17 Aug 2014

NZ's Invasion of Samoa in 1914

From New Zealand's Invasion of Samoa in 1914, 4:06 pm on 17 August 2014

A look at the first New Zealand military action in the First World War, the acquisition of German Samoa on August the 29th 1914.

New Zealand troops arriving to annex Samoa for Britain ALT Ref F

New Zealand troops arriving to annex Samoa for Britain, at the beginning of World War I. Photograph taken in August 1914, by Malcolm Ross. Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: 1/4-017533-F.


Germany governed Samoa from the turn of the century until, just a week after the declaration of what became the First World War, Britain asked New Zealand to disable a radio mast in German Samoa. It gladly accepted. This country had been very keen to establish an empire in the Pacific and the acquisition of Samoa was a key part in this.

The New Zealand force of nearly 1400 expected opposition but German Samoa had no soldiers or military hardware and surrender occurred almost immediately, and New Zealand ruled Samoa for the next 48 years.

Raising the union jack in Samoa photographed on August by Alfred James Tattersall ATL Ref PA q

Hoisting the Union Jack, Courthouse, Apia, Samoa. Photographed on 29 August 1914 by Alfred James Tattersall. Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: PA1-q-107-32-1.

Radio New Zealand International deputy editor Don Wiseman has been digging into this period of our history and found a fascinating era that has not been extensively documented. He speaks to academics and other interested parties about the events, considering New Zealand's imperial ambitions, the impact on the Samoans, the German settlers and tries to discover the long-term legacy of the German colonial period.

Street scene showing New Zealand troops and a Samoan group ATL Ref F

Street scene showing New Zealand troops and a Samoan group, photographed by Malcolm Ross during the annexation ceremony in Apia, Western Samoa, 29 August 1914. Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: 1/4-017527-F.

There are more photos from this period of Samoan history on the Digital NZ website.