Toitoi 26



Words by

Ko ngā kupu a Jake Smith, e 13 tau tōna pakeke.

Pictures by

Ko te pikitia a Arshiya Tuli, e 11 tau tōna pakeke.

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Narration by

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Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi 

Engari he toa takitini

My strength is not as an individual 

but as a collective

Ko Kahuranaki tōku maunga

Ko Ngaruroro tōku awa

Ko Takitimu tōku waka

Ko Ngāti Kahungunu tōku iwi

Ko Ngāti Hinemanu tōku hapū

Ko Sarah taku whaea

Ko Allan taku matua

Ko Maddy rāua ko Eloise aku tuāhine

Ko Colton taku teina

Ko Jake taku ingoa

Nō reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa 

This is the story of my great-grandfather, Matiu Love.

Boom, snap, crack. The days are rough; finding food is tough. My wounds are sore and the enemies are rotten to the core. I don’t know how long this is going to go on for. I think I’m about to faint and hit the floor. 

Matiu Love was a tuahangata, a man of whatumoana and a valued member of the 28th Māori Battalion. The Māori Battalion was formed when Māori members of Parliament placed pressure on the government at the time. This was an opportunity for Māori to prove themselves, to raise their profile and serve alongside Pākehā. 

Matiu Love was 17 years old — underage by a year — when he enlisted with the New Zealand Army. That is only four years older than me. He was drafted to do his training at Trentham camp, joining the 28th Māori Battalion D company made up of men from across much of New Zealand. Once he had completed his training, he was sent to Australia by ship.

Matiu had been brought up by his maternal grandparents who were unaware that he had enlisted. Once he arrived in Australia, he phoned them to tell them he was already on his way to fight for his country in World War II. He was despatched to the deserts of Egypt then moved to Italy. 

After six long years, the war finally came to an end. Matiu and a few mates from D company had been permitted to go to Britain. They travelled through Italy to Monte Carlo, then Marseille, through the center of France and on to Britain. When they got there, some of them gave out food parcels to the public in Piccadilly Circus. They were gifts from the New Zealand Prime Minister at the time, Peter Fraser. 

To help me to better understand Matiu, I sat down with my kuia and asked her what she knew about her father and his war experience. This is what she shared with me.

When Matiu arrived home, most of the money he had earned during the war was given to his beloved grandmother. He returned to Hawkes Bay to work and hang out with his battalion mates from Omahu and surrounding hapū. 

One thing he always said was that he had seen the most horrific things — things no young man or woman should ever see. War was a frightening experience for him and he didn’t think he would have survived without the comradeship of his army mates. Those close friendships lasted until he passed.

Māori men suffered a huge loss of life yet the battalion got no psychological support for the trauma and scars left from war. Māori veterans received very little financial support and were not included in the farm ballot scheme. 

This hugely impacted the ability of Matiu and his friends to move forward and get on with their lives. Fortunately, the freezing works provided employment for most of the men. 

Alcohol was a source of comfort — it deadened the psychological harm and disappointment from World War II. Eventually the men were recognised by the Returned and Services Association and given war pensions as well as funding for health issues caused by their war experiences. This funding came many years after Pākehā returned servicemen received it. Unfortunately, Māori were not treated the same as other veterans. My kuia said her dad got on with his life and did very well but the scars were very deep.

Matiu Love was a tuahangata, a man of whatumoana and a valued member of the 28th Māori Battalion.

E kore rātou e kaumātuatia

Pēnei i a tātou kua mahue nei

E kore hoki rātou e ngoikore

Ahakoa pēhea i ngā āhuatanga o te wā

I te hekenga atu o te rā

Tae noa ki te aranga mai i te ata

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou

Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou

They shall grow not old

As we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them 

Nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun 

And in the morning

We will remember them

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi 

Engari he toa takitini