WHITAU, Mussy Tuapaoa
(Service number 16/231)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||9 April 1894||Place of Birth||Temuka, NZ|
|Date||29 September 1914||Age||21 years old|
|Address at Enlistment||Temuka, New Zealand|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Miria Kemara (aunt), Temuka, New Zealand|
|Religion||Church of England|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||1st Maori Contingent|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||A Company|
|Date||14 February 1915|
|Transport||HMNZT 20 Warrimoo|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||Maori Pioneer Battalion|
|Campaigns||Balkans (Gallipoli), Western European|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||12 January 1920||Reason|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
3 May 1917 - No 3 NZ Field Ambulance - accident - contusion right side and back; 27 October 1917 - 10 Stationary Hospital - France
|Date||21 January 1956||Age||62 years|
|Place of Death||Oamaru, NZ|
|Memorial or Cemetery|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Tuapaoa Whitau was one of the early enlistments and, along with W. H. Torepe, was probably the first Maori from Temuka to volunteer for the Maori Contingent. He was one of the 500 men who served in the 1st Maori Contingent (officially the 'Native' Contingent) that volunteered for service and left Wellington for Egypt in February 1914. Regulations stipulated that the men must be not less than 5 feet in height and must pass a medical examination, but a birth certificate was not necessary. On passing the medical examination, they had to apply immediately for warrants from the Defence Department for railway and steamer tickets to get themselves to the native camp in Auckland by 7 October.
After serving in Egypt Tuapaoa, along with the rest of the Maori Contingent, joined the campaign at Gallipoli, embarking for the front line at the end on June 1915. The Timaru Herald published a letter home from him on 14 December 1915. Writing to his aunt, "Mrs Campbell" of Temuka, from the firing line at Gallipoli on August 23, Private Tuapaoa Whitau recounted his (and his units) involvlement in the assualt on Chunuk Bair:
“My brother Puaka was very ill and now on his way home. Of the Temuka natives, I alone am left. All the others have been wounded. I suppose I’ll be next, or perhaps I will be killed outright. There’s only two things, and one to call upon – God above. On the 7th we were ordered to prepare for an advance. We were attached to the Wellington men. The orders were not to fire a shot, and to take every trench at the point of the bayonet. We started at 9 o’clock in the evening and after advancing for some distance up a hill we rested and then continued the advance over the hill. On reaching the top we crawled for about half a mile and when within 300 yards of the enemy’s trenches we got the order to prepare to charge. I was afraid when the order came, but immediately after the boys were into it. There was some firing from the enemy’s trenches. After we took the first trench we had a spell and had a look round to see how many wounded we had, and how they fared. There was groaning all over the place. Five or six were wounded and three were killed in our lot. At daybreak we advanced to another hill. The boys were looking tired, but this feeling soon goes away when you hear the fleet shelling the trenches, and one is conscious of a rapid pulsation of the heart. You forget your danger till the sound of a bullet warns you of the presence of the sniper.”
"Breaking off from his narrative the writer [Tuapaoa] commented that William Torepe had been shot in the leg on the third day after arrival. He [Torepe]made light of his wound when leaving for the hospital ship. The Turks, he says, are pretty fair in the machine guns, on of which the New Zealanders captured. 'We live,' he says, 'like rabbits in holes dug out of the clay. We are having a spell just at present.' Concluding he says, 'Don’t forget to send the same writing tables, a pencil and a few smokes.' ”
Tuapaoa continued to serve through to near the end of the war. Like many others he had a number of injuries and illnesses that saw him in an out of medical stations and hospital over that time. Unfortunately his service ended on a poorer note as he ran afoul of military law, being found guilty of a minor robbery involving violence, and later of received stolen officer's goods. Both offences resulted in sentences that saw him confined from mid-1918 until discharged for misconduct in January 1920. One might wonder how the stresses of three years' service may have affected him. Indeed his grand-daughter K Whitau-Kean recounted that: "...my grandfather Mussy Tuapaoa Whitau ... returned traumatised ..." Private Whitau was welcomed home at a social event at the Maori Hall, Arowhenua, in May 1920, where was presented with a gold medal. He was also one of the 'native boys' who were presented with an illuminated address at this function. But, due to the serious misconduct charges he had faced, Whitau was deemed ineligable medals.
Once back in New Zealand Tuapaoa was able to make a new life for himself though as he married Mere Peti Gregory of Moeraki. where they both lived and had children.
Two of Tuapaoa's brothers, Puaka and Arapata Whitau, also served and died during the war.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database (28 September 2015); SCRoll submissions from K Whitau-Kean, 16 September 2016; Temuka Leader, 22 May 1920, Timaru Herald, 1 October 1914, 25 May 1920 (Papers Past) [17 & 19 February 2017]
Researched and Written by
Tony Rippin (South Canterbury Museum); Dianne Hall
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License unless otherwise stated.
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