Born for War

New Zealand's Military History - A Family Perspective


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Book Synopsis

Posted by tumatauenga on April 4, 2007 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (4)

Chapter 1   Patukeha - A Legacy is Born

Ngapuhi chieftainess Te Auparo, and her daughter Te Karehu, are murdered and cannibalised, as a result of traditional inter-tribal warfare; between the Ngare Raumati and Ngai Tawake groups, in the Bay of Islands around 1800. There is a revenge attack as consequence for this insult, and following a vicious battle; a new sub-tribe is created to honour the fallen chieftainess.

Chapter 2   Moremonui Massacre

The dawn of a new age. The Ngapuhi obtain a number of firearms, as a result of early trade in the Bay of Islands; and seek revenge against the Ngati Whatua, for past losses. This results in a major battle at Moremonui (along the Ripiro Coastline near Dargaville) in 1807. Ngapuhi chief and seer, Te Maoi (husband to the late Te Auparo) would meet his fate at this time. There is so much carnage, that the battle is named 'Te kai-a-te-karoro' or 'Sea Gulls' feast'; as there were so many dead, the victors weren't able to eat them all and they were left for the Sea Gulls.

Chapter 3    Moka, Muskets and Mayhem

The three chiefly sons of the chieftainess, Te Auparo, and chief, Te Maoi; have grown into young men. One in particular, Moka Te Kainga-mataa, is extremely aggressive, and along with his two brothers, Te Wharerahi and Rewa; participates in the bloody Musket Wars - wreaking havoc across the North Island.

Chapter 4   Treaty - Part A - Peace or Profit?

The Declaration of Independence is signed by a number of chiefs at Waitangi on 28 October 1835. Moka and his two brothers are signatories to this document. A few years later, the British Crown sent Captain Hobson to New Zealand to attempt to gain sovereignty over New Zealand. Proclamations are read at Kororareka and Moka is a witness and the sole Maori signatory to them. A week later, despite Moka's vehement opposition, the Treaty of Waitangi was born.

                                  Part B   To Sign or Not to Sign?

This is a more formal section or mini-thesis, which attempts to discuss the significance of Moka's knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, Hobson's Proclamations as well as his opposition to the Treaty of Waitangi. The Declaration of Independence was recognised and officially ratified by the British Crown in 1836, however, the Crown changed their stance and attempted to obtain sovereignty over New Zealand; therefore the Treaty of Waitangi was introduced. Was this document a legitimate attempt to create a harmonious relationship between Maori and Pakeha - or just a legal instrument to revoke the Declaration of Independence?

Chapter 5   New Zealand - A New Life

Two British families migrate to New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s, in order to begin a new life, full of hope and prosperity. What they find, however, is inter-racial conflict and as a result; the young men participate in the Maori Wars. Roger Hill, as a Commisioned Officer with the Waikato and Auckland Militia; Edward Biddle, an NCO with the Taranaki Military Settlers. Surprisingly, following the war, one of these young men married a Maori woman and raised an inter-racial family.

Chapter 6   Biddle, Bravery and Bullocks

First generation Kiwi and son of a soldier in the Maori Wars, Ben Biddle, also serves in the Maori Wars; receiving the rare New Zealand Cross for his acts of bravery at Ngatapa in January 1869. He is a headstrong man, who holds strong principles and does not always follow orders; in fact, at one point, he faces a court martial for insubordination. Following the war, he marries a Maori woman and raises a large inter-racial family. He would throw his New Zealand Cross away, but why?

Chapter 7   Of Hills and Ridges

Three brothers, Robert, Hemi and Himiona (with the surname of Hill), enlist and serve during World War I. Two are killed in action, whilst only one returns -  wounded. A whangai brother by the name of Whetu Werohia also serves, and is commissioned as an officer. One of the Hill brothers is still not accounted for, another lies peacefully in Messines, Belgium.

Chapter 8   Ake Ake Kia Kaha E! - Part A - Werohia's at War

Two of the brothers that went to World War I, re-enlist and serve during WWII. Whetu would become a Captain in the 28 Maori Battalion, and serve in Greece, whilst Robert would serve in the Pacific. Both these men would also see their sons serve in this momentous war, however, they would not all return safely.

                                               Part B - Biddles in Battle

Three of Robert Hill's nephews; Boye, Jack, and Jim Biddle (all grandsons of the famous Ben Biddle N.Z.C.) also enlisted into the NZ Army; with two of them joining the Maori Battalion, and serving in Italy. One of these brothers would resent the fact that he was not able to go to war, yet another brother chose never to mention the war in the years that followed. On the homefront, their sister Dixie, would wage war against an injustice of another kind - racism. A Maori Warden, and also a member of the Maori Women's Welfare League; she led a boycott against shopkeepers in her home town, and challenged the unofficial local school enrolment policy - resulting in a marked change in the way Maori were treated.

Chapter 9   Mortars, Monsoons and those Bloody Aussies!

New Zealand would send an artillery unit to Vietnam in 1967-8, and being a member of 161 Fld Bty, RNZA; Taawhi Kerehona would serve with them. He would see action on a number of occassions, especially during the Tet Offensive; where his unit position would come under direct fire from VC soldiers. Taawhi is nearly killed in this assault, whilst he is manning the M60 machine gun. Gunner Brian Knott, a fellow member of 161 Fld Bty; provides an account of this incident, and of his and Taawhi's actions at the time. During one intense situation, the Kiwi Gunners were supporting 3 RAR or 'those bloody Aussies!' whilst they, themselves, were under attack.

Chapter 10    Continuing the Tradition

Two decades later, two of Taawhi's sons would become 'those bloody Aussies!'; when they enlisted into the Australian Army in the late 1980s and mid 1990s. Kris Kerehona would become a cook and would subsequently be posted to Duntroon (officer's academy); he also played Grid Iron for the Australian national team. Brent Kerehona would become a Para-trooper with 3 RAR (Para); the same unit that his father Taawhi had supported whilst he served in Vietnam. Brent would receive numerous awards during his service, such as; 'Most Outstanding Soldier' and 'Best at P.T.' (Physical Training) at the School of Infantry in 1996, 'Student of Merit' on the ADF Dental Course in 1999, and a 'Provost Marshall - Army Certificate of Merit' for his role in evacuating personnel and fighting fires in 2002. Brent transferred to the Military Police in 2002 and was promoted to Lance Corporal. He was then deployed on Operation Relex II in 2003 and promoted to Corporal that same year. He played Basketball and Rugby union for the NSW Army sides and ironically, would play rugby against the NZ Army rugby side in 2002.

Chapter 11     Retracing their Steps

Brent Kerehona revisits a number of the sites around the world where his family members have fought and died. He visits Belgium, Egypt, England, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, and Vietnam; as well as numerous battlesites around the North Island of New Zealand. In this chapter, he describes his experiences as he walks, climbs, crawls, wades and swims - over, up, through or across, numerous battlesites. He feels that it is necessary to do this, in order to write this book properly. He elaborates by stating that 'An author cannot write of things that they have not experienced first-hand, and possess an acceptable level of understanding and credibility.' He assesses the accounts written in history, against his observations of the terrain and his own knowledge of military tactics. He also offers his own personal feelings about these visits to former battlegrounds and grave sites.

Chapter 12     Reflections

This book concludes with the author's thoughts toward his ancestors, and their roles and actions throughout the various conflicts within New Zealand's short, but great history. Although he honours the memories of his ancestors, he does not glorify war itself. He makes some telling statements in relation to the futility of war, and the unfortunate need for defence forces the world over. Comments from a variety of areas such as; current and former soldiers, politicians, family members, as well as the average 'joe-blow' are included; in order to cover a wide area of public feeling. It is old men (politicians) who start wars, yet it is young men (soldiers) who die in them. He argues that if politicians themselves were required to don a helmet, pack and rifle, and go into battle themselves - maybe there would be no more war. He points out that although soldiers do the fighting, they are not the initiators of the conflict and are simply doing their duty.

War does not determine who is right and who is wrong - just who is left.