New Zealand soldiers in Switch Trench shortly after its capture in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, part of the Somme offensive. 
Image courtesy of the New Zealand National Army Museum, accession number: 2007.549
New Zealand soldiers in Switch Trench shortly after its capture in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, part of the Somme offensive.
Image courtesy of the New Zealand National Army Museum, accession number: 2007.549

New Zealand is holding three commemorative (external link) services on 15 September 2016 in Longueval, France, including a national commemoration (external link) of New Zealand's involvement in the Battle of the Somme.  

The Battle of the Somme was the first major battle for New Zealand on the Western Front. Of the 15,000 members of the New Zealand Division who were involved in the battle, approximately one in seven was killed and about four in every 10 were wounded.

New Zealanders in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force were joined by approximately 500 Pacific Island soldiers in the First World War. 

The majority were Cook Islanders and Niueans, 40 per cent of whom were part of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion in France during 1916-17, while over 300 Cook Islanders served in the Middle East throughout 1917-18.  Men from Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Norfolk Island also served overseas with the New Zealand forces during the First World War. New Zealand will also remember the impacts on the families that stayed behind, who managed farms, entered workforces and did patriotic fund-raising as well as sending parcels to the ‘boys’ on the front line.  This commemoration is also an opportunity to remember and reflect on the fact that there are more New Zealand soldiers buried in French soil than in any other country.

New Zealand’s work with France in the Pacific is a key strand to our relationship. We value France’s contribution to the stability and development in the region, particularly in times of need, such as natural disasters and humanitarian crises.  The First World War centenary is an opportunity to commemorate our shared sacrifice one hundred years ago.

The four winners of the WW100 essay and speech competitions run in Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Cook Islands will be at the commemorative service in France to remember and deepen their understanding of the contribution their countries made to the First World War, and the ongoing impact of this.

People travelling to France are advised to register with SafeTravel (external link) and sign up for the latest travel advisories.