Con­nec­tions to the Bat­tle of the Somme

Kapi-Mana News - - CONVERSATIONS -

Allan Dod­son’s lat­est re­search has taken him to the Bat­tle of the Somme and the brave men of the Cook Is­lands who served in World War I.

The Plim­mer­ton his­to­rian has writ­ten 100 sto­ries of men and women from Porirua who played a part in World War I.

An ex­hi­bi­tion was held at Pataka last year to hon­our those who served on the Gal­lipoli penin­sula in Turkey be­tween April and De­cem­ber 1915.

Dod­son’s lat­est re­search com­mem­o­rates two men from Porirua killed serv­ing their country in 1916.

Pri­vate Robert Ge­orge Auty, from the New Zealand Ma­chine Gun Corps, was the first man from the New Zealand Ex­pe­di­tionary Force to be killed on the Western Front, in May 2016.

That Septem­ber, 2nd Lieu­tenant Vic­tor Stephen Henry Ab­bott of the Royal Fly­ing Corps was killed in a fly­ing ac­ci­dent be­fore his squadron left for France to sup­port Al­lied troops.

Dod­son said 2016 was also the time to re­mem­ber the 50 men from the Cook Is­lands who left their homes in 1915 to join the Pi­o­neer (Maori) Bat­tal­ion and later serve in France.

‘‘Men like Fred­er­ick Wil­liam Tararo and his cousins – one was killed on the Somme, one died in New Zealand at the end of the war from the ef­fects he suf­fered on the Western Front,’’ Dod­son said.

‘‘Fred­er­ick lost his left arm and later said ‘no whole man re­turned whole to [his is­land] Mauke from this 1st Cook Is­lands con­tin­gent’.’’

‘‘Fred­er­ick lost his left arm and later said ‘no whole man re­turned whole to [his is­land] Mauke from this 1st Cook Is­lands con­tin­gent’.’’

The Cook Is­lands sol­diers suf­fered a 26 per cent ca­su­alty rate in France and were with­drawn in early 1917 to serve in Egypt.

Dod­son said the story of the Cook Is­landers trav­el­ling to train in Auck­land, and then suf­fer­ing the wet, cold and filthy hor­rors of the Western Front was stag­ger­ing.

‘‘It was a bloody cam­paign and to go from the Cooks to win­ter on the Somme is in­cred­i­ble to try to imag­ine.’’

Other sol­diers who served on the Somme and are con­nected to Porirua are the Katene broth­ers – Rangi Wi, Taku and Fred­er­ick Ben­nett Katene – who en­listed in 1915, serv­ing first in Egypt and then in France, where they were part of the Maori Bat­tal­ion.

Dod­son said he be­lieved two other Katene broth­ers joined up, but un­der as­sumed names be­cause of their age.

Taku Katene re­turned to Porirua, where his de­scen­dants still live and are work­ing with Dod­son to help com­pile a fam­ily his­tory.

De­scen­dants of Tararo also made Porirua their home.

Dod­son is hop­ing to dis­cover more tales of the Cook Is­lands sol­diers, along with con­tin­u­ing his re­search into Porirua ser­vice­men and ser­vice­women in World War I.

He said he was re­stricted by the Pri­vacy Act, so of­ten needed per­mis­sion of fam­ily mem­bers to fur­ther his re­search.

‘‘There are a lot of sto­ries from the two world wars to be told, and the Porirua con­nec­tions with those con­flicts are strong.’’

The bat­tles of Pass­chen­daele and Messines, in 1917, will be his fo­cus next year. To con­tact Dod­son, email agc­dod­son@xtra.co.nz. Check out plim­mer­ton.org.nz for more in-depth stud­ies of Dod­son’s An­zac re­search.

PHOTO: PATAKA

The Katene broth­ers from Porirua who served in World War I. From left, Taku, Rangi Wi and Fred­er­ick Ben­nett. Allan Dod­son

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