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.
A Carefully Arranged Propaganda Exercise
Keeping his father’s promise that his eldest son and heir would visit “when peace comes”, Edward Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), undertook a tour of the Dominions to thank them for their effort and participation in World War One.
The Prince spent a month in Aotearoa, arriving in Auckland onboard the Renown. He toured the country in a lavishly decorated train and by motor coach. In total he visited 50 towns and cities between Auckland and Invercargill. The “dashing playboy” was mobbed by enthusiastic crowds wherever he went and is said to have shaken more than 20,000 hands.
In Auckland the Prince is presented with the 'Freedom of the City' by the Mayor and is given a guard of honour by returned soldiers. In Rotorua, guided by Māui Pōmare, the Prince shakes hands with members of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū – the Māori Pioneer Battalion. Later he attended a huge reception at the Racecourse.
Supporting the men of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū
Māori leader Sir Apirana Ngata fundraised for the men of the Māori Pioneer Battalion during the war, by establishing concert parties which toured the country performing and popularising waiata such as E pari rā and Pōkarekare āna which have remained enduring favourites today.
The money raised from these concerts was used to set up a trust for the men of Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū (the Māori name for the Pioneer Battalion.) In this radio interview, Remi Morrison of Te Arawa, a member of the committee which administered the Māori Soldier’s Trust, explains how they purchased Hereheretau sheep and cattle station, to generate an ongoing income for supporting the returned veterans and their families.