The Test of War.
It was the Great War that gave the young Maori the grand opportunity of demonstrating his fitness for soldierly brotherhood with the world's finest fighting men. Physically, mentally and morally the Maori troops who went to Gallipoli and Europe were the peers of the best of Britain's blood. More than 2,200 Maoris, with several hundred of New Zealand
's Polynesian Islanders, enlisted for service in the Empire's cause overseas. Most of these served in the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, organised for France after the Gallipoli expedition. The first Contingent of Maoris distinguished itself in the Gallipoli fighting and lost heavily in the battle of Sari Bair
in 1915. The total casualties, 1915–1918, were nearly a thousand, or about 45 per cent. of the Maori strength. Many officers and men were decorated for special acts of bravery; all won praise for their conduct in troopship, in camp and in the trenches. The Pioneers' steadiness and endurance under the greatest test of all, sustained shellfire, was the theme of commendation by British generals. A pakeha
officer on Gallipoli wrote of them: “I am satisfied that better troops do not exist in the world”; and another said they were the best of bayonet fighters, and were perfect as sentries. The honourable and gallant record established by the Maoris on foreign battlefields enormously stiffened the fibre of the race. They had won the respect and affection of their pakeha
A Maori fort of the musket era: Ohaeawai Pa, near Kaikohe, North Auckland, unsuccessfully attacked by British troops, 1845. The strong timber palisade, double, was thickly padded on the outside with green flax, which deadened the impact of artillery balls as well as musket bullets. The defenders in the trench in rear of the stockade fired through the loopholes at ground level.
[From a drawing by Major Bridge, 58th Regt.
brothers in a way nothing but the common sufferings and sacrifices of war could have achieved for them. The social and spiritual rehabilitation of the Maori was crowned by this long service under arms on the thundering fields of France and Flanders.