The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914–1915
Chapter XX. — Christmas Festivities
On the evening of 24th December some 200 of the troops from various units, in festive spirit, broke camp and proceeded to town. Rumour had had it for some weeks past that the hotels would be thrown open for two hours on Christmas Eve, and this had been expectantly looked forward to. Boisterous bodies of men gathered at the Central Hotel, where they sought out the proprietor and good-naturedly requested him to supply drinks. Their request being of no avail, they forcibly entered the establishment and made off with any portable beverages in sight. The crowd was soon augmented, and during the course of the evening the Tivoli and International Hotels were also visited and cleared out of quantities of liquor, no damage being done to the premises. Those who had not reached town in time to participate in the earlier enterprises were not to be denied. A bonded store was the next called upon, and whisky and beer were removed in cases. "Depots" were established by the more successful of the raiders, some of which were surreptitiously visited for weeks afterwards. Indeed, one night in January a private of the 3rd Aucklanders was found crawling on hands and knees from beneath the officers' quarters. Investigation of his movements disclosed the remainder of a "plant" immediately below the officers' mess itself!
An enquiry was held into the circumstances of the raid in an endeavour to sheet home the guilt, but with little success. Finally the damage was assessed by the Board at £180, and a per capita collection was made from all troops to cover it.
The money so collected was handed over to the hotelkeepers who sustained losses, but the owners of the bulk store, quibbling as to the amount of restitution offered, were given time by Colonel Logan in which to accept. They declined the offer, and page 121the amount was paid over to the Belgian Relief Fund, their protest being met with the curt reminder that the Germans then over-running Belgium were not likely to be equally considerate of the property of the inhabitants of the towns of Belgium they were so busily ransacking and pillaging.
As a result of the raid a town picquet was thereafter posted daily from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and all night leave was stopped.
This might be recorded as the one and only serious breach of military discipline of the Force, and no doubt would not have occurred had a little laxity been shown by the authorities for the Christmas festivities.
Christmas Day was a day of rain, and the great feature was, of course, the Christmas dinner. Many units had been presented with fruit, fowls and pigs by native chiefs in the vicinity, while several pigstyes and fowl roosts were minus their occupants on Christmas morning. One bottle of ale per man was also issued from Q.M. Stores—a somewhat ironical peace offering!
For Boxing Day a big seven-a-side football tournament was arranged. Although the blinking of an eyelid was sufficient to raise a perspiration, ten Rugby and three Soccer teams took part, play throughout being keen and full of interest, not the least excited being the big contingent of native spectators.
On New Year's Eve "Lights Out" was extended till the old year had passed. It was a brilliant, moonlight night, one of those nights which, when seen in Samoa, lives for ever in the memory, and it was given up to enjoyment. The Entertainment Committee arranged one of their popular concerts at Malifa when members of the Headquarters Staff, officers and nursing sisters attended, as well as many residents, both European and Native.
This concert, and others of its kind, stand out vividly across the years now passed by those who took part in them. There in the still night air, balmy and warm, with the Quarter's guard on duty and sentries posted; the officers and nurses, dressed in white, in the front seats, backed by the rank and file in shirts and shorts; the natives lining the back areas, wide-eyed but thoroughly appreciative spectators; the setting a temporary stage with the troops' favourite, Jack Gosling, singing ragtime, Peter Cimino with his beloved clarionet, Clif. Baker at the piano, or Pat. Hanna depicting in caricature the features of well-known characters.
At the Battery Camp a boxing tournament was in progress, which was followed by singing and dancing well into the night.
At the Pilot Station the ubiquitous Signallers gave the old time-gun as much powder as she could hold, got out the chronometer and at midnight let her go to the accompaniment of much jollification.
A Sports Meeting on New Year's Day was an even greater success than the football tournament, Colonel Logan and representatives from all units being present. The various events were got off with commendable promptitude, and some excellent contests were witnessed.page 123
During these festivities the long looked for orders were cabled from New Zealand that 500 men would be withdrawn in January. For in Egypt our more fortunate brethren were training assiduously for coming events of which they were not yet aware. And ere the year had run its course many of that gallant band assembled in Apia had joined them and were sleeping their last long sleep on Anzac, in Egypt, France and Flanders Fields.