Press Release – Peter Cooke
Research presented to the NZ Defence Force today shows that an average of 16 service personnel have died away from the front line every year since 1945. Add those from the front line and the figure is 18.Over 1100 dead Kiwis
Media Release – for immediate use – 22 July 2014
1128 Service Personnel Have Died in Non-Operational Service
Research presented to the NZ Defence Force today shows that an average of 16 service personnel have died away from the front line every year since 1945. Add those from the front line and the figure is 18.
Commissioned by the CMT/National Service Assn (North City Branch), the research was conducted by Peter Cooke and includes deaths from all causes – on and off duty, accidents, illnesses and suicides, since September 1945. The NZ Defence Force is expected to publish the list.
Peter Cooke said “I hope that recognition of the loss of a loved-one brings some comfort to the families of these men and women. The CMT/NS Assn (North City Branch) is to be congratulated for commissioning this work, and the NZ Defence Force applauded for deciding to continue recording such deaths.”
The non-operational roll lists 1128 NZ service personnel, of whom 44 are women. Of the 1128 personnel, 497 (or 44%) were in the army at the time of death, 432 (or 38%) in the air arm, and 197 (17%) in naval service. Their ages ranged from 16 to 69, the average being 30.25 years at time of death. The most common was 22 years, at which age 86 personnel died. They range in rank from cadet up to Brigadier. Private was the most common rank.
The cause of death is known in around 1020 cases (though further research will increase this figure). Of those 1020, the causes of death break down as follows:
Illness or ‘natural causes’ – 330 (of which 54 were heart-related and 44 were cancers)
Driving collision in a civilian vehicle – 243 (of which 88 were motorcycles/scooters)
Driving collision in a service vehicle – 42 (of which 9 were armoured vehicles)
· Plane crashes – 127 (of which 8 were helicopter crashes)
· Training incidents – 57 (of which 14 were naval)
· Drowned – 47
· Suicide – 44 (up to 2006)
· Pedestrians struck by a motor vehicle – 24
· Falling from or struck by railway trains – 18
· Died in mountainous settings – 13
· Explosions – 11
· Shot by someone other than themselves – 11
· Died in or just after surgery – 9
· Died playing sport – 8
· Parachute or paraglider incidents – 5
· Electrocuted – 6
· Fires in a building – 6
· Falling from buildings – 3
· Died riding bicycles – 3
· Died in underwater diving incidents – 3
· Falling down stairs – 2
· Fights – 2
· Stabbed – 1
Unusual deaths included being killed by an aircraft’s spinning propeller, run over by a freight plane, and slammed by a flapping parachute on the ground. Two personnel died during the 1951 waterfront dispute after taking over wharf or mining work. Two seamen died escorting royal yachts. Five personnel died in crashes on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Two personnel were in custody at the time of their death, four absent without leave and three in armed-offender standoffs with or chased by the NZ Police. Four had stolen the vehicle in which they died.
Alcohol poisoning was directly involved in the deaths of around 5 personnel, but consumption of liquor contributed to a number of the vehicle-related fatalities.
In terms of where deaths occurred, they were all in NZ except – 40 in Singapore, 14 in Malaya/Malaysia, 10 in Australia, 8 in the UK, 4 in Fiji, 3 in Hawai’i (USA), 3 in India/ the Indian Ocean, 2 in Italy, and one each in American Samoa, Antarctica and Zimbabwe.
The 1128 names were all members of the NZ Army, RNZAF/TAF, RNZN/RNZNVR or cadets at the time of their death, if it occurred since the end of WWII (3 September 1945). The list only includes personnel who died whilst in service (not New Zealanders who died while serving in foreign forces). It includes Regulars, Territorials and those with honorary rank, but not those in non-active reserves or after retirement, or civilian employees. The list includes personnel who were medically discharged with a terminal illness, who would have died in service had they not been discharged.
This roll complements the Operational Roll of Honour which lists 136 service personnel who gave their lives for their country in front-line service (in Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Afghanistan and peacekeeping missions). Together the two rolls total 1264 New Zealanders who have died serving in NZ armed forces from 1945 to 2014 – an average of 18.3 deaths per year.
This list is incomplete. A good number of deaths will not recorded, particularly among Territorials Force soldiers and perhaps some more immediately after WWII.
The Medals Office and Personnel Archives of NZ Defence Force were most helpful in assisting with this list, as were the Navy and Air Force Museums and a number of corps associations. Many individuals also helped.