Timeline: NZ’s WWI casualties


It's often assumed New Zealand suffered its greatest losses of World War I during the conflict's second year - 1915 - the year of the ill-fated eight-month Gallipoli campaign.

However, as we can see from our graphic below, New Zealand suffered its least casualties of the war in 1915, with the final two years of the conflict our greatest periods of blood-letting.

Timeline: NZ’s WWI casualties

New Zealand formed its own division of men in early 1916 after Gallipoli. This unit of 15,000 soldiers was sent to fight the German Empire on the so-called Western Front in northern France and Belgium.

The Division was soon thrown into one of the bloodiest battles in history, the ‘Battle of the Somme’, where it lost almost 8000 casualties in 23 days.

The New Zealand Division was reinforced and took part in three major battles in Belgium in 1917. These were Messines, Broodseinde and Passchendaele. While costly, Messines and Broodseinde were considered great victories.

Passchendaele however was a complete disaster, where 900 Kiwis were killed in just a couple of hours for no tactical gain. 1917 remains our bloodiest year.

The year 1918 almost trumped the horrors of 1917 however, and is sometimes overlooked in New Zealand's World War I story.

The New Zealand Division, now reinforced again through conscription (New Zealand men forcibly sent to war by the coalition government), was thrown into battle on the Somme once again, but this time they fought a defensive battle against the advancing Germans troops, but casualties were still high.

The Kiwis then attacked almost non-stop in the so-called '100 Days Offensive', the action that eventually broke the German Empire's army, its beleaguered commanders suing for peace in November.

To sum up the New Zealand casualties (killed and wounded combined), from our population of just over one million, New Zealand sent 100,000 people to war, over 18,500 of whom were killed, while another 41,500 were wounded.

So, a staggering 6 percent of New Zealand's entire population became casualties.