A Whanganui descendant of a distinguished member of the Māori Battalion represents his ancestor in a documentary to be screened on Anzac Day.
On June 8 last year, New Zealand military historian and writer Dr Monty Soutar organised a parade re-enactment to celebrate 100 years since the Māori Battalion returned home from World War I.
Soutar chose 100 young descendants of the soldiers, including Whanganui's Lamon Paranihi-Haami, to take part in the parade. They feature in Whitiki, a documentary of the stories of a select group of Māori pioneers, told through their descendants.
Paranihi-Haami's ancestor, Tau Paranihi, also from Whanganui, was the only Māori to receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal at Gallipoli, and Paranihi-Haami said he was "incredibly proud" to be able to represent both his ancestor and Whanganui in the parade.
"He managed to come back from the war and continue his legacy, and along the way I was brought into the world," Paranihi-Haami said.
"I was the only representative from Whanganui in the march, and he was in my thoughts as I went through the drills and sang the songs."
The members of the re-enactment were given uniforms made by Peter Jackson's team at Wingnut Films, and Paranihi-Haami said he and the other participants learnt the same drills their forefathers had done 100 years previously.
Paranihi-Haami said the ages of those involved in the re-enactment ranged from 13 to 60.
"I went up to Gisborne and bonded with the other guys taking part, and we went through marching drills and got issued weapons.
"We learnt a few of the songs the soldiers sang during the First World War as well, like 'It's a long way to Tipperary'.
"It was really hard to stand completely still at times, and not to flick flies away if they landed on you."
Paranihi-Haami said the march coincided with the launch of Soutar's book Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E!, which details Māori participation in World War I.
The Māori Contingent and its successors, the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion and the New Zealand Maori (Pioneer) Battalion, served in Egypt, Malta, Gallipoli, France, Belgium and England between 1914 and 1919.
According to Soutar's book, 2227 Māori and 458 Pacific Islanders served with the battalion. Of those, 336 men were killed or died overseas, and a further 24 died in New Zealand of injuries sustained during the war.
Paranihi-Haami said Māori soldiers as young as 15 fought in World War I, and their efforts were something that "should never be forgotten".
"It really puts things in perspective, because I was really missing my partner and my kids after only a few days away.
"I can only imagine what these young guys must have felt, being on the other side of the world and knowing that they might never come home.
"The march was about representing all our families, and those who paved the way for us to be here now, and without them I wouldn't have a loving partner and children of my own."
Whitiki screens at 9am and 4.30pm on Anzac Day, Saturday, April 25, on Māori Television and online at maoritelevision.com.