Te Hokinga Mai Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū
Look at the smiling soldiers, jam-packed along the ship’s rail, the Māori Pioneer Battalion is home at last.
After a 36-day journey from Liverpool, the SS Westmoreland arrived in Auckland harbour on the evening of Saturday 5 April 1919. It berthed the following morning and 1,033 personnel disembarked to great fanfare – guns fired a salute, all the ships in the harbour sounded their sirens and horns, three bands played patriotic music and dignitaries greeted the men with brief speeches.
Renowned Te Arawa leader Mita Taupopoki can be seen with his distinctive tāniko bonnet towards the end of the film clip. One of the haka being performed is the Ngāpuhi war cry “Ka eke te wīwī, ka eke te wāwā” – complete with the leaping in unison and brandishing of taiaha and tewhatewha fighting staffs.
Following the reception at the wharf the Battalion marched to a pōwhiri at Auckland Domain. Tribes from all over the country gathered to welcome the men home, along with thousands of spectators.
Of the 43,572 servicemen and nurses who returned home in 63 demobilisation sailings, only the Māori Pioneer Battalion returned together, as a complete unit.