A Chronology of War: 1902 – 1920


The Permanent Militia is re-designated the Permanent Force, a formal title that was to remain until 1950. The artillery and engineers were re-designated the Royal New Zealand Artillery and the Royal New Zealand Engineers respectively, the first time that the title “Royal” was granted to New Zealand Army units.


Britain and France form an alliance.


28 February

The New Zealand Defence Act is passed. The 52-year-old Volunteer system is disbanded and replaced with a Territorial Force, raised by compulsory military training.


Sir Alexander Godley appointed to command the New Zealand Defence Forces.


3 November

A clash between striking ‘wharfies’ and specially enlisted mounted constables occurred during a riot at Buckle Street in Wellington, where Army Headquarters was located. Two civilians and a Permanent Force officer were wounded by gunfire.


4 August

Germany invades Belgium and France and Britain declares war on Germany.

5 August

New Zealand joins Britain and declares war on the German Empire.

29 August


A force of 1413 New Zealand volunteers and four guns occupies German Samoa after an unopposed landing.

16 October

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The main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force sails for the Middle East. It comprises 8417 men (all volunteers) and is the largest single body of men ever to leave New Zealand, arriving in Egypt on 3 December.


3 February

New Zealanders in action for the first time when they help to repulse a Turkish attack across the Suez Canal, south of Ismailia. Private William Ham of Motueka died of his wounds the next day, becoming the first New Zealander to die in action during World War I.

25 April


The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC’s) land on the stretch of shore that will become known as Anzac Cove on the Turkish peninsula of Gallipoli.

5 May


The New Zealand Infantry Brigade is deployed south to Cape Helles.

8 May

The New Zealand Infantry Brigade makes two charges across the ‘Daisy Patch’ to attack entrenched Turkish positions. It attacks on its own in daylight and suffers 835 casualties for no gain. After 14 days on the peninsula, the Brigade had already sustained more than 2000 casualties.

24 May


An armistice is declared at Anzac Cove on 24 May 1915. Australians, New Zealanders and Turks spend five hours burying hundreds of bodies in no man’s land between their trenches.

7 – 8 August

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The battle for Chunuk Bair begins on 7 August. On 8 August the Wellington Battalion captures the hill of Chunuk Bair and for the first and only time in the campaign, Allied troops could see their original objective – the Dardanelles. After hours of what can only be described as heroic fighting, the Wellingtons were driven off by massive Turkish counter-attacks and suffered appalling losses. Corporal Cyril Bassett, a signaller, is awarded the Victoria Cross.

23 October


A German U-boat sinks the troopship MARQUETTE on its way to Salonika. Among the drowned were 32 New Zealanders, including 10 nurses.

19 – 20 December


The evacuation of Suvla and Anzac Cove begins. This was a surprisingly successful operation during which no New Zealand casualties were sustained. Of the 8556 New Zealanders who served on Gallipoli, 2721 died and 4752 were wounded – an 87 per cent casualty rate.



The New Zealand Division arrives in northern France (Western Front) after a voyage via Marseilles from Egypt.

12 May


The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade starts the first of its ‘long patrols’ into the Sinai desert. Reconnaissance patrols were to be a way of life for the next two and a half years.

13 May


The New Zealand Division moves into front-line trenches for the first time – a six and a half kilometre long sector in the Armentières area (Western Front).

28 July

In the Sinai, a 15 day battle for Romani begins. The 18,000 strong Turkish force is defeated by the Anzacs and in doing so, shatters the Turkish dream of cutting off the Suez Canal and conquering Egypt.

1 August


Conscription is introduced in New Zealand.

15 September


At 6.20 am, the New Zealand Division takes part in its first major action near Flers, as part of the Somme offensive. In 23 days of constant fighting 1560 New Zealanders are killed and 5440 are wounded. Sergeant Donald Forrester Brown is posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after his death on 1 October (Western Front).


9 January


At 6.00 am, the Auckland Mounted Rifles enter Palestine. The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade occupies Rafa, after fierce fighting and the Turks are cleared from the Sinai after a campaign lasting one year.

26 March

The first battle for Gaza fails due to the arrival of Turkish reinforcements (Palestine).

16 April


The second battle for Gaza begins and the town falls after three days of heavy fighting (Palestine).

7 June

At 3.10 pm, the New Zealand Division went over the top at Messines and in two days of fighting, took all of its initial objectives. The battle continued until 30 June 1917. Lance Corporal Samuel Frickleton is awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 7 June 1917 (Western Front).

27 July

The 1st Brigade attacks and captures the village of La Basse Ville but are driven out again by an enemy counter-attack. This is followed by a second and completely successful attack on La Basse Ville on 31 July 1917. Corporal Leslie Wilton Andrew is awarded the Victoria Cross (Western Front).



The battle for Polygon Wood.

4 October

After a period of training out of the line, the New Zealand Division returns to take part in the closing stages of the Ypres battle. Before dawn, they attack the Gravenstafel Spur at Passchendaele and although it is deemed a success, the New Zealanders suffer 1707 casualties (Western Front).

12 October


The New Zealanders take part in a disastrous attack at Passchendaele and for no ground gained, total casualties numbered 3296 of which nearly one-third, some 1200 men, had been killed. More New Zealanders were killed on one cold Belgian morning of fighting than on any other day since the beginning of European settlement (in New Zealand). It took another three days to clear the New Zealand wounded from the battlefield (Western Front).

31 October

The Turkish line at Beersheba is broken after a successful attack by both the New Zealanders and the famous Australian Light Horse (Palestine).

16 November

The coastal town of Jaffa is surrendered to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade (Palestine).


17 February

The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade occupies Bethlehem (Palestine).

19 February


The battle for Jericho begins. The town is taken the following day by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. It is found to be full of dead or dying Turks suffering from typhus (Palestine).

21 March

A massive German attack by about 60 infantry divisions over an 80 kilometre front takes the Allies by surprise (MICHAEL Offensive). At points the Germans advance 14 kilometres in two days – a great distance by World War I standards (Western Front).

25 March


The New Zealanders find themselves fighting to hold the enemy near Serre, in trench systems that they had used two years previously during the Battle of the Somme. Along with Australian efforts at nearby Hébuterne, they successfully help plug a dangerous gap that had developed between two British corps (Western Front).

22 July

The Allies cross River Marne on the Western Front.

21 August


The start of the 10 day battle for Bapaume and the beginning of the ‘last 100 days’ of World War I. Sergeant Samuel Forsyth, Sergeant Reginald Judson and Sergeant ‘Jack’ Grant are all awarded Victoria Crosses over this period (Western Front).

25 September

Anzac Mounted Division captures Amman (Palestine).

28 September


The Turkish IV Army surrenders to the Anzacs at Kastal (Palestine).

31 October

The Turkish armies by now cease to exist as fighting formations. An armistice comes into effect at noon (Palestine).

4 November

Using a scaling ladder, the New Zealanders attack the 18 metre high ramparts of the fortress town of Le Quesnoy and capture it from the Germans. It is the last major action of the war for the New Zealand Division and one in which it captures nearly 2000 prisoners and 60 field guns (Western Front).

11 November


The armistice (German surrender and peace) comes into effect at 11.00 am on 11 November 1918.

20 December


The first New Zealand formation, the 2nd Brigade, crosses the Rhine River into Cologne as part of the Allied Army of Occupation (Germany).


25 March


The New Zealand Division, which had become known as the Silent Division, is disbanded after spending three years on the Western Front. The final draft of New Zealand troops leave Germany for England on this date.

3 May


A draft of 200 New Zealand troops from Sling Camp forms part of the march of ‘overseas forces’ through London.

28 June

Germany signs Treaty of Versailles.

30 June


The New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade is formally disbanded and the first of its members leave for New Zealand. During its three and half years of existence a total of 17,723 men had served in its ranks.


25 April


Anzac Day becomes a national holiday in New Zealand.