New Zealand was governed as an autonomous dominion of the British Empire. A national assembly was elected by universal suffrage but women were not allowed to become representatives. William Ferguson Massey, the leader of the Conservative Reform Party, was appointed prime minister in July 1912.
By 1914 the country had a population of just over 1.1 million. Most of the population were the result of British emigration but there were also about 50,000 Maoris.
From the age of 12 all males in New Zealand received military training. In 1911 New Zealand formed a 25,000, part-time national militia. Most of the men who volunteered to join the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) in August 1914 came from this Territorial Army.
More than 124,000 New Zealanders eventually joined the army and around 100,000 served overseas. Total casualties during the First World War amounted to over 57,000 with around 17,000 being killed.
In September 1939 the government of New Zealand joined Britain by declaring war on Germany. Two volunteer divisions were sent to Middle East for training and one of these was deployed to fight in Egypt. New Zealanders also fought in Greece, Crete, Italy and the Soloman Islands.
More than 7,000 New Zealanders served at sea during the Second World War of which 451 were killed and 134 were wounded.
The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) helped to train over 12,000 aircrew for the Royal Air Force as part of the Empire Training Scheme. Over 10,950 men from New Zealand served with the RAF and the RNZAF. Of these, 3285 were killed during the war.
By September 1942 there were over 150,000 people from New Zealand in the armed forces. Total wartime casualties were 11,625 dead and 17,000 wounded.