Somme hero always remembered
Another Somme Flashback and this one has modern-day connections to a milestone wedding anniversary reported by KapiMana News in 2011.
Frank Tararo was born Tutaka Mataputa Tararo on the island of Mauke in Rarotonga on February 25, 1895.
He came to New Zealand with the Grove family, who had traded in the Pacific, and lived near One Tree Hill in Auckland.
Enlisting in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1915, he was given the name Frank. He was part of the 1st Rarotongan Contingent, attached to the Maori Battalion.
Tararo arrived in Egypt with the 3rd Maori Reinforcements in March 1916. They were incorporated into the New Zealand Pioneers.
The next month he and the other Cook Islanders were sent to France, even though there was concerns the men from the Pacific would not handle the cold European climate well.
As the preparations for the New Zealand Division’s involvement in the Somme began in August, the Pioneers’ job was to build an 8km communications trench. The work took a heavy toll on them, as they were exposed to not only German fire but mumps, measles and influenza.
On September 15, the Pioneers went ‘‘over the top’’ for the first time. Tararo recalled carrying a fellow Cook Island Maori comrade back to the Allied trenches under fire on September 30 - the man died in his arms.
Another, Private Ataataiva, fell while under bombardment. Although he called, ‘‘Kimia mai na ou ora e Pe (Save yourself my friend)’’, Tararo got to him and carried him to safety.
The bravery of the Rarotongan soldiers was mentioned in despatches during the Somme.
Tararo was badly wounded in a latter part of the battle and lay in the trenches without aid for many days.
Shrapnel had shredded one of his arms and both hands, but the wintry conditions prevented the onset of gangrene.
The New Zealand Division was withdrawn from the Somme in mid-October and a month later Tararo was evacuated to England. His arm was amputated at the shoulder.
In October 1917 Tararo was discharged and returned to private life, indicating he would live once again with the Grove family.
He returned to Mauke in 1925 and married the widow of his older brother. By all accounts he coped well with one arm, planting the land and fishing.
He was so fit that his war pension was removed for a time, before an investigation was carried out and it was reinstated.
Tararo’s eldest son Tengaepu moved to New Zealand in 1961. Talking to Kapi-Mana News on the subject of his 55th wedding anniversary to wife Tetuanui, he said family and love made any hardships in life worth it.
Their house was one of the last on Warspite Ave, with only paddocks beyond them.
Frank Tararo returned to New Zealand in 1967, where he spent five years. He fondly told his family of meeting old and new friends at RSAs and bars in Wellington and Porirua, and never having to buy a drink on Anzac Day.
He returned to Mauke in 1972 and died there on August 5, 1973. He was the only Mauke member of the Pioneer to return to the island.
Frank Tararo, taken some time in the 1960s.