The Battle of Flers-Courcelette began 100 years ago today, and of the many battles that encompassed the 141 day Somme Offensive, it is perhaps best remembered as the engagement that saw the introduction of the tank by the British Army.
However, today’s blog will focus, much like my previous blog on South Africa and the Somme, on recognising the contribution and story of the troops of the New Zealand Division to the costly and controversial offensive that features so prominently in our narratives of the First World War.
New Zealand is a commonwealth nation that endured the hardships of the Great War, alongside the United Kingdom and other commonwealth countries. It is important therefore as historians and those interested in the conflict to highlight the wide scope of experience in what truly was a world war.
The indication of the global scope of the war is neatly demonstrated by the story of the New Zealand Division prior to serving on the Somme. The New Zealand Expeditionary Force was formed in August 1914, initially as a volunteer-only military body. It had served in Gallipoli and was part of the evacuation of the peninsula in January 1916. In contemporary terms, the distance between Wellington and the Gallipoli peninsula is over 10,000 flying miles and the distance from Gallipoli to the Somme is a further 1,300 flying miles. The men of the New Zealand Division were an incredible distance away from their homes and families. Continue reading »