Rikihana Carkeek was born in Ōtaki in 1890. Throughout the First World War, he kept detailed diaries, which provide great insight into the wartime experience of Māori soldiers, particularly at Gallipoli. After completing training in Auckland, Carkeek and other members of the Native Contingent sailed for Egypt in February 1915.
On arrival we were detailed to our respective tents and lines. There was a fight in our tent over one sheet. I slept on the bare sand. It was an uncomfortable night.
The Native Contingent was not deployed during the early stages of the Gallipoli campaign. However, as casualties mounted, it was brought in to reinforce the depleted New Zealand brigades.
The rumours are to the effect that we’re going to the front. There’s quite an air of excitement and cheerfulness about the camp.
Carkeek landed at Anzac Cove in July 1915 and went into the line at No. 1 Outpost. Their camp just below it soon became known as ‘Maori Pah’. On the night of 6 August, Māori platoons attached to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade helped clear the approaches to Chunuk Bair.
At 5.30pm the Māori Contingent moved off to the left to take part in the big attack. Good luck. Kia ora.
The Māori soldiers silently advanced, bayonets in hand, into the Ottoman trenches. Once they had cleared them they burst into Te Rauparaha’s famous ‘ka mate’ haka. Then they silently pressed on to the next trench. During this attack, Carkeek remained behind with a machine gun section.
No doubt our boys on the left with the Otagos and the New Zealand Mounteds are attacking Johnny Turk now.
Two nights later, Carkeek’s section moved up Rhododendron Spur to support the assault on the summit of Chunuk Bair. By dawn on 8 August, Carkeek’s machine gun was in a very exposed position.
All the rifle fire of the Turks seemed to converge on our position. We were at the apex of the line. Bullets seemed to be whizzing and sputtering from all sides.
During the battle, the machine gunners suffered heavy casualties.
Private F. Hawkins took charge of the gun and I moved up into position to feed the belt. Shortly afterwards he was out of action – shot through the wrist. Then I took charge and opened fire. I also did not reign long for I was shot through the body at the base of neck. I lay there for what seemed hours then the Turks started to shell us with shrapnel. I made longing and occasional glances down at the hospital ships lying in anchor at the bay and was therefore determined to crawl down to the beach.
Carkeek was successful and ended up on a hospital ship.
Civilisation at last on the spick and span hospital ship with real dinkum nurses and dinkum food, too.
Carkeek returned to Gallipoli in November. When Allied troops were withdrawn in December 1915, Carkeek was one of only 134 Native Contingent soldiers remaining from the original 477.
Gallipoli has been a perfect hell on earth, but it’s a hard place to leave. I will never forget Gallipoli and its memory will ever be sacred to the gallant dead.
Carkeek went to France with the Pioneer Battalion of the newly formed New Zealand Division. After completing his military service, he returned to Ōtaki. He died in 1963, aged 72.