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The Maoris in the Great War

Chapter XI. — Cook Islanders in the Field. (Egypt, 1916–17.)

page 106

Chapter XI.
Cook Islanders in the Field.
(Egypt, 1916–17.)

In a letter from Egypt to Sir Maui Pomare, under date April 22nd, 1917, Captain G. A. Bush wrote as follows about the Rarotongans and other Islanders composing the Cook Islanders attached to the New Zealand forces:—

“I had half the detachment up with the Mounted Brigade at El Arish and Sheikh Zowaiid from January 22nd until March 9th, when we returned to Moascar. While at El Arish the boys proved themselves expert surf-boatsmen, and were of great assistance to the Naval Detachment in landing stores and supplies. … On April 7th, we received orders to proceed to rail-head, and on arrival there we were attached to Eastern Force Ammunition Column and Depot.

“The Rarotongans have proved themselves invaluable in this work, loading ammunition of all classes up to 8-inch howitzer shells, weighing 300 lbs, and getting waggons away while the Tommies are thinking about it. The other night they loaded 22 G.S. waggons with 18-pounders and 60-pounders, and had the job done in thirteen minutes—and times is everything while this stunt is on.

“I have two parties detached for the same duty at Um Teibig and Sheikh Nebhan, one under Lieut. Fromm—who, by the way, is the making of an exceptionally good officer—and the other under a Sergeant-Major.

“We have 104 of the men on service at present, the other five being in hospital.”

The following is an extract from a letter dated May 14th, 1917, written by Captain G. A. Bush, to Sir James Allen, Defence Minister, regarding the Rarotongan unit:— “You will remember inspecting and farewelling my command in the Drill Hall, Wellington, in November last when you spoke of the peculiar nature of my command.

“I would like you to know that right through the voyage to Suez, these men behaved in a most creditable manner, and page 107 since their arrival at Moascar on December 28th, 1916, till their leaving there for these parts on April 7th, they had the credit of having the neatest and cleanest camp, and also of turning out the smartest guards in the whole of the Australian and New Zealand Training Depots. I received this compliment from the Commandant of the A. and N.Z. Depot, Colonel Arnott (an Australian), on several occasions.

“On August 7th, we came up to the Front and were at once attached to Eastern Force Ammunition Unit. During the fighting from April 16th-20th the Rarotongans were employed on Ammunition Supply, and, if ever men worked, they did. practically day and night. They received much high praise from the several officers of the Eastern Force Staff on their work; the O.C. Depot told me he does not know what he would have done without us. He says they were excellent. What pleases me is the cheerful way they do their work. They are happy in the thought that they are now really helping in the great struggle.

“Though they have not been in the firing line yet they have experienced several day and night air raids by the enemy, and I must say their steadiness and contempt for danger were excellent. Should we ever go into action I feel sure they will give a good account of themselves.

“These men are all Mission boys, and they have a short religious service every evening, which all attend. I encourage them in it, as I think it is a grand thing to keep them together. I have never known them to quarrel or to pilfer from one another since coming under me in Narrow Neck in July, 1916.”