World War I: Where did Kiwis fight?

No country's soldiers travelled as far to fight in the First World War as New Zealand's.

While it's often assumed most Kiwis saw combat in Gallipoli, the great majority actually fought and died in northern France and Belgium.

New Zealand troops first arrived in France in early 1916 after the Gallipoli disaster, where they were based in the small city of Armentieres near the border with Belgium.

While Kiwi soldiers didn't take part in a major attack while holding the trenches around Armentieres, several regiments did take part in bloody trench raids against the opposing German forces, where in some cases almost entire companies were wiped out.

This happened to the 1st Otagos on July 13, 1916. There were 2500 NZ casualties (killed and wounded) at Armentieres between May and August, and the high numbers were even noted by concerned British MPs in London's House of Parliament.

But what came during New Zealand's turn in the Battle of the Somme was far worse, with almost 7000 Kiwis becoming casualties in just 23 days -- almost as many casualties as during the entire eight-month Gallipoli campaign.

The New Zealand Division next saw action in Belgium during three major battles in 1917. They were Messines, Broodseinde and Passchendaele.

These were some of New Zealand's bloodiest days in history, with a combined casualty figure of over 8000.

Like the Somme, many of these men's bodies were never recovered for burial -- often because they had been blown apart or enveloped in mud.

More intense fighting for the New Zealanders came in 1918. They returned to the Somme to help beat back Germany's last great push for victory, before attacking almost non-stop during the so-called '100 Days Offensive'.

They secured the town of Bapaume at heavy cost, before ending their war by liberating the town of Le Quesnoy a week before the war's end.

Scroll down to see where and when Kiwis fought their greatest battles in World War I, and learn how many became casualties.

NZ battlefields in WWI – France and Belgium

In the Middle East, the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli was the main theatre of war during 1915, before New Zealand mounted troops on both horses and camels fought Ottoman Empire troops between 1916 and 1918 in the Sinai desert and Palestine.

The three battles around Gaza were particularly bloody for the Kiwi mounted troops.

NZ battlefields in WWI – Middle East


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