Title: The New Zealand Division 1916 – 1919 – A popular history based on Official Records
Author: Stewart, H
Edition: 2nd Edition
Publication Date: 2002
Cover: Soft Cover without Dust Jacket – 634 pages
Comments: Formed in Egypt in March 1916 the division arrived in France a month later. It acquired an elite status, fought on the Somme, at Messines and Third Ypres. 49,000 casualties, ten VCs. A very fine and comprehensive history.This is an official history, the second volume of four constituting the Official History Of New Zealand’s Effort In The Great War, the other three cover Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine, and the Home Front.
As may be expected this is a remarkably comprehensive account of one of the finest divisions of the BEF of which Earl Haig wrote: “No Division in France built up for itself a finer reputation, whether for the gallantry of its conduct in battle or for the excellence of its behaviour out of the line. Its record does honour to the land from which it came and to the Empire for which it fought.” A German assessment of the division was seen in an Intelligence document captured at Hebuterne in July 1918:- “A particularly good assault Division. Its characteristics are a very strongly developed individual self-confidence or enterprise, characteristic of the colonial British, and a specially pronounced hatred of the Germans.” In his Copse 125 (Rossignol Wood) Ernst Junger describes the bitter fighting with the New Zealanders (Otago Regiment) in July 1918.
The NZ Division of this history was formed in Egypt in March 1916 with the transference of the Australian units of the old composite division, which had fought at Gallipoli, to Australian formations and the raising of fresh NZ units to take their place thus creating a purely New Zealand division. The infantry consisted of two battalions each of the Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Wellington Regiments and four battalions of the NZ Rifle Brigade, all the divisional troops -artillery, engineers, medical etc were NZ units. The GOC was Major-General Sir A.H.Russell, promoted from command of a brigade of the composite NZ and Australian Division; he was to be the only commander of the division. The NZ Division arrived in France in April 1916 and it remained on the Western front throughout the war.
In early 1917 a fourth infantry brigade was formed in England from the surplus reinforcements sent monthly from New Zealand and it joined the division as the 4th NZ Brigade in May, just before the Messines offensive. It was disbanded in February 1918. The division fought on the Somme, at Messines, at Third Ypres as part of II Anzac Corps; when the Germans struck in March 1918 the division was transferred to IV Corps (Harper) in Byng’s Third Army where it stayed to the end of the war.