In October 2019, Auckland War Memorial Museum staff visited the home of the well-known artist Stanley Palmer. Mr Palmer is the son of First World War veteran James Palmer and nephew of Corporal David Hunter Palmer, who died shortly after the war. Among Stanley's family photographs was one of Stanley’s uncle David, lying alongside other patients and nurses at the 27th General Hospital, Cairo in 1917. Next to David was a soldier from Atiu, Tuakeo Terongo, who died of tuberculosis just a year later. By sheer coincidence staff member Dan Millar had been researching Atiu soldiers and recognised his name on the back of the photograph.
The photograph of the group had been partially identified by David Palmer before his death. The inscription reading ‘March 7th 1917, Receiving Room 27th General Hospital, Cairo. Leaving for New Zealand. Sister _, Tuakeo, Sister Monk, Self, Jerry Spooner and Alan Blackie.’
Whilst partially identified, the task lay to Dan to find out exactly who the named soldiers were. Using Online Cenotaph and then confirming the details through the personnel file, Dan was able to identify the four soldiers.
Tuakeo was identified as Tuakeo Terongo, Terongo was born in Atiu, Cook Islands and embarked overseas in 1916 with the 2nd Rarotongan Contingent of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force at the age of 20. The contingent arrived in Moascar and shortly afterwards, Terongo became very ill and was admitted to the 27th General Hospital in 1917. It was here at the 27th General Hospital that this photo was taken.
Jerry Spooner was identified as Private Gerard Edmund Spooner. Private Spooner served with the Wellington Mounted Rifles, as part of the New Zealand and Australian Division at Gallipoli in 1915. In January 1917, he was reported as wounded in action and admitted to the 27th General Hospital, Abbassia, with a gunshot wound to the chest.
Alan Blackie, has been identified as Sergeant Allan Stuart Blackie, Blackie served with the Samoa Expeditionary Force, before joining the Auckland Mounted Rifles where he served during both the Gallipoli and Palestine campaigns. In 1917, during the Battle of Rafa, Blackie was injured and sent to the 27th General Hospital and return to New Zealand in 1917, however he was later seconded for special duty for a British mission investigating oil possibilities in the Baku area. Blackie also served during the Second World War with Army Headquarters.
David Hunter Palmer, served with the Auckland Mounted Rifles, at Gallipoli and was also wounded during the Battle of Rafa, where he received a gunshot wound to his head, Palmer returned to New Zealand on the Willochra in 1917.
It was in the receiving room of the 27th General Hospital, Abbassia that the group was photographed. A few days after the photograph was taken, Palmer, Blackie, Spooner and Terongo were invalided to New Zealand on board the HMNZT Willochra.
Sadly, Palmer and Terongo both died shortly after the end of the war, Palmer died in 1920 as a result of his wounds. Terongo died in 1919, as a result of illness contracted whilst on active service, however he did not have any official war grave.
Throughout 2019 Dan Millar had been assisting with the Cook Islands First World War project lead by Bobby Nicholas, Paula Paniani and Cate Walker. Utilising this research the Online Cenotaph team were able to update numerous records for soldiers from Atiu including Terongo's. As a result of this research, the team added six Cook Island soldiers to the New Zealand and Commonwealth War Graves Commission Roll of Honour: Nga Naeiti, Rangi Tiaure, Tima Mereto, Tearii Taria, Banaba Tipe and Tuakeo Terongo.
Working in collaboration with the Cook Islands First World War team and other community researchers, we are able continually add information to the database, and make sure those who served for New Zealand are remembered.
If you have knowledge or photographs about a service person/s you can help us improve Online Cenotaph by adding your contributions to their page or by getting in contact with us.
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Cite this article
Dan Millar and Madison Pine.
Tuakeo Terongo. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 8 January 2020. Updated: 10 March 2020.