Whakahoro (Sol) Te Whata (Ngāi Tū/Ngapuhi)
Born in Otaua, where he attended school there until his parents went to school there. Parents separated. His mother returned home to Utakura where they lived for two years and then moved to Motukiore a very isolated place.
When news of the war broke out in 1939, he and his mate enlisted. The first camp they entered was at Paihia and there they learnt to dig trenches.
In camp at Papakura for a month, then they were told they would be going overseas. They went to the train station in Papakura and boarded the train to go overseas. They were excited to board the ship. There were so many of them that they filled the ship. There was no stealing or getting up to mischief. The ship crossed to Australia and stopped there as the ship needed repairs. They fixed it and after a week, it set sail for Egypt.
They encountered some racism when in Italy. Some boys knew how to speak Italian and questioned those that said racist things. These people were shocked that these foreigners could speak their language.
Wandering amongst the Italian people, they were invited into people’s homes to eat with them. When that happened, the soldiers took their own food because the people were poor. They received many invitations like that, when the Italians discovered they knew how to speak their language.
He rau aroha' truck and mutton birds
You could buy lollies, peanuts, sweets and drinks.
One time one of the fellas called out,
“Sol what you doing”.
“Come over here. I’ve got some Oi (mutton birds)”.
I said “I will cook them”.
They went to his hut and cooked the mutton birds. Sol couldn’t even eat half of it.
I said “Eat your mutton birds”
He said: “I’m too full”.
I’ll never forget our misdeed, but it was so worth it.
Hymn singing and Wi Huata
Chaplain Wi Huata taught the hymn Au e Ihu. He would berate the soldiers when they were wrong and would teach them the right way. He was a very energetic in teaching psalms and hymns. He was a talented singer. They would sing it until he considered it perfect.
After the war
Those who wanted to train as builders did so. I wanted to build my own house so that’s what I trained in. I won lucrative government contacts to repair state houses, churches and state-owned buildings in Auckland, Opua and Russell. Did that until I retired at 60.
Sol on war: “…kua tika ke e hakamutua te patupatu i a tatau, koira ano te mahi tera mahi patu tangata. E tika ke me hakamutu. Engari ra kei nga rangatira hoki ke te tikanga”
Translation: We need to stop killing each other. That’s what war is about – killing people. It needs to stop. But that is up to our leaders.
Reference: 'Nga Kiri Kapia', episode of television series, Waka Huia, Television New Zealand, Auckland, first broadcast on Television One, 6 June 2010.
See an article about Sol Te Whata from the New Zealand Herald