NZ'S FIRST WORLD WAR CENTENARY 2014–2019

Over the Rhineland – the New Zealand occupation of Germany

By:
WW100 Programme Office

Following the Armistice of 11 November 1918, the Allies quickly sent their armies to occupy the Rhineland and ensure that Germany would not break the ceasefire. Did you know the New Zealand Division was stationed there until March 1919?


New Zealand soldiers on leave in Cologne, Germany, January 1919. Image courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002099-G

Under the conditions of the Armistice signed on 11 November 1918, Germany had 14 days to evacuate from all remaining occupied territory – as well as from German territory claimed by France and Belgium. The Allies quickly sent their armies to occupy the Rhineland and ensure that Germany would not break the ceasefire.

Most of the New Zealand Division were billeted at Beauvois and Fontaine when they heard news of the armistice. On 28 November, they began a 240-kilometre march towards trains that would then take them to the German town of Cologne. There, they would become part of the Allied occupation force, ensuring there were no uprisings.

The Maori Pioneer Battalion also marched to the border near Cologne, but at the last minute, the British authorities decided they should not be part of the occupation force, and sent them home. Amongst the men of the Maori Battalion there was a mixture of resentment and relief. 

Some of the soldiers who did occupy Cologne described the experience of arriving there. Private Neil Ingram wrote, ‘As we marched through the city of Cologne I was struck with the fine appearance of the place. Great wide streets, beautiful avenues of trees and fine big buildings of elaborate architecture. I often wondered, during our march, how the Germans would receive us when we eventually appeared marching through their streets, led by playing bands. Well! Strangely, I thought, they seemed to completely ignore us. Some glanced gravely or casually at our marching khaki column and others simply didn’t glance at all.’

Later, soldiers stationed in Cologne reported that the German inhabitants were mostly friendly and civil towards them. 

Many of those who occupied Cologne stayed only a few weeks. In late December, New Zealand soldiers who had volunteered in the early years of the war (1914-15) and soldiers who were married, were sent back to England and from there to New Zealand. 

On 25 March 1919 the last draft of New Zealand soldiers left Cologne.

The images below by New Zealand's official war photographer, Henry Armytage Sanders, depict some of the experiences of the New Zealanders in Germany during the occupation.

Text courtesy of Ngā Tapuwae New Zealand First World War Trails.

New Zealand troops marching over the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, 1919. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref 1/1-002127-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

New Zealand soldiers looking towards the Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne, after the First World War. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002098-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

New Zealand soldiers on leave in Cologne, Germany, after the First World War. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002099-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

New Zealanders standing on the steps of Cologne Cathedral, Germany. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002090. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

Rows of New Zealand military transport, Mulheim, Germany. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002106-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

First World War soldiers about to leave from a New Zealand Reception camp in Opladen, Germany. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002107-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

Unidentified New Zealand World War I soldiers in a classroom, Mulheim, Germany. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002111-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

New Zealand soldiers receiving educational instruction in Mulheim, Germany, 1919. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002124-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

New Zealand soldiers at an educational cooking class in Mulheim, Germany, 1919. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002123-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

New Zealand soldiers receive educational instruction using a German motor car, Mulheim, Germany. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002102-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

The New Zealand Rifle Brigade Headquarters, Bruck, Germany. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-002117-G. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association: New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918.

Date added: 07 January 2019 | Last updated: 08 January 2019

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