WHITAU, Mussy Tuapaoa
(Service number 16/231)

Aliases Tuapaoa
First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 9 April 1894 Place of Birth Temuka, NZ

Enlistment Information

Date 29 September 1914 Age 21 years old
Address at Enlistment Temuka, New Zealand
Occupation Labourer
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Mrs Miria Kemara (aunt), Temuka, New Zealand
Religion Church of England
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

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

Military Awards

Campaigns Balkans (Gallipoli), Western European
Service Medals
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


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

Post-war Occupations


Date 21 January 1956 Age 62 years
Place of Death Oamaru, NZ
Memorial or Cemetery
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

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: " 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]

External Links

Related Documents

Researched and Written by

Tony Rippin (South Canterbury Museum); Dianne Hall

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Not assigned.

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