Bassett, CRG ~ New Zealand Divisional Signals
Brown DF ~ Otago Infantry Regiment
Crichton J ~ Auckland Infantry Regiment
Forsyth S ~ NZ Engineers
Frickleton S ~ NZ Rifle Brigade
Grant JG ~ Wellington Infantry Regiment
Judson RS, DCM,MM ~ Auckland Infantry Regiment
Laurant HJ ~ NZ Rifle Brigade
Nicholas HJ, MM ~ Canterbury Infantry Regiment
Travis RC, DCM,MM ~ Otago Infantry Regiment
Two VC winners from the NZEF achieved the very rare feat of receiving the three highest gallantry awards conferred on soldiers. Reg Judson (Auckland Infantry) and Richard Travis (Otago Infantry) both received the MM, DCM, and VC. Judson did so in just 6 short weeks of combat on the Western Front. Judson survived the war, but Travis was killed just a day after the action for which he was to be awarded the VC.
The first great conflict into which the NZEF was thrust was the battle of the Somme. Since July 1st, 1916, the British Armies had thrust time and again against the German lines. For the NZ Division, the 15th of September was to be their debut in the carnage. September 15 saw the Division attack at Flers. This attack was also the first time tanks were used in warfare. The New Zealanders made significant gains, obtaining many of their objectives and again impressing comrades and enemy alike with their skills and dedication. By early October the Division was relieved, having spent more time in the Line than any other Allied Division.1917 saw the Allied military planners again preparing for a Big Push - this time in the Ypres sector of Flanders. A major attack in June was planned to drive the Germans back from much of the high ground around Messines, therefore allowing the subsequent waves of attackers to break through into open country. The NZEF was tasked with capturing the town itself. Starting at dawn on 7 June, 1917 the battle of Messines was probably the best executed major battle of the war on the Western Front. The New Zealanders rapidly obtained all their objectives, but the hoped-for breakthrough by the subsequent waves of infantry and cavalry was unsuccessful.
1917 ended with the now infamous 3rd battle of Ypres - Passchendaele. Bogged in mud, facing stiff German resistance, the New Zealanders suffered horrendous casualties. October 12, 1917 saw the single greatest losses in one day in our military history. Christmas 1917 saw no end in sight to the struggle on the Western Front.
March 1918 saw the Germans launch their first major offensive on the Western Front since the early days of the war. The Germans drove the Allied lines back over 40 miles in places, almost breaking through. For the New Zealand Division the fight was mainly on the old Somme battlefields. Fierce encounters finally saw the German advance held and then reversed.
The last 3 months of the war saw the Germans in full retreat on all parts of the Western Front. The New Zealand Division relished the "freedom" of open warfare. The Division played its final great act at the ancient walled town of Le Quesnoy - scaling the high stone walls to capture the German garrison. Armistice Day, November 11 1918 was greeted mainly with silence. Certainly any celebration was muted. Most of the NZEF War Diaries simply noted that hostilities had ceased at 1100 hours. After 4 years the war was over. New Zealand lost over 12,000 men on the Western Front. For the Division, the honour of being part of the Army of Occupation of the Rhineland.
Transports home left regularly until by mid 1919 most of the NZEF was back in New Zealand. For the survivors, the return to civilian life was not always easy; for the grieving, the future was never as bright as the past.
Those who remained were the Mounted Riflemen of the Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury Mounted Regiments. Their war was to continue to be fought against the Turk. But this time we were to go on the offensive and drive the Turks from the Holy Lands.
The New Zealand Mounted Rifles served predominantly with our Australian Light Horse Anzac cousins. Minor raids involving the New Zealand Rifles Brigade were made against the Sennussi in the Western Egyptian desert in early 1916, but the great bulk of the war was spent driving the Turks out of Sinai and Palestine.
Desert warfare was difficult, tiring work for man and horse. Water was the key weapon and great engineering feats were carried out to pipe water to the front as each advance was made. By late 1918 the Turks were a beaten force and the war in Palestine ended a few weeks before the final victory on the Western Front.
The men and horses of the NZ Mounted Rifles fought a war that is largely ignored in our history, but one none the less that saw them give everything for the Cause.
New Zealand introduced conscription in 1916, more out of a desire for fairness than one driven by a shortage of volunteers. Some 36,000 men were conscripted to serve, but over 2/3rds of these had already volunteered their service. Such was the patriotism of the day.
Over 16,000 died overseas and by the time the official war statistics were finalised, over 18,000 young New Zealanders had given their lives for God, King, and Country.
The Empire's highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross, was awarded to 11 members of the NZEF in the Great War. The first award was to Cyril Bassett of the signals Corps who repeatedly ignored all threats to his life to maintain telephone wires across shell and bullet-riddled ground on Chunuk Bair in August 1915. Bassett was the only New Zealand VC of Gallipoli. The other NZEF VCs of the war all came on the Western Front.In addition to the VC, 400 NZEF soldiers were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and just under 2000 were awarded the Military Medal. Many Military Crosses and Distinguished Service Orders were richly earned by Officers of the NZEF.
The fortunes of war denied many others their richly earned awards.