How to Write Your Whanau History Pt 2

If you have whanau members who died as a result of World War 1 or 2, you can still write a korero about them in a story format, telling about the war time.

Gathering Information
If the person was in WWI, you can download their personal file which will have alot of information you can use to create your story.

If they were in WWII, you can apply for a copy of their personal file.  This can take up to six weeks to arrive but is worth the wait.

Firstly, check the date of birth on the records, as there are alot of stories about people signing up for war who were underage.  If the date of birth is different, then you know your whanau was one of them.

You need to spend a bit of time studying the records, as many of the entries are abbreviations, but with the WWII records, you also get a sheet explaining the abbreviations.  Check for any BC abbreviation, as that is Battle Casualty and from the date you will be able to work out which battle the wounds were received.  There may also be more than one BC on the records.

There could also be war medals which help to tell the story.

Look for embarkation dates, as from these you will be able to find out the name of the ship – another piece of information to add to your korero.

If they were a part of the 28th Maori Battalion, you can use information from this book to write a bit about battalion life and if you match the dates with where they were, you can add in little bits of information. Also what was the nickname of the company they were in?

Alot of the newspapers of the time published names of recruits, so if you search Papers Past for the surname, you may be able to find the article.  They also publish a list of war casualties so again you can copy that then add it to your korero.  Take a note of the newspaper that it appeared in and when so you can put that as the caption.

If your whanau member was one of the first ones to sign up, go to our facebook page and scroll down through the posts and you will find one with the official Maori Battalion Company photos. Look through the photo for the right company to find them, then take a screen shot of that part of the photo so you can add that in.

Putting a Story Together
The following different parts of the story that I have put together for one of my uncles using all of the resources listed above, otherwise all we had was name, date of birth and death and that he was in the war. In the story below you will see three dots  … this is where I have left out parts of the story.


Recruiting for the battalion opened in the second week of October and uncle enlisted on 16/1/1940. At that time, you had to be at least 21 years old, but as uncle was only 20, he gave his date of birth (and his army records show) as 14/10/1918 instead of 14/10/1919. He was placed in the 28th Maori Battalion, A Company, affectionately called the gumdiggers as A Company was made up mainly of those from home where many were gumdiggers ….

…. Training began immediately the preliminaries of marching in, the issue of clothing, and the organisation of platoons were completed. Training time however was lost through the abnormal amount of work required to make the men dentally fit, and three dental officers were kept fully employed. (Uncle records show that on 13/2/1940 he was admitted for total teeth extraction at the Palmerston North Hospital.)

The ship Aquitania, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: PAColl-5927-35. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22717668

When the question of a special Maori commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi was first mooted (remember this was 1940), the suggestion was made that, as the Maori Battalion was to assemble at Palmerston North in January 1940, it would be very fitting if the tribal representatives were taken from that body. … (Seems that uncle was one of the ones that attended the 100 year signing celebrations for the treaty of Waitangi.)

… On 1st May 1940 the Maori Battalion marched out of Palmerston North for the last time and headed to the railway station, boarding a train bound for Wellington and war. On the 2nd May 1940 the Maori Battalion left Aotearoa from Aotea Quay, Wellington on board the Aquitania which was carrying about 3000 troops. The last sight of the crowd, which was allowed on the wharf at the last minute must have bought a tear to the eye, as Ngati Poneke sang farewell songs that would have faded softly as the ship pulled further away from shore.

… on 14th June the ship passed through an area covered in oil and ship debris and life boats floating but no one in them. Before this, going to war seemed a long way away and not real but this hit home the reality of what they were sailing onto. In the distance the could see a ship half submerged and on fire and here submarine alarms and depth charges exploding.

Finally on the 16 June they arrived in Gourock, a few miles from Glasgow. The navy had shepherded the convoy safely 28,000 kms.

… His records show that he was in and out of hospital a few times, before the wounds that caused him to be shipped back to NZ from Egypt on the Nieuw Amsterdam on 15 June 1943, arriving in Auckland on 13/7/1943 and spending time in Papakura camp. He had spent 320 days in NZ while in the Army and 3 years and 72 days overseas and was medically discharged on the 4/3/1944.


There are alot of interesting stories in the book referenced above, how the battalion was received in South Africa (as there was full apartheid at the time), where they went and what they did. While those stories may not particularly mention your whanau,  they do let you know what life was like. So by matching the personal file with the story of the battalion, you can create a more full whanau history for that member.

Least We Forget


How to Write Your Whanau History (Part 1)