Narrow Neck Camp

Narrow Neck Camp

Narrow Neck Military Camp was a training base for Māori Contingents (including volunteers from the Pacific Islands). Up to 400 could be trained here.

Set up as a military camp

Narrow Neck Military Camp was set up next to Fort Takapuna in 1915. On 9 April 1915, newspapers reported that huts, cookhouses and outbuildings were still being constructed and that the camp itself was only recently "newly-established". The Second Māori Contingent was the first to camp here from July 1915. They left Narrow Neck Camp on 17 September 1915. They marched to Devonport around noon. The New Zealand Herald reported: "They were cheered, and flags and handkerchiefs were waved by North Shore residents, some of whom seemed quite downhearted to see the lads march away." Following a speech from the Mayor of Devonport, the Contingent (which numbered 312), travelled to Auckland city by ferry and marched up Queen Street to the Town Hall. Thousands lined the street and congregated at the Town Hall to farewell the troops. Following speeches, songs and dancing, the haka was performed before the troops marched to the railway station where they departed to Wellington.

Third Māori Contingent

The Third Māori Contingent went into training at Narrow Neck Military Camp in October 1915. Out of 340 men, this contingent included a large number of volunteers from the Pacific Islands, including 50 from the Cook Islands, 153 Niueans, 15 Fijians, Gilbert and Ellis Islanders (now Kiribati), Tahitians and Western Samoans. However, of the Niueans only 140 completed their training at Narrow Neck Camp and were sent to Egypt – 12 were discharged back to Niue due to illness and one, Private Vilipate, died at Narrow Neck Camp on 25 December 1915 and was buried in the O'Neill's Point Cemetery. The Third Māori Contingent sailed from Queen's Wharf on 4 February 1916, "amid scenes of unprecedented enthusiasm" as reported in the New Zealand Herald. Two more Niuean soldiers and one Cook Island soldier were buried in the nearby O'Neill's Point Cemetery during the training of more contingents in 1916. A returning Cook Island solider, Sergeant Beni Banaba was buried there as well in 1917, having served in Egypt and Palestine. Some members of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company were also trained at Narrow Neck.

Māori prisoners & enemy aliens

In July 1918, 27 Māori men were arrested and imprisoned at Narrow Neck Military Camp for refusing to go to war. They subsequently served eight months imprisonment with hard labour at Mount Eden Prison.

In December 1918, those who had been interned at Motuihe Island were transferred to Narrow Neck Camp. The prisoners included Count von Luckner and Lieutenant Kircheiss of the German raider Seeadler and Dr Schultz, ex-Governor of Samoa. German prisoners were repatriated to Germany from January 1919.

On 13 May 1919, a group of 168 prisoners of war left Narrow Neck Camp to travel by train to Wellington the join the steamer Willochra which carried internees to Europe to be repatriated. The group comprised of 71 German men (many of whom had been interned since the occupation of Samoa), 3 German women, 13 children, 80 Yugoslavs and one Austrian. Among the Germans were Dr Schultz (ex-governor of Samoa) and Count von Luckner.

The New Zealand Herald reported: "The greatest excitement prevailed among the Germans at the Narrow Neck camp during the afternoon ... Count von Luckner displayed almost schoolboy excitement. He wore a new naval uniform bearing four ribbons and passed from group to group calling loud farewells in his own tongue ... What struck the onlooker was the healthy, well-fed appearance of the jovial Germans, who marched in perfect step from the camp to the wharf."

About 40 Germans remained at Narrow Neck camp.

Influenza hits hard

The 1918 influenza epidemic hit the camp hard. At one stage in October 1918 there were 226 cases of influenza at the camp. Ultimately 21 died either in the camp or in the nearby barracks. Twenty influenza victims were buried in the nearby O'Neill's Point Cemetery: ten Māori, three from Kiribati, one from Fiji, one from the Cook Islands, nurse Isabella Maud Manning and four Pākeha soldiers who died in the nearby barracks. The remaining dead soldier, Warena Tapsell, was buried in Tauranga. In 1919, another Fijian soldier and two Cook Island soldiers were buried in O'Neill's Point Cemetery, having died in Auckland Hospital. They were returning home in the troopships. The Army decided not to use the Camp as a home for soldiers with consumption (tuberculosis, a wasting disease) but it was still used as a convalescent hospital until 1920.

Fighting the epidemic

Convalescent Hospital

Ernest McKinlay recalls: "Early in January, 1920, I was sent north to become a patient at the Narrow Neck Military Hospital at Devonport, Auckland... There were several Maori patients, including George Taranaki, Billy Te Tau, and Tamiana, and it was here, having picked up several Maori ditties, that it occurred to me to make a special study of Maori songs, a decision which has meant a great deal to me since. One of these songs I learned parrot-fashion from my friend Ned Mark, a Maori from White Island, who had lost both legs in the war, and whom I used to look after when I was convalescent, taking him down to draw his pension at Devonport Post Office, and helping him generally....He was a happy soul in spite of his injuries.... The good people of Devonport were always willing to do what they could for us...They were very happy days at Narrow Neck, which, with its little strip of sandy beach, was an ideal spot for a convalescent hospital."

He got a job with Auckland City Council in 1921.

(From Ways and By-Ways of a Singing Kiwi with the N.Z. Divisional Entertainers in France, available on the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection website).

Convalescence & Matron Brooke

Photo credits

Cover image

Māori and Pacific Island volunteers marching at Narrow Neck Military Camp, July 1915. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150722-48-5.

Thumbnail image

In training at the Narrow Neck Camp, September 1915. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150923-47-1.

Sources

Information about the history of this site provided by David Verran, Auckland Libraries.

Additional information sourced from the New Zealand Herald and the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

Location

Near 1 Old Lake Road, Narrow Neck