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Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

Caterpillar Valley Cemetery https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/western-front/somme-1916 It was from this cemetery that the Unknown Warrior’s body was taken and returned to New Zealand. Ngā Tapuwae Trails https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/sites/default/files/stop/media/battlemap_07_somme1916.jpg

It was from this cemetery that the Unknown Warrior’s body was taken and returned to New Zealand.

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Caterpillar Valley Cemetery

You are standing by the entrance to the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery. There are 213 New Zealand graves in this cemetery, and at the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing you can see the names of 1,205 New Zealanders who were killed in the battle of the Somme - but have no known graves.

It was from this cemetery that the Unknown Warrior’s body was taken and returned to New Zealand in 2004. He is now buried at Pukeahu, the National War Memorial Park, in front of the carillon in Wellington.

Longueval is significant because this was where the New Zealand Division carried out its first major attack and suffered the greatest losses of any single campaign on the Western Front.

The New Zealand Division went into action here on 15 September 1916, and stayed through until 3 October when the division was withdrawn. For 23 continuous days the New Zealanders fought forward of where you’re standing.

The road immediately in front of you is the Pozieres-Longueval Road and you can see Longueval on the skyline along that road to the right. The trees immediately beyond the village are Delville Wood, or Devil’s Wood. The New Zealand position was between Devil’s Wood and High Wood, which is on the skyline to your left front.

On 15 September 1916 the land in front of you was nothing like it is now. Imagine this as a stinking morass of destroyed trenches, craters, and mud, strewn with bodies from previous attacks. This is where the New Zealanders had to live, fight, and die. On the skyline in front of you, you can see a very prominent memorial. That is the New Zealand Memorial at Longueval, and it commemorates the New Zealand achievement in the Battle of the Somme. The memorial stands on Crest Trench - the former German frontline, and the New Zealand position - the starting trenches - was about 400 metres back from the crest.

Standing where you are now, the Otago trench was on the left, and the Auckland trench linked up with it on the right. Their combined positions made up approximately one kilometre of frontline. That was the New Zealand start line.

On the morning of 15 September, the New Zealanders were ready to attack the German positions. Picture the 2nd Otago Battalion on your left - 800 men-strong. Each man is equipped with a steel helmet, and two gas masks, one pinned to his jacket, the other in his satchel. Each has his rifle and bayonet, Mills bombs, smoke grenades - which were Phosphorous bombs, used to kill or smoke out the Germans from their deep dugouts - 200 rounds of ammunition, a satchel, and tied to their backs - a groundsheet with a cardigan wrapped up in it - plus a pick or a shovel to dig in. His bayonet, scabbard and his own personal entrenching tool would be attached to his webbing.

That was standard kit for each company of about 200 men strong. They also had light machine guns, Lewis Guns, two per company. These were very important in this attack because for the first time the New Zealanders were launching an attack with a machine gun that could be used to suppress the enemy as they charged forward.

This attack was also marked by its enormous artillery support. Behind you, all the way back, were masses of artillery, ammunition, and men, all preparing for this offensive. In front of you, and in the valley below you, were mortar positions, and on the road by the side of Devil’s Wood four tanks were ready to support the New Zealand attack. There was also a major ammunition supply, ‘Thistle Dump’ which is marked by the small cemetery in the valley to your left, which was also the site of a casualty clearing station for the wounded.

On these slopes in front of you behind the Otagos and the Aucklands, who were on the starting line - were the assembly areas for the rest of the New Zealand Division. There were four battalions of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, which contained another 3,200 men, and in reserve, the other battalions of the 2nd Brigade. So there were something like 8,000 New Zealanders, across a frontage of 1,000 meters - between High Wood on your left and Devil’s Wood on your right. They were all prepared and ready to attack.

How to get here

Getting there

From the Gare d’Arras take Boulevard Carnot and turn 1st left on to the D917 following the sign towards Beaurains. Continue on the D917 for approximately 20 kilometres.  At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto D929 following the signs towards Amiens and Albert. Continue to follow the D929. At the next roundabout, take the 3rd exit and stay on D929. At the following roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on D929 for approximately 7.5 kilometres. Turn left onto the D6 following the sign towards Martinpuich. Follow the signs through Martinpuich to Longueval staying on the D6. You will pass Bois de Fourcaux (High Wood) on your left. At the end of this road, turn right onto the D20.  

You will see the sign towards Caterpillar Valley Cemetery as you turn the corner. Caterpillar Valley Cemetery is on your left shortly after the turning.

Where to stand

Enter the cemetery, turn right and face the road.

GPS
50°1'34"N
2°47'31"E
Decimal GPS
50.0262
2.791997
  • The New Zealand and British attack on German positions near Flers, Battle of the Somme, 14 and 16 September 1916.
    The New Zealand and British attack on German positions near Flers, Battle of the Somme, 14 and 16 September 1916.
  • New Zealanders digging trenches out of shell craters. Note the kit of two soldiers lying nearby. September 1916.
    New Zealanders digging trenches out of shell craters. Note the kit of two soldiers lying nearby. September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 191)

  • New Zealanders creating a trench by joining up shell craters, near Martinpuich, Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 15 September 1916.
    New Zealanders creating a trench by joining up shell craters, near Martinpuich, Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 15 September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 193)

  • A Royal Field Artillery gun crew haul an 18-pounder into position near Delville Wood, 15 September 1916.
    A Royal Field Artillery gun crew haul an 18-pounder into position near Delville Wood, 15 September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 1213)

  • New Zealand soldiers on the Amiens-Albert road, September 1916.
    New Zealand soldiers on the Amiens-Albert road, September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 1243)

  • New Zealand Field Artillery gunners load a limber with ammunition near Albert, September 1916.
    New Zealand Field Artillery gunners load a limber with ammunition near Albert, September 1916.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 1249)

Stories & Insights

Wounded in no-man’s-land, Aitken had to find his way back.

Men of the Maori Pioneer Battalion take a break in a trench near Gommecourt. 25 July 1918.

Digging and repairing trenches and roads was vital work, but the Pioneers could also be called upon to fight.

As a Pioneer, Kōhere quickly developed a reputation for bravery and hard work.

Despite fierce German resistance, Inglis continued to lead his men forward during the attack.

Around one in seven of the 15,000 New Zealand men who fought on the Somme lost their lives, and many more were wounded.

Sending troops 'over the top' produced horrific slaughter.

Useful resources for those looking for more information.

A selection of First World War vocabulary and common phrases.

The Mark I, one of first tanks used in battle at the Somme, 1916.

Although clumsy and slow, the Mark I soon proved its worth in battle.

Taking the Somme 1916 trail

WARNING: Traffic can be busy so use caution at all times. 

Get to Caterpillar Valley Cemetery (the start of this trail) from Arras

GPS: 50.026199, 2.791997

From the Gare d’Arras take Boulevard Carnot and turn 1st left on to the D917 following the sign towards Beaurains. Continue on the D917 for approximately 20 kilometres.  At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto D929 following the signs towards Amiens and Albert. Continue to follow the D929. At the next roundabout, take the 3rd exit and stay on D929. At the following roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on D929 for approximately 7.5 kilometres. Turn left onto the D6 following the sign towards Martinpuich. Follow the signs through Martinpuich to Longueval staying on the D6. You will pass Bois de Fourcaux (High Wood) on your left. At the end of this road, turn right onto the D20.  You will see the sign towards Caterpillar Valley Cemetery as you turn the corner. Caterpillar Valley Cemetery is on your left shortly after the turning.

Your stop

Enter the cemetery, turn right and face the road.

Get to the trail overview at the New Zealand Memorial Longueval from Arras

GPS: 50.039747, 2.801660

From the Gare d’Arras take Boulevard Carnot and turn 1st left on to the D917 following the sign towards Beaurains. Continue on the D917 for approximately 20 kilometres. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto D929 following the signs towards Amiens and Albert. Continue to follow the D929. At the next roundabout, take the 3rd exit and stay on D929. At the following roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on D929 for approximately 7.5 kilometres. Turn left onto the D6 following the sign towards Martinpuich. Follow the signs through Martinpuich to Longueval staying on the D6. You will pass Bois de Fourcaux (High Wood) on your left. At the end of this road, turn left onto the D20. When you come to the village of Longueval, turn left at the stop sign. Follow this road until it forks, take the left fork signposted to the New Zealand Forces Memorial Longueval.  Continue straight ahead until you arrive at the Memorial.

Your stop

Stand in front of the entrance to the NZ Memorial and turn and face the road you came up.

Plan your time

Allow for 2 to 4 hours to explore the complete Somme 1916 trail.

If you’re short of time, simply visit stop 2: New Zealand Memorial for an overview of the entire Somme 1916 trail.

Nearby places of interest

While you’re here you can also visit the following places:

Thiepval Interpretation centre
Featuring the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the visitor centre provides an overview of the First World War. 

Musée des Abris - Somme 1916 Albert
This museum focuses on life in the trenches and the Somme offensive in 1916. 

 

Location Collection: 
Location Name: 
Somme 1916
Lat: 
16.279597319196476
Long: 
-95.28427749999992
Lat Real Location: 
50.03975
Long Real Location: 
2.80166

Take the next trail

The next Ngā Tapuwae trail is Somme 1918. Proceed to Euston Road Cemetery.
Link to the first stop

Decimal GPS:
58.8941060042426
-68.92675299999996
Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS:
69.88771936385766
-69.79599625000003
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS:
72.7159773440205
-60.049908531250026
Sequence:
3
Decimal GPS:
74.44287456001997
-79.14426481250001
Sequence:
4
Decimal GPS:
75.02310249610612
-114.49017706250004
Sequence:
5

Stop Images

Sequence:
1
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.0262
2.791997
Sequence:
2
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.03975
2.80166
Sequence:
3
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.04978
2.813861
Sequence:
4
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.06261
2.813743
Sequence:
5
Decimal GPS Real Location:
50.0804
2.799862