Infantry units

Page 3 – Canterbury Infantry Regiment

Canterbury Battalion soldiers digging in at Gallipoli

Part of the infantry of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

The Canterbury Infantry Regiment was one of four regional infantry groupings (along with Auckland, Wellington, and Otago) which made up the bulk of New Zealand’s infantry forces during the First World War. It served as the Canterbury Battalion at Gallipoli in 1915, before being divided into 1st Canterbury Infantry Battalion and 2nd Canterbury Infantry Battalion in March 1916. An additional battalion, 3rd Canterbury Infantry Battalion, existed between March 1917 and February 1918. The regiment served on the Western Front from 1916 until 1918. 

Canterbury Infantry Battalions

NameUnit attached to (dates)CampaignsFurther information
Canterbury BattalionNew Zealand Infantry Brigade (Aug 1914 - Mar 1916)GallipoliUnit diaries at Archives New Zealand;
Unit diaries at Australian War Memorial
1st Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment (1/CIR)1st New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar 1916 - Feb 1919)Western Front:
Somme 1916;  
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917
Spring Offensive and Advance to Victory 1918
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand
2nd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment (2/CIR)(a) 2nd New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar-Dec 1916)
(b) 1st New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Jan 1917 - Feb 1918
Western Front:
Somme 1916;  
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917
Spring Offensive and Advance to Victory 1918
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand
3rd Battalion Canterbury Infantry Regiment (3/CIR)4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar 1917 - Feb 1918)Western Front:
Somme 1916;  
Messines 1917;
Passchendaele 1917
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand
3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Canterbury Regiment (prefixed 4th, March 1917–February 1918)New Zealand Infantry Training Brigade (Jun 1916 - 1919)Training unit based at Sling Camp in EnglandUnit diaries at Archives New Zealand
Canterbury Regt training/reserve battalion, (1916)New Zealand Reserve Group/ New Zealand Infantry (Reserve) Brigade (1916-19)Training unit based at Sling Camp in EnglandUnit diaries at Archives New Zealand

Cloth patches, shoulder titles and pugarees

Canterbury Infantry cloth patches

Cloth patches for the (l to r) 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the Canterbury Infantry Regiment.

Cloth patches sewn on the backs of uniform jackets from October 1916 identified which unit – or part of a unit – an individual belonged to. These are the patches of the three Canterbury battalions serving on the Western Front. A fourth (reserve) battalion was based at Sling Camp in England.

Shoulder title worn by all infantry units (‘New Zealand Rifles’) except the New Zealand Rifle Brigade. 

All New Zealand infantry units wore red-striped puggarees (felt hatbands) on their caps.

Canterbury infantry companies

The Canterbury Infantry Battalion (later the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Canterbury Infantry Battalions) was made up of four companies, each with around 227 men. Here are their badges: 

1st (Canterbury) Company. Cap badge: A white crane flanked by fern fronds and surmounted by a crown. Within a circlet are the words ‘1st Regiment New Zealand Infantry’. Collar badges: White crane above the words ‘1st Canterbury Regt Ake Ake Kia Kaha’. Motto: Ake ake kia kaha (For ever and ever be strong)

 2ns (Sth Canterbury) badges

2nd (South Canterbury) Company. Cap badge: A kiwi on a Maltese Cross with garter above the regimental motto. Inscribed ‘2nd (South Canterbury) Regiment’. Collar badges: Similar, but inscribed, ‘South Canterbury Battalion N.Z.’ and no regimental motto. Motto: Pro patria (For our country).

12th Nelson Regiment badge

12th (Nelson) Regiment, 12th (Nelson & Marlborough) Company from 1917. Cap badge: A stag within a circle flanked by fern-fronds and the unit name in a riband. Collar badges: Smaller version of the cap badge. Motto: Kia pono tonu (Ever 13th (Nth Canterbury and Westland) infantry badge

13th (North Canterbury & Westland) Regiment. Cap badge: XIII inside fern fronds with a crown above and a scroll with motto below. Motto: Kia pono tonu (Ever faithful).

Formation of the companies

The Canterbury Battalion was divided into 1st Canterbury Battalion and 2nd Canterbury Battalion in March 1916, with the second battalion comprising a new set of companies with the same names as the first. A third battalion, the 3rd Canterbury Battalion, existed from March 1917 until February 1918.

The Canterbury units drew their recruits from the Canterbury military district, which encompassed Nelson/Marlborough, the West Coast and Canterbury.

As far as possible, each company drew its recruits from its geographical region until September 1917. From then on, men were sent overseas as generic infantry reinforcements but were still generally assigned to their region’s unit.

The four companies were NZEF counterparts of the regional Territorial regiments created in March 1911. They adopted the identifying badge of the corresponding Territorial unit.

Each regional infantry company had its own distinctive cap and collar badges (the cap badge is shown in the centre of each photo). They continued to be worn by the Canterbury companies after the second and third battalions were formed, with cloth patches signifying which battalion they belonged to.

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