At the outbreak of the War, imperial policy did not permit indigenous people to fight alongside European troops. After lobbying by Māori Members of Parliament, the Māori Contingent was formed, which included about 30 Ngāi Tahu men from Canterbury.
The Māori Contingent initially provided skilled labour in support of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. However, a need for reinforcements after heavy losses at Gallipoli forced a change in imperial policy on “native peoples” fighting and the Māori Contingent was deployed as infantry at Gallipoli in July 1915.
Some were so keen to serve that they lied about their age so they could enlist. Private Taurekareka (Arthur) Pahi joined up in 1917 and sailed for the front in 1918. According to his military record, he was born in 1897. However, he was actually born in 1902, making him only 15 years old when he enlisted.
Arthur survived the War, returned to Canterbury and married Erina Teuria Momo. He served again during World War Two.
Rifleman William Te Koeti Bannister was one of nine men to enlist from Makaawhio Pā at Jacobs River on the West Coast. This was a huge contribution from the small settlement that had only 13 able-bodied men. Kinihi Kere Te Naihi (Kelly) Katau and Wilson Te Naihi Katau never returned.
William Bannister was wounded in 1917 and returned home. He served in the Home Guard in World War Two.