Herewini James (Selwyn) Clarke, believed to have been the last living member of the 28th Māori Battalion's A Company, died in Kaitaia on Monday. He was 91.

Clarke, who began service with the Home Guard in the Kaitaia district at the age of 13, enlisted late in the war, after falsifying his age, as he had done to get into the Home Guard.

He arrived in Egypt with the 14th Reinforcements in 1945. Clarke fought in North Africa and Italy during the war, before doing a tour to Greece at war's end.

He lived at Ahipara for many years but some time ago moved into a home in Kaitaia.

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He was taken to Te Paatu Marae, at Pamapuria, where his funeral will begin at 11am on Friday, followed by interment at the urupa.

Clarke was known for his political activism as much as his wartime exploits.

In 2014 he famously upended tables at a public meeting called by Statoil, a Norwegian oil company which had planned to drill off Northland's west coast, and was one of six protesters arrested during an occupation of Kaitaia airport in 2015.

Clark earlier told the Northland Age that he cannot remember a time when he did not want to be a soldier. His uncle Clark Clarke was killed in Belgium - two of his cousins died the same day - in World War I, and was buried there, while his maternal grandfather was highly decorated by the French.

He was a day short of celebrating his 12th birthday when New Zealand declared war on Germany in 1939, and everything else - his school work, his chores at home on the farm at Pamapuria - were relegated behind his desire to be part of it.


"At that time the minimum age for the Home Guard was 16. I was 13 but I got away with posing as a 16-year-old. Then they put the age up to 18 and I was discharged because I was too young," he said.

He returned to the farm but soon signed up again, changing his name and adding two years to his age.