A commemoration service will be held in Whanganui on Thursday to mark the Battle of the Somme.

September 15 is the centenary of the first major battle in which soldiers of the New Zealand Division engaged on the Western Front during the First World War.

The Battle of the Somme was New Zealand's first major engagement on the Western Front, and it was on the Somme that the majority of New Zealanders were killed or wounded during the First World War.

The battle took a huge toll on the 15,000 members of the New Zealand Division who were involved - roughly one in seven of the division who fought there were killed, and about four in every 10 were wounded.


The majority of New Zealanders killed during the action have no known graves and are commemorated at the New Zealand Memorial to the Missing in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery in Longueval, France.

New Zealand's Unknown Warrior was originally buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery before his exhumation and internment at National War Memorial in Wellington in 2004.

Here in Whanganui, a service is being held at 11am on Thursday at the Cenotaph in Queen's Park. All returned and service personnel, family, friends and supporters are invited to attend and then head to the Wanganui RSA in St Hill Street for light refreshments.