Skip to main content

Māori contribution to First World War revealed in new book

Media release: 5 June 2019

The important and poignant story of the Māori contribution to the First World War is told for the first time in the book Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Maori in the First World War, Neill Atkinson Chief Historian Manatū Taonga said today.

“Māori made a significant contribution to the First World War; from a population of 50,000, more than 2200 Māori served and some 330 died. All this and more is outlined in this new book,” Neill Atkinson said.

“These men served in the Middle East, Malta, Gallipoli, France, Belgium and England between 1914 and 1919, mainly in the Maori Contingent and its successors, the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion and the New Zealand Maori (Pioneer) Battalion.

“Written by Dr Monty Soutar, Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Maori in the First World War outlines pre-war New Zealand and then follows the soldiers overseas giving us insight into training, trench warfare and the role of the pioneer in and out of the frontline.

Cover of Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!: Maori in the First World War book.

“The soldiers’ homecoming, repatriation and life after the war are considered in the final chapter.  

Whitiki! also addresses the varied Māori response to the call for volunteers. Some iwi refused to encourage their sons to enlist, even after conscription was extended to their districts in 1917.

“With land confiscations and the treatment meted out to Māori at places like Parihaka, Rangiaowhia and Ōrakau still raw in the minds of their elders, many young men from these areas could not be moved to serve.

“This book tells all of their stories in detail for the first time.

Whitiki! also covers the experiences of the Battalion’s Pasifika volunteers – mostly Cook Islanders, Niueans, and a handful of Tongans, Fijians, Samoans and Gilbert and Ellice Islanders (now Kiribati and Tuvalu).

Whitiki! is the tenth book to be published in a series of histories of New Zealand and the First World War produced jointly by Manatū Taonga, Massey University and the New Zealand Defence Force, which explore the impact of the war on New Zealand society during and after the war.

“With nearly 600 pages and close to 1000 illustrations Whitiki! is the largest book in the series and one of the last to be completed.

Whitiki! will be appreciated both by the descendants of the soldiers whose names and faces appear on its pages as well as New Zealanders wanting to learn more about the Māori and Pasifika contribution the First World War.

“My thanks to Dr Monty Soutar, a senior historian with us at Manatū Taonga, who has led the work on this substantial book and to the team who have supported its publication,” Neill Atkinson said.

Updated on 1st November 2021