New Zealand

Full Name 46 Dominion of New Zealand
Alliance Allies - Minor Member Nation or Possession
Possessing Power United Kingdom
Entry into WW2 3 Sep 1939
Population in 1939 1,641,600
Military Deaths in WW2 11,671


ww2dbaseBeing a small country, New Zealand's contribution to the war seemed, and was, equally small. However, proportionally speaking, New Zealand made a greater contribution to WW2 among all Commonwealth nations.

ww2dbaseNew Zealand entered WW2 as it declared war on Germany at 2130 hours on 3 Sep 1939. Far from home, New Zealand 2nd Expeditionary Force troops fought in mainland Greece under British command, losing 291 men killed, 1,826 captured, and 387 seriously wounded in this early campaign in the European War; in May 1941, New Zealand troops defended against German attacks in northwestern Crete, an island in southern Greece. Meanwhile, to the south in North Africa, a small contingent of New Zealand troops fought in the Desert War; by Nov 1941, the main New Zealand force evacuated from Greece and fresh troops from home joined them, participating in Operation Crusader, Operation Lightfoot, and other important operations in this theater. In North Africa, New Zealand suffered 2,989 killed, 4,041 taken prisoner, and 7,000 wounded. When the war initially began, the New Zealand naval contingent fighting with the British Royal Navy was named the New Zealand Division; on 1 Oct 1941, this force was granted the name Royal New Zealand Navy by King George VI of the United Kingdom.

ww2dbaseThe British Royal Air Force had many foreign nationals serving with them, the largest contingent of which were from New Zealand. Among the first of them were Alan Deere, whose sentiments expressed many of the New Zealanders who served so far away from home, not just in the air force but cross all branches of service:

In my generation, in the 30s, as schoolboys, we always thought [Britain] as the home country, always referred to it as the Mother Country. That was the old colonial tie if you like.... I was, I think, one of the very lucky New Zealanders who was in the air force at the time of the last war and the Battle of Britain in particular. I consider myself privileged to have been there, to fight for this country.... I'd a hectic round, so to speak, but it was all worthwhile.

ww2dbaseMany New Zealand pilots were distinguish themselves during the Battle of Britain.

ww2dbaseAlthough by late 1941 to early 1942, New Zealand became involved in the Pacific War that roared on close to home, the New Zealand 2nd Expeditionary Force remained in Europe, advancing up Italy at a slow pace. The decision by Prime Minister Peter Fraser to keep the expeditionary force in North Africa was partially due to the promise and arrival of the United States 1st Marine Division, which gave New Zealand time to raise a new force against a potential attack by Japan. This new force, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific, would found itself not defending their home country, but rather fighting cross the South Pacific islands. Major General Harold Barrowclough, for example, led the New Zealand 3rd Division in the fighting in Guadalcanal and other locations in the Solomon Islands. In the war, the Royal New Zealand Air Force contributed a squadron of Hudson bombers at Guadalcanal in Nov 1942 followed by a squadron of Warhawk fighters in Jun 1943. By mid-1944, eight RNZAF squadrons (four fighter, two bomber, one dive bomber, and one flying boat) were operating in the Solomon Islands. In the Solomon Island campaign, just under 600 New Zealanders were killed, 345 of which were from the RNZAF. By the end of the war, the RNZAF operated thirteen squadrons of Corsair fighters, six squadrons of Ventura bombers, two squadrons of Catalina flying boats, two squadrons of Avenger torpedo bombers, two squadrons of Dakota transports, one squadron of Dauntless dive bombers, plus other smaller formations; 41,000 personnel served in the RNZAF by this time, which included about 10,000 in Europe.

ww2dbaseWhen Japan surrendered, Air Vice Marshal Leonard Isitt signed the surrender document on behalf of New Zealand. In retrospect, New Zealand was at its strongest militarily in Jul 1942 when its military reached 154,549 men and women in uniform, which even excluded those who served in the Home Guard. Over 11,000 died in combat, which translated to 0.73% of the population; in comparison, the United Kingdom lost 0.93%, Australia 0.57%, Canada 0.12%, and South Africa 0.12%.

Daniel Marston, The Pacific War
Kate Moore, The Battle of Britain

Last Major Update: Jul 2010

Carr, RoderickFreyberg, Bernard
Coningham, ArthurPark, Keith


Sister Mahan-class destroyers USS Case, USS Shaw, USS Cummings, and USS Tucker nested together at Auckland, New Zealand, Mar 1941. Note cruiser USS Brooklyn coming in behind the destroyers.Enlisted US Marines quarters at the military camp on the grounds of the Horse Trotters Club of Wellington, New Zealand, 1943Men of US 2nd Marine Regiment marching near Camp McKay, New Zealand, 1943Men of US 2nd Marine Regiment on the small arms firing range, Camp McKay, New Zealand, 1943
See all 23 photographs of New Zealand in World War II

New Zealand in World War II Interactive Map

Did you enjoy this article or find this article helpful? If so, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 per month will go a long way! Thank you.

Share this article with your friends:


Stay updated with WW2DB:

 RSS Feeds

Visitor Submitted Comments

1. CAP says:
8 Jul 2010 11:33:21 AM

I have a lot of respect for the Kiwi's
2. Fransisco Papadakana says:
4 Feb 2012 08:12:14 PM

Dear Sir/Madam: I have in possession a Tag No of an New Zealand Corps who died in WWII Combat in Solomon Islands... Detail of the tag: B.Luckyess N.L Corps N.Z Munda, 5 March 1945. I want to know the relative contact to collect the tag.
3. Commenter identity confirmed Alan says:
9 Feb 2012 02:57:05 AM

Chance that 'N.L.Corps' maybe Dutch rather than New Zealander
4. Rodney says:
25 Mar 2013 01:41:13 PM

if this site had a part of the contribution and only a page of new zealands contribution to the war in the pacific
5. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
12 Feb 2014 12:32:45 AM

New Zealand troops began the war still wearing service dress with long matching trousers, short puttees and ankle boots. Their distinctive headwear was the slouich hat, which differed from the Australian version in that the crown was pointed and indented on four sides, and the brim was never officially folded up. The cap badge was worn to the front, and a puggree in regimental or corps colours was worn around the base of the hat.
Officers wore the service dress with either the slouch hat or peaked cap. As with other Dominion forces, New Zealand troops would soon be issued with standard British clothing and equipment.
New Zealand badges of rank were identical to those of the British Army.
6. mac m donald says:
12 Mar 2014 01:01:14 AM

I am going to the solomons islands to trace my farther in ww2,what I would like to know is where the NZ 3DF landed and is fhere a hospital list ,, my farther was there in1943
7. sweggy mc sweg says:
18 Jun 2014 03:44:09 PM

how many nz troops were in the north african campaign?
8. Mrmac says:
20 Aug 2018 11:41:43 PM

I have just tracked an uncle that was a prisoner of war and it looks like he died Timaru, Timaru District, Canterbury in 1948. I have sent an email to find a grave but no response. Can anyone direct me on finding more information on James Patrick MacAulay. He was born in Scotland, so not sure why he didn't come back to Scotland. Was he too ill? So many questions. Any help is greatly appreciated.
9. Anonymous says:
26 Nov 2018 06:20:12 PM


i had a quick squiz and found a couple of leeds.
‘Temuka’ is only roughly 15-20 km north from Timaru.

We have pretty good databases thru our smaller town museums (usually made possible by volunteers & local folk), as well our military & regional museums + a fairly good (searchable) stack of online records etc.

try perhaps ‘Canterbury Museum’

or just type in his name into google. something like
“ James Patrick Macaulay served with or in NZ “

..and go from there.
Hope this helps

All visitor submitted comments are opinions of those making the submissions and do not reflect views of WW2DB.

Posting Your Comments on this Topic

Your Name
Your Email
 Your email will not be published
Comment Type
Your Comments
Security Code



1. We hope that visitor conversations at WW2DB will be constructive and thought-provoking. Please refrain from using strong language. HTML tags are not allowed. Your IP address will be tracked even if you remain anonymous. WW2DB site administrators reserve the right to moderate, censor, and/or remove any comment. All comment submissions will become the property of WW2DB.

2. For inquiries about military records for members of the World War II armed forces, please see our FAQ.

Search WW2DB & Partner Sites

New Zealand in World War II Photo Gallery
Sister Mahan-class destroyers USS Case, USS Shaw, USS Cummings, and USS Tucker nested together at Auckland, New Zealand, Mar 1941. Note cruiser USS Brooklyn coming in behind the destroyers.
See all 23 photographs of New Zealand in World War II

Famous WW2 Quote
"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Winston Churchill, on the RAF

Support Us

Please consider supporting us on Patreon. Even $1 a month will go a long way. Thank you!

Or, please support us by purchasing some WW2DB merchandise at TeeSpring, Thank you!