Drosophila germ-band extension (GBE) is an example of the convergence and extension movements that elongate and narrow embryonic tissues. To understand the collective cell behaviours underlying tissue morphogenesis, we have continuously quantified cell intercalation and cell shape change during GBE. We show that the fast, early phase of GBE depends on cell shape change in addition to cell intercalation. In antero-posterior patterning mutants such as those for the gap gene Krüppel, defective polarized cell intercalation is compensated for by an increase in antero-posterior cell elongation, such that the initial rate of extension remains the same. Spatio-temporal patterns of cell behaviours indicate that an antero-posterior tensile force deforms the germ band, causing the cells to change shape passively. The rate of antero-posterior cell elongation is reduced in twist mutant embryos, which lack mesoderm. We propose that cell shape change contributing to germ-band extension is a passive response to mechanical forces caused by the invaginating mesoderm.