From a population of 50,000, more than 2200 Maori fought in the First World War; more than 330 of them died. They served in Egypt, 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. This book tells all of their stories in detail for the first time.
In Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!, life in 1914 is explored before chronological chapters follow the soldiers overseas. Unit structure, training, trench warfare and the role of the pioneer in and out of the front line are explained. Keeping a unit drawn from a small population at full strength in the field was difficult, and the political and historical issues that arose because of a lack of reinforcements are not passed over. The soldiers’ homecoming, repatriation and life after the war are considered in the final chapter.
The Pioneer Battalion included Pakeha and Pacific Islanders—mostly Cook Islanders, Niueans, and a handful of Tongans, Fijians, Samoans and Gilbert and Ellice Islanders (now Kiribati and Tuvalu). The book also looks briefly at their contribution. Whitiki! is the first by a Maori author and reflects an era in which Maori perspectives are informing the discourse about New Zealand’s history. Whitkiti! has been painstakingly researched and features listings of over 1000 casualties, and several hundred portraits of soldiers.