condensed discuss document expanded export feedback print share remove reset document_white enquire_white export_white report_white

Thomas Watson Ruka

Portrait, full length, standing at attention - This image may be subject to copyright

Portrait, full length, standing at attention - This image may be subject to copyright


Civilian life

About birth

Contribute ›
  • Birth
    6 July 1917 AWMM TahekeNorthland AWMM
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
    Pre 26 January 1940 AWMM Poroti, Whangarei, North Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    Mr Wati Ruka (father), Poroti, Whangarei, North Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    Pre 1 May 1940 AWMM Single AWMM


Wars and conflicts

Contribute ›
  • War
  • Campaign
    • Greece AWMM
    • 1941 Crete AWMM
  • Armed force / branch
    Army AWMM
  • Service number
    39430 AWMM
  • Military service
  • Promotions/ Postings/ Transfers

Training and Enlistment

Contribute ›

Prisoner of war

Contribute ›
  • Capture details
    • WW2 POW - Crete List of 2NZEF POW (MS 2009/8)
      Crete, Greece List of 2NZEF POW (MS 2009/8)
    • WW2 POW - Salonike, Greece - VIII-B Lamsdorf, Germany 2NZEF, Germany and German occupied territories : imperial prisoners of war alphabetical list : section 4. N.Z. 1945.
      Germany, Europe 2NZEF, Germany and German occupied territories : imperial prisoners of war alphabetical list : section 4. N.Z. 1945.
    • WW2 POW - Stalag XVIII-A, Wolfsberg, Austria AWMM
      Crete, Greece AWMM
      04 Sep 1941-20 May 1945 AWMM
      Hiding out in the hills. Tried to escape to Turkey in small boat, but was fired on and captured with others. AWMM
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
    WW2 20 May 1945 NZ Escapees and Evaders (R25405144) Escaped or evaded capture. Date Interrogated: 15.5.1945. W O Forms completed. AWMM
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number
    WWII 956 AWMM

Medical history

Contribute ›
  • Medical notes
    • Hospital Diseases , Wounds, WWII AWMM
      Chronic Bronchitis - admitted to hospitals in Scotland, Whangarei and Wellington. He was also treated for war related health problems at Green Lane Hospital, Auckland and the North Shore Naval Hospital. The naval hospital admitted patients who were on a war pension regardless of which branch of the armed forces they served with. AWMM
    • Died of Disease, Cause of Death AWMM
      Myocardial Infraction, chronic obstructive airways disease AWMM

Last known rank

Contribute ›

Biographical information

Biographical information

Contribute ›
  • Timber Worker for Whangarei Timber Co.

    Amongst others not evacuated from Crete by Allied Destroyers.

    He returned to New Zealand on board the Dominion Monarch.

    Te Kowhai was also known in older times as Te Tepu Kai.

    Lorreen Ruka wrote: I met my future Ngapuhi husband 39430 Thomas Watson Ruka/Tamati Tau Wiremu Ruka, 28 Maori Battalion, in Wellington. There was a ten year difference in ages with me being sixteen and him twenty six. It was love at first sight.

    After our marriage we settled in Auckland due to my husband's ongoing health problems caused by hardship endured as a POW for four and a half years in Germany. He was under the constant care of the War Pension Specialists. Thomas was left behind on Crete when the evacuation took place and was subsequently captured.

    Early married life was marred by the blatant racism exhibited by many pakeha towards Maori. Mixed marriages were not acceptable. We were unable to live together for some considerable time so I would secure jobs where you could live-in near the boarding house where my husband and three of his brothers stayed. One such job I was hired as a housemaid/waitress in a hotel. Later in the day Thomas came with me to assist with my luggage and see my new accommodation and also to meet the proprietors. On seeing Thomas with me, who, I should add, was not as yet discharged from the Army and still in uniform, I was sacked on the spot. I will not repeat here the insults levelled at us both. It was with difficulty my husband restrained himself from retaliating physically.

    Our living arrangements took a turn for the better and we moved into a Transit Camp at Tamaki while awaiting a State House location.

    Soon we moved into our new state home with our two children. Later two more made our family complete. To make ends meet my husband looked after the children while I worked 11 pm to 7 am as a Nurse Aid and when they were older I undertook work that enabled me to be home when they got back from school. Thomas worked as a self-employed painter and for quite a few years life was on an even keep despite his increasing ill health and at times being unable to work.

    A hospital admission with TB took its toll and gradually he became restricted as to what activities he could do - even driving because he was on a nebulizer and at times oxygen.

    It would be fitting if I could say that on his passing away at home 29 March 1988 and laid to rest in the Urupa 'Te Kowhai' at Titoki he was Resting in Peace but sadly that was not to be.

    Ongoing access problems to the Urupa caused by the Pakeha farmer who leased the former Maori land and now in European title, went on for several years.

    A Whanau Hui was held with the outcome being the exhumation of my husband and two of our daughters and their re-internment at Maunu Cemetery, Whangarei with the Kohatu being placed above their new resting places.

    This decision was not made lightly but to put an end to stress and heartache which was reaching the point where violence would have been the inevitable outcome.' Lorreen Ruka. p.30

    Originally interred at Te Kowhai Urupa, Titoki, Northland, New Zealand AWMM
Read more


About death

Contribute ›
  • Death
    29 March 1988 AWMM
    Age 71 AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
    Maunu Cemetery, Cemetery Road off State Highway 14, Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
    Death notice: New Zealand Herald, March 1988 AWMM
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



Contribute ›
  • Memorial name

Roll of Honour

Remember Thomas Watson Ruka by laying a poppy.

Leave a note

Leave a tribute or memory of Thomas Watson Ruka

Leave a note

Contribute ›
  • For dad - Anzac Day 2017 - Lest we Forget
    Public - Shirley - Other relative - 24 April 2017
  • Met Thomas's son Millan in Crete for the 75th Battle Commemorations 20.05.16.Discovered he was in the same POW Stalag18a Wolfsberg Austria As my father Pvt Kent Randford Filmer 21st Battalion 5th Brigade 2nd Echelon NZEF. Millan is a nice guy, privilege to meet him and his buddy Joe representing The 18th Maori Battalion.
    Public - Kent - 27 May 2016



Contribute ›
  • External links
  • References
    • List of 2NZEF Prisoners of War. 1941-1945. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS 2009/8. AWMM
    • Cody, J. (1956). 28 (Maori) Battalion. Wellington, N.Z.: Department of Internal Affairs, War History Branch. AWMM
    • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. (1941). Nominal Roll Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force No. 2 (Embarkations to 30th June, 1940). Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer. AWMM
      WW2 2: WW2 162 AWMM
    • The New Zealand Herald AWMM
      Death notice: March 1988 AWMM
    • List of 2NZEF Prisoners of War. 1941-1945. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS 2009/8. AWMM
    • Great Britain Army. (1945). Germany and German occupied territories : imperial prisoners of war alphabetical list : section 4. London, U.K.: Government Printer. AWMM
    • Information kindly provided by family AWMM
    • Nominal Roll of NZ Escapees and Evaders - 1 New Zealand Interrogation Section Book 1, Archives New Zealand, Wellington, AAAA 7393 (R25405144) AWMM


Command item
Command item
Add new record Refresh
DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
24 April 2017Shirley Whangarei, New ZealandOther relative
27 May 2016KentTipton England Other

The development of the Online Cenotaph is an ongoing process; updates, new images and records are added weekly. In some cases, records have yet to be confirmed by Museum staff, and there could be mistakes or omissions in the information provided.

Creative Commons LicenseOnline Cenotaph Data by Auckland War Memorial Museum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.