WARS – FIRST WORLD WAR, 1914–18
The New Zealand Expeditionary Force
In a rush of enthusiasm another expeditionary force intended for France was soon assembled, consisting in the end of the following:
A divisional headquarters.
The Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment (divisional cavalry).
A mounted rifles brigade (Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury Regiments).
A field artillery brigade and brigade ammunition column.
An infantry brigade (Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago Battalions).
With supporting troops and reinforcements 8,427 men embarked, with 3,815 horses.* No nurses were included. The Main Body, as it was later called, under Major-General Godley was the largest single body of New Zealand troops ever to leave these shores. It sailed from Wellington in 10 transports on 16 October, linked with an even larger Australian contingent, and at sea was redirected to Egypt. A loss of 700–800 horses on the voyage had been predicted; but only 77 died. Early in December the NZEF settled into camp at Zeitoun, near Cairo, and was soon joined by the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade, the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps, and 240 New Zealanders from England. All combined to form the New Zealand and Australian Division to which the 4th Australian Infantry Brigade was added at the end of January 1915. Before this, however, the New Zealand Infantry Brigade had been sent post haste to meet a daring but easily repulsed Turkish thrust across the Sinai Desert. The Canterbury Battalion saw action in support of an Indian Brigade south of Ismailia on 3 February, frustrating repeated Turkish attempts to cross the Suez Canal by boat or pontoon. In so doing, a private was killed and a sergeant wounded, the first NZEF battle casualties. (*Over 10,000 horses all told were shipped for service in the NZEF.)