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First NZ soldier to die on the Western Front


The grave of Sapper Tobin – the New Zealand Army's first death on the Western Front. The grave is at the Beauval Communal Cemetery, Somme, France.

Current research suggests that 4/1639 Sapper Michael Tobin was the first soldier in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force to die on the Western Front. (While New Zealanders serving in the British Army or Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front may have died there prior to this date, Tobin is the first soldier serving in the NZEF known to have lost his life there.) Shortly after arriving in France, Tobin, a sapper in the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, fell ill with bronchial pneumonia. He died on 15 April 1916 after being admitted to the British 42nd Casualty Clearing Station at Lucheux the day before.

Born at Pukekohe Tobin volunteered to enlist in October 1915 and left New Zealand with the Main Body of the Tunnelling Company aboard the transport ship HMNZT Ruapehu two months later. At the time of his enlistment he was working for the Public Works Department at Mt Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty. Tobin never married and had no children of his own but he was survived by a number of siblings, including his brother William Tobin, who also made his home in the Bay of Plenty.


Image: Robert Pike

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First NZ soldier to die on the Western Front, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated