Born for War

New Zealand's Military History - A Family Perspective

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Book Synopsis


Hongi's Hikoi - Rangatira in Ranana

This is the story of famed Ngapuhi rangatira Hongi Hika and his journey from the Bay of Islands to England in 1819-1820, with Missionary Thomas Kendall and fellow Ngapuhi chief Waikato. Hongi had interacted with European missionaries, sailors and traders since the early 18oos, and was curious to visit and England; observe its society, study military strategy and weaponry, as well a learn about other technologies; which he believed would benefit his people in the Bay of Islands. 

Whilst in Ranana (London), he was granted an audience with King George IV (King George III having passed away prior to Hongi's arrival); they were given a tour of the Royal Armoury within the Tower of London, as well as the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. He was gifted a number of items including a chain-mail suit of armour, a helmet, and, some say - a few guns...

They travelled to the University of Cambridge, where Hongi worked with Professor Samuel Lee, a noted linguist, to produce the first English-Maori dictonary. Whilst working at Queen's College, Hongi met Frenchman, Baron deThierry; with whom he would enter into a financial agreement - an exchange of 40,000 acres of land near Hokianga for a large cache of muskets, powder and shot. Hongi would uplift these weapons in Port Jackson (Sydney) on his return voyage to New Zealand and would issue an ominous warning to two chiefs from Ngati Maru and Ngati Paoa; who had been visiting the Reverend Samuel Marsden in Parramatta - be prepared for 'utu' or revenge on our return to New Zealand!

Shortly after Hongi's return to Te Tai Tokerau, he would lead a mighty waka taua of around 2,500 warriors against all who would dare face Ngapuhi...

Collaborating on this project are: Brent Kerehona - Researcher/writer/actor, Hiona Henare ( ) & Kris Kerehona  ( ) - Co-Producers.

Expected release date: Mid-2020

Novella One:

Moka, Muskets & Mayhem!

Chapter 1   Patukeha - A Legacy is Born

A 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 small 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 numerous bodies 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 now grown into young men. One in particular, Moka Te Kainga-mataa, is extremely assertive, 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?

Expected date of publication mid-2018


Novella Two:

New Zealand Land (Maori) Wars

Chapter 1  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 2  Biddle, Bravery and Bullocks

First generation Kiwi and son of Edward Biddle (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?


 Novella Three:

Of Hills and Ridges: Maori on the Western Front

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. Of the two brothers who died in conflict, one lies peacefully in Messines, Belgium; whilst one is still not accounted for.

Expected date of publication June  2017 - the 100th anniversary of the main character's death


Novella Four:

Ake Ake Kia Kaha E!

Chapter 1 - Werohia's at War

Two of the Hill brothers who fought during World War I, re-enlist and serve during WWII. Whetu would become a Captain in the 28th (Maori) Battalion, and serve in Greece and Egypt; 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.

Chapter 2 - 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 home-front, 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 enrollment policy - resulting in a marked change in the way Maori were treated.


 Novella Five

Mortars, Monsoons and those Bloody Aussies!

New Zealand would participate in the Vietnam War, sending an engineer unit to Vietnam in June 1964. The engineers were replaced with an artillery unit (161 Bty, RNZA) in June of 1965 and they would remain in Vietnam through till the end of the war (1971). The New Zealand Army would also send a number of infantry soldiers, being 'Victor' and 'Whiskey' Coy's, as well as a contingent from the Special Air Service (SAS). Gunner Taawhi Kerehona would serve in Vietnam with 161 Bty, from 1967-1968. He would see action on a number of occassions, especially during the Tet Offensive; where his unit positions would come under direct fire from VC soldiers. Gnr Kerehona 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.


 Supplementary Text

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 join the Royal Australian Catering Corps and would subsequently be posted to Duntroon (officer's academy); he also played Grid Iron for the Australian national team, touring the U.S.A, Hawaii and the UK. After completing his Infantry training, 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.


 Supplementary Text II

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, Cambodia, Canada, Crete, Egypt, England, Fiji, France, Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Turkey and Vietnam; as well as numerous battle sites around the North Island of New Zealand. In this chapter, he describes his arduous and emotional experiences; as he walks, pack-march's, climbs, crawls, wades and swims - over, up, through or across, numerous former battle sites. He feels that it is necessary to do this, in order to properly research this book. 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.


 Supplementary Text III

Reflections on War

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 people such as; current and former soldiers, politicians, family members, anti-war proponents, as well as the average 'joe-blow' are included - in order to cover a cross-section of public opinion. It is old men (politicians) who start wars, yet it is young men (soldiers) who die in them. Kerehona argues that if politicians themselves were required to don a helmet, pack and rifle, and go into battle themselves - maybe they would be less inclined to wage 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.