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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



A Massive and Costly War Effort

Of a total (by 1918) of some 275,000 New Zealand men of military age, more than 120,000 enlisted (over 43 per cent), and over 103,000 served abroad, 3,659 of them more than once. A quarter of the enlistments were under the Military Service Act (effective from 1 August 1916), but the great majority of these needed no urging. Altogether 2,688 Maoris, at least 346 Pacific islanders, and six British residents of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands served in the NZEF. A wireless troop served first in Mesopotamia in 1916, was among the first into Baghdad in March 1917, and later that year joined the NZEF in France. At least 3,370 other men left New Zealand during or just before the war and served in the Australian or Imperial forces, among them four V.C. winners. Colonel R. H. Davies, for instance, after passing a staff course at Camberley, had been given command of a British infantry brigade. He took a distinguished part in the retreat from Mons, and then, as a major-general in 1916, he commanded the 20th Division. Not least of the New Zealanders who served abroad were 550 nurses of the NZEF (10 of whom died in a transport torpedoed off Salonika). Many others went to the United Kingdom to enlist.

Losses were tragically heavy. In the NZEF alone they amounted to almost 16,700 dead, and another 1,000 died from war causes within five years of discharge, while 507 died in New Zealand before completing their training. Some 18,500 New Zealanders all told died in or because of the war, and nearly 50,000 were wounded (many of them twice or more), while thousands more suffered in later years from the strain of their war service.

by Walter Edward Murphy, B.A., Lecturer, School of Political Science and Public Administration, Victoria University of Wellington.

  • The New Zealanders at Gallipoli, Waite, F. (1919)
  • The New Zealand Division, 1916–1919, Stewart, H. (1921)
  • The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine, Powles, C. G. (1922)
  • The War Effort of New Zealand, ed. Drew, H. T. B. (1923)
  • Some Records of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (comp.), Studholme, J. (1928)
  • The Story of Anzac, Bean, C. E. W. (2 vols., 1921, 1924)
  • The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914–1918, Gullet, H. S. (1923).