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The Maoris in the Great War

The Polynesian Volunteers

The Polynesian Volunteers.

The men who came from the Pacific Islands to serve with the New Zealand forces were all volunteers. In response to the offers of assistance made by the Administration of the islands adjacent to New Zealand, voluntary recruits were accepted for service with the Maori section of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. In some cases the Administration paid the cost of transport and equipment, and, further, paid the men themselves. Rarotongans, Niue men, Gilbert Islanders, Ellice Islanders, and others were brought over to New Zealand in such numbers as the Administrations decided on and received their training in this country before embarkation for active service abroad. Military and medical officers in the service of the Administrations of the island groups were appointed as attesting and medical officers respectively, so that, in the majority of cases the recruits were attested after page 23 having passed medically fit in the islands. Thus only fit men were sent to New Zealand and the procedure saved both Governments considerable expense. Of those sent to New Zealand 631 had embarked for active service or were in a camp of training in New Zealand on Armistice Day.

Throughout the period of the war, the welfare of the lads in the trenches was the constant thought and care of a hardworking committee of native ladies, under the presidency of Lady Pomare. In every kainga which had sent men to the war, the women and girls made or gathered together comforts for their loved ones on the battlefields, and these were sent to the central committee in Wellington, which toiled, too, at sewing and knitting for the soldiers. Large quantities of such articles as shirts and socks, packages of cigarettes and sweets, and cases of mutton-birds from Stewart Island and toheroa shellfish from the west coast of North Auckland, were despatched to the Battalion, and the periodical arrival of these proofs of the loving thought of the people in far-away New Zealand was a matter for great rejoicing in the billets and dugouts of war-swept France and Flanders.