The video for this story about Niueans in the First World War screened on Newshub on 19 April 2017.
In 1915 around 150 Niuean men set sail from their island home for war service overseas as labourers in the New Zealand (Māori) Pioneer Battalion. They were thrust into a bewildering environment – many did not speak English, the food was different and their army uniforms were scratchy and uncomfortable – and a climate wholly different to that of Niue. Disease soon took its toll.
Among these men was 19-year-old Falaoa, a young Niuean who fell ill while labouring on the Western Front. Separated from his countrymen, he endured the isolating experience of a hospital stay in London before former missionaries to Niue, Frank and Sarah Lawes, came to visit. Falaoa survived the war, but many of his fellow islanders were not so lucky and never returned home.