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The Maoris in the Great War

The Battalion in England

page 158

The Battalion in England.

Major Sutherland and Captain Dansey returned from hospital on January 2nd, 1919, and on the same day orders were issued for embarkation for England on the following morning. Crossing in the steamer “St. George,” the Battalion disembarked at Southampton, whence they went by train to Amesbury.

From there they marched to No. 5 Camp, Larkhill, which was to be their home until they embarked for New Zealand. It was a most agreeable change to be quartered in huts with fire-places and bunks and to enjoy the use of bath-houses, recreational halls, and the two dining-halls given over to the Battalion. On January 7th, the Battalion was inspected by the G.O.C., Brigadier-General Stewart, who complimented the Maoris on the work they had done in France, and informed them that they were to march past the King, at Whitehall, before leaving for their homes.

For some time thereafter the Battalion practised ceremonial drill for the Royal review. On the 10th, a draft of 100 men arrived from Germany. This was the billeting party, and the men who had been sent back when the Battalion was on the march across Belgium. Owing to the prevalence of measles in the neighbouring camps it was found necessary to have an inspection by the M.O. every day, but fortunately there were very few cases in the Battalion. It was ordered that before leaving for New Zealand every man must undergo strict medical and dental examinations, and in order that this should not have to be done hurriedly at the last moment the men were put through before embarkation leave was granted. On January 12th, the first batch, 400 men, left on 14 days' leave, and the rest of the Battalion left in parties between that time and the end of the month. On the 13th, the Battalion drummers left for a course of instruction at the Guards' School, London.

Owing to an outbreak of influenza while most of the Maoris were on leave, the camp was put under isolation. The epidemic was severe; seven or eight cases a day were sent to hospital, but very few cases proved fatal.

After leave, the Battalion was kept busy preparing for demobilisation. Clothing cards and demobilisation cards had page 159 to be made out in duplicate for each man, and all shortages in clothing and equipment had to be made up.

When the Battalion left France the O.C. received a message from Lieut.-General Sir A. Godley, complimenting them on their good work done as infantry on Gallipoli and as Pioneers in France, and wishing them a safe and speedy return to New Zealand.

February of 1919, found the Battalion still in No. 5 Camp, Larkhill, anxiously awaiting the day of embarkation for their far-away home. Towards the end of January the epidemic of influenza had abated somewhat, and it was hoped that it would be possible to remove the edict of isolation; however, owing to a fresh outbreak early in February this was found impossible, and the camp remained in isolation until the Pioneers left. The whole of the officers and men were inoculated against influenza.

On Tuesday, February 4th, the Battalion was inspected by Brigadier-General Stewart, G.O.C., who said he was well satisfied with the smart and soldierly appearance of the Maoris. The Battalion was again paraded on the 11th, when the G.O.C. presented decorations as follow for gallantry in the field:—Distinguished Medal.—Sergeant F. Barclay.

Military Medal.—C.Q.M.S. M. R. Jones; Sergeant J. Munn, Corporals A. Sparks and G. Maxwell, L.-Cpls. T. T. Morgan and R. Ngapo; Ptes. T. Taiapa, P. Te Amo, T. Te Patu, T. Brown and H. T. Leef.

Meritorious Service Medal.—Sergeants H. M. Davies and H. Kerei.

At an investiture in Buckingham Palace, on February 13th, three officers were decorated by His Majesty the King. Lieut.-Col. W. O. Ennis received the D.S.O., and Captains Stainton and Hiroti received the Military Cross.

The pakehas remaining with the Battalion were, with a few exceptions, transferred to Sling Camp (four officers and 45 men). Classes were started during the month in general education and elementary agriculture, and the good attendance showed how keen the men were to avail themselves of any opportunity of making themselves more fit for their occupation in civil life.

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Football was the men's great sport during the month. The Battalion football team played three matches. The first was against the Royal Naval Depot at Devonport; in this game the Maoris won by 6 points to 3. The second match was played at Swansea against Swansea, and was also won by the Battalion—the score being 9 points to nil. The last match, played against Llanelly, was won by the Welshmen by 6 points to nil.

On the 25th, the final inspection of the Battalion was held by the G.O.C., who wished officers and men a safe and speedy return to their homeland and to all who were waiting for them there.

The final move came on the morning of February 28th; when the Battalion entrained at Amesbury for Liverpool, where the transport for New Zealand, the steamer “Westmoreland,” was boarded late in the afternoon. At ten o'clock that night the troopship hove up her anchor in the Mersey and steamed out for sea on the long home voyage to New Zealand.