60744 Private Motu Rui – Rarotonga Company, NZ Expeditionary Force 

Motu Rui was born in Rarotonga about 1896[i], his father, Motu was from Atiu and his mother, Tupere from Mitiaro.

On 16th February 1918 Motu enlisted in Rarotonga in the 3rd Rarotonga Contingent as 60744 Private Motu Rui.
Private Rui is listed as married man with one child although it appears that his wife Nio had died, possibly in child birth, prior to him enlisting but enlistment papers do list Vaine Nio Motu, Rarotonga, wife, as his next of kin.

Private Rui left Rarotonga to join at the Narrowneck Military Camp other members of the 3rd Rarotongan Contingent. Private Rui was promoted to Lance Corporal on 28th April 1918 and sailed from New Zealand on 13th June 1918.
Lance Corporal Rui landed in Suez on 4th August 1918 and following standard procedure reverted to the ranks,
Private Rui was posted to the NZ Training Battalion. On 8th September 1918 Private Rui was posted to the NZ Rarotongan Company.

The Rarotongan Company's duties were to unload supplies from surfboats on the Mediterranean coast and carry ammunition for the Royal Artillery Eastern Force Ammunition Unit. They were formidable workers, faster and stronger
                                                                                                     than anyone else. This caused friction with the Egyptians who                                                                                                               also did these jobs and the Pacific Islanders were reassigned to 
                                                                                                     a more responsible role: handling ammunition. Their task was                                                                                                               to carry ammunition to the firing line, keeping the dumps                                                                                                                      concealed to prevent attack. Towards the end of the war they
                                                                                                    were also involved in clearing stockpiles of captured enemy                                                                                                                    ammunition[ii].

                                                                                                     Rarotongan Company at ammunition dump 

                                                                                                     With the Armitice between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies                                                                                                               signed on 30th October 1918 New Zealand looked to bring back troops from both the Middle East and Europe. The NZ Rarotonga Company was embarked in Suez on the Mail Steamer Malta sailing on 14th December 1918 for returned to New Zealand. The Malta arrived in Wellington Harbour on 28th January 1919. The Manawatu Standard reported on the voyage and the possibility that the Malta was carrying the
Spanish Flu.

‘ On the trip across the Indian Ocean some 268 Rarotongans showed slight pneumonia symptoms, and 16 cases were landed at Freemantle. Eight more cases were discovered on the voyage from Freemantle to Wellington, six of these
being Rarotongans and two others New Zealand soldiers (one an officer). All the Rarotongans soldiers and contacts have been landed on Somes Island, as well as the two New Zealand soldiers effected. All other troops, after being inoculate
and passed through the inhalation chamber, are to be allowed to land.[iii]

Somes Island was used as a quarantine station and the Rarotongan Company remained on the island for a month to ensure that none of the company developed pneumonia. On the 25th of February 1919 ‘the Rarotonaga soldiers to the number of 241, who have been accommodated on Somes island for some time, have left for Rarotonga by the

Private Motu with the rest of the company arrived in Rarotonga on 3rd March 1919. The soldiers now waited for the
army to discharge them and with time on their hands and ‘bush beer’ there was a serious riot on Rarotonga on
9th March 1919 with about 50 veterans involved. Those identified as ring leaders were sentenced to five years goal.[v]

Private Motu was discharged on 20th March 1919 ‘on termination
of his period of engagement’ and returned to civilian  life in

At some stage between April 1919 and June 1923 Rui returned to
New Zealand as he died in the Porirua Mental Hospital on 2nd July
1923. Rui’s military papers simply note that ‘death not due to war

Private Rui Motu is buried in the Porirua Cemetery.

                                                               Rui Motu's grave at Porirua 

The Cook Island Maori soldiers, as was customary, can be known by many names, the NZEF enlisted name is used in this article.

Private Rui Motu had a headstone unveiling in the Porirua Cemetery on 1st July 2017

Archway Archives New Zealand Military Records
Porirua Cemetery Records Online
Pacific Islanders in the NZEF: NZETC

Grave in Porirua Cemetery (Melanie MacDonald)
Rarotongan Company unloading surf boats: NZ History online
Rarotongan Company at ammunition dump: NZ History online

[i]    Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 60744 Private Motu Rui
[ii]   Pacific Islanders in the NZEF – The Rarotonga Company
[iii]  Illness of the Rarotongans, 27th January 1919, Manawatu Standard
[iv]  Departures, 25th February 1919, Evening Post
[v]  The Rarotongan Riots, 28th March 1919, Dominion
[vi] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files: 60744 Private Rui Motu  
Rarotongan Company unloading surf boats