Letter from Henare Wainohu to Poihipi Kohere, October, 1916
26th October, 1916.
Greetings to you and your family. So far the Maori Battalion has fairly come out of the German conflagration. Neither paper nor pen can express the bitter sorrow for the young Maoris who have made the supreme sacrifice for King, the nation and the whole world. Members of leading families of the Maori people, of both the North page 76 and South Islands, now lie on the fields of France. We as Maoris feel it very much, and our thoughts constantly wander homewards to the parents and the people. The letters we receive from home are brave and comforting when they say that to die on the battlefield is to die an honourable death. The boys who have made the supreme sacrifice all died like soldiers, and those of us who still survive are all well.
I suppose you and Reweti and all your family have learned that your brother Henare has gone with those who were prepared to die for King and Empire. We feel his death very keenly. Henare, like a true soldier, fell amongst his boys. Several of them, including Henare, were wounded by a bursting shell. On the 15th, the morning of the big push, after prayers, the enemy began shelling our position. Henare had given orders for his platoon to move forward to prepared trenches when a shell landed fairly close. The next shell caught Henare and a number of his boys. Although badly wounded in the arm and groin he inquired after his men. It was the wound in the groin that killed him.
Before he was taken to the dressing station that night he expressed a wish to see Major Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa). To him he said, “I ask of you that after I am gone to place my boys, all from the Ngati-Porou Tribe, under my cousin, Lieutenant Pekama Kaa.”
Major Buck replied, “Yes, I'll carry out your wish.”
Then, looking up to the major and myself, he remarked, “I have no anxiety now, for I know the boys will be in good hands, and as for myself I shall be all right.”
We never suspected that his wounds would be fatal. At midnight I buried those of his boys who were killed outright. After I went to have another look at him; he seemed quite calm. Before he was taken away he said, “I know the boys will be all right with you.” We didn't see poor Henare after that; none of us was with him when he passed away.1 We heard of his death from the newspapers. I put off writing to you hoping that the newspapers might be mistaken. Only the other day we received the official notice that my very dear friend was no more.page 77
Henare was very popular with everybody—with the great as well as with the lowly, with the general as well as with the humblest private. Now he rests from his labours.
Tawhai is bearing up very well, but we know he is feeling the death of his brother intensely.
Pekama is getting on well with his boys. He is a fine boy, quiet but popular with his men.
Thank you for your letter.
Your old friend,