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The Maoris in the Great War

Departure from Gallipoli. A Rest on Lemnos

page 67

Departure from Gallipoli. A Rest on Lemnos.

On Sunday evening, October 3rd, the Maoris broke up camp at their various posts and went aboard the mine-sweeper “Partridge,” which left next morning for Mudros, the famous haven of Lemnos Island. The British cruiser “Endymion,” was passed on the way. On landing at Mudros, the Maoris were broken up in platoons and located with their previous regiments. The camp, at Sarpi, was 3½ miles out from the port. For an account of this camp and the doings of the Maoris there, I give extracts from Captain Buck's diary, in the absence of official regimental diaries for this period:—

“October 5th—We had a good rest; missed the sound of bullets. The Maoris are with various battalions; a good many have been sent to hospital. Went for a walk this afternoon with Major Alderman, Captain Ennis and the Padre to the nearest village, Sarpi. Went to see Lieut.-Col. O'Neill (Major previously) who now commands the New Zealand Medical Corps.

“October 6th.—Review of troops to-day by General Godley. It was a pathetic sight to see the Main Body men, few in number, battered in appearance, with faded uniforms and weary step, as compared with the 6th Reinforcements. They are a likely looking lot. The infantry number about 1000 and the mounteds about 1100… More of our boys sent to hospital.”

A change of food, plenty of rest, cricket and football matches for those well enough to play, and camp-fire concerts, were some of the things that compensated the war-worn soldiers in Sarpi Camp. British officers of high degree came and had a look at the Maoris.

(A Maori diary entry: “A general wearing a monocle rode over; also saw an admiral wearing one. The Padre wanted to know how it is the English get weak in only one eye.”)

One or two of the Maori officers were anxiously awaiting word from the steamer “Aragon,” lying in Mudros Harbour, as to when they would get the long-expected leave for a run to Alexandria and Cairo. Their impatience found vent in this diary entry, “writ sarcastic,” out of a full heart:—

page 68

“The ‘Aragon’ is a vessel that is anchored in Mudros Harbour. The Navy moves in spheres remote and no man knows what they are doing or what they have done, or when or where they may break out in a fresh place. But with regard to the Army, they revolve round the ‘Aragon.’ All things Military going and coming have to report to the ‘Aragon.’ The subaltern going away on sick leave or the General coming in with an Army Corps has to report to the ‘Aragon.’ In fact, reporting to the ‘Aragon’ is the one thing that is absolutely necessary towards winning the war.”

The M.O. and Padre Wainohu went to Alexandria on leave, and looked up several Maoris in hospital. At Suez they found invalided Maoris in camp, waiting to be sent back to New Zealand—A. Simeon, Te Toa, Mason and Woods. Simeon had been the Doctor's orderly; he was disabled by a bullet which lodged behind the knee cap.

Te Toa—right well named!—was a man who had displayed remarkable stoicism after being wounded in the head in the attack on Chunuk Bair (August 8th). He had lost the sight of one eye, and the other was threatened.

On October 26th, the troopship “Waitemata” (Captain Nicholson) arrived at Suez from New Zealand, bringing 300 Maori reinforcements. The officers of the reinforcements were: Captain Rice, Lieut. Ashton, 2nd Lieuts. H. Kohere, H. Dansey, O'Neill, Kepa Ehau, Hall, McGregor, Bush, and Pekama Kaa; Chaplain-Major Hawkins, Captain Duncan, N.Z.M.C. Major McKenzie was in charge of the ship. The Maoris went into camp at Zeitoun.

Captain Buck wrote from Egypt to the New Zealand members of Parliament representing the Maori race:—

“All who have come through the Gallipoli campaign, where pakeha and Maori have shared the fatigue, danger, and incessant vigil of the trenches, side by side, recognise that the Maori is a better man than they gave him credit for, and have admitted him to full fellowship and equality. With a separate unit occupying its own trenches, these friendships which will cement mutual respect and esteem between the two races, do not have the same opportunities of being made as where they are working and fighting side by side. One of page 69 the finest incidents in the history of the two races took place when the Maoris left the trenches during the Anzac vacation. Their pakeha comrades who were remaining behind for a later shipment, carried their packs down into the gullies, and many stood clasping hands when the moment of separation came, with their hearts too full of aroha to express themselves in words.”