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Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial

  • Country France
  • Total identified casualties 1211 Find these casualties
  • Region Somme
  • Identified casualties from First World War
  • GPS Coordinates Latitude: 50.02563, Longitude: 2.79247

Location information

Longueval is a village approximately 13 kilometres east of Albert and 10 kilometres south of Bapaume. The Memorial is situated on a terrace in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, which lies a short distance west of Longueval, on the south side of the road to Contalmaison.

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History information

Caterpillar Valley was the name given by the army to the long valley which rises eastwards, past "Caterpillar Wood", to the high ground at Guillemont. Longueval village is on the Northern edge of this valley and 500 metres West of the village, on the South side of the road to Bazentin, is Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.

Caterpillar Valley was captured during a successful night assault by the 3rd, 7th and 9th Divisions on Bazentin Ridge on 14 July 1916. It was lost in the German advance of March 1918 and recovered by the 38th (Welsh) Division on 28 August 1918, when a little cemetery was made (now Plot 1 of this cemetery) containing 25 graves of the 38th Division and the 6th Dragoon Guards. After the Armistice, this cemetery was hugely increased when the graves of more than 5,500 officers and men were brought in from other small cemeteries, and the battlefields of the Somme. The great majority of these soldiers died in the autumn of 1916 and almost all the rest in August or September 1918.

CATERPILLAR VALLEY CEMETERY now contains 5,569 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 3,796 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 32 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and to three buried in McCormick's Post Cemetery whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.

On 6 November 2004, the remains of an unidentified New Zealand soldier were entrusted to New Zealand at a ceremony held at the Longueval Memorial, France. The remains had been exhumed by staff of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission from Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, France, Plot 14, Row A, Grave 27 and were later laid to rest within the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, at the National War Memorial, Wellington, New Zealand.

On the east side of the cemetery is the CATERPILLAR VALLEY (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL, commemorating more than 1,200 officers and men of the New Zealand Division who died in the Battles of the Somme in 1916, and whose graves are not known.

The New Zealand infantry entered the Battles of the Somme on 11 September, when their Division took over the line between Delville Wood and High Wood. They were to take part in the Fourth Army attack of 15 September, which was to penetrate North and East towards Bapaume. The Battle of Flers-Courcelette, as this engagement is named, lasted from the 15 to 22 September. On the first day the New Zealand and 41st Divisions captured the village of Flers, and progress was made on the following days. The attack was renewed on 25 September (Battle of Morval), and the New Zealand Division captured Factory Corner, on the road between Gueudecourt and Eaucourt-l'Abbaye. By 1 October, they had taken Gird Trench, Circus Trench and Gird Support, to the North of that road. They returned from the battle on 4 October, and went North on 10 and 11, but their Artillery remained on the Somme for the rest of the month. In the Battles of the Somme, 1916, the New Zealand Division had fought for 23 consecutive days. They advanced more than two miles and captured five miles of enemy front line. They took nearly 1,000 prisoners and many machine guns; but they brought back all their machine and Lewis guns, and lost under twenty prisoners. Their casualties were 7,000, and of these 1,560 were killed in action or died of wounds.

This is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known. The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died.

Both cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Herbert Baker.