The War Effort of New Zealand
Possibly of all the loyal responses to the call of Empire from every habitable portion of the globe, the most unique came from Britain's most distant possessions in the Pacific. From islands which, within the memory of man were savage and barbaric, came volunteers who proved worthy to serve with the other forces of the British Empire. First and foremost among these islanders must come the Rarotongans from the Cook Islands, including men from Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Aitutaki, Mitiaro, Manihiki, Puka Puka, Penrhyn and Palmerston. A magnificent race, cheerful, attentive, enthusiastic and intelligent—better material for conversion into soldiers could not be found. Notwithstanding that 80 per cent. were unable to speak English on arrival in New Zealand, the Rarotongans quickly learned the language and formed an excellent company in the expeditionary force.
Niue in the Cook Island Group also provided a good stamp of soldiers 97 per cent. of whom could speak only their native tongue. The Ellice-Gilbert group in the Western Pacific supplied a magnificent body of men, all members of the Island Constabulary, many of whom had relinquished senior rank in order to serve with the reinforcements as privates.
The behaviour and discipline, and the ability of these Islanders to learn their military work, were beyond all praise. Musical to a degree, their deep melodious voices, accurately joined together in native songs, afforded enjoyment to all who heard them, suggesting in their plaintive cadence the sea-girt coral homes from which they were so strangely separated.
If the great war was an education to the white man, how much more so to these South Sea islanders to whom everything appeared so strange and wonderful. No finer proof of the strength and extent of British rule has ever been afforded than was given by these Islanders, who sacrificed everything to serve an Empire, the fairness and justice of whose rule they had learnt to appreciate.page 16
The hardships inherent in war prevent all but the fittest from participating. Throughout the great war many New Zealanders who volunteered, and were anxious to serve their country, were found medically unfit for active service from various causes. Those who were not totally rejected on medical grounds were subsequently sub-divided into two page 17grades "C1" and "C2". The latter class were fit for home service duties only, but a special camp was formed at Tauherenikau (Wairarapa) for the physical improvement of the "C1" men. This camp gave excellent results and fully justified the wisdom of those responsible for its provision.
By means of a regular, graduated system of training an amazing improvement was made in the majority of those undergoing training, giving proof of the benefit which would accrue to a nation if attention were paid to this important question in times of peace. As a result of this training 3,528 or 49.1 per cent of those attending this "C1" camp were subsequently made fit to join the expeditionary force reinforcements, while the bulk of the remainder derived material benefit from the training received. The rapidity with which these unfit men were restored to perfect health afforded eloquent testimony of the value of the training given and its essential need. The subsequent record of those recruits made fit by this camp for active service disclosed the important fact that the majority of cures were permanent. This is eloquent testimony of the importance of such training.
In addition to supplying the needs of the expeditionary forces in France, Egypt and Samoa, New Zealand also contributed the following:—Imperial reservists—211 all ranks; naval ranks and ratings 190; H.M.S. Philomel—159 all ranks; Royal Naval Auxiliary Patrol—190 all ranks; Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force—192 all ranks; postal and audit officials—2; New Zealand Nursing Service—550, or a total of 1,494 all ranks.
In addition to the above, the following numbers of officers, non-commissioned officers, territorials and cadets were serving in New Zealand when the Armistice was granted on the 11th November, 1918:—(a) permanent forces—418 all ranks; (b) instructional and administrative staff, Trentham camp—704; (c) instructional and administrative staffs, Featherston camp—930; (d) instructional and administrative staffs employed page 18in districts—1,281; (e) Territorial Force—23,000; (f) cadet force—30,000; (g) rifle clubs—7,200. This gives a grand total of 188,397 employed with the expeditionary forces, or with the defence forces serving in New Zealand during the war.
Neither can the women's share in the sacrifices made by the Dominion be forgotten, or their noble efforts to contribute of their best towards the successful termination of the World's greatest struggle. Perhaps the greatest characteristic of New Zealand people is their affection for their children, and it can be realised with what feelings of dismay mothers, wives, sisters and sweethearts saw those nearest and dearest to them embarking for warfare in lands separated by over 14,000 miles of sea. However heroic the spirit of its men, the nobility and self-sacrifice of New Zealand women are still greater testimony of the spirit, faith and loyalty of its people.
Of those who left on the Great Adventure, 16.554 were destined never to see their beloved country again, and lie to-day in the hallowed grounds of Egypt, Gallipoli, France, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Samoa, and elsewhere, after making the supreme sacrifice in the cause of freedom and civilisation. May their honoured memory serve ever to remind us of the futility and horror of war, and the scroll of their names record the glory of the freedom-loving land of New Zealand which gave them birth.
The Gilbert and Ellice Island colonists recently remitted to the New Zealand Government the sum of £3,724 in reimbursement of the pay and allowances, and cost of equipment, maintenance, etc., disbursed by the Dominion on behalf of six British residents of the islands who were sent with the N.Z.E.F. to Europe. This was in fulfilment of an agreement desired by the Islanders early in the war. The payment, though a comparatively small one, was no doubt a heavy strain on the resources of so diminutive a community. It is worthy of being placed on record—coming as it does from the lonely mid-Pacific—as a further exemplification of the British spirit.—Ed.page 22