New Zealand on the Somme

Having fought at Gallipoli as the New Zealand and Australian Division, soldiers of New Zealand units were reorganised while in Egypt into the New Zealand Division in March 1916. Its 15,000 men reached France in mid-April, training in the Armentières sector before being deployed to the Somme in late August.

On the morning of 15 September, the New Zealand Division attacked north towards the German lines west of Flers, from trenches running between High Wood and Delville Wood. Overlooking the ground on which the New Zealand Division advanced is CWGC Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, which is the final resting place of some 200 New Zealand servicemen, while nearby CWGC Thistle Dump Cemetery contains the graves of 37 who died in September.

Supported by tanks, the New Zealand Division captured three successive lines of German trenches and assisted in the capture and defence of Flers. CWGC Bulls Road Cemetery is the final resting place of over 120 New Zealand servicemen. The division went on to capture the high ground north of Flers, known as ‘Factory Corner’, on 25 September, and on 1 October advanced towards Eaucourt L’Abbaye, before being withdrawn on 4 October.

In three weeks of fighting the New Zealand Division suffered nearly 7,000 casualties, of whom around 2,000 men were killed.

While some are buried close to the battlefields, others lie far behind the front lines. More than 120 can be found at CWGC Heilly Station Cemetery, where a casualty clearing station was located. Many more have no known grave and are commemorated by name on the CWGC Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial, which bears the names of over 1,200 New Zealand servicemen who died on the Somme in 1916.