The Campaigns

WORLD WAR II:

This is but a brief synopsis of New Zealand’s involvement in military actions during World War II.

New Zealand entered the Second World War by declaring war on Nazi Germany with Britain on 3rd September 1939, in response to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

New Zealand provided personnel for service in the Royal Air Force and in the Royal Navy whereby the New Zealand government placed the New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy at the British Admiralty’s disposal and made available to the RAF 30 new Wellington medium bombers waiting in the United Kingdom for shipping to New Zealand. The New Zealand Army contributed the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF).

In total, around 140,000 New Zealand personnel served overseas for the Allied war effort, and an additional 100,000 men were armed for Home Guard duty. At its peak in July 1942, New Zealand had 154,549 men and women under arms (excluding the Home Guard) and by the war’s end a total of 194,000 men and 10,000 women had served in the armed forces at home and overseas.

Conscription was introduced in June 1940, and volunteering for Army service ceased from 22 July 1940, although entry to the Air Force and Navy remained voluntary. Difficulties in filling the Second and Third Echelons for overseas service in 1939-40, the Allied disasters of May 1940 and public demand led to its introduction.

Land Forces:

The New Zealand authorities deployed the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force for combat in three echelons and after a period training in Egypt, 2NZEF’s New Zealand 2nd Division, stationed there, was deployed to take part in the defence of Greece against invasion by Italian troops and soon German forces too when they joined the invasion. The Greek Army successfully mounted a decisive offensive against the Italian forces up in the mountains of Northern Greece, which resulted in the Italians’ ignominious defeat and retreat back into Albania.

NZ troops on way forward, Greece. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-01006-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22346716 “Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

NZ troops on way forward, Greece. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-01006-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22346716
“Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

The swift advance of German Panzers into Greece on 6 April proved too formidable though and so the Greek, British and Commonwealth troops found themselves outflanked and forced into retreat. Greece was forced to surrender and most of the 40,000 W Force troops were evacuated to Crete and the rest to Egypt.

Subsequent actions:

Crete: Scene of one of the most dramatic battles of the war. Over the course of 12 days in May 1941 a mixed force comprising New Zealanders,  Australian, British and Greek troops were engaged in a desperate struggle to fight off a huge German airborne assault. Even though heavy casualties were inflicted on the parachutists and glider-borne troops who led the invasion they nevertheless succeeded in gaining the upper hand and gained a secure foothold on the island.

World War II paratroopers and aeroplanes in the sky above Crete. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-12638-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22913202 “Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

World War II paratroopers and aeroplanes in the sky above Crete. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-12638-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22913202
“Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

The bulk of the Allied force had to be evacuated to Egypt.

(Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 1-Jun-2013

North Africa and The Middle East: From Operation Crusader to the final victory in Tunisia, the 2nd New Zealand Division formed the heart of the Allied effort in this sphere of conflict and took part in some of the fiercest battles of the desert campaign – El Alamein, El Mreir, Minqar Qaim, Ruweisat Ridge, Sidi Rezegh, Takrouna, Tebaga Gap and elsewhere.

The longest and most important land campaign ever fought by Kiwis in the Second World War was the second battle of El Alamein, the turning point of the North African campaign.

(Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012 

German soldiers with a trench mortar, Libya. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-08295-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22889267 “Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

German soldiers with a trench mortar, Libya. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-08295-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22889267
“Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

Italy:

Offensives here included joining the Allied effort to breach the Gustav Line and cross the Sangro River with the objective of initiating an advance to Rome, engagement in one of the fiercest and costliest battles of the war at Monte Cassino where the Maori Battalion distinguished itself and the final northwards offensive culminating in the German surrender as the ‘Div’ reached Trieste.

 ‘Into action at the Sangro River – the Italian campaign,’

(Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 19-Jun-2013

‘Cassino – the Italian campaign’,

(Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012

 ‘Faenza, Trieste and home – the Italian campaign’,

(Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012

World War 2 New Zealand military vehicles crossing a pontoon bridge over the Po River, Italy. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-03299-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23029375 “Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

World War 2 New Zealand military vehicles crossing a pontoon bridge over the Po River, Italy. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: DA-03299-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23029375
“Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

Italy, which had entered the war and allied itself with Germany under dictator Benito Mussolini, capitulated to the Allies in September 1943.

The unconditional surrender of all German forces occurred in north-western France on the 7th May 1945, although the last of our troops were not to make their long journey home to NZ until early 1946, due to limited availability of shipping. Some of these troops were to go on and serve with J-Force.

The Pacific

New Zealand fought in three main areas against the Japanese who had entered the war on 7 December 1941 after attacking both American and British territories and conquering much of Asia and the Pacific: in Singapore, in the seas around Japan, and in the Solomon Islands. There was desperate fighting on small island outposts where the rules of war could be ignored. In the islands, rain, heat and humidity seemed never-ending. The climate and conditions took their toll on many.

‘New Zealanders in the Pacific War’,

(Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Oct-2013

Japan surrendered to the Allies on 2 September 1945.

World War 2 New Zealand troops, in action on Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: WH-0243-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22771444 “Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

World War 2 New Zealand troops, in action on Vella Lavella, Solomon Islands. New Zealand. Department of Internal Affairs. War History Branch :Photographs relating to World War 1914-1918, World War 1939-1945, occupation of Japan, Korean War, and Malayan Emergency. Ref: WH-0243-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22771444
“Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.”

Some of the troops who had seen active service in the Pacific were redeployed to Italy upon their return to New Zealand, in 1945.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further material drawn from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_New_Zealand

I have posted a few interesting links on the Resources page for anyone interested in learning more about New Zealand’s contribution to the war effort.

 

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