New Zealanders and the Somme • Following the evacuation, the NZ forces went to Egypt for training before been transported to the Western front where they participated in many crucial Battles in both France and Belgium, including the Somme • It was the Somme that the majority of New Zealanders were killed or wounded during World War I • One in seven of the division were killed and four in ten wounded • New Zealanders first major engagement on the Western Front
The Battle Plan • Decided at the Chantilly conference, the allies agreed to mount a major offensive on the Western Front. Plan designed by British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig. • A War of Attrition: If they could kill more Germans, as they battled for control of villages, ridges and woods, than they could kill Allied troops, then victory would be theirs • Battle started in 1916 and there was two main offensives (1st July and 15th September) • Through intense shelling the German lines would destroy all forward German defences. Allied troops could then move across No Man's Land and overrun the Germans. It was expected that if they surprised the exhausted Germans, they would put up little fight.
Battle Plan continued • The Allies could then advance on the next line of trenches, with troops moving safely behind a curtain of artillery fire. With the German defence extended, a cavalry charge would eventually rupture the entire line. • Originally intended to be a joint French/British venture, but the French became tied up at Verdun and it was the British who bore the brunt of the attack • Reality: The Germans held the high ground and had made intelligent use of it. • They had dug better trenches and weathered the storm of exploding shells • Eleven divisions of men – heavily laden and ordered to walk slowly – headed towards the German lines, believing that the intense shelling had been successful • Using guns and rifles they shot down 21000 and wounded 40 0000 in a matter of hours
Key Dates and Events • June 24th: Allies open barrage along 40 km (25 mile) front • July 1st: British attack first and suffer 57 000 casualties • July 27th Australians involved in fighting for Pozieres, finally captured on August 5th
Key Dates and Events • 15 September:second major offensive on German lines; first use of tanks, by the British, including the New Zealand Division who assists in capturing village of Flers • 25 or 27 September: New Zealand Division involved in attacks at Morval and Thiepval Ridge • 4 October: New Zealand infantry withdraw from front line • 25 October: New Zealand artillery withdraw • 18 November: British abandon offensive • 1917 • 24 February: Germans withdraw from the area
The Progress of the Battle of the Somme • The gains made on 15 September were not the breakthrough that the Allied command had hoped for. That would never occur in this campaign, but in the following three weeks the New Zealand Division went into action again and again – on 16, 25 and 27 September and finally on 1 October. On each occasion the division did its job but with losses each time.