Sunday, April 7, 2019


Last month self and Mrs Veteran took time out in Samoa.   It's our preferred holiday Pacific Islands holiday destination leaving Fiji and the Cook Islands for dead.

We have never failed to be impressed by the generosity of spirit shown by the Samoan peoples to New Zealanders given our simply appalling record of  administering that country after first seizing it from the Germans in 1914 and then under the League of Nations mandate granted post WW1 and continuing through to when Sir Guy Powles was appointed Governor and took it upon himself to ready the island state for independence.    He at least was the one shining light in a litany of failures.

The two low points of that stewardship was the decision by the NZ authorities to allow a ship (the SS Taluna) to dock in Apia when it was known to be carrying passengers suffering from the influenza virus that swept the world in the aftermath of WW1.    The Samoan people were particularly susceptible to the flu and it is estimated that some 22% of the entire population died from it.

In contrast to the cavalier response by the Acting Port Medical Officer in Apia the Governor of neighboring American Samoa instituted a rigid quarantine of that country for the period of the pandemic.   No-one in American Samoa contracted the flu.  

The late 1920's saw the rise of the 'Mau' (independence movement).   The response of the New Zealand government  was to send civil and military police to help maintain order.   On 28 December 1929 in what became known as 'Black Saturday' policemen from that force opened fire on a peaceful demonstration by followers of the Mau in central Apia (including using a machine gun) which saw 11 demonstrators killed including the Mau leader Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III (who was shot in the back) and another 50 wounded.     Subsequently marines from the New Zealand Navy flagship Dunedin were deployed to hunt down the Mau who had gone bush.   They were singularly unsuccessful save for the shooting of a 16-year-old unarmed Samoan boy who was killed while running away from a marine whose excuse that he thought the boy was going to throw a stone was accepted as an adequate defence and no charges were laid.

Our stewardship of Samoa is a dark stain on our history unrecognised by many.    I repeat that I continue to be impressed by the generosity of spirit shown by the Samoan people towards New Zealand and New Zealanders.   Many might say we don't deserve it.  


Psycho Milt said...

Scott Hamilton at Reading the Maps has written some good pieces on NZ's appalling history in Samoa (as well as on slavery in the Pacific, something else NZ and Aus historians tend not to dwell on).

I like his description of NZ's administration of Samoa in this post:

The German administration of Samoa had been conducted by paternalistic but relatively competent intellectuals: New Zealand preferred to hand the job of governing the islands over to a succession of deeply racist and utterly incompetent military men, small town mayors, and high country sheep farmers.

Kiwiblog readers might usefully note that those men would have regarded modern-day NZ's acceptance of coloured people as the equals of White men as "political correctness gone mad."

Lord Egbut Nobacon said...

We have done this one before Veteran.....HMS Dunedin was a British warship as were the Marines (NZ navy has never had Marines).

This was the procedure of the day whether US, British, Russian, Japanese or German. Put down any dissension with overwhelming force and make an example of the few. In the UK and NZ parliaments it would be called "nipping it in the bud"

The past is a different country

The Veteran said...

Egbut ... you're right only to the extent that 'we' didn't have a Navy until 1941. The New Zealand Division of the Royal Navy came into being in 1921 and remained in place until it was renamed the RNZN in 1841. HMS Dunedin was a Danea class light cruiser commissioned in 1919 and served as the flagship of the New Zealand Division. In was manned by a mixed British and NZ crew and it also had a complement of British Royal Marines (as did most ships cruiser up). They were the marines I referred to in my post. HMS Dunedin was torpedoed and sank by U-125 off the coast of Brazil on 24 November 1841. Only 4 officers and 63 men survived out of the crew of 486.

Milt ... thanks for your contribution. Reinforces my post.

Anonymous said...

Well there goes the final roading project (Melling Cross over)
This so called government have now cancelled every roading related
project that we where promised would go ahead and the extra taxes would be used to
pay for them, So we will now get a refund !!? or will the tax be dropped Yeah Right !!!
Edward M Mills