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[Caption:] Troopship Monowai leaving Clyde Quay Wharf, 16 August 1914, 1/2-015217-G, John Dickie Collection, Alexander Turnbull LibraryA hun­dred years ago, on 4 August 1914, Bri­tain declared war on Ger­many. The fol­low­ing day, a hast­ily con­vened New Zea­l­and Par­lia­ment pledged to help defend the Empire. Out on the Wel­ling­ton streets there were spon­tan­eous pat­ri­ot­ic parades. Over the fol­low­ing weeks, thou­sands volun­teered for mil­it­ary ser­vice at the Buckle Street mil­it­ary barracks.

This pho­to­graph shows the depar­ture of the ‘advance guard’ less than two weeks later. They were headed for Sam­oa, then a Ger­man colony, although the des­tin­a­tion was still a secret. The Brit­ish had reques­ted the cap­ture of the wire­less sta­tion at Apia, and New Zea­l­and was keen to strike one of the first blows against the enemy.

A lot had to be organ­ised very quickly, and after four fren­et­ic days the Advance Force was ready. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, 12 August, headed by their mil­it­ary band, they left the bar­racks and marched off down Cuba Street, cheered all the way, to the troop­ships wait­ing at Kings Wharf. There, to quote the offi­cial war his­tory, “About 7pm… the trans­ports moved from the wharf. This was the sig­nal for what was believed to be the final farewell… It found expres­sion in loud cheer­ing and singing, hakas, and merry raillery, while a diver­sion was caused by a private fall­ing over­board and being rescued.”

But it was not quite the final depar­ture. The Admir­alty orders had not arrived, so they had to drop anchor off Matiu/Somes Island, and they were still there all the next day. The day after that, they came ashore again at Clyde Quay Wharf and marched up to the Basin Reserve for anoth­er round of pat­ri­ot­ic speeches. Very early the fol­low­ing morn­ing, on a cold grey south­erly day, they finally depar­ted. This pho­to­graph was taken then.

There were oth­er delays before the troop­ship reached Apia. Because of the threat of the Ger­man Pacific fleet they needed nav­al pro­tec­tion, which was not imme­di­ately avail­able. That meant a detour to New Cale­do­nia, then Suva, before they finally steamed into Apia Har­bour on 29 August. The Ger­mans sur­rendered without a shot being fired.

Mean­while, back in New Zea­l­and, excite­ment con­tin­ued as the main Exped­i­tion­ary Force pre­pared to sail for Europe. The first troop­ships left in mid-Octo­ber, and were soon diver­ted to Egypt when the Otto­man Empire entered the war. Over the next four years, 100,000 New Zeal­anders fought over­seas; 18,500 nev­er returned. It was not to be the glor­i­ous adven­ture many had expected.

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