NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

New Zealand and the First World War

An overview timeline of key events relating to New Zealand's participation in the First World War, 1914-1919.

Dates Event
1914 28 Jun 1914

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo triggers the build-up to the First World War.

Read more on Te Ara



Image: Gavrilo Princip assassinates Franz Ferdinand, 1914
Wikipedia
  4 Aug 1914

Britain declares war on Germany

New Zealand receives the news of the outbreak of war at 1 p.m. on 5 August (NZ time). It is announced by the Governor, the Earl of Liverpool, on the steps of Parliament to a crowd of 15,000.

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Evening Post, 5 August 1914, pg. 8

Image: Evening Post, 5 August 1914, pg. 8
PapersPast, National Library of New Zealand
  29 Aug 1914

New Zealand forces capture German Samoa

A 1374-strong 'Advance Party NZEF' captures German Samoa, the second German territory, after Togoland in Africa, to fall to Allied forces during the war.

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NZ troops land in Samoa, Malcolm Ross (1914)

Image: NZ troops land in Samoa, Malcolm Ross, August 1914
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, PA1-q-107-29-2
  16 Sep 1914

Maori Contingent formed

Government announces the formation of a 'Maori Contingent' of 200 men for service with the NZEF. This is expanded to 500 at the suggestion of the British War Office.

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The spirit of his fathers', William Blomfield (1915)

Image: The spirit of his fathers, William Blomfield, 1915
Alexander Turnbull Library, A-312-1-088
  16 Oct 1914

NZEF Main Body departs

The NZEF Main Body, consisting of 8454 soldiers and about 3000 horses, departs Wellington in 10 troopships. They arrive in Egypt on 3 December and establish a camp at Zeitoun, near Cairo.

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Sad farewells

Image: Embarking at Lyttelton, George Cook, 1914.
Auckland War Memorial Museum. Album 406/1 p.39 n.1

  02 Nov 1914

Ottoman Empire enters the war

Russia declares war on the Ottoman Empire, an ally of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires. The British Empire (including New Zealand) and France declare war on the Ottoman Empire on 5 November.

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Ottoman war medal

Image: Ottoman war medal
National Army Museum, 1983.953
  8 Dec 1914

ANZAC name introduced

The NZEF combines with Australian Imperial Force units to form the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC is adopted as the label for Australian or New Zealand soldiers following the Gallipoli landings.

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Remember Anzac' Christmas card

Image: Remember ANZAC Christmas card
Alexander Turnbull Library, Eph-A-WAR-WI-1916-02-front
1915 3 Feb 1915

NZ soldiers see first combat

New Zealand soldiers see first combat of the war when they help defend the Suez Canal from an attack by Ottoman troops. Private William Ham, severely wounded during the fighting, becomes the NZEF's first combat fatality two days later.

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William Ham (photo courtesy of Lisa Ham)

Image: William Ham (photo courtesy of Lisa Ham)
Auckland War Memorial Museum
  25 Apr 1915 - 1 May 1915

Gallipoli landings

The ANZAC land near Ari Burnu at what has become known as Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula of Turkey. The first New Zealand troops land in the late morning.

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The landing at Anzac by Charles Dixon, 1915
Image: The landing at Anzac by Charles Dixon, 1915
Archives New Zealand, AAAC 898 NCWA Q388
  5 May 1915 - 8 May 1915

Second Battle of Krithia

The New Zealand Brigade deploys south to Cape Helles, Gallipoli and takes part in a series of unsuccessful attacks toward the village of Krithia on the slopes of Achi Baba. They suffer over 800 casualties.

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Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, 13 July 1915, pg. 7

Image: Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, 13 July 1915, pg. 7
PapersPast, National Library of New Zealand
  8 Aug 1915

NZ troops capture Chunuk Bair

The Wellington Battalion captures the Chunuk Bair summit during the Battle of Sari Bair. New Zealand units hold the summit for two days until relieved by British troops on the night of 9-10 August. Chunuk Bair is recaptured by the Turks the next day.

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The battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915 by Major Ion George Brown

Image: The battle of Chunuk Bair, 8 August 1915 by Major Ion George Brown
NZ Parliament
  12 Aug 1915

National coalition government takes office

The Reform and Liberal parties join together to form a National government under the leadership of Prime Minister William Massey and Sir Joseph Ward. The coalition lasts until August 1919.

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'The new choirmaster' by Trevor Lloyd

Image: 'The new choirmaster' by Trevor Lloyd
Alexander Turnbull Library, C-109-038
  15 Dec 1915 - 20 Dec 1915

Evacuations from Gallipoli

Authorities in London decide to withdraw from the Gallipoli peninsula. New Zealand troops are evacuated from the Anzac area between 15 and 20 December. The campaign has cost New Zealand nearly 7500 casualties, including 2721 dead.

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NZ troops evacuating from Gallipoli

Image: NZ troops evacuating from Gallipoli
Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/4-008784-F
1916 1 Mar 1916

New Zealand Division formed

The New Zealand Division is formed with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd (Rifle) brigades. Major-General Sir Andrew Russell is given command. The division is sent to the Western Front and arrives in France from Egypt in April 1916.

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Major General Sir Andrew H. Russell, George Edmund Butler

Image: Major General Sir Andrew H. Russell, George Edmund Butler
Archives New Zealand, AAAC 898 125/NCWA 543
  16 March 1916

NZ Tunnelling Company joins underground war

The New Zealand Division is formed with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd (Rifle) brigades. Major-General Sir Andrew Russell is given command. The division is sent to the Western Front and arrives in France from Egypt in April 1916.

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Men of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company below the ground at La Fosse Farm

Image: Men of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company below the ground at La Fosse Farm
Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-012990-G
  25 Apr 1916

First Anzac Day service

First Anzac Day services are held in New Zealand to mark the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. The government had announced the establishment of 'Anzac Day' as a half-day holiday on 5 April.

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Anzac Day, Petone, 1916. Albert Percy Godber.

Image: Anzac Day, Petone, 1916, by Albert Percy Godber
Alexander Turnbull Library, APG-059-1/2-G
  31 May 1916 - 1 Jun 1916

HMS New Zealand takes part in the Battle of Jutland

In 1909 New Zealand offered a battleship to Britain to help strengthen their naval fleet. The battle cruiser HMS New Zealand joined the British battle fleet in 1912 and took part in the Battle of Jutland (1916).

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HMS New Zealand, Gerald Maurice Burn, 1915

Image: HMS New Zealand, Gerald Maurice Burn, 1915
Archives New Zealand, AAAC 898 NCWA 539
  1 Aug 1916

Conscription introduced

Conscription is introduced in New Zealand by the Military Service Act. As a result 32,000 conscripts serve overseas with the NZEF alongside 72,000 volunteers. The first conscription ballot is held on 16 November 1916.

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Conscription poster

Image: Conscription poster, 1916
Alexander Turnbull Library,
Eph-D-WAR-WI-1916-01
  4 Aug 1916

Battle of Romani

Following Gallipoli, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade take part in campaigns against Ottoman forces in Sinai and Palestine, 1916-1918. They see their first major action near Romani in the Sinai.

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NZ mounted patrol near Romani

Image: NZ mounted patrol near Romani
National Army Museum, 2008.34
  15 Sep 1916

NZ Division goes into action on the Somme

The New Zealand Division takes part in its first major action near Flers during the Somme offensive (July-November 1916). Over the next 23 days, the division suffers 7000 casualties, including more than 1500 killed.

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In the trenches during Battle of the Somme

Image: In the trenches during Battle of the Somme
Archives New Zealand, IA 76/13, H474
1917 9 Jan 1917

Battle of Rafah

New Zealanders become the first Allied troops to cross into Ottoman Palestine. A charge by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade results in the capture of Rafah and its Ottoman garrison on the Sinai-Palestine border.

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Sinai campaign map

Image: Sinai campaign map
NZHistory
  7 Jun 1917 - 9 Jun 1917

Battle of Messines

The New Zealand Division takes all its objectives, including the village of Messines. The New Zealanders suffer 3700 casualties, including 700 killed during the battle.

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NZ artillery in action at Messines

Image: NZ artillery in action at Messines by Henry Armytage Sanders, 8 June 1917
Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/4-009465-G
  25 Jun 1917

German raider lays mines off NZ

The German armed merchant cruiser Wolf lays mines off the Three Kings Islands and off Farewell Spit two nights later. These mines sink the merchant ships Port Kembla (18 September 1917) and Wimmera (26 June 1918).

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The enemy at the gate', Observer, 20 Sept 1919

Image: The enemy at the gate', Observer, 20 Sept 1919
PapersPast, National Library of New Zealand
  4 Oct 1917

Third Battle of Ypres

New Zealand's 1st and 4th brigades take part in a successful attack on Gravenstafel Spur, which runs off Passchendaele ridge. The attack costs more than 320 New Zealand lives, including that of former All Black captain Dave Gallaher.

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David Gallaher's grave (photo courtesy of Susan McConnell)

Image: David Gallaher's grave (photo courtesy of Susan McConnell)
Donegal Genealogy Resources
  12 Oct 1917

New Zealand's blackest day

The 2nd and 3rd (Rifle) brigades suffer over 3700 casualties in a disastrous attack on Bellevue Spur, Passchendaele. About 960 men are left dead or dying.

Read more on NZHistory

Passchendaele scene

Image: Passchendaele scene
Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-C-003343-F
1918 26 Mar 1918 - 30 Mar 1918

Back to the Somme

A massed German attack on 21 March tears a hole in the British front. The New Zealand Division are among several units rushed to fill this gap near the Somme. They fight off several German attacks and hold their line.

Read more on Te Ara

NZ on the Somme, 1918

Image: NZ on the Somme, 1918
Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-013089-G
  23 Sep 1918

Last major action in the Middle East

New Zealand mounted troops help capture Es Salt and Amman (25 September) in Jordan.

Read more on NZHistory

Ottomon prisoners

Image: Detail from Turkish prisoner in Palestine, by Hans Hartmann
Alexander Turnbull Library, PAColl-5456-1-12-2
  29 Sep 1918 - 5 Oct 1918

Breaking through the Hindenburg Line

New Zealand troops help break through the Hindenburg Line - the main German defence system on the Western Front.

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Breaking of Hindenburg Line

Image: Breaking of Hindenburg Line
PapersPast, National Library of New Zealand
  31 Oct 1918

Ottoman Empire sues for peace

With her armies defeated, and her German ally on the verge of collapse, the Ottoman Empire seeks an armistice with the Allies. This comes into effect on 31 October.

Read more on NZHistory



Image: Ottoman Empire map
NZHistory
  4 Nov 1918

Liberation of Le Quesnoy

New Zealand troops liberate the walled town of Le Quesnoy, advancing 10km and capturing nearly 2000 prisoners in the process. This is the last major action of the war for the New Zealand Division.

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Capture of the walls of Le Quesnoy, 1920, George Edmund Butler

Image: Capture of the walls of Le Quesnoy, 1920, George Edmund Butler
Archives New Zealand, AAAC 898 125/NCWA 535
  11 Nov 1918

Armistice Day

Fighting on the Western Front stops when an armistice comes into effect at 11a.m.

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Armistice signed headline

Image: Armistice signed headline
PapersPast, National Library of New Zealand
  20 Dec 1918

Occupation duties

The New Zealand Division crosses into Germany. They take part in the occupation of Germany's Rhineland, stationed near Cologne. This is a short-lived assignment and the division is disbanded on 25 March 1919.

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NZ soldiers at Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne

Image: NZ soldiers at Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne
Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-002098-G
1919 15 Mar 1919 - 16 Mar 1919

Coming home

New Zealand troops at Sling Camp in Bulford, England riot over delays in their repatriation home. Transport issues and the influenza pandemic mean that the last group of New Zealand soldiers do not arrive home until May 1920.

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Sling Camp

Image: Sling Camp
Alexander Turnbull
Library, Eph-A-WAR-WI-1919-03
  28 Jun 1919

Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles peace agreement is signed between Germany and the Allies. Prime Minister William Massey signs for New Zealand.

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Pen used for signing Treaty of Versailles

Image: Pen used for signing Treaty of Versailles
Parliamentary Services

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