6th October 2017, Volume 130 Number 1463

Nick Wilson, Glyn Harper

The 5,547 deaths among New Zealand military personnel in 1917 was more than for any other year of the First World War. Indeed, a third of the deaths in the…

Subscriber content

The full contents of this page is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe

Summary

At a total of 5,547 deaths among New Zealand’s military personnel, the year 1917 was the worst year from a mortality perspective in the country’s military history. This year had a third of the deaths in the whole of the First World War for this military population. Major drivers of this mortality burden were the battles of Messines and Third Ypres (Passchendaele) in June and October 1917 respectively. The contribution of disease deaths to the mortality burden was relatively small at 4.5%. Disease deaths were significantly more common in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months, and some may have been related to crowding.

Abstract

At a total of 5,547 deaths among New Zealand’s military personnel, the year 1917 was the worst year from a mortality perspective in the country’s military history. This year had a third of the deaths in the whole of the First World War for this military population. Major drivers of this mortality burden were the Battles of Messines and Third Ypres (Passchendaele) in June and October 1917 respectively. The contribution of disease deaths to the mortality burden was relatively small at 4.5%. Disease deaths were significantly more common in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months (p=0.007), and some may have been related to crowding.

Author Information

Nick Wilson, Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington; Glyn Harper, War Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North.

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the organisers of the Symposium “The Myriad Faces of War: 1917 and its Legacy” held at Te Papa, Wellington, on 25–28 April 2017, at which some of the material in this paper was presented. They also thank the Journal reviewers for very helpful comments on the manuscript.

Correspondence

Professor Nick Wilson, Public Health, University of Otago, Mein St, Wellington 6021.

Correspondence Email

nick.wilson@otago.ac.nz

Competing Interests

Nil.

References

  1. Wilson N, Summers JA, Baker MG, Thomson G, Harper G. Fatal injury epidemiology among the New Zealand military forces in the First World War. N Z Med J 2013; 126:13–25.
  2. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. New Zealand and the Second World War. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. URL: http://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/new-zealand-and-the-second-world-war-overview, (Updated 5 August 2014).
  3. Wilson N, Morales A, Guy N, Thomson G. Marked decline of sudden mass fatality events in New Zealand for the 1900 to 2015 period: The basic epidemiology. Aust N Z J Public Health 2017; 41:275–279.
  4. Wilson N, Boyd M, Nisa S, Clement C, Baker MG. Did exposure to a severe outbreak of pandemic influenza in 1918 impact on long-term survival? Epidemiol Infect 2016; 144:3166–69.
  5. Kvizhinadze G, Wilson N, Nair N, McLeod M, Blakely T. How much might a society spend on life-saving interventions at different ages while remaining cost-effective? A case study in a country with detailed data. Popul Health Metr 2015; 13:15.
  6. Scotland T, Heys S. War surgery 1914–18. Solihull, West Midlands: Helion & Company, 2012.
  7. Cohen S. Medical services in the First World War. Shire Publications, 2014.
  8. Kirkup J. Foundation lecture. Fracture care of friend and foe during World War I. ANZ J Surg 2003; 73:453–9.
  9. Boff J. Winning and Losing on the Western Front. Cambridge, 2012.
  10. Harper GJ. Johnny Enzed. Auckland: Exisle Press, 2015.
  11. Harper G. Dark Journey. Three key New Zealand battles of the Western Front. Auckland: Harper Collins Publishers, 2007.
  12. Fuller J. The Decisive Battles of the Western World and their influence upon history. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode Publishers 1956, p272.
  13. Pugsley C. ‘Russell, Andrew Hamilton’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3r34/russell-andrew-hamilton (accessed 4 May 2017).
  14. Macdonald A. Passchendaele: Anatomy of a Tragedy. Auckland: HarperCollins, 2013.
  15. Carbery A. The New Zealand Medical Service in the Great War 1914–1918. Auckland: Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd. http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH1-Medi.html 1924.
  16. Maclean F. Challenge for health: A history of public health in New Zealand. Wellington: Government Printer, 1964.
  17. Summers JA, Wilson N, Baker MG, Shanks GD. Mortality risk factors for pandemic influenza on New Zealand troop ship, 1918. Emerg Infect Dis 2010; 16:1931–7.
  18. Flint S, Harper G, Wilson N. The Gallipoli gallop: dealing with dysentery on the ‘fringes of hell’. Microbiology Australia 2014; 35(3):141–43. 

Download

The downloadable PDF version of this article is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe