New Zealand History/World War I

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New Zealand's Involvement in World War I[edit | edit source]

Troops on the Gallipoli shore after the first battle.

After the United Kingdom declared war on Germany in 1914, New Zealand followed without second thoughts. New Zealand only had a small population of just over one million at the time, and was fairly isolated from the rest of the world, but due to New Zealand's strong ties to Britain it offered its services to the Allied Forces.

New Zealand's first act in the war was to seize German Samoa. New Zealand sent 1,413 men to conduct this action and took control of the territory without much resistance. It was the first German territory to be occupied in the name of King George V in the war.

On the 25th of April 1915, New Zealand sent troops to Gallipoli under the command of British General Alexander Godly, along with Australian soldiers, to help seize Constantinople. Due to a navigational error, however, they landed at the wrong point, and the steep cliffs in the cove they had disembarked at offered the Turkish defenders a significant vantage point. Advancement of the New Zealand-Australian forces was impossible. New Zealand suffered casualties of 2,721 dead and 4,852 wounded in the cove, and eventually it was decided to evacuate. The battle was the first great conflict of New Zealand, and the loss was felt greatly in New Zealand.

New Zealand troops unloading at a French port

New Zealand forces also helped on the Western Front in France, in which, by the time they were relieved, had advanced three kilometres and taken eight kilometres of enemy front line. 1560 New Zealand men were killed, and 7048 were wounded.


Out of the 103,000 men recruited, 16,697 New Zealanders serving in the war had been killed and 41,317 had been wounded; a 58 percent casualty rate. This was one of the highest rates per capita of any country involved in the war. Approximately a further thousand men died after the war, as a result of injuries suffered.

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