New Zealand wreath laying service at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, in 2014 (Photo: New Zealand Defence Force)

Western Front centenary focus for New Zealand in 2016

Posted on on 04 February 2016
Share |

New Zealanders who fought at the Battle of the Somme will be remembered during the country's 2016 programme of international First World War commemorations focussing on France and Belgium.

It was on the Western Front that New Zealand made its most significant contribution to the Allied war effort, and also where New Zealand suffered the greatest loss of life, explains centenary organisation New Zealand WW100.   

As well as the annual Anzac Day commemorations, three services are planned on September 15th at Longueval in France to commemorate New Zealand's role in the Somme offensive of 1916. There'll be a Dawn service, a National Service and a Ceremony of Beating Retreat.

On September 12th, troops of the New Zealand Defence Force will provide the Vigil Guard for the ceremony taking place daily at the Thiepval Memorial from July-November to remember the 141 days of the battle.

'Huge toll'

The Battle of the Somme was New Zealand's first major engagement on the Western Front.

The majority of New Zealanders killed or wounded during the Great War were casualties of the Somme.

'It took a huge toll on the 15,000 members of the New Zealand Division who were involved,' says NZ WW100.

'Roughly one in seven of the division who fought on the Somme was killed, and about four in every 10 were wounded.'

The majority of the New Zealanders who fell have no known graves and are commemorated at the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval. 

New Zealand’s Unknown Warrior was originally buried in Caterpillar Valley before his exhumation and interment at the National War Memorial, Wellington, in 2004.

The centenary Anzac Day (remembering the first commemorations in 1916 paying tribute to Australian and New Zealand forces in the wake of the Gallipoli campaign) will be marked in the traditional April 25th services taking place in London and Wellington.


New Zealand Division Memorial at Messines (Photo: Centenary News)

Services in France to mark the centenary of the Somme (all times local)

12 September: The New Zealand Defence Force will provide the Vigil Guard at the ‘Thiepval 141’ midday ceremony at the France/British memorial at Thiepval at 12.00pm.

15 September:  A New Zealand ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme will be held at Longueval - comprising a Dawn Service at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial, the National service at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, and an evening Ceremony of Beating Retreat at the New Zealand Battlefield Memorial.

Anzac Day-related services


Commemorations in France are traditionally held on the weekend closest to Anzac Day.

23 April, 3.00pm: New Zealand National Service at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval.

24 April, 6.00am: New Zealand Anzac Dawn Service, Le Quesnoy (New Zealand also participates in the French service later that morning, which includes a march with the Le Quesnoy community to the New Zealand Memorial embedded in the walls of the town).


25 April - 6.00am: Anzac Day Dawn Service (joint Australia, Belgium, New Zealand service), Buttes New British Cemetery, Zonnebeke.

11.15am: Anzac Last Post ceremony, Menin Gate, Ypres.

2.00pm: New Zealand Anzac Day Service, New Zealand Memorial Park, Nieuwzeelandersstraat, Mesen (Messines).

8.00pm: Last Post ceremony, Menin Gate, Ypres.

The New Zealand contingent conducting these commemorative services in France and Belgium will also participate in the rekindling of the Eternal Flame ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on 28 April at 6pm.


25 April – Anzac Day Dawn Service followed by the New Zealand Service at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli

United Kingdom

25 April - 5.00am: Dawn Service, Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner

11.00am: Wreath Laying Ceremony and Parade, The Cenotaph, Whitehall

12.00pm: Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving, Westminster Abbey.

For more details of New Zealand's Centenary programme, visit the New Zealand WW100 website.

Source: New Zealand WW100

Images courtesy of New Zealand Defence Force - NZDF (Longueval wreath-laying); Centenary News (New Zealand Divsion Memorial)

Posted by: CN Editorial Team