Paying tribute to our WWI heroes

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June 28, 2016

Whakapapa World War I website concept page.

Whakapapa World War I website concept page.

The Whakapapa Unit at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has embarked on a new project to bring to light the Ngāi Tahu heroes of World War I (WWI).

Allanah Burgess, Whakapapa Projects Advisor, described those who served in WWI as unspoken heroes of the tribe.

“We often acknowledge contemporary Ngāi Tahu heroes but we don’t tend to pay tribute to our tīpuna who put their lives on the line during the Great War,” says Allanah.

To date there have been 261 Ngāi Tahu soldiers identified as serving in WWI but that number is continuing to climb as the Whakapapa Unit get more information from whānau.

“I have been amazed by how many people whakapapa to those who served in WWI,” Allanah says.

Corporal William (Bill) Te Koeti Bannister, photo courtesy of Paul Madgwick.

Corporal William (Bill) Te Koeti Bannister, photo courtesy of Paul Madgwick.

“This project is awesome because it gives people a new connection to heroes they may not have known they were related to,” she says.

“The project also gives whānau around the world a tangible connection to the iwi and their tīpuna,” she says.

Whānau will be able to access information on these heroes via a new website and book that are due to be completed in September 2016.

“The website will be a great research tool for whānau and will be continually updated as we get new photos and information,” says Allanah.

“Anyone who accesses the website once it goes live, will be able to read through profiles, watch interviews with whānau and look at things like war diaries.”

“The website will give people an understanding of what our tīpuna had to go through in their darkest hour. While also providing new connections for whānau.”

“Through the process of collecting information we have also been able to reconnect whānau around the world. Just last week I connected two cousins,” says Allanah.

To date there have been 15 interviews, and the Whakapapa Unit hopes to have 30 before the website goes live.

The Whakapapa Unit plan to do World War II next, with further conflicts likely to follow.

If you would like a list of those Ngāi Tahu soldiers currently identified as serving in WWI please email; whakapapa@ngaitahu.iwi.nz

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