Canon Wi Huata talks about the farewell at the boat as the Battalion left Wellington, life on board, being the only Anglican priest and giving communion to hundreds of soldiers.
One, when they farewell you, very very touching. The one that will stand out to all soldiers will be his mother. Because 80% of the Māori Battalion were single. So, and that's the scene when we left. So you get onto the boat. And by the way when you get onto the boat I was the only Anglican Priest so I was in charge of all the Anglicans, for the boat, not only the Māori Battalion because being the only Anglican. There were several of us, got on the boat and then and this stays in you because actually you're going away to die. You look back, I can remember fellas singing and we're just looking at Wellington. Tears coming down our eyes and we were leaving home, thinking of our mothers. Because I was asked the question why the mothers, I think because 80% of us were single. That's the only person that came to us. Nevertheless ... life on the boat, because one I'm a padre. The rule of the boat for the Māori Battalion was church parade every morning, every morning. I think we were the only division on the boat who had a regular programme. We had it every morning and every evening. I think the rest of the padres they had theirs the other way - whoever wants to come. I said no it's a rule I've introduced. Everything went ahead sports and boxing. But everlasting thinking of home. I think that goes for the Pakeha as well. I used to take the communion. I used to start the communion at 3am and then go 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. I can remember knocking off at 8. After 8 o'clock "I'd say look I'm hungry now we go for breakfast" and we'd come back and start again. In order to cope with the people, oh hundreds, you know I think because the background everybody wants it. I'd been responsible for that. Strange too, one thing about the war you become very strong within your own religion, I noticed this with the pākehā...
Extract from Interview with Canon Wiremu Huata, interviewer Margaret Northcroft, recorded 25 June 1991.
From the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library Oral History Centre, OHColl-0291-1. All rights reserved. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library must be obtained before any re-use of this sound file