Rangi Logan writes to his parents, probably from Italy, on 18 March 1944.
Dear Mum and Dad,
You see I have once more slipped back into my bad habit of being a bad correspondent to you; but I don't seem to be able to find an excuse either. I have received quite a few letters from Edith at Waipukurau Hospital. It is very nice of her. She also sends me the ‘Truth' and ‘Free Lance' now and again. I am sorry to say that I have written her only once. However in the short lull I will endeavour to write to her. I received both your letters last week and was very pleased to read all the news and know how everyone is. I have also received quite a bit of news from the other boys.
As you can see by the address, I am now doing the job of 2 i/c Bn. For a while after I got back to the Bn, I was just a stray, the pakeha Colonel said he didn't want me so I was placed in an unpleasant position. Here was a pakeha colonel who is typically pakeha, and doesn't understand us, telling me, whom the men refer to as ‘the old man' or ‘the chief' that he had no room for me. Well, I hope it gives Reta Keiha satisfaction to know the results of what he has done because we have never been worse. The discipline is slipping and getting worse all the time. Our boys get drunk on wine and do awful things and when I told the Colonel that I had taken a jar of wine off the men and pored it out he said he did not mind them drinking. We catch certain men up to something bad and when they should get something to teach them a lesson they get let off very lightly. Consequently the men are just laughing and carry on doing the same things. They are a very sorry looking family and not happy. Peter Awatere who was the 2 i/c Bn before I came back has been sent to a camp for our men left out of this campaign. He is a sick man and looking old. This climate seems to get him down due to much cold. Do you know that the C.O. wanted me to go 2 i/c of a company when I first got back. What a joke and an insult. Well I refused so I became a spare part until Peter went to hospital and the C.O got me to do this job. I can't help thinking of what Freyberg told the Maori people when he was home on holiday - that there were Maori officers still capable of commanding the Bn. It seems to me that we are just employed without any consideration of the unique nature of our Bn. We don't want to get any different treatment; we don't ask or expect favours, but we would like, in fact we expect, to be consulted on matters that are of interest to the people and which it is our duty as leaders of our Bn., the men and youth of our people to uphold. I am sorry to say that we are losing our identity. Frequently I have thought of a transfer, but I know I don't want to be in any other unit, and I would much rather stay and be of some little use in holding up our end of the stick and trying to maintain ‘nga ahuatanga Maori' in the Bn., than to satisfy the personal sense of injustice and be out of all though with the Bn. Well, I am going to stick here until I see that our Bn is once more on its feet, and then I can face our people, and say that our men are well and in good hands. There is a strong clique at Bn. H.Q. here consisting of ‘Kahungunu'. It is not surprising when you realise that in Bn. H.Q. now all belonging to Kahungunu are - myself, 2 i/c Bn, Tutaki, Adjutant, Raureti, Intelligence officer, Wi Huata, Padre, all our batman, Peter Gonnell and Ray Thompson (Jury Thompson's brother), both Provost. You can see that there are some real family arguments and we feel just like one family too. Wi Huata is an absolute jewel. The boys are very fond of him and he is the ideal padre for the Bn. Being such a Maori at heart I think is the main reason and then he is so energetic and always has a smile on his face and a welcome for everyone. Raureti in a worker and although he is very dull, he is alright. Al the Wairoa boys turned out alright in the line.
Riki Smith, however is so slow that he nearly drives Matahaere mad. The Wairoa boys are certainly the strong arm upon which "D" Coy and my B. H.Q. lean. Next time you see our people from Wairoa, don't forget to tell them. Ben Christie is in ‘A' Company because they are short of officers, and he is very popular with the Ngapuhi boys too. He has had two very narrow escapes recently. Once he was blown clear out of his trench by a tank a few yards away firing point blank with its big gun. He landed six feet away from his trench, and then yesterday he was blown by a bomb landing 20 yards away clean through a closed door without anything worse than a severe shaking. He is quite well too. Well, you certainly have seen Ted Pohio and Bill Mohi by now and heard all they have to say and tell you. Tessie sent me an aerograph saying she had seen Ted at a dance in Napier. Ted is better off there. He is not a soldier. As for Bill, well, he is ‘devil-may-care’ in battle as well as out of it. He is the same all the time.
The sensational news about Hankie and George Tawhai had reached here quite some time before your letters, but the Padre refused to believe that one of his flock had gone astray.
Old Ray Thompson and Peter Gunnell reckon I'm like Granny King Winiata in that I have only one speed for working - flat out; so at least I have the application and the keenness. I can't see men doing things the slow way or mess about. I hop in and set the pace, and make them keep up; if I can do it, they can. That's why they don't like going on a route-march when I lead, because I go right from the start, and get faster near the finish. It breaks most of them, but it makes the others very fit. Well, if I keep up this pace after the war (and I can't see myself going slower), I ought to accomplish something, eh? I want to learn more of the Maoriland Settlement Schemes, too. I have had nothing but praise for it here from the men who have become successful farmers under it. It doesn't appear to be the money and blood-sucking octopus I have always regarded the private firms like H.B.F., Dalgety etc. I really think that the scheme will be the making of our people and getting back of our lands from the clutches of the pakeha.
You know, I am a little surprised that Uncle Peter, having no ties or domestic worries, did not join up. We have had in the last two reinforcements men who have grown-up families and farms back home, and we are grateful to them, because we need them, although I would much rather see the old devils home. It is amusing some nights to see Thompson and Gunnell having an argument, and then Wi Huata chips in. They both turn round to him and say, "E ta, shut up; you're only a boy." These old chaps have the apple, but I try and save them as much as possible; they always jump to it when I talk and are willing workers. Our poor Bn is not the same old Bn. There seems to be a lot of bad eggs coming over now, and I suspect Bertrand of bundling them over; however, he is right, too, because the sooner that type hits action the better, rather than making a disgrace of us back in New Zealand.
Well, I am still going strong, and that is the main thing. I think it must be the pendant which never leaves my neck. Please give my regards to everyone at home, and in the district. Congratulations to Pauline on passing the 6th. I thought she was going in the convent. Jock sends his regards. He is a nice chap, and I like him. Jerry is just a rat-bag and a baby. Cheerio for now, and give my regards to old Rev. Huata when you have a chance, to Mr. C.G.Harker, and our many other friends.
Your loving son,
Alexander Turnbull Library
Eric Ramsden Papers, MS-0196-275