Hēnare Ngata an officer in the Māori Battalion writes home to Maraea Te Kawa from the United Kingdom, 11 December 1940. Translation of the Māori text is included in italics.
Dear Maraea ,
I owe you many letters, so here I am at last with a note that must serve in their place. Tena koe, korua ko Pua i ta korua mahi. [Greetings to you and Pua  for your work.] Tena koutou i nga tangata o te kainga e arohatia atu nei e matau katoa e te wiwi.[Greetings to all of you at home who are always in our thoughts.]  Tena koe Maraea korua ko Hori e tangihia atu nei e te ngakau. [Greetings to you Maraea and George we grieve greatly with you] Kei te pai au, a Nopera, a Nehe, a Parekura – matau katoa. [I am fine as is Nopera, Nehe and Parekura – all of us in fact.] Ko Waka  anake te mea ahua mate, engari kua puta mai i te hohipera. [Waka was the only one who was unwell, but he has come out of hospital.] Heke ana a ia i tona hokinga mai, engari ki taku whakaaro ka ahua pai ake tona tinana inaianei. [He went downhill on his return, but I believe that he is now in better health]. Ko Nopera no tainahi nei i haere ai. [Nopera went just yesterday.] I homai ma te Nati e tono tetahi ropu hei tieki i tetahi o nga tima (kaore tonu matau e tino mohio he aha te mahi, engari ki taku whakaaro koia ra). [C Company was asked to provide a detachment to look after one of the steamers (we don’t know exactly what the role is, but I think that is what it is.]
Kaati na matau ko Nehe ma, ko Reta  i mea mana to ratau ropu e mau [We all agreed, Nehe and the others, and also Reta, that he (Nopera) should be in charge of the detachment.] - tekau ma wha ratau, me a ratau pu mihini hoki. [- there are 14 of them and they are armed with light machine guns.] Tera ratau e haere ma runga tima ke atu i to maatau. [They are probably travelling on a different steamer than ours.]
Kaore au e mohio awhea matau ka haere, engari kua tata – a tera wiki pea. [I don’t know when we will go, but shortly – maybe next week.] A te Paraire nei te Nati me etahi o nga kamupene ka haere ki te leave, a hei nga ra timatanga o tera wiki te toenga. [This Friday the Nati and some of the companies will go on leave, and rest will go at the start of next week.] Kei te pai te haere a Nopera, a kua riro mana e takahi to matau rori. [Nopera is doing well and he has been given the responsibility of going ahead.] Kauaka hei maharahara mai ki a ia. [Don’t worry about him.] Ko nga tino tangata tonu o te Nati i rohea atu ki raro i a ia. [Some of the most able men of the Nati are under him.]
He had the new GC Sir Cyril Newall to see us on Monday. Noble will probably have told you about our march past and review. He pai tona ahua – kei runga ake i a Karuwai, a me tona hoa wahine hoki kaore i pena i tena na te kawa o te kanohi. [He seems nice – much better than Galway  and as for his wife she didn’t have the sour face that the previous one did.] This afternoon we had another inspection parade for HRH Duke of Gloucester. The boys did their stuff in grand style. HRH seemed quite impressed with the whole show, engari kaore rawa atu ona korero ki a matau – he waha-ngu pea. [but he didn’t have anything to say to us – maybe he is not a speaker.] Kaore rawa atu i mea mai "A, e ta ma, kua tutaki au ki o koutou matua i taku taenga ki Nui Tireni" [He didn’t so much as say, Ah, men, I met your elders when I was in New Zealand.] One of the boys in my platoon (Waka’s, but I’ve been with them while Waka was away) Terry Brown is a returned soldier 1914-18. HRH stood in front of him and asked, "What unit were you in during last war?" Terry didn’t so much as blink. HRH asked again and Terry said: "Eh?" Te Maori Porohaunga [Ratbag Maori]
Noble asked me to post this air mail, but I can’t because I’m broke. In any case the letters that Lorna has been sending by Clipper lately have arrived no earlier than the ones written at the same time and sent by ordinary post. I must go now. Give my love to Georgie, kia tae ki runga tima ka tuhi atu ai ki a ia. [when I am aboard ship I’ll write to him.] Hoatu te aroha ki a Pua, ki nga tangata katoa o te kainga. [Give my love to Pua and all the people at home.] Ma te Atua koutou, tatau e tiaki. [May God protect you, and all of us.] Na Henare. [From Henare.]
P.S Had a Xmas parcel from Whareponga Ladies Committee and fruit cake from Hikurangi Ladies Committee.
1 Maraea was a baker. She married Hēnare’s eldest brother, Makarini, who died in 1929. Their son was Hori (Georgie) Mahue Ngata, who eventually joined the 28 Māori Battalion. Maraea later married Nopera (Noble) Te Kawa. Both Hori and Nopera are referred to later in the letter.
2 Pua was Mrs Waka Karaka.
3 ‘Wiwi’ like ‘Nati’ was a term in common usage among Ngāti Porou during the War and referred to the younger, less serious section of Ngāti Porou as opposed to their pakeke who were more responsible. The term was used colloquially to embrace the whole of C Company. It was not a term used in formal speech.
4 Nopera = Sgt NobleTe Kawa, Nehe =2/Lt Arnold Reedy Parekura = Lt Parekura Tureia. All were C Company men from Ngāti Porou..
5 2/Lt Waka Karaka of Tokomaru Bay.
6 ‘Nati’ is a shortened form of Wiwi Nati.
7 2/Lt Kingi Areta Keiha (known as Reta)
8 Viscount Galway, Governor-General 1835-1941. The GG before Newall. Karuwai is a transliteration.
Alexander Turnbull Library
Eric Ramsden Papers, MS-0193-275
This letter has been reproduced with the permission of Sir Hēnare Ngata.