2nd Maori Battalion,
Greetings to you and our people represented by the complement of young men gathered here at Taiamai .
We are all well. There are, however, some sick at this time, mostly through the entertainment of playing rugby. This is a very popular activity in this camp. Firstly there are the competitions between the companies for the cup donated by Ngapuhi to the battalion. Secondly, there is the competition among the units of the 12th Brigade. The latter started just last Saturday. We have two teams, A and B. In a demolition one fell 14 to 3, the other, 32 to 3.
As far as the stories of the sacred nature of where our camp is built, according to Hone Heke, a northerner who is great at running things down and not having anything constructive to offer. When I first arrived at the camp I visited the elders of Uritaniwha who live at Ahuahu and who are the tangata whenua here. They pointed out the sacred places and the burial grounds in the district. It was clear to us all they were all outside the camp area. After your visit here, Te Kerei Mihaka, Eruera Mihaka and Taniera Ruhe all inspected the area which we occupy. Rangi (?) asked those elders to visit. They inspected the whole area. They said the same thing, the area was free of any spiritual encumberances like tapu, grave sites and the funeral stages of old.
During the Ngapuhi battles with Pakeha, the other side of Lake Omapere was the scene of early fighting. Ngapuhi’s strategy was to lure the pakeha soldiers so they may be hounded into the bush, where we presently are. When they arrived they were to be attacked. It was then, the first born of Kawiti appeared a short distance from here, and on the other side of a hill known as Te Ahuahu, Hone Heke made his presence known.
The strategy did not work as the elders planned and most of them went back to Ohaeawai and a group wanted to make Heke go to the tohunga at Tautoro. The place was left deserted and was not occupied by Maori or Pakeha. All our troops were away that day, doing their training outside the camp. We were here listening to the speeches from the elders which included a welcome to the area, when we were told that it was an honour for that particular part of the North to have us there. It was destined by time that the chosen young men of the land rested under the Puriri trees of Taiamai (Ohaeawai) They left these words, “Let the land of Taiamai be hospitable to you and not let any harm befall you.”
Mana (later Sir Norman Perry) and I went to Auckland and I left him there, asking firms for items that might be useful to stock our Mobile Canteen to take back to the camp. He was successful in getting things like matches and razor blades along with other things. Thank you again for the Jazz Band outfit. The young ones are all excited to know that their gear is on the way. The electric heaters are great. Last Friday Rangi sent me to buy heaters. We spent $20 (pounds?) on those things. There is one in each mess, 2 in the Y.M.C.A. marquee and H.Q. Coy.mess.A Coy missed out but they’re ok, they have a fire in their mess.
There is still talk about our moving to some other place nearby. Two places have been mentioned, Paihia and another between Ngawha and Ohaeawai. The difficulty our Colonel has with with Paihia is the distance between the companies. Three will be at Paihia, one at Waitangi, one at Kororareka and another in Opua. The difficulty with this is that no easier solution can be found. Our soldiers will be made to build a new camp.
When I got back tonight I heard about the troubles that befell C Coy, those of Ngati Porou who are here. Perhaps you will have heard by wire about those troubles. All is well. Don’t you or Ngati Porou worry. You know all the officers of C Coy who are here. Baker and Keelan are ranked below the O.C. When the new officers arrive on Monday, Baker will become Intelligence Officer for H.Q. Coy. George Tamahori, Carr and Raureti from Wairoa will become the officers. Ngati Porou is not happy with these officers When Tuakana arrives relatives will talk to relatives and Ngati Porou will let their thoughts known. The result now should be, Tuakana and Baker will go to C Coy. The Pakeha officers will return to their own units. Captain Smyth will go back to his own people, Ngapuhi. One of them, including Tahiwi may be transferred to Whanagare to look after the base records of the battalion. As for me, I’m glad that these issues have come up. At last these pakeha have realised that what we have wanted all along was that officers from each iwi should lead their own. This is what the pakeha say, “This tribal business is all about bosh...” All’s well, it took this trouble to quickly facilitate the correction of matters that need correction.
Tomorrow the technicians from 2YA will arrive with their recorders to record our messages and songs for the 1st Maori Battalion overseas. Each will company will have their speakers and they will also provide a supporting song.
Well, Api give our regards to the iwi for all they have done for us who are here, and for those who are coming to join us. May God bless us all and give us the strength during this time of sadness.
Your obedient servant,
Published with the permission of the Ngata Family
Alexander Turnbull Library
Ngata Family Papers, MS-Papers-6919-0787