Infantry units

Page 4 – Otago Infantry Regiment

Otago infantry (2nd Battalion) troops meeting Major-General Russell, March 1918

Part of the infantry of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force

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

Otago Infantry Battalions

NameUnit attached toCampaignsFurther information
Otago BattalionNew Zealand Infantry Brigade (Aug-Mar 1916)Gallipoli, 1915Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand
1st Battalion Otago Infantry Regiment (1/OIR)(a) 1st New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar-Dec 1916)
(b) 2nd New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Jan 1917-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 Otago Infantry Regiment (2/OIR)2nd 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
3rd Battalion Otago Infantry Regiment (3/OIR)4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Mar 1917-Feb 1918)Western Front:
Messines 1917,
Passchendaele 1917.
Unit diaries at Archives New Zealand
Otago Regiment training/reserve battalion (1916)NZ Reserve Group/ NZ Infantry (Reserve) Brigade (1916-19)Training unit based at Sling Camp in EnglandUnit diaries at Archives New Zealand

Cloth patches and shoulder title

Otago Infantry cloth patches

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

Otago infantry companies

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

4th (Otago) Company. Cap and collar badges: A kiwi flanked by fern fronds surmounted by ‘South Africa 1901-02’ and ‘4th Otago Regt’.

8th (Southland) Company. Cap and collar badges: A Maori warrior grasping a taiaha. Motto: Kia mate toa (Fight unto death).

10th (North Otago Company) badges

10th (North Otago) Company. Cap badge: A shield with the Southern Cross (four stars) flanked by fern fronds and surmounted by a crown with the motto on a scroll below. Collar badges: Similar to the cap badge but without the fern-wreath. Motto: Kia toa (Be brave).

Badge of the 14th (South) Otago Company

14th (South) Otago Company. Cap badge: The regimental number XIV within a wreath of the red rose, shamrock and thistle, surmounted by kea and above the motto. Collar badges: Kea within a wreath of the red rose, shamrock and thistle, above the regimental motto. Motto: Ake kia kaha (Forever be strong).

Formation of companies

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

The Otago units drew their recruits from the Otago military district, which encompassed the Otago and Southland regions.

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 Otago companies after the second and third battalions were formed, with cloth patches signifying which battalion they belonged to.

Further reading

Byrne, A.E., Official history of the Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F., in the Great War, 1914–1918 (Dunedin: J. Wilkie, 1921; reprinted by Naval & Military Press, Uckfield, East Sussex, 2003)

How to cite this page

'Otago Infantry Regiment', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/infantry-units/otago-infantry-regiment, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 22-Mar-2017

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