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Animated Map Showing Allied Bombing in WW2
Staggering Cost in Human Lives in WW2
M.J. Savage, Prime Minister of New Zealand 4 September 1939
‘Both with gratitude for the past, and with confidence in the future, we range ourselves without fear beside Britain. Where she goes, we go, where she stands, we stand. We are only a small and young nation, but we are one and all a band of brothers, and we march forward with a union of hearts and wills to a common destiny.’
"Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi. He toa takitini ke."
"My strength is not my own. But the strength of many."
New Zealand Cemetery Limburg
Being a small country, New Zealand's contribution to the war seemed, and was, equally small. However, proportionally speaking, New Zealand made a greater contribution to WW2 among all Commonwealth nations.
New Zealand entered WW2 as it declared war on Germany at 2130 hours on 3 Sep 1939. Far from home, New Zealand 2nd Expeditionary Force troops fought in mainland Greece under British command, losing 291 men killed, 1,826 captured, and 387 seriously wounded in this early campaign in the European War; in May 1941, New Zealand troops defended against German attacks in northwestern Crete, an island in southern Greece. Meanwhile, to the south in North Africa, a small contingent of New Zealand troops fought in the Desert War; by Nov 1941, the main New Zealand force evacuated from Greece and fresh troops from home joined them, participating in Operation Crusader, Operation Lightfoot, and other important operations in this theater. In North Africa, New Zealand suffered 2,989 killed, 4,041 taken prisoner, and 7,000 wounded. When the war initially began, the New Zealand naval contingent fighting with the British Royal Navy was named the New Zealand Division; on 1 Oct 1941, this force was granted the name Royal New Zealand Navy by King George VI of the United Kingdom.
The British Royal Air Force had many foreign nationals serving with them, the largest contingent of which were from New Zealand. Among the first of them were Alan Deere, whose sentiments expressed many of the New Zealanders who served so far away from home, not just in the air force but cross all branches of service:
"In my generation, in the 30s, as schoolboys, we always thought [Britain] as the home country, always referred to it as the Mother Country. That was the old colonial tie if you like.... I was, I think, one of the very lucky New Zealanders who was in the air force at the time of the last war and the Battle of Britain in particular. I consider myself privileged to have been there, to fight for this country.... I'd a hectic round, so to speak, but it was all worthwhile."
Many New Zealand pilots were to distinguish themselves during the Battle of Britain.
Although by late 1941 to early 1942, New Zealand became involved in the Pacific War that roared on close to home, the New Zealand 2nd Expeditionary Force remained in Europe. It was eventually to advance up Italy at the slow pace of that particularly arduous theatre of war. The decision by Prime Minister Peter Fraser to keep the expeditionary force in North Africa was partially due to the promise and arrival of the United States 1st Marine Division, which gave New Zealand time to raise a new force against a potential attack by Japan. This new force, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific, would find itself not defending their home country, but rather fighting cross the South Pacific islands. Major General Harold Barrowclough, for example, led the New Zealand 3rd Division in the fighting in Guadalcanal and other locations in the Solomon Islands. In the war, the Royal New Zealand Air Force contributed a squadron of Hudson bombers at Guadalcanal in Nov 1942 followed by a squadron of Warhawk fighters in Jun 1943. By mid-1944, eight RNZAF squadrons (four fighter, two bomber, one dive bomber, and one flying boat) were operating in the Solomon Islands. In the Solomon Island campaign, just under 600 New Zealanders were killed, 345 of which were from the RNZAF. By the end of the war, the RNZAF operated thirteen squadrons of Corsair fighters, six squadrons of Ventura bombers, two squadrons of Catalina flying boats, two squadrons of Avenger torpedo bombers, two squadrons of Dakota transports, one squadron of Dauntless dive bombers, plus other smaller formations; 41,000 personnel served in the RNZAF by this time, which included about 10,000 in Europe.
When Japan surrendered, Air Vice Marshal Leonard Isitt signed the surrender document on behalf of New Zealand.
In retrospect, New Zealand was at its strongest militarily in July 1942 when its military reached 154,549 men and women in uniform, which even excluded those who served in the Home Guard. Over 11,000 died in combat, which translated to 0.73% of the population; in comparison, the United Kingdom lost 0.93%, Australia 0.57%, Canada 0.12%, and South Africa 0.12%.
There is no finer credit to a nation than the New Zealand forces were - and are - to their homeland.
E Ihowa Atua
O ngā iwi mātou rā,
āta whakarongo na;
Me aroha noa.
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Use 'RNZAF' in the Site search facility found at the top of most pages to find even more pages relating to New Zealand crews. Our listing facility is currently missing references to many pages published before our auto-listing began. We're gradually catching up!
New Zealand Pilots in Battle of Britain
Bomber Command Database
Dambuster Les Munro presents medals to Motat - video
Dawn Anzac Day Commemoration, Villers-Bretonneux, France
New Zealand Graves in UK Managed by CWGC