October 17, 2014
Maori contribution to WWI marked
It’s 100 years to the day that Maori volunteers started gathering at the Avondale Race Course to prepare to fight in the First World War.
Historian Monty Soutar from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage says the Maori Contingent was the first organised effort by Maori to represent themselves in an overseas theatre of war.
First to march in were of about 30 men from the Kaitaia and Mangonui regions and some 15 to 20 men enlisted in Auckland, and by October 22 there were 500 young men at the camp ready for training.
Maori MPs had lobbied hard for the right to fight, and the iwi took the responsibility seriously.
" Every tribe was up for it and they picked the cream of the young men that they had at the time because tribal pride was at stake. Most of the Maori contingent stood at an average of 5'9 – 5'10, which was pretty tall for 1914. They were mostly well educated lads who had been to the church secondary schools " he says.
Dr Soutar is writing a book on the Maori soldier in World War One, and he is keen to hear from any whanau who might have letters, diaries or other material relating to tupuna who fought.
FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH DR MONTY SOUTAR CLICK ON THE LINK
Copyright © 2014, UMA Broadcasting Ltd: www.waateanews.com