NZ declared allegiance to Britain in WWI

NZ declared allegiance to Britain in WWI
Arthur Foljambe, 2nd Earl of Liverpool. The last Governor of New Zealand.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)


At 3pm the New Zealand Governor, Lord Liverpool, read a telegram from His Majesty King George V to a crowd of 15,000 people gathered at Parliament in Wellington. The telegram expressed The King’s appreciation for the solidarity of his overseas dominions after Britain declared war with Germany. Lord Liverpool responded with New Zealand’s own commitment to make any sacrifice necessary.

Word of Britain’s declaration of war was received in Wellington on 5 August. The governor, Lord Liverpool, announced the news from the steps of Parliament to a crowd of more than 12,000 people. New Zealanders regarded themselves as British and Britain as home, so there was little hesitation in supporting the Mother Country in its moment of crisis.

New Zealanders’ emotional response to the outbreak of war reflected the Dominion’s close ties with Great Britain. Germany’s invasion of Belgium, another small country, struck a chord with many. The militaristic atmosphere of the time contributed to the enthusiasm with which most New Zealanders entered the war.

New Zealand’s response to the outbreak of war was not only a matter of supporting Mother England; self-interest was also at work. New Zealand was dependent on the British market for the sale of the wool, frozen meat and dairy products that dominated its economy. Anything that threatened this market threatened New Zealand’s livelihood. New Zealand relied on Britain’s naval power to protect its physical integrity and its trade on the long haul to the British market.

Ultimately, New Zealand’s greatest contribution to the war effort was the supply of 120,000 service personnel, of whom 103,000 served overseas. The foundations of this massive mobilisation had been laid in the years leading up to war through organisations such as the Boy Scouts and through the introduction of compulsory military training in 1909.

1. ‘Origins of the war – First World War overview’, NZHistory from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage
2. NZHistory from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage
3. NZHistory from the Ministry for Culture & Heritage