The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was the title of the military forces sent from New Zealand to fight for Britain during World War I and World War II. Ultimately, the NZEF of World War I was known as the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force. The NZEF of World War II was known as the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) was the title of the military forces sent from New Zealand to fight for Britain during World War I. Upon the outbreak of war, New Zealand immediately offered to provide two brigades - one of infantry and one of mounted troops - a total of 8,500 men. This contingent sailed for Australia within two months of the start of the war and then joined with the Australian Imperial Force in a convoy sailing for Egypt.
The NZEF was commanded throughout the war by General Alexander Godley, a British officer who in 1910, on the recommendation of Lord Kitchener, had been appointed as the commander of the New Zealand Defence Forces.New Zealand, like Australia, had a pre-war policy of compulsory military training but the NZEF was initially reinforced by volunteers only. Conscription was introduced on 1 August 1916 and by the end of the war 124,000 men - nearly half the eligible male population of 250,000 - had served with the NZEF. Of these, about 100,000 had been sent overseas.
The NZEF was closely tied to the AIF for much of the war. When the Gallipoli campaign began, the New Zealand contingent was insufficient to complete a division of their own so was combined with the Australian 4th Infantry Brigade to form the New Zealand and Australian Division, General Godley commanding. This division, along with the Australian 1st Division, formed the famous Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) under the command of General William Birdwood.
After the end of the Gallipoli campaign, the NZEF formed its own infantry division; the New Zealand Division which served on the Western Front for the rest of the war. General Godley was promoted to a corps command and given II Anzac Corps, which contained the New Zealand Division. From 1916 until the formation of the Australian Corps in 1918 (made up of the five Australian divisions) there were always two "Anzac" corps - I Anzac Corps and II Anzac Corps - despite the fact that there was only one New Zealand Division to go around.
The mounted arm of the NZEF remained in Egypt and, combined with the 1st and 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigades, made up the Anzac Mounted Division which served through the Sinai and Palestine campaign.
The 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force - at the outbreak of war in 1939 it was decided that New Zealand should provide an Expeditionary Force of one division, under then Major General Bernard Freyberg. This force became known as 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the division as 2nd New Zealand Division. The first echelon of 2NZEF Headquarters and a Brigade Group landed in Egypt in February 1940. The second echelon, also a Brigade Group, was diverted to Britain on Italy's entry into the War and did not reach Egypt until March 1941. The third echelon arrived in Egypt in September 1940 and concentration of the division was completed just before it was deployed to northern Greece in March 1941.This force remained as part of the British Eighth Army to the end of WWII in 1945 during which it fought in the Battle of Greece (March–April 1941), Battle of Crete (May), Operation Crusader (November–December), Minqar Qaim (June 1942) Battle of El Alamein (July–November), Libya and Tunisia (December–May 1943),The Sangro (October–December), Battle of Monte Cassino (February–March 1944), Central Italy (May–December), Adriatic Coast (April–May 1945) .
The New Zealand 3rd Division was the main New Zealand Army unit of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Pacific and it fought in the Pacific Ocean Areas during World War II. The Division saw action in the Solomon Islands campaign during 1943-44.
In early 1944 the New Zealand Government faced a manpower crisis caused by the demands of maintaining two divisions overseas while simultaneously maintaining agricultural and industrial production to meet the needs of the Allied countries. In order to cope with this crisis the New Zealand Government saw no option other than to disband one the country's two infantry divisions. The decision to disband the 3rd Division was made after consulting with the British and United States Governments, who were of the view that 2nd Division's contribution to the campaign in Italy was of greater importance than 3rd Division's contribution in the Pacific.
3rd Division was withdrawn to New Caledonia in June 1944 and returned to New Zealand in August. The Division was rapidly downsized and was formally disbanded on 20 October 1944. About 4,000 veterans of 3rd NZ Division were dispatched to Italy to reinforce 2nd Division with the remaining men of the division returning to civilian employment.