Western Samoa Trust Territory

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Western Samoa Trust Territory
Western Samoa
League of Nations Mandate of the United Kingdom (1920–1946)
United Nations Trust Territory of New Zealand (1946–1962)

Flag Coat of arms
Location of Western Samoa in Oceania.
Capital Apia
Languages English (official)
Austronesian languages
Papuan languages
Political structure Trust Territory
Head of State
 -  1953–1962 Queen Elizabeth II
Historical era British Empire
 -  Established 1920
 -  Disestablished 1 June 1962
Currency Pound sterling (1914a–1930)
New Zealand pound (1930–1967)
Western Samoan pound (1930–67)
a. New Zealand's occupying forces imposed a currency change before the Western Samoan mandate was granted in 1920.

Western Samoa Trust Territory was the official name of Western Samoa between the end of German rule in 1920 and its gaining independence in 1962.

The territory was a League of Nations mandate of the United Kingdom from 1920 until 1946. In 1946, the territory became a United Nations Trust Territory and with the agreement of the United Kingdom was placed under the jurisdiction of New Zealand. New Zealand was asked by the UN to administer the territory with the ultimate goal of decolonisation and self-determination. This process came to an end in 1962 with the independence of Western Samoa.


Main article: History of Samoa

Occupation of German Samoa in the World War I[edit]

The Union Flag raised in Apia, 30 August 1914.

During World War I, New Zealand was a British dominion while German Samoa was a German colony. Both territories, therefore, became involved in the war.

On 7 August 1914, the British government indicated that the seizure of a wireless station near Apia, the colony's capital, which was used by the German East Asia Squadron, would be a "great and urgent Imperial service";[1] this would be followed by the first action of New Zealand in the war, the sailing of a Samoan Expedition Force on 15 August, which would land at Apia on the 29th. Although Germany refused to officially surrender the colonies, no resistance was offered and the occupation took place without any fighting. However the first seizure of a German colony was four days earlier (Togoland, captured as part of the West Africa Campaign), despite claims that German Samoa was the first enemy territory to fall to imperial forces.[2]


The force occupied German Samoa until 1920. New Zealand then governed the islands from 1920 to independence in 1962 as a League of Nations Class C Mandate and after 1945 a United Nations Trust Territory.[3]

There followed a series of New Zealand administrators who were responsible for two major incidents. In the first incident, approximately one fifth of the Samoan population died in the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.[4] In 1919, The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Epidemic concluded that there had been no epidemic of pneumonic influenza in Western Samoa before the arrival of the 'SS Talune' from Auckland on the 7 November 1918, which was allowed to berth by the NZ administration in breach of quarantine; that within seven days of this ship's arrival influenza had become epidemic in Upolu and had then spread rapidly throughout the rest of the territory.[5]

From Mau protests to independence[edit]

Red Ensign of Western Samoa under New Zealand's mandate / trusteeship.

The second major incident arose out of an initially peaceful protest by the Mau (literally translates as "strongly held opinion"), a non-violent popular movement which had its beginnings in the early 1900s (decade) on Savai'i and led by Lauaki Namulauulu Mamoe, an orator chief deposed by Solf. In 1909, Lauaki was exiled to Saipan and died en route back to Samoa in 1915.

By 1918, Samoa had population of some 38,000 Samoans and 1,500 Europeans.[6] By the late 1920s, the resistance movement against colonial rule had gathered widespread support during the mistreatment of the Samoan people by the New Zealand administration.[citation needed] One of the Mau leaders was Olaf Frederick Nelson, a half Samoan and half Swedish merchant.[7] Nelson was eventually exiled during the late 1920s and early 1930s, but he continued to assist the organization financially and politically. In following the Mau's non-violent philosophy, the newly elected leader, High Chief Tupua Tamasese Lealofi, led his fellow uniformed Mau in a peaceful demonstration in downtown Apia on 28 December 1929.[8]

The New Zealand police attempted to arrest one of the leaders in the demonstration. When he resisted, a struggle developed between the police and the Mau. The officers began to fire randomly into the crowd and a Lewis machine gun, mounted in preparation for this demonstration, was used to disperse the Mau.[9] Chief Tamasese was shot from behind and killed while trying to bring calm and order to the Mau demonstrators, screaming "Peace, Samoa". Ten others died that day and approximately 50 were injured by gunshot wounds and police batons.[10]

That day would come to be known in Samoa as Black Saturday. The Mau grew, remaining steadfastly non-violent, and expanded to include a highly influential women's branch. After repeated efforts by the Samoan people, Western Samoa gained independence in 1962 and signed a Friendship Treaty with New Zealand. Samoa was the first country in the Pacific to become independent. In 2002, New Zealand's prime minister Helen Clark, on a trip to Samoa, formally apologised for New Zealand's role in these two incidents.[11][12]


  1. ^ New Zealand Electronic Text Centre
  2. ^ McGibbon page 65
  3. ^ "Imperialism as a Vocation: Class C Mandates". Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "The 1918 flu pandemic". NZHistory.net.nz. Retrieved 26 November 2007. 
  5. ^ Albert Wendt. "Guardians and Wards: (A study of the origins, causes, and the first two years of the Mau in Western Samoa.)". 
  6. ^ "Wartime administration - capture of German Samoa". NZHistory.net.nz. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Laracy, Hugh. "Nelson, Olaf Frederick 1883 - 1944". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 29 June 2011. 
  8. ^ "The Mau Movement" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 December 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  9. ^ Field, Michael (2006). Black Saturday: New Zealand's tragic blunders in Samoa. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed Publishing (NZ). ISBN 0-7900-1103-4. 
  10. ^ "History and migration: Who are the Samoans?". Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Te Manatū Taonga. Retrieved 27 November 2007. 
  11. ^ "New Zealand's apology to Samoa". 
  12. ^ "Prime Minister Helen Clark's Historic Apology". 


  • McGibbon, Ian, "The Shaping of New Zealand’s War Effort August-October 1914" (The Occupation of German Samoa, pages 63–65) in New Zealand’s Great War: New Zealand, the Allies and the First World War, edited by John Crawford and Ian McGibbon, Exisle, Auckland: 2007, ISBN 0-908988-85-0.