National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Capture of German Samoa

On 7 August 1914, three days after the declaration of war, New Zealand’s Governor General received a secret cable from Britain which read.

“If your ministers desire and feel themselves able to seize the German wireless station at Samoa we should feel that this was a great and urgent Imperial service…”

A volunteer force 1,382 strong, including seven nurses and the 5th (Wellington) Regiment Band, was mobilised in Wellington in just five days.  It sailed to Samoa on 12 August 1914, arriving on 29 August.  A summons to surrender was sent to the German Governor, to which the reply came, that though the territory could not be surrendered, no resistance would be offered to the landing.

The Samoan Chiefs took no sides in the dispute, stating at a meeting called by the Germans.

“…we stand by and allow the Great Powers to work out the will of God”.

The New Zealand troops took over Apia and the inland wireless station and settled down to life as an occupying garrison.  This garrison was replaced in April 1915 by a smaller force of 360 men. The German administrators and merchants in Samoa were sent to New Zealand where they were interned on Motuihe Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

After the war, in 1919, German Samoa became Western Samoa and the League of Nations made it a protectorate of New Zealand.   Western Samoa remained under New Zealand control until independence was granted on 1 January 1962.