Stuart Alexander Maireriki Campbell
Stuart Alexander Maireriki Campbell was born in 1923 on Tongareva, the northernmost atoll in the Cook Islands also known as Penrhyn Island. He served New Zealand as part of the 28th Māori Battalion in the Second World War. Between 1941 and 1945 he served in Greece, North Africa and finally Italy.
Stuart’s mother Teu Campbell, was a young woman from Tongareva, the eldest daughter of Bosini. Stuart's father Jock (John Archibald Campbell, service number 2/1544) was a papa'a (European) trader from New Zealand who had moved to the comparative serenity of the Cook Islands after his experiences serving in the First World War. He served in Europe and North Africa and was a part of the Gallipoli campaign with the New Zealand Field Artillery.
Stuart was the eldest of four children. His younger brother was Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, who later became a successful poet, novelist and playwright, and was my grandfather. Much of what we know about Stuart comes from my Grandfather’s stories and the poetry he wrote about his memories of his brother, and his impression of the Māori Battalion that his brother was a part of.
Alistair wrote about his happy childhood in the Cook Islands and the later experiences of the children during the sad time when their mother Teu became ill and died in 1932 and when a year later, their father also passed away. When he was 9 years old, Stuart and his siblings became orphans and were sent away from the warmth of family life in Tongareva, posted like packages with baggage labels tied to their collars to be looked after by Jock’s grandmother in chilly Dunedin. The children's grandmother was unable to look after them and eventually they were sent to live in an orphanage. It is this address, Glendinning Home, Anderson's Bay, Dunedin that Stuart gave upon enlistment in 1941 at age 18.
Stuart joined the 28th Māori Battalion. The companies were organised on a tribal basis and as a Pacific Islander Stuart was a part of D Company – made up of Ngāti Kahungunu from the Hawkes Bay, South Island iwi and Pacific Islanders.
Stuart was killed in action on the 11th of April 1945 while waiting to cross the Santerno River near Massa Lombarda, Italy. He was killed by what was termed "friendly fire" when an RAF Bomber accidentally dropped a 500 pound bomb near Stuart’s D Company unit. His death came only a few weeks before the Māori Battalion were sent home as the war slowly came to an end.
Despite the odds Stuart was a bright, intelligent young man, remembered for his skill on the cricket field as well as his sharp imaginative mind. Alistair Campbell writes about his brother's unrealised potential in the poem below, from his Māori Battalion collection:
To Stuart by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell
Early spring, and a cold wet morning.
The wind mooches about outside,
planning a home invasion.
It’s Mary’s birthday, our Mary whom
you’d have loved had the Fates
spared you. I take you back
five years before you joined
the Maori Battalion, and six before you
died. I have many questions to put
to you, many that may not even have
an answer. Why being blessed with
enviable gifts did you abandon
your studies after only a year?
You could have made your mark
in any field that calls
for passion and imagination.
As a boy I followed you about
from match to match marvelling
at what you created with a
cricket ball. Your bowling
action and the flight of the ball,
gathering speed as it flew
towards its target, were to me
a work of art. As an admiring
younger brother, I celebrate
this image of what you promised
and never lived to fulfil.
‘Nature,’ wrote William Blake,
‘has no Outline, but Imagination has.’
I see you turn and run up
to the crease. I see your
arm swing over. I see the
ball in flight – and that is all.
Campbell, A. (2001). Maori battalion: A poetic sequence. Wellington: Wai-te-ata Press.
Thank you to the estate of Alistair Te Ariki Campbell for allowing use of this poem.
Campbell, A. T. (1984). Island to Island. Christchurch, N.Z. : Whitcoulls.
Campbell, A. T. (2001). Maori battalion: A poetic sequence. Wellington: Wai-te-ata Press.
New Zealand Government Railways Department. (1 July 1933). New Zealand Railways Magazine. volume 8, issue 3. p. 56.
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Stuart Alexander Maireriki Campbell. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 29 November 2016. Updated: 6 December 2016.