New Zealand Goes to War

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force was established on 6 August 1914 after Britain accepted New Zealand’s offer of an 8,000 strong force.

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In line with the Territorial system established in 1911 the country was divided into four districts: Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. Each district was expected to contribute a quarter of the men required including an infantry battalion and a mounted rifles regiment.

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After his enlistment Clarrie Harris had his portrait taken by Hokitika photographer Ben Thiem while wearing his new uniform and 13th Regiment badges

Hokitika Museum GPN#004 Harris. All Rights Reserved

Good Keen Men

Such was the patriotic fervour caused by the outbreak of war that men like Clarence (Clarrie) Roy Harris attempted to enlist the day that war was declared.

Within weeks, 14,000 men had volunteered and of these 8,500 men were accepted for the Main Body, the first large group of soldiers to leave New Zealand.

Clarrie, a 20 year-old draper’s assistant who was working in Hokitika, left in October 1914 and fought at Gallipoli and in Europe before being sent home with shell shock in late 1916.

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Reinforcements Required

As men succumbed to illness, were wounded or killed, reinforcements were needed and 3,000 volunteers were sent for training every 2 months. One of these volunteers was Arthur Elderton, a 21 year-old delivery man of Papanui, Christchurch, who enlisted on 14 June 1915. He joined the 7th reinforcements of the Canterbury Infantry Battalion and served in Egypt and later Europe. Private Elderton was wounded in action on 8 July 1916 at Armentières, France. He died 2 days later.


Arthur Elderton (6/3008) before he sailed for Egypt in October 1915. His hat badge indicates that he is part of the 1st (Canterbury) Regiment

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The cap badge worn by Arthur Elderton indicated that he served as part of the 7th Reinforcements that left New Zealand in October 1915. Each draft of reinforcements was sequentially numbered with the 43rd Reinforcements leaving New Zealand in October 1918, just before the end of the War.

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Cap and collar badges for the 1st (Canterbury) Regiment. The motto is Ake ake kia kaha (For ever and ever be strong).

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Worn with Pride

Every member of the armed forces wore the badge of their regiment or company. Men wore these distinctive emblems with considerable pride. The Canterbury Infantry Battalion included the 1st (Canterbury), 2nd (South Canterbury), 12th (Nelson) and 13th (North Canterbury and Westland) Regiments.

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A Determined Enlister

Born in Lincoln, Canterbury, Henry James Nicholas (known as Harry) was a carpenter in Queensland, Australia, when war was declared.

Together with his mate, Albert Smith, he attempted to enlist with the Australian Imperial Forces but was turned down due to his bad teeth.

Henry returned to Canterbury where he was accepted for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in January 1916. The space on the medical examination form noting the condition of his teeth was left blank. He left Canterbury soon after as a private with the 13th Reinforcements and had a distinguished military career.


Henry Nicholas wearing the regimental collar and cap badges of the 12th Regiment that he had been so determined to obtain

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Pay book belonging to Private Henry James Nicholas

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Paying the Bills

Like other recruits, Private Nicholas was paid five shillings a day while serving and he was fed and clothed. The Defence Department automatically deducted three shillings a day that was either paid to relatives or banked until the serviceman returned to New Zealand. The remaining two shillings could be drawn by the soldier while overseas to cover expenses when they were on leave.