In 1939, New Zealand was far less well prepared for war than it had been in 1914. Nevertheless, more than 140,000 New Zealanders - nearly 9 per cent of the dominion's total population - enlisted to fight overseas 'for King and Country' during World War II. Of these, 104,000 served in the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force, whose major component became 2nd NZ Infantry Division; by 1944 this was the largest division in the British and Commonwealth armies, with a strength of about 40,000 men in infantry and supporting artillery, armoured, engineer and service units.
Initially thrown into the doomed campaign to halt the German blitzkrieg on Greece and Crete (1941), the division was rebuilt under the leadership of a World War I VC-winner, MajGen Sir Bernard Freyberg, and became the elite corps within Montgomery's Eighth Army in the desert. After playing a vital role in the victory at El Alamein (1942) the 'Kiwis' were the vanguard of the pursuit to Tunisia. In 1943-45 the division was heavily engaged in the Italian mountains, especially at Cassino (1944); it ended the war in Trieste, facing down Tito's advancing communist partisans. Meanwhile, a smaller NZ force - briefly designated 3rd NZ Division - supported US forces against the Japanese in the Solomons and New Guinea (1942-44).
Fully illustrated with specially commissioned colour plates, this is the story of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force's vital contribution to Allied victory in World War II.