Tuahae Te Purei

Ingoa whānau
Te Purei
Ingoa tuatahi
E mōhiotia ana ki te ingoa
Charlie, Shang

World War 2

Tau Rangatū
Lance Sergeant
Wāhi noho
Te Araroa, New Zealand
Whanaunga tino tata i te wā o te kuhunga
Miss M. Te Purei (sister), Whangara, New Zealand

Takupu (3)

Just today, my older son, Travis O'Keefe, aked me to tell about his grandfather, my father in law. Travis knew that his grandfather had chosen me to be the listener about his life - particularly his life around the Maori Battalion. Tuahae (or Charlie or Shang) was not one to talk about what happened and what he went through after joining the 28th Maori Battalion. He was a very humble man but he still had the pride of what he was and where he came from. His way was to let things be as they were and as they are. I think that he opened up to me, rather than to his family, daughters and sons. I am very proud that he did talk to me but then, he knew I was genuine and wanted to know. I suppose, with his huge sense of humour, he was also telling me what it was to be a Maori in those times and to pass on to someone what he went through. Many of the things he eventually passed on were extraordinarily funny even in tragedy but that was because he expressed himself that way. I sometimes wondered, because of the humour, whether he was just telling tall tales but when I asked other members of his squad and platoon and so on, they corroborated it all. Amazing, really, and very humbling for this pakeha. So, for my two sons Travis Ira O'Keefe, and Kyle Vincent O'Keefe I will try and give you a history, incomplete though it may be, about your grandfather, I know you are extremely proud of him and your heritage. I know, too, that you will always remember the love he always gave you and the interest he showed in your lives. Now it is your turn to know about him - and for your children to know about their great grandfather and on and on - so that they will know where they came from.

I recall knowing two of the maintenance ladies where I worked, at the time, in Wellington back in the 1970s. I found out they came from East Coast and then that they both came from Ruatoria and Te Araroa area. Since they were of similar age to Tuahae I asked in they knew him and all they could do for a time was to giggle and chuckle - which made me wonder what they were thinking. Yes, they remembered him as a boy at school and elsewhere. And yes they could remember what he was like. Molly Cowan and (I wish I could remember her first name) Pepere as they were when I knew them. They began to tell me the briefest tales about Dad... but, elaborate? No way! All I got was that he was a bit of a rascal with the ladies in his youth and that was as much as they would tell me at first. But they did tell more over later months. It made me smile I can tell you that! He was brought up for a time by another member of the family and she was quite strict on him, but it seems it did him no harm. I think they were then either at Tuparoa or in Te Araroa itself. He definitely seems to have had a huge sense of humour as a youth and that came out in his later life as well. I think also his 2 grandsons Travis and Kyle (and others, of course!) inherited that. Many of the things they still do in adult life still remind me of what he used to be like!

This is my grandfather, his blood courses through my veins and we are bonded by blood. This is not a place to justify yourself by what you knew about him. He is me and I am him and this is how we roll. My mothers name was Norma Gazala Te Purei, the eldest of his siblings and her name reflects alot. Gazala is a town in Egypt where my grandfather fought, there have been many tamariki who were named after far away places that we only imagined. We are a warrior race and so we are proud of the achievements of all who fought this fight. Today is Anzac Day and we all remember the sacrafices that were made. I believe that this war was the last 'just' war, wars that have followed have been political or greed driven but this war and all who fought in it are the most honourable. I cant recall war stories because my grandfather and most who fought in this war did not regale in their time here, was it because it was too painful or were they trying to protect us from the horrors of the war. So you search for little snippets of where they were or what happened during their time of fighting, and why do we feel the need to do that. At the end of the day they were apart and contributed to a war they paid with their lives and their blood. My grandfather passed away at a young age, and it is this war that contributed to that. I am honoured to have known and loved my grandfather, I do not need anyone else's account of him or interpretation of him. He was a quiet man, he had a gentle smile and he spoilt us. My mother adored him, sadly she got sick and her illness was taking her life but her one thought that held her through this fight was that her father would come and get her and she would not be alone. My grandfather was a great horseman, my grandmother told me he had horses for all of his children but none of them were really interested. My son however would of been about 3 or 4 years old and his ease with horses was astounding, he would walk between their legs stroking them, and I heard my grandmother say oh Tuahae look at this mokopuna this is the one you were waiting for. My sons knack with horses today is from my grandfather. I loved going up the coast and talking with those who remembered him, I recall Koro Dewes talking about him, he went into like a trance remembering him and proud of him, it was a beautiful moment. My grandfather is Tuwhakairiora and someone said to me everyone wants to be Tuwhakairiora and when I told him who my grandfather was he said yes you can say that. My grandfather never opened up to anyone, I know that he loved his children with a passion, he would not of chosen anyone to open up to but to them. But I am lucky that I knew him and loved him and he loved me and I am proud of what he achieved and what he did for our freedoms today but I have been robbed of a grandfather who died too young, our whanau has been robbed of time with him so more of us could of remembered who he was....