When Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, New Zealand was brought into the conflict as part of the British Empire. Despite its geographic isolation and small population, it immediately pledged support for the British cause.

As early as October 1914, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) sailed from Wellington. Diverted from their original destination in Europe, the New Zealanders landed in Egypt where they helped defend the Suez Canal in February 1915.

On 25 April 1915, as part of the New Zealand and Australian Division, New Zealanders landed at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. They played a key role throughout the campaign until the evacuation from the peninsula at the end of the year. Following reorganisation of New Zealand forces, the New Zealand Mounted Brigade remained in Egypt and took part in the campaign in Sinai and Palestine. The newly formed New Zealand Division was sent to the Western Front.

The New Zealand Division fought at Longueval on the Somme on 15 September as part of a major British Army offensive. By the time they were relieved on 4 October, the New Zealanders had advanced three kilometres and suffered more than 7,000 casualties.

In June 1917, the New Zealand Division helped to capture Messines Ridge but in October its involvement in the Third Battle of Ypres led to heavy losses. On 12 October, attacking near Passchendaele, New Zealanders lost 850 men. It remains the worst disaster in New Zealand’s history in terms of lives lost in a single day.

New Zealanders continued to fight on the Western Front throughout 1918. On 4 November, they captured the ancient fortress town of Le Quesnoy in a daring assault only a few days before the Armistice.

More than 100,000 New Zealand troops and nurses served overseas during the war, not including those serving in British and other Dominion forces. This was around 10 percent of a population of just under a million and an estimated 42 percent of men of military age served in the NZEF. New Zealanders served at sea and in the air and a Maori contingent participated in the Gallipoli campaign before serving on the Western Front as part of the Maori Pioneer Battalion.

The CWGC commemorates more than 18,000 people who died while serving with New Zealand forces between 1914 and 1921.

Related Cemeteries & Memorials

Chunuk Bair Cemetery, Turkey, is the final resting place of some 630 servicemen of the British Empire, only 10 of whom lay in named graves, the rest are unknown. Within the cemetery stands the Chunuk Bair New Zealand Memorial which commemorates some 850 New Zealand servicemen who have no known grave, many of whom are belived to be buried in the cemetery.

Buttes New British Cemetery, Belgium, is the final resting place of more than 2,100 servicemen of the British Empire including more than 160 New Zealand servicemen. Within the cemetery stands the Buttes New British Cemetery New Zealand Memorial which commemorates nearly 380 New Zealand servicemen who have no known grave.

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, France, is the final resting place of some 5,570 servicemen of the British Empire including more than 210 New Zealand servicemen. Within the cemetery stands the Caterpillar Valley New Zealand Memorial which commemorates more than 1,200 New Zealand servicemen who have no known grave.