Māori in the NZEF

Page 1 – Introduction

Fighting for Empire

When the First World war broke out, the Māori response was varied. Some opposed fighting for a Crown that had dispossessed them of land in the 19th century. Many others were keen to serve, but at first they had few options. Imperial policy initially opposed the idea of native peoples fighting in a war betwen European nations.

This view changed as casualties mounted and the need for reinforcements grew. A Māori Contingent left New Zealand in early 1915. It had a combat role at Gallipoli before being re-formed as a Pioneer Battalion to serve on the Western Front.

By the end of the war, 2227 Māori and 458 Pacific Islanders had served in what became known as the Maori (Pioneer) Battalion. Of these, 336 died on active service and 734 were wounded. Other Māori enlisted (and died) in other units.