National Library talk (Wellington): Dr Monty Soutar, ‘The Māori War Effort at Home and Abroad 1917’

Wednesday 7 June 12.15pm – 1.15pm

You are invited to this public event. The event is free but space is limited, so please RSVP to with Maori War Effort in the subject line. Note that this is a lunchtime talk – finish time is 1.15pm.


 One hundred years ago in June 1917, the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion was toiling in the war torn environment around Messines in Belgium. The Pioneers had over a year’s experience as a mixed-race battalion (i.e. Maori, Pakeha and Pacific Islanders) and before that as the Maori Contingent and Otago Mounted Rifles Regiment at Gallipoli.

This talk is based on a paper recently delivered at the Myriad Faces of War Conference at Te Papa. It invites the audience to contemplate the development of three processes and their results during 1917, so that they may understand the Maori situation after the First World War. The first is the reaction of Maori leaders to the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion’s casualties, which led them to focus more sharply on financial support for returning soldiers.

In parallel, after valuable work at Messines, the Pioneers had a name change and became known as the Maori Battalion. By the end of the year the unit had morphed into an almost wholly Maori organisation. What were the implications and impacts of becoming the Maori Battalion?

A third process, perhaps the most important in 1917, the Military Service Act was extended to include the conscription of Maori, “especially the Waikato tribe,” who the Minister of Defence claimed, “had not answered the call to enlist voluntarily.” This move had long-lasting consequences. that dominated political activities after the war.

About the speaker: Dr Monty Soutar, ONZM (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngai Tai)

Monty Soutar is an Historian with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and World War One Historian-in-Residence at the Auckland War Memorial Museum; he specialises in Maori history.  He has worked widely with iwi and Maori communities as demonstrated by his book Nga Tama Toa (Bateman, 2008), which told the story of the 28th Maori Battalion in the Second World War through letters, diaries and oral testimonies from over a hundred veterans and their wives. Next year (April) he publishes Whitiki, another major work about Maori in the Great War. Currently he is leading a digital project on Treaty of Waitangi Settlements in New Zealand.