The Cook Islands Returned Services Association says it's a shame the islands' younger generation don't know enough about the role Pacific Islanders played in the World War I.

Men from Cook Islands and Niue served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force's Maori Pioneer Battalion during the conflict.

After suffering losses in the Maori Contingent during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, New Zealand MP Maui Pomare led a recruiting mission to Niue and Rarotonga.

Cook Islands RSA president Henry Wichman says about 480 men were recruited.

"It was voluntary - no one was forced to go," he said.

"I think like a lot of men at that time they were looking for adventure, but it wasn't the adventure they were expecting."

Several men from other Pacific Islands also made their own way to New Zealand to enlist, and were either attached to the Niue and Cook Islands contingents or returned home.

Mr Wichman says the first contingent underwent training in Auckland before being shipped over to France.

"What happened is they found that a large number of Pacific Islanders suffered from the cold," he said.

"It wasn't their cup of tea and so they decided to relocate them to a climate that was more suited, so they were shipped down to Egypt.

"That's where the first contingent met the second contingent, and they were called the Rarotonga Company.

"They were engineers, they did a lot of digging, they built bridges and so forth.

"There is records of the Pioneer Battalion actually getting on the front line...and in one of these visits to the front line we lost our first serviceman."

He says the men who served saw terrible things, but the experience also had a positive effects for those that served and their descendents.

"When the servicemen came back, because they had been pushed around by some of the ugliest men in uniform, when they came back some of the traders tried to do the same thing. what happened was it caused a riot which lasted for 14 days," he said.

"I think what happened was they came back more educated."

Mr Wichman says while Anzac Day is commemorated in Rarotonga, it often focuses on Australian and New Zealand soldiers who are in the country.

He says it is regrettable not enough younger Cook Islanders know the story of their own servicemen, because it is an interesting and inspiring one.

"There are two young men that served in the Great War that were part of my family, and I love to relate to them and say this is my family," he said.