Voices from the Past

16/757 Private Tamati Te Patu MM

The medal group of Pte. Te Patu with his Military Medal located far left.

Tamati (also known as Thomas) Te Patu was born on 19 December 1895 at Karioi, near Waiouru.

At the outbreak of World War One, Tamati was farming at Karioi with his father Tirepa. He enlisted on 1 July 1915 and began his training with the Māori Contingent at Narrowneck Camp on the North Shore of Auckland.

He embarked from Wellington on 4 February 1916 aboard the Navua bound for Suez, Egypt, arriving on 15 March. From there, he left for France and went into the field with the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion, who were not a front line unit but were responsible for engineering duties, digging trenches, building roads and railways. A lot of this work was carried out under enemy fire and therefore dangerous.

For the Messines offensive in June 1917, the Pioneers were given the task of linking the newly captured Messines Ridge to the front line by digging communication trenches. During this work, Tamati Te Patu and other Pioneers came under attack. For his brave efforts, Tamati was awarded the Military Medal (MM). The citation reads:

On the 7th June Pte Te Patu was on a working party who were digging a communication trench to the German 2nd Line. The party came under very heavy shellfire and Te Patu was wounded in the neck, shoulder and arm. Though he was bleeding profusely and was told that he might go back to the dressing station, he declined to do so and insisted that he must finish his work so his comrades should not have to remain behind and complete it for him. He thus set a very fine example of pluck and devotion to duty, which was of the greatest value at such a trying time.

Tamati Te Patu was admitted to hospital on 8 June (France) and in September was transferred to the NZ General Hospital at Brockenhurst (England) and after a long period of convalescence, returned to the field until the war’s end. He returned to New Zealand and was discharged on 4 May 1919.

In World War Two, Sergeant Tamati Te Patu served as a guard at the Japanese Prisoner of War Camp in Featherston and after the war, he served with the Royal New Zealand Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at the Central Motor Transport Workshops, Trentham until his retirement at age 65 in 1961. He settled in the Trentham area and passed away at Silverstream on 10 January 1984. He is buried in the Akatarawa Cemetery, Upper Hutt.