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 Hero’s Painful Memories
Bernard “Tiny” Freyberg VC, CMG, DSO ended World War One a highly decorated hero – celebrated in Britain as well as his homeland of New Zealand. He had served with the British forces: his Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was won at Gallipoli, his Victoria Cross (VC) on the Somme and, at the age of 27, he was made the youngest Brigadier-General in the British Army. He would go on to command the 2nd New Zealand Division in World War Two and become Governor-General of New Zealand.
Born in London, he grew up in New Zealand after his family emigrated and he attended Wellington College, in the capital city.
In 1921, still suffering from the many wounds he received during the war, he returned to New Zealand for several weeks to recuperate. He turned down all requests for public appearances and a civic reception, but he did take time to visit his old school and address an assembly of the boys.
One of those schoolboys, Max Riske, vividly recalled the event some 60 years later in a radio interview. As Max explains, the boys were expecting a stirring speech from a glorious war hero – but got something quite different from the man who had lost two brothers and many friends in the war.
Just enough speechifying
In 1912, Sir Thomas Mackenzie, former Prime Minister, was appointed as the New Zealand High Commissioner to London; a post he held until 1920. Mackenzie was particularly concerned about the treatment of New Zealand soldiers and made several visits to see the troops during the war.
In this clip, Mackenzie, with his back to the camera, talks to New Zealanders outside the 2nd New Zealand Field Ambulance station.
During his visit, Mackenzie also joined the 2nd Otago church parade, inspected the New Zealand Engineers and made an address to the 3rd Otago Battalion. At the end of Mackenzie’s visit Major General Sir Andrew Russell noted in his diary: "The whole visit has been successful, fine weather – just enough speechifying but not too much”.
First English hospital for wounded Kiwis
The New Zealand Military Hospital at Walton-on-Thames was the first English hospital to be established for Kiwi soldiers during the First World War. It was officially opened on Saturday 31 July 1915, in a ceremony attended by “one of the largest gatherings of New Zealanders that has ever assembled" in the UK. (Evening Post, 24 September 1915, p.4)
This film clip shows NZ High Commissioner Thomas Mackenzie and William Lord Plunket at the hospital’s official opening ceremony on 31 July 1915. Lord Plunket was a former Governor of New Zealand and the chair of the NZ War Contingent Association, formed on London at the outbreak of the war to support wounded NZ troops. The Association helped to select the hospital premises, and its members later visited convalescing patients.
Boxing and recruiting
In the early stages of the war sport was seen as a fertile site for recruitment, and this film shows 17,000 spectators crammed into the Sydney Stadium to witness Les Darcy defend his world middleweight title against American Eddie McGoorty in 1915. An intense affair, Police ended the fight in the 15th round after McGoorty was knocked down for the fourth time. Beforehand the Premier of NSW, William Holman, and the opposition leader, Charles Wade, were scheduled to give a recruitment speech.
However, as it became obvious that the war would not be over quickly, and as casualties from Gallipoli mounted, sport was condemned as a distraction from fighting and the home front war effort.