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Te Rangi Royal

Portrait of Te Rangiataahua Kiniwe Royal in military uniform. In memoriam card for "Te Rangi Atahua Kiniwe Royal, O.B.E., M.C. and Bar. First controller of Maori welfare. Born: 5/11/1892 - Died: 8/7/1965". Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tamaki Paenga Hira (EPH-MAO-22-1). This image may be subject to copyright.

Portrait of Te Rangiataahua Kiniwe Royal in military uniform. In memoriam card for "Te Rangi Atahua …


Civilian life

About birth

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Wars and conflicts

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Military decorations

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  • Medals and Awards
    • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) AWMM
      1964 AWMM
    • Military Cross and bar (MC*) AWMM
      Throughout the whole of the campaign in Crete this officer set a very fine example in coolness and on at least two occasions he was required to use initiative of a very high order. At Beritiana on 26 May 1941, when the brigade withdrew from Suda Bay, he was left with two companies, totalling 140 other ranks, to guard and hold the main road to the brigade resting area. A considerable number of the enemy worked around behind Capt.Royal and his party, and prepared to attack. This was about midday. As the enemy were between Capt. Royal's party and the brigade, this officer showed good judgement in deciding to withdraw at once. The job of leading this party out required great initiative and courage, and was done so well that only five or six casualties (which were brought back) were sustained. Although the battalion, unknown to Capt. Royal, had in the meantime moved on. Royal, by again using his initiative, was able to join up the following night. This officer has always done an excellent job of work in the battalion. (London Gazette 30/12/1941) The National Archives. Recommendation for Award for Royal, Rangi. (Ref. WO 373/27/425). Military Cross. 30 Dec 1941 Captain Royal, a senior officer and Company Commander of the 28 (Maori) Battalion, has continuous records in Greece, Crete and Libya of bold and fearless leadership. In the last action at Gazala he led his men in the night attack on Point. 181. After sweeping through the first fort, he reformed his men to the right and went through the main fort, taking the troops resisting A Company in the rear. He was then left in charge of organising the position against counter-attack. This he did effectively, himself occupying the most forward and dangerous position, where during the next day he was wounded. His gallant resistance to Rommel's column at Mu Said is well known but occurred before I joined the battalion. (London Gazette 19/3/1942) The National Archives. Recommendation for Award for Royal, Rangi. (Ref. WO 373/27/425). Bar to Military Cross. 19 March 1942 AWMM
    • Victory Medal AWMM
    • British War Medal (1914-1920) AWMM
    • War Medal 1939-1945 AWMM
    • New Zealand War Service Medal AWMM

Training and Enlistment

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Prisoner of war

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  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

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  • Medical notes
    Hospital Diseases , Wounds, WWII AWMM
    Wounded 14 December 1941 AWMM

Biographical information

Biographical information

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  • Te Rangiataahua Kiniwe Royal (Ngāti Ruakawa, Ngāti Tamaterā) served in both the First and Second World Wars. He was Major in command of the 28th Māori Battalion's B Company when he was injured near Gazala in Libya.

    Te Rangiataahua was born on 23 August 1896 at Muhunoa, Ohau. He spent his early life in the Horowhenua and Thames districts, later joining the Native Department in 1916. He enlisted in the Army in 1917 - serving in France for eight months before returning home.

    After the war, Te Rangiataahua continued his work with the Native Department and was a clerk in the Native Land Court. He was a very successful sportsman during the interwar years - representing his province in cricket and rugby.

    In 1940, Te Rangiataahua enlisted as Captain in the 28th Māori Battalion, part of the 2nd New Zealand Division who fought in the Second World War. After training at Palmerston North, the Battalion travelled by train to Wellington to board the Aquitania for Britain. Soon after daybreak on 2 May the Aquitania departed. Cody (1956) describes the scene:

    "With nearly three thousand troops plus a detachment of the RNVR on board, [the ship] moved out into the stream. The Maori Battalion's last close contact with its own people was the sight of the crowd allowed on the wharf and the sound of the Ngati Poneke girls singing farewell songs as the distance widened between ship and shore. The Battalion sang its farewell song 'Po Atarau' in reply."
    The ship travelled in convoy with the Empress of Britain and the Empress of Japan, travelling around Africa to avoid potential conflict. Once they reached the Irish sea they were escorted by HMS Hood, an aircraft carrier and six destroyers and reached Glasgow on 16 June. After six months training in England, the Battalion sailed back around Africa, arriving in Egypt on 3 March 1941.

    After battles in Greece and Crete, the 28th Māori Battalion joined the rest of the New Zealand Division in the campaign in Libya. Te Rangiataahua was wounded in the advance to Gazala. Wira Gardiner (1992) outlines the events that led up to the battle.

    "On 10 December 1941, the Maori [Battalion] were on the move westwards past Menastir, the scene of their recent triumph, and on toward Gazala. 5th Brigade was to move west towards Gazala but not get involved in serious fighting. Seventeen miles west of Tobruk, the battalions were given their tasks. 23rd Battalion was to move down the main coastal road. The Maori were to move along a track on the escarpment overlooking the coast road. 22nd Battalion moved further south.

    The 28th (Maori) Battalion's first objective was Sidi Mgherreb, 'a slight rise dominated by a little hill hardly more than a pimple on the desert'. It was a very strong position, protected by a minefield on its left flank and by a line of 26 anti-tank guns, interlaced with machine guns and mortars on its right."

    Using simple, if unorthodox, tactics the Battalion was successful and took over 1000 prisoners. Two days later and 12 km further west, the 28th Battalion was in action again, this time the objective was Point 181. The assault (as recorded by Cody) was a replica of the first.

    "Colonel Dyer placed Captain Royal in charge with orders to consolidate while he returned to his headquarters back on the first objective. Royal in turn instructed A Company and 17 Platoon to consolidate while he went forward with B Company to exploit in case there were more enemy about. They found a field ambulance, medical stores, a food truck, a car and several motor cycles. The Arawas had taken time off to sample the Italian hot coffee in the food truck when the approach of daylight disclosed still more enemy in trenches close by.
    They did not offer much opposition and the Maoris [sic] took over their weapon pits. B Company's adventures were not yet over for at first light another enemy group was seen about 400 yards away, apparently standing around waiting to surrender. The Maoris [sic] were proceeding to oblige them when the enemy suddenly turned and manned some guns behind them, whereupon B Company's men dived for the cover they had just left.

    By the greatest of good fortune a Vickers crew had arrived by this time and came immediately into action cleaning up the enemy gun crews, breaking up an incipient counter-attack, and ensuring that the guns remained unmanned. Captain Royal and Lieutenant D Stewart were wounded by the same mortar shell and Lieutenant F T Bennett took command."

    After recovering in hospital, Te Rangiataahua returned home to New Zealand. He was appointed Chief Welfare Officer, becoming the controller of Māori welfare in 1946. He was involved in many Māori development initiatives - playing a significant role in the development and implementation of the Māori Social and Economic Advancement Act 1945. Royal & Jamison (2014) describe him as "influential in pursuing tribal self-determination through the establishment of some 500 tribal committees formed to consider issues related to education, health and employment".

    Retiring from working life in 1956, Te Rangiataahua received an OBE in 1964. He died on 8 July 1965 and is buried in Muruika Soldiers' Cemetery, Ohinemutu.

    Appointed L/Cpl 23.2.17 promoted to Cpl 13.4.17, promoted to Sgt 22.8.17. CSM 9.12.17. Returned NZ SS Westmoreland 6.4.19. Discharged 4.5.19. Service abroad lyr 97 days. Served also WW2. Died 8.7.65. AWMM
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About death

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  • Death
    8 July 1965 AWMM
    Age 68 AWMM
    RotoruaBay of Plenty AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
    Ohinemutu Cemetery, Rotorua, New Zealand AWMM
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



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