In April 1916, the New Zealand Infantry Division left Egypt for France, then moved into Belgium where they encountered the horrors and hardship of trench warfare against a large German fighting machine. They fought in many of the major battles in Belgium and France including the First Somme, Third Ypres (Passchendaele), Messines, and the Second Somme. They were a highly-regarded Division, often thrown into the front line with a well-deserved reputation of “getting the job done”. After March 1918 they achieved a number of striking successes including Bapaume (August), the crossing of the Canal du Nord (September) and the capture of the fortress town of Le Quesnoy (November).
The dominant weapon of World War I was the artillery gun. The 18-pounder was the standard light British and New Zealand Field Artillery piece of World War I. The other weapon which contributed to the stalemate of trench warfare was the machine gun which kept men pinned down in their trenches or cut them to pieces on attack.
The troops got little respite and would spend 8 days in a trench in truly appalling conditions. They would then spend the next 8 days in billets behind the lines before moving back into the trenches again.
At war’s end on 11 November 1918 the Division headed to Germany, England and finally home in early 1919. Casualties were high – over 18,000 had died in World War I, with nearly 50,000 wounded. For those who came home, the horrors of war were often impossible to forget.