War Diary of Peter Buck
Page from the war diary of Peter Buck, one of the few Maori officers. The selected page, written at Armentières, describes the occasion of a Maori haka and how it was received.
Peter Buck was born in 1877 of both Maori and Pakeha descent. Throughout his lifetime, Buck acted as a spokesperson and leader of the Maori people. Buck trained as a doctor and in 1905 was appointed as a medical officer to the Maori. Having served as a Maori MP between 1909 and 1914, he played a crucial role in recruiting a Maori volunteer contingent on the outbreak of the First World War. Buck travelled to the Middle East with the First Maori Contingent as medical officer.
Buck’s diary is a crucial record of the service of the Maoris during the First World War as one of the few Maori officers and few written sources in English from the Maori forces. James Cowan, a prominent historian, used Buck’s diary to inform his history of the Maoris during the war. In his diary, Buck recorded the military successes of the First Maori Contingent, particularly at Gallipoli, to encourage the recognition of the Maori race as equal to their white compatriots and allies. The diary entry featured above, describes a Maori war dance at Armentières, France. Like the photograph of the Maori haka in Hampshire, Buck’s written record preserves a moment of observation and encounter between the traditional cultural practices of a non-white colonial group and the white army officials from Britain alongside whom they served. Along with the promotion of Maori martial achievement, these physical displays could help to improve understandings of the otherwise unknown and ‘other’ men.