14 July 2010: Tania Butcher Builds on Memories of Maketū

Being selected to write from a large field of writers is a humbling experience and an honour. My manuscript is a journal reaching back in time to gather forward the triumphs and tribulations of Maketū warriors who fought in wars with honour and a belief that a better world could be made for their families and generations of descendants ahead in time.

The beginnings of writing the Maketū warriors’ story cropped up five years ago in a conversation with my cousin Huia Tapsell who wanted something concrete to remember all those men who lived in Maketū during the warring years.

At the time, I was studying Defence and Strategic Studies at Massey University, and my head was filled with battles and principles of warfare. I was very enthusiastic and promised my cousin I would return to Maketū when I completed my studies and discuss the prospect of writing a book about our warriors, both Māori and Pākehā.

Here I am, my dream a reality and a whole lot of work ahead of me. I am elated, exhilarated and energised to be working on an important project about my ancestors and their comrades-in-arms. I am very honoured.

Background on Maketū soldiers

Maketū is a historical township that nestles in the elbow of the Bay of Plenty coastline between Tauranga and the East Cape. The Maketū landscape is an archival trove of past fighting chiefs and militarily enlisted warriors immortalised in headstones, memorials and war sites. (From working manuscript)

Tania’s manuscript about Maketū soldiers focuses on their involvement in the wars of the twentieth century.


16 August 2010: How Small Town Maketū Took on the World

World War Two Maketū

In September 1939, the outbreak of World War Two gave many New Zealand men the opportunity to volunteer for active service abroad. Men living in Maketū signed up with the local Native Recruitment Office. The contribution of volunteers from some families was extraordinarily high; sometimes three, four or even five brothers enlisted in either the Māori Battalion or other New Zealand battalion infantry units. Whatever their reasons for joining, the thousands of volunteers in answering the call to arms, the new recruits, were following the same paths as their veteran fathers who had fought in previous wars here and abroad.

There were frequent farewell hui held at the local Maketū Whakaue Marae[1] in honour of the men embarking on a journey into unfamiliar territory far from home. ‘Now and again my father Kouma Tapsell would orate a farewell eulogy … and then the last dance … The next day the soldiers would board the bus to wailing and tears … other soldiers would have their own transport to the Te Puke railway station.'[2] On 2 May 1940, most of the 28th Māori Battalion of enlisted servicemen and non-commissioned officers began their journey as combatants, leaving from Wellington’s Pipitea Wharf[3]  on board the British troop ship Aquitania, bound for Europe.[4]

At first, the families remaining behind were relieved their sons and husbands were going to fight and save them from the Germans. However, as the months passed and war on the front lines was brought closer to home through BBC war correspondence, Maketū people listened to wireless reports and watched weekly newsreels at the local picture theatre with mixed feelings.

‘Our lives were governed by the war years … as kids we saw what was going on. There was a consciousness and awareness of the men overseas that they were in danger. The war was getting dangerous and we were always afraid that we would get a letter to say they were killed.'[5]

Māori War Effort Organisation

In 1942, the New Zealand government paved the way for the formation of the Māori War Effort Organisation (MWEO) to assist in recruiting Māori for overseas service and the Home Guard.[6] Creation of the new MWEO coincided with the Japanese air raids on Pearl Harbour in December 1941.[7] Within the structure of the MWEO, tribal committees were formed with the responsibility of recruiting Māori for the military services, the Home Guard and other essential wartime social and economic services. By all accounts Māori conscientiously responded to the war effort. Huia Tapsell recalled as a child how the life in Maketū changed from a sleepy town to a place of industry and purpose. These tribal committees played a major role in bringing communities together throughout New Zealand in response to the war effort:

‘As the war raged overseas the people rallied to help in the Maketu war effort for the soldiers overseas.'[8]

Agar seaweed industry

In Maketū, the remaining people at home, consisting of women, kaumātua and young children, set to work gathering agar seaweed.[9] ‘The rocky shoreline on the western side of Maketu’s Town Point was dotted with makeshift shelter for families who devoted their time at low tide gathering agar and filling flax kits. It was spread out on vegetation above the shoreline and at the bottom of the cliff.'[10] Once dried and crisp to touch, the agar was bagged and taken to homes to be cleaned of broken shells and other sea debris. On a regular basis the carrier drivers would arrive to bale-up the agar and weigh the bags. ‘The local gatherers received one shilling and threepence (13 cents) per pound.'[11]  The agar was transported by carrier to Māngere in Auckland and sent on to Christchurch for refining into a food preservative, antibacterial iodine and seameal custard for the soldiers overseas.[12]

Shellfish kaimoana and finfish kahawai were dried and preserved in Agee jars destined for the Māori Battalion in the North African desert. Lawrence Hemana recalls: ‘At the time I was about ten years old and all the kids, ten and eleven-year-olds gathered and shelled pipis, the old kuias dried the pipis and mussels in their backyards.'[13] The Motiti island whanaunga across the bay and separate from the mainland grew crops of vegetables and delivered them by rowing their dingies to Maketū:

‘Boats with sails would appear on the horizon from the direction of a small island on the western shore of Motiti … from the Te Awhe Marae above the cliff, overlooking the estuary entrance we could see the boats coming across the sea … all the Maketu people would gather on the beach to welcome them … it was always a big occasion.'[14]

Lawrence Hemana recalled his grandparents’ role in Maketū as vital to the community’s war effort: ‘My grandparents were the driving force for sending parcels to the soldiers. They supervised the food destined for overseas … every day my grandparents visited the homes to collect parcels.'[15]

The fascination in writing historical events is very much like emptying a box of puzzle pieces and fitting them together to reveal the whole picture. In my search for answers regarding my ancestral rohe ki Maketū, I have rallied my whanaunga round me within Te Arawa. Their pieces of information like gems are spread out on my computer canvas, and slowly, I am putting them together to reveal the most intriguing picture.

[1] The Whakaue Marae beside the estuary was used for all hui while the carvers were still working on Te Awhe Marae situated on the hill above the estuary.

[2] Unpublished memoirs by Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[3] www.radionnz.co.nz. Retrieved from website, 7 August 2010.

[4] www.28th Māori  Battalion.com. Retrieved from website, 7 August 2010.

[5] Interview with Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[6] G V Butterworth & H R Young, Maori Affairs: Nga Take Maori. Wellington: GP Books, 1990, 83–84.

[7] The Japanese air raids on the United States (US) navy and air force based in Hawaii brought the US out of isolation and into the war, hence began the Pacific War between Japan and the US and allies.

[8] Interview with Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[9] Prior to World War Two, Japan supplied New Zealand with agar seaweed. The industry developed in New Zealand when it was discovered red agar seaweed was growing in the coastal waters of the Bay of Plenty and East Coast.

[10] Unpublished memoirs by Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[11] Unpublished memoirs by Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[12] www.teara.govt.nz

[13] Eighty-one-year-old Lawrence Hemana is the grandson of Hemana Pokiha and the great-grandson of Ngāti Pikiao chief Taranui Pokiha aka Major Fox. Te Arawa asked Taranui to lead the Maketū people during a period in the nineteenth century. Taranui had a thriving community round him. He lived where the existing and rundown Te Awhe Marae remains today.

[14] Interview with Huia Tapsell, July 2010.

[15] Interview with eighty-one-year-old Lawrence Hemana, 9 August 2010.


16 September 2010: Hunting for Truth in History

Writing a true account of history is no easy task. Bias and perceptions may influence the story and, to some extent, can change the historical record. Unfortunately, this bias will sometimes be replicated and assume a place in history as fact. As a researcher, I look for several references to an account of an event. I enjoy the hunt for information, and finding new evidence to an event is always a relief.

Essentially, the information sought by a writer of history exists in landscapes, memories and literature. The difficult task is providing a fresh approach and using new information to inform a description of a historical event. In my experience of researching past events and people, the gathering of information can be an endless task. At some point, the research stops, and the hard work of writing up the findings begins. Importantly, a filing system of documents and notes gathered saves precious time for references as losing vital information to a sequence of work is frustrating and time-consuming.

The activity of writing is the moment when all is revealed. In my case, I have learned from experience the value of structure or a clear outline for a historical account of an event. In this instance, I consider myself very fortunate to have a very erudite and experienced mentor, Daisy Coles, who has impressed on me the importance of a progress spreadsheet and organiser to assist me in achieving my goals. The spreadsheet also works as a tool to help me focus on the manuscript’s content and what I need to do to achieve outcomes for each chapter. My sincere thanks to the Huia Publishers staff for this opportunity to write an important account of history featuring brave and courageous men and women.

The following is an account of World War Two that threatened to change our society with devastating consequences worldwide. Essentially, some events of World War Two are constantly changing as new evidence is uncovered and old perceptions of World War Two are interestingly challenged. I have chosen to share some of my research concerning the Nazi ideology of women. There is nothing new in my account as I used references to compile my evidence and thus gain an understanding of German women’s society in the 1930s.[1] [2]

During Adolf Hitler’s rise to political power in the 1930s and the increasing influence of the Nazi Party in German society, the aspirations and dreams of higher education and individuality in German women’s society were eroded away by the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women. In the 1930s, German women were compelled to study domestic science. Physics, foreign languages and science were the subjects for men alone.

The women in Nazi Germany were encouraged to become childbearers, and to achieve this, they were forced to maintain physical fitness and a healthy lifestyle. Hitler introduced incentives to produce babies by giving women public recognition in the form of honour and medals. Young couples were also given government money to start a family. The breeding programme included a medical examination ensuring a clean bill of health for the woman and a system of selecting male breeding partners from Hitler’s military ranks, the Shutz Staffel (SS)[3] and generals. Hitler’s grand plan for Germany included increasing the German population, and underpinning the breeding programme was his desire to build a large army and thereby achieve world domination.[4]

A ban on cosmetics and nail polish was a restriction introduced to further suppress German women’s individuality. The Nazi government had adopted a campaign against cosmetics and make-up in World War One. This ban was extended to include French and United States women’s fashions.  Mothers in the SS were forbidden to wear make-up and nail polish, and women who did so were publically ridiculed. The Nazi theory of the ideal woman was a peasant wife devoted to work on the land and caring for her family. Women in the Nazi Party were encouraged to devote their time to working for Hitler and the Party as helpmates. Hitler’s innate theory of men as leaders in management jobs and public affairs further confined Nazi women to the home and reduced their position in society as second-class citizens of the Third Reich.[5]

Hitler enjoyed public forums where he could speak to the multitudes and promote his ideals for a greater German society. On 8 September 1934, Hitler addressed the National Social Women’s League[6] convention informing the members present of his plan for women:

‘… the women must be a complement to man, so that they can prevail as real fighters before our Volk and for our Volk with our sights set on the future … the two sexes will traverse this life fighting together, hand in hand fulfilling Providence: … the blessing of the Almighty will rest upon their joint struggle for life.’

Whilst he acknowledged the leadership role of women in the National Socialist Movement, he also reminded the women that ‘there were innumerable women who remained unshakeably loyal to the Movement and to me'[7]. Hitler’s determination to increase the population of Germany through childbearing was paramount, and through his speech, he exhorted the women to focus on his agenda and on a ‘single item and this is the child, this tiny creature who must come into being and flourish, who constitutes the sole purpose of the entire struggle for existence’.

It is probable that Hitler directly assisted in the formulation of the Nazi ideology of women although he claimed that this stemmed from the concepts of nature and providence. Hitler placed importance and value on the idea that German women (who were of nature) contributed to German society in helping the men (who were of providence) achieve their objective. The differences between the sexes guided the roles that they played in society. In reality, these ideals did nothing but take away the individuality and freedom of thought of German women and thus subordinate and demoralise them, condemning them to the tenet that by her nature the woman was home merely to the power of feelings and the power of the soul.[8] In Hitler’s philosophy, the man was home to the power of recognition, the power of toughness, of resolution and of fighting morale; man strove for heroic courage on the battlefield, and woman was there to give eternally patient devotion, suffering and endurance.

In effect, Hitler’s ideology of women reflected his inability to see women in diverse roles. It is probable that Hitler may have based his ideas on gender roles from the philosopher, Rousseau’s “But for her sex …” the Domestication of Sophie, which presented a model of ‘Emile'( man) as soldier, public office holder and landowner and ‘Sophie’ (woman) as protector of moral values and educational practices, confined to the home.[9]

Personally I have found that education is a perpetual learning experience. The human brain is like a microcosm of the universe that is forever growing and creating new stars of knowledge.

World War Two and winning the war through the sacrifice of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives has given us the freedom to shape our individual destinies – and let’s not forget the liberty that contemporary German women enjoy beside us.




[1] URL: www.educationforum.co.uk. Retrieved from the Internet, 16 August 2010.

[2] Lawrence Rees, BAFTA-winning BBC TV series, The Nazis: A Warning from History. London: BBC Worldwide Limited, 1997.

[3] Shutz means defense, and Staffel means echelon: Hitler’s  SS was an elite private army and secret service. W L Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History Of Nazi Germany. England: Book Club Associates, 1960, 120–121.

[4] Martin Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War. London: Longman, 1995, 142, 143–144.

[5] Third Reich was Nazi Germany 1933–1945.

[6] Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft: W L Shirer1960, 120–121.

[7] M Damarus, Hitler: Speeches and Proclamations 1932–1945. London: I B Taurus, 1990, vol, 1, 531–535. [Bismarck readings 148–331], 531.

[8] Kitchen, Nazi Germany At War, 1995, 136.

[9]  Excerpt from Jim MacAdam, Michael Neumann and Guy LaFrance (eds), Trent Rousseau Papers, 1 35–45. “But for Her Sex …”: the Domestication of Sophie.


14 October 2010: Preserving the Mana of a Fighting Chief

Maketū men have sacrificed their lives for 100 years in defence roles of attrition and peacekeeping in foreign wars and hot spots globally. The Boer War underpinned a familiar theme in the acquisition of land by force for Māori and Pākehā. The consequences since the South African war for Maketū was manpower involvement in twentieth-century warfare. There is no surprise that those men had descended from Te Arawa and Ngāti Pikiao, ferocious and highly skilled fighting chiefs who defended their territories against envious enemies. Pukaki was a fighting chief and a direct descendant of Whakaue and Tutanekai.

Pukaki survived into old age and died at Parawai leaving a legacy of land and descendants who continue to live in and around the Parawai pā situated at Ngongotahā [1]. As a direct descendant of Pukaki, I also enjoy his legacy of ancestral lands.

In 1985, ‘Te Māori’ exhibition on tour in the United States of America provided a visible showcase of New Zealand taonga and a brilliant example of a history recorded through carvings. One of the most unique aspects of the exhibition was the delegation of Māori elders who accompanied the carvings: they exemplified and explained the life force generated by the taonga. On the return home, ‘Te Māori’ also provided an opportunity for New Zealanders to acquaint themselves with national treasures depicting Māori culture and experience New Zealand’s living history.

Since the 1985 ‘Te Māori’ exhibition, Te Arawa have shown interest in the preservation of Pukaki, which was included in the selection of taonga that travelled overseas. The iwi concern is in the maintenance of taonga for future generations and thus keeping alive the history of Pukaki in his time.

An appreciation of this taonga requires an understanding of its history. The taonga depicts a Ngāti Whakaue, Te Arawa ancestor and fighting chief Pukaki embracing two sons, Wharengaro and Rangitakuku; there is a remnant of Pukaki’s wife Ngapuia between his legs.

During the nineteenth century, Pukaki was a carved gateway towering at a height of five metres and facing the southern entrance to Ōhinemutu on Pukeroa pā and current site of the Rotorua Public Hospital. In the 1830s, Ngapuia and the side panels were removed and thus transformed the carving from a gateway to a tiki.[2]

The main Ngāti Whakaue concern in terms of the ongoing care and preservation of Pukaki is the prospect of deterioration. This concern prompted discussions with the Pukaki Trustees [3] and recently held discussions among descendants of Pukaki at Tamatekapua in Ōhinemutu, Rotorua.

The decision was made to move our taonga from its present resting place within the chambers of the Rotorua City Council to a temporary location where Pukaki would be immersed in a preservative solution. After the process of preservation is completed, Pukaki will be transported to the Museum in Government Gardens, Rotorua, where an environmentally controlled room (currently being built) will contain the taonga and provide easy access for public display.

On 17 October 2010 at 4 a.m. the ceremony to move Pukaki will begin. Hopefully, the fitness ability of the men who will be lifting and moving Pukaki has been considered in the planning of this important event. The success of this event relies on physical strength and nothing else. Medical checks would not go amiss in preparation for the occasion regardless of age. A daily swim to Mokoia and back to Ngongotahā where the fighting chief Pukaki lived out his life wouldn’t go amiss.

Hopefully, the future holds a Te Arawa museum featuring all our taonga with a view overlooking Mokoia and the surrounding lakes. This would indeed be the last move for a taonga of significance to Te Arawa.

1. Paul Tapsell, Pukaki: A Comet Returns. Birkenhead: Reed Publishing, 2000.

2. Paul Tapsell, Pukaki, 2000.

3. The Pukaki Trust was formed when the taonga was returned to Ngāti Whakaue; a memorandum of understanding was signed by: The Pukaki Trust; Auckland Museum Trust Board, Mr Peter Menzies; Rotorua District Council, The Mayor; The Crown, Chris Finlayson; Ngati Whakaue, Paul Tapsell.


24 November 2010: Touring a Nation’s Past

Since June 2010, I have been immersed in reading, writing and talking whakapapa to Te Arawa kaumātua and rangatahi in an effort to make sense of hapū and the connections that bind Te Arawa as a nation. The discovery and renewing of old ties between hapū members has been a thoroughly rewarding and very exciting journey. On the other hand, getting to know the subject matter of Māori warriors has been a constant battle for me as a writer operating within a belief system that ignores the warrior culture as mere folklore. ‘Why?’ is a word I have been living with these past months as I visited the hapū of Te Uru Uenuku Kopako surrounding Lake Rotorua, Reporoa and Maketū, searching for answers.

The rewards have been knowledge and revelation, after meeting tribal members and whanaunga connected in many ways to the history of Maketū. I suddenly realise the ancestral links come with an embracing history, and somehow in this journey of writing a historical account of our warriors both ancient and new, I am feeling like a tourist with an invisible guide.

This morning, I am watching a colony of quail feasting on my lawn. Set apart from the colony is a magnificent male on guard duty and sporting a perfectly tailored feather plume. He need not worry as paw-footed predators dare not walk near my house. In these precious moments, I am thankful my ancestors were magnificent and brave as they have bestowed on me a legacy of life and fierce pride and determination to ensure I protect and fight for the land they left in my care for succeeding generations. Hence, appropriately, this excerpt taken from the introduction to my manuscript is a summary of a Māori philosophical stance on the God of War.

God of War

The God of War is sometimes referred to as Tumatauenga or Tukaaniwha, although Elsdon Best acknowledged various different names used by tribes in reference to this god. For example, he notes that the personification of the ‘war-god Te Rehu o Tainui was a lizard’.
Percy Smith, author of The Māori Wars, said:
‘Uenuku was one of the great man-consuming or War God of Taranaki.’ These three lines from a Moteatea are in reference to the tangi for Taranaki Chief Mokowera, who was shot and murdered by Nga Puhi Chief Rewa:
The war god Tu should feast
The heavens should consume
And also Uenuku
The influence of Tumatauenga can be seen in the dedication of male children to the god through ceremony and protocol involving tohi, pure and karakia. These blessings ensure the child’s well-being physically and mentally, shaping and guiding him towards societal norms. Meticulous use and observance of karakia aim to invoke all the atua to strengthen the bones and shape the child. In explanation of the deep Māori understanding of Tumatauenga, I have included some examples borrowed from various Te Arawa men, both past and present, focusing on the importance and influence of Tumatauenga to mankind.
Nineteenth century Te Arawa Chief Wiremu Maihi Te Rangi Kaheke said:
Na wai i homai? Na te pakanga i homai,
Na te riri i homai. Na nga tangata, i homai.
I homai ki a wai? I homai ki te kikokiko,
Kei te kikokiko
Kei te tini honohono
He Manawa ka
Irihia nei e Tu Matauenga.

E tu ka riri
E tu ka nguha
E tu ka aritarita!
E tu ite korikori
E tu ite wheta
E te ite whaiao
E tu ite ao marama

Where did the binding, the strength come from?
It came out of war. It came out of fighting.
It came from the people.
Who was it given to? It was given to flesh. The flesh
The many people bound together
Their spirit is lifted up by Tumatauenga.

Angry Tu, raging Tu,
Burning up inside
Stand firm in the waving
Stand firm in the brandishing
Be established in light
Be established in full day light (MSS.81)

Aspects of reciprocity in association with utu

Utu is a term appropriated to revenge in warfare, explained by Elsdon Best in terms of a ‘sacred duty’ under the ‘aegis’ of Tumatauenga the God of War. In fact, utu has many facets of meanings and is associated with Tumatauenga in many different ways. In traditional Māori culture, every aspect of nature was acknowledged from childhood to manhood and thus utu can also have positive aspects, as an integral part of a child’s conditioning and tribal teachings: a right which is integrated with tribal history and survival. Another aspect of utu is the custom of koha between manuhiri and tangata whenua. Another aspect is the exchange of children or bloodlines integral to reinforcing a peace agreement made as a result of utu.
The utu of retribution was conducted in several different ways, as the following scenario shows:
In a case regarding ‘a man who mistreated his wife from a neighbouring tribe, the taua muru plundering party of the woman approached her husband’s tribe who lay out taonga as payment for the offence’.
Some waiata, moteatea and names given to children, commemorated different battles and loss of loved ones: this was also indicative of the principles of utu to ensure the events were not forgotten and retribution would follow.
An important role bestowed upon Tumatauenga was negotiating and influencing the seventy gods, including Whiro, the malevolent atua of poautinitini’, to make the first man, Tiki. To alleviate any misunderstandings or confusion concerning Whiro: In the Māori paradigm everything has a balance. The Māori philosophical meaning of Whiro necessitates his role within the realm of deities in the creation of Tiki, who is perceived to have been gathered and formed by the gods.
As an illustration of the influence and importance of Tumatauenga in our lives, I include an excerpt from a Tauparapara often used by Rangiwewehi Rangatira Tohunga Mita Mohi before he begins his whaikorero:
Te ingoa o to tupuna o Tu,
Tu whakaheke tangata
Ki raro, kia Tawhaki.
The names of your ancestor Tu
Whose blood travels through the descendants
To Tawhaki.
Note: All tribes can lay claim to Tawhaki as an ancestor. His name originates from Hawaii.

Twentieth-century warfare and Māori

During World War One and World War Two, Māori volunteered for service overseas with a sense of adventure and to see the world. In terms of utu in a modern context of war of attrition, Māori soldiers sought to restore a global balance of peace and justice.


[1] Elsdon Best, The Māori As He Was. Wellington: National Museum, 1974, 167.

[2] Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikaheke was born in 1815. He was a Te Arawa Chief of Ngāti Kereru hapū affiliated to Ngāti Rangiwewehi. He is the author of the manuscripts in Governor Grey’s New Zealand Māori Manuscript Collection.

[3] Elsdon Best, 167.

[4] Telephone interview with Eru Biddle, Tūhoe, Māori Studies, Waiariki Institute, Rotorua, 11 November 2010.

[5] Interviews with Pat Mohi, Rangiwewehe,  November 2010. Telephone interview with Eru Biddle.


21 December 2010: A Christmas Letter

These past six months had been an insightful and personally rewarding period regarding my research on war and its effects on communities affected by war. In the spirit of Christmas, family occasions were particularly remembered by the soldiers who gained comfort and feelings of optimism while facing the prospect of death in the line of fire. Christmas and Easter were particularly recalled with clarity by men on the fields of battle.

Family photographs, letters home and diaries written by enlisted Anzac servicemen had provided a treasure trove of memories. The following excerpt is taken from Bob Russell’s recollections from Tony Williams’s book Anzacs: Stories From New Zealanders At War.[1]

‘There were many casualties on both sides and there was a lull in the fighting while both sides licked their wounds: It was Christmas and in 1941 there was no ham and Christmas pudding but “yummy” beef and rice: and for sweets, tinned fruit.’

Private Christie Rolleston was a soldier writing on the battlefields of Greece. He knew his letters home to Maketū would provide comfort and solace to his mother and father. The following excerpt was written by Christie during the battle in Greece and dated 5 May 1940:

‘By jove mum I wish now that I was back at home for Christmas … you sure did have a party for the dinner … Margaret mentioned it in her letter, it made me feel quite home-sick, but above all, pleased to know that you people enjoyed everything. Be like that mum and keep your spirits up for I’ll be home shortly.’

Christie Keretu Rolleston was born in Maketū to Maremare Rolleston and Te Ruru Ngawikau Tapsell. He was the second eldest son of five sons who had volunteered for active service overseas. He was educated in Maketū and Hato Petera Catholic Boys’ College. During his youth, he excelled in rugby and equestrian events. Christie and brothers Pu and Sonny managed and worked a dairy farm at Maketū while the farmer, Major Bennett, had travelled overseas.

In 1939, Christie volunteered for service overseas and enlisted into Te Arawa ‘B’ Company, 28th Māori Battalion. After training in Papakura in South Auckland and Trentham, Upper Hutt, the 28th Māori Battalion sailed for North Africa.

In his letter home dated 5 May 1940, Christie vividly described how the New Zealand 28th Māori Battalion and other allies in Greece were under an intensive attack and assault with no covering fire: ‘terrible bombing, machine gunning and dive-bombing … from the combined German army, navy and air force: they (Germans) had no opposition’. As a consequence, the allies had evacuated to Crete and North Africa under the cover of darkness.

Christie wrote at length about the experience of retreat endured by the allies. Despite their eagerness to remain and face the enemy, the order had been given from British High Command HQ in Cairo to meet the ships waiting to evacuate the troops and sail for North Africa and Crete.


[1] Bob Russell, ‘He’s Alive, He’s Alive’, Tony Williams (ed.), Anzacs: Stories From New Zealanders At War. Auckland Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers, 2000, 164–165. 

6 thoughts on “Tania Butcher’s Online Journal

  1. Kia ora Tania. I enjoyed reading your articles especially the one on Christie Rolleston as I am writing the history of B Company 28 MB. There were a number of whanau who sent a number of sons to the war including the Hohua whanau of Tuhoe who sent 9 brothers. I am interested in the Rolleston brothers four of whom were in the 28 MB and one who was in JForce. Can you help me with material wira@lawsonpowell.co.nz nga mihi

  2. kia Ora tania, when will this be coming out, would love to read it as I’m doing research on bcompany maori battalion for a film script

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