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The Maoris in the Great War

Conscription Applied

Conscription Applied.

However, Waikato were obdurate, and as the other tribes, especially Te Arawa, Ngati-Porou and Ngapuhi, and also the Defence Department, considered that some degree of compulsion should be applied, the conscription principle embodied in the Military Service Act, 1916, was extended to the Maori race, by “Gazette” notice on June 26th, 1917. This Act provided for the compulsory calling up of suitable recruits for the Expeditionary Force. Waikato as a tribe held out to the end, on principle—though the refusal of the old people to sanction volunteering greatly chafed many of the young men—and it was deemed necessary to assert the law, in fairness to the other tribes, by compulsorily taking several young men to camp at Narrow Neck. One of these was young Te Rau-angaanga Mahuta, brother of Rata. Once in camp Te Rau entered cheerfully upon his training work, and so enamoured was he of soldiering duty under the wise and sympathetic command of Captain Peacock, that he wrote to his people announcing his page 22 conversion to the principle of service and appealing to them to fall in with the Government's wishes. He got his stripe as Lance-Corporal, and very likely would have obtained a commission, but by this time (August, 1918) the war was nearing its end, and Waikato's services, willing or otherwise, were not required.

After the application of the Military Service Act to the Maoris, three ballots were held. The first took place in May, 1918. The number of recruits actually produced by these ballots was small; most of those who served were volunteers. The Maoris called up in the three ballots, up to August 17th, numbered 479; of these 136 were passed fit. There were 51 men awaiting medical examination in November, 1918, 117 men had not been traced, and 146 had been classed C2. Nearly 80 names were struck off the lists after inquiry. The compilation of the Maori roll was a task of great difficulty. The Government statistician found it impossible to get the Maoris to complete their registration schedules, and other means had to be adopted of preparing a list of First Division natives of military age. For this purpose every Maori drawn in a ballot received, with the notification that he had been so drawn, a military order to parade on a specified date for medical examination.