The Armistice Day Remembrance service at the Cook Islands RSA. 22111128
A solemn ‘Remembrance Service’ commemorated Armistice Day at the Returned & Services Association Cook Islands (RSA) in Nikao yesterday morning.
Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November
11 to mark the anniversary of the peace agreement that ended World War I. The
Armistice Treaty was signed at 11am on November 11, 1918.
In the Cook Islands the day is commemorated each year by
New Zealand casualties, that included Cook Islanders,
in WWI were said to be some 58,000 out of around 98,000 Commonwealth
servicemen. Of those, 16,000 died and 41,000 were wounded.
The story of the Cook Islands – one of the smallest
territories in the British empire in the First World War – is one of remarkable
service and sacrifice.
The Cook Islands responded immediately to the call for
service and eventually sent five contingents to the war, totalling close to 500
Between 370 and 410 Cook Islanders who returned from
the war died in the Cook Islands.
The Remembrance Service yesterday started with the
Last Post played by John Hinton followed by a minute silence and the opening
address by president of the RSA, Tom Annas.
Guest keynote speaker at the event was Paula Paniani
from the Cook Islands WWI NZEF ANZAC Soldiers Research team, who document,
photograph and GPS map the graves of the Cook Islands soldiers.
Patron of the RSA, Makea Karika George Ariki laid the
first wreath, followed by New Zealand High Commissioner Tui Dewes, acting
Australian High Commissioner Ruth Baird, and Derek Fox, the president of the
Aotearoa Society of the Cook Islands.
In his address, Annas noted that the first and
foremost response from the Pacific islands came from the Cook Islands. They
included men from Rarotonga, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Aitutaki, Mitiaro, Manihiki,
Pukapuka, Penrhyn and Palmerston.
The Rarotongans served with great distinction in the Middle
East war zone and they gained a reputation for their well-disciplined behaviour,
“There were many incidents when the British soldiers
deliberately ill treated them but an NCO of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force
defended the Polynesian soldiers.
“As Colonel C.E.R Mackesy relayed: ‘It appears that
the British soldiers, judging by their colour did not realise the status of
these Rarotongans. The majority of these boys were college educated in New
Zealand, they were treated as white people are. They would naturally resent
being shoved to one side. They were renowned for their work ethic, setting new
standards of speed and stamina, and the soldiers took huge pride in any job assigned
to them. At the first landing of Al-Arish 30 islanders did the work of 170 British
soldiers. They were admired for their physical strength and endurance, manning
ammunition depots. It was here at the depots that Sgt George Karika (Corporal
Pa George Karika 19289 – 1 August 1893 – 5 May 1949) earned the Distinguished Conduct
medal for leading his platoon to fearlessly load eight inch shells alongside British
“Despite their war effort being largely forgotten by New
Zealand for a long time and a lack of true figures of death as a result of war
illnesses, the Rarotongan participation in the war was proof that they could
forge an independent identity abroad.”
The executive committee of the Cook Islands RSA are:
Patron Makea Karika George Ariki - George Taripo, President Tom Annas, Vice
President John Hinton, Secretary Gail Eraio, Treasurer Robyn-Anne Hinton.
Committee: Sam Samuel, Wayne Barclay, Tom Webb, Michael Short, Joan Greaves and