100 years since New Zealand's invasion of Samoa
New Zealand and Samoa are marking the centenary of New Zealand's invasion of Samoa with commemorations in Auckland and Apia.
Today New Zealand and Samoa are marking the centenary of New Zealand's invasion of Samoa with commemorations in Auckland and Apia.
On the 29th of August in 1914 a 1485-strong New Zealand military force landed at Apia, which was then the capital of German Samoa.
New Zealand had been asked by Britain to disable a radio transmitter on the main island, Upolu.
Don Wiseman reports the force had no knowledge of any military preparedness in the colony but fighting was expected.
LEONARD POULTER LEARY: We thought we would have resistance.
That is Leonard Poulter Leary QC speaking in the 1980s about the landing force of which he was part. He says there was no resistance and everyone got on well.
LEONARD POULTER LEARY: Because none of them were soldiers, they were planters and traders. And they thought it best to be friendly too. And we fraternised with them. It said that we cut off all liquor, that's often been said but it's not true. There were three or four pubs there, and we went into them, and fraternised with the old boche.
Even though it was the first aggressive move by New Zealand in the First World War, the invasion word is rarely used as Hans Joachim Keil, a former Samoa cabinet minister points out.
HANS JOACHIM KEIL: They never referred to it as an invasion when New Zealand troops landed here, because it was a peaceful landing, they arrived here and you know, there were no Germans around firing at them. They said, we're taking over, and the next day they raised the Union Jack and that was it. They took over the government.
But historian Stevan Eldred Grigg says it was all about New Zealand's own imperial ambitions.
STEVAN ELDRED GRIGG: There was a general feeling among the governing group, and political leadership and also leading business people and ship owners, that the Pacific, especially the Pacific south of the equator was the natural realm of New Zealand.
Another historian, Auckland University's Damon Salesa, has a similar view. He says New Zealand had long desired possession of Samoa.
DAMON SALESA: Generations of New Zealand politicians had treated it [Samoa] as a kind of a prospective province of New Zealand almost, so they even referred to it in New Zealand when they lost it to Germany, that's the way it was seen at the time in 1899. [Then Premier Richard] Seddon stood up and declared in Parliament that it was New Zealand's Alsace, referring to the contested territory between France and Germany.
Germany had had official control of Samoa for just 14 years but there had been a substantial presence there since the 1860s. Its influence is obvious as any reading of the Samoa phone book shows, and it is still felt. Dr Tamasailau Sua'alii Sauni teaches in the Pacific Studies department of Victoria University. She says the first governor, Wilhelm Solf, particularly left a significant legacy.
TAMASAILAU SUA'ALII SAUNI: The Self-government is recognised today as a government that was able to allow a lot of the recording of our traditions, our ways of doing things, in a way that isn't as prevalent in the records of the New Zealand administrations.
The early New Zealand administration, a military one until after the war, was disastrous. Its early legacy was the mishandling of the flu epidemic which claimed the lives of thousands of Samoans and the gunning down of peaceful protestors in an independence rally. But relations between New Zealand and Samoa settled from the mid-thirties as the colony was prepared for independence, which eventually came in 1962. New Zealand's Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and the minister responsible for the First World War commemorations, Chris Finlayson, says the occupation was the start of the close relationship that now exists between the two nations. Today's ceremony at the Auckland Cenotaph will be led by the Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae and include the Samoa High Commissioner, Leasi Papali'i Tommy Scanlan.
At sunset Samoa is also hosting a commemoration at Magiagi Cemetery in Apia.
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