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The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914–1915

Chapter IX. — The Seizure of Samoa

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Chapter IX.
The Seizure of Samoa.

Five a.m. Reveille on the 29th disclosed through the mist the rugged backbone of Upolu on the port bow, gradually taking shape as the ships approached and the mists dispersed, until large plantation blocks could be distinguished from the green of the natural bush on the hills.

Anxious Moments. Troops awaiting the reply to the summons to surrender.

Anxious Moments. Troops awaiting the reply to the summons to surrender.

The troops were early astir, dressed in shorts and shirts, with full equipment and rations, and eager for what the day had in store.

Since daylight the "Psyche" had drawn ahead, and had soon become a speck in the distance. In an hour, however, she could again be picked up from the transports, standing off Apia with a flag of truce. The shore wireless station had observed the approach, and immediately endeavoured to send out an urgent call, but a peremptory order from the Rear Admiral to "cease page 58signalling instantly" had the desired effect, and the only signal made thereafter was "S G" repeated four times very rapidly.

Approaching the shore the long Pacific swell could be seen tumbling in lazy white rollers over the reefs which guard the calm, blue sunlit waters of Apia Harbour. The town, following the bay in crescent form, straggled along the beach for some two miles amidst shady trees, and the ever-present coconut palm, while behind rose the dense, bush-clad hills for some ten miles to the top of the razor-backed mountain range that forms the centre of the Island.

A cutter was lowered from the "Psyche" and could be discerned passing through the reef entrance to what became later
The arrival of the Expedition off Apia, 29th August, 1914.

The arrival of the Expedition off Apia, 29th August, 1914.

so well known as the Tivoli Wharf, situated almost opposite the Government offices, over which the German flag was flying. Through the trees bordering the waterfront crowds of people in white clothing could be seen rushing from all quarters towards the landing places, and passing ashore, the landing party was lost to the view of the anxiously-awaiting fleet.

They carried the following summons to the German Governor to surrender:—

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H.B.M. Australian Ship "Australia,"
Off Apia,
30th August, 1914.

Your Excellency,—

I have the honour to inform you that I am off the Port of Apia, with an overwhelming force, and in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed I will not open fire if you surrender immediately.

I therefore summon you to surrender to me forthwith the town of Apia, and the Imperial possessions under your control.

An answer must be delivered within half-an-hour to the bearer.

Wireless communications are to cease instantly or fire will be opened on the station.

If no answer is received to this letter, or if the answer is in the negative, the cruisers have orders to cover the landing parties with their guns.

I have, etc.,

Signed. G. E. Patey,
Rear Admiral Commanding Ships and Vessels of the Allied Fleet.

The summons to surrender.

The summons to surrender.

The Governor, Dr. E. Schultz, was by pre-arrangement, not present to receive the landing party. He had, upon the first alarm, made off inland to the Radio Station, from whence he issued his instructions to the Deputy Governor.

An hour passed with nothing being heard from the landing party. After another half-hour's suspense the white flag was page 60lowered from the "Psyche." The small cruisers moved closer in and simultaneously the transports moved seaward. The troops —in breathless expectation—waited every moment to see hostilities opened. But almost immediately the signal flags again fluttered and like wildfire the news ran through the Fleet that no resistance would be offered to the landing party. The reply ran in characteristic German style: "Though they could not surrender the Territory no resistance would be offered to the landing: that orders had been given for the Wireless Station to be packed up, and that they protested against the threat to bombard the port, such action being forbidden by the Hague Convention."

The picket boat of "Australia," fitted for mine-sweeping, had been sent to "Psyche," and was now immediately lowered, and swept the harbour for mines. The troopships took up stations about a mile off shore, motor launches, motor surf-boats and
The Landing.

The Landing.

ships boats were launched, and the men scrambled down rope-ladders into the tossing craft, which, when filled, were dropped astern, each in charge of a naval officer, and assembled and towed in strings through the reef entrance towards the sandy strip of beach near Matautu Point.

The first trip from each transport landed one company of infantrymen, one machine-gun section, six field engineers, three page 61signallers, a medical officer and stretcher squad. From these a covering party was formed under Major Fulton, and by 12.30 they had occupied the line of the Vaisigano River with parties in observation on the main road and tracks leading towards Vailele.

The signallers who landed with the first detail from the "Moeraki" set up a station on the beach and immediately got into communication with a station on each transport, while a similar party from the "Monowai" was attached to the O.C. Covering Party. The Naval signallers were also soon at work from a central station ashore.

The Flag ashore.Photo by A. J. Tattersall, Apia.

The Flag ashore.
Photo by A. J. Tattersall, Apia.

The Main Body as they landed jumped out waist deep and ran the boats inshore, leaving those required to refloat them. They at once moved clear of the beach and formed up on the road, while a platoon of the 5th Wellingtons combed the surrounding bush and tracks.

An advance on the town was then made, over the Vaisigano River and along the sea front, and picquets were dropped at the more important road junctions. The Court House, Post Office and Telephone Exchange, Customs House and other Government buildings were seized and guards mounted. The Native Police were rounded up, but were immediately released on parole. Horses, bicycles and vehicles of all description were commandeered, and communication inland was soon established.

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Awatting orders to advance on Apia.

Awatting orders to advance on Apia.

The advance on Apia. Troops in front of the Government Offices.Photos by A. J. Tattersall, Apia.

The advance on Apia. Troops in front of the Government Offices.
Photos by A. J. Tattersall, Apia.

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The disembarkation had been carried out smoothly and without incident, and night was approaching. Headquarters took up station temporarily at the Court House; the Aucklanders occupied the Customs House with picquets on the Mulinuu and Mulifanua Roads, while the Wellingtons occupied the Market Hall, with picquets on the Vaisigano Bridge and Vailima, Hospital, and Vaitele Roads.

A detachment of the 3rd Aucklands, under Captain Keenan, accompanied by the wireless operators, set out from Apia, guided by a Samoan, to secure the wireless station, distant some six miles from the port. It was a strenuous, uphill march, the men being tired out before they started—the heavy packs, the heat and the heavy woollen clothing telling severely on some of the party. About midnight the small column emerged from the bush into the clearing in which stood the great steel mast of the big Telefunken plant, which had been completed but a few short weeks before. The station was surrounded and the guard rounded up and disarmed, and investigations soon disclosed the fact that the late German operators had been busy "crocking" the plant. The governor of one of the twin engines had been removed and a wonderful maze of wrong connections made with the wiring, while some of the aerials had been tampered with.

Bombs prepared by the German staff for the destruction of the Wireless Station.Photo by kind permission of A. C. Norden.

Bombs prepared by the German staff for the destruction of the Wireless Station.
Photo by kind permission of
A. C. Norden.

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Further investigations brought to light several suspicious wires leading from the dynamo through the floor, and a close inspection showed that the whole plant had been mined in such a way that had the big Diesel engine been started it would have connected up with a large quantity of dynamite which had been placed under the floor of the instrument, battery and engine rooms.

The wireless plant was quite up-to-date and scientifically constructed. The buildings were of steel and concrete, built upon concrete piles, with commodious quarters for the staff upon a hill close by.

Fifty men of the N.Z. Field Artillery and A.S.C. were left on the transports to assist discharging cargo, which commenced immediately the troops landed, with a native gang. Unloading was carried out continuously all night, and the ships were cleared by 6 p.m. on the 30th, enabling them to get away under escort of the departing warships. Stores were taken ashore and dumped in front of the Customs House, the unloading all night causing great congestion of stores on shore. Many articles of equipment were required the first night and following day, and regular, well-ordered issuing was out of the question.

During the night a lighter went ashore on Cape Horn—a prominent reef in the harbour—and, together with 30 tons of foodstuffs, became a total wreck.

Later in the day of the occupation the ex-Governor appeared before Colonel Logan, who greeted him courteously and advised him that he would be treated as an honoured guest, and taken to New Zealand by H.M. Transport due to sail that day. Captain Bell, Orderly Officer, was detailed to accompany Dr. Schultz to his private residence to enable him to get some necessary private belongings before embarking.

The following morning—Sunday, 30th August—the flag was formally hoisted on the Court House, and the occupation proclaimed by Colonel Logan at the head of his troops, and in the presence of the Naval officers and many of the European and native inhabitants, while the "Psyche" boomed a salute from the Bay. The Occupation was complete. For the first time in the history of the Empire a British Dominion overseas had sent an invading force across the ocean and captured a foreign territory.

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1.The New Zealand Government of His Britannic Majesty King George Fifth now occupy for His Majesty all the German Territories situated in the islands of the Samoan Group.
2.All inhabitants of the occupied territories are commanded to submit to all such directions as may be given by any Officer of the Occupying Force.
3.Every Inhabitant of the Occupied Territories is forbidden to assist or to communicate directly or indirectly with the German Government or the German Forces, or to molest or to resist directly or indirectly the Occupying Forces or any member thereof.
4.All Public Property of the German Government must be delivered forthwith by those responsible for its safety to the possession of the Occupying Force.
5.Private Property of individuals will only be taken if required for the purposes of the Occupying Force, and if so taken will be paid for at a reasonable price at the termination of the war.
6.No person shall, except with the written permission of an authorised Officer of the Occupying Force be out of doors on any night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. nor change his or her present place of residence nor use any boat or canoe.
7.All Public Meetings are Prohibited.
8.No Circular or Newspaper or printed matter of any description shall be circulated printed or issued without the written permission of an authorised Officer of the Occupying Force.
9.No spirituous or intoxicating liquor shall be manufactured or sold without the written permission of an Authorised Officer of the Occupying Force nor shall liquor be supplied to any Samoan Native.
10.All Officials of the German Government who desire to continue to carry out their functions under the present Military Government must report themselves forthwith to the Commander of the Occupying Force and such as may be retained in their employment will receive the same rate of remuneration as was received by them prior to the occupation.
11.All inhabitants having in their possession any motor cars, horses, carts or other means of transport must forthwith report the description of the same to the Provost Marshal of the Occupying Force.
12.All arms of every description, whether the property of the German Government or of private persons must forthwith be delivered at the office of the Provost Marshal of the Occupying Force.
13.All persons who quietly submit to the Administration of Affairs by the occupying Force will be protected in their occupations except in the case of such occupations as may be contrary to the best interests of the Occupying Force.
14.All persons who in any manner resist the Occupying Force or attempt by violence or otherwise to interfere with or overthrow the Military Government now established for His Majesty King George Fifth, or who fall to obey the above written or any subsequent command of any Officer of Occupying Force will be punished according to the laws of War.

Given at Apia, this twenty-ninth day of August in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fourteen.

Robert Logan, Colonel,
Commanding the Occupying Force.

God Save The King.