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Finding our fathers: Lost heroes of WWI

Saturday 21 May 2022 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Features, Weekend

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Finding our fathers: Lost heroes of WWI
The headstone of Pte Paiti REMUERA 16/1218, who served in the 1st Rarotonga Contingent. Photo: Supplied

Cook Islands soldiers who signed up to serve in World War I, served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force NZEF to Europe.

Based on research done by Cate Walker, Howard Weddell, Paula Paniani and Bobby Nicholas, approximately 160 Cook Islands WWI veteran gravesites/headstones have been located. Now the search is on to locate the remaining 38.

The research team have and will continue to travel throughout the Cook Islands to document, photograph and GPS map the graves of the these Cook Islands WW1 soldiers.

“We leave no stone unturned in our soldier search missions,” says Walker, who is back on the island to continue and document the search.

Walker started the Cook Islands WW1 NZEF ANZAC Soldiers Research Project back in 2015 when she was searching for her mother’s grave. Her mother was buried in 1978 in the Nikao Cemetery.

At the time the graves were washing away and the cemetery was becoming dilapidated.

She believes that the Nikao Cemetery contained the largest group of Cook Islands WWI veterans buried anywhere in the world, and regrettably, a number of them have washed away due to cyclones and storm surges prior to the rock seawall being built in 2016.

Cook Islanders Paula Paniani and Bobby Nicholas came onboard to support the project in 2016, when they discovered a large group of Cook Islands WWI veterans buried in the cemetery.

Researching then started, a Facebook page created and the project became bigger due to more families wanting to locate their long lost “Papa” who had served in WWI.

Cook Islands WW1 NZEF ANZAC soldiers research project team. Photo: Melina Etches/22052058

“We have an enormous amount of research now, and in due course all of our research will be held at ‘National Archives Cook Islands’ for the benefit of future generations,” says Walker.

So far, they have travelled to Mangaia, Atiu and Aitutaki to undertake soldier search missions, the last two resulted in ‘Finding our way back …’ – a documentary series produced by Cook Islands Television.

They were booked to travel to Mauke in April 2020 to undertake a ‘Soldier Search Mission’, however Covid-19 related border closure prevented that visit.

Plans are now set to visit Mauke later in November with dates to be confirmed.

“We believe there are 22 WWI veterans buried there,” says Walker.

The team is grateful to Ewan Smith at Air Rarotonga, hotelier Tata Crocombe, Vodafone Cook Islands and all those who have supported and assisted with the mission.

On Monday, videographer/reporter Julie Taripo Shedden will begin filming the next instalment of the soldier search missions, “Finding our way back … to Rarotonga”.

Below is a list of the names, next of kin details at the time of the Cook Islanders WWI enlistment, and other information about the “missing 38”.

“We would appreciate if you could read through this list and share with the elderlies in your family and community in the hope that these WWI veterans are located,” says Walker.

“We follow up every single lead because we don’t want to leave any soldiers behind in our search.”

If anyone has any information to share please contact Paula Paniani on 58015, or Cate Walker on 83956.

  1. Pte Arapo MAKIAUNGA (Service number 16/1204, 1st Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Makiaunga AKA Aratai (Father), Areenu AKA Neke (Mother), Tata Peia (Wife). Possibly buried at Arorangi with his brother Pte Kakino ARATAI 84578.
  2. Pte Henry (also known as Harry) ATAATAIVI (16/1206, 1st Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Arapoiti (Father), Mangaia. Possibly buried in Nikao or next door to the LDS Church in Avarua.
  3. Pte T TIPOKI (16/1221, 1st Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Vaevaeonga (Father), Vaa (Mother). Possibly buried in Avarua.
  4. Pte D TEINA also known as TEIVA (16/1225, 1st & 5th Contingents). Born Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Father was from Niue, Ina (Mother), Arorangi, Rarotonga. His name is not on the Cook Islands Roll of Honour Board. Grave Location is unknown. His unclaimed military headstone in the name of “D TEINA” is located at the Cook Islands RSA, Nikao, Rarotonga.
  5. Pte Paurini HAU also known as Hau PAURANI / Hau PAURANGI (19241, 2nd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Paurangi (Father). “Medically Unfit” (Club Foot) before proceeding on overseas service. Discharged 16/12/1916. Not listed on CI Roll of Honour board. Possibly buried in Tupapa.
  6. Pte Kao TOKOMAURI also known as Kao UARENGA or Kao VARENGA (19255, 2nd Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Maki (Sister) Tokakainga (Brother-in-Law), Wife recorded as Tangiaere (deceased). Headstone/grave location is unknown.
  7. Pte Ngatokorua TAKAI also known as Ngatohorua TAKAI (19279, 2nd Contingent). Born Aitutaki. Next of kin/Family member/s: Ngatokorua (Father), Mavai Takai (Mother). Possibly buried in Matavera.
  8. L. Corp Tukaroa NGAREA also known as Ngarea TIKAROA / Tikaroa NGAREA (19282, 2nd Contingent). Born Aitutaki. Next of kin/Family member/s: Mary Marsters (Mother), Tikaroa (Father), Metua Tearikipati-Pati (Wife). Death Register says "Buried in Ngatangiia”.
  9. Pte Rataro TEKIA also known as Rataro Enua TEKIA / Rataro ENUATEKIA / Rataro TE KIA (19304, 2nd Contingent). Born Aitutaki. Next of kin/Family member/s: Enua Tikia (Father).
  10. Pte Motu TEKIRI also known as TE KIRI / Tekiri ITI (19319, 2nd Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tarerea Ararpoti (Wife), Rarotonga, Tekiri Motu (Father).
  11. Pte Tearii Vaatau PAITAI (60649, 3rd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Moumou (Mother), Ngatangiia, Rarotonga.
  12. Pte Peta TEI also known as Tei PETA / Peta TEINAMATE (60651, 3rd Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tei (Father), Mangaia. Burial location is unknown, although his broken headstone was found at Wigmore’s store Vaimaanga and is now at the Cook Islands RSA, Nikao, Rarotonga.
  13. Pte Tutai TOKORONGA also known as Tutai TEKORONGO (60674, 3rd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tokoronga (Father), Ngatangiia, Rarotonga.
  14. Pte Brown TIA (60698, 3rd Contingent). Born Raiatea, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tia (Father), Mauri (Mother), Tahiri Tia (Wife).
  15. Pte Rua Iti RUAVAIKATAU also known as Rua VAIKATAU (60714, 3rd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Rua Vaikatau (Father), Mata (Mother). Likely to be buried in Titikaveka. Unclaimed military headstone located at Cook Islands RSA, Nikao, Rarotonga.
  16. Pte Rorini KINO also known as Rorani KINO (60739, 3rd Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Poiri Kino (Wife), Kino (Father).
  17. Pte Tuakanaiti TUIKAA (60741, 3rd Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tuikaa (Father), Mangaia.
  18. L. Corp Ono TAAKI (60743, 3rd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Patara (Wife).
  19. Pte Maiti RAU (60746, 3rd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Kopu Rau (Wife), Tauta (aka Tauta Taeakekore) (Father) and Poupare (aka Poupouvare), (Mother).
  20. Pte Akaitia KOROITI (60748, 3rd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Koroiti (Father), Tau (Mother).
  21. Pte Charlie SMITH (60753, 3rd Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Charlie Smith (Father). Possibly buried in Titikaveka.
  22. Pte Teariki PURI (60757, 3rd Contingent). Born Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Teariki Puri (Father), Ataataivi (Mother). Death Register says "Buried in Arorangi".
  23. Pte Tangatatutai MAKITIRA also known as Tutai MAKITIRA (60779, 3rd Contingent). Born Mauke. Next of kin/Family member/s: Makitira (Father). Broken headstone lying in Panama Catholic Cemetery.
  24. Pte Teokotai (60783 3rd Contingent). Born Paumotu, Society Islands, French Polynesia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Teokotai (Father), Ngatangiia, Rarotonga, Tangia (Mother) Paumotu, Society Islands. Military headstone is unclaimed and at the Cook Islands RSA Nikao, Rarotonga.
  25. Pte Tutai TUAKANAKORE (84534, 4th Rarotongan Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/family members: Tuakanakore (Father), Makianu (Mother). The headstone of this soldier had unfortunately been placed on another soldiers grave in Mangaia.
  26. L. Corp Paku KEA (84542, 4th Contingent). Born Atiu. Next of kin/Family member/s: Marenga P Kea (Wife).
  27. Pte Tutara ONGOROAITI (84548, 4th Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tereakama Ongoroaiti (Wife) Mangaia.
  28. Pte Taura TIMANI also known as Timani TAURA/Taura (84553, 4th Contingent). Born Aitutaki. Next of kin/Family member/s: Taura (Father born Rarotonga) and Mangungu (Mother born Aitutaki).
  29. Pte Tioni TUAKANA aka Tioni Tamaono-Tuakana/John Trego Tamaono-Tuakana Marsters (84554, 4th Contingent). Born Palmerston. Research into this veteran has been very complex and we would welcome family assistance. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tamaono Tuakana (Father) and VaeVae Marsters (Mother). Unclaimed military headstone is at the RSA Nikao, Rarotonga. Pte T. TUAKANA – 84554 Died - 18 Feb 1964, we believe T. TUAKANA (aka - Tione Tuakana / John Tuakana / Tione / John Marsters) and John Trego Tamaono Marsters (aka - John Trego / John Trego Tamaono / John Trego Tamaono Marsters (who is buried in Takuvaine) are the same person.
  30. Pte Mataorakore MATEATEA also known as Mateatea MATAORAKORE (84574, 4th Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tinoparu Taku (sister). This veteran is the brother of Soldier Pte Teakataa MATEATEA 84580 (below).
  31. Pte Kavaeiti PEIAA also known as Kavae PEIAA (84576, 4th Contingent). Born in Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Iu PEIAA (Wife), Peiaa (Father), Tari (Mother). Death Register says "Buried in Matavera".
  32. Pte Teakataa MATEATEA (84580, 4th Contingent). Born Mangaia. Brother of soldier Pte Mataorakore MATEATEA 84574 (above). Possibly buried in Titikaveka.
  33. Pte Paora TEKII also known as Paora Tekii VARU (5th Contingent, no Service Numbers). Born Aitutaki. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tekii Varu (Father), Maria Tekii (Mother), Ngatupuna Matara Aiteina (Wife). Death Register records place of burial as “Nikao”.
  34. Pte Teremaki KOROITI also known as Teremaki Te Akataa Koroiti (5th Contingent). Born Mangaia. Next of kin/Family member/s: Koro Iti (Father), Noo Tuatau (Mother). Possibly buried at Te Otue, Rarotonga.
  35. Pte Natana MARAMA (5th Contingent). Place of birth unknown. Next of kin/Family member/s: Marama (Father), Te Paeru (Mother).
  36. Pte Taomia MATAITI (5th Contingent). Place of birth unknown. Next of kin/Family member/s: Engu Iti (Father), Titi (Mother). Possibly buried in Arorangi, Rarotonga.
  37. Pte Toa PEU (5th Contingent). Place of birth unknown. Next of kin/Family member/s: Peu (Father). Possibly buried in Ruatonga, Rarotonga.
  38. Pte Kau KAUTAI (5th Contingent). Place of birth possibly Rarotonga. Next of kin/Family member/s: Tarape (Father), Taaveo (Mother).

Lest We Forget.