New Zealand and the Māori in World War I

New Zealand - Scott #167 (1920)
New Zealand – Scott #167 (1920)

With researching the “town New Zealand saved” earlier this week and yesterday’s Anzac Day commemoration, I became quite interested in New Zealand’s contribution to World War I, specifically the role of the indigenous Māori soldiers in the war. Scott #167 is the only stamp I currently own from the 1920 Victory set so it seems an appropriate subject for today’s “random stamp”. I plan to add the missing Victory stamps to my collection soon, along with an upgrade to this copy due to it’s missing perforation on the lower right corner.

Interestingly, one of the first recorded accounts of the New Zealand national Blue Ensign flag being flown in battle was at Quinn’s Post, Gallipoli, in 1915. It was not, however, flown officially. The flag was brought back to New Zealand by Private John Taylor, Canterbury Battalion. The first time the flag of New Zealand was flown in a naval battle and the first time officially in any battle, was from the HMS Achilles during the Battle of the River Plate in 1939.

The military history of New Zealand during World War I began in August 1914 when Great Britain declared war on Germany at the start of the First World War, the New Zealand government followed without hesitation, despite its geographic isolation and small population. It was believed at the time that any declaration of war by the United Kingdom automatically included New Zealand.

The War-Dog of New Zealand, 1914
The War-Dog of New Zealand, 1914

The total number of New Zealand troops and nurses to serve overseas in 1914–1918, excluding those in British and other Dominion forces, was 100,444, from a population of just over a million. Forty-two percent of men of military age served in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, fighting in the Gallipoli Campaign and on the Western Front. 16,697 New Zealanders were killed and 41,317 were wounded during the war — a 58 percent casualty rate. Approximately a further thousand men died within five years of the war’s end, as a result of injuries sustained, and 507 died while training in New Zealand between 1914 and 1918.

The First World War saw Māori soldiers serve for the first time in a major conflict with the New Zealand Army. A number had fought in the Second Boer War, however, when New Zealand recruiters chose to ignore British military policy of the time of disallowing ‘native’ soldiers. A contingent took part in the Gallipoli Campaign, and later served with distinction on the Western Front as part of the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion. In total, 2,688 Māori and 346 Pacific islanders, including 150 Niueans, served with New Zealand forces. Māori had mixed views about the First World War. Some supported the war effort and rushed to join up. Others opposed the war as they did not want to fight for the British Crown, which was seen to have done much harm to Māori communities in the 19th century.

Upon the outbreak of the First World War on August 5, 1914, the New Zealand Government authorized the raising of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) for service in the war. Mobilization for the war had already begun, with preparations discreetly beginning a few days prior. The day after the declaration of war, the British Government requested New Zealand seize the wireless station at German Samoa, a protectorate of Imperial Germany, deeming it “a great and urgent Imperial service.”

Since the days of Richard Seddon, the Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1893 to 1906, the New Zealand Government had aspired to control Samoa. Even prior to the war, plans for the occupation of Samoa had been laid down by the Commandant of the New Zealand Military Forces, Major General Alexander Godley, who believed that this would be one likely usage of New Zealand’s military in the event of an outbreak of hostilities. The British request was immediately accepted and instructions issued to Godley to raise a composite force specifically tasked for this purpose.

Occupation of German-Samoa at the beginning of World War I. Hoisting of the Union Jack at the courthouse at Apia on August 30, 1914.
Occupation of German-Samoa at the beginning of World War I. Hoisting of the Union Jack at the courthouse at Apia on August 30, 1914.

A mixed force of 1,413 men, known as the Samoan Expeditionary Force (SEF) under the command of Colonel Robert Logan, plus six nursing sisters, sailed from New Zealand on August 15, 1914. After stopping in Fiji to collect some guides and interpreters as well as additional escort ships, the New Zealanders arrived at Apia on August 29, 1914.

Germany refused to officially surrender the islands but with only a minimal military presence, there was little prospect for meaningful resistance. The Governor of German Samoa, Dr. Erich Schultz, sent a message from the island’s radio station that no resistance would be offered. The New Zealanders proceeded to land at Apia and seized key buildings and facilities without interference. The only opposition encountered was at the radio station, where the equipment was sabotaged by the German operators.

Logan officially declared German Samoa to be under the control of New Zealand the following day, August 30, 1914, in a ceremony at the courthouse in Apia. When Vizeadmiral (Vice Admiral) Maximilian von Spee, commander of Germany’s East Asia Squadron, learned of the occupation, he hastened to Samoa with the armored cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau. Arriving at Apia on September 14, 1914, the approach of the German ships was observed and the New Zealanders prepared to defend themselves. However, von Spee and his ships soon departed for Tahiti, with neither side opening fire. The SEF remained in Samoa until March 1915 at which time it began returning to New Zealand, a process completed by the following month.

On October 16, 1914, amidst anxious and curious onlookers, the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) left Wellington on ten troopships. The 8454 personnel and 3000 horses was the largest body of men (and horses) to leave New Zealand at any one time. Once the soldiers and their equipment were loaded, the troopships made their way across the Tasman to link up with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Albany, Western Australia. The plan was to set out across the Indian Ocean for France, but with Turkey’s entrance into the war on November 5, the troops were diverted to Egypt. Less than six months later, they saw their first action at Gallipoli. New Zealand Archives Reference AAME 8106 Box 118/ 11/17/3
On October 16, 1914, amidst anxious and curious onlookers, the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) left Wellington. Less than six months later, they saw their first action at Gallipoli. New Zealand Archives Reference AAME 8106 Box 118/ 11/17/3

As early as October 16, 1914, the main body of the NZEF sailed from Wellington on ten troopships. The 8,454 personnel and 3,000 horses was the largest body of men (and horses) to leave New Zealand at any one time. Once the soldiers and their equipment were loaded, the troopships made their way across the Tasman to link up with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Albany, Western Australia. The plan was to set out across the Indian Ocean for France, but with Turkey’s entrance into the war on November 5, the troops were diverted to Egypt where they helped repulse a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal in February 1915.

The New Zealand volunteer soldiers remained encamped in Egypt, alongside their Australian comrades, undergoing training prior to being sent to France.

On September 16, 1914, the Government had announced the formation of a ‘Māori Contingent’ of 200 men for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. This was later expanded to 500 at the suggestion of the British War Office. During the early stages of the war, there were frequent references to the ‘Maori Contingent’. Officially it was called the Native Contingent. The use of the term ‘native’ in reference to Māori was not dropped from official use until 1947, largely on the initiative of Prime Minister Peter Fraser who was also the Minister of Native Affairs.

The Māori settlement of New Zealand represents an end-point of a long chain of island hopping voyages in the South Pacific.
The Māori settlement of New Zealand represents an end-point of a long chain of island hopping voyages in the South Pacific.

The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Māori originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia, who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages some time between 1250 and 1300. Over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, a rich mythology, and distinctive crafts and performing arts. Early Māori formed tribal groups based on eastern Polynesian social customs and organization. Horticulture flourished using plants they introduced; later, a prominent warrior culture emerged.

The arrival of Europeans to New Zealand, starting in the 17th century, brought enormous changes to the Māori way of life. Māori people gradually adopted many aspects of Western society and culture. Initial relations between Māori and Europeans were largely amicable, and with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, the two cultures coexisted as part of a new British colony. Rising tensions over disputed land sales led to conflict in the 1860s. Social upheaval, decades of conflict and epidemics of introduced disease took a devastating toll on the Māori population, which fell dramatically. By the start of the 20th century, the Māori population had begun to recover, and efforts have been made to increase their standing in wider New Zealand society and achieve social justice.

Imperial policy at the time opposed the idea of ‘native peoples’ fighting in a war among Europeans. There were fears that they might turn on their colonial masters or cause embarrassment by expecting equal treatment with European soldiers. When it was suggested that Māori be sent to garrison the newly captured German Samoa, New Zealand Administrator Robert Logan cabled the government to say that this might be provocative to the Samoan population.

Members of New Zealand's Maori Pioneer Battalion perform a haka for New Zealand's Prime Minister William Massey and Deputy Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward in Bois-de Warnimont, France, during World War I, on June 30, 1918.
Members of New Zealand’s Maori Pioneer Battalion perform a haka for New Zealand’s Prime Minister William Massey and Deputy Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward in Bois-de Warnimont, France, during World War I, on June 30, 1918.

A Native Contingent Committee coordinated Māori recruitment. The first Native Contingent of about 500 men left Wellington for Egypt on February 14, 1915. The committee set itself a quota of 150 recruits every four weeks. Achieving this soon became a struggle. Only one man in three of the second and third drafts, which sailed in September 1915 and February 1916 respectively, were Māori — the rest were mostly Niueans and Rarotongans. During the last years of the war, the Native Contingent was known as the Māori battalion and mainly comprised Arawa, Ngati Porou, NgaPuhi and later many Cook Islanders. The Maniapoto tribe, which had been at the heart of the 1863 Māori rebellion, supplied many soldiers.

Many Māori from the Tainui-Waikato and Taranaki tribes refused to enlist or be conscripted to fight for “King and Country.” Their land had been confiscated in the 1860s as punishment for ‘rebellion’ against the British Crown. Why should they now be expected to fight for the British? The leader of the Māori king movement (Kīngitanga) during World War I,  Te Puea Hērangi, maintained that her grandfather — King Tāwhiao — had forbidden Waikato from taking up arms again when he made peace with the Crown in 1881. She was determined to uphold his call to Waikato to “lie down” and “not allow blood to flow from this time on”. Te Puea maintained that Waikato had “its own King” and had no need to “fight for the British King.” If the confiscated land was returned, Waikato might reconsider its position.

Te Puea worked covertly to undermine the government’s attempts to unify Māori behind the war. Her 16-year-old brother — Te Rauangaanga — was one of many Waikato conscripts arrested and jailed after refusing to serve their country.  Police caused great offence by stepping over the King’s personal flag, which had been protectively laid before Te Rauangaanga. Te Puea intervened, calming the shocked onlookers and blessing those who had been seized. She told the police to let the government know she feared no law, or anything else “excepting the God of my ancestors.” The actions of Te Puea led to Waikato tribes being ostracized to some extent by the government after the war.

The New Zealand Division marching from Trentham to embark for Europe. Photo taken in Hutt Valley, Wellington, New Zealand, on April 14, 1916.
The New Zealand Division marching from Trentham to embark for Europe. Photo taken in Hutt Valley, Wellington, New Zealand, on April 14, 1916.

New Zealand had one of the highest casualty — and death — rates per capita of any country involved in the war. The first significant casualties occurred in the Dardanelles. On April 25, 1915, as part of the New Zealand and Australian Division, the New Zealanders landed at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula, and fought in the Gallipoli Campaign under the command of British General Alexander Godley. The combined British Empire and French operation was mounted in order to eventually capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul).

Because of a navigational error, the Anzacs came ashore about a mile north of the intended landing point in their initial landing. Instead of facing the expected beach and gentle slope they found themselves at the bottom of steep cliffs, offering the few Turkish defenders an ideal defensive position. Establishing a foothold, the Anzacs found an advance to be impossible. On April 30, 1915, when the first news of the landing reached New Zealand a half-day holiday was declared and impromptu services were held — the origin of the commemorative public holiday, Anzac Day, recognized by New Zealand and Australia and held each year on April 25.

Map of the landing at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915
Map of the landing at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915

Despite the blunder at Anzac Cove, the New Zealand soldiers fought valiantly throughout the campaign but it was a failed venture overall. The estimated casualties on both sides were 392,000 of whom 131,000 were killed, with New Zealand casualties of 2,721 dead and 4,852 wounded. The Allied forces eventually evacuated in December 1915 and early January 1916. The significance of the Gallipoli Campaign was strongly felt in New Zealand (and Australia) where it was the first great conflict experienced by the fledgling nation. Before Gallipoli the citizens of New Zealand were confident of the superiority of the British Empire and were proud and eager to offer their service. The campaign in Gallipoli shook that confidence.

The New Zealand Rifle Brigade (less two battalions) had meanwhile reached Egypt in November 1915 and was sent into the Egyptian desert to help defeat a Senussi invasion from Libya. The 1st Battalion fought two brisk but inexpensive actions south-west of Matruh as part of a mixed force (including British, Australians, and Indians), one on Christmas Day, the other on January 23, 1916. Both were successful and broke the back of the invasion. In mid-February the 1st Battalion rejoined the rest of the brigade at Moascar in the Suez Canal area.

New Zealand Expeditionary Force troops camped in the shadow of the pyramids near Cairo, Egypt, circa 1915.
New Zealand Expeditionary Force troops camped in the shadow of the pyramids near Cairo, Egypt, circa 1915.

In Egypt, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force was reorganized into the New Zealand Mounted Brigade and the New Zealand Division (infantry). Reinforcements from New Zealand replaced the Australian component of the division, which embarked for France in April 1916. The New Zealand Mounted Brigade, 147 officers and 2,897 other ranks, remained in Egypt as part of the Anzac Mounted Division. In April 1916, it was deployed to the Sinai Peninsula where it took part in the ultimately successful Sinai and Palestine Campaign against the Turks. New Zealanders fought in most of the battles leading up to the fall of Jerusalem and the defeat of the Ottoman Army, and were praised for their fighting alongside their Australian and British comrades. In 1919, Field Marshal Sir Edmund Allenby, said this of the New Zealand soldiers in the Sinai campaign;

Nothing daunted these intrepid fighters: to them nothing was impossible.

A total of 17,723 New Zealanders served in this campaign and New Zealand casualties were 640 killed in action and 1,146 wounded.

The Bulford Kiwi is a large depiction of a kiwi, carved in the chalk on Beacon Hill above the military town of Bulford on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. It was created in 1919 by New Zealand soldiers awaiting repatriation following the end of World War I. It is one of the few hill figures in Wiltshire to be neither a white horse nor a military badge.
The Bulford Kiwi is a large depiction of a kiwi, carved in the chalk on Beacon Hill above the military town of Bulford on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. It was created in 1919 by New Zealand soldiers awaiting repatriation following the end of World War I. It is one of the few hill figures in Wiltshire to be neither a white horse nor a military badge.

While in England — either freshly arrived from New Zealand or having already served at Gallipoli and awaiting transfer to the Western Front — New Zealand troops were stationed at Sling Camp, an annex of Bulford Camp in Wiltshire. The troops who were still stationed at the camp at the end of the war created the giant chalk kiwi known as the Bulford Kiwi whilst waiting to be repatriated.

When the supply of volunteers for reinforcements for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force slowed, conscription was introduced, with the first ballot held in Wellington on November 16, 1916. Men between 20 and 45 could be conscripted, subject to a medical check and limited rights of objection on conscience, family or business grounds. Conscription was extended to Māori for the Native Contingent in late 1917, with the first “Māori ballot” for the Waikato district held in May 1918. By the end of the war, 552 Māori had been balloted but no Māori conscripts had been sent overseas. About 4.5% of the Māori population — 2,227 — served in the war, under half of the total contribution per head of the total New Zealand population.

Nurses at New Zealand Stationary Hospital, Wisques, France, in 1918. New Zealand Archives Reference IA76 H905
Nurses at New Zealand Stationary Hospital, Wisques, France, in 1918. New Zealand Archives Reference IA76 H905

New Zealand Hospitals were set up at Port Said and Suez in 1915, Walton-on-Thames in 1915, and Amiens, Brockenhurst, Codford and Hornchurch in 1916. Hospital ships Maheno and Marama were converted in 1915. On October 23, 1915, the troopship SS Marquette was torpedoed and sunk in the Aegean Sea 36 nautical miles (67 km) south of Salonica, Greece, by SM U-35 with the loss of 167 lives. Thirty-two New Zealanders including 10 nurses died. The loss of nurses and medical staff led to the New Zealand government asking the War Office (via the Governor, Lord Liverpool) in November 1915 that transfers of medical staff be done by hospital ships whenever possible. Subsequent voyages of the 1st New Zealand Stationary Hospital were made in hospital ships.

In France, the New Zealand Division settled in on the stalemated Western Front and their first major trial was during the Battle of the Somme. It took part in the Fourth Army’s attack on September 15, 1915, under the command of the British XV Corps. By the time they were relieved on October 4, the New Zealanders had advanced three kilometers and captured eight kilometers of enemy front line. 7,048 had become casualties, of whom 1,560 were killed.

In June 1917, the New Zealand Division further distinguished itself in the storming of Messines Ridge and the capture of the village of Messines. On June 7, after the detonation of nearly 500 tons of explosives in huge mines on both sides of the New Zealand sector, the 2nd and 3rd Brigades scrambled over the top, in and out of shell holes, and up the battered slopes. Carrying the German front line and supports, they were soon into the ruined village. The 1st Brigade passed through, helped on the left by a solitary tank, to the final objective. With prisoners and booty including many guns it was a striking success at no great cost; but the German artillery revived and by the time the division was relieved on June 9 and 10 it had lost 3,700 men, evenly distributed between the three brigades.

Infantry from the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Regiment, New Zealand Division in the Switch Line near Flers, taken some time in September 1916, after the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.
Infantry from the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Regiment, New Zealand Division in the Switch Line near Flers, taken some time in September 1916, after the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

The New Zealand Division’s next major engagement was at Passchendaele in October 1917. The division had been training since the end of August to overcome the numerous concrete pillboxes in this sector. The first objective was the Gravenstafel Spur, attacked before dawn on October 4, as part of a major advance. The 1st and 4th Brigades forestalled a heavy German counter-attack, and the supporting artillery barrage inflicted frightful slaughter on the waiting Germans. Crossing this scene of carnage, the 1st and 4th Brigades gained their objectives after a hard fight, inflicting exceptionally heavy loss on the enemy and capturing much equipment. For such a resounding success the 1,700 New Zealand casualties, though a sad loss, did not in current terms seem excessive. Heavy rain turned the countryside into a bog and tragedy lay ahead.

A British attack on Bellevue Spur and part of the main Passchendaele ridge on October 9 gained a little ground at prohibitive cost. Heavy swathes of barbed wire still girdled the hillside, however, and belated and meagre heavy artillery made no impression on them, nor on the many pillboxes beyond. New Zealand gunners slaved to breaking point to get only a few guns and howitzers forward, but stable platforms and accurate fire were unattainable.

The division returned to the attack on October 12, with the 2nd and 3rd Brigades. There was little to encourage the men as they waited overnight in a morass under steady rain. Shelled in their assembly area, some were shelled again by their own guns when the thin barrage opened at 5.25 a.m., and then they led off into a deluge of small-arms fire, speckled with geyser-like eruptions as shells exploded in the mud. Worst of all was the wire, covered with deadly fire, its few gaps deliberate deathtraps. Some men tried to crawl under it, some threw themselves at it, two got right through and were killed in the act of hurling grenades at the loopholes of the nearest pillbox. The left gained 500 yards of slippery slope, the center 200 heartbreaking yards, the right nothing until the 80-odd occupants of two blockhouses and a trench used up all their ammunition. Then they were captured, blockhouses and all, by two brave and skillful men, sole survivors of two Otago platoons.

For these small gains, the New Zealanders suffered 640 dead and 2,100 wounded. For the first time the division had failed in a major operation. After this failure, the division continued to hold a sector of the line. The steady drain of men while units only held the line was less spectacular, though it made up half the losses of the division. Here, before withdrawing from the front, 400 more men were lost in the 4th Brigade alone.

The division now had four brigades, making it one of the largest on the Western Front, and was stationed in the Polygon Wood area. An attack by the 2nd Brigade on December 3, 1917, gained useful ground but failed to capture Polderhoek Chateau. When the division was relieved, on February 24, 1918, three “quiet” months had cost 3,000 men, more than 1,873 of them killed.

As the Germans launched their great Spring Offensive of 1918, the New Zealand Division was rushed to stem a breakthrough in the First Battle of the Somme, which threatened Amiens. The gap was between the British IV and V Corps in the Ancre Valley. After confused fighting, the New Zealanders eventually gained the upper hand and soon were counter-attacking advantageous land, stabilising the British line. Later in the year, they excelled in the open country fighting that was brought about by the Allied counter-offensive.

Map of the route taken by the British Third Army (between the red dotted lines) as it advanced across northern France during the Hundred Days Offensive - the rapid series of Allied victories in the final stages of the First World War. The advance of the New Zealand Division – part of the Third Army’s IV Corps – is shown by the red arrow. The purple lines mark the front on specific dates in September and October 1918.
Map of the route taken by the British Third Army (between the red dotted lines) as it advanced across northern France during the Hundred Days Offensive – the rapid series of Allied victories in the final stages of the First World War. The advance of the New Zealand Division – part of the Third Army’s IV Corps – is shown by the red arrow. The purple lines mark the front on specific dates in September and October 1918.

In their last action of the war, the New Zealand Division captured the ancient fortress town of Le Quesnoy in a daring assault on November 4, 1918. The day proved to be the division’s most successful of their whole time on the Western Front as they pushed east and advanced ten kilometers, capturing 2,000 German soldiers and 60 field guns. The town occupied a strategic position in north-eastern France and had been held by the Germans since 1914. Although with no specific orders indicating that the town need to be captured with any haste, the New Zealand soldiers were determined to and just before midday the first New Zealand troops reached the outer walls and scaled them with ladders. Propping the ladders against the precariously narrow inner walls, sections of one New Zealand battalion ascended the walls and engaged in hand-to-hand fighting with fleeing German defenders. The few thousand strong German garrison surrendered soon after New Zealand soldiers entered the town itself.

The infantry were relieved on the eastern side of the forest at midnight on November 5-6 and the war ended five days later. The division left the Third Army on November 28, and marched through Belgium, to entrain at the German frontier for Cologne and take up billets in neighboring towns as part of the army of occupation. Demobilization soon started and at Mülheim near Cologne the division was finally disbanded on March 25, 1919.

The cost of maintaining the division for two and a half years on the Western Front was appalling. Altogether some 13,250 New Zealanders died of wounds or sickness as a direct result of this campaign, including 50 as prisoners of war and more than 700 at home. Another 35,000 were wounded, and 414 prisoners of war were ultimately repatriated. The total casualties therefrom approached 50,000, well over half the number of those who served in France or Belgium.

Members of the Maori Pioneer Battalion give a rousing farewell to visiting Prime Minister William Massey and Deputy Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward who were departing after reviewing the troops. The photograph was taken at Bois-de-Warnimont, France on June 30, 1918, by the Official NZEF photographer, Henry Armytage Sanders. Henry Armytage Sanders was an Official NZEF Photographer (service number 37194) appointed by the New Zealand Government according to New Zealand Division documents. From Archives New Zealand Reference: IA76/13, H687.
Members of the Maori Pioneer Battalion give a rousing farewell to visiting Prime Minister William Massey and Deputy Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward who were departing after reviewing the troops. The photograph was taken at Bois-de-Warnimont, France on June 30, 1918, by the Official NZEF photographer, Henry Armytage Sanders. Henry Armytage Sanders was an Official NZEF Photographer (service number 37194) appointed by the New Zealand Government according to New Zealand Division documents. From Archives New Zealand Reference: IA76/13, H687.

New Zealand also contributed to the war at sea. The New Zealand Naval Forces was a Division of the Royal Navy. The cruiser HMS Philomel, originally commissioned in 1890, was loaned to New Zealand as a training ship. It was on a short shakedown voyage to Picton on July 30, 1914, prior to taking on its first complement of New Zealand cadets, when the ship was recalled to Wellington Harbour in anticipation of the outbreak of war. Largely crewed by personnel from the Royal Navy, volunteers were brought on board to bring the ship up to full strength and after stocking up with supplies, she departed for Auckland to await further instructions.

On August 15, 1914, Philomel was augmented with 70 New Zealand reservists and sailed with two Royal Navy cruisers as the ocean escort for the New Zealand troops sent to occupy German Samoa. The escort would have been unlikely to offer much resistance to the German cruisers SMS Scharnhorst and SMS Gneisenau that were known to be in the area. Fortunately, the convoy did not encounter the German ships. Philomel then steamed for the Kingdom of Tonga to deliver news of the hostilities with Imperial Germany before returning to New Zealand.

HMS Philomel, New Zealand's first naval ship, is berthed against the Quay Street jetty No. 2 in Auckland. To the left is the troopship Waimana. The ships are preparing for the departure of the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, which sailed from Wellington on October 16 that year.
HMS Philomel, New Zealand’s first naval ship, is berthed against the Quay Street jetty No. 2 in Auckland. To the left is the troopship Waimana. The ships are preparing for the departure of the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, which sailed from Wellington on October 16 that year.

By now the main body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, formed for service overseas, were ready to embark from Wellington on a convoy for the Middle East. Philomel escorted the convoy as far as Western Australia. Then, along with Pyramus, she sailed northeastwards for Singapore in search of the German cruiser SMS Emden, which was then carrying out raids in the Indian Ocean. The two ships, which would have been outgunned by the more modern Emden, had reached Christmas Island when they received news of the Emden‘s sinking by HMAS Sydney. They arrived in Singapore on November 12 from where Philomel continued onto Port Said, escorting three French troopships.

In late 1914, Philomel, needing maintenance and an update of equipment, was berthed at Malta and underwent an overhaul. This was completed by late January 1915 and she then started operations in the Mediterranean against the Turks, patrolling the Gulf of Alexandretta, On February 8, she landed an armed party in Southern Turkey where a large force of Turkish soldiers were encountered, resulting in three seamen being killed and three wounded. This action marked the first deaths in the war of New Zealanders serving with a New Zealand formation.

Subsequently, Philomel was deployed in the Red Sea and in the Persian Gulf for much of the remainder of the year, taking part in the defense of the Suez Canal, operations in the Gulf of Aden and patrols in the Persian Gulf. In December 1915 she sailed to Bombay for maintenance work but was back in the Persian Gulf in January 1916, continuing her patrolling. By the end of the year, her engines were giving trouble and her stern glands were worn out. A lengthy and costly refit was required and rather than incur this cost for a ship which was nearly at the end of her operational life, the Admiralty decided to gift her to New Zealand and dispatched her home to be paid off. She duly arrived in Wellington Harbour in March 1917. A large portion of her Royal Navy crew were returned to England to be assigned to other berths. Armament removed, Philomel was recommissioned as a depot ship in Wellington, supporting minesweeping operations until May 1919.

HMS Philomel berthing at Queen’s Wharf, Wellington, on March 16, 1917, after returning from wartime service overseas. When the ship docked for maintenance in Bombay earlier that year, it was discovered that major repairs were needed to its deck and hull. Rather than undertake this expensive work, the Royal Navy detached the ship from its fleet and sent it back to New Zealand. A guard of 50 corporals from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, as well as several VIPs, greeted New Zealand's first warship when it arrived in Wellington. Once back in New Zealand waters, Philomel served as a stationary depot ship then as a training and accommodation facility at Devonport naval base, Auckland.
HMS Philomel berthing at Queen’s Wharf, Wellington, on March 16, 1917, after returning from wartime service overseas. When the ship docked for maintenance in Bombay earlier that year, it was discovered that major repairs were needed to its deck and hull. Rather than undertake this expensive work, the Royal Navy detached the ship from its fleet and sent it back to New Zealand. A guard of 50 corporals from the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, as well as several VIPs, greeted New Zealand’s first warship when it arrived in Wellington. Once back in New Zealand waters, Philomel served as a stationary depot ship then as a training and accommodation facility at Devonport naval base, Auckland.

In March 1921, Philomel was recommissioned as a training base. She steamed from her berth at Wellington to the dockyard at the Devonport Naval Base in Auckland. Moored alongside the training jetty, she was operated as a training facility for new recruits to the naval service, under the command of a series of officers from the Royal Navy including, for nearly six months in 1923, Commander Augustus Agar VC. Training armament was installed and in 1925, her boilers and engines were removed to create more accommodation space for naval cadets and officers. The ship’s superstructure was later removed and further accommodation in the form of wooden cabins, was constructed on her deck. In October 1941, on the creation of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Philomel was recommissioned as the training base HMNZS Philomel.

HMS Philomel as a training ship at Devonport in the 1940's.
HMS Philomel as a training ship at Devonport naval base in the 1940’s.

Philomel was paid off and decommissioned on January 17, 1947, and her name transferred to the Devonport Naval Shore Establishment. On the day of her decommissioning, the New Zealand Naval Board sent a signal to Philomel which stated:

“…their regret at the passing from the service of the first of His Majesty’s New Zealand Ships, a ship that has meant so much to all who served in her. She goes as many good ships have gone before her, but when HMNZS Philomel’s colours are hauled down at sunset this evening, the tradition which she has established during her long career will live on in the depot to which she has given her name.”

The hulk of the Philomel was sold to the Strongman Shipping Company, based in Coromandel. She was towed and deliberately ran aground in Coromandel harbor, near the wharf. After her fittings and parts were removed, she was towed out to sea and sunk near Cuvier Island on August 6, 1949. Much of the teak timber and some fittings went into a newly built coaster named Coromel, an amalgamation of Coromandel and Philomel. Her crest is mounted to the gate of the Devonport Naval Base.

The NZHS Maheno entered war service in 1915 as a hospital ship and was skippered by Captain Donald McLean on five charters from July 1915 to April 1919. Her busy war service resulted in the evacuation of thousands of patients from Gallipoli, Egypt, and France with casualties transported to hospitals in England and New Zealand. The Maheno had a long and successful career that spanned some 30 years. Her seaworthy days came to an abrupt end when she was wrecked on Fraser Island off the Queensland coast in Australia on July 8, 1935.

New Zealand Hospital Ship 'Maheno'
New Zealand Hospital Ship ‘Maheno’

New Zealand was not subject to any significant direct military threat during the war. Although Germany had plans for naval raids on Australia and New Zealand, the threat from her Asiatic Squadron did not eventuate, as that force moved across the Pacific before being destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands.

In June 1917, a German surface raider, the SMS Wolf entered New Zealand waters. She laid two small minefields in New Zealand waters and sank two merchant ships — the Port Kembla off Farewell Spit and the Wairuna off the Kermadec Islands. Two fishing trawlers, the Nora Niven and Simplon, were fitted as minesweepers and took up sweeping duties in these areas. Another brief flurry of activity occurred when Felix von Luckner, imprisoned on Motuihe Island after being captured in the Society Islands, escaped and commandeered a small vessel before being recaptured in the Kermadec Islands.

New Zealand also contributed a wireless troop to the Mesopotamian Campaign. The Wireless Troop was formed in New Zealand and arrived at Basra in April 1916. In Mesopotamia, the New Zealand troop was amalgamated with the 1st Australian Wireless Signal Squadron, forming “C” Wireless Troop of the Anzac Squadron. The troop was much affected by disease, but once in operation was attached to the Cavalry Division in the assault on Baghdad. The Wireless Troop was among the first batch of troops to enter the city on 11 March 1917. The Wireless Troop joined further operations in Mesopotamia and was then moved to Persia. In June 1917, the troop was redirected to France, where it was absorbed into the New Zealand Divisional Signal Company.

New Zealand had no air force of her own during the First World War but several hundred New Zealanders served with the Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force.

New Zealand troops departing from a port in France, 1918.
New Zealand troops departing from a port in France, 1918.

Shortages of shipping, influenza and strikes were among causes for delays in repatriating troops after the war. The frustration of the delay resulted in riots at Sling Camp, Wiltshire, in March 1919 and at Ismailia in July. Allied governments paid compensation for looted Egyptian shops. New Zealand’s share of the cost was £2,529 (2016 equivalent $250,000).

At Sling Camp, the New Zealand troops were eager to return home but no troop ships were available. In the wake of riots by disaffected New Zealanders, officers decided that the troops should be kept busy carving an enormous kiwi into the chalk of the hill. This was done in February and March 1919, by the Canterbury and Otago Engineers Battalions. The design was executed by Sergeant-Major Percy Cecil Blenkarne, a drawing instructor in the Education Staff, from a sketch of a stuffed kiwi specimen in the British Museum. The site was surveyed and the design extended on to the site by Sergeant-Major V.T. Low, NZE of the Education Staff.

The emblem is cut out of the chalk hillside, and stands out in contrast from the surrounding vegetation. The Kiwi’s body occupies an area of 1.5 acres (6,100 m²) with a height from the Kiwi’s feet to the top of its back measuring 420 feet (130 m). The beak is 150 feet (46 m) long and the letters “N.Z.” are 65 feet (20 m) high.

The Bulford Kiwi in Wiltshire, England. Photo taken on August 1, 2013.
The Bulford Kiwi in Wiltshire, England. Photo taken on August 1, 2013.

In the years after the Kiwi’s creation, the Kiwi Polish Company maintained the Kiwi through their offices in London, employing local villagers to do the work. Although it had “little if any advertising value [for the company]”, they explained their interest in its upkeep as its being a memorial to the New Zealand troops. During World War II, the Kiwi was camouflaged with leaf mold out of concerns that German bombers would use it as a navigation marker during their raids over Britain. In 1948, the leaf mold was removed by local Boy Scouts, and fresh chalk was added. The Scout troop subsequently renamed themselves in the kiwi’s honor.

In the early 1950s, Blenkarne negotiated for the kiwi to be maintained by the British Army’s 3 (UK) Divisional Headquarters and Signal Regiment following on from the work done by 249 Signal Squadron. 3 DHQ&SR was part of the 3rd Infantry Division. As of 2007, the Kiwi is maintained by the Ministry of Defence. In 2017, the chalk figure was designated as a scheduled monument.

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force (later called the 1st NZEF) was finally disbanded on December 31, 1921.

[url=https://flic.kr/p/26xznRv][img]https://farm1.staticflickr.com/950/41707799971_6e3e8054ea_o.png[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/26xznRv]NZ-$1-Silver-Proof-Gallipoli_REV[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/am-jochim/]Mark Jochim[/url], on Flickr
“The Spirit of Anzac” – New Zealand $1 Silver Proof coin

New Zealand war deaths are buried or commemorated in Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemeteries with other allied soldiers. Gallipoli dead are buried in 24 CWGC cemeteries in Turkey, and in CWGC cemeteries in Egypt, Gibraltar, Greece and Malta. There are memorials to the New Zealand missing on Chunuk Bair and at three CWGC cemeteries: Hill 60 Cemetery, Lone Pine Cemetery and Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery.

On the Western Front, missing New Zealand soldiers are commemorated in cemeteries near where they were lost rather than at the large memorials of Menin Gate and the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme. The New Zealand monuments to the missing are at Messines in Belgium and Armentierses, Longueval (Caterpillar Valley Cemetery), Grevillers, and Marfaux in France. There are four national battlefield memorials at Passchendaele, Messines, the Somme and Le Quesnoy.

Immediately following the cessation of hostilities in November 1918, a request was made to the Post and Telegraph Department to issue a set of stamps to commemorate the declaration of peace. The Postmaster General, Sir Jospeh Ward, approved the suggestion on November 29, 1918. When designing the stamps, suggestions were made that the stamps should be “imperial in character with a most modest indication of the country of origin.”

NEW ZEALAND 1920 SG453/8 Proof: 1920 (July 6 - 28) set of six stamp-size die proofs in black on glazed card for the 1920 Victory issue, affixed to three pieces from the De La Rue day book, each with M/S dates and details of the leads taken (160 for 1d, 1½d; 120 for other values). The pieces additionally with diagonal line and endorsement 'Sep 1st 1920 Sent to Colony' in RED M/S (except 3d & 6d piece without date), being the invoice date for the plates. A unique and important record, documenting the manufacture of a second set of plates intended for local printings. Image courtesy of Stanley Gibbons Ltd.
NEW ZEALAND 1920 SG453/8 Proof: 1920 (July 6 – 28) set of six stamp-size die proofs in black on glazed card for the 1920 Victory issue, affixed to three pieces from the De La Rue day book, each with M/S dates and details of the leads taken (160 for 1d, 1½d; 120 for other values). The pieces additionally with diagonal line and endorsement ‘Sep 1st 1920 Sent to Colony’ in RED M/S (except 3d & 6d piece without date), being the invoice date for the plates. A unique and important record, documenting the manufacture of a second set of plates intended for local printings. Image courtesy of Stanley Gibbons Ltd.

The Victory in World War I set of six stamps was released in New Zealand on January 27, 1920 (Scott #165-170). They were designed and printed using typography by Thomas de la Rue Ltd. in London from plates by Pitney-Bowes, Waterlow & Sons and de la Rue on chalk-surfaced paper imprinted with the “single NZ and star” watermark, perforated 14.

The stamps all exhibit attractive designs: the ½-penny yellow green and 1-pence carmine both portray different allegories of “Peace” with the British lion (horizontal and vertical); the 3-pence black brown pictures the lion from the famous figures flanking Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London, which were so familiar to thousands of New Zealand soldiers during the war; the 6-pence purple portrays a vertically-oriented winged allegory of “Victory” (according to New Zealand Post, this symbolized “Progress” as attendant upon “Peace”); the 1-shilling vermillion shows a portrait of King George V flanked in the top corners of the stamp with carved representations of human faces or wheku in Māori as well as the British lion and Māori fern at the sides.

Scott #167 is valued at 1½ pence and displays a Māori warrior chief with elaborate face tattooing printed in brown orange. In his hair is worn the tail feathers of the huia which were highly prized and worn as a badge of rank. The whakakai or ear pendant is the type made from shark’s teeth and was also highly valued by the Māori. Carvings and fern leaves — “not a known New Zealand species,” sniffed one journalist — appear in the background.

Proof from a design prepared by Henry W. Barr, a designer with De La Rue & Co. It portrays an unofficial New Zealand Coat of Arms with a left-facing portrait of King George V. The design was rejected and never used. Image from the Virtual New Zealand Stamps blog.
Proof from a design prepared by Henry W. Barr, a designer with De La Rue & Co. It portrays an unofficial New Zealand Coat of Arms with a left-facing portrait of King George V. The design was rejected and never used. Image from the Virtual New Zealand Stamps blog.

The Victory stamps were placed on sale in London on November 9, 1919, over two months before they were available in New Zealand, so that local collectors who were members of the new issue services of dealers in Great Britain received sets before other collectors could purchase the stamps at the post offices.

This naturally created a feeling of dissatisfaction and there was severe criticism of the action, not only by philatelists but also by returned soldiers. The Prime Minister received so many protests that an assurance was given that subsequent issues of stamps would not be placed on sale outside the country.

When the stamps were issued the designs were criticized in the New Zealand newspapers because it was considered that only the 1½-penny could be considered truly typical of the Dominion. Bearing in mind the instructions that had been given, it must be admitted that the artists produced quite satisfactory designs. Other criticisms were more pragmatic. The Victory stamps were twice the size of the 1915 George V series and “took some licking.” If you only had ½-penny stamps with which to post a standard 1½-penny letter, you hoped the address was brief.

At first, the Australian authorities refused to recognize the stamps as valid. A minor trans-Tasman controversy broke out when the Australian postal authorities clapped a surcharge on letters from New Zealand bearing Victory stamps, citing obscure provisions of the Convention of the Universal Postal Union. The Australians claimed that through this stamp issue New Zealand was not only “advertising the country” (stamps weren’t supposed to do that), but also asserting that it had “in particular contributed to the victory of the Allies. It is not the business of any Government to cater for stamp dealers abroad.’ many other countries had also issued Victory or Peace stamps, and the Australians soon backed down.

New Zealand 1920 color trial for the 1-shilling Victory stamp in blue with SPECIMEN overprint. Image from the Virtual New Zealand Stamps blog.
New Zealand 1920 color trial for the 1-shilling Victory stamp in blue with SPECIMEN overprint. Image from the Virtual New Zealand Stamps blog.

It was later decided that, as the stamps were not to be on sale for an extended period of time, local printings would not take place. The 1-penny and 1½-penny plates were identical to those used in London, however the ½-penny, 3-pence, 6-pence and 1-shilling plates had the top rows omitted in order to fit the Barrett printing machines that were used by the New Zealand Government Printer.

Large numbers of Victory stamps were printed: 46 million of the 1½-pence, 30 million of the 1-penny, 22 million of the ½-penny, three million of the 6-pence and two million of the 3-pence and the 1-shilling. Few good examples of the higher-value stamps survive because these were used on parcels and heavily postmarked, thus used copies have higher catalogue values than mint specimens.

As usual, Stanley Gibbons has the stamps listed with different color names than Scott and also adds additional shade each for the ½-penny and 1-penny denominations that aren’t listed in the Scott standard catalogue:

  • ½d. green (SG #453)
  • ½d. pale yellow-green (SG #453a)
  • 1d. carmine-red (SG #454)
  • 1d. bright carmine (SG #454a)
  • 1½d. brown-orange (SG #455)
  • 3d. chocolate (SG #456)
  • 6d. violet (SG #457)
  • 1s. orange-red (SG #458)

In 1920, a postage rate increase resulted in little demand for ½-penny stamps. In March 1922, there were over 12 million ½-penny Victory stamps still in stock. It was decided to overprint the stamps with a 2-pence surcharge in red ink (Scott #174).

Blue Ensign (National Flag) of New ZealandNaval Ensign of New ZealandFlag of the United Tribes of New Zealand (used by the Maori)Royal New Zealand Army crestWW100 New Zealand logo

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