More Top Stories


Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Other Sports

Double gold for Darts

21 January 2023


Population policy endorsed

10 January 2023


PM Brown vows to change law

23 January 2023

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022


We’re halfway there!

16 November 2022


From the river to the ocean

18 November 2022

Mayor of Arras to visit descendants of Cook Islands World War I soldiers

Tuesday 18 April 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National


Mayor of Arras to visit descendants of Cook Islands World War I soldiers
A special gathering on a Māori Marae in Waihi, Aotearoa in 2015. From left: Tia Angene Brown Tei - granddaughter of Angene, Isabelle Pilarowski - supervisor of the Wellington Tunnels Visitor Centre in Arras, Isaac Solomona, grandson of Solomona, Teariki Solomona - grandson of Solomona, Mayor Frédéric Leturque of Arras. SUPPLIED/23041715

The mayor of Arras, Frédéric Leturque is scheduled to arrive today to meet the descendants of Cook Islands soldiers who were sent to assist the New Zealand Tunnelling Company at Arras, France during World War I from July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918.

The late Angene, Solomon Itaaka/Isaac and Tau Kopungaiti were part of the 43 Māori Pioneer Battalion. The tunnellers in the lead up to the Battle of Arras in 1917, developed caverns under the city of Arras and prepared 12 miles of tunnels.

Isaac Solomona, a grandson of one of the tunnellers Solomon Itaaka (Isaac), is pleased Leturque will be visiting Rarotonga for the first time. He has met the French mayor in Aotearoa New Zealand and Arras, France.

Over the years Solomona has kept in touch with Sue Baker Wilson who has researched hundreds of military personnel files and identified 38 of the 43 Māori Pioneer Battalion members who served with the New Zealand Tunnelling Company. Wilson informed Solomona of the mayor’s visit.

Cook Islands World War 1 soldiers Angene is buried in Rarotonga and Solomon Itaaka in Aitutaki, however the burial site for Tau Kopungaiti from Mangaia is yet to be located and documented.

In Rarotonga, Leturque and his delegation will visit the Returned Services Association (RSA) on Wednesday at 9.30am. They will be received by Thomas Annas, president of the RSA, and his officials.

He will also visit the RSA cemetery entrance archway wood carving depicting WW1 Māori soldiers – carved by artists Michel Tuffery and Michael Tavioni –and the specially carved sea shell monument by Tuffery that was inspired by the Arras Tunnel seashell left behind by the Cook Islands WW1 soldiers.

In the evening at 6pm a get-together with the Arras Mayoral Delegation and the descendants of the three Cook Islands Battalion Soldiers will be held at the National Auditorium.