To Walk Under Palm Trees

The Germans in Samoa: Snapshots from Albums


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Mr Richard Hirsch was the manager of the Government wireless station in Apia, which had just been completed several weeks before the New Zealand capture of Samoa. It linked Apia closely with the outside world for the first time. Prior to its construction it was impossible to get urgent cable messages or telegrams to Samoa on a rapid basis. Cable messages from Europe or other countries could reach Auckland, Honolulu or Suva but for the last leg of the journey to Samoa the messages had to be carried by the postal system using visiting ships. The Apia wireless station ended this isolation, enabling these messages to be received from other transmitters in the Pacific using Morse code. Urgent messages could also be transmitted from Apia to the outside world. Hot international news now came within hours rather than weeks.

Mr Hirsch was a technical expert who had set up radio stations for the Germans in a number of other colonies, including in Africa and the Caroline Islands. In the hours after the New Zealand invaders arrived in port, Mr Hirsch and his workers had sabotaged and booby-trapped the new radio equipment but they didn’t do a very good job; the kiwis soon had the transmitter up and running again.

Mr Hirsch was interned in Auckland, where this photo was taken, and repatriated to Germany in May 1919.

Credit: Alfred Schultz Album, photographer Reinhold Hofmann.

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