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New Zealand

Relief map of New Zealand

New Zealand was a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire in 1941. Consisting of two large and several small islands with a total land area of about 172,000 square miles (445,000 km2), the country was mostly agrarian, with a population of just 1.6 million persons. It managed to mobilize 157,000 troops during the war, an impressive fraction of its population, and these generally proved to be very capable troops, serving with distinction in North Africa and Italy as well as the Pacific.

The larger South Island has a mountainous spine, the Southern Alps, reaching to 13,000' (4000m). This is bordered on the east by a coastal plain and the city of Christchurch. North Island is also rugged, with a number of large dormant volcanoes. The major city is Auckland, with port facilities to both east and west on either side of the Northland Peninsula. The capital city of New Zealand, Wellington, was deliberately located at the southern tip of North Island, just across from South Island, to forestall a movement to make South Island a separate Dominion. Both islands have a temperate climate. Rainfall is ample except in a few locations on South Island in the rain shadow of the mountains.

Prior to the start of the Pacific War, New Zealand had sent its best division, the 2nd, to Africa. This left a division of World War I veterans to guard New Zealand itself, plus a brigade in Fiji and scattered small garrisons elsewhere. Unlike Australia, New Zealand did not demand the return of its division from Europe, a decision made easier by New Zealand's greater distance from the Japanese threat. A second regular division was formed starting in mid-1942, but there were never enough troops to raise more than two brigades to serve in the division, which was disbanded in 1944 after seeing some tough combat in the Solomon and Bismarck Islands. The Royal New Zealand Air Force was well-trained but small, while the Royal New Zealand Navy consisted of a handful of light cruisers and destroyers that operated as virtually an integral part of the U.S. Navy. New Zealand's ports were important rear bases early in the Pacific War, but became less important as the Allied counteroffensive moved forward.

Order of battle, 7 December 1941

New Zealand Military Forces (Puttick; at Auckland)      

2 NZEF Corps (Suva)


8 Brigade Group (Cunningham) 8 battalions, plus platoons on Rorotonga and Fanning, the latter including an artillery battery. Also a battery on Suva. Generally short on heavy weapons.


Fiji Squadron (at Nadi) Command hierarchy and composition uncertain


  22 F2A3 Buffalo

Northern Military District (Auckland)


1 Auckland Battalion


1 Mounted Rifles


1 Regiment

Central Military District (Wellington)


1 Wellington Battalion


2 Mounted Rifles


2 Brigade

Southern Military District (Christchurch)


1 Canterbury Battalion


3 Mounted Rifles


3 Brigade
Royal New Zealand Air Force (Saunders; at Wellington)     



488 Squadron (at Kallang)



32 F2A3 Buffalo


5 Squadron (at Nadi)



4 Singapore
H.M. New Zealand Squadron (at Auckland)


CL Achilles


CL Leander


References

Bergerud (1996)

Marston (2005)

http://www.freeport-tech.com/WWII (accessed 2002; now defunct)



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