Hurrah for the King

Hurrah for the king

This hook explores a group of young leaders who encouraged Māori men to enlist in order to make New Zealand a more equitable society 


Hurrah for the King: Members of the Māori contingent in the New Zealand camp (external link)

Hurrah for the King: Members of the Māori contingent in the New Zealand camp at Zeitoun before their departure to Malta. From the supplement to the Auckland Weekly News, 27 May 1915, page 43. Image courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. AWNS-19150527-43-5.


The Young Māori Party comprised a group of young leaders dedicated to improving the welfare of their communities. They used their knowledge of Pākehā systems to address issues related to health and land ownership. 

The first Māori unit, Te Hokowhitu a Tū, officially known as the Native Contingent, left New Zealand in February 1915. Although a number of the unit’s junior officers were Māori, the senior positions were all occupied by Pākehā. The group was sent to the Mediterranean island of Malta for garrison duties in order to free up Pākehā soldiers to fight. The Māori soldiers protested about being assigned to non-combat roles, but promoters of imperial policy opposed the idea of Māori being given weapons to fight against Europeans. The high casualty rate at Gallipoli changed this policy, and on 3 July 1915 the Māori contingent landed at Gallipoli as reinforcements. Fifty members of the Māori contingent lost their lives there. After Gallipoli, the Māori contingent returned to a non-combat role as the Pioneer Battalion. 

In many ways, some goals of the Young Māori Party leaders were realised through Māori participation in the First World War. Although the battle to fight alongside Pākehā soldiers was hard won and carried a tragic cost, Māori participation in the war did cause a shift in perception among Pākehā New Zealanders towards Māori. Of course, not all Māori echoed the call of “Hurrah for the King”, or at least not the British King. For example, Kingitanga leader Te Puea Hērangi, guided by her grandfather’s call for peace which forbade Waikato iwi to take up arms again, asserted that Waikato “had its own King” and didn’t need to fight for the British King. This was an understandable response from a community still bearing the brunt of aggressive land confiscations just a few decades earlier. 

Possible discussion questions 

How might Māori participation in the First World War have impacted on Māori–Pākehā relationships? 

How did other Māori communities respond to the call to enlist in the First World War? What were some reasons for their different perspectives? 

Many Māori were willing to sign up to fight in the South African War (1899–1902) but were generally not permitted to enlist. What may have influenced the change in policy at the time of the First World War? 

The leaders of the Young Māori Party encouraged Māori to enlist to serve a greater purpose than supporting the British Empire. What were some other motivations for Māori to enlist?

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