Eruera Kawhia & Potene Tuhoro
Brothers Eruera Kawhia and Potene Tuhoro from Rangitukia on the East Coast were so keen to do their bit for King and country that they ran away from home, jumped on a steamer and headed for Auckland to join the Maori Contingent.
Eruera left home first, he signed up in Kahukura on the 10th October 1914. Potene followed nine months later, he signed up in Auckland on 6th July 1915. Whanau on the East Coast didn’t want them to enlist. Eruera and Potene lied about their age to enlist. They were just 15 and 16 years of age. Neither of them came home.
Eruera said he was born in 1893, 21 years old, a farmer, and at 6 foot and 14 stone 2 pounds he was clearly a fit young man. There is a photograph, a head and shoulders portrait, Eruera is wearing a very large hat. He left New Zealand with the “first 500”, officially the Native Contingent, they were known as the 1st Maori Contingent and their motto - Te Hokowhitu a Tu.
Potene said he was born in 1896, 19 years old, a self employed farmer with school cadet experience. His description is missing from the service record and there is no photograph. He too was judged fit and he left New Zealand with the 2nd Maori Contingent.
Eruera was in training in Auckland for 112 days. On the 10th February he marched through Queen Street to the transport Warrimoo , then sailed to Wellington and marched again through the streets before finally embarking for the Suez, Egypt on the 14 February 1915. On arrival in Egypt the 1st Maori Contingent presented an autographed scroll to the Commander of the transport. Eruera’s signature is clearly written. In 1970 this scroll was presented to the Auckland War Memorial Museum by Mairatea in memory of her late husband Pirimi Tahiwi. Pirimi wrote home to Otaki describing the 1st Contingent on that voyage “boys … in excellent condition, all well”.
Eruera’s service record is very brief. He was in Gallipoli in 1915. Gallipoli broke men down with exhaustion, dysentery and enteric fever. By the 7th of November Eruera was ill with enlarged neck glands and evacuated to Camp in Mudros, then sent by the Hospital Ship Aquitania to England, and admitted to 1st General Hospital in Birmingham. At the end of December, six weeks later, he had recovered sufficiently to be on furlough in London. Kahiti reports him in the Gallipoli casualty list. In mid January 1916 Eruera was still convalescing at Hornchurch. It took three months, until April, to recover fitness and return to active service. Then he was sent to France.
Potene had just 75 days training in Auckland. He left New Zealand with the 2nd Maori Contingent on the 18th September 1915 on the transport Waitemata arriving in Egypt on the 26th October 1915. He was in training or aboard ship whilst his brother, Eruera, was in Gallipoli. Potene’s service record is also very brief. On the 10th December 1915 he was admitted to the New Zealand General Hospital in Cairo with enteritis. After a month he had recovered enough for a few days in a convalescent home before a week’s light training at the army base in Ghezireh, Cairo. He was then attached to the Canterbury Infantry Battalion at Moascar from the 23rd January 1916 until 7th April 1916 when he embarked for France with the 2nd Maori Contingent in the newly formed New Zealand Pioneer Battalion.
By late April 1916 both brothers were in France. There are few details about their exact whereabouts. Potene landed with the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion in Marseilles on 9th April 1916 and they then went to billets in northern France. Eruera, on the 17th April 1916 was attached to strength, No 14 Infantry Base Depot in Etaples.
On the 15th May 1916 the Pioneers moved into the combat zone at Armentiéres. Nothing is recorded for Potene. Eruera’s service record for the 17th May 1916 says he is rejoining the Pioneers and, on a different page, that he is located in Armentiéres and admonished for absence without leave. Trench work at Armentiéres was now being done under heavy shelling. The remaining information on his service record is written over two days: 10th June 1916, reported by the Officer in Charge Pioneers, died of wounds, Armentiéres; and the confirmation is dated 11th June 1916, reported by the 2nd New Zealand Field Ambulance, admitted to hospital multiple wounds, died of wounds received in action 8th June 1916. The details are recorded by James Cowan. Eruera Kawhia is buried at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentiéres, France.
There is no information about Potene until 10th September 1916 when he incurred stoppage of pay for the loss of ammunition in the field. The Pioneers were on the Somme in the mud, amidst the shelling, working through the shell holes in relay teams. Three weeks later in October Potene was ill with debility and diarrhoea which developed into tuberculosis and pneumonia. He spent a month in St Omer Hospital before being evacuated to England. On 3rd December 1916 he was admitted to New Zealand General Hospital No. 1, Brockenhurst and seriously ill. Potene died six weeks later on the 13th January 1917 of tubercular peritonitis and was buried three days later in St Nicholas Churchyard, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, England.
Both sons lied about their age when they signed up but they named their father Raniera Tuhoro Kawhia and their home address wasn’t too wrong. Raniera and Heni Kohao, their mother, didn’t want their sons to enlist but they were involved with the Maori war fundraising efforts at home on the East Coast.
At Christmas 1914 both boys were fine. At Christmas 1915 both boys were sick. At Christmas 1916 only Potene was alive and seriously ill. Heni knew when Potene had died because she saw him at home. She was in her room at night and Potene walked out of the wardrobe in her room. So she knew he had gone. Whanau talk of Raniera and Heni being confronted in Church. The people were cruel, they said that their son was just playing rugby and got hurt and died and that he wasn’t fighting.
Eruera and Potene came from a family of 10 children. There was always a picture of Eruera at home but none of Potene. Their parents, Raniera and Heni, had two more boys, younger sons; one was named Eruera Armentiéres Tuhoro and the other Potene Brockenhurst Tuhoro. One namesake, the younger brother, Eruera, went off to war too. He went with the Maori Battalion, C Company. He came back.
Eruera and Potene are also remembered on the Gisborne War Memorial, the Memorial Board inside St Mary’s Church, Tikitiki near Rangitukia and on the Tairawhiti Marae gates at Rangitukia, East Coast, New Zealand.
Carkeek, R. (2003). Home little Maori home : a memoir of the Maori contingent 1914-1916. Wellington, N.Z.: Totika Publications.
Church, C. (2002). New Zealand graves at Brockenhurst : 93 New Zealand soldiers remembered from World War One. Lymington, Hampshire: The author.
Cowan, J. (1926). The Maoris in the Great War : a history of the New Zealand Native Contingent and Pioneer Battalion : Gallipoli, 1915, France and Flanders, 1916-1918. Auckland, N.Z.: Maori Regimental Committee by Whitcombe and Tombs.
Digitised copy at URL: http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-CowMaor.html
Ko te Kahiti o Niu Tireni : The New Zealand gazette; official government gazette for Māori
Photograph of Heni Kohao. URL: http://www.manueljose.org.nz/kohao/whaka_kohao.html
Pugsley, C. (1995). Te Hokowhitu a Tu : the Maori Pioneer Battalion in the first World War. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed.
St Mary's Church. URL: http://www.historic.org.nz/magazinefeatures/2004Autumn/2004_autumn_maoribattalion.htm
St Nicholas Churchyard, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, England. Photographs: Graves c.1918 ; Graves today
Truttman, L.J. (2005). Waiatarua: The Training Camp for the First Maori Contingent at Avondale (1914-1915). Auckland, N.Z.: The author.
Nurse Ella Cooke
28 (Maori) Battalion
E kore ratou e koroheketia
Penei i a tatou kua mahue nei
E kore hoki ratou e ngoikore
Ahakoa pehea i nga ahuatanga o te wa.
I te hekenga atu o te ra
Tae noa ki te aranga mai i te ata
Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a ratou.
Ka maumahara tonu tatou ki a ratou.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.
Over 3500 members of 28 (Maori) Battalion served in 2NZEF in the Middle East, Greece, Crete, North Africa and Italy. The Cenotaph database includes the names of those who served and are now deceased. Search here for the full list.
To search for an individual go to the Cenotaph database search screen and enter the name.
This image comes from the sheet music of the well known ‘ Maori Battalion Marching Song ’ composed in 1939 by Corporal Anania Amohau.
See also the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s site for 28 Battalion.