Private Frank Wiki, who lost his life in battle in France in 1917, is amongst those who are remembered on the roll of honour on the World War I memorial in Kaitaia, but there is much about him that is not known.

Ray Beatson, who led the effort to restore the memorial in 2016, and the writing of a book, to be published this year, about the World War I soldiers of the Far North, is hoping that Mr Wiki's whanau can fill some of the gaps.

"Army records provide some of the information required, but much of the personal information is missing," he said.

Frank Wiki was born at Te Kao, and enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on May 22, 1916, aged 22.


At the time of his enlistment he was employed as a saw mill hand for the Union Box Company in Rawene. His military records show that he was single, his next-of-kin being recorded as his mother, Harata Wild (nee Wiki), of Herekino.

Kaye Dragicevich, who has been commissioned to write the book, said she was keen to know more.

"For example, while Frank is shown on the attestation form as aged 22, there is no record of his date of birth," she said.

"It could be assumed that he was born sometime in 1894, but as we know, young men put their ages up when enlisting for the great adventure.

"Frank is believed to have been a brother-in-law of Te Paki T Popata, and any information we can get on family members (father, brothers, sisters, etc), photographs or stories, will be of great help."

Army records show that on completion of three months' training at Narrow Neck Camp, Takapuna, Wiki was posted to the NZ Maori Pioneer Battalion, and, as one of the 7th Maori Contingent, embarked on the HMNZT 61 SS Aparima in Wellington, travelling with troops of the 16th Reinforcements to England. They arrived in Devonport on October 25, 1916.

On November 15, after 20 days in Sling Camp, Wiltshire, where equipment was issued and after receiving battle training, he was transferred to the General Base Depot Etaples, in France. In December that year he was attached to the New Zealand Engineers Tunnel Corps, where he served until he rejoined the Pioneer Battalion on March 3, 1917.

A vast network of 200-year-old underground quarries has been rediscovered below the French town of Arras. The New Zealand tunnellers were given the task of linking and extending them in preparation for a major Allied attack on the Germans (the Battle of Arras).

In late 1916 and early 1917, 43 members of the NZ (Maori) Pioneers served with the New Zealand Tunnelling Company, preparing underground facilities in the Arras caverns. Frank Wiki was one of those soldiers.

The Pioneer Battalion had been given the task of linking the newly captured Messines Ridge to the existing front line by digging communication trenches, as they had done on the Somme. They were also to extend the light railway lines to the new position.

Despite heavy shelling and casualties, the battalion completed 5000 yards (4570 metres) of trenches and a considerable distance of light railway lines, but at heavy cost. Seventeen soldiers were killed, 88 wounded, 45 gassed, and five died of exhaustion.

Frank Wiki was killed in action on June 3, 1917, and is buried at Berks Cemetery Extension, Comines-Warneton, Haiaut, Belgium.

* Anyone who has photographs or other information about Wiki is asked to contact Kaye Dragicevich, phone (09) 406-7389, email