The New Zealand National Memorial was erected on the original objective gained by the New Zealand Division during the first Battle of the Somme, and from which they launched the successful attack on Flers on the 15th September 1916.
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette
The Battle of the Somme began on the 1st July. By mid-September the battlefield had been torn apart by shelling and losses were accumulating at a terrible rate, and yet the frontline had barely moved. To try to end this stalemate, a large-scale breakthrough offensive was launched along the front from Thiepval to Combles using a new secret weapon - the tank would make its first appearance on a battlefield!
The New Zealand Division played a major part in the battle - its first major engagement on the Western Front. On the 14th September, the men took up position to the west of the village of Longueval, ready for the battle that would commence the next day at 6.20am. After a massive artillery barrage, they advanced rapidly through the smoke and mist, and by late afternoon had taken all of their objectives and helped capture the village of Flers. After consolidating their new positions, and repelling counter attacks, they were involved in two more attacks over the next few weeks before being relieved on the 4th October. Although relatively successful, German resistance had been strong and the muddy, pock-marked ground and worsening weather had greatly affected fighting conditions. Losses were considerably high with over 7,000 New Zealand men being made casualty in just three weeks of fighting.
A National Memorial
Longueval became a special place of remembrance for New Zealanders after the war. A memorial, inscribed with the words, "In honour of the men of the New-Zealand - First Battle of the Somme 1916" was unveiled in October 1922 by Sir Francis Bell, leader of the Legislative Council in New Zealand. It stands on the original objective gained by the New Zealand Division during the first Battle of the Somme, and from which they launched the successful attack on Flers on the 15th September 1916.
Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and Memorial
The Caterpillar Valley Cemetery and New Zealand Memorial to the Missing can be found close to the New Zealand National Memorial, on the road to Contalmaison. The cemetery contains 5,569 Commonwealth graves, 68% of which are unidentified. 125 New Zealand graves, recognisable by their silver fern insignia, are dotted throughout the cemetery.
Inside the cemetery, a memorial bears the names of the 1,205 New Zealander soldiers whose bodies were never found or identified after the battles of 1916. The cemetery is surrounded by fields and located to the west of Longueval, on the Allied positions of 1916. In 2004, the remains of an unknown New Zealand soldier were exhumed from this cemetery for reburial at the National War Memorial in Wellington, New Zealand. He is the New Zealand Unknown Soldier, representing all those men who came “from the uttermost ends of the earth” to fight in the First World War.
ANZAC Day commemorations are held every year at the New Zealand Memorials in Longeuval. Please click here for more information about Anzac Day 2017
Please visit the New Zealand Embassy website for more information about the New Zealand Division in the First World War.
Access to both sites is free, all year round.
The Caterpillar Valley Cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.