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The Maoris in the Great War


page 81

The Pioneers had carried on their trench duties with admirable courage and endurance under harassing conditions but were getting impatient for an opportunity of taking the offensive and having a cut at the Germans. So early in July, the G.O.C consented to the Battalion making a raid, and there was keen anticipation of an exciting night enterprise. Fifty men were picked from each Maori company, from volunteers, and training was started under Captain R. I. Dansey.

One night (July 3rd), about 9.30 o'clock, Lieut. Dansey saw a man on the roof of a factory in rear of the billets holding a light in the direction of the camp's trenches. He searched the roofs but failed to catch the fellow, so he put, all the civilians in the building under arrest and handed them over to the Assistant-Provost Marshal. An enemy bombardment of Armentieres followed immediately the showing of the light. The shelling was particularly heavy and lasted until midnight; the guns used were 5.9-inch, 8-inch, and 11-inch howitzers; incendiary shells were also fired. Several buildings were burned and considerable damage was done, but the casualties in the town were not great. The same night the enemy raided L'Epinette Salient and captured a bombing post of five men. The German barrage de feu which encircled L'Epinette, caused a hundred casualties in the 1st Auckland Regiment, who garrisoned the post.

The Maori raiding party was engaged in bombing practice and physical training, and a model of the section of the enemy's trench to be attacked, was laid out on the ground near the Pont de Nieppe. All ranks were very keen about the coming night adventure, and the volunteers were far in excess of requirements. The C.O. and his officers reconnoitered the ground over which the attack would be made.

At 10.45 o'clock on the night of July 9th, a party, consisting of five officers and 80 other ranks under Captain Dansey, attempted the raid on the German trenches. The raid was to page 82 have been made on the 12th, but instructions were received from Divisional Headquarters to get it off on the 9th, so preparations were rushed on. The party, however, found the wire in front of the salient had not been cut, and therefore, was withdrawn. On the return across No Man's Land the men came under a heavy fire of shrapnel from the enemy, and one man (L.-Cpl. Toka) was killed and three were wounded. Trench 84 and the post at Petty Curry were also heavily shelled for about half an hour and four men were wounded in the trenches. The New Zealand artillery put up a counter-barrage fire but were stopped by telephone after ten minutes. The raiding party returned to billets at 4 a.m. It was a bitter disappointment to the Maoris, who had thus lost their longed-for chance of using the bayonet on their foes.