The Western Front 1916-1917 map

The Western Front 1916-1917 map

You can also download a hi-res copy as a pdf (2 mbs).

This map shows the northern part of the Western Front in 1916 and 1917, as well as some of the major battles that took place there in these years.

After the initial German invasion and retreat of 1914, the two opposing forces had settled into a network of trenches and defensive systems that stretched from English Channel to the Swiss border. By the time the New Zealand Division was transferred to the Western Front in April 1916, the front line ran along the solid purple line on the map above. The shaded areas represent foreign territory occupied by Germany.

The battles on the Western Front in this period were some of the deadliest in modern history. Both attackers and defenders suffered huge casualties from quick-firing artillery, modern machine guns and rifles, and miles of barbed-wire defences. After gaining some experience in this environment on a ‘quiet’ sector around Armentières, the New Zealand Division took part in the nightmarish Battle of the Somme in September 1916.

Facing manpower shortages and pressure on the Eastern Front, the German army withdrew from the Noyon Salient in March-April 1917 to prepared positions along the strongly defended Hindenburg Line, part of which is indicated above by the broken purple line.

A detachment of New Zealand pioneers and the New Zealand Tunnelling Company took part in the operations at Arras in April-May 1917. After recovering from the Battle of the Somme, and bolstered by new recruits, the New Zealand Division was heavily involved in both the relatively successful Battle of Messines and the carnage of the Third Battle of Ypres.

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