The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914–1915
Sitting at breakfast in an old Tudor Hall, with last night's log still smouldering in the great four hundred year old fireplace, whilst outside, the narrow Devonshire lanes are yellow with primroses just passed their glory, and here and there a heliotrope coloured "milkmaid" shows flower, comes a letter from the Antipodes asking me to write a foreword to the History of the Samoan Expeditionary Force.
I look around the old walls, hung with Samoan tapa cloth, with German flag surmounted by Union Jack, here a fly whisk, there an orator's staff, and in one corner a Samoan cricket bat. On a window sill (the walls are four feet in thickness) a ava bowl, and on a chair an iasiga given to me by that friend of all of us, Monty Betham—alas now no more.
My memory goes back to the barrack yard at Mount Cook, where first I came face to face with the Advance Guard of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force; to the wet, cold harbour of Wellington, where we lay for 48 hours, and from which we silently crept out in the cold, grey dawn of an August morning. The meeting with our Naval escort in the open ocean, our visit to New Caledonia and our enthusiastic welcome there; then on to Fiji, and, finally, the sight of Samoa.
Steaming past Amaile and along the North coast of Upolu that memorable morning, a vivid recollection is the stillness on board. Most of us were thinking hard; some were praying silently who had not prayed for a long time. One of the Psalms page 11for the day was impressive—"If I take the wings of the morning and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea: even there also shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me."
Of the landing and holding I need not speak—that is the work of the compiler of this history; and it was by each man doing his own job that life was possible in the tropics in those days which now seem so far off.
We had troubles and misunderstandings, but we learned to respect each other, and the work we found to do we did with a will.
If occasionally we have a longing to be back in-those lovely islands it is not surprising, but would realisation come up to expectation?
A page once turned is a page finished with, but we retain the recollections of friendships made, of good work done in company with good men, and it is a remembrance with which we would be loath to part.
To me also is the honour of having commanded the First Expeditionary Force to leave New Zealand, and my gratitude goes out to the men of whom it was composed.