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Centenary of the Somme to be marked

Ministers’ release: 9 March 2016

The centenary of the horrific Battle of the Somme and the enduring impact of the First World War on New Zealand society will be marked by the WW100 programme this year, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry says.

“2016 sees our overseas commemorations move from Gallipoli to the Western Front, with the Battle of the Somme an anniversary of particular significance,” Ms Barry says.

World War I New Zealand soldiers erecting a commemorative cross to those who died in the Somme Battle, 1916. Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association :New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918. Ref: 1/2-013632-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

New Zealand forces joined the slaughter of the Battle of the Somme in mid-September 1916. It was the country’s first major engagement on the Western Front.

“It was on the Western Front that our nation suffered the greatest loss of life,” Ms Barry says. “Nearly 6000 of our soldiers were wounded on the Somme and 2000 were killed in unimaginably horrific conditions.”

The contribution that New Zealand made in France during the First World War in 1916 will be commemorated overseas with three services on 15 September in Longueval, France, where New Zealand forces first entered the Battle of the Somme.

Domestically there will be a national ceremony at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park.

The majority of the New Zealanders killed on the Somme have no known graves, and are commemorated at the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery.

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

The WW100 programme is also focusing on how the war affected the lives of those still at home in New Zealand and the introduction of conscription.

The effects of the war touched the lives of every New Zealand family, whether it was through fundraising efforts, farewelling family members, comforting the grieving, or the impact of the state on their civil liberties.

“WW100’s 2016 programme gives New Zealanders an opportunity to reflect on the historical events of 1916 and the role they had in shaping our nation and our shared values,” Ms Barry says.

For more information about the commemorations of the Battle of the Somme centenary, visit

To find out more about WW100, visit

Published on 9th March 2016