Monday, May 23
ANZAC Day, 25 April, is a public holiday in the Cook Islands, as well as Australia and New Zealand, marking the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli in Turkey in 1915.
More than 300 Cook Islanders from every island in the country were involved in the war. The first contingent of 45 men left Rarotonga in September 1915.
Of these, nineteen-year-old Corporal Apu Tepuretu was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme on 30 September 1916 (and is buried in France), his brother Sergeant Araitia Tepuretu, was severely wounded. Private Vavia William from Mauke died of wounds. Many of the volunteers died of sickness.
Cook Islanders also fought in the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) but later contingents served in Egypt and Sinai working for the British in the campaign against the Turks because the cold northern winter caused so many casualties.
More information about Cook Islanders in the first world war can be found on the Cook Islands Library and Museum site; the New Zealand History online website has a section on the Rarotongan Company in the First World War; a list of the 317 who saw active service can be found on the Auckland Museum website here; the Cook Islands Roll of Honour of those who died is on the NZ History website.
This video includes some historic footage from World War 1 to give some idea of the horrors that soldiers faced.