New Zealand Division

New Zealand Division
Pioneer Battalion performing a haka, 1918.jpg
Soldiers from the Pioneer Battalion performing a haka, June 1918
Active1916–19
Country New Zealand
BranchCrest of the New Zealand Army.jpg New Zealand Military Forces
TypeInfantry
Size~15,000
EngagementsFirst World War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Andrew Russell

The New Zealand Division was an infantry division of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force raised for service in the First World War. It was formed in Egypt in early 1916 when the New Zealand and Australian Division was renamed after the detachment of its Australian personnel left the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, together with reinforcements from New Zealand, as the basis of the division. It was commanded by Major General Andrew Hamilton Russell for the duration of the war.

The division saw service on the Western Front in France and Belgium, fighting in major battles at the Somme, Messines and Broodseinde Ridge throughout 1916 and 1917. All were notable successes for the New Zealanders but the division suffered a serious defeat at Passchendaele on 12 October 1917, its most costly day of the war.

In early 1918, the division helped blunt the German Spring Offensive at the Somme, before the Allies went on the offensive in August. During the Hundred Days' Offensive that followed, it was one of the lead divisions of the Third Army and advanced 100 kilometres (62 mi) in 75 days. The division's last major engagement of the war was at Le Quesnoy in early November 1918. During the latter stages of the war, the New Zealand Division was one of the strongest divisions of the Dominion serving on the Western Front. After the armistice, it served on occupation duties in Germany before being disbanded in 1919.

Background

Following the outbreak of the First World War, the New Zealand government authorised the formation of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), under the command of Major General Alexander Godley, for service abroad. By October 1914, there were sufficient volunteers to form two brigades, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Brigade. These two formations formed the main body of the NZEF[1] and, together with the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade and the 1st Light Horse Brigade, were the basis of the New Zealand and Australian Division, which fought in the Gallipoli campaign against the Turks.[2]

In December 1915, the much depleted New Zealand and Australian Division was evacuated from Gallipoli, and was placed in reserve near the Suez Canal. Although there were concerns that the Turks might attack the canal, it was envisaged that the division would soon be called upon to serve elsewhere. Commanded by Major General Andrew Hamilton Russell, it was replenished with reinforcements from Australia and New Zealand and began a program of intensive training.[3]

Since the deployment of the main body of the NZEF, the numbers of volunteers had steadily increased to the point that they could no longer be integrated into either of the two existing brigades. In January 1916, the commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Egypt, Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Murray, proposed the number of available New Zealand personnel warranted the establishment of two new brigades which, together with the existing brigade, would form a New Zealand infantry division for service on the Western Front.[4] The New Zealand government, initially concerned by the prospect of maintaining three infantry brigades, concurred after Murray reassured it that the number of personnel in Egypt were sufficient to keep the new division up to strength in the short term.[5]