,688 Maori soldiers took part in World War I along with 346 Pacific Islanders.

The moment New Zealand joined World War I, it dispatched a force to capture and occupy German Samoa. The New Zealand force comprised of 1,413 soldiers and 6 nurses. On 29th August 1914, the New Zealanders landed at Apia, but initially the German forces refused to surrender. But the German soldiers stationed there did not offer resistance and this allowed New Zealand to capture German Samoa without firing a single bullet.

Then, in October 1914, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force set sail for Europe, but they were diverted to Egypt. There the force helped the British to repel the Ottoman army attacking the Suez Canal. This took place in February 1915. The soldiers then stayed back in Egypt to get trained along with the Australian soldiers.

On 19th February 1915, the New Zealand soldiers, who formed the New Zealand and Australian Division, docked at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli. Here the soldiers fought the Battle of Gallipoli under the command of General Alexander Godley. The combined forces then moved forward to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

The New Zealand soldiers fought bravely at Anzac, but sustained heavy losses. Around 2,721 New Zealand soldiers died and another 4,852 were injured. And, the Allied forces were forced to leave Gallipoli in December 1915 which came as a shock to the people of New Zealand.

However, the New Zealand Rifle Brigade made it to Egypt in November 1915 and helped in overcoming the Senussi invasion launched by Libya. By middle of February 1916, the brigade rejoined the remaining British Expeditionary Force at the Suez Canal. The New Zealand and Australian Division then set sail for France in the month of April 1916.

The New Zealand Division was sent to the Western Front on arrival to France and there it took part in the Battle of the Somme. The New Zealanders manage to advance 3 kilometers by October 4, 1916 and capture around 8 kilometers of the German front line. However, they ended up with 7,048 casualties, including 1,500 dead.

The biggest success for the New Zealand Division came in the month of June 1917 when they stormed the Messines Ridge and captured Messinas. The New Zealanders then went on to take part in the Battle of Passchendaele in the month of October 1917. Two brigades of the New Zealand Division managed to stop an attack from the German forces and the artillery fire from the Division caused many German soldiers to die. However, then rain began to fall, and this proved to be disastrous for the Division. The soldiers spent the rainy night in a morass and the following morning when the battle began, many of them were killed by shells or the barbed wires. But the Division still managed to gain a few hundred yards of territory at the cost of 640 dead soldiers and 2,100 wounded soldiers.

In the year 1918, when the Germans started their Spring Offensive, the New Zealanders were sent to fight in the First Battle of the Somme. Initially, the Division was at a loss, but soon managed to gain a upper hand and stabilize the British front line. A year later, the Division took part in open country fighting and was extremely successful.

The last battle that the New Zealand Division took part in World War I was capturing the town of Le Quesnoy on November 4th 1918. This was their most successful fight at the Western Front.

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Military History Of New Zealand In World War I




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