In our 28th Māori Battalion exhibit – Ake Ake Kia Kaha E! Forever Brave! – we have a rather special swagger stick on display. This swagger stick is uniquely ‘New Zealand’ with its Māori carved figure in place of the metal ornamental emblem on its head. The swagger stick is attributed to Reverend Kahi Takimoana Harawira, who served in WWI and was injured at Gallipoli, which saw him sent home. During WWII he served as an Anglican Minister for the 28th Maori Battalion in England, Greece, Crete, and North Africa.
But what is a swagger stick? A swagger stick is a short, light stick or a riding crop, usually carried by a person as a symbol of authority. A swagger stick is shorter than a staff or cane, and made from light materials like rattan, bamboo, and wood. In the British Army before World War I swagger sticks were carried by all other ranks when off duty, as part of their walking out uniform. The stick took the form of a short cane of polished wood with an ornamented metal head in a regimental pattern. The usual custom was for the private soldier or non-commissioned officer to carry the stick tucked under his arm.