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Little known of first casualty in World War One

Tuesday March 08, 2016 Written by Published in Local
The SS Moana carried Cook Islands soldiers from Rarotonga to Wellington, New Zealand in 1915. 16030712 The SS Moana carried Cook Islands soldiers from Rarotonga to Wellington, New Zealand in 1915. 16030712

Just over 100 years ago on March 5 -  a wet Sunday, the Cook Islands suffered its first casualty of the First World War.  


A young man, by the name of Mataputa of Atiu, died in Auckland. He is buried at the Devonport (O’Neill’s Point) Cemetery. Unfortunately not much is known about Mataputa as there is no military records exist for him. 

We know he was the son of Noo of Rarotonga. Private Mataputa is believed to have been 23 at the time of enlistment. He enlisted on Rarotonga sometime between the 24 September 1915 and 30 September 1915.

The SS Moana had departed San Francisco on September 15, 1915, arriving in Rarotonga on September 30. The 1st Contingent arrived in Wellington, New Zealand in the early hours of October 7, 1915. Mataputa, along with 44 other Cook Islanders, was under the command of Police Sergeant J Nash, who was being transferred back to New Zealand.

On arrival in Wellington the men marched in drizzling rain to Parliament, under shop verandahs, dressed in uniforms and wearing their white deck shoes with shell eis around their necks. 

They sang songs in Maori as they went. 

On arrival at Parliament they were marched into the Chamber where they formed a semi-circle around the MPs’ seats. They sang a Rarotongan war song after which they were addressed by the New Zealand Minister of Defence, James Allen. They were also addressed by the Maori Members of Parliament.

The contingent then left the Chamber and that evening travelled to Auckland by train. 

When the 1st Contingent left New Zealand aboard the SS Navua on February 6, 2016, four men of the 45 who had arrived from Rarotonga were left behind.

They were Pte Teina (Teiva),16/1225, Pte Arapo Makiaunga 16/1204, Pte Kau 16/1186 and Pte Mataputa.  Three had been declared medically unfit on November 5 the following year. They returned to Rarotonga aboard the SS Maitai on the 11 December 1915.  Pte Makiaunga re-enlisted with the 3rd Contigent.

It is not known when and how long Mataputa was in hospital but it is believed that he died in Auckland Hospital. – References: Evening Post October 7,1915, Archives New Zealand, www.familysearch.org

                - Susan Hanaray, WWI historian.