Monty Soutar’s research into Māori in the First World War has unearthed some great finds. “The centenary of World War One has got people pulling out family records on Grandad’s or Great-granddad’s war service,” says Soutar. “I have received copies of photos, diaries and letters belonging to Māori soldiers that I didn’t think would still be around after one hundred years,” he says.
A recent find is this photo of four soldiers of the Māori Contingent taken in Egypt in November 1915. It was sent home during the war by Corporal Turoa Pohatu of Muriwai, Gisborne. Pohatu was a member of the Second Māori Contingent which left New Zealand mid-September 1915. The sergeant is Rota Waipara who was from the same region as Pohatu. He was part of the First Māori Contingent and had just recovered from wounds, a casualty of the attack on Chunuk Bair in August. Pohatu writes of meeting up with his relative. Soutar is hoping someone will be able to identify the other two men.
Postcard showing photograph of four soldiers of the Maori Contingent taken in Egypt in November 1915 features Rota Waipara (the sergeant) and Turoa Pohatu (seated front).
Pohatu’s letter written in Māori to his parents, although faded after 100 years, is discernible on the back of the postcard. The postcard was originally in the possession of a Wairoa family.
Back of the postcard featuring text.
2nd o Māori Contingent
Zietoun Training Camp
Ki toku matua
E koro tena korua ara koutou katoa e noho mai na ite wa kainga. E whaka rongo mai na ki to matau ahua e noho atu nei. E koro kei te pai matau ka nui to matau ora. He wa ka puta mai te aroha ki te kainga noreira i hoki atu ai. Tenei kua tutaki au ki etahi o aku tangata i tahuri ai au kite whai mai i a ratau. Kaore au i whaka ara ki aku tamariki aku mahi atu ra.
Ka whai mai au muri i oku tuakana kia mate mate ngatahi kia ora ora ngatahi. Kua hei pu au ki tetahi o ratou ara ki to whangai ki a Rota. E koro i te ra i tutuki ai maua he nui ta maua tangi e tangi ana ia ki a au mo koutou mo te hunga i mahue atu ki te kainga. Ko au e tangi kia ia he tangata i hoki ake i te mata i whakaatu mai ia i tona tu i te mata. I tu ki te ringaringa ki raro iho i te pakihiwi. Kaati kei te pai ia me au hoki. Ka mutu nei. Tena korua. Ma te Atua tatau e tiaki. Arohanui.
An English version is provided:
To my parent
Sir, greetings to you both, that is, all of you who reside at home. Who listen for news of how we are getting on here? Sir, we are fine and in good health. At times we miss the home from which we have come. I have met some of our men and I have set about to purse them. I have not aroused my children regarding the work I am doing.
I am following my elder cousins either to die as one or live as one. I have run into one of them, that is, your adopted son Rota. Sir, on the day when we met we wept copiously for you the people left at home. I cried over him a man who had survived the shells, he showed me his bullet/shrapnel wound. He was injured in the arm below the shoulder. However, he is well as I also am. Let me end here. Greetings to you both. May God take care of us. Love
Turoa Pohatu .
If anyone knows who the soldier is they should contact Dr Soutar at email@example.com or mobile phone 027 5100234
Dr Soutar, who is with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage - Manatū Taonga, is writing a book about Māori in the First World War as part of a series of authoritative and accessible print histories on New Zealand and the First World War that will be published during the centenary of the war (2014-2019). The books are being produced jointly by Manatū Taonga - Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Massey University, the New Zealand Defence Force and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association (RSA). The works in the Centenary History Programme cover the major campaigns in Europe and the Middle East, New Zealanders’ contributions in the air and at sea, the experiences of soldiers at the front and civilians at home, the Māori war effort, and the war’s impact and legacy.
Soutar says he would welcome any information on Māori in the First World War or Pakeha who served in the Māori Pioneer Battalion, especially diaries, letters and photos.
Dr Monty Soutar
Cell: 027 5100234
or Manatū Taonga
Ministry for Culture and Heritage
Updated on 18th February 2016