The First World War was not the first major conflict in which the young men of New Zealand had fought, however it was the catalyst that saw the formation of the history and identity of the young nation of New Zealand through its bond of mateship, sacrifice and service at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli then on the Western Front in France and Belgium. The ANZAC spirit and national identity of New Zealand and Australia was born here.
The focus for this is Anzac Day on April 25, a time to remember the 8,709 men from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand killed in the ill fated amphibious landing on the Gallipoli peninsula in southern Turkey in 1915. The ANZAC name comes from an Army Corps ("Australia & NZ Army Corps") formed from men from Australia and New Zealand: hence the initials ANZAC. Celebrated in Both Australia and New Zealand Anzac Day is a unique memorial day for two sovereign countries.
The total number of New Zealand troops and nurses to serve overseas in 1914-1918, excluding those in British and other Dominion forces was 103,000, from a population of just over a million. Forty-two percent of men of military age served in the NZEF of these 16,697 New Zealanders were killed and 41,317 were wounded during the war, a staggering 58 percent casualty rate. Around 12,000 New Zealanders died on the Western Front in two and a half years of fighting, more than in the entire Second World War.
Approximately a further thousand men died within five years of the war's end, as a result of injuries sustained, and 507 died whilst training in New Zealand between 1914 and 1918. New Zealand had one of the highest casualty and death rate per capita of any country involved in the war (Serbia suffered even higher per capita losses).
The First World War also saw Māori soldiers serve for the first time in a major conflict with the New Zealand Army (although a number had fought in the Second Boer War when New Zealand recruiters chose to ignore British military policy of the time of disallowing 'native' soldiers). A contingent took part in the Gallipoli Campaign, and later served with distinction on the Western Front as part of the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion. 2688 Māori and 346 Pacific islanders served with New Zealand forces in total.
The ANZAC New Zealand spirit was time and time again tested on the Western Front in WW1, and in World War 2 at Monte Cassino in Italy, Greece and Crete, Tobruk and El Alamein and the Tunisia Campaign and all other battlegrounds where Kiwis fought in WW2. It was also in huge abundance with the Royal Air Force in England in WW2 where New Zealander WW1 ace Sir Keith Parkes led Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain and where thousands of New Zealand men flew in Bomber and Fighter Command.