Heritage of Tattoo and New Zealand Defence Force

Origin of Tattoo in Europe

A Military tattoo originally referred to a military drum performance but has now come to mean military displays in general.  Dating from the 1600s when drummers from the garrison were sent into the towns at 9:30pm each evening to inform soldiers that it was time to return to their lodgings. The whole process was known as “doe den tap toe”, which was Dutch for “turn off the tap” - an instruction to innkeepers to stop serving beer to the soldiers and send them home for the night. This phrase became corrupted into Tattoo.

New Zealand Military bands

During the First World War soldiers of the Auckland, Canterbury and Otago regiments formed pipe bands. In the Second World War the 22nd and 23rd Battalions and the Artillery had pipe bands. They performed to raise morale, lead marches and play at ceremonial occasions. During the wars civilian pipe bands often marked the departure of soldiers or welcomed them home. The number of pipers was depleted as young men went off to war.

Bagpipes in New Zealand

The Scottish bagpipes came to New Zealand with the immigrant Highlanders and in 1896 members of the Invercargill Caledonian Society formed New Zealand’s first civilian pipe band, the Caledonian Pipe Band of Southland. In the early 1900s pipe bands were established across the country and competitions began in 1907 with a Highland Gathering at Hagley Park, Christchurch.

New Zealand’s Māori Battalion

During WW1, 2000 Māori served in the Māori Pioneer Battalion but not all iwi were supportive of fighting for the Crown. It continued to be a contentious issue when in 1939, the Māori Battalion was formed and gathered for the first time in 1940 in Palmerston North. The Battalion went on to distinguish itself during its wartime deployment in the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Greece, Italy, Crete, North Africa, and finally as part of the occupation force in Japan. It was disbanded in 1946 having had 3,600 men serve in the battalion. Of these, 649 were killed or died of wounds while another 1,712 were wounded.