100 years ago New Zealand entered World War I

On August 4th 1914, New Zealand joined Britain in fighting against Germany. This was the start of World War I. After the war, it was called “The Great War” because no one imagined there would be another world war.

At first, 70,000 men volunteered to join the army and fight “For King and Empire”. In 1916, conscription was introduced and another 30,000 soldiers joined the army. In total more than 100,000 soldiers and nurses went to the war. This was 10% of our small population of only about 1 million people. More than 18,000 were killed and 40,000 wounded. This was a very high casualty rate; most New Zealanders knew someone who had been killed.

The first soldiers were sent to take over Samoa which had been part of the German Empire. After that, New Zealand soldiers fought alongside British soldiers in Egypt, Turkey and France. New Zealand did not have an air force at that time but New Zealanders joined the Royal Air Force in Britain.

Maori did not have to fight but they formed their own Maori Battalion with 2688 Maori and 346 Pacific Islanders. They became well known for their courage in battle.

New Zealand Post has issued stamps to commemorate New Zealand soldiers in WWI. They feature an ordinary soldier, Private Melville Mirfin, who served for nearly 5 years in the army and returned home, alive, along with his 3 brothers.

Parliament tomorrow will remember this day 100 years ago in a ceremony. There will be a 100 gun salute.


• conscription – forced, by law, to become a soldier
• wounded – injured as a result of war
• casualty – killed or wounded
• take over – become the rulers
• battalion – an army of 3 or more companies
• commemorate – remember with honour
• salute – an act of respect


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