Skip to main content

First World War Centenary Projects

The Delivery Group of Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage developed a series of print and digital projects to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in 2014-19, including web projects and a series of books exploring the impact of the war on New Zealand society during and after the conflict.

Centenary history programme in print and online

The Ministry, Massey University, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association jointly produced a series of authoritative histories on New Zealand and the First World War.

The books in the Centenary History Programme covered the major campaigns in Europe and the Middle East, New Zealanders’ contributions in the air, the experiences of soldiers at the front, the Māori war effort, and the war’s impact and legacy. Leading New Zealand historians worked on the first books in the series, which appeared between 2013 and 2019.

Read the list of published and planned books here.

Whitiki: Maori in the First World War

Dr Monty Soutar, who wrote the award-winning publication Nga Tama Toa: C Company, 28th Maori Battalion, has completed his new book about the some 2,500 Māori and Pacific Island people who served overseas. The much-awaited book Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Maori in the First World War is available through bookshops nationwide following the Auckland War Memorial Museum launch on 5 June 2019.

Read more in the following media release - Māori contribution to First World War revealed in new book

Western Front history

This overview of New Zealanders’ experiences on the Western Front was written by leading military historian Dr Ian McGibbon. Since the first official history of the New Zealand Division on the Western Front was published in 1921, no scholarly overview volume has been written, until now. Dr McGibbon's book New Zealand’s Western Front Campaign published by David Bateman Ltd in September 2016, is now available in bookstores and online at batemanpublishing.co.nz.

New Zealand’s most traumatic military campaign revealed

A guide to First World War heritage sites in New Zealand

The First World War took thousands of young New Zealand men across the globe to fight in foreign fields, but it was also an event which happened at home. This guide take readers on a tour of sites throughout New Zealand of significance to the country’s experience of the war. There is a broad range of sites which bear upon military, political, economic, and social aspects of New Zealand’s war experience. It also describes sites that developed after the war, such as selected memorials and streets named after campaigns. As a story of the domestic experience of the war, it will be of interest to a general audience.

Historians Imelda Bargas and Tim Shoebridge completed this book in April 2015.

The book New Zealand's First World War Heritage can be purchased in print and as an e-book from Exisle Publishing.

Compelling new book on life at home during the First World War

New Zealand's hospital ships

In 1915 the government chartered the trans-Tasman liners Maheno and Marama for use as our first hospital ships. For the next four years, starting with the Maheno off the beach at Gallipoli, they travelled the globe, staffed by Kiwi seamen, doctors and nurses. Back home, thousands of New Zealanders made items and raised money to support these 'mercy ships' and followed their movements closely as they transported the sick and wounded from many countries. Gavin McLean published the first detailed history of this remarkable contribution to our First World War effort in his book 'The White Ships : New Zealand's First World War hospital ships'

Released in October 2013, the book is published by the New Zealand Ship & Marine Society.

First World War illustrated history

Former Ministry Senior Historian Damien Fenton completed a highly illustrated print publication published by Penguin Books. This is a general overview of New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War, aimed at the non-specialist reader and covering events on the battlefields and at home. An interactive or ‘engineered paper’ book, it is highly visual, full colour and include facsimiles of contemporary diaries, maps, posters and a range of other memorabilia inserted into the publication. 

This book 'New Zealand and the First World War 1914-1919'  was released in November 2013. More details are on Penguin Book's website.

As well as featuring pull-out ‘paper engineering’ memorabilia, the book includes a QR code on the slipcase which links readers with smartphones/tablets to online resources, accessible through this specially created ‘landing page’ in the firstworldwar.govt.nz section of NZHistory.net.nz.

Landing page for New Zealand and the First World War publication.

First World War website

The NZHistory web team developed a major web resource on New Zealand’s experience of the war, hosted on NZHistory. The team combined existing content with extensive new material to build New Zealand’s most comprehensive online resource on the world at war, the major campaigns, the soldier’s experience, the main NZEF units, the home front, post-war memorialisation and many other subjects. 

First World War website

Cenotaph project

The Auckland War Memorial Museum led an initiative to bring the First World War Centenary closer to New Zealand families.

The Cenotaph Database is a starting point for families, schools, communities, researchers and people all over the world to explore content held about our soldiers. Every New Zealand soldier who served in the First World War has their own record.

The Cenotaph Database project was run in conjunction with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Te Papa, Archives New Zealand, the National Library including the Alexander Turnbull Library and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

In May 2015, Auckland War Memorial Museum announced that a roadshow unit accompanied by knowledgeable staff from the Museum would tour the former Auckland Province during the centenary, from Cape Reinga to Taupo. The programme encouraged communities to explore and add to the Online Cenotaph database.

Auckland Museum's Cenotaph Database

Auckland War Memorial Museum Creates Lasting Legacy with WW100 Community Programme

WW100

The Government organised and supported a number of centenary events and legacy projects. The centenary programme included a wide range of activities for New Zealanders to participate in – both at home and overseas. All New Zealanders were encouraged to engage in the programme in some way either by attending a commemorative event or learning more about their family’s military service history.

More information about the opportunities that were available to New Zealanders can be found at http://ww100.govt.nz.

The five-year WW100 First World War Centenary Programme has been the most extensive programme of commemorations ever undertaken in New Zealand history. The WW100 Final Report looks at what was achieved and the impact for New Zealanders.

Read the WW100 Final Report

Other legacy projects

Two other legacy projects are the education centre and heritage trails. The Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre, which opened in August 2016, is a significant addition to the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park as a place to tell the stories behind what is commemorated there. 

Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre

Two heritage site interpretation projects (also called ‘heritage trails’) in Gallipoli and the Western Front were developed in parallel. In March 2015 a free smartphone and tablet app was published, offering a new way to explore the Gallipoli campaign. The Ngā Tapuwae Gallipoli app features compelling diary entries from the First World War, with clear facts, authentic and beautiful imagery as well as audio tours narrated by leading historians. The Western Front app was released later in October 2015.

Ngā Tapuwae - New Zealand First World War Trails

Image of the Wellington interpretative sign is courtesy of Mark Tantrum.

An interpretative sign was unveiled on 16 October 2014 on the waterfront promenade in front of Te Papa in Wellington.

WW100 website


Updated on 4th July 2019