Hurae Hetaraka, 1st New Zealand Maori Contingent, who was barely out of his teens when he enlisted to serve in World War I, did not come home. His story is one of many that will be recounted in Kaye Dragicevich's history of the soldiers from Kaitaia and the Mangonui County who lost their lives in the Great War
Hurae Hetaraka was born at Whatuwhiwhi on June 17, 1894. His parents, Timoti and Wanakia Hetaraka, were living at Peria, but his family had links to the Karikari Peninsula, particularly Rangiawhia and Whatuwhiwhi, where Timoti lived in the early 1920s.
Hurae was working as a farm labourer for Frank Jecentho at Peria before the war. He enlisted at Avondale in October 1914, and was with the first contingent who undertook basic training at Waiatarua Camp, on the Avondale race course.
The First Maori Contingent was to be a 'Pioneer' battalion, providing skilled labour for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Due to a typhoid outbreak, their departure from Avondale was not marked with pomp or circumstance, but people still lined Queen St and gathered at Queen's Wharf to farewell them when they departed for Wellington on February 10, 1915.
They arrived in the capital three days later, then, after routine parades and inspections, sailed aboard the Warrimoo on February 14.
After a short stay at Zeitoun Camp, near Cairo, Hurae sailed on the Runic for Malta. Despite requests made to Major General Alexander Godley by New Zealand Minister of Defence James Allen and Maori MPs Apirana Ngata and Maui Pomare, the battalion was not deployed to Gallipoli with the first invasion force in April 1915, but was kept in reserve and placed on garrison duty on the island of Malta, where further training was undertaken.
However, increasing casualties among the Anzac forces at Gallipoli led to the deployment of the battalion. On the morning of July 3 Hurae's compliment arrived off Anzac Cove aboard the Prince Abbas. They joined the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, and were deployed as infantry.
Many soldiers were already suffering ill health when the August offensive was launched. Poor diet, lack of water and the stress of the fighting conditions contributed to a general breakdown of the men's physical and mental strength. Sanitation was rudimentary, and in the hot conditions flies spread disease uncontrollably.
Unburied corpses in many exposed parts of the front lines exacerbated this problem, and men who should have been hospitalised instead found themselves called upon to make a last effort to overwhelm the Turkish lines in the battles of August 1915.
Hurae was evacuated on July 21, suffering from diarrhoea. A New Zealand Field Ambulance party put him on to a fleet sweeper at Anzac Cove for a hospital at Mudros. He recovered sufficiently to return to Gallipoli, where he fought in the bloody struggle for Chunuk Bair, where the Maori distinguished themselves, suffering many casualties in the process.
Although his file notes that he was wounded on the day before his death, it is more likely that he was still very ill, and died of dysentery within 24 hours of being taken off the peninsula.
He was buried in the East Mudros Military Cemetery in Lemnos, Greece. Hurae is remembered on the Kaitaia War Memorial in Remembrance Park and on the rolls of honour at the Far North RSA and Te Ahu.