mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

New Zealand in the First World War 1914–1918

These volumes make up the campaign histories and the regimental histories covering New Zealand's involvement in the First World War.

Unlike after the Second World War, no wide-ranging account of New Zealand's participation in the First World War was prepared at the end of that conflict. Only four official volumes were published (1919-1923), and they were written by senior officers who had fought in the campaigns (Gallipoli, Sinai/Palestine, Western Front) but who generally had no training as historians. Although providing detailed accounts of the fighting on the battlefields itself, they did not describe New Zealand during the war, its economy, politics or society, and the home-defence and patriotic efforts, New Zealanders in the naval or air war, and those serving with other British or Australian forces are not included. Despite this, the four official histories became accepted sources for New Zealand’s military effort in the Great War, and have never been updated or superseded.

Two other very important books were published by the Government Printer. In 1924 the NZEF Roll of Honour appeared, which listed New Zealanders who died while on active service, after discharge or during training. Four years later the monumental work of Lt.-Col. John Studholme appeared. This listed the details of service, rank, decorations and fate of all officers, first-class warrant officers and nurses. The full embarkation rolls of the NZEF were never widely published at the time, making these two resources very important.

In recent times, the information from the embarkation rolls has also been made available online via the Auckland War Memorial Museum's Cenotaph database. Supplementing the official histories, a series of regimental and corps histories appeared throughout the 1920s, and they gained authority through a central Regimental Histories Committee, in most cases being ‘based on official documents’. A force history covered the Samoa Expedition, and the New Zealand Rifle Brigade got its own volume.

Corps histories covered the divisional artillery, engineers and medical services. The most common type, the unit history, documented the infantry battalions and mounted rifles regiments raised in each military district: Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago, and their publication was a big event in the respective cities.

Finally, a few other books covered special units — tunnellers, cyclists, machine gunners and Maori pioneers. Non-official authors filled in other aspects of New Zealand’s military machine, including trench mortars, cameliers, signallers and hospital ships. While these works were often inaccessible or rarely spoke to the heart, as a group they give good accounts of New Zealanders in the Great War.

Peter Cooke

We have made some of these works available on the basis that they are orphan works. The works concerned are still technically in copyright, though the author may have died many years previously and therefore cannot be contacted in order to provide permission for online republication of their material. We make the presumption that the author would have wanted their work to be made available online, as they did in print. However if any person related to the author know this not to be so, please contact us and we will remove the particular work from this collection.