Capture of German Samoa

Page 4 – Wartime administration

Historian J.W. Davidson described New Zealand rule over Samoa as a ‘ramshackle administration’. German officials were replaced by New Zealand military officers, civilians, or British residents. These often lacked the experience or qualifications to do the job.

As military administrator, Robert Logan governed a population of around 38,000 Samoans and 1500 Europeans (including part-Europeans and about 500 Germans). Samoa’s inhabitants also included 2000 indentured Chinese labourers and 1000 Melanesian plantation workers.

The political and economic systems established by the Germans were largely maintained, but not strictly enforced. Samoans returned to the ways of fa’a Samoa – Samoan customs and tradition – which the Germans had vigorously suppressed.

Germany was stripped of its colonial territories following its defeat by the Allies in the First World War. In 1920 the League of Nations allocated German Samoa to New Zealand as the mandate of Western Samoa. The territory kept this name when it regained its political independence in 1962. 

Despite some complaints, New Zealand’s wartime occupation of Samoa was largely uneventful. The same could not be said of the post-war years: in late 1918 Western Samoa was devastated by an influenza pandemic which killed up to 8500 people – a staggering one-fifth of the population. The 1920s saw the rise of an independence movement, the Mau, which opposed New Zealand rule. Its campaign culminated in the terrible events of ‘Black Saturday’, 28 November 1929 – the day that New Zealand military police fired upon a Mau demonstration in Apia, killing 11 Samoans.

How to cite this page

'Wartime administration', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 2-Sep-2014