Palmerston Island-born Carl Marsters was the highest ranked Cook Islander in any of the soldiers in the Pacific islands contingents that served in World War One.
He was born on 23rd June 1894 and was 22 years old when he volunteered. Marsters left his job as a store accountant with the former Union Steam Ship Company and enlisted on July 1, 1916 in Rarotonga. He was married to Tehiva and they had two children, William and Sarah both of whom are named in his attestation.
He embarked with the 2nd Rarotongan Contingent, quickly proving he was officer material and was promoted to corporal at Narrowneck Camp near Auckland. Two months later he was promoted to sergeant. Marsters was to receive two further promotions during his military service. He was discharged from service on March 20, 1919.
With fine, strong features Marsters cuts a striking, handsome figure in his uniform. His steady, direct gaze gives a glimmering of his character: strong, intelligent and a natural-born leader. Company Sergeant Major Marsters served 167 days in New Zealand and a further two years and 74 days abroad.
His records show that upon his discharge CSM Marsters was entitled to an allowance of five pounds and five shillings to “procure plain clothes.” In order to qualify for the allowance Marsters, like other Cook Islands soldiers had to show his discharge notice and return his military greatcoat.
Interestingly, World War One researchers say Marsters is recorded as having served in the New Zealand Territorial Force for a year before the war. He was discharged as not being a New Zealander.
His records show that a descendant of Marsters was named Manuka, after the ship he sailed on. Another descendant was named Sydney after the first port he landed in on his journey to Egypt. CSM Marsters served in campaigns in Sinai and Palestine and was also awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
He died on June 1, 1953 in the Cook Islands. The name Carl continues through generations of the Marsters family who remember their tupuna with pride and respect.
His far-flung descendants include the current Cook Islands Queen’s Representative, His Excellency Tom Marsters.