ALLEY Rewi Maniopoto (of China)
55386, Private, Canterbury Regiment, WW1
16671, Legion of Frontiersmen, New Zealand
Gazetted 24 January 1919, p1254 Operations: West of Bapaume 25 August 1918. For courage and devotion to duty. During the period of consolidation he went forward several times under heavy fire in charge of patrols, and by his courage and initiative gained and brought back valuable information. His coolness and courage were a fine example to the rest of his men. Queen's Service Order (QSO) London Gazette (supplement), No. 49970, 28 December 1984 Companion of the Queen's Service Order for community service Queen's Service Order (QSO)
Born 2 December 1897, Springfield, Canterbury, New Zealand
Died 27 December 1987, Beijing, China
Cremated and his ashes were scattered.
Rewi Alley, (aka Lùyì Àilí) QSO, MM. (1897 - 1987). New Zealand-born soldier, adventurer, writer, educator, social reformer, potter and "jack of all trades."
Rewi was born on the 2nd December 1897, in Springfield in inland Canterbury, New Zealand. He was named after Rewi Maniapoto, the famous Maori chief of the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s. His father was a teacher, and his mother Clara, was a leader of the New Zealand suffrage movement. He attended primary school at Amberley; then Wharenui School in Christchurch, where his father was appointed headmaster in 1905. He later attended Christchurch Boys' High School. At school his nickname was "Splosh" due to his reckless generosity. He was absolutely selfless and was never happy if the people around him were unhappy. In 1916 Alley joined the New Zealand Army and was sent to serve in France. While there he met some Chinese men who had been sent to work for the Allied Armies. During combat in France he was decorated for Bravery with the Military Medal, was gassed and wounded and was caught in no man's land. His comrade Lyall McCallum and another soldier rescued him and took him back to safety. After the First World War, Rewi Alley tried farming in Moaewatea in Waverly district, and there formed the Waverly Troop of the Legion of Frontiersmen. He served as the Troops OC until he left New Zealand for China in 1927. In 1927 he decided to go to China. He moved to Shanghai with thoughts of joining the Shanghai Municipal Police, but instead he became a fireman. During this period he gradually became aware of the poverty in the Chinese community and the racism in the Western communities. His politics turned from fairly conventional right-wing pro-Empire sentiments to thoughts of social reform. In particular a famine in 1929 made him aware of the plight of China's peasants. Using his holidays and taking time off work Alley toured rural China helping with relief efforts. He adopted a 14-year-old Chinese boy in 1929, whom he named Alan. After a brief visit to New Zealand, where Alan experienced public racism, Alley became Chief Factory Inspector for the Shanghai Municipal Council in 1932. By this time he was a secret member of the Communist Party of China and was involved in criminal activities on behalf of the Party. At one time he was given the job of washing the blood off money stolen by the Red Army in raids disguised as anti-Japanese protests. With Edgar Snow, Helen Snow, and some others, he founded the Gung Ho cooperatives (ICCIC of International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives). He adopted another Chinese son, Mike, in 1932. After the outbreak of war with Japan in 1937, Alley set up the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives. He also set up schools, calling them Bailie Schools after his American friend Joseph Bailie. Edgar Snow wrote of Alley's work in CIC: "Where Lawrence brought to the Arabs the distinctive technique of guerilla war, Alley was to bring China the constructive technique of guerilla industry...." Following the Communist victory over the Nationalists in 1949 Alley was urged to remain in China and work for the Communist Party of China. He stayed in contact with the Legion of Frontiersmen throughout his life, and the New Zealand Command supported Rewi's work with both financial aid and also organised clothing packages. Throughout his long life he was a champion of the poor, he later became a member of the Communist Party of China. The New Zealand government did not strip Alley of his passport and remained proud of his ties to important Party leaders. In the 1950s he was offered a knighthood but turned the honour down. He died in China of the 27 December 1987, he was aged 90. His ashes are scattered over the Shandan countryside, in accordance with the instructions in his will. An extensive memorial to Rewi Alley has been erected at Springfield, Canterbury, New Zealand. It contains a large stone carving and a number of panels giving details of his life. Some Chinese and Japanese works of art collected by Rewi Alley can be admired at the Christchurch Museum.