New Zealand First World War data

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this for a while, and following a Twitter conversation with Barry Blades of the Schooling and the Great War project, I decided it really was about time.

New Zealand’s Auckland War Memorial Museum runs the very comprehensive Cenotaph database. This provides information on those who have served in New Zealand’s armed forces from at least the Boer War onwards (I can’t remember if it includes the colonial wars against the Maori, and annoyingly, the database seems to be down at the time of writing!).

For the First World War this includes links to the service records held by Archives New Zealand, and also the embarkation rolls which show additional details of the ships on which the men left New Zealand for the theatres of war.

The data has been re-worked into linked data. This allows a number of statistics to be easily extracted. I had looked at some of this information previously due to the appearance of Ernest James Hamblin on the Surrey Association roll of honour. Originally from Hersham his family had emigrated to New Zealand before the war. The linked data version of the data can be found here.

Barry was interested in those who given their occupation as teaching – I knew that one of the examples given was a breakdown of the pre-war occupations of those who served in New Zealand’s forces. School teacher is there, but rather a small slice to pick out in the pie chart. Carpenter, Ernest Hamblin’s trade, is rather easier to find being the fifth largest group. Fortunately we can see that the full results are also given in numeric form, if we expand the “Results” area of the page. The easiest way to find them is to do use the web browser’s text search facility, usually accessed by pressing -F, and entering teacher. We soon find that 378 men enlisted giving that as their occupation (in fact a few slightly different synonyms appear, but 378 is the total given for each of them, and it appears that these are alternatives rather than needing to add all of those, as only one slice is given in the pie chart).

One of the other charts available is a breakdown of New Zealand deaths by day throughout the war. This chart shows correlations with the major battles in which the New Zealanders fought, and you can adjust the dates covered by the chart, which effectively allows you to zoom in on particular periods. I had already commented in my first article on Ernest that the day on which he died, 4 October 1917, was the bloodiest of the war for the New Zealanders to that point with 487 dead, though it lost that dubious honour 8 days later when 12 October saw 839 New Zealand deaths. A screenshot of the “zoomed in” data is shown below.

Graph showing the New Zealand deaths by day.  The two highest peaks are on 4 and 12 October 1917

New Zealand deaths per day between mid-1917 and mid-1918

Ultimately I would also like to recast the data displayed on the individual men’s pages on this site into the form of linked data, though I haven’t yet worked out the best way of achieving that. It would then be possible to generate similar statistics for the men named on the Surrey Association roll.


2 thoughts on “New Zealand First World War data

  1. mightygwyn

    This is unconnected with New Zealand but I wanted to make a general comment. My particular interest is the Western Front in the Vosges and Alsace. I collect postcards and documents of the region and period. Since following your bellringers, I’ve become aware of the number of cards depicting the ‘baptism’ of beautifully adorned new bells after the Great War, sometimes specifically labelled that the original bell was destroyed by the enemy, shelled by the Germans and so on. Most of these cards are dated between about 1923 and 1929. The losses of churches and consequently their bell towers was clearly substantial.

    I recently visited a village where a bell was on display, inscribed with names, and plaques had been erected, for each bell stating the saint to whom it was dedicated, the date of dedication (1925) and the names of the sponsors. It was particularly poignant to see the name of a woman and to recognise the surname listed among the dead on the war memorial close by – a mother, a widow, perhaps? Or a couple: parents, maybe?

    Sadly, the process of the destruction of villages and their churches happened again in the battles for Alsace in the next war. I just wanted to thank you for raising my awareness of this facet of warfare in the area which I visit often. I have plenty of cards showing the ruins of villages. I may yet start collected interesting cards on the subject of their bells.


    1. davidunderdown95 Post author

      Bells have long been part of the spoils of war. They were expensive to obtain in the first place and highly valued for sentimental reasons by the local inhabitants, and I think there was probably an element of taking part of the general character of the place too. Also the bell metal alloy was very similar to the gun metal of traditional (if you see illustrations of the earliest western artillery, they are pretty bell shaped too).

      On the Western Front I don’t think bells were deliberately taken, but church towers were targeted by artillery for fear that they were being used as observation posts by the other side. I have read of the odd bell from a fallen church being used as a gas alarm.

      British ringers certainly tried out the bells of French and Belgian churches behind the lines, it’s mentioned several times in letters to The Ringing World. There are also reports of the bells of Austro-Hungarian churches particularly being donated to the war effort.


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