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List of Pages Relating to New Zealand

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Archive Reports 1939Archive Reports 1940Archive Reports 1941Archive Reports 1942
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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

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;
Manaakitia mai

The First Poppy Day in New Zealand

In May 1915, the Canadian physician Lt. Col. John McCrae conducted the funeral service of a friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who had died in the Second Battle of Ypres (Ieper). Distressed at the death and suffering around him, McCrae scribbled some verses in his notebook. In a cemetery nearby, red poppies blew gently in the breeze – a symbol of regeneration and growth in a landscape of blood and destruction.

Legend has it that McCrae threw away the poem, but a fellow officer rescued it and persuaded him to send it to the English magazine Punch; 'In Flanders Fields' was published on 8 December 1915. Little more than two years later, on 28 January 1918, McCrae died of cerebral meningitis. As he lay dying, he is reported to have said, ‘Tell them this, if ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.’

Many people were moved by the pathos of ‘In Flanders Fields’. Among them was Moina Michael (1869–1944), who worked in a YMCA canteen in New York. Two days before the signing of the Armistice (11 November 1918), she wrote a reply to McCrae: 'We shall keep the faith'. Michael set out to have the red poppy adopted in the United States as a national symbol of remembrance. The American Legion adopted it as its memorial flower at its annual convention in September 1920. In attendance was Madame E. Guérin, who had been invited to speak at the event by Frederick Galbraith, the Legion’s second National Commander.

Madame Guérin held the first Poppy Day in the United States in 1919. In 1920 she conceived the idea of ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’. This would remember the fallen and benefit the women and children of France, who would make the artificial poppies, and Allied veterans and their families. Known as ‘The Poppy Lady of France’, she made the poppy an international symbol of remembrance. Over the next year Guérin and others approached veterans’ groups in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and other countries, urging them to take up the practice.

One of Guérin’s representatives, Colonel Alfred Moffatt, suggested the idea to the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association (as the Returned Services' Association or RSA was then known) in September 1921. The RSA placed an order for 350,000 small and 16,000 large silk poppies with Madame Guérin’s French Children’s League.

The RSA planned to hold its first Poppy Day appeal just before Armistice Day 1921, as other countries were doing. When the ship bringing the poppies from France arrived too late for the scheme to be properly publicised, the association decided to wait until Anzac Day 1922.

The poppies went on sale on 24 April. The first Poppy Day appeal was a huge success – many centres sold out early in the day. In all, 245,059 small and 15,157 large poppies were sold. Of the £13,166 (equivalent to $1.35 million in 2021) raised, £3695 ($380,000) went to the French Children’s League to help relieve suffering in war-ravaged northern France. The association used the balance to assist needy, unemployed returned soldiers and their families; that tradition has continued.

Poppy Day grew in popularity . There were record collections during the Second World War. In 1945, 750,000 poppies were distributed nationwide – nearly half the population sported the familiar red symbol of remembrance.

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
ANZAC Appeal
New Zealand Graves in UK Managed by CWGC

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon

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