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World War One Māori Photos wanted

Media release: 18 February 2016

Images of Māori First World War servicemen are wanted for inclusion in an authoritative history book on the Great War due for publication in 2017.

Whitiki: Māori in the First World War is one in a series of books on New Zealand and the First World War being jointly produced by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Massey University, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association.

Soldiers of the Pioneer Battalion awaiting departure during World War I, probably in Wellington.  Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library, reference: 1/2-011079-F

Dr Monty Soutar, who wrote the award-winning publication Nga Tama Toa: C Company, 28th Māori Battalion, is in his third year of research for this new book.

When I began my research I didn’t think there would be much material available after 100 years,” says Monty Soutar.

“I was surprised and thrilled to find some families still hold diaries, letters and photographs of loved ones who served in the Great War.

“Thanks to government support the history of the unit known as the Māori Contingent, later morphing into the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion and finally the NZ Māori Pioneer Battalion, has never had the detailed attention it’s getting now and probably will not for another 100 years.

“My own grandfather was in the Pioneers, but I knew nothing about what his unit did overseas and it’s been a fascinating journey for me.

“The book is already shaping up to be quite a tāonga and when people read it they will learn many fascinating things about the Māori contribution to the war effort.”

Some 2,500 Māori and Pacific Island people served overseas and Soutar wants to include as many of their images in the book as can be found.

“It may end up that only a few hundred can be located, but it’s well worth seeking them out so we can remember them for what they did,” Monty Soutar says.

People with suitable photos are asked to scan them at a minimum of 300 dpi and provide details of the serviceman, including where they are from.

Send the scan and the information to the 28th Māori Battalion website, which now has a First World War section with the Battalion roll included, or to [email protected]

Updated on 11th August 2016