NZ (Māori) Pioneer Battalion returns from war

6 April 1919

Māori soldiers marching up Queen St, Auckland (Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19190410-34-2)

The all-Māori Pioneer Battalion was one of only two New Zealand Expeditionary Force formations – and the only battalion – to return from the First World War as a complete unit. This, and the opportunity for a proper welcome, saw both Pākehā and Māori communities make a special effort for their return.

More than 1000 men of the battalion arrived in Auckland on the Westmoreland on the evening of 5 April 1919. As the ship came in to the wharf the next morning, guns fired a salute, steamers sounded their sirens and bands played patriotic music. Dignitaries, including Acting Prime Minister James Allen, greeted the men with brief speeches.

The battalion then marched to a pōwhiri (welcome ceremony) at Auckland Domain, where representatives of iwi (tribes) from throughout the country greeted them. After this initial welcome, the various units returned to their home regions. In each area, they were welcomed back to their home marae. Parades and receptions involving official Pākehā dignitaries were held, but the most important events for the soldiers were the traditional welcomes by their own people.

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